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.

2019 Corn Festival Fishing Derby

The derby winners with their proud parents! 

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – The tradition continued with Bryce and I participating in the fishing derby on the Saturday morning of the North Ridgeville Corn Festival.  I sound like a broken record giving praise to the very nice folks of the North Ridgeville Fishing Club, who always are generous of their time in providing such a great experience for young anglers.  Whether you have a lot of success and land that trophy fish like Bryce did this one time, or if you just catch a few, it is always a fantastic time.  The fishing was a little slow (just a few Bluegill) for us this year, but my son had a blast netting crayfish, minnows, and tadpoles.  In fact, I think he looks forward to this more than actually fishing.  By the end of the day, he had recruited an army of kids collecting critters who only passively were paying attention to their rods.  They were having fun and I’m certain that is all that matters.  To those kids pictured above who did put their time and effort into fishing and earned an award, congratulations!  I am so happy the club was able to reward you with some awesome gear!

We’ll see you next year!

Wallace Lake Fishing Derby, 2018

BEREA, OH – The annual tradition of attending the spring Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Derby at Wallace Lake was continued in 2018.  I also continued my tradition of not catching fish.  Remember last year?, you can read that here.  For whatever reason, I do poorly at the organized events (minus last year’s epic N. R. Corn Festival Derby) helping the kids get on the fish.

Bryce with his new friend Heidi, and the tiny toad they caught

No matter how the fishing goes, the event is always a lot of fun.  I nearly always find myself fishing around like minded folks that just want to see their kids have fun and hopefully make a memorable catch.  While this ends up being a reality for many, I find myself making great memories even if it doesn’t involve a catch(es).  This year was no exception, the family next to us having similar poor fishing results, but enjoying all of our kids playing and exploring the woods together.  I’m confident none of the kids will remember the lack of fish, but will remember playing tag, wagon rides, finding critters like baby toads, and making new friends.

Cleveland Metroparks staff just prior to the awards

For those fortunate enough to find the fish, and there were plenty that did, the awards presentation is enjoyable to watch.  Seeing those proud parents… and those kids walking up with their self-esteem and confidence boosted is fantastic.  There are tons of well deserved ‘high-fives’ and the vibe is always upbeat and exciting.

That’s a lot of fishing swag waiting to be won!

As you can see from the above photo, many young anglers leave with some nice new gear in tow.  As an adult, I view catching the fish itself is the reward, but imagine catching fish AND getting a reward for it.  Sign me up for that!  No wonder why all of the kids are so excited and the events are so well attended.

Bryce always loves the education ‘stations’

Jen talking about invasive species with Bryce

The Cleveland Metroparks always do a great job of having some type of interactive education.  From year to year it varies on what exactly it might be, but it is always present.  I can speak for not only my children, but the all of the ones I observe, that they love interacting with the staff and volunteers.  It is also safe to say that they are having fun while not realizing they are learning.  This speaks volumes about the people providing the education and how they present it – as it so well received.  I always learn something new myself.

Bryce ‘horsing around’ with a ranger

So another year has gone by and my fishing results for the kids was the same.  But just like last year, we had the same great overall experience.  If I can make a case for how much fun you will have even if you don’t catch fish – just imagine how awesome it is if you do!  There’s really no risk of having a bad time either way.  As always, I want to say a huge thank you to Mike Durkalec, Aquatic Biologist, and all of the other staff (and volunteers) from the Cleveland Metroparks… not just for this event, but for all of the wonderful resources they maintain for us in NE Ohio.

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!