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!

UPDATE:  A special thank you to Mayor Greg Zilka for acknowledging this post, seen here.

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.

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.

Family fishing and a thank you to Cabela’s

A snapshot of what every kid’s childhood should look like

FREMONT, OH – While fishing is often way too infrequent for my liking, I have immensely enjoyed the few times I have gotten out.  I’m happy to report plenty of fish have been caught (Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Channel Catfish), but my real enjoyment has been having the entire family together.  With my youngest ‘baby’ recently turning three, it is just getting easier for all of us.  As patience and stamina continue to improve for the kids, combined with less separate packing, more fishing should be in my future.  This suits me just fine!

With so many life changes and focuses that happen with parenthood, it is always nice when anyone demonstrates appreciation of family and kids.  After realizing my son was sporting a Cabela’s hat and that some of the photos seemed to capture his love of fish so well, I tweeted an image to Cabela’s.  For a big organization, I thought it was an exceptional nice personal touch to respond back.  Well done Cabela’s, and now I have even more reasons to feel good spending money there!

I had to laugh when the trash to the left went floating by.  The only debate my 5 year old wanted to have was whether it was an Alligator or Crocodile.  While it actually was some weathered rancid looking bubble wrap, I just didn’t have it in me to break his spirit and imagination.  Honestly, the more I look at it, the more convincing it becomes.

A big catfish amongst bait stealing gobies

cwf09042016gobyBAY VILLAGE, OH – It was a beautiful day to head out into Lake Erie from Huntington Beach.  I was happy to get some time fishing from the kayak and didn’t really care what I caught, I just wanted to catch fish.  I set up one rod with a bottom bouncer and worm harness as I drifted and the other rod was for casting.  I had a few moments of excitement when I had a strike on the tube jig I was throwing, but it was very short lived.  The 3-4 strikes all came off shortly into the fight.  Curious as to what it might have been, but I guess that’s fishing for you at times.

My bottom bouncer rig remained quiet throughout the day, other than a single Sheephead, and a number of Round Gobies.  I’ve determined my next trip I will dropshot the gobies as bait themselves, I used to do this at the pier in Port Clinton with some success.  The highlight of my day came when my rod I was casting was sitting in the rod holder.  While I was busy removing a goby from the other line, I felt the kayak shake and saw something had clearly taken the Berkley Gulp! Minnow that was just drifting in the current.  The rod was doubled over and the fish gave me one of the best fights I’ve had on the kayak to date.  While I still am searching for my first Smallmouth Bass or Walleye from the kayak, I was plenty happy with the big Channel Catfish.

cwf09042016catfishThe biggest catfish I’ve caught from the kayak

Memorial Day on the Sandusky River

CWF05302016drumFather & son, with one of many large fish

FREMONT, OH – While the girls went shopping and played at home, the boys headed to the river.  As Bryce and I made the hour drive to the grandparent’s house, it was very special to be able to explain what Memorial Day was about.  He grasped the main components of the holiday, and was waving an American Flag at any vehicle we passed.  This day was destined to be awesome.

Arriving to the river, we eagerly got lines in the water.  One set up for still fishing with nothing more than a worm suspended under a bobber, and the other I went about casting lures.  It didn’t take long and I had a nice big Freshwater Drum hit my inline spinner.  While Bryce and I took turns between reeling in the fish and manning the net to get the fish landed, I heard a loud splash.  A fish had pulled the other rod into the water.  There wasn’t anything I could do about the lost rod, so we just did our photo session with the drum (pictured above) before sending it back to the water.

CWF05302016pumpkinA handsome Pumpkinseed was one of many species encountered

After the big drum we continued to catch fish, namely a few Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, and Channel Catfish.  I’m not sure who was more excited, father or son, to be catching so many fish and multi species variety.  As if we weren’t having enough fun, we started seeing the bobber surface from the rod that had gone into the water!  I grabbed a canoe, and kept paddling to where the bobber had come up, only to have it go back under and surface 10 to 20 feet away again.  Bryce thought this was very funny.  Finally, I got close enough to the bobber to slip the paddle under it and get ahold of the line.  The rod end of the line was unable to be budged, so I went ahead and pulled in the fish by hand.  No surprise that it was a rather large Channel Catfish.

CWF05302016catfishThe rod stealing catfish, Bryce’s face shows he didn’t trust the fish

I threw the fish in the canoe so Bryce could see it up close and do a couple pictures.  After the fish was released, I was shocked to see the bobber was out of sight again.  With no fish pulling it, I assumed it would stay at the surface and my plan was to swim out to it, follow the line to the rod and free the rod from whatever it was stuck on.  Even though the bobber was not visible, I swam out thinking I would still be able to feel the line or bobber under the surface.  After 30 minutes, I gave up, and decided to just leave it as another good fishing story.

