Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday's outdoors musings (mostly fishing)

Tip of the hat goes to the Madison Township-based lake County Rod and Gun Club.

On Tuesday the group will donate $1,000 to the Riverside Local School District for start-up costs associated with the National Archery in the Schools program.

Students at both Riverside and John R. Williams Middle School are expected to participate in the program.

The club gave similar seed money to the Wickliffe City School District and now which sends both high school and middle school students to the state tournament each March.

And the club donates $400 for that portion of the program, too.

Lake Metroparks will stock Paine Creek at the agency's Indian Point Park in Leroy Township on April 13.

The parks system will stock the stream with approximately 500 pounds of rainbow trout, each fish weighing about one pound.

And on April 18 the Ohio Division of Wildlife also will stock Punderson Lake with 2,500 rainbow trout as part of the agency's annual inland lakes spring trout stocking program.

Though the Grand River doesn't have the walleye run like the Maumee River does each spring, the Lake Erie tributary still sees some fish make their migratory spawning dash up the stream.

Within the past two weeks Bob Ashley of Mentor has caught three walleye, each fish weighing between 8 and 10 pounds, while angling for steelhead trout.

The latest report says that muskies are on fire due to the generally dry and fairly mild March. The fish are hitting from Pymatuning to Alum Creek to Salt Fork Reservoir, says Ohio Division of Wildlife officials.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wild Lake County

Don't let anyone fool you into thinking there's nothing wild left in Lake County.

Even for a lifelong (nearly 60-year) resident of the county I am always amazed at what I find.

On Friday I visited the Marsh (Hopkins) Creek corridor in Mentor for a project story.

This is one gem of a natural ribbon that runs from the Mentor Marsh and snakes off east to Heisley Road and south to the Mentor Civic Center complex.

Steelhead trout were running up the creek, too, which contained as well a large flock of Canada geese and mallard ducks.

In the backyard of one residence I was invited to visit were 18 fox squirrels, a small gathering of white-tailed deer along with a flock of wild turkeys, including three mature toms.

But I've seen this same thing as far west as Eastlake where deer now regularly reside off Erie Road where I once lived.

And if you really want to get lost visit Lake Metroparks' Hell Hollow Reservation or the depths of the agency's Girdled Road Reservation.

And don't forget lovely Mill Creek at Hogback Ridge Park in Madison Township.

Every spring it also seems we are visited by black bears on Little Mountain while the Grand River is host to river otters and while a pair of American bald eagles have taken to nesting at Lake Metroparks' Pleasant Valley Park in Willoughby Hills.

There's a lot to see wild in Lake County. Even for an old geezer like me.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Time to go fishing and other stuff

I won't give everything away because next Friday marks the restart of the weekly fishing report in the paper.

But now that you ask, the fish are beginning to bite.

In spite of the recent low water conditions, steelhead are still being caught in the Ashtabula River and Conneaut Creek though the Grand River's tributaries are pretty much too low for decent angling.

The best news is that the Grand River is fishable. Or was, until today's (Wednesday's) rains will bring the rivers up again. Hopefully that will lead to a new slug of fish entering the streams.

And while on the subject of the Grand River, Mentor resident Bob Ashley fished it Monday for steelhead but also caught a 30-inch, 9-pound female walleye. He used a Kwickfish crankabit.

One of the lingering questions is why the lower Chagrin River has seen such poor steelheading of late. No one seems to have much of an answer though these rains may bring some fish into the river's lower reaches.

Word is that the walleye bite is going well around the Western Basin's reef complex with the smaller males up on the refs while the larger females are just off of them.

I also want to tell a tale of my fishing the Ashtabula River on Tuesday.

I foul-hooked a nice steelhead, sticking the fly into the fish's tail.

When I "popped" the rod to pull out the lure, the affair came zinging back with the split shot punching my glasses.

Alas, the fly embedded itself into my cheek near the left ear. I could feel the barb in the flesh.

Not wanting to quit to find an emergency room I instead had fishing companion Paul Liikala of Cuyahoga Falls take his fishing plyers to the hook, locating the entry point. Then I told him to pull quickly.

The Otter egg fly popped out without much of a bite, though blood poured out until it was bandaged up.

