Ohio River is perfect for anglers who work hard


As I write this week, the Ohio River is flooded after last weekend’s heavy rain and likely to remain high as it takes on the run-off when the remnants of Hurricane Florence creep up the Ohio Valley.

Flooding caused a lot of damage. Docks and marinas were inundated, and debris swept by the ripping currents of muddy water lodged against pilings and industrial infrastructure.

The pictures were not pretty. But the Ohio River will recover. It’s as resilient as the hardy people who live and work in the Upper Ohio Valley and our own Mahoning and Shenango valleys.

I fished the Ohio last Saturday, just a day before the rain eventually dumped 4 inches and more throughout the Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia counties that drain into the big river.

The fishing wasn’t great. Ohio River bass fishing trips are rarely easy. They typically are gritty challenges that demand all the skill and experience an angler can bring to the game.

Flooding affects the fishing on the Ohio. The bass, walleyes, muskies and other gamefish species are forced several times a year to hide from the raging torrents and still find enough food to survive until conditions return.

Last Saturday, I managed a couple of keeper bass, along with 10 dink smallmouths and one 7- or 8-pound sheephead.

It was a fairly typical day on the Ohio for me. Any time you avoid a shutout on the big river, you can count it as a success.

As I have written in previous columns, I count the stingy Ohio River as one of my favorite fisheries.

I have experienced outstanding days there, catching and releasing 30 to 40 smallies. But the success of a day on the water isn’t always about how many fish one catches.

Something about the Ohio River strikes a chord in my soul, and I look forward to launching the BassCat there even when I know I’ll cast a thousand times to catch a scrawny bass or two.

Blue collar is how I describe the Ohio. The tug boats and barges, locks and dams, and factory clatter smack your senses, leaving no doubt you are visiting a place where people work hard for a living.

It stands to reason that I’d be in love with a blue-collar river. I’m a blue-collar angler, a proud Youngstown son of a Youngstown couple whose Youngstown parents earned their livelihood in factories that were the backbone of America’s industrial might.

Our local Mahoning and Shenango rivers, the lifeblood of the steel industry that helped our parents and grandparents build America strong, pour their industrial DNA into the mighty Ohio.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed introducing friends to the experience of an Ohio River fishing trip. They inevitably are awed at the sights, sounds and – sometimes – the fishing.

It’s a place where people who work hard go to fish. It’s a place where people work hard in the factories and businesses in the towns that depend on the river.

The Ohio will recover from the flooding. It always does. And soon enough I’ll be back there with high hopes of catching a few more of the Ohio River’s blue-collar bass.

jackbbaass@gmail.com

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