Fall Family Fishing Fest

CWF10102015entranceA historic site for a family fishing event

Fishing a new location is always exciting, and today I got to do that while also participating in a very fun Cleveland Metroparks sponsored event with my son.  The event, “Fall Family Fishing Fest” took place at the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation on E49th in Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio.  The main attraction for Bryce and I was the fishing derby which gave prizes for kids catching the top 3 lengths of Channel Catfish and Rainbow Trout (the species stocked specifically for the event).  Additionally, there was a category for special catches outside of those two species which made it fun to see what resident fish might turn up.  Along with the fishing, there were educational areas and programs offered that rewarded youths not only with knowledge – but a new fishing pole!  Bryce had already participated in an event that gave him this reward, so we would opt out to ensure that another child would get one.

CWF10102015crowdHopeful anglers line the grassy banks of the canal

The weather was perfect, hardly a trace of wind and plenty warm for an October day.  The venue itself was neat due to its history (can read here) and was quite scenic.  As with any Cleveland Metroparks event, their staff and volunteers always make it fun and enjoyable for all participants.  I’m impressed that even with hundreds of kids running around and all the chaos, there are countless examples of each kid getting personal attention and being made to feel special.

CWF10102015dadbryceIf one photo describes being a dad to me, this is it

Bryce and I set up a couple rods with jigs tipped with waxworms in the hopes of enticing a trout to bite.  I also thought this offering might have a bit of ‘universal appeal’ to other species.  Taking a newly 4 year old fishing, I mostly just hoped to keep bites happening so he didn’t grow bored and end our day.

CWF10102015SHSuccess!

The plan worked rather well and Bryce caught a decent catfish within minutes of our arrival.  He was thrilled to watch his fish get measured, his name written on the leaderboard, and see his fish go into an onsite aquarium for the day.  While the day would eventually see his name completely off the board, I had to laugh that he coped with this by saying he still was first because he caught the first one.  It was also funny that people who asked him how long his catch was would get, “600 hundred and 27 hundred pounds”.  Along with inheriting his dad’s love of fishing, he may have gotten my math skills.

CWF10102015bassfightThat’s a big fish bending the fly rod like that!

CWF10102015evanWay to go Evan!

The two photos above, were a story that just had to be told.  I watched a boy not far from us get instructed on fly fishing and he proceeded to cast for hours.  With that kind of persistence I was hoping he would be rewarded with a bite, and boy did it happen!  I looked over and saw a huge bend in the rod and knew it was a substantial fish.  After a spirited battle with the fish, it made it to the net.  We all were a bit shocked to see a dandy Largemouth Bass.  I venture to say there are many accomplished fly fisherman that haven’t caught a bass of that size.  Congratulations to Evan, and I think it is safe to say he is hooked on fly fishing!

CWF10102015aquariumThe aquarium that held a sampling of catches, Bryce was enthralled

While maybe nothing quite as exciting as Evan’s catch, similar joyous moments of fishing success were playing out all along the canal.  From first catches to special catches, big fish to little fish and everything in between, yes even a rock that was caught – people of all ages were having a good time.  These events are amazing in the life long memories they create and the way it instills an appreciation of nature for the kids participating.

CWF10102015mikeMike Durkalec, Cleveland Metroparks, handing out the awards

The day ended with awards being distributed to the kids that had the top catches.  Many arms and hands were holding some serious fishing swag, prompting a lot of smiling faces.  I heard a lot of fishing stories being exchanged, including a few of the ‘ones that got away’.  Even with a few lost fish it seemed everyone had some level of success.  The metroparks staff and volunteers were largely responsible for why this was the case by offering equipment for loan, some free equipment, free bait, and some expert fishing guidance.  Folks even canvassed the fishing area with long handled nets indicating to me that every detail had been well thought out.

If you missed this event, make sure you don’t miss the next.  I would like to personally extend a big thank you to the Cleveland Metroparks and the volunteers for providing such a fun day for my son and I.

Rocky River & Lake Erie from the kayak

CWF09172015Although the nights are starting to get cold, we are still having many very hot days on Ohio’s north coast.  I recently made the most out of one of those days by taking the kayak over to the Cleveland Metroparks and launching out of Emerald Necklace Marina.

I started my day of fishing right at the ramp and was rewarded with a 12″ Largemouth Bass on an inline spinner on the first cast.  This was my first bass from the Rocky River and I had only heard of Smallmouth being caught there, so it was a bit of a surprise.  I decided I would work my way north, fishing as I headed towards Lake Erie.  As easy as the first fish came, I would catch nothing else on my journey to the ‘big pond’.  Out in the lake, the fishing picked up and I caught several Channel Catfish and Freshwater Drum.  I was running a bottom bouncer/worm harness on one rod and casting a tube jig on the other.  I made a few lure changes and was disappointed that I missed a nice strike on a tandem of two Gulp! Minnows.  Maybe another drum, but I hate not knowing.

After getting my fill of the lake, I returned to the river and hooked up with a few more catfish and stumbled upon a new pattern.  I found a spot that I was catching Bluegill on every cast, with a few being worthy of table-fare, if I were keeping.  I will be curious if the spot holds up next trip.

As I headed in, I spotted another fisherman in a well rigged kayak and struck up some conversation.  It turns out it was someone from the CLE Kayak Anglers group I belong to on Facebook, Rusty Butchko.  Rusty knows the river well and was kind enough to share a few tips.  A visit to the Facebook page the next day, revealed that Rusty caught a very nice sized Walleye that evening, too cool!