The thing is, if I had waited several minutes the extraction would have been much more painful. When a hook first goes in the skin and flesh are pretty numb and it's best to "git 'er done" as rapidly as possible.

Oh, yes, I immediately went back to fishing and caught a few more trout. No point wasting a good day on the water though my wife, Bev, was none too happy.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday's mixed outdoors notes

It was a busy weekend. Which was all good and fine by me.

First up was a Saturday visit to a gun show at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea.

It was crowded with a lot of buyers. Make that panic buyers.

I've been searching for a particular semi-automatic handgun that I can use for home protection and also for concealed carry if I choose since I have the required permit.

The thing is, this .380-caliber model has been sold out virtually everywhere, including at the gun show where I've seen this particular item before.

And you couldn't find a box of .380-caliber ammo either. Not at the gun show and not at Gander Mountain's store in Mentor.

Gun show shoppers were carrying out fist fulls and bag fulls of ammo.

This panic buying needs to end. It's limiting supplies of both firearms as well as ammunition along with driving up the prices.

It's all totally unnecessary, too. Support Second Amendment Rights institutions but please refrain from panic buying. It doesn't do any gun owner any good.

After the gun show visit my wife and I traveled the few miles to Cleveland's I-X Center for the annual Cleveland Sports Show.

Yes, this show has shrunk and, yes, it will never be like it was at Cleveland's Convention Center.

But I liked the new layout and I thought Stage Two with its log cabin backdrop and its seating arrangement were nice touches and a worthy improvement over last year's show.

However, the word circulating at the show was that next year's production will be reduced to three days; down from the present five days.

That change didn't sit well with a few exhibitors who each said a three-day show wouldn't be worth the expense and bother of setting up.

I hope this doesn't spell the end of the Cleveland Sports Show.

On a different subject, congratulate Bruce Dickerson, owner of Grand River Tackle in Fairport Harbor.

Bruce got married for the second time a week or so ago. This, to a Canadian gal. He deserves our congratulations.

However, Bruce also said he's watching the on-going economic times and might have to close his popular establishment if business doesn't pick up.

That would be a real shame as Grand River Tackle has long been an area fishing go-to place for advice, tackle and just plain good 'ol fishing talk.

Here's wishing Bruce well in his new marriage and keeping his store open.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, March 20, 2009

Anglers, we're blessed

Often forgotten in our collective angling memory is how blessed we are to live in Northeast Ohio.

I was reminded of that this past week as I headed up a somewhat-but-not-always-annual Lake County Steelhead Fishing Camp for outdoors writers.

This activity brings in a small cadre of outdoor writers to sample the steelhead fishing we have in good 'ol Northeast Ohio.

Producing the event is the Lake County Visitors Bureau and Lake Metroparks.

Not to give too much away since I'll be writing an outdoors story on the subject, I do want to point out a few things.

All of the participants were gushing with praise over the steelhead fishing. From Mill Creek to the Ashtabula River, (where steelhead aren't even stocked) the trout fishing was awesome.

The camp's participants enjoyed great weather and even better fishing. They all caught as many steelhead as they wanted to catch.

The thing is, our fishing from the mighty Lake Erie to small farm ponds and small streams is the best anywhere in the state.

That includes our steelhead fisheries, which is easily and without blushing a world-class fisheries.

We often forget this as well pick away at this or that short-coming of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Thing is, we have it all here from great walleye and perch fishing to outstanding angling for muskies, bass of both stripes, trout, panfish, saugeye, catfish - you name it.

But sometimes it's just plain nice to hear it from writers who do not call Northeast Ohio their home. They are (rightfully) jealous of what we have here.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wickliffe Middle School archers

Though Wickliffe Middle School students didn't score in the top row during the recently concluded state archery competition they still did okay.

