By Mark Blauvelt
The greatest achievement of
the human spirit is to live up to one's opportunities and make the most of
It has been a goal of mine for many years. It
will undoubtedly take me many more years to fulfill. Many have
tried, and failed, in a full lifetime of angling. It is a uniquely Ohio
achievement, truly counting coupe only within the boundaries of the state.
Many anglers have spent massive amounts of motel, gasoline and bribe monies
to reach this goal. In the end, for the few who have reached the
plateau, the question became “Was it worth it?” That question can only be
answered by the few who have risked sanity to hear this siren’s call, to
reach this obsessive goal. This goal - my goal - is to catch all of Ohio’s
officially recognized gamefish!
an impressive achievement to catch all forty-one species of fish that the
Ohio Division of Wildlife lists on the State Record List. All
forty-one species, including a few hybrids such at the saugeye, hybrid
striped bass, hybrid sunfish and the tiger musky, must be caught within
Ohio’s boundaries to officially lay claim to the title of Ohio Master
Angler. The whole thing is all about bragging rights, you see.
All fishermen like to do a little bragging. Right?
The rules of this challenge are simple. All fish
must be caught by legal means, from public waterways or private ponds. Any
form of pay lake, hatchery or fish farm doesn’t count. In a perfect world
a picture would be taken of each fish and a witness would attest to the
achievement. The world isn’t perfect, of course. A few species I’ve caught,
I have no proof. My word as an honorable brother of the angle must be
taken. I can list the general dates, the fly or lure, and the water body
the fish was taken from though!
There is a list of Ohio's game species
published. To see the list all you need to do is to search the Ohio Department
of Natural Resources’ website. To make it easy, here's the link:
ODNR Record Fish
There are different levels of this list at which
I look. First I have a Life List. A life
list is my personal record of all the species I've caught anywhere.
So far I have taken thirty-eight of the ODNR's forty-one. I'm only missing
the Burbot, Muskellunge, and Chain Pickerel.
second personal list is my Ohio Life List. As you might guess,
this is the list of all the species I've caught in the state. I've got
thirty-four species on that list. In addition to the species missing
from my life list I must now add Bowfin, Chinook salmon, Pink
salmon and Lake Trout.
Finally, I have an Ohio Fly Fishing Life List.
Included in the missing on this list are all the missing species noted above
plus the Buffalo Sucker, Coho Salmon, Tiger Musky, White Perch and the
Bullhead. As of this writing I have captured twenty-nine of the
forty-one Ohio recognized sporting species on a fly. I might add that I have
been playing this game for more than thirty years, and I figure if I get
another thirty out of it I should be able to make it to all the way through
the list! A word of caution. If your plans don't include long term
commitment you may want to duck out now, before you get crazy addicted to
the goal. I am so afflicted, and so are a few of the... ahem...
committed anglers with whom I fish!
Some of you may think you have taken all of
the listed species, but a few of these are truly rare. For example, in the last year or so the Ohio
brook trout was
removed from the list. There are at present only two viable watersheds,
each a couple river miles or less, where these wild fish can even be found.
While I've managed to catch a few Ohio native brookies over the years, I'm thankful
that additional angling pressure got scratched. Another tough customer
is the lake trout, which is only found in the deepest waters of the eastern
basin of Lake Erie. Catching a laker on a fly in Ohio is something
only a small handful of lucky anglers have managed. And how about the Chain Pickerel?
There are, perhaps, a handful of lakes in the Akron area with a fishable
population. And the bowfin is
also only found in a small sections of the state. When you consider the
which is no longer stocked in Ohio’s waters, you'll see the list getting tougher
by the minute.
Many species are taken and routinely
misidentified. For example, how many folks can tell the difference between a
northern pike, a redfin pickerel and a chain pickerel? Can you
differentiate a coho from a chinook? How about a warmouth sunfish versus a
rock bass. Or a pumpkinseed versus the longear sunfish? I'm sure
you get my point! Any true life-list addict will own a copy of
“The Fishes Of Ohio” by Milton Trautman. Consider it mandatory reading.
This book will take you many steps past your
present level of fish ID skills, and also give you a few hints where to
best find your quarry.
There are a few species that I would like to
see added to this list that are not presently included. Among these
the shortnose gar, white amur, blue catfish, and the redfin pickerel
(also known as the grass
pike). And I would love to see the sucker family expanded to include the
quillback carp sucker, the various redhorse suckers, the white sucker and
the northern hog sucker. A real masochist might even include the
sculpins, stickleback and hundreds of other varieties of chubs, minnows
and shiners on the list!
Ok, so you've made you own list... now what? Start
crossing off species! Be honest! If there are a few you're not sure
count them. Perhaps you'll decide to start chasing a few of the
missing members. Try first for the ones that should be easy to do.
When you get tired of trying for one, move off to another! I've chased
several on my list over the
last three years, with specific trips all over Ohio trying for
elusive species. I have had
some great trips and many times the only
downfall of the entire trip was not getting the species I'd come for!.
During just this last month I tried for chain pickerel and ended up with a stellar day of
largemouth bass fishing. One chunky bruiser pushed three and half
pounds! I also managed a three pound walleye. Not a pickerel in
the lot of them, though. I can take failure like that! During another trip,
one specifically for bowfin, I managed a beauty of a
northern pike. Chasing these fish is a grand game that requires a lot of patience
skill and demands you do loads of homework. In exchange, even the
failed trips can often be wonderful!
I have plenty of tips to improve you chances for a bunch of these species, but I'm saving that for another story.
And if you get caught up in The Quest there's always the chance we'll meet on one of those
rare streams - one that is the only in the state
that offers a chance at one of these species - and we'll each note the twinkle in
the other's eyes. If you're there then you'll truly understand why we do