Brown Trout caught on first kayak outing of 2021

A beautiful Brown Trout caught from the kayak at Wallace Lake

BEREA, OH – Nearly a month and a half since the last trout stocking at the Cleveland Metroparks, Wallace Lake, I had guarded optimism for my first kayak trip of 2021.  Any doubt would be removed rather quickly.  I had barely gotten everything adjusted and set up from the long winter break (from the yak), and had an eager fish slam my inline spinner.  Fumbling to get the net while keeping tension on the rod, I caught a few glances of the fish with no evidence it wasn’t the typical Rainbow Trout.  Maybe it was all the splashing and commotion, but it was one of those very rare occurrences where I didn’t realize what I had until it was in the net.  If you read my post from February 6th (here), you know how stoked I was to catch one of the ‘bonus’ fish.  I was near speechless having caught this beautiful, just under 16″, Brown Trout!

Stocker trout make for guilt free table fare

The trout stocking program is one of those unique opportunities to catch & keep without anyone judging or a need for any personal remorse.  While I am an avid catch & release fisherman, it is unlikely there is any carryover through the summer.  This makes it very easy to keep your catch for table fare.  I ate this fish, grilled with lemon and dill, and it was delicious.

A small caught & released bass

After the near immediate success of the memorable Brown Trout, the fishing got very slow.  I went from thinking I would have my three fish limit in 45 minutes, to wondering if I would even get a second bite.  Well over an hour, possibly two, I finally had another hookup.  Instead of a typical Rainbow Trout stocker, it was a small Largemouth Bass.  It was released, and helped to provide a bit more motivation to continue fishing.  That would be it for the catching though, the only additional action being a very nice Rainbow Trout that followed my spinner right to the side of the kayak.  I never thought to try a ‘figure eight’, but maybe the next time that happens, I will!

While not a day for catching numbers, the Brown Trout more than made up for it.

Ice Ice Baby

BEREA, OH – Alright stop, collaborate and listen, I walked on ice and did some fishin’.

Okay, sorry about that, 1990 was calling me.

As someone who is hyper-cautious about ice being safe, it’s pretty rare when I can get out ice fishing.  It just doesn’t seem like we get those nice long periods of time below freezing.  Many winters, I don’t even make it out once.  With the recent prolonged freeze, I was ready to take full advantage of the opportunity.  What made it even better, I sufficiently assured my wife it was safe, so my son could join me.  I’ll get right to the point and acknowledge we were skunked, which was beyond disappointing as it was my son’s first ice fishing experience – but surprisingly he still thought it was fun!  Kid’s can be pretty amazing, and today I learned from him as he played and laughed, thoroughly filled with joy, despite a single bite.

Bryce with his created fishing buddy!

We felt isolated, no action, and found ourselves talking to “Wilson”

Big shout out to my buddy Greg for providing sled rides while I watched the rods

Fishing is always more fun when you are catching, there’s no denying that.  I’m sure there are even people wondering why I would post on a trip that wasn’t successful in the slightest way.  I guess it is an attempt to remind people it isn’t only about the fish.  If I would have stayed home, I wouldn’t have remembered what I watched on TV within a few days, my son wouldn’t have remembered what video game he played.  I am certain he will remember this day, how much fun it was, and only marginally diminished by not catching fish.

If you were here only to see fish, and were unmoved by attempt to inspire, remember you can always view the more talented anglers around the Cleveland Metroparks on their Fishing Report.

Cleveland Metroparks, winter trout stocking

Cleveland Metroparks Aquatic Biologist Mike Durkalec displays trophy Brook & Golden Trout

A beautiful Brown Trout

A huge Rainbow Trout that would surely make any angler’s day

BEREA, OH – I started this post with pictures for a reason, I can’t possibly come up with words that capture the excitement of actually seeing some of the amazing trout available to us via the Cleveland Metroparks trout stocking efforts.  I have come to learn it is a recurring theme with the overall amazing quality of fish they stock.  Along with the Rainbow Trout, a good number of Brook, Golden, and Brown Trout are mixed in.  Across all these trout species are about every size, shape, colorization, and/or markings you could imagine.  While you will encounter some Rainbows that are more less clones of each other, there is plenty of diversity.  It makes every hookup exciting!