Here are the kids, their scores (out of a possible 800 points) and their rankings in each class division:

Middle School Division

Eric Pozun - 241 *placed 50th in the state in his division
Katie Sangdahl – 230 *placed 35th in the state in her division
Miranda Zak - 151

Chris LaRochelle - 164
Tiffany Martz - 213
Tiffany To - 197
Domenic Gigli - 152
Christian Schroeder - 185

Elementary School Division
6th Grade
Seth Carn - 224
Logan Molnar – 227 *placed 26th in the state in her division
Hannah Snyder – 242 *placed 12th in the state in her division

5th Grade
Chad Barnes - 144
Andrew Vargo - 188
Pat Picciano - 145
Timmy Zelina - 164

Wickliffe High School
9th Grade
Brian D’Arcy - 245

The program is led by Wickliffe Middle School teacher Michelle Reda.

The school has a great training program for young archers but a couple of groups from down-state schools always seem to dominate in the annual statewide competition.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

All things steelhead

The really bummer weather of late has dimmed the steelhead fishing for the past several days.

The last report was for Saturday with good fly fishing in the Ashtabula River along Indian Trail Park in Ashtabula.

Be that as it may, steelheaders can help the cause by attending the Lake (Metroparks) Parks Foundation's Annual Steelheaders Ball.

This year's event is scheduled for March 28, starting around 6:30 p.m. at Lake Metroparks' Pine Ridge County Club in Wickliffe.

Cost is a surprisingly affordable $45 per person, $90 per couple.

And what, exactly, does one get for the money? Glad you asked.

A superb buffet-style dinner and early open bar, for starters, along with the opportunity to win some wonderful stuff in various silent auctions. Among the items that the parks system's acting director Steve Madewell says will be available include: a Victoria Secret gift basket, a hand-made purse, a GPS unit, Fly Logic rod and reel, Ross fly reels. tickets to Indians and lake County Captain games, a pheasant hunt with Fritz Neubauer, a two-night stay at a Lake Metroparks' cabin, two Creek Company pontoon boats, Dicks Sporting Goods gift cards, and a mess of other cool goodies.

To date these functions have raised more than $24,000 with the money going to help angler access along both the Grand and Chagrin rivers within the Lake Metroparks' family of of park units.

You'll typically see about 200 people having a great time, listening to live music, enjoying the food and laughing at fishermen's tall tales.

For more information, call 440-352-0729 or visit the Foundation's web site at

While we are on the subject of steelhead there's a new book out about the subject. It's a 115-page soft-cover book written by Ohio outdoors writer W.H. Chip Gross.

It's title is Pro Tactics' Steelhead and Salmon, published by the acclaimed outdoors publishing firm of the Lyons Press.

This book not only looks at salmonid fishing in the Great Lakes but wherever steelhead and salmon are found.

That is a tall order and Gross readily admits that he's no expert on all things salmon and trout.

Rather, each chapter is a first-person account by experts in their respective fisheries and fields.

For our area Gross has depended upon steelhead efishing xpert, Jeff Liskay (who just might show up at the Steelheader's Ball).

Lisky's take is contained in chapter three: Steelheading Great Lakes Rivers.

At first I wasn't so sure that the use of individual experts would work in a book but it does, and does so very well. These pros are charter captains, fishing guides, outdoor writers, the whole shebang.

In all the book contains 10 chapters, five each for steelhead and salmon.

The color photography work in the book is really first-rate, too, and adds to a wonderful and informative read.

Cost is $26.50, which includes shipping and handling, and can be addressed to: WORDsmith, 6108 Township Road 88, Fredericktown, OH 43019. These will be personalized and autographed by Gross.

Non-autographed copies, says Gross, can be ordered online at or a local book store for a nickel less than $20.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, March 9, 2009

What recession?

The coin toss on Saturday favored Cabela's Dundee, Michigan store over Cabela's Wheeling, West Virginia complex.

That would involved an hour shorter drive but a far more boring one, seeing as how the Ohio Turnpike hardly cuts a swath through scenic country.

Still, it was the destination that mattered as I had a couple of Cabela's gift certificates that have been burning a hole in my wallet since Christmas.

And my oldest brother, Terry, and mutual friend Wayne Rodriguez wanted to visit Dundee anyway.

That's because there's more Lake Erie trolling stuff there than at the Wheeling store. Both Terry and Wayne are crazy about trolling for Lake Erie walleye.

However, the West Virginia store is more attractive with better displays and exhibits. I'm more of an inland style of fisherman.

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked.

