Trout lottery and spring stocking dates

CASTALIA, OH – It’s that time of year again when the ODNR releases Rainbow Trout (10 to 14″) throughout Ohio.  This is a ‘put & take’ type fishery that can be a lot of fun.  I’ve actually managed some larger fish, possibly a few brood stock released or the inadvertent carry over that isn’t expected to happen.  Dates/locations can be found here.

The author displaying a typical stocker, this one taken at Norwalk Reservoir

Catching these fish usually isn’t too complicated but depending on conditions and how soon you arrive after the stocking, it can be very easy or a bit challenging.  If I have reason to suspect it will be an easy day, I always try to include an invitation to someone who doesn’t fish or some kids as it is an excellent way to introduce others to fishing.  I am a little puzzled at times when I see adults grabbing a prime location and having their lines in the water practically on top of the release site.  This doesn’t seem too sporting.  The fish can be taken a variety of ways with some of the most popular being Powerbait and corn.  Others will throw inline spinners or flies and plenty of fish get taken on worms and minnows.  I usually have a few options with me, in case one isn’t working.

Along with the trout stockings, there is a Castalia Trout Fishing Lottery.  The annual application period is March 1st – March 31st each year.  It has become an annual rejection for me as I have never won and have applied every year of the lottery’s existence.  I want to note this includes the rejection of a few family members and friends who would be willing to take me as a guest, if they won.  A person might wonder why I would publicize the lottery increasing my odds of failure, but the funds raised do benefit the ODNR so I will sacrifice the odds to see them raise more money.  The lottery information can be found here.  Good luck!

*UPDATE* While hardly unexpected or newsworthy, my rejection for 2016 was confirmed.  A common saying from the Cleveland area comes to mind, “There’s always next year”.

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.

Casting for shoreline Steelhead

Lake Erie Shoreline, OH – There are many patterns or specific seasonal efforts fisherman can try on Ohio’s north coast.  In the fall, this includes targeting Steelhead that stage in and around the mouths of tributaries before committing to their upstream migration.  Many of these areas have public access in the form of piers/parks, and they become dotted with anglers hoping to entice a fish to bite.  Whether staging or a fish simply making its way into the tributary, the baitfish are often near shore which brings the trout within casting distance.  Most successful anglers throw an assortment of spoons and spinners, even some crank baits designed to mimic the forage fish.  At times, even perch anglers using live shiners will encounter a trout.  As for me, I find myself choosing spoons and spinners in a plain metal finish, most of the time.

My single bite and some ‘go to’ hardware

Now that I’ve provided a little background, let me proceed to my report from a recent trip.  Mornings and evenings are generally the best times and my intention was to arrive to the water pretty early.  Things didn’t go as planned when I realized I forgot my fishing rods.  You read that correct, I forgot my  !@#$% fishing rods!  I have no idea how one does this, but I did it.  I lost considerable time not just with the return home, but all the time I spent wondering if it would be faster to just buy a cheap rod somewhere close and head to the water.

When I did finally make it to the water (with gear), my mood was pretty bad.  I am a firm believer that mindset, attitude, and confidence can help you catch fish, or not.  I tried to focus on the positives such as even if I didn’t catch fish I was at least fishing and the fact that it was overcast.  I have had many a great day when the sky looked the way it did.  Sadly, the first few hours my blood pressure was still high and I spent more time changing lures than keeping one in the water.  I wanted to punch a well meaning passer-byer that offered commentary about how the wind wasn’t coming from the right direction and the lack of recent success by others.  When you combine everything from the day and add the fact that I always put a little pressure on myself by having this blog and wanting to make enough nice catches to keep people engaged and be esteemed as a relevant Ohio angler, I truly wanted to leave.

At some point, the therapeutic component of the water kicked in before a decision to quit was realized.  Those of us that love to stand in or around water, cannot deny the healing effect it has.  I took some deep breaths and thankfully some correct perspective set in.  As my new calm was established, I reached for a 2/5 oz. Little Cleo spoon in an all polished metal finish.  A lure I have caught countless fish on that gives me complete confidence.  I looked at my phone for the time and told myself there is absolutely no sane reason not to fish this for an hour.  I stopped messing with tackle and every other item that was distracting me, and simply fished.  Fifteen minutes later I would nearly have the rod ripped from my hands.  A large hungry Steelhead inhaled the spoon no more than 10 feet away from me, and took off in the opposite direction making my drag scream.  Steelhead are known for their fighting ability and this one was as feisty as I have ever encountered.  Only one jump, but multiple changes in direction and one blazing run at me where I had to catch the line up to the reel.  At least 3 times I got the net close and the fish would rebound with another run.  The fish also shook it’s head the entire time and I was praying it wouldn’t work the lure free.  After what seemed like an eternity and I have no idea in real time, the fish began to tire and I was able to guide it into the net.  Once in the net, another explosion of energy from the fish, but victory was mine!

