A simple pleasant start to 2019

MEDINA, OH – The unseasonably mild winter had me start the year with several trips to various local lakes for open water fishing with my son.  Two trips yielded plenty of willing Largemouth Bass who were quite spirited in fight considering the time of year.  While nothing overly noteworthy stands out, I just enjoy spending time with family and the simple joy of catching fish.

Open water bass fishing in January?, I’ll take it!

The above fish was pretty representative of the catches.  No giants, just good numbers providing plenty of fun.  I even brought the 4 wt. fly rod and nabbed a few on a minnow pattern.

Kids love the bass, even if they are on the ‘small-ish’ side

It may not look like I am having fun, but this is usually what I look like hoping the camera works right, everyone is actually looking at it, no one at risk of getting a hook in them, and the concern of getting the fish back in the water quickly.

Another successful release

I always try my best to demonstrate good ethical fishing and that most often includes catch & release.  Along with enjoying our resources, I nearly always have conversations regarding responsibility.  I loved this shot of my son with his cousin watching a bass swim away.

While the first fishing of 2019 may not be that exciting to most… as a dad especially, I just love these simple fishing trips.

An evening on Lake Erie

Bryce’s first time on a boat

MARBLEHEAD, OH – As part of a family mini vacation to the familiar stomping grounds around Ohio’s central coastline, I thought I would take the opportunity to try Bryce’s ‘sea legs’ out.  As much fishing as Bryce and I have done together, it’s never been from a boat.  The fishing trip was somewhat short notice as I had randomly gotten an ad in my Facebook feed from Rock Harbor Cottages & Reef Bobber Charters that seemed perfect.  It was offering a couple hours of evening fishing for a very reasonable rate.  What better way to see how prone Bryce would be to sea-sickness?!, no huge investment if he was miserable, yet plenty of time for some fun if it went well.

Bryce is hooked up

A White Perch

Plenty of good sized Channel Catfish

I’m not even going to attempt to build suspense (okay maybe just a little because their was a big fish), everything exceeded all expectations!  Weather was amazing, Bryce wasn’t sick at all, the fish were biting, and Captain Brad was fantastic.  For a bit of a novelty type trip that wasn’t high dollar, I was amazed how hard the captain worked – some casting instruction for my son, would do a long cast and let him reel in, worked hard for his own hook ups and hand the rod to him, set the boat up multiple times for new drifts.  All I can say is that I was impressed.  I helped Bryce too, but admittedly haven’t been able to fish much, so I enjoyed that the Captain’s efforts allowed me to do a bit of fishing too.  I had expected to need to be ‘hands on’ with Bryce the whole time.

Yep, there was a big fish story!

I’ve fished with professional anglers that have explained the editing process often used when they record fishing shows.  I mean do you really think every time they do a show the best fish is magically caught in the last 5 minutes before the episode ends?!  Well our trip really followed that format without any editing… we ended on a couple very high notes.  As we all were satisfied that we had achieved our goal to simply go out and catch fish, whatever was biting regardless of species – we would be treated to a giant fish hookup.  Bryce was already tired from bringing in many fish and this one would take everything out of him.  After 5 minutes of gaining ground and then hearing the drag scream – he asked for some daddy help.  I was happy to oblige as I really wanted to see what it was.  I also will say I didn’t do any better than him at controlling the fish, but simply had the stamina to wear it down.  When I was able to finally get it close enough to see, we all were I awe of the giant catfish.  Captain Brad did an expert net job once I finally managed to get the feisty monster to come head first towards the boat.  He also took some great photos for us.  At 30″, I don’t recall ever catching a Channel Catfish any bigger and certainly none more memorable!

Bryce checking out my Walleye before release

After the big fish, we were pretty much ready to head back to dock.  In yet a another unexpected blessing, I felt the tug of a fish and a completely different feeling fight.  I was kind of glad Bryce was tired so I got to bring in the decent sized Walleye.  A cool toothy fish was a great end to the night and Bryce wasn’t too tired to steal some glory with a picture with it.

Pure happiness

I know this post isn’t about filling a cooler full or tasty Walleye or Perch… or even targeting the amazing sport fishery of Smallmouth Bass that Lake Erie offers.  This really was a more personal post regarding a father getting to see his son catch fish on the beloved big pond and hopefully shaping memories of a great childhood.  I hope one day he will have more days fishing on the lake that he could ever count or recall – but would know the first time.

