Best fishing is close to home

Twenty-two years have passed since I first gained the privilege of writing for Vindicator readers about my favorite topic, and I’ve invested an impressive number of hours in what we can rightfully label as research.

This is not the kind of research we did in college or during the course of our careers. This is real work – in the heat and the cold on sunny days and cloudy, in blustery conditions and calm, when it rains and when it snows, often with my nose to the grindstone for eight hours and more without a break.

But don’t cry for me. I don’t seek your sympathy. My “research” has been a labor of love. It has taken me to far-away waters and put me in boats alongside America’s most accomplished anglers.

The biggest take-away from all those years of “work” is the realization that, indeed, there is no place like home.

I’ve cast my line in myriad locations — from the rocky shores of Maine to the marshes in the Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana. I’ve fished in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Canada and, of course, Ohio.

From what I’ve seen in all those locations throughout all of those years, we’ve got it pretty good right here close to Youngstown.

The wide, open water of Lake Erie is the gem among our local waters. The Ohio River is lots of fun when the conditions are right. Berlin, Shenango, Milton, Mosquito, West Branch, Pymatuning and other nearby reservoirs are consistently good. The upper Mahoning River is a surprising delight.

Want muskies? We’ve got world class fishing 60 minutes from Federal Square.

World-class smallmouth bass fishing? Look no further than Ashtabula, Conneaut and Erie, Pa., where the parking lots are festooned with trailers sporting out-of-state license plates.

How about a limit of lunker walleyes? They don’t call Erie the Walleye Capital of the World for no reason.

Interested in jigging or cranking for walleyes? Mosquito will bring a grin to your face.

A bucketful of keeper crappies? Toss your jig at Mosquito, Berlin and Shenango.

Ready to hone your skills on largemouth bass? All of our local waters produce fish that will break your line.

Where is America’s hottest steelhead fishing? A case can be made for Ohio’s north coast.

If my goals this year included catching a 40-inch muskie, a 5-pound smallie, a 10-pound walleye and like-sized steelhead, a 15-inch crappie, and a limit of 3-pound largemouths, I’d need invest no more than a tank of gasoline for each day of pursuing those milestones.

So it is with a smile on my face that I pull the BassCat out of our driveway at 4:30 in the morning on fishing days.

Who can blame me? I’m heading to some of the world’s best fishing waters.

Yes, decades of “research” help tip the odds in my favor.

But it all comes down to this: There really is no place like home.

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