An evening on Lake Erie

Bryce’s first time on a boat

MARBLEHEAD, OH – As part of a family mini vacation to the familiar stomping grounds around Ohio’s central coastline, I thought I would take the opportunity to try Bryce’s ‘sea legs’ out.  As much fishing as Bryce and I have done together, it’s never been from a boat.  The fishing trip was somewhat short notice as I had randomly gotten an ad in my Facebook feed from Rock Harbor Cottages & Reef Bobber Charters that seemed perfect.  It was offering a couple hours of evening fishing for a very reasonable rate.  What better way to see how prone Bryce would be to sea-sickness?!, no huge investment if he was miserable, yet plenty of time for some fun if it went well.

Bryce is hooked up

A White Perch

Plenty of good sized Channel Catfish

I’m not even going to attempt to build suspense (okay maybe just a little because their was a big fish), everything exceeded all expectations!  Weather was amazing, Bryce wasn’t sick at all, the fish were biting, and Captain Brad was fantastic.  For a bit of a novelty type trip that wasn’t high dollar, I was amazed how hard the captain worked – some casting instruction for my son, would do a long cast and let him reel in, worked hard for his own hook ups and hand the rod to him, set the boat up multiple times for new drifts.  All I can say is that I was impressed.  I helped Bryce too, but admittedly haven’t been able to fish much, so I enjoyed that the Captain’s efforts allowed me to do a bit of fishing too.  I had expected to need to be ‘hands on’ with Bryce the whole time.

Yep, there was a big fish story!

I’ve fished with professional anglers that have explained the editing process often used when they record fishing shows.  I mean do you really think every time they do a show the best fish is magically caught in the last 5 minutes before the episode ends?!  Well our trip really followed that format without any editing… we ended on a couple very high notes.  As we all were satisfied that we had achieved our goal to simply go out and catch fish, whatever was biting regardless of species – we would be treated to a giant fish hookup.  Bryce was already tired from bringing in many fish and this one would take everything out of him.  After 5 minutes of gaining ground and then hearing the drag scream – he asked for some daddy help.  I was happy to oblige as I really wanted to see what it was.  I also will say I didn’t do any better than him at controlling the fish, but simply had the stamina to wear it down.  When I was able to finally get it close enough to see, we all were I awe of the giant catfish.  Captain Brad did an expert net job once I finally managed to get the feisty monster to come head first towards the boat.  He also took some great photos for us.  At 30″, I don’t recall ever catching a Channel Catfish any bigger and certainly none more memorable!

Bryce checking out my Walleye before release

After the big fish, we were pretty much ready to head back to dock.  In yet a another unexpected blessing, I felt the tug of a fish and a completely different feeling fight.  I was kind of glad Bryce was tired so I got to bring in the decent sized Walleye.  A cool toothy fish was a great end to the night and Bryce wasn’t too tired to steal some glory with a picture with it.

Pure happiness

I know this post isn’t about filling a cooler full or tasty Walleye or Perch… or even targeting the amazing sport fishery of Smallmouth Bass that Lake Erie offers.  This really was a more personal post regarding a father getting to see his son catch fish on the beloved big pond and hopefully shaping memories of a great childhood.  I hope one day he will have more days fishing on the lake that he could ever count or recall – but would know the first time.

The elusive full family photo

My daughter had well established before the trip that she was not interested in going on a boat yet.  At 4, just a little scared despite loving the water.  I was thrilled that she was willing to get on the boat at pick up, a good first step.  It also gave me the chance to get all of us in a picture.

First kayak outing of 2018, with a memorable catch

LORAIN, OH – I always say, “it just takes a single bite to change a day”.  That was exactly the case on my first kayak outing of 2018 on Cinco de Mayo.  I woke up to a forecast that demanded I hit Lake Erie (only slight wind and out of the SW) and the only decision would be whether I wanted to hit a regular launch location or try somewhere new.  After combing through info on some kayak fishing groups on Facebook, I settled on heading to Lorain.

A couple photos of what I consider one of my best kayak catches to date!

I would launch at a small un-groomed beach next to Jackalope Lakeside.  This area was familiar to me from shore fishing on the Mile long Pier, but I had never taken the kayak out anywhere near here.  As I was running a little bit late, I somehow managed to leave my paddle leash at home, a minor annoyance but the type of distraction that can mentally start making you assume it will be a bad trip.  Nonetheless, I found myself trolling two crankbaits by 4:15 p.m. with all the hope and optimism that had been stored from the long winter.

