Sharing brotherly love, fun

Nothing in fishing is quite like the moment when the bow of the boat swings to the north and the vista is nothing but water to the next landfall somewhere beyond the horizon.

This is Lake Erie. If you’ve fished or boated there, you know the scene and the scale. Everything is bigger there. Setting course on Erie is a feeling comparable to few others.

Brothers John and Jim Breedlove grew up in Girard and learned to fish all the creeks and ponds near home. They know walleyes. They know bass. They know the reservoirs around Youngstown like the backs of their hands, toughened by work at Liberty Steel and by decades of weather from a thousand fishing trips or more.

They also know steelhead trout and proved it in fun fashion as I joined them recently to fish the waters of Lake Erie and Conneaut Creek.

The breeze was already brisk as John set his boat to steer through the gap in the breakwalls of Conneaut Harbor while he and Jim set up rods to troll flashy spoons. The aluminum boat’s hull rode high on the chop, which slapped out a familiar rhythm.

I gazed to the north to admire the deep blue lakescape and felt awe at the magnificent view and the power of the water.

Altogether, it was hypnotic. But the screech of a reel interrupted my trance. Its rod was bucking like it was snagged to a bull. John grabbed it from the holder and passed it to me along with fish-fighting advice while hollering to Jim to clear the other lines.

Fish on, for sure, and it was barely five seconds after I stubbed the rod butt into my belly when a silver steelhead cartwheeled 100 feet behind John’s boat.

The trout fought with strength and speed. It was only of average weight and length for a Lake Erie steelie. Not much to brag about for the Breedloves, who have boated hundreds of trout among the thousands of fish they’ve fought over the years.

But the first fish of the day is always a welcome encounter and this one was celebrated by a quick release once I winched it boatside.

Soon another fish blasted the Breedlove spread of chrome-and-blue and chrome-and-chartreuse spoons. It was bigger and fought harder than the morning’s first steelhead and was released unharmed – as would all of the fish we hooked that day.

Around midmorning, a forceful front moved over the Ohio shoreline and the accompanying stiffer wind and bigger waves forced us to fish the lee of Conneaut’s east wall. Those waters also yielded spectacular jumping and bull-dogging trout, as did the creek itself above the famous Conneaut swing bridge.

At home on the big water fishing in foul-weather gear for steelhead or in shorts in June fishing for largemouths in the Muransky Companies United Way Bass Classic, the Breedloves are the embodiment of the word “fisherman.”

Throughout the day, they fished in brotherly fashion. A little trash-talk, a bit of coaching. Some jabbing and even some scolding. It was all good.

Like other fish species, steelhead congregate where they can eat with ease. It was clear on the sonar that the water out around the gap in the walls harbored massive schools of baitfish.

We’d have went home with sore arms had we been able to fish the schools, but the weather dictated otherwise. Lake Erie anglers know that’s par for the course – great fishing, with the risk of a bouncy or even impossible day.

But who can complain when a dozen or so fish come to the net? Certainly not John and Jim Breedlove. And certainly not the guest fortunate to be invited to share their day.

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