The Ohio hat trick

I want to say a little more about how the fishing in Ohio, and generally around our country, has improved since I started fishing back when I was a kid several decades ago.

The weekend before last I made a trip to Lake Erie. The wind was out of the south so I was able to fish a mile or so away from the shore, at least for a while in the morning. I caught a limit of smallmouth bass in short order. Then, I started culling. I don’t mean real culling, though. I wasn’t in a tournament. Nothing went in my livewell.

Finally the wind and waves drove me off the water. I thought about going into the marinas where I could target largemouth. Instead, I decided to head towards home and maybe stop somewhere along the way.

Not too far from my Lake Erie ramp there’s a small lake named Clear Fork Reservoir. It covers about a thousand acres and was impounded as a water source for the city of Mansfield. There’s a 10 mph speed limit on the lake but no horsepower limit. You get the picture.

It didn’t take me but a couple of hours to boat another limit of bass, this time largemouth. And, like on Erie, I caught more after that.

Back when I first started fishing two limits would have been impossible. Forget about smallmouth and largemouth, or legal size for that matter. We’re talking just catching 10 fish in one day. We call two legal limits "The Ohio hat trick."

I’ll freely admit that some of my early struggles were of my own making. I didn’t know how to find fish, much less catch them. Still, the change in the number and size of the bass that we are catching in our lakes, rivers and streams is extraordinary.

Part of that isn’t just that my skills have improved. Let’s look at equipment first.

Modern electronics are almost incomprehensible when you look at the detail they give anglers. We find the spot in a matter of minutes and mark it accurately. We can return to that same spot years later. At the same time we can see if there’s fish on it. We no longer waste our time fishing dead water with half the lures in our tackle box.

At the same time, don’t underestimate the impact that improvements in pollution control and fish management have made. Not only are our bass better managed but they live in better neighborhoods.

I also think that the proliferation of grass in our waters has helped. Regardless of the reason — this is not the place to get into an environmental debate — there’s no doubt in my mind that grass has been a huge factor. I see it turning green earlier in the year and I see more of it almost every place I fish these days.

So here’s the bottom line: If you like to fish, take advantage of what we have right now. Don’t wait. None of us can say how long this will last. Like you, I hope it lasts forever. But hope is not a plan. Fishing now is a plan.