Memorial Day Weekend, Wallace Lake

The tail end of my kayak and the fountain at Wallace Lake

BEREA, OH – It’s fair to say I am more patriotic than most people.  I love our country and especially our veterans.  I am a strong believer and supporter of American exceptionalism and no words can describe how I feel about those who have laid down their lives for this great nation.  While my fishing blog is not used as a political platform, I just wanted to acknowledge my fantastic weekend both fishing and enjoying my family was a direct result of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

One of six Largemouth Bass caught

A week had passed since the Children’s Fishing Derby at Wallace Lake that I had blogged about here.  I thought there would be a strong likelihood of trout remaining and of course my shot at a Golden Trout.  The Cleveland Metroparks released 100 of them in conjunction with their Centennial Celebration.  The Golden Trout would continue to elude me, but their was plenty of action to make for a banner day of kayak fishing.  In the end, I tallied six Largemouth Bass caught and released and my three fish limit of Rainbow Trout.  A few more trout were released after hitting the limit.

The author with a rare smiling photo

A quality sized stocker measuring a bit over 14 inches

The bass were caught on 1/32 ounce jigs with Berkley Gulp! Minnows, and the trout all were brought to net via inline spinners.  I have no idea what size a keeper bass is as I only release them, but if it is 12″, a couple would have been a little better or under that mark.  Two of the three trout kept were rather decent for stockers, I only measured the largest, that fish a tad over 14″.

The end of the day

Memorial Day Weekend tends to offer time for a lot of folks to fish.  I was excited to see so many people, especially kids, fishing on my Facebook and Instagram feeds.  I couldn’t have been happier with the results of my day (well unless I finally caught a Golden), and hope others had success.  Even if the fish didn’t cooperate for you, I am certain the time was well spent!

Cleveland Metroparks, Wallace Lake Fishing Derby

BEREA, OH – With my wife out of town for work, I had a little assistance from the Cleveland Metroparks (www.clevelandmetroparks.com) with keeping the kids entertained today.  In what has become an annual tradition, we participated in a kids fishing derby at Wallace Lake.  These are very well organized, a lot of fun, and create some wonderful memories.  Staff and volunteers are always eager to assist in any way to help participants have a good time.  It never ceases to amaze me how Cleveland Metroparks Aquatic Biologist Mike Durkalec amidst all the logistics and chaos of the day – can give so many different kids some personal attention.  Pretty amazing.

Along with the tradition of going to these events, is my inexplicable tradition of not being able to help put my kids on fish during the event.  I really can’t explain it, but it reminds me to never consider tournament fishing.  If there is any degree of competition or I am ‘on the clock’ of an event, I do bad.  Thankfully, my kids are forgiving and there is enough going on that they still have a blast.  Maybe I need a big button that says “MEDIA” that I can wear, and claim my poor efforts are due to the distraction of covering the event.

I love the photos posted above.  The shot of my son and daughter with their arms around each other getting along, both smiling naturally (not the usual cheesy Bryce insists on) is captured very rarely.  I also loved seeing them admire some of the catches that make their way into the tank.  This is a very popular attraction for all the kids, not just mine.  I thought the huge 19.5″ bass was exceptionally kind to frame itself so nicely in my daughter’s photo.  That fish, was actually caught by a young girl similar in age to Alexis… surely others were dealing with the same thoughts I was of being excited for her while just a tad bit jealous!  What a catch!

Being in the Cleveland Metroparks never limits you to a specific a single type of wildlife.  We saw many neat creatures, critters, and animals of all types and sizes.  Of note, Great Blue Herons, Orioles, Egrets, turtles, and a toad.  My kids did not leave the event sad or disappointed they didn’t catch fish, instead I was treated to conversations throughout the day regarding everything they did see and do, and especially the toad.

Despite somewhat cool weather and overall tough fishing for most, attendance was pretty impressive.  This photo taken a few minutes before the morning session awards, shows only a small sampling of the population around the event area and doesn’t account for the numbers that  continued to fish.  I am glad so many people, with those kids, make it out.

I live about 20 minutes from Wallace Lake, this photo was 5 minutes after we left.  Needless to say, they were spent.  I love knowing they played that hard.