I’m the type of angler that appreciates every catch, but my hope is always to get one of the ‘bonus’ fish.  This would be any of the trout besides the predominantly stocked Rainbows.  I seem to have disproportionately bad luck with these ‘bonus’ fish as I have only caught a single Brown Trout despite a pretty good overall success rate of catching the trout.  The elusive Golden Trout is my Holy Grail as I have never caught one, stocking or wild.  I would like to take a moment to thank every little kid and grandma fishing around me that has allowed me to see one up close, when they caught it right beside me <insert disgruntled humorous sarcasm>.

If you want to keep up on the stocking schedules or want to see a weekly report that chronicles some of the catches, the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Report is your resource.  It can be seen here  I keep it conspicuously posted in my links on the top right of this blog.  This is done with purpose, as I want people to visit for the great information it provides.  I also find it entertaining to see the pictures and read the small associated stories that sometimes accompany.

Good luck chasing these beautiful stockers, I hope to see you out there!

Cleveland Metroparks, Bonnie Park, trout fishing

STRONGSVILLE, OH – I’m usually a person of many words.  Lately, not so much.  During this pandemic, I needed to do something that would provide salve to the soul of a thoroughly exhausted person.  Thankfully, the Cleveland Metroparks would provide the prescription.

I had only been to Bonnie Park on one previous trip, and it wasn’t to fish.  That didn’t matter.  This is not in the sense that I had an abundance of confidence that I could catch Rainbow Trout considering they had just been stocked.  It was more simply that I was outside with a fishing pole in my hand watching my kids having fun running around and playing outside.  The world once again seemed normal, at least for a few fleeting hours.

On a day that was destined for perfection, the fish had no choice but to cooperate.  I had my two fish limit within the first hour.  The Rainbow Trout measured 17.5” and 16” respectively, both being marked up handsomely with a bright red stripe.  I found myself content and my fishing effort waned, as I took in the surroundings and enjoyed the peace of the beautiful evening.  I’m convinced I could have assisted the kids to get our three person limit had I tried, instead I believe those extra four fish still swimming were meant for someone else who is arriving to the park in the same state I did.  I hope they catch them.

Cleveland Metroparks Event – Lake St. Clair Muskellunge Fishing with Mike Durkalec

NORTH OLMSTED, OH – Those that know me personally or even those who have followed my blog over the years, know how much I am pained over the fact that I have never caught a Muskellunge.  Each year that goes by without getting one, just makes the species grow in mystique and elusiveness.  Admittedly, I have long since given up on targeting them, but I still convince myself annually that I ‘should’ catch one inadvertently.  I know this isn’t a likely catch, and my optimism is foolish.

When I learned Mike Durkalec, Aquatic Biologist (and general ‘fish guru’) for the Cleveland Metroparks would be doing a presentation about Lake St. Clair Muskie Fishing, I knew this couldn’t be missed.  While I don’t have any immediate plans to head to Lake St. Clair, I knew I could pick up some general tips for the species that I could apply anywhere the fish is present.  It goes without saying this proved to be true.  Being originally from Northwest Ohio and living nearly a decade in Toledo, Lake St. Clair doesn’t seem like an intimidating trip to make, so I’m also not ruling it out.  If I do, attending the presentation was invaluable in increasing my odds for a hookup.

It would be impossible to share every detail of the presentation, all I can say is that all those in attendance had a very rare treat.  The lake was analyzed with first hand fishing knowledge sector by sector.  The forensic approach to the discussion was undeniably the biologist in Mike, and it was coupled with the sheer passion of a die-hard fisherman.  Attendees were educated, entertained, and sufficiently had their fishing motivation fuel tanks filled.  As I walked to my vehicle after the event, I’m certain I could hear “Eye of the Tiger” playing as I thought of my next fishing effort.

I wish I could end this post on a positive note, but I can’t.  The worldwide situation with the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 had progressed to the point that it became necessary for the Cleveland Metroparks to suspend all public speaking events like this.  It was the right decision, a responsible one, that saddens me deeply.  Maybe attending this event, just makes the cut a little deeper, realizing the wonderful things we are now without.  Know that I am praying for all of you during this difficult time that is still evolving.