The elusive full family photo

My daughter had well established before the trip that she was not interested in going on a boat yet.  At 4, just a little scared despite loving the water.  I was thrilled that she was willing to get on the boat at pick up, a good first step.  It also gave me the chance to get all of us in a picture.

2018 North Ridgeville Corn Festival, Fishing Derby

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – After last year’s epic catch (you can read about that here), we were pretty excited over the fishing derby that takes place as part of the North Ridgeville Corn Festival.  The derby, ran by the great folks from the North Ridgeville Fishing Club are always a joy to be around and do a fantastic job coordinating the event.  The fishing this year was very slow but my son still enjoyed himself by using a small net to catch minnows which he then placed in a bucket.  These ‘pet’ fish provided him plenty of entertainment and he recruited many other peers to assist in the effort.  All of the kids in the area we fished had a lot of fun whether they were catching or not.  Had my son allowed me to use one of his pets as bait, I could have likely helped him have success fishing, but he was not having any of that.  We did see a number of Bluegill caught, surely enough for some good competition for the age groups.  See you next year!

Wallace Lake, multi-species from the kayak

BEREA, OH – I returned to Wallace Lake a few days after the fishing derby, solo this time with the kayak.  A bit of mixed emotion with the day’s success after the poor showing with the kids.  I would have gladly traded these catches for just a single fish for each of them to reel in.  That’s how fishing goes though and I certainly wont say that just because I didn’t catch any with them, that I hoped I wouldn’t catch any without them!  Just a little fisherman’s honesty there!

A very nice sized Wallace Lake catfish

The fishing started fast as I caught a Largemouth Bass on one of my first few casts.  I had also used a second rod to still fish (and slightly drift) which yielded a very nice 22″ catfish.  After those two catches I decided to focus on the trout as that was my main target of the day.  While I did have to work for them, I did get a limit.

Typical stocker Rainbow Trout

After catching the 3 fish limit of trout (only 1 was kept that wasn’t fit for release), I played around in the shallower areas sight fishing.  I got a few bumps and follows but nothing else was caught except a single Bluegill.  The day had grown exceptionally hot, and I was pleased with catching four species and accomplishing the trout limit goal.  Being more than content, I called it a day.

Wallace Lake Fishing Derby, 2018

BEREA, OH – The annual tradition of attending the spring Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Derby at Wallace Lake was continued in 2018.  I also continued my tradition of not catching fish.  Remember last year?, you can read that here.  For whatever reason, I do poorly at the organized events (minus last year’s epic N. R. Corn Festival Derby) helping the kids get on the fish.

Bryce with his new friend Heidi, and the tiny toad they caught

No matter how the fishing goes, the event is always a lot of fun.  I nearly always find myself fishing around like minded folks that just want to see their kids have fun and hopefully make a memorable catch.  While this ends up being a reality for many, I find myself making great memories even if it doesn’t involve a catch(es).  This year was no exception, the family next to us having similar poor fishing results, but enjoying all of our kids playing and exploring the woods together.  I’m confident none of the kids will remember the lack of fish, but will remember playing tag, wagon rides, finding critters like baby toads, and making new friends.

Cleveland Metroparks staff just prior to the awards

For those fortunate enough to find the fish, and there were plenty that did, the awards presentation is enjoyable to watch.  Seeing those proud parents… and those kids walking up with their self-esteem and confidence boosted is fantastic.  There are tons of well deserved ‘high-fives’ and the vibe is always upbeat and exciting.

That’s a lot of fishing swag waiting to be won!

As you can see from the above photo, many young anglers leave with some nice new gear in tow.  As an adult, I view catching the fish itself is the reward, but imagine catching fish AND getting a reward for it.  Sign me up for that!  No wonder why all of the kids are so excited and the events are so well attended.

Bryce always loves the education ‘stations’

Jen talking about invasive species with Bryce

The Cleveland Metroparks always do a great job of having some type of interactive education.  From year to year it varies on what exactly it might be, but it is always present.  I can speak for not only my children, but the all of the ones I observe, that they love interacting with the staff and volunteers.  It is also safe to say that they are having fun while not realizing they are learning.  This speaks volumes about the people providing the education and how they present it – as it so well received.  I always learn something new myself.

