A daughter’s first fish

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – Often in life, the most splendid memories are at times you expect. A marriage, a birth, a special vacation, a happening that is on the calendar circled in advance for weeks, months, or years. On the other hand, sometimes a wonderful memory unfolds when you least expect it, on the most mundane of days. That is exactly what happened recently, and this post will document it so that I can always recall it vividly.

Amidst this COVID-19 pandemic, the family was eager for any time getting out of the house, even if it simply meant fishing in the backyard pond. Being ‘cooped up’ so long, actually caused my daughter (who currently is going through a very ‘girly’ stage) to want to fish. I was thrilled. Additionally, her strong willed independent nature had her telling me she didn’t want any help. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing… unlike most pre-pandemic situations where I am having to bribe or coax her into fishing, she wanted to do it and on her own.  This was a fishing milestone.

I was allowed to bait her hook, and give a little casting instruction. After that it was just “Dad, let me do it”. She even moved down from me, wanting sufficient distance to not deal with my constant attempts at ‘coaching’.  As fate would have it, about 15 minutes into her solo fishing, I heard some splashing and saw she was hooked up.  I expected her first catch to be one of the more plentiful Bluegill, but instead was pleasantly surprised to see a small Largemouth Bass jumping out of the water.  The pre-spooled Barbie rod had heavy enough line for a much larger fish, so she was able to easily reel it in.  In fact, she reeled it right out of the water and across the grass until the bobber got stuck on the last eyelet of the rod.  Anyone who has fished with kids knows this is not uncommon, I just loved the eager reeling to make sure she got it in.  She was super excited and so was I, high-fives were exchanged, and after she was assured it had no large teeth, she was even willing to lip it.  After the quick photo session, the catch was completed by her releasing it back into the pond.

Anyone who follows this blog or knows me, is aware my son is usually my fishing sidekick.  He showed great maturity allowing Alexis the spotlight and even helped me by doting over her catch too.  I’m certain her sense of accomplishment and fun were heightened knowing not only dad was impressed, but also her brother.  As she continued to make catches, Bryce worked his way down to the opposite end of the pond after celebrating her first catch.  In what surely was a bit of sibling rivalry, I watched Bryce fishing with a lot more rigor and intensity than usual.  He was rewarded with plenty of catches, including a really awesome looking hybrid Pumpkinseed.  The largest of the species that we have ever caught.

Most of the evening I was resigned to unhooking fish and retying lines, but I did manage to get a single rod out for bottom fishing.  This was the best I could do to get a little fishing in myself.  After missing one fish because of those aforementioned duties, I was a bit more alert to the next bite, and caught a decent sized Bullhead.  Being the pillar of maturity for the family, I made sure the kids knew I had caught the largest fish.  My fun loving arrogance ended up backfiring, when they both reminded me I only caught “one” fish!

I’ve done other posts like this, not an exotic location, no trophy fish, just highlighting the simple joy and fun of fishing.  I also believe these fishing ‘moments of accomplishment’ have a profound positive effect on kids that is more far reaching than just recreation.  In my daughter’s case, a new 6 year old, with a bit more confidence with whatever comes her way.

I hope she continues to join her brother and dad fishing. In time, she will realize sometimes it is all about the fish, but every time it is always about so much more than that!

 

 

A simple pleasant start to 2019

MEDINA, OH – The unseasonably mild winter had me start the year with several trips to various local lakes for open water fishing with my son.  Two trips yielded plenty of willing Largemouth Bass who were quite spirited in fight considering the time of year.  While nothing overly noteworthy stands out, I just enjoy spending time with family and the simple joy of catching fish.

Open water bass fishing in January?, I’ll take it!

The above fish was pretty representative of the catches.  No giants, just good numbers providing plenty of fun.  I even brought the 4 wt. fly rod and nabbed a few on a minnow pattern.

Kids love the bass, even if they are on the ‘small-ish’ side

It may not look like I am having fun, but this is usually what I look like hoping the camera works right, everyone is actually looking at it, no one at risk of getting a hook in them, and the concern of getting the fish back in the water quickly.

