When air temperatures soar into the mid-90s and the surface temperatures of area lakes hit the mid-80s, fish become lethargic and bass anglers spend frustrating hours without a strike.
And that’s when fishermen who live for the thrill of fighting a swirling, leaping largemouth or smallmouth head north for cooler climes, where bass strike on cast after cast.
One of the favorite spots for anglers in our little part of the world is Rondeau Bay, a shallow weed-filled bay, eight miles wide, with an inlet off Lake Erie, located at the village of Erieau, Ont., 70 miles east of Detroit – about a seven-hour drive from the Portsmouth-Ashland area. It harbors good populations of largemouth, northern pike, bluegill and yellow-ringed perch.
To bring the bass out requires a different tactic from that of fishing lakes in southern Ohio and northeastern Kentucky, where anglers cast the shoreline. On Rondeau, you might find pockets of feeding bass in any area of the lake as the breeze moves your boat along. You make a “drift,” casting in all directions over the weed beds, which lie just below the surface, and in some areas above the surface. You reach the end of the drift and then motor back and start the process all over again.
The week of July 8-14 saw a host of anglers from Scioto and Greenup counties assemble at Bayview Bliss Cabins, which offers about 15 house-keeping cabins in the southwestern corner of the bay. This is the camp formerly owned and operated for 40 years by the late Ross and Tiny Burke.
Fishing in one boat were District Judge Brian McCloud, his father, Ron McCloud, a tournament fisherman, and Greenup Circuit Court Clerk Allen Reed.
In another boat were Jim Garthee, retired circuit court clerk, his cousin, David Williams from Louisville, and Garthee’s 16-yeal-old grandson, Ross Ramsey.
And in yet another boat were Portsmouth and Greenup engineers and surveyors Richard Howerton Sr. and Richard Howerton Jr.
I did not have a contact number for the group in camp from West Portsmouth, but reports were that they were giving the bass a lesson.
“I haven’t seen anybody could catch fish like the judge,” Howerton Jr. said of Brian McCloud. “It seemed like he constantly had a bass on.”
Jim Garthee reports catching a limit of six bass and then some every trip out.
“The secret was to find the edge of the weed beds and cast down along them,” said Garthee. “I caught 90 percent of my bass on a quarter-ounce spinner bait, chartreuse or white, with a plastic white twister grub on the back of it.”
Because of the underwater weeds you’re limited in the amount of lures that can be used. Another good one involved plastic worms rigged with the hook imbedded in the body and with no split-shot sinker to pick up weeds.
The best times to fish were early in the morning and again from about 6 p.m. ‘till sundown.
Most all of the bass were thrown back to fight again. “I kept and filleted six to fix on the grill one day in camp, and took six home,” said Garthee.
His grilled bass fillets were “the best I’ve ever eaten,” said Howerton the younger.
“It’s a very simple little recipe,” said Garthee.
Here it is:
Mix in a bowl a batter of butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and just a little garlic salt.
Dip the fillets in the batter and place them on the grill over aluminum foil. Spray a little Pam or some such oil on the foil to keep the fish from sticking. Punch a few holes in the aluminum foil. Baste the fish with the batter when you turn them.
On a medium hot grill they’ll be done in five to seven minutes. You’ll know they’re done when you try to turn them and they fall apart.
Serve them with a little coleslaw and hush puppies and you’ve got yourself a banquet feast.
Right there in the old fish camp.
Bayview Bliss received high marks for its accommodations and friendliness from owners Marg and Jeff Bliss.
A two-bedroom cabin can be rented for about $600 a week.
The camp will remain open into October. For information or to make reservations, call (519) 676-2238.
ONE BIG FISH
Meanwhile, back in the hot waters of home, what was that huge fish swimming early this week in the swirling water at the lower end of the fishing pier in the Greenup Dam tailwaters?
Several fishermen were getting a glimpse of it but could not get it to take any of their offerings.
Then along came Bryce Holbrook of Sand Hill, South Shore. He cast a 5-inch Tsunami minnow-type lure and hooked it. And what a battle he had, with spectators urging him on.
In order to handle such a fish as this one in those strong, changing currents, here’s the equipment Holbrook reported he was using: A Cabela’s 12-foot Salt Striker rod and a Diawa Emblem Pro 4500 reel loaded with Power Pro 30-pound test line. He used a ½-ounce egg sinker on the line above the lure.
After a lengthy battle, Holbrook wore the fish down and got it up on the rocky shore below the pier.
The fish was an Asian carp of some kind. A hand-held scales an onlooker had showed the fish weighed 50 pounds. A later weighing on store scales showed it at 42 pounds.
Holbrook wondered if he might have a record fish for the species. A biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, viewing the fish in a photo e-mailed by Holbrook, identified the fish as a big-head carp.
The state record for the fish is 64 pounds, caught two years ago from Jonathan Creek, a tributary to Kentucky Lake. The record buffalo carp weighed 55 pounds and came from Kentucky Lake. The record common carp weighed 55 pounds and was caught from Slate Creek 12 years ago.
Holbrook’s fish came from the Ohio portion of the Ohio River. Ohio’s record fish list, kept by the Outdoor Writers of Ohio, lists only “carp.” The record weighed 50 pounds, measured 40 inches, and was caught from Paint Creek 45 years ago.
“Ohio officials said they are battling to keep Asian carp out of Ohio waters and they have not been recognized for a state record,” Holbrook said. “They said they did not want to promote or encourage them in Ohio waters.”
At any rate, Holbrook said he’s having his big-head carp mounted, with the Tsunami lure with the bent hook hanging along side it.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or Gsamwriter@aol.com.