Fact was when we pulled into the Dundee store parking lot around 11 a.m. there hardly could be found a place to settle in the car.

The store was crowded on the order of Christmas. Lines of people snaked through the front end with carts full of merchandise for hunting, fishing and boating.

And this was Michigan which has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation.

And though a lot of folk were in a buying mood a lot of others were simply window shopping, picking one or two smaller items here and there along with taking photographs of family members with the wildlife mountain as the backdrop.

Fact is, there's a whole lot of pent-up demand from people to shop for outdoors products.

Maybe the most surreal of all was the traffic in the firearms department.

Ammunition of all kinds was flying of the shelves, and customers had to take a number in order to inspect the handguns, rifles and shotguns for sale. That's because so many people wanted to look and possibly buy.

Not lost either was that the gun room (which features very high-end firearms) was crowded with shoppers as were the racks of used firearms.

The fishing lure rows were crammed with customers also. And I had to wheel the cart around a lot of bodies as I tried to find my favorite drop-shot items, lightweight pencil sinkers and such.

Cabela's was promoting the sale of various moderately priced fishing reels and rods.
They were seeing more attention than were the really outlandishly expensive models that only a NBA player can afford.

The bottom line is that people are willing to spend on their outdoor pursuits, so long as they can receive in exchange a value for their hard-earned dollar.

Gone likely are the days of buying to keep ahead of Bubba on the bass boat. Instead, we're getting a much more savvy customer who wants and demands real value.

If nothing else, this current recession is molding a better consumer.

This has nothing to do with Cabela's or buying stuff but rather on a neat activity.

My wife, Bev, and I operate a backyard sugar bush. What it is is a barrel of fun though not a little bit of work.

First off there is the collecting of the sap; which requires a 45-minute drive to a farm in Ashtabula County where we've tapped five sugar maple trees.

On Friday I filled two five-gallon buckets with sap and returned home.

On Saturday, Bev boiled them down along with eight gallons collected from our silver maple tree to yield not quite two quarts of syrup, some of which went into containers that will be given away to people who let me hunt and fish on their property.

This weekend you can learn about installing your own home sugar bush. It is part of Lake Metroparks' Sugaring Weekend at the agency's Farmpark in Kirtland.

There's a lot of hands-on, family style activities. In times like these, those kinds of low cost activities are worth every penny.

It should be fun.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wildlife divserity matters

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Diversity Conference held Wednesday attracted a whole bunch of people interested in the birds, beasts and flowers that support them.

Between 800 and 1,0000 people crammed into the Aladdin Temple Shrine in Columbus to listen to eight speakers talk on such diverse subjects as eco-tourism, Eastern red bats, American burying beetle and wild violets.

Among those attending was a contingent from Lake Metroparks, including Ann Bugeda, the agency's top naturalist.

The affair is assembled and hosted by the Natural Resources' Department's Division of Wildlife.

Its chief, Dave Graham, made it a point to welcome the crowd of birders, tree huggers and amateur and professional naturalists.

Graham said his agency wants to continue to reach out to these groups and forge an alliance with the more traditional segments made up of hunters, anglers and trappers.

The effort is help ensure that everyone pulls their weight in the conservation of wildlife and their habitat.

To aid in this link, beginning next year the Wildlife Division will start selling a $15 Ohio Wildlife Stamp, which will feature a different critter each year. For next year a photograph of a Baltimore oriole will be used.

The actual contest winner will be selected in September during the Wildlife Division's diversity partner's meeting.

Yep, you read correctly. Instead of using the image from a painting - as is the custom for waterfowl stamps and the like - the Wildlife Division will pick from a photograph.

It is important to note that the stamp will not be required for access or participation at any venue or event. It will be strictly voluntary with $14 of the sale going to help support non-game and endangered species programs that require matching federal dollars. The remaining $1 will go to the issuing agent.

"I'd be pleased if we sold 5,000 stamps in the first year, but I don't know. We have to be realistic," said Wildlife Division spokeswoman, Laura Jones.

As for the Wildlife Diversity Conference itself, it was an educational experience for all those attending. The eco-tourism segment was particularly informative and was presented by Ohio Sea Grant tourism specialist, Melinda Huntley.