Another successful release

I always try my best to demonstrate good ethical fishing and that most often includes catch & release.  Along with enjoying our resources, I nearly always have conversations regarding responsibility.  I loved this shot of my son with his cousin watching a bass swim away.

While the first fishing of 2019 may not be that exciting to most… as a dad especially, I just love these simple fishing trips.

2017 North Ridgeville Corn Festival, Fishing Derby

A happy Bryce, ready to catch some fish

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – The past few weeks, I had gotten the kids pretty excited over the upcoming fishing derby that takes place as part of the North Ridgeville Corn Festival.  The derby is ran by some of the nicest folks you could ever meet, the North Ridgeville Fishing Club.  While I had a great time last year (you can read that post here), I was especially excited for this year’s derby as my daughter was now old enough to participate.  With both kids eager to attend, and the idea of sharp hooks and only daddy supervision, I knew my wife would be joining us.  While my wife is deserving of a nice Saturday morning to sleep in, I was thrilled to have the entire family with me.  The fishing may not be of much interest to her, but the cabbage and noodles, chicken paprikash, or deep fried pickles that awaited us when the fishing concluded, surely did!

Alexis and mommy waiting for the ‘big one’

Expectations always remain low for me at any formal fishing event.  My luck just usually is worse, if there is any type of extra pressure to have success.  Today would be especially bad due to having everyone with me and the fact that I had hyped it up so much with the kids.  In the end, I know time together is priceless, but a 5 and 3 year old having fun and being content requires catching fish.  Today that meant having all the gear needed (and more), and prayers!

Mommy and daddy enjoying Alexis, fishing isn’t just for Bryce

Despite my best efforts, the first few hours were typical… doing everything to keep just enough bites going so the kids didn’t fade on me.  I eventually determined I would try one rod, still-fishing off the bottom, while they continued their bobber fishing.  This new strategy didn’t provide any instant result, but after about 30 minutes I saw the rod getting some action.  A slight bend, and I handed the rod to Bryce.  I was shocked to see the rod bend in half and Bryce suddenly yelled, “It’s too heavy!”.  Initially, I thought a fish had simply thrown the hook into a submerged log or got him wrapped around some rocks or debris.  But after he asked me to help hold the rod with him, I could feel the heavy fish fighting.  I encouraged him he could do it, and he reluctantly took full control as I removed my hand from steadying the rod.  When I saw the fish jump, I knew it was a trophy, and desperately hoped he would succeed.  Not just for him, but for all of us – we really wanted to see this fish!  I took up the net and it was funny how he yelled which way the fish was heading (even though I could see).  I can’t begin to describe the angst I had while he was fighting the fish and then the overwhelming joy when he successfully brought the fish in.

Bryce’s big bass, the largest I have ever seen come from a small urban lake

My already rather fun day, suddenly turned epic.  Now that it was landed, I became more aware of my surroundings and could hear everyone fishing around us shouting “what did he get?!”.  I responded, “A huge Largemouth!”.  I was so excited for him and it was truly a surreal moment.  I came to my senses fast enough to know I wanted some quick pictures, before sprinting with it in a bucket, to the judges station.  I normally let Bryce carry the fish – or fish in the bucket, but I left him trailing behind me.  I wanted this fish to live.  Bryce did catch up by the time the fish was measured (at 20 and a half inches), and the fishing club did a couple more photos.  As much as I wanted to admire the catch – and let everyone else and Bryce admire it too, it needed to get back in the lake.  A few back and forth motions in the water, and the fish strongly swam away into the depths.  The exact ending I wanted for a fish giving my family a lifetime memory.  I pray it does this again for someone else, with the same outcome.

Happy kids assembling for the awards ceremony

After the catch, there was about 45 minutes until the event ended.  We were treated to seeing the largest fish of the derby getting caught, a 26″ Channel Catfish.  Thankfully, the polite young man who caught it was in an older age group, or Bryce would have been devastated that his catch wasn’t the largest.  There were a lot of ‘parenting moments’ as he dealt with his own sense of accomplishment, while having to be excited and happy for someone else.  I can’t recall ever noticing his competitiveness as much as today, when he kept asking whose catch was better.

