What a start to the year!

Sometimes you just know it’s going to be a good year. It’s hard to explain. Sure, a long cold winter can heighten expectations but only a carp angler can explain that feeling you get when you just know things are going to go well.

As CAG’s State chair for Ohio and chief admin of Ohio Carp Anglers Facebook page you get to talk to other local anglers regularly and get a sense, a feeling. Almost like you are in tune with the scene. This was the feeling I had, that this year is going to be great! Of course, there are no guarantees, things can change very quickly in this world.

We started of with our winter social in March. I had reserved the party room at Buffallo Wild wings and spent a fair bit of time gathering up raffle prizes, hoping to make this a great time. Most years it’s freezing cold and rainy. This year it was 60 degrees, perfect fishing weather after a long winter. Nevertheless, we had over 20 anglers come out for a great time, lots of carpy conversation and great food. Everyone left in good spirits and ready to get the carp fishing calendar off and running.

Our Ohio fish in schedule starts in April  with a weekend up at Lake Erie’s East Harbor. I desperately wanted to get a fish or two in the net before the event so headed out to my local water Griggs reservoir. The relatively warm weather from the social event had been replaced by a two week cold snap. Daytime Temperatures in the 40’s combined with super cold nights had dropped the water temps dramatically and the day I decided to fish I was faced with snow showers, and strong winds. I drove to an area with deep margins tight off the bank and lightly baited close in. A couple of Pva bags were cast under the overhanging branches on either side and as the snow showers got heavier my hopes of catching retreated. Around 10am though the most unexpected thing happened as the right hand rod registered a slow stuttery take. After a lethargic fight, a nice upper double lay in the net. Sometimes nice things happen when you least expect it. That was the end of the day’s activity but nice to put the first carp of the year on the bank.

A nice upper double in cold conditions. 

Now onto East Harbor…the Ohio group has been going up to this venue for over twelve years. One of the reasons is the hope that some of the big Lake Erie carp will move into this shallow bay in preparation for the spawn while we are there. We have never quite hit it right. The weather can play a huge part in how the fishing is and though we’ve had good years in the last with plenty of nice carp caught up to mid twenties the real big fish have eluded us, so much so that some anglers had started to question us having a fish in up there any more.  The mild winter had me hopeful of a good trip, the recent cold snap had me praying  that the small horny males hadn’t flooded the harbor. I arrived Friday evening, a handful of anglers were already set up. Vince and Shaun were the first to arrive on Friday morning and by the time I had pulled up at the campground, Vince had managed a couple of upper doubles, a good sign. Phil D also chipped in with a similar sized fish of his own. Anglers continued to arrive throughout the evening and as it got dark hopes were high of some big fish. Things looked promising as Vince landed a 23.15. As we were about to photograph it his other rod took off and he had a 23.12 on the mat as well. The first CAG Ohio fishin 20+ double up. After that excitement things slowed down considerably as the cold east wind picked up.

One of Vince’s 23+ fish

The next day looked promising as warmer temps and blue skies had us hopeful of some good fishing. There was a bass tourney going on in the harbor which meant we had over a dozen boats doing a constant loop over our baits with endless casting. It was an exceptionally slow day. Christian went off to do a little stalking in the reeds and managed to catch a small one, he also noted he saw a massive carp feeding in the silt, he just couldn’t get it to take. Alex had a take on his rod and another first happened when he landed a 20+ grass carp. As night started to fall and the bass boats started to disappear we once again became optimistic for the night ahead. We were all gathered in Vince’s swim looking back towards where Christian had been stalking. We started to see the odd fish roll. Over time the activity became more frequent. A single bleep had us moving over to where Shawn and Christian were fishing. A few more bleeps on Shawns Rod and he struck. There was a massive boil as a fish got hooked. At the same time Christian’s rod did the same thing. Both fish were landed simultaneously. Vince netted Shawn’s fish and straight away said “upper 20” a few seconds later he said “maybe 30” as we lifted it onto the mat the estimates were getting bigger until finally up on the scales it reached a lofty 40lb 6oz. The biggest fish caught at an Ohio fish in by a mile and a new Pb for Shawn whose previous best was 18lb.