One thing that I found humorous were the back-to-back talks on cerulean warblers and indigo buntings, both of which - generally speaking - require conflicting habitats for survival, especially on their respective wintering grounds.

Next year's Wildlife Diversity Conference is expected to be March 10 and will again be co-hosted by the Ohio Biological Survey and held in Columbus.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, March 2, 2009

End of Days

A cold, pale sun shown through the still-chilled forest.

Out ahead ran Jenny Lynn and Berry, my two Labrador retrievers. They were sniffing for whatever scrap of scent they could find, either from a rabbit or a grouse.

The chances of finding either - especially that from grouse - was hardly encouraging.

But I wasn’t really here to bust caps from my .410-gauge over/under shotgun.

Nope. This was the last day of Ohio’s small-game hunting season. By that I mean it also was the final day of the 2008-2009 hunting season.

It was concluding on the same grounds from where the season started. Only at the beginning the weather was warm and the trees were draped in living green even as bugs did their best to spoil an outing.

The target was different, too. Instead of morning doves and Canada geese as the season’s starters, in February they were the aforementioned rabbits and grouse.

Then again, a lot had changed with the fishing as well. A few days ago fishing friend Paul Liikala and I put the finishing touches to the season’s angling.

We drilled a few holes into the ice that yielded an incredible abundance of sunfish and even one gargantuan yellow perch.

But now that season had ended also, with the requirement that beginning March 1st we’d need a new fishing license.

And hunting license.

That’s why March 1st. marks a dividing line of sorts from one season to the next, though a case can be made that the spring wild turkey hunting season is a continuation of the last season since its regulations were encoded into the previous year’s legal ledger.

Still, for that season I will need a new hunting license and a new turkey tag.

So in my mind, the hunting season and fishing concludes with the last day in February.

It had been a good year hunting-wise as well as fishing-wise. I made my mark on the Fish Ohio Master Angler list with enough qualifying species.

I even caught a muskie and one very nice largemouth bass (from the same pond I was ice fishing) along with one of the finest season’s ever for Lake Erie yellow perch.

Though I tried to find some fault with the hunting season I really had little to complain about. I arrowed three deer: All this year’s crop which translated means they were on the small side.

But you won’t find me complaining. Neither will you hear a peep from the landowner on whose property I hunted.

There’s too many deer that eat the landowner’s valuable plant stock. And with the property being close to an active roadway meant that the deer posed a threat in that regard, too.

I should have said all that to a reader who complained that I had killed a button buck but I didn't, not thinking along those lines until after I had hung up.)

The goose hunting was especially good this past season and I even managed to kill a couple of ducks.

Up also was the squirrel hunting with one very nice outing that not only provided game but was done on one of the nicest early autumn days you can tap.

Down, though, was the bird hunting with no pheasants bagged other than two taken on a game preserve.

I made only one out-of-state hunting trip and that was an unsuccessful duck outing to Michigan. No regrets here, either.

And this year Berry started to come into her own, relishing the opportunity to fetch resident Canada geese - including three birds each bearing a leg band that were Cracker Jack prizes unto themselves.

One downside was how Jenny Lynn had aged and slowed as her 11 years began to take their toll. I savored the few retrieves she made and smiled broadly as she returned with a goose firmly anchored in her jaws.

Jenny was satisfied just to be out and enjoy the experience with Berry and the farm pond owner’s two Labrador retrievers.

I didn’t mind that they joined in, not even when their run around the pond’s dam base spooked an in-coming flock of geese.

Now that chapter was finished. The 90-minute hunt ended with no game found and the dogs covered in ice, having broken through the thin shells of frozen water that covered the forest’s vernal pools.

Within several days I’ll start fishing again for steelhead. A little later when the pond’s ice has gone I’ll check up on the boat there and retrieve the decoys that I couldn’t tend to December last.

I know the pond’s panfish and bass will soon become active and I will enjoy fishing for them.

Also, I will begin the task of rummaging through the turkey vest to ensure that it is ready for the up-coming season.

And I’ll continue to work the dogs, tossing the training dummy to them with such repetition that I will tire before Berry does.

These were the end of days but with the continuity of more to come in a never-ending cycle that keeps me afield and on the stream.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn