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!

A new personal record Freshwater Drum

The holiday weekend provided an opportunity to get back out on the kayak. I wanted to get out in Lake Erie but was worried about the wind and subsequent wave height. For once, I felt like I made a thoughtful well calculated plan, and chose to put in at Emerald Necklace Marina on the Rocky River. It was close enough to the mouth that I could paddle to the lake, yet if conditions were bad I could just stay in the river. So I put my plan into action and sure enough the lake was far to choppy for me to feel safe. I did not use good judgment as I was compelled to go out and ‘test it’, but dumping would never be a good way to say, “yes I was right, too poor of conditions”. My novice status as a kayak fisherman was also evident by my failure to realize I had left the scupper plugs in. A self bailing sit on top does no good when soaked if the plugs aren’t out. Lesson learned.

CWF052515drumThe largest Freshwater Drum I’ve ever caught, 27 1/2″

While I was disappointed to be heading back into the river, I still had great expectations of good fishing and maybe would get into some Smallmouth Bass, Channel Catfish, or Common Carp.  Reports had all of these species being picked up in good numbers recently.  While highly unlikely, I also thought maybe I stood a chance at a Steelhead heading back out to the lake.  As the day went on and the fishing was slow, I went from wondering what I was going to catch to wondering if I was going to catch at all.  It may have been due to all the boat traffic and recreational paddlers, maybe the people and dogs splashing in the water, but the end result was nothing happening as far as fish.

I’m never one to give up easily and after multiple lure changes, I settled in on using a Blue Fox Super Vibrax.  I’m a big fan of inline spinners and this is one of my favorites.  After 5 or 10 minutes, I felt my first nudge of the day and a few casts later I had my first fish, a small drum.  As slow as the fishing was, I appreciated anything willing to bite and that included a small non noteworthy fish.  I also have to say that any catch from the kayak is celebrated, as it is a newer experience.  I decided I would just keep throwing the same lure and it paid off in consistent catches, albeit small to medium sized drum.  They fight plenty good for their size and I wasn’t looking for a meal, so it suited me fine.  I remained optimistic that eventually something else would come along, but if it didn’t at least I was catching.  As I was nearing my time to quit for the day, I had a massive strike and my drag immediately was screaming.  I was pulled to the center of the river rather quickly and was fortunate that traffic was light at this time.  A few recreational yakers moved out of the way and proceeded to have some entertainment, I also noted a considerable amount of shore fisherman and onlookers watching the battle ensue.  I figured it was a drum as it was reluctant to do anything other than hug the bottom as it fought, but it was remarkable in it’s ability to change direction and I found myself fighting it at various times from either side of the kayak.  Landing it was no easy task, but after 5 or 6 minutes I got it in the net.  I have to admit I was not expecting a fish of this size and it was truly the most fun fish to catch in a very long time.  I put the fish on a stringer just to help control it for the photo op and it also proved to help with reviving for release.

No success getting a photo while it was perfectly straight on the Hawg Trough

While I know a good majority of angler’s will simply say, “it’s just a drum”, I love catching the rough fish and less widely accepted and targeted species.  This was the largest I have ever caught and a welcomed upgrade on my life list.  It far exceeded the 22″ necessary for Fish Ohio Award and gave me quite the memory.   Call it a Sheephead, Reef Donkey, or whatever you want, I’ll call it a trophy.

‘Launching’ into kayak fishing

Behind the scenes, for at least a year, I had been considering getting deeper into the sport of kayak fishing.  While I have had a cheap recreational kayak for many years, it was a big decision to fully invest all the resources necessary to take it to the next level.  Kayak fishing has evolved into a niche within the angling community that you could literally devote every aspect of your recreational time to.  While I am still just scratching the surface of custom- ization and all aspects of rigging, I am far enough along that I made a trip out, had success, and wanted to get the readers up to speed on this endeavor.

Before I get into my first excursion report, there have been numerous entities that have helped in one way or another to motivate me into the sport.  Although I am fearful I will inadvertently omit someone, my ‘shout outs’ of appreciation go to; Brookfield Angler, CLE Kayak Anglers, KFGL, YakAddicts, Hook1, Lucid Fishing, Ocean Kayak, ACK, NRS, and The Backpacker’s Shop.  I know many people will be curious what yak I bought and why.  While that could be suitable for an entire post itself, I will just say the decision largely came down to the following… 1. Kayak weight vs. kayak weight capacity 2. Ability to handle a decent day on Lake Erie, yet small enough for creeks 3. Size as it relates to transport and storage when not in use.  Other aspects were considered as well before making a final decision.

My 2015 Ocean Kayak Trident 11 Angler in Orange Camo

A few weeks ago, a maiden voyage took place, but it was for an overall familiarization with the boat from comfort to safety.  Today’s trip was for getting down to serious fishing business.  I knew Wallace Lake (Berea, OH) had been stocked the prior week for a kids fishing derby yesterday.  I was optimistic that the snotty nosed little brats (err… I mean little angels) hadn’t fished everything out the first day.  My species of choice would be Rainbow Trout, but more importantly I just hoped to catch fish.  Everything would be catch & release, other than the trout.  It is doubtful there is much, if any, carryover.  The first few hours on the water were not overly productive as I only caught a few small panfish.  I saw a number of Largemouth Bass, some rather decent, but nothing could convince them to strike.  I also came across a nice catfish resting in the submerged timber that I was only successful in waking long enough to swim away.

