2019 Fall Fishing Derby at Walker Road Park

AVON LAKE, OH – They say timing is everything and that definitely proved true today.  I had stumbled across an event on Facebook for a “Fall Fishing Derby” and it happened to be on a day I had promised my son we would go fishing.  Also making it worthwhile, was that I occasionally get asked about Walker Road Park and I had never been able to give a direct report regarding it.  Making my son happy while being at a new venue on a beautiful September Saturday, seemed like a great way to spend a few hours.  Little did I know, the day would end up rather memorable.

An impressive crowd assembled for this derby

I am not certain how many years they have done this derby, but the personable friendly staff and volunteers made it easy for me to see why the event was so well attended.  In fact, it was downright amazing considering the derby overlapped with the start of an Ohio State football game!  The event was sponsored by The City of Avon Lake, the Avon Lake Parks & Recreation Department, and Avon Lake Boat Club.  Awards and Raffle prizes were donated by Cabelas and Dairy Queen.  If I am incorrect or have any omissions, please leave a comment or let me know on the CoolWaterFish Facebook Page.  A HUGE thank you to all of them!

Charlotte casts better than kids twice her age and probably some adults

I’ve learned there is often a lot in common between the adults who attend these events.  I guess a kinship in finding the recreation of fishing to be fun and the value of doing it with your kid(s).  I almost always make friends with those fishing near me and this date would be no exception.  The photo above was a few of our new friends and I love the watchful eye of dad as his daughter mastered casting.  It makes me wish my daughter would have attended, but sadly the lure of shopping with mommy won out over catching “slimy fish”.

A hopeful Bryce early in the event

In what has become the norm, Bryce spends more time capturing critters on the shoreline as he does actually fishing.  This includes netting small fish, crayfish, tadpoles, snails, frogs, toads, or anything else he can find.  The actual fishing is usually me yelling “hey your bobber is going under” as he runs back to the rod only to have the bait stolen.  This repeats over and over until some unfortunate fish manages to gorge itself on a worm enough to get the point of the hook in it’s mouth.  More than half of the event was over before something other than that finally happened.  We had one rod tight lined off the bottom, which got a much stronger strike than the small Bluegill that were playing with the offerings under the bobber.  This time, the fish was solidly hooked.  Bryce fought the fish to shore, where I assisted with the net.  We did a quick High-Five and then ran to a judging table.

A solid 14.5″ Channel Catfish

A lot of great award and raffle items were given out

With most people fishing under a float, the plentiful Bluegill were the typical catch.  Bryce only caught that single fish, but due to bottom fishing, ended up getting the Channel Catfish.  He was excited to learn that his fish was rumored to be the largest caught for the day, and I know it seemed an eternity for him to wait (asking me every 5 minutes if the derby was over) until it was confirmed during the awards/raffle ceremony.  He received some nice fishing swag and everyone was very kind in congratulating him.  The event organizers did a real nice job recognizing winners while also validating every child there and the efforts they made to catch fish.  The focus truly was about family and getting outdoors together.  I firmly believe that is more important than any single fish, even a derby winning 14.5″ Channel Catfish.

One very happy boy!

Once again, thank you to everyone involved with this fishing derby.  It was very well organized and we would have had a great time whether we caught a fish or not.  We hope to be back in 2020!

Multi species day on the Sandusky River

FREMONT, OH – Maybe the Sandusky River knows the spiritual connection I have with it or knows my efforts to see the natural flow restored through the Ballville Dam removal… whatever it is… the river is nearly always good to me.  Today was no exception.  By the day’s end, between myself, son, and a couple friends we would catch seven species (White Bass, White Perch, Yellow Perch, Freshwater Drum, Channel Catfish, Rock Bass, & Golden Redhorse) and a total number of fish that was impossible to keep track of.  A truly banner day of Spring river fishing!

I’ll take the pull and fight of a big Freshwater Drum any day

A couple of the nicer sized Channel Catfish from the day

Now in typical fashion of someone who enjoys catching rough fish, there won’t be a picture of the Yellow Perch or White Bass.  While this wasn’t really intentional, I just noticed the few pictures that I had tagged for the blog just happened to not include them.  I guess a nice sized drum or catfish I consider more noteworthy and fun over an average White Bass or Yellow Perch.  I also wanted to highlight them as they seemed to be the most prevalent catches.  Overall, the mix of fish took everything from tight lining nightcrawlers off the bottom, to live minnows under a float, and inline spinners.  The most interesting catch was the single Golden Redhorse, as I have only recorded a few other sucker catches ever on this stretch of the river.  The other surprise was the volume of Yellow Perch, while I have encountered them here, never in the numbers as I did today and certainly never in abundance over the White Bass.

Bald Eagle

Northern Watersnake

Along with the great fishing, we encountered some wildlife without fins too.  I always welcome these bonus sightings and my son is always especially excited to see what we come across.  Today included a toad, a Northern Watersnake, and many types of birds and waterfowl.  The highlight had to be that as often as I see Bald Eagles, I finally was able to get a somewhat decent picture of one.  I do not have a professional camera with a great optical zoom – I carry rugged cameras that can handle the abuse of the outdoors and water.  This makes the practical application of fish pictures easy, but not so much for running around pointing it in the sky at moving birds.  Somehow, I did pull it off and was pleased with what I captured considering the device used.

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.