A photo uploaded to Instagram

The adrenaline rush of catching a special fish is incredible.  No matter how many fish I’ve caught, that feeling never gets old.  There were a lot of lessons I learned today, and had I let the stress of the day get the best of me, I might have cheated myself out of that great feeling and the awesome memory I ultimately left with.  In time, I will forget all the drama of the day but I will never forget any detail of catching that fish!  I know it is cliché, but clearly, “Don’t ever give up!”.

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.

‘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.

Making the most of little time

Time is a commodity I don’t have much of these days.  Between a demanding career and family, fishing has been few and far between in 2015.  Along with very limited outings, getting the time to even do a brief write up has proven difficult.  On the up side, when I have made it out I have had some good success.  Most notably, I made it over to the Sandusky River White Bass run and timed it perfect.  It was non stop action with a real nice class of fish.  Plenty of bonus species also kept things interesting.

CWF05032015wbA 16″ Fish Ohio Award White Bass

The pond has been fishing well, and of course gets the majority of my attention as it provides a quick fishing ‘fix’ when there is no time to get anywhere else.  For the most part, I just have been working on my fly fishing and seem to be getting more proficient.

CWF05032015pumpkinPumpkinseed are quite beautiful

CWF05032015flybassA few Bass get to the fly before the Bluegill

Only a single trip was made to the various spring trout stockings and even on that day I didn’t have much time.  I was happy to at least get a fish, a rather decent 12″ Rainbow that under the circumstances, made my day.

CWF05032015troutInstagram trout selfie

I’m not feeling very worthy of calling myself a fishing blogger these days with so little time for fishing and writing.  I appreciate the folks that still stop by and/or follow on Facebook, even a small following makes me want to continue doing this.  I hope everyone out there is having a fun spring and making some great catches!

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”.

An unofficial record trout in Idaho

It’s not that often that I post stories from outside of Ohio or the expanded Great Lakes Region.  When I came across a ‘jaw dropping’ photo of an enormous Rainbow Trout in a recent news feed, I knew I would be making an exception.  Take a look for yourself;

CWF02102014idahotroutLarry Warren with his 32 inch, 28.37 pound Rainbow Trout on 1/8/15

The story goes that Larry was fishing on the North Fork of the Clearwater River when he caught the mammoth trout.  Idaho law requires any Rainbow Trout over 20 inches with an intact adipose fin, must be released if it is caught in waters where Steelhead may be found.  Wild Steelhead are protected in the Snake River water system, under the Endangered Species Act, and Larry knew he had no choice but to return it to the water.  Good for Larry that he knew the rules, and good for Larry that he followed them.  Bad for Larry that he couldn’t keep it, because it would have shattered the Idaho record by nearly 8 pounds!

On a final note, I want to say that I admire Larry for providing the world with a wonderful photo.  The fish is massive, and he didn’t shove it down the camera lens to prove it.  To the trained eye, nearly all of the major ‘cool catch’ photos around the web, suffer from the same problem of anglers trying to over compensate the size of their catch by creative posing.  This is an old school angler, with an old school display of his trophy, and I love it.

ODNR Spring trout stocking and fishing lottery

CWF03232014ODNRtroutThe author showing a typical ‘stocker’ trout catch

A sure sign of spring is the release of the ODNR trout stocking schedule.  Whether you agree in philosophy or not of this type of ‘put & take’ fishing, it is a lot fun and I always see plenty of kids attending the venues where this is done.  It allows for some guilt free catch & keep, one of the few times of year where I smoke a good number of fish.  The fishing can even be a challenge at times, proving for a little more sport than what one might expect.

So here it is, the 2014 Spring Rainbow Trout stocking schedule;
http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/fishing/trout-stocking-dates

Another announcement is the Castalia trout fishing lottery.  The application process is only open until the end of March each year, so don’t delay.  I have never been fortunate enough to win, but always am excited to apply for my annual denial.

Lottery information can be found here;
http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/fishing/fishing-events