So much of fishing success is knowing when to switch techniques or a pattern.  It suddenly occurred to me that if I kept doing the same thing, I’d get the same result.  I then paddled to the deepest portion of the lake, put a split shot above a small inline spinner and started casting.  This was something completely different than I had tried all day.  After letting my spinner sink for a few seconds, I began a slow retrieve.  After 3 or 4 casts, I felt the smack of a fish hitting the lure and a minute or two later I had my first ‘real’ fish landed from the yak.  It was a dandy 15 3/4″ stocker Rainbow Trout.  My experience with most trout stocking events is that the fish are 10-12″ and often drab in coloration and markings.  This fish was nice in size and plenty handsome, I was thrilled.  The next step was getting an opportunity to test my solutions for kayak self photos, and overall, I was pleased with the results.

CWF061715rtroutThe first noteworthy catch in the new yak

The ACK Hawg Trough removes all doubt when it comes to measuring fish

CWF061715troutThe second trout was a clone of the first

A three fish trout limit was exactly what the author hoped for

While I was content with the catch, I was eager to see if I could reproduce the success again.  Fifteen minutes later, a second similar sized fish was guided to the net.  With complete confidence, a third trout was landed within 30 minutes of the second.  My day was complete as I had my 3 trout limit on the stringer, but I did fish a bit longer.  A fourth trout was caught and released, and I called it a day, I had achieved complete contentment.  As I paddled to shore I thought about the fact that people could argue there are far more exotic locations and fish out there to be had, but this moment, this water, this day… was perfect to me.

Trout Derby at Wallace Lake

I have to say NE Ohioans are a hardy ‘hearty’ bunch (Valentine’s Day pun intended).  A rather dire forecast of temps, wind, and snow did not discourage the masses from participation in an ice fishing trout derby to benefit the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Fund.  Still somewhat new to NE Ohio and not knowing what to expect, I have to admit I was pretty surprised to see the parking lot nearly full at 8:15 a.m.  I guess I have a lot of kindred spirits here that wouldn’t let the holiday or weather keep us from fishing.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe event format was straightforward and very organized, registration from 8 to 9 a.m., fishing from 9 a.m to 2 p.m. and have your longest trout measured by a roaming crew of staff.  A good selection of bait was offered for sale on site, which I thought was a nice gesture to encourage novices and others who may not be well geared or prepared.  I also want to mention that everyone from park staff, rangers, police, and even fellow anglers were very friendly.  Anyone with perceptions or stereotypes of urban areas would have had those shattered today with the amount of camaraderie I experienced and witnessed.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI was on the ice about 30 minutes before the start horn would be sounding.  Of all the fishing types I do, those that follow this blog with some regularity know that I am not a very good or confident ice fisherman.  In fact of all the types of fishing I do, it is easily what I have the least success with.  So I wasn’t going to over think where to drill holes, or come up with some crazy creative idea of where to fish.  I saw where everyone was, and simply chose a reasonable and respectable distance to set up.  While I was a little disappointed I was in an area only about four and a half feet deep, the Aqua-Vu camera showed some submerged branches and it looked ‘fishy’ enough on the monitor to try my luck.  The next 20 minutes was spent talking with nearby anglers as we all waited for the starting signal.  There was some healthy bantering between some of the people, likely locals who knew each other, but I had no problem jumping right in.  One of my contributions was a young lady who complained about being cold as she sat outside of the Shanty her group had brought.  I mentioned that being in, opposed to next to the Shanty, would prove to be warmer.  Her reply, “well I want to watch what’s going on!”.

With all of the conversations, time flew by and soon enough it was time to get down to fishing business.  I had a small jig tipped with two waxworms on one rod and a jig tipped with trout worms on my other.  No more than 90 seconds after the horn sounded, I looked up to see a local (Brian) hooked up and landing a small Rainbow Trout no more than 30 feet from me.  Returning to my own task at hand, I saw three Rainbows on the Aqua-Vu monitor.  I was sure I was the next to catch a fish, however, all of the fish in view showed no interest in my offering.  This scenario would play out multiple times over the next few hours.  I was simply seeing too many fish to move, yet I was unable to trigger a bite.  When I finally decided to switch to Powerbait, the weather took a dramatic turn for the worse.  Rather intense snow and wind, found me huddling over my holes, with no desire to re-rig.

CWF021415rtroutSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhile I would catch no fish, plenty of others had success throughout the morning around me.  In fact, I would say more people caught fish than didn’t.  I was happy to hear people cheering when a fish was caught, and many of the people that I had gotten to know through conversations earlier kept me in the loop with what was going on.  I learned of a girl who caught her first fish ever, many youngsters having success, and plenty of savvy veterans catching numbers of fish – seeking to constantly upgrade into a prize winning catch.  The photo above of Mike Durkalec, Cleveland Metroparks, measuring a nice trout would be an example of one of those savvy veterans, Brian Kich, who put on quite a fishing clinic.  He had to catch & release as his success took him within one of his limit in the first 45 minutes of the derby.  At the time, the above fish qualified as 3rd on the overall leaderboard.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSadly, there would be no prizes for the author, in fact there wouldn’t even be a single catch.  The photo above is so you know the exact person who needs to have his ice fishing man-card revoked or maybe you’ll know who to come up to and say, “my four year old with a Snoopy Pole outfished you”.  My other thought is to make a silkscreen of the photo and have it slapped onto a T Shirt that reads, “I went to the Cleveland Metroparks Trout Derby, and all I got was this lousy selfie”.

In all seriousness, I had a great time and it was a fun event.  Bravo to the organizers and attendees.  To the fish in Wallace Lake, in my best Schwarzenegger voice, “I’ll be back”.