After an hour with no action, I began to do some free fishing with a variety of tactics employed.  This resulted in nothing more than a few Round Gobies picking at some nightcrawlers when I tried live bait.  I suppose this lack of success was a good thing as it prompted me to return to trolling the crankbaits.  After resetting for trolling, it only took a couple minutes before the rod on my right side suddenly bent in half.  The rod didn’t bounce, it just quickly had weight on it.  I was worried that it actually had just become hung up on something but once in hand I could feel the movement of a fish.  As I played the fish closer to the boat, I could see in the clear water it was a Walleye!  I suspected from the fight style, it was, but there was nothing like the confirmation when my eyes saw it.  I managed to get it netted on the first attempt, and overall from strike to landing everything was smooth.  Just the way you like it on a good fish.

The relief of seeing the fish in the net

As most people know, I am a huge fan of catching ‘rough fish’.  I can’t help but mention that I felt good about my credibility as kayak angler by catching this fish.  For nearly everyone around here, if you are on Lake Erie, this is the target and generally accepted as the most coveted sport/food fish.  While I’m not the type to be overly consumed with what people think of me or my angling ability, it mattered to me to get this fish, maybe because I needed to prove it to myself.

While the fish looks small, I love this photo showing the entire kayak (Photo credit John Peden)

In a rare moment of luck, there was a photographer on the pier that looked eager to get good subject matter for some photos.  I yelled out asking if he would take a few fish pictures for me, and he obliged.  After exchanging contact information, I was treated to some really nice images that just made a great day even better.  I remain appreciative that the memory of the day was uniquely captured by this chance encounter.  Thank you John Peden! (view his Instagram here)

Parting shot (Photo credit John Peden)

Look for me to return to this destination soon as I hope to build upon my initial success!… maybe a larger fish or multiple keepers or God willing, BOTH!

Urban kayak fishing, Cleveland style

Catching fish in Lake Erie, by First Energy Stadium

CLEVELAND, OH – I can never find enough time to fish, but when I do get the opportunity, I have tried to get out on the kayak.  A couple trips out have not yielded anything of significance, but I am always happy to get a workout while chasing the fish.  I’m hard pressed to think of any trip where there isn’t something neat to see or experience, even if it isn’t a trophy fish.  The above pictured Sheephead, is probably the biggest fish of the recent trips.  I also thought the photo was cool in it’s own right, having caught a football shaped fish in front of the Brown’s stadium.  Unlike the Browns receivers, I apparently CAN catch a ‘football’. <insert devilish grin>

Cleveland kayak fishing… again

CLEVELAND, OH – I had so much fun that was documented on the last post… I had to go back and do it again!  Sure enough, plenty of cooperative fish with multiple Walleye, Rock Bass, Freshwater Drum, and even a Common Carp caught.  There really isn’t any additional commentary to add, just that I enjoy this venue a lot.  There is a substantial amount of boat and wave runner traffic, but this setback does not outweigh the good fishing and neat urban environment.

A freshwater bonefish, AKA Carp from the Lake Erie near shore

  A small Rock Bass at the marina

Lots of small throwback Walleye in the lake this year

This Walleye went 14″, the best of the day, but still not a keeper

The pictures speak for themselves at how fun of a day it was, but I did want to acknowledge one thing I noticed.  My PFD was not on.  I was fishing very close to shore and was hot, most often I do wear my PFD and would always recommend that.  I can assure everyone the PFD was right behind me, not even an arms length away.

A big catfish amongst bait stealing gobies

cwf09042016gobyBAY VILLAGE, OH – It was a beautiful day to head out into Lake Erie from Huntington Beach.  I was happy to get some time fishing from the kayak and didn’t really care what I caught, I just wanted to catch fish.  I set up one rod with a bottom bouncer and worm harness as I drifted and the other rod was for casting.  I had a few moments of excitement when I had a strike on the tube jig I was throwing, but it was very short lived.  The 3-4 strikes all came off shortly into the fight.  Curious as to what it might have been, but I guess that’s fishing for you at times.

My bottom bouncer rig remained quiet throughout the day, other than a single Sheephead, and a number of Round Gobies.  I’ve determined my next trip I will dropshot the gobies as bait themselves, I used to do this at the pier in Port Clinton with some success.  The highlight of my day came when my rod I was casting was sitting in the rod holder.  While I was busy removing a goby from the other line, I felt the kayak shake and saw something had clearly taken the Berkley Gulp! Minnow that was just drifting in the current.  The rod was doubled over and the fish gave me one of the best fights I’ve had on the kayak to date.  While I still am searching for my first Smallmouth Bass or Walleye from the kayak, I was plenty happy with the big Channel Catfish.

cwf09042016catfishThe biggest catfish I’ve caught from the kayak

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.

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!