Derby winners and runner ups

Bryce’s catch earned him a new fishing rod combo and loaded tackle tray.  While everyone was enjoying the drinks and hotdogs provided by the fishing club, I sought out a boy that didn’t win anything.  Unbeknownst to Bryce, I gave away his combo.  He was given one last year, and at 5, didn’t have the maturity to understand the right thing to do.  I was happy to make this kid’s day, as he didn’t leave empty handed.  It got even better, when the adults with him said he didn’t have his own fishing rod until now.  This banner day, couldn’t have ended better.

A parting shot of the big fish

Cleveland shoreline fishing, from the kayak

CLEVELAND, OH – One of the top things on my ‘to do’ list after getting into kayak fishing was to get to the downtown Cleveland area to fish the shoreline and near shore waters of Lake Erie.  For whatever reason, I just hadn’t made this a reality.  I guess I’m a creature of habit and usually end up launching off Huntington Beach in Bay Village, Ohio.  Nonetheless, I am happy to report my first trip to fish downtown is in the books.  Of course, I am now kicking myself for not doing this sooner as it was a lot of fun.

The energy of the area was downright awesome.  There was some kind of festival with live music and the unbelievable smell of barbecue.  I watched a steady stream of people posing with the iconic script Cleveland sign.  A short way from there, a high school band prepared for a performance while the flag corp. rhythmically practiced their routine.  All this to entertain, while fishing!

Being true to my craft of multi species fishing, no matter how interesting, new, or exciting a venue is, it still is all about the fish.  The fishing itself was a series of highs and lows.  I won’t ever complain about fishing if I am catching, and plenty of fish were caught.  I will start with the lows so I can end with the good stuff.  So here it goes; my goal was to target Smallmouth Bass – I threw tubes for hours with none caught, I only carried two rods and early into the excursion one was lost to the lake – a reminder to tether or have a float as I had to fish one rod all day, I fought and landed the largest drum of my life, well over the elusive 30″ mark – only to have it swim out of the net before a single photo.  For most, those might not seem all that horrible, but for me were rather depressing.  Probably the least big deal for most would be the drum, yet that was my biggest disappointment of the day.  I plan to a post about that single fish, as it is deserving of a story.

The photos above represent the fishing high points of the day.  Easily the most noteworthy catch was my first ever Walleye from the kayak.  It wasn’t quite a keeper, but the simple fact it was a Walleye, was awesome.  The next fish worth noting was a Largemouth Bass, not that it had any considerable size, but rather the fact I got something even anything, to bite on tubes that I desperately threw for hours trying to get a Smallmouth.  Finally, a 26 3/4″ Fish Ohio Award Freshwater Drum for my first award sized fish of the year.  Never knowing how often I can fish, getting the first is important to receive each year’s unique pin.

This day’s plan, is definitely something I look forward to doing again!

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!

Pond fishing success

A good sized pond Largemouth Bass

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – Every now and then pond fishing can yield a real nice fish.  I have access to a few and it had been some time since one of the better fish had been caught.  With my recent ability to get out fishing a little more, the ‘icing on the cake’ so to speak was getting a nice fish.  While not a complete monster, it was big enough to quicken the pulse, and keep fish energy high!

My friend Nate, who is an exceptional fisherman, made a very good point recently to me about how if I take my spinning gear and my fly gear – I wont really get better or develop as a fly fisherman.  I know he is 100% accurate as I have found this to be true.  While I really need to perfect my skills in tributaries, I still think even on ponds and lakes I should apply this.  I know this will produce fewer catches at least early on – and I need to accept this as a necessity to get more fly proficient.  Leaving my trusted gear behind, I did one trip with just the 4 wt. fly rod.  I used a minnow pattern to catch some fair sized Bluegill and considered the effort successful.  Only one small bass was caught on the fly but at least there was upside in that the smaller Bluegill didn’t have mouths big enough to get hooked.  This served to cull the smaller fish without ever having to land and handle them… a definite bonus.  I need to commit to more trips with only fly gear in tow.

Midland Painted Turtle

More exciting for my kids then any of the fish recently caught, was a Midland Painted Turtle that I was able to grab and let them admire for a few minutes.  My ‘dad status’ has been legendary after this feat and there are numerous discussions around them wanting a pet turtle.