The blog, for “The Land”

CLEVELAND, OH –  For some time, I had been thinking about a blog revamp to better capture the connection between my multi species fishing and the Greater Cleveland area.  I’ve always been very protective of keeping the blog specific to fishing, but I felt like I was missing the mark with acknowledging where the majority of my fishing now takes place.  I kept putting it off knowing how big of an undertaking it is (even on WordPress) to find a new template and then create all of the art to build around.  As fate would have it, about a week ago I was browsing templates and accidentally activated one rather than simply looking at a demo version.  I immediately saw my error and went to revert it back, only to learn that template was no longer available or supported.  So if you kept it active, no issue, you uninstall it, you’re done.  After a scathing exchange with the WordPress Support via chat, I came to peace with the fact that maybe there was a reason this happened.

So in an odd turn of events, I achieved my goal of incorporating a bit of a Cleveland ‘vibe’.

(photo is the author at one of the Script Cleveland Signs, this one at Edgewater Park)

Ending and starting the year, at Wallace Lake

Arriving at a favorite fishing destination

BEREA, OH – Just getting out fishing, regardless of success or not, seems to be the goal of late.  I didn’t do nearly as well as I hoped in 2019 as far as the amount of time spent fishing.  With the holidays providing a little extra time off from work, I tried to make up for some lost time.  While I do enjoy ice fishing, if it’s not cold enough to create good safe ice, I prefer it to be mild enough to go out on the kayak in relative comfort.  The unseasonably warm weather allowed just that, and my final fishing of 2019 and first fishing of 2020 would be from the ‘yak.

The last fish caught of 2019

The kayak fishing wasn’t very successful, with just one fish was caught.  While it was a nice fish, a rather healthy Crappie, it wasn’t like I was catching them in great numbers.  It also wasn’t a mixed in catch amongst the trout I was targeting, it was just a lone fish.  I reminded myself what a blessing it was just to be out, healthy enough to be kayaking, and reminisced over 2019.  Fishing is a lot like life in general, moments of great joy and success, and pain and failure.  This past year had it’s share of pain with the loss of two close relatives, that has remained too difficult to blog about.

The author with a limit of Wallace Lake trout

A few fish that will serve finely for table fare

While I would end 2019 with some tough fishing, my second time fishing in the new year was marked by tremendous success.  It may have been that I wasn’t as rusty as I had thought, but just the reality that the fish stocked on December 16th may not have spread out across the lake as I had expected.  With some advice from a friend, I hit an area that I had not covered on the kayak in previous trips.  This resulted in a total of 8-9 landed Rainbow Trout, quite the difference to be catch and releasing after a limit, than fighting to get a single bite!

The color and markings on this small fish were beautiful

It can sometimes be challenging to determine whether to keep or release a fish.  I never want to have more than two until I am leaving, just in case one of those bonus fish find their way to my hook.  If you read the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Blog, you can see some of those choice specimen get landed now and then.  These fish provide a little more fun and excitement, just knowing they are out there.  I have managed only one, a very interestingly colored Brown Trout on my first kayak outing of 2019 (can see that fish here).  On today’s trip, it was just a wide range of size, shape, and color of Rainbow Trout.  One of the reasons I love the species, is just how much diversity there is within it.  The above pictured fish, was one of the smallest of the day, but most handsome.  It was released.  A nice couple fishing near me, showed me their stunning Brook Trout that was deeply colored with the bright orange fins tipped in white.  A spectacular fish!

An example of two very different variations of Rainbow Trout caught today 

The two fish pictured above are great examples of the uniqueness of each individual fish.  I’m not sure if I am the exception or other anglers are like me, in that I appreciate each catch.  Even if I only inspect it briefly before a quick release, I always find myself taking a quick note of it’s characteristics.  Maybe it’s my inner child, that simply has never stopped enjoying anything I catch!

A cool catch on the first kayak outing of 2019

This 16″ Brown Trout ranks as one of my favorite kayak caught fish

BEREA, OH – It’s always special to get out on the kayak for the first time of the year.  Not just because it is a fun way to catch fish, but it usually (yes it does try to snow in April at times) marks a tangible measure that winter is over for me.  This past winter, for some reason, just seamed exceptionally long.  I had some extra motivation to make Wallace Lake the first outing due to a stocking that had taken place that included Brook, Brown, and Golden Trout along with the Rainbows.  I wasn’t able to get out, even for shore fishing, and was agonized seeing all the amazing catches featured on the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Blog.  The ‘recent’ stocking suddenly went from days ago, to weeks ago… and I just hoped some were left.

Arriving at the lake, my hope turned to confirmation as a shore angler was leaving with a fine Rainbow Trout on a stringer.  I launched quickly and began covering a lot of water offering an inline spinner.  My only taker was a small Largemouth Bass in the first hour.  It’s impossible to know if conditions, fishing pressure, or total number of fish available was the reason, but the fishing was slow.  I rarely had less than 6-8 fisherman within view and my bass was the only fish I saw caught.  About the moment my mind started second guessing my decision to fish at Wallace over the river or a different venue… my spinner got smacked.  The fantastic strike was followed by the rod revealing a decent sized fish that was giving plenty of fight.  It didn’t take long to get it to the boat, but I did get very nervous about successfully landing it when I saw the distinct markings of a Brown Trout!  It’s a species that I haven’t encountered a lot and I was so excited to get it landed.  Weeks after the last stocking, I had somehow managed one of the ‘bonus fish’!  Pure Joy.

While admittedly the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Blog has shown plenty of examples of bigger or more interestingly marked up fish, this one was my catch, and it was prized.  In fact I was so enamored by it, I found it almost difficult to continue fishing.  I was so thrilled with that single bite it made me content that I didn’t need to do more.  I fished a little less vigorously but did carry on another hour and a half.  I managed another trout, this one being a small colorful Rainbow Trout, that was returned to the water.

Wallace Lake, ice fishing for trout

BEREA, OH – You know something is awesome if you love it even though you aren’t good at it.  That is me with ice fishing.  There is just something inherently cool about walking onto the water, drilling a hole, and pulling a fish out of it.  I’ve pretty much mastered the first two, but the last is a struggle.  The past few years, I’ve invested a little more time online researching and increasing my knowledge base which has improved my on the water success.  The culmination of this effort recently was realized with a limit of stocker trout (and some bonus catches) at Wallace Lake.  While this day might hardly be a blip on the map for an accomplished ice anger, it probably represents the best I have ever done on an ice outing.  I’ll let the pictures tell the story…

Destination

Hopeful anglers

Where my ice fishing photos usually end

A fine Rainbow Trout through the ice

A good looking trout a bit over 14 inches

A somewhat chunky fish around 16 inches

Side by side comparison of the last two fish

A beautiful small fish that was released

Behind every picture is a memory, and I wish somehow I could translate in words just how exciting every catch was.  Maybe once I have become more masterful with ice fishing, each catch may not be as meaningful.  As it stands right now, any fish caught on the ice is a big deal, and the excitement and ‘newness’ of catching through the ice hasn’t worn off.  I can understand why ice fishing has it’s own niche of people who specialize in it and consider it their favorite method to fish.  My largest fish of the day put up an amazing spirited fight, and trying to get it head first to the hole and then lift out with my other hand was adrenaline packed fun… and this was just a 16″ fish!  After I got it on the ice, the hook came out and it nearly jumped back in the hole.  I scooted it away from the hole and it almost slid into another nearby hole… when I finally got it contained I was beyond relieved and just sat there thinking “how much fun is this?!”.

The day was likely the most successful I have ever had on the ice.  My confidence is improved.  If you’ve read my previous post detailing the Cleveland Metroparks stocking, you know there are some extra special fish swimming in these lakes.  This includes some Brown, Brook, and Golden Trout.  While these remain my most hoped for catches through the ice, my banner day was not diminished in the slightest because I didn’t encounter one.  I just will continue to hope…

Along with the photos included in this post, I did catch a White Crappie and a Bluegill.  I missed a good number of bites, and lost one trout at the hole.  I made some new friends with nearby anglers and also got to see what had to be one of the biggest catches of the day anywhere on the lake.  Near the end of the day, a guy near me landed a Rainbow that was a bit over 18″ and it had some shoulders on it.  From covering the stocking, I knew the size potential of a few of the best specimen, and he certainly found one.  He was stoked over the catch and I have to imagine any angler with a pulse would be.  I was excited just getting to see the catch.

So there you have it, the most fun I’ve ever had on the ice.  I can’t wait to get out again!