***UPDATE 5/26/17***

Shortly after we arrived, I recalled that we spoke to a gentleman who was covering the event.  It was Michael Iglewski, who runs a YouTube Channel “Michael Iglewski Outdoor Sports“.  The image capture above is from his event video which can be seen here.  I wish there was footage of us reeling in a monster, but that would have required epic editing skills as we didn’t catch anything.

A giant fish, stocker trout, & friends

BEREA, OH –  Some days are just about perfect, today was one of them.  If nothing more would have happened than getting to kayak fish on a 60 degree day near the end of January in northern Ohio – it would have been great.  When you add a giant fish, catch and releasing more than a limit of the targeted species, and fishing amongst friends it is truly a special day.

cwf01212017grasscarpA giant White Amur aka “Grass Carp”

A few years ago, I perfected some tactics to catch Grass Carp at a lake in Medina and the pond in my back yard.  The highlight was a huge fish caught by throwing some green leafy plants on the surface, and mixing in a leaf that had a single hook in it.  That fish was never documented.  In one of those ‘what was I thinking?!’ moments (this particular excuse applies to several memorable fish) I had decided it was necessary to clean the fish off before snapping a few photos.  It’s probably not necessary to fill in the blanks, but yes, right out of my hands the fish swam away.  I was pretty dejected to say the least.  It was my hope whether targeting or inadvertent, that I would encounter the same class fish at some point.  Most importantly, that the new story would end with a photo.  As you see above, on this day that happened and a bit of fishing redemption was mine.  I use the term “a bit” because the other fish took my offering in the mouth and was a catch in the purest sense.  Today’s fish ended up snagged after I kept casting where I saw a big fin breach the water.  While legal in Ohio for this species, it will never measure up to the first fish due to this.

cwf01212017rainbowA small stocker Rainbow Trout

Almost lost in my mind completely over the big fish, was that the targeted species was stocker Rainbow Trout.  The trout were placed in early December and it was apparent a good number remained.  While not fast and furious, I did get my 3 fish limit and continued to catch & release another 3 or 4.  A few fish came on the non-glorious (but always productive) Powerbait and the others on a Panther Martin inline spinner.  All of the trout I caught were rather small, and all Rainbows.  The Cleveland Metroparks do a great job of mixing in some bigger trout, some Golden, and a few others species of trout with most, if not all stockings.  I have never caught any of the ‘bonus’ fish despite a substantial effort in the number of times I’ve been out.

cwf01212017kayakThe author’s reaction to someone else’s big trout!

The photo above captures me reacting to someone else catching one of those ‘bonus’ fish I can’t seem to get.  I hope it shows my sportsmanship or a lot about my personality to see my joy over someone else getting a nice catch.  The unseasonably warm weather brought out a good number of kayak anglers, and this fortunate angler landed a very sizeable Rainbow.

cwf01212017kenAmongst the kayak anglers on the lake, was at least one face that looked familiar to me.  It turns out it was Ken Morris, a Pro Staffer for a few brands and definitely a well respected person in the kayak and fishing community.  I had first seen Ken in a Facebook Group we both belong to, CLE Kayak Angers, and it was nice to formally meet.  He has a wealth of knowledge and one of those people that freely offers his expertise and insight.  I hope to do some planned fishing trips with him in the future.  Ken mentioned the River Bassin Tournament Trail, a paddle-powered catch, photo, and release fishing tournament series.  It looks really outstanding and I wanted to give it some exposure on my blog.  Check it out!

Ominous weather for kayak fishing Lake Erie

CWF06042016yakbeachBAY VILLAGE, OH – Having a day available to fish is not an opportunity to pass up, even if the weather is less than ideal.  The forecast was just fair enough to make me feel comfortable hitting Lake Erie from the kayak, albeit not heading too far out.  Due to the weather being suspect, I decided to launch out of Huntington Beach (link here), part of the Cleveland Metroparks, a destination I have used a handful of times the past few years.

CWF06042016erieI started the day drifting worm harnesses on bottom bouncers and drop shotting artificial tubes.  My hope (better stated as my dream) was to catch Walleye and Smallmouth Bass.  Needless to say, neither happened.  I switched a few times before settling on attempting to troll crankbaits while paddling.  This turned out to be a great decision as the rest of the day I was routinely catching White Bass.  The size of the fish were good too, most falling between 12 to 14 inches.