Easter fishing with the family

My son and cousin Andrew thrilled with mommy’s catch

MEDINA, OH – Easter found the family at an uncle and aunt’s house for some great food and fun which of course included fishing.  You just can’t live on a lake with the sun shining on a fine spring day and not fish.  I did do some fishing myself, but found myself having more fun watching and taking pictures of others.  I also spent some time helping the kids fish which is always a good time.  Who doesn’t love seeing the excitement on a child’s face when they catch a fish?!

With the family getting out together, and the kids becoming marginally able to entertain themselves for brief moments of time – My wife has been able to make a few casts.  I love seeing my wife fish.  It reminds me of the time before kids when she was able to actually do something even anything for herself for two seconds.  She is the perfect mom who sacrifices everything personal for her family, including myself, that require constant demands from her.  All of that perfection of a person, with beauty beyond measure, has me feeling extremely blessed this Easter.  Easily my best catch ever.

My gorgeous wife with one of her many bass

The ‘apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ does it?

Even my daughter wanted to be around the fishing action.  She channeled her inner Izaak Walton and opted for a long tree branch as her fishing rod.  She didn’t weave horse hair for fishing line though, just swished the rod in the water to help stir up the fish.

Even the best of days must come to an end, but the memories from this day are far from over.

Family man making for a fail fishing blogger

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH –  There are numerous websites that offer ‘professional’ advice to bloggers.  While I question some of the expert advice or even laugh at how the ‘professionals’ will contradict themselves, there is one thing they all agree on – it is never a good thing to go silent and not have new content posting at frequent or somewhat regular intervals.  I don’t disagree, and accept this as a fact.  The quandary that this has always put me in is my philosophy on when to write a post, “If I don’t have an at least marginally interesting story to tell, I don’t post”.  This is why my little blog will never rank that high on Google or any of the sites that score anything with a web address, I simply don’t post enough and the algorithms hate this.  I view people’s time as important and simply cant fathom the idea to mindlessly spew content to appear more legitimate in the ‘fishing world’ at the expense of the content being worse.

cwf11202016kidsThe lovely culprits… err blessings… that reduce fishing frequency

With a philosophy that is already pretty conservative about when to post, it increasingly works against me if I am not even out fishing to have an opportunity for something to happen worthy of a post.  I often wonder in my Instagram feed if the anglers are exceptional or is it simply they can fish a lot.  It also doesn’t hurt if those same folks live in places with exceptionally good water with good fish in it (especially true for those fortunate souls living on or near Saltwater).

At least I will say I have a wonderful reason for my low fishing frequency and the subsequent result of less chance for a post worthy happening.  This would be my amazing family.  I truly am blessed and wouldn’t change a thing.  As it relates to fishing, more than one dad has reiterated to me how fast time will go and that it is completely normal to have what feels like huge gaps in time not doing your previous recreations when you have a baby/babies.  I have already noted how fast time is going as my oldest is 5 and my youngest is 2.  My son is already demonstrating the ability to enjoy fishing with me and my daughter isn’t far behind.  I love the meme I see that circulates saying “Some people find a fishing buddy, I raised mine”.  In my case, I hope it’s fishing “buddies”.

cwf11202016jillMy wife recently fishing, a beautiful sight I haven’t seen in years

As my life now has taken me to nearly school age and a later stage toddler, I recognize some of the most around the clock constant supervision and demands are behind me.  While I am wise to know parenting and involvement never ceases (nor would I want it to), I also am acutely aware I am gaining ground on the ability to get out fishing.  I know my fishing experiences will often remain pretty remedial as they will likely often have kid(s) in tow, but I hope there will still be people who enjoy watching and reading along.  Maybe what they see will remind them of their own memories or for the younger audience, to see what might be ahead for them.

cwf11202016bryceA small fish provides simple joy and intrigue

Fighting a fish at the ‘big water’, Lake Erie

I’ve made it this far without giving up on blogging, it makes no sense to give up on it now.  It may very well turn out that for a period of time this blog will only serve the purpose of being a keepsake that my kids might enjoy one day.  For those that stick around through this period of time, I will continue to try to entertain, inform, and stumble upon some nice fish now and then.

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.