Bryce ‘horsing around’ with a ranger

So another year has gone by and my fishing results for the kids was the same.  But just like last year, we had the same great overall experience.  If I can make a case for how much fun you will have even if you don’t catch fish – just imagine how awesome it is if you do!  There’s really no risk of having a bad time either way.  As always, I want to say a huge thank you to Mike Durkalec, Aquatic Biologist, and all of the other staff (and volunteers) from the Cleveland Metroparks… not just for this event, but for all of the wonderful resources they maintain for us in NE Ohio.

First kayak outing of 2018, with a memorable catch

LORAIN, OH – I always say, “it just takes a single bite to change a day”.  That was exactly the case on my first kayak outing of 2018 on Cinco de Mayo.  I woke up to a forecast that demanded I hit Lake Erie (only slight wind and out of the SW) and the only decision would be whether I wanted to hit a regular launch location or try somewhere new.  After combing through info on some kayak fishing groups on Facebook, I settled on heading to Lorain.

A couple photos of what I consider one of my best kayak catches to date!

I would launch at a small un-groomed beach next to Jackalope Lakeside.  This area was familiar to me from shore fishing on the Mile long Pier, but I had never taken the kayak out anywhere near here.  As I was running a little bit late, I somehow managed to leave my paddle leash at home, a minor annoyance but the type of distraction that can mentally start making you assume it will be a bad trip.  Nonetheless, I found myself trolling two crankbaits by 4:15 p.m. with all the hope and optimism that had been stored from the long winter.

After an hour with no action, I began to do some free fishing with a variety of tactics employed.  This resulted in nothing more than a few Round Gobies picking at some nightcrawlers when I tried live bait.  I suppose this lack of success was a good thing as it prompted me to return to trolling the crankbaits.  After resetting for trolling, it only took a couple minutes before the rod on my right side suddenly bent in half.  The rod didn’t bounce, it just quickly had weight on it.  I was worried that it actually had just become hung up on something but once in hand I could feel the movement of a fish.  As I played the fish closer to the boat, I could see in the clear water it was a Walleye!  I suspected from the fight style, it was, but there was nothing like the confirmation when my eyes saw it.  I managed to get it netted on the first attempt, and overall from strike to landing everything was smooth.  Just the way you like it on a good fish.

The relief of seeing the fish in the net

As most people know, I am a huge fan of catching ‘rough fish’.  I can’t help but mention that I felt good about my credibility as kayak angler by catching this fish.  For nearly everyone around here, if you are on Lake Erie, this is the target and generally accepted as the most coveted sport/food fish.  While I’m not the type to be overly consumed with what people think of me or my angling ability, it mattered to me to get this fish, maybe because I needed to prove it to myself.

While the fish looks small, I love this photo showing the entire kayak (Photo credit John Peden)

In a rare moment of luck, there was a photographer on the pier that looked eager to get good subject matter for some photos.  I yelled out asking if he would take a few fish pictures for me, and he obliged.  After exchanging contact information, I was treated to some really nice images that just made a great day even better.  I remain appreciative that the memory of the day was uniquely captured by this chance encounter.  Thank you John Peden! (view his Instagram here)

Parting shot (Photo credit John Peden)

Look for me to return to this destination soon as I hope to build upon my initial success!… maybe a larger fish or multiple keepers or God willing, BOTH!

Myrtle Beach, S.C., vacation fishing

MYRTLE BEACH, SC – Anyone who knows me or follows this blog is aware of how much of a proud Ohioan I am.  There is a lot to love here, and when it comes to fishing freshwater – being near Lake Erie is about as good as it gets.  That being said, the handful of times I have gotten to fish saltwater, always seem to humble me and provide experiences that leave me envious of those that can fish it regularly.  This past week was no exception, as I had the opportunity to venture out in the Atlantic Ocean on a 1/2 day charter with Captain John (Reel Action Fishing Charters).

Don’t worry Bryce, you’ll go next time

I love the above photo, albeit it also breaks my heart.  My son was looking back at me while being lead away, as the weather was just a little too suspect for him to make the trip.  Mom is pretty protective and Bryce simply hasn’t had enough experience on a boat to know how he would handle it if things got choppy or we got a downpour.  With a very unpredictable forecast, it was the right decision at the time.  I must admit I may not forgive myself until we get back and he can go.