While I don’t look happy in the photo, I was thrilled.  The serious face had more to do with conditions and trying to get the fish and equipment to cooperate for a picture.  Usually, my Lake Erie kayak fishing is tons of Round Gobies and a few Sheephead.  Throw in an occasional Channel Catfish and that is about all I’ve done.  To pick up a different species, and in good numbers and size, was fun and felt like an accomplishment.  Looking at the weather and how I was having success, I couldn’t help but think of the movie Caddyshack.  I just hoped it didn’t end with me getting struck by lightning.  This did cause me to come off the water earlier than I would’ve liked.

No complaints about the day, I enjoyed it far more than a beautiful day without catching fish.  Each time out I am trying new techniques and strategies, and my confidence is building as I am making more catches.  I also continue to do better with setting up the kayak for each trip with efficient packing and having the right items within reach while on it.  Right down to my loading and unloading of the yak, things seem vastly improved.  I can’t wait to get back out!

One day, three kayak fishing locations

CWF05282016A fine Rainbow Trout from the kayak, at Wallace Lake

BEREA, OH – The previous weekend’s Kid’s Fishing Derby at Wallace Lake had me wondering if there were any stocker Rainbow Trout remaining.  If you read my previous post covering the event, you will know I did not give the fishing it’s due effort, which also left me feeling a bit bummed.  I was hopeful fish would remain, but also knew the lake would have had considerable pressure.

With an opportunity to fish nearly all of the day, I was fortunate that my plan could include multiple destinations.  I decided I would fish Wallace Lake for a few hours before moving on to the Rocky River at Emerald Necklace Marina and then into Lake Erie.

Getting on to the water at Wallace Lake, I was greeted with a nice Bluegill on my second cast.  This didn’t end up meaning anything as to the pace of the fishing as I would go nearly an hour and a half before the next strike.  That strike turned out to be a small Largemouth Bass.  Fortunately, I got this bite or I may have been out of the water by the time I hit the two hour mark where I had planned to leave.  As I fished on, I began to convince myself that it was unlikely many fish remained.  The lake is not so big as to not see a good number of shore anglers at any given time, and I had not seen a single trout taken by anyone.  I am not sure what motivated me to keep throwing my inline spinner and revise my departure time, but I did.  Finally, I got another hit and felt the pull of a bit better fish than the previous two.  As I got the fish close to the boat I could see it was a trout, and a fine sized one for a stocker.  Fish landed without issue, just under 17″.

The kayak view at the mouth of the Rocky River

With goal number one for the day accomplished by catching a trout out of Wallace Lake, it was on to the next missions.  While not so specific, I just wanted to catch some fish in the Rocky River and Lake Erie.  I headed north through the Rocky River Reservation and put the kayak in at Emerald Necklace Marina.  The river was pretty busy with boat traffic, both large and small crafts.  Who knows if this contributed to keeping fish out of the area but I had no hookups, just conversations with other paddling enthusiasts.  Moving on to the lake, my luck didn’t change.  All of my offerings were refused other than drifting worm harnesses that were getting destroyed by Round Gobies.  I landed a few of them to confirm what species was bait robbing me, and gave up on trying to get anything else to bite.  The weather changed too, and I called it a day.

I wish the river or lake would have given up a nice fish or two, but I was happy I got out, and I always get ideas for the next trip and how to be more successful.

Cleveland Metroparks, Children’s Fishing Derby

By random circumstance, I finally had a few moments to catch up on the Cleveland Metroparks fishing blog.  I was surprised to learn that right as I was reading, the annual Children’s Fishing Derby had just started at Wallace Lake in Berea that very morning.  While we were already an hour into the event, I hustled my son out the door.

Bryce and I are no strangers to these events as we have done several, but it was admittedly different to arrive late.  Most of the better, easier places to fish were taken, which left us casting under a tree with ominous branches that displayed numerous trophies of tackle they had claimed.  We didn’t let it discourage us, and went about our fishing.  About a half hour in, Bryce reeled in a small Bluegill.  After the catch, I noticed Bryce was more pre-occupied with the carnival type atmosphere of the registration area and decided to quit fishing.

