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!

A big beautiful Freshwater Bonefish

CWF062214grasscarpEasily one of the more exciting catches of the past few years

I’ve heard the term ‘Freshwater Bonefish’ used to describe Common Carp and figured I should be able to use it interchangeably for Grass Carp as well.  With the day being in the 80’s and bright/sunny, it also gave the day a bit of a Florida-ish feel.  A perfect day to catch a big fish, and that’s exactly what I did.  I put to use all of my newly found knowledge regarding Grass Carp from the previous day, and like clockwork, hooked up in no time.  This time, the fish hitting on a piece of bread kneaded into a dough ball a few inches under the bobber.  I would not test fate again putting the fish back in the water before photos, hence the ‘money shot’ above.  These fish are downright cool and I’m excited that I have found two places to target them.  I know they can grow far bigger than the two I have recently caught and I hope the waters I fish – have even a larger class of fish available.

CWF062214gcA photo of that nervous moment right before you get the fish in the net

This is a species I plan to target more in the future as it has some unique fun factors.  Not just the obvious blast it is to catch large hard fighting fish, but getting to sight fish for them and getting to watch them take the ‘bait’ so close to the surface.  Sight fishing is awesome, and I don’t get to do enough of it, this species and where I fish for them is perfect for it.

An enjoyable day with family & fishing

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe family had a gathering today that happened to be at a relative’s house that lives on a beautiful private lake.  As one might expect, I had fishing gear in tow.  As one of my goals this year was to do more fly fishing, I took a 7 wt. fly rod as my weapon of choice.  Although I was mostly going to be targeting Largemouth Bass and Bluegill, this was the scene of my first ever Grass Carp catch and went a little heavier in case one bit.  Without the potential of these carp, I likely would have just taken the 4 wt.  I also brought along one spinning rod in case the fly fishing wasn’t working out.  I’m far from a purist, I just want success!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhile it did prove to be overkill using the 7 wt., the fishing was fantastic and numerous Bluegill and Largemouth Bass were caught.  All of the fish hit on a rust colored Woolly Bugger.  Three Bluegill were well over the 9″ Fish Ohio Award length, while all of the bass ranged from 11 to 14″.  It was easily the best fly fishing I have ever done, as far as numbers vs. the time fished.  Truly, a banner day.

So after getting my fill of the fly rod, I switched over to the spinning.  I was seeing tons of Grass Carp, but was not successful coaxing one to hit a fly.  I took a bobber and placed a hook about 4 inches under it, and then took some long blades of grass and tied them onto the hook.  This was getting a lot of attention from the fish and sometimes right as the bobber hit the water, a fish would swim over to inspect it.  After tons of experimenting, I finally was getting the fish to feed on the offering.  Unfortunately, I was too excited and kept pulling the hook out of the fish’s mouth before it truly had it good enough.

CWF062114grasscarp2This was getting very aggravating, but I reminded myself that this was my first time targeting the species (the only one I had ever caught was inadvertent and only saw it after it was hooked) and it would take a bit more figuring out.  The scenario kept playing out where a monster fish, like the one pictured to the left, would either swim up to the bait or take it – only to have me miss.  I must have pulled the hook out of 4 or 5 fish before I finally was patient enough to let the fish carry the food away before setting the hook.  When I did finally nail it, the sensation was awesome!  The drag was screaming and I can’t begin to describe how good it felt to have such a heavy big fish on the line.  It changed directions often and it would actually create a wake towards shore when it did.  When it splashed, it wasn’t the high pitched light sprinkling water sound, it was more of a dull thud and ‘whooosh’.  As I kneeled on the dock, praying the fish wouldn’t come off, all of the family came down to see the action.  I didn’t bring a long handled net, which only further complicated trying to get it landed.  Every time it got close to the dock it would spook and take off again.  Finally, it decided to go under the dock which turned out to be a help to me.  As it swam out from under it, it didn’t get much of a chance to see the net come down and that was it.  Landed!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe massive Grass Carp was considerably bigger than the net

While the net was short handled, it had a deep basket.  The fish still exceeded this length, with a good portion of it hanging out, as you can see above.  On shore, everyone just commented on how astonishingly big it was.  We hurriedly took a measurement that put it just under 40″ and then I prepared for some photos.  While being measured, the fish got a little ‘dirty’ so I decided I would let it revive in the water and clean it off.  This proved to be a huge mistake, as the power of the fish in the water overwhelmed me, and it got away.  So much for any type of ‘hero’ photo of me with the catch.  At least I had a lot of witnesses, and got to experience the catch with a lot of family.  It was sad though, as this was my lengthiest freshwater catch, with no great photo.  In its own way, the photo above has an artistic qualities and some personality to it – and captures the moment fine.

Grass Carp added to life list!

Finalgrasscarp2013As a multi species angler, adding a species to my life list always ranks at the top of my fishing goals. Add a lifer that comes with a great story and family around to witness it, and it makes it’s way into some of my all time favorite catches. Being Easter Sunday, the family headed to Jill’s aunt & uncle’s home that sits on a very magnificent fishing lake. I have caught numerous Largemouth Bass, some real monster Bluegill and a couple Bullhead in. The fishing plan was very simple for the day, catch some fish on the spinning gear and then discipline myself to practice with the fly rod. Everything went as planned. I caught quite a few Largemouth Bass on a jig/grub combo and then some on the 4wt fly rod. I managed a couple real nice Bluegill, the largest being a bit over 10″. The day was complete with a Fish Ohio award sized Bluegill and catching fish on the fly rod, if it would have ended then, I was more than satisfied.

CWF2013MAR31jigAs fate would have it, I got a massive knot on the end of my fly line. Knowing it would take quite awhile to get it untangled, I decided to throw out an offering that I could still-fish while working on the mess. After tying on a tandem of 1/64 oz jigs, I went to the container of waxworms. The waxworms looked like they were on steroids and then I read the container to see that it said “Butter Worms”. My wife had been kind enough to offer to get my bait while she was out shopping, and inadvertently grabbed these. It goes without saying that his proved to be a very fortunate mistake!

I had barely made progress on my knot when I saw my bobber go under. I ran to my rod and knew instantly it wasn’t anything I had encountered on this body of water before. The fish was powerful, and nearly impossible to control on the 6# line. I was trying to play the fish while waving frantically at everyone in the house. I didn’t have a net but thought Jill’s uncle might have one, or if nothing else, people might get to see a glimpse of the fish before it broke me off. Surprisingly, as many runs as the fish made, it stayed on. I got it into the shallow water by the dock several times, with it slipping out of my hands and back into the water. On the third or fourth attempt, I was able to get my fingers behind the gills to hoist it onto the shore. At some point people must have seen or heard me as by the time it was successfully landed – everyone was standing there watching. Jill grabbed the camera and took some really great shots rather quickly, and the fish was returned to the water without issue. I really feel lucky to have caught and landed this fish, what a memory!

CWF2013MAR3120collageWhile the Grass Carp stole the show, a 10.25″ “Fish Ohio Award” Bluegill and fly caught Largemouth Bass highlighted some of the other catches from the day. I can’t wait to get back to this lake.