“I will love you this much if you put me back”

Along with Captain John’s kid-friendly approach that won me over as a dad, I also appreciated his honest no-nonsense appraisal of fishing this time of year and what to expect.  He let me know it was a bit early for some of the more typical sport fishing that occurs in the area.  He offered me options of more sure likelihood catching or hard fishing that could yield the end result of being empty handed for the effort.  In the end, we agreed to try for a short bit of fishing the Oyster beds for Redfish and then heading out in the ocean for Black Sea Bass and Spiny Dogfish.  Knowing dogfish are in the shark family, and I had never caught one, had me plenty excited.

As it would turn out, the Oyster beds did not yield any fish but I did catch the above Blue Crab on rod & reel.  It was not expected and something kind of cool to see for someone from Ohio.  I had to laugh as it made me think of the Dude Perfect video of Fishing Stereotypes (specifically at 2:24).

A cool bonus sight on the way out to fish the big water

Black Sea Bass

Spiny Dogfish

After a short while of motoring to the reef, we set up to fish again.  I no more than felt my weight hit the bottom and instantly had a bite.  True to his word and expertise, Captain John immediately had me on fish.  Countless Black Sea Bass were caught, varying in size, never more than a minute apart between fish.  As predicted, this action soon triggered the attention of the main targeted species for the day.  It didn’t take long until I felt a much heavier fish that fought well and occasionally could peel some drag.  Sure enough, the Spiny Dogfish.  After some instruction on how to safely handle them, I was enjoying quite a few photo ops with the species.  These ‘mini-sharks’ if you will, were getting caught after about every 5th or 6th bass.

A very happy author adding a new species to the life list

It was pretty cool to see the dogfish occasionally follow a bass that was hooked all the way to the surface.  I also had a few dogfish follow a hooked dogfish to the surface.  I actually have footage of this happening and hope to add a video to this post sometime soon.  The trip was awesome as I love catching something new and the fact that this species was decently sized and ‘shark like’ made for another saltwater experience I will never forget.

I can not wait to get back, and most assuredly will fish with Captain John again!

Bassmaster Elite Series, Fantasy Fishing

LAKE MARTIN, AL – “Play Bassmaster Elite Series Fantasy Fishing”, they said… “it will be fun!”, they said.  So yeah, evaluating my first tournament I guess it was a lot of fun if I don’t care about my actual result.  Of course in all actuality it was a lot of fun, borderline complete blast.  It made my engagement with the tourney a whole different experience than just looking at the leaderboards and waiting for it to be broadcast on television.  I found myself glued to the BASStrakk feed on Twitter, praying to see any of the names from my handpicked team.  While I envisioned myself becoming the Robert Kraft or George Steinbrenner of Fantasy Fishing ownership, the reality is that I put quite the jinx on a set of accomplished anglers.  For those familiar with the movie Office Space, I can hear the complete roster of anglers in Lumbergh’s voice saying, “uhm… yea… so if you could just not pick me, that’d be great”.  Sadly, some will be drafted to team CoolWaterFish.

For those unfamiliar with format, you select one angler from predefined groups A through E.  You score points based on each of your anglers overall place in the tourney.  All anglers fish the first two days, top 51 fish Day 3, top 12 fish Day 4.  I had 2 anglers fishing Day 3 (Matt Lee, 32nd and Chris Lane, 49th) and none on Day 4.  As a percentage, I was only 22.6% which means the vast majority of fantasy owners outperformed me.

So what was my methodology with choosing my team?  Well, I had many ideas and I decided to go with anglers from the same state as the event.  I applied the fact that I tend to do my best fishing on water I have fished the most.  My thought process is that these anglers would have likely fished Lake Martin more frequently as they made their way up through the ranks to the Elite Series.  I also thought residing in the state, if they still recreationally fished or did guiding, it might have them there more.  In the end, I think the entire field being the top professionals in the world, any local advantage was mitigated.  I will definitely use different methodology next event.

Feel free to leave a comment where you finished for the event, as for me 20,641st.  Ugh!~

Entering the new year with a plan

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – Outside of growing one year older, I love the new year and the hope it gives to doing anything and everything better than the previous year.  For 2018, rather than simply relying on “hope”, I am approaching the year with a more formalized plan.  I’ve noticed that with career and family, amplified by the fact the kids are young, the day to day chaos causes missed opportunities for recreation.  As my wife and I have already been using the calendar more, blocking off dates, writing in specific places to explore, and even booking trips… this year feels different, and better!

It’s probably worth noting I’ve taken this whole ‘planned approach’ beyond just as it applies to creating more fishing opportunities and quality time with the family.  Ultimately, I believe it will make the blog have more new content and be a better read.