Lakes and Rivers and smallies, Oh my!

For the second year in a row my buddy Ben and I planned to do a two day 20 mile river float on Grand River. The Grand is a beautiful river that winds its way through miles of northeast Ohio until finally emptying into Lake Erie. This time of year is prime time as huge Lake Erie smallmouth move into the shallow water and area rivers of northern Ohio. The problem is timing a trip like this correctly. It’s a fine line between a high muddy river and one with levels so low you spend most of your time dragging a kayak. And so began our dilemma, for the weeks leading up to the trip I watched weather reports religiously and with every passing day. We had very little rain and on the eve of our trip it was time to make a decision. Dragging kayaks through 20 miles of low water didn’t sound fun. At the same time we knew the fish would still be in the river. So the decision was made to fish Lake Erie Friday. Spend the night on the river Friday night and float/drag a shortened 6 miles stretch of the river.


Friday morning I woke up early checked river gauges and weather. The river continued to drop sitting at a super low 85 CFS. The weather for the lake looked promising with wind out of the west at 5-10 mph and waves 1 foot or less. I loaded up the Coosa Fd and headed to the lake to meet up with Ben and fellow Jackson team member Ken Morris. Who was made the trip out to fish the lake with us. We started out fishing isolated rock piles but couldn’t put a solid pattern together only picking up one fish. We decided to make a move and put some rods out to troll to another spot. Not long after my reel began singing and I heard a fish jump behind me. Ken yelled “It’s not a bass, its silver!” as I pulled the fish up close to the boat I saw the dark spotted back and silver sides of a steelhead. The fish then shot back into the depths going on another long run. Ken then hooks up and complete chaos ensues, our lines become tangled and after a getting the fish close to the boat again it pops off. Our lines still tangled I’m able to net kens fish, a healthy smallie. Steelhead catches this time of year this shallow are very rare so I was pretty bummed. We continued to our next spot with wind beginning to build the Coosa FD made a world of difference. A consist higher than forecasted wind continued the remainder of the day. The wind made it almost impossible without the flexdrive to stay lock on the spots. Most of the day we bounced from spot to spot picking up scattered smallies but the numbers weren’t there. Ken with yet another surprise caught a juvenile muskie. About mid-afternoon we decided to call it a day. Re-rig and go set up camp on the river.


With the river being so low I decided to swap out my Coosa FD for the Cruise 12. The cruise is a lot lighter and easier to manage for shallow water and dragging. After getting lunch and swapping boats Ken headed home and we headed for the river. Arriving at the river we were shocked to see a raging torrent. The river had come up almost 3 feet since morning and was extremely fast and muddy. Checking the river gauge I saw that it had gone from 85 to over 1100 CFS since early morning. Talking to a local later we found out that it had rained over 2 inches south of us the night before. With a fast moving river and only about 4 inches of visibility everything we had planned for went out the window. My brother our resident camping aficionado met us and we set up came for the night. The rest of the night was spend rigging for the conditions watching stars and being hopefully for just another inch or 2 of visibility by morning.

That was certainly not the case as morning showed the river had risen a couple more inches and visibility had dropped to near zero. We decided that we were already here and worst case scenario we get to paddle through miles of gorgeous of wilderness, still not a bad deal. Shoving off around 8 am we became hitting every backwater area and eddy we could find. Nothing seemed to be happening, planning on fishing low clear water I didn’t have much in the way of dark colors for this kind of fishing. Finally after digging through my pack I found some black and blue 412 bait co. stick baits. I rigged it up wacky style and began pitching it to the back of eddy’s. I also cut another in half and put it on a ned head jig. Not long after I landed my first smallie a chunky 15 incher. I then caught another and began thinking maybe this won’t be so bad after all. Ben also began hooking up and we put together a little pattern. The bait had to be presented to the head of the eddy right up against the bank or they couldn’t find it.

After our little flurry of action we got stuck in a huge lull. And I mean huge! We spend the next several hours trying everything in the tackle bag to no avail. We just couldn’t get bit no matter what we tried. But even this wasn’t all bad, the sights and sounds of the river are enough to make even a poor day of fishing a great day on the water. A couple eagles flew between cliff walls above us. Water snakes, turtles and one very friendly raccoon kept us company making it a very relaxing few hours. Nearing the end of our trip we came upon my favorite stretch of the river. We both knew if we were going to get them it was here and it didn’t disappoint. Within 3 casts Ben hooked up with a big lake run smallmouth. Not long after I hooked up and it was on! Within about 15 mins 6 big lake run smallmouth were boated. It was an amazing cap to a crazy weekend of fishing. From wicked winds and rare catches to wild and muddy water it was a trip to remember. The fishing wasn’t great but spending time in the kayak with friends is hard to beat!

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