And my answer was an instant “Salt water anything.”
I may live in Ohio, but during a fairly long life I’ve never missed an opportunity to fish the salt, and through the years I’ve fished from Maine down the coast to Florida, and west from Texas to California, Oregon, Washington, Vancouver Island, and Alaska. Every one of those trips gave me memories, nearly all good ones, and I would recommend that any fishing reader never miss an opportunity to fish the oceans.
One of my favorites is pier fishing, and there are fishing piers in every state. All that’s needed on these is a sturdy rod with 20-30 pound test line, a pyramid sinker of proper weight to hold the bait on bottom in currents, and bait that might range from cut bait to squid to live shrimp or blood worms depending on what you’re fishing for. That combination might bring you anything from croaker and sea trout to flounder and bluefish. Don’t forget to ask about fishing licenses and restrictions on some kinds of fish. before you reach for a rod.
Surf fishing can be fun too, and you can use much the same gear. I remember one trip made to Assateague Island where I spent a morning picking up sand sharks up to about 3 ½ feet and an occasional small bluefish. I kept a few of the blues for grilling, but released all of the sharks. They can be good eating, too, but with skin like sandpaper they dull a knife before they’re half filleted.
Trolling or drift fishing can be productive, and I well remember a guided trip on Chesapeake Bay where we set up a chum line using a pot of frozen menhaden, and brought in a mixed school of stripers and bluefish. We baited up with pieces of menhaden and tossed them out with no weight. That was a memorable day. One of the things I like best about salt water species is that they’re vicious fighters. They spend their lives swimming against tides and currents, and the constant exercise makes them strong indeed. The stripers were running to about 15 pounds and the blues only three or four, but after I’d caught half a dozen I had to sit down and rest before trying again.
Some strange things can happen on salt water fishing trips. Like the day I was fishing off Port Aransas in Texas for sheepshead (not the freshwater kind) and flounder. Two bottlenosed dolphins came by, one with a ladyfish it had just caught. They were about 30 feet apart, and one tossed the ladyfish to its partner who caught it neatly, then tossed it back. They had great fun throwing the fish back and forth, until one finally ate it and they went on their way. I’ll never forget that incident.
Or the day a guide and I spent somehours trolling for salmon off Vancouver Island. We had good luck until the tide went slack, then he said “We might as well quit for a while. Do you like oysters?” Love them! So we pried a burlap bag full off exposed rocks, and my family and I enjoyed an oyster stew that filled a five gallon clam pot. Delicious. Lots of us make trips to salt water occasionally, mostly to swim and get monumental sunburns, but if you don’t take a rod along or rent one occasionally, you’re missing a great experience. One you too might treasure for years.
Hooks & Bullets
• Applications are being accepted now through Sunday, Aug. 4 for the next state wildlife officer cadet training school. The Division is seeking to fill 15 state wildlife officer positions throughout Ohio. To be considered for the school, applicants must be at least 21 years of age and have a valid driver's license. An associate degree or completion of an undergraduate core program in fish, wildlife management, criminal justice, or related fields is required by Sept. 1. For more information, go to wildohio.gov/wildlifeofficer. To apply, go to careers.ohio.gov.
• Channel cat fishing is hot these days in Sandusky Bay, and some of the fish being caught are running to 12 pounds and more. They're being caught mostly at night by anglers fishing either on bottom or with floats, and the top offerings are cut bait, mostly pieces of gizzard shad or bluegill. The cats are also hitting nightcrawlers, shrimp, and commercial baits. It's a prime time to make a good catch of these fine eating fish.
• The ODNR will be bringing the great outdoors to the Ohio State Fair once again July 24 through Aug. 4. The department's 8-acre park features a variety of shows, displays, and interactive exhibits that will provide visitors with a look at the outdoor activities Ohio has to offer. It's a good chance to learn to paddle a kayak, see a show, catch a fish, stroll through a prairie, and see butterflies all at one location. The Park is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily with most activities starting at 11 a.m. All activities are free.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.