CWF05222016bWith things like the above ‘museum on wheels’ with huge animal graphics on the sides, I could understand why Bryce wanted to explore more of the area away from the water.  It’s funny how sometimes we can learn from our children.  I was consumed with getting him catching fish and making up for lost time from being late, only to have him at peace and happy finding enjoyment in other activities besides catching fish.  It rubbed off on dad, and I was having fun too.

CWF05222016cIn the above photo, Jessica was very encouraging by giving out ‘high-fives’ for correctly identifying the fish species in the dioramas.  Bryce also helped us to discover the plexiglass worked as an effective sneeze-guard, who knew?!

CWF05222016gThe always popular aquarium with some of the day’s catches draws my son to it like tweens to a Justin Bieber concert.  Fortunately, most everyone was fishing which allowed him to dominate the front row view.  I admittedly always enjoy the aquarium myself, which seems to be a nice fixture to look forward to at the events.  I do wish we would have been able to contribute a catch to it.

CWF05222016eBryce always wants to be the intellectually superior person when it comes to fish knowledge with his peers.  Cleveland Metroparks Aquatic Biologist Mike Durkalec, pictured above, is always kind enough to share some knowledge.  Some people have a gift with teaching, and Mike has it.

05222016fAfter a conversation with this young lady’s dad, I learned she had caught a nearly microscopic fish in a small plastic bucket.  I almost went blind trying to spot it, but it was there.  Too bad for her that the Smallest Fish Award required being caught on hook and line, or she would have won easily.  I’m sure she was fine without the award, as anyone rocking “Fish Ohio” cheek art knows who is boss.  Bryce and I didn’t find the tattoos, not sure if I could have pulled off the look.

I apologize that this post doesn’t have any awesome fish pictures in it, but most assuredly I can tell you many great fish were caught.  Click here to see some of the catches.  The way the day turned out, Bryce and I simply weren’t by the water to make our own catches or see neat catches being made around us.  We had fun with the activities pictured above, conversations, great hot dogs and the casting station.  For those that have never gone to one of these events, I want to note that loaner fishing rods were offered to those that needed them and free bait.  It also goes without saying that there are always numerous volunteers and staff offering free instruction.

A big thank you to the Cleveland Metroparks for another wonderfully fun family event!

Christmas hangover at Wallace Lake

CWF12262015troutA nicely colored Wallace Lake Rainbow Trout

BEREA, OH – When I recently posted my “Year end recap…” I fully expected that I would not get to fish in the last few days of 2015.  Surprisingly, the unseasonably mild weather and some other favorable circumstances found Bryce and I fishing at Wallace Lake the day after Christmas.  The hangover spoken of in the title isn’t related to anything alcohol related, rather the emotional refueling required after getting a 4 year old and nearly 2 year old through Christmas.

This trip was somewhat on a whim and the fact that my 4 year old was eager to tag along, kept expectations low.  I took very little tackle and assumed Bryce would wear out quick.  I was lured to the lake by a recent trout stocking that included Rainbow Trout that were fed higher amounts of beta carotene increasing their colors, some Brown Trout, some Golden Trout, and even a single Cutthroat Trout!  All of these potential catches made even the shortest of efforts worthwhile.

As unpredictable as fishing can be, this marginally prepared for, highly distracted by toy dinosaurs, and completely under geared trip, was hugely productive.  In the few hours we fished, I would hook up with 9 Rainbow Trout.  Bryce was thrilled and enjoyed helping out and this was his first time seeing live trout.  We kept a stringer of one legal limit (3 fish) and it was like looking at myself watching him pull the stringer up to look at the fish over and over.  I emailed Cleveland Metroparks one of the photos of him admiring our biggest trout, which ended up being the cover photo for the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Blog for the December 31st weekly report.  It can be seen here.  Bryce was very proud of this accomplishment and made sure everyone knew.

It would have been very cool to catch any of the other ‘special’ trout that were stocked, but it would be hard to complain about the day’s success.  All of these traditional Rainbows had beautiful color and we were fortunate that mixed into our catches was one of the bigger class fish (pictured above).  While Wallace Lake continues to be a ‘hit or miss’ fishing venue for me, I am happy that I am having more good days than bad.

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!