Clarkin’ the Duckdude
I met Chris (a.k.a. Duckdude) a few weeks back at a get together of waterfowl hunters from Northwest Ohio. Chris grew up just West of Cleveland, and I was very happy to find out that he is an avid steelhead fisherman, having logged countless hours on the Vermilion River near his home. I have fished the “V” a couple times during the winter for steelies, but have yet to fish with someone who knows the “ins and outs” like Chris apparently does.
We talked a bit about river fishing, and swapped stories about the walleye run, along with other topics (he worked on a charter boat on Lake Erie for several years, etc.). Wasn’t long after and he said to me; “We need to hook up for some steelhead fishing…I love to show guys how it’s done..” Pardon me, but folks…I am not going to turn down that offer. Another Clarkin’ opportunity comes to the surface….
Annually I am faced with a dilemma that drives me absolutely bonkers: I have nothing (outdoor related) to do between February and the third week of March besides watch cartoons with the kids and shovel the driveway. Chris and I had been in touch over the last few weeks regarding the potential of hitting the Vermilion for some chrome. The weather has not been conducive to winter steelhead fishing this year, as most of the rivers were frozen solid by the severely cold weather from February. The word amongst veteran steelhead fisherman was very simple and clear: Once the ice goes out, it’ll be on like crazy.
We made plans to hook up on March 17th to fish the Vermilion. In the middle of the week, Ohio was hit with heavy rains. While it cleared the rivers of ice, it virtually ended any and all hopes that I had of fishing for steel. Chris called me on Friday night and said, “You know what, we could always hit a little spot over near Sandusky that I know, as it’s usually pretty clear, and the fish are usually cooperative.” Looking at my calendar, seeing “Duckdude Steelhead Fishing” already marked on it, I anxiously agreed. My wife had purchased a 10.5’ Rapala noodle rod for me in 2006 for my birthday, but I had yet to be able to use it. After a quick conversation on the phone, I was off to the garage to get ready for the next morning. While assembling my rig, I kept thinking “man…that is one long and flimsy fishing rod…” On a tip from Chris, I tied a 20” section of 6# P-line Fluoro-Ice below a very small barrel swivel, and then attached a #10 Gammy red octopus hook. Above the swivel was a Steely Stalker 1/16th oz balsa float. Yep, it sure looked like the steelhead rigs that I have heard so much about! Now to put it to the test….
I awoke at 5:00am to the smell of coffee in the house, and 2” of fresh snow on the driveway. Regardless, I was anxious to put steel to steel, if you know what I mean. I met Chris at the rendezvous point and we were off. Arriving at the spot, we waded into the small creek near a retention wall, with the dam of the creek right around the corner from us. After about three casts, I noticed that ice had formed in the guides, and upon further review, I had ice covering the right arm of my Educated Angler fleece. Wasn’t long and I hear “Fish On!” as Chris had hooked up first, a gorgeous fish that jumped 3-4 times. A couple quick pics and he released the fish to fight another day. He would do this 3 more times before I finally got it right. Very delighted to see my float disappear and see the fish jump, I had finally put my new rig to good use. Pictures do not do the beauty of these fish justice in the least bit.
Over the course of the next two hours, Chris would go on to land 8 fish to my 4. He landed a couple on a wooly-bugger fly pattern with his fly rod, and also a couple with a jig/waxworm combo below a float. To say this guy knows what he is doing when it comes to steelie fishing is putting it mildly. I was duly impressed. “This is nothing Clark…wait until we can get on the Vermilion….that fishing is unbelievable.” Well, in my opinion, the current fishing was pretty darn good as well. Ohio DNR stocks approximately 400,000 steelhead in Lake Erie tributaries every year, combine that with the 1 million that Pennsylvania stocks, you have the recipe for a great fishery that offers excellent cold-weather fishing as well as a tremendous off-shore fishery during the summer months.
The spot started to fill up with fisherman pretty quickly, and the action slowed once the cloud cover started to clear, so Chris and I decided to call it a day around 10:30am. I had run through about 8 spawn sacs, missing several fish along the way. Not to worry, I had fed my desire to catch Erie steel, and for that, I was very content with the trip. We took some time on the way out of town to stop by several area marshes and bird-watch, viewing many vibrant colored waterfowl that have recently returned from the south.
A great way to end the day for me.
I’m looking forward to fishing with Duckdude again, hopefully as early as this weekend on the Vermilion if the conditions will allow. Special thanks to Chris for the invite and all of the tips regarding this type of fishing.
So Duckdude…YOU’VE BEEN CLARKED!!!!