Shawn Stump’s and CAG ohio’s first 40lb fish

The following weekend a few of us lucky Ohio anglers got invited to fish a private quarry. This beautiful property had a few old lakes on it but the one we had the opportunity to fish was rumored to hold some very big fish indeed. We only had 24 hours to fish, these lakes were crystal clear, very deep and while we were excited to fish it the water was still very cold. These kinds of lakes can take an age to warm up but with 12 of us fishing we were hopeful of a few carp…

Despite the water temps the fish were not shy to show themselves but definetly not easy to catch. I found it surprising that the ones we did catch were caught in up to 30 feet depths. We didn’t get into any really big fish but hopefully we can obtain another invite for when the water is a little warmer as this place has loads of potential.

Finally for this blog and what has quickly become one of the highlights of the Ohio carp fishing calendar, the CAG Midwest Regional event on the Saginaw river Michigan. This is the forth year of this event. The first year, after lots of initial excitement we only managed to take 7 anglers up to Michigan for this 20 man team event against 3 other states. Needless to say we struggled but year after year we have grown in numbers and learned how to fish the river. Last year was our best ever showing and we were really aiming to try to threaten Michigan’s dominance.

This is another event that can be heavily influenced by the weather, also the draw can be a massive factor in who does well. The river is split up into 4 zones, each zone having unique characteristics, though some areas fish much better than others. I arrived early on Friday to do a little pre fishing to try and get a feel for how the river was behaving. The river was higher than in previous years, a sustained east wind was pushing cold water out of Lake Huron and up the Saginaw river. It was quite surreal fishing what looked like a flooded river but there was no real flow to speak of as the aforementioned wind was acting like a dam to slow everything down.

The morning of the draw came and I had the responsibility of reaching into the bag. I drew zone 4 which is an area of the river Team Ohio had become very familiar with, having drawn it in each of the past 3 years. Our only concern was that we felt this was the best area this year but might fish better on the second day after some bait has been put in. You have to work with what you have though and we set off in high spirits.
The day started well and the team quickly put fish on the bank. There were a couple of areas the fish seemed to be getting caught from with the rest of us working hard to try to make things happen. Conditions were tough as the wind picked up through the day but we ended up with our best ever day one total for our top ten fish at 205lb and a healthy lead going into the second day.

Day one action

Spirits were high going into day two but we weren’t getting carried away as you have to re draw a new zone. Well, the Michigan carp gods threw everything at us on day two to stop us taking the trophy home. Right off the bat we lost Larry Kinsler to illness. Get well soon Larry. Next the draw. If we could think of a worse case scenario for Ohio this would be it. Michigan drew zone4, where we were the previous day. We drew zone 2 which is notoriously difficult even in good conditions. Indiana was in 1 in the deeper water.

The fishing on day two was tough going

Then we arrived at where we thought was our zone. Six of us had even set up and were fishing but as it got lighter and I was looking around something didn’t look right. Turns out how it was marked didn’t match the map, apparently some of the flags had been pulled out and a few of us were outside of the zone. A phone call to Paul resulted in even more confusion. We just decided to pack up and move instead of risking our fish not counting.

The fishing was crazy hard, through the day we kept seeing pictures of happy Michigan anglers holding good sized fish. We were struggling to catch anything, never mind fish to improve our top ten. By about noon we were convinced we were well out of it but the 2 pm update had us 7lb in front. Shortly after that Christian landed a 22.4 which gave us renewed hope. Then i guess it went big fish crazy in zone 4 in the last hour because we went from 7lb up to 14lb behind. It was hugely dissapointing to miss out on the trophy after leading most of the weekend but it was testament to the team and how far we have come over the last few years to run Michigan so close.

Christian’s fish on day 2 had given us hope 
That ends this blog and what has been a tremendous start to both the Ohio year and my own and look forward to hopefully writing about more big fish stories.

Good angling to you,

Craig Welch


3 thoughts on “What a start to the year!

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