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Angler thankful for another year on the water

Hardly a day goes by without me noticing I truly am one lucky guy.

Lucky in love. Lucky on the lake and in life. And certainly lucky to have survived a good number of years mostly intact (thanks to some very excellent medical care).

So with Thanksgiving just four days away, I am dedicating this week’s column to express thanks for those people and experiences that have made 2022 a very good year.

I truly am fortunate to have a passion for a pursuit that pays back huge dividends. Fishing has been my favorite pastime for more than 50 years–and it’s something that really does get better and better.

But I must give credit to my wife Barb, who understands the depth of my interest in fishing and supports almost all of my decisions in preparing for and enjoying the many days I spend on the water. It’s easy to have fun out there when I know she will be glad to have me back home at day’s end.

I am thankful, too, for my childhood experiences during day trips to beaver ponds and strip pits where sunfish were our quarry. Dad and I also made trips to Berlin and Milton for walleyes and crappies and an annual trip to northern Michigan for whatever might bite.

Memories of nosey bluegills nipping at my hook, hissing lanterns hanging off the gunwale, two-cycle outboard motor fumes, and nightcrawler dirt under my fingernails all are the foundation for the fishing I love today.

We are fortunate here in our part of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Fishing is actually better today than it was 40 or 50 years ago. State officials are going a good job managing our fisheries and the results are evident in the number of bass, crappies, and walleyes we catch today compared to the 1960s and ’70s.

I am thankful we have Lake Erie just an hour to our north. I’ve said it before and I hope to continue saying it for many years, the best walleye, steelhead, and smallmouth bass fishing is just a short drive away.

But great fishing also is available much closer to home. For largemouth bass and crappies, it’s pretty hard to top Mosquito Lake. Pymatuning is again a top-producing walleye lake. Oversized muskies are the top draw at West Branch. Shenango is a super multi-species lake and Berlin and Milton are good for crappies, perch, some decent walleyes, and largemouth and smallmouth bass.

All of the great fishing is not worth a hill of beans, of course, if we aren’t healthy enough to get to the water. I am thankful for the medical minds and skilled hands of the doctors and nurses at the Cleveland Clinic who operated on my heart this summer and fixed me up in time to return to my favorite lakes and rivers.

Credit for my quick return to the lakes after surgery belongs to Barb. Thanks to her careful monitoring and coaching, I healed well and regained the strength to get back in a boat right on the doctor’s schedule.

Thanks, too, to fishing buddies Steve Zarbaugh, Tyler Woak, Ted Suffolk, and Ray Halter, who raised their hands when the doctors and Barb informed me my first post-op fishing trips could not be solo. Steve, Tyler, Ted, and Ray were super helpful in getting me back on the deck to cast for bass. It’s good to have friends like them.

For Barb and my buddies and all of my 2022 fishing encounters, I am beyond grateful. I am one mighty lucky person.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jack Wollitz’s book, “The Common Angler,” explores the fun stuff that makes fishing a passion for so many people. He appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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