Fresh fishing memories

Right on cue, with the leaves turning and the temperature falling, the day to get the BassCat under cover for the winter arrived.

That day was Thursday. Going to winter storage is never a day for celebration – at least not in my book – but it was with some satisfaction that I readied the boat and dropped it off at the Canfield Fairgrounds a few days ago.

The satisfaction was fueled by the outstanding production of the BassCat’s last 2017 fishing trip. What a day it was. Fishing buddy Ted Suffolk and I landed what may very well be the largest variety of fish either of us has experienced in a single day.

On a cloudy and muggy day last weekend, Ted and I plucked six species from the Ohio River’s New Cumberland Pool. With that day fresh in my mind, the chore of unloading more than a dozen rods and reels, 15 boxes of tackle and lures, spare clothing, tools and safety gear was not as onerous as in years past.

Six species is a pretty big deal. Consider that a Lake Erie charter trip might yield walleyes, yellow perch, white bass and sheepshead. A busy day on Mosquito might produce walleyes, crappies, perch and catfish. I’ve had days on Chautauqua Lake in New York when the day’s haul included largemouth and smallmouth bass along with rock bass and yellow perch.

But the only place I recall landing six different species is the Ohio River.

For the record, Ted and I were targeting smallmouth bass and we caught quite a few of them – 20 at least. Several of them were pretty decent in size and fight, so our trip would have been judged a success even if the smallies were the only fish we boated that day.

But wait, there was more.

We also reeled in 10 walleyes, six or eight sauger, a fine hybrid striped bass, a feisty northern pike and a sheepshead that rivaled in size some of the better specimens one might encounter up on Lake Erie.

The Ohio River continues to be one of the more entertaining locales on my annual fishing schedule. I look forward with great anticipation when I know I’ll be visiting the New Cumberland pool, just 45 minutes down Ohio 11 from home in Poland.

Ted and I boated six species Sunday, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if had been eight or 10. Over the years, I’ve reeled in muskies, crappies, largemouth bass and catfish from the Ohio River. Many years ago, a friend caught a rainbow trout in the spring on the Ohio.

The fish are there, for sure, but catching them is rarely easy.

Our trip Sunday, for example, included more than a dozen stops at various locations along the more than 20 miles of river from the downstream New Cumberland Dam to the upstream Montgomery Dam above Shippingport, Pa. We burned plenty of gasoline to rack up our score.

I am particularly interested in the river in October and November. As the autumn rain falls over the Mahoning, Shenango, Allegheny and Youghiogheny drainages, the river cools and the flow increases.

The combination of cool, moving water activates the food chain and creates ideal feeding conditions for the predator and prey species.

Sunday’s success clearly underscored that when the fish are feeding, lure choice boils down to tying on the one that is most efficient at getting in the fishes’ faces. We caught every fish – all six species – on shallow-running crankbaits.

The boat is in storage now, but thanks to the Ohio River I have a winter’s worth of fresh fishing memories to carry me through to the upcoming spring.

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