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Fishing is good for Sportsman Show's DR drawing winner

Brian and Leroy Keim enjoy day on Ohio River

By ART HOLDEN Outdoor Editor Published: June 17, 2017 5:00 AM
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TORONTO -- When Leroy Keim was about to leave the Mount Hope Event Center after visiting this past January's Northeast Ohio Sportsman Show, he and his son Brian decided there was one more thing they had to do.

"We were about to leave when we decided to sign up for the fishing trip," said Leroy Keim. "We've never won anything before, so to get the call was pretty exciting."

Brian Keim's name was drawn as the grand prize winner of The Daily Record's give-away of a fishing trip with Outdoor Editor Art Holden, and this past Wednesday, Leroy, 12-year-old Brian and I spent the day on the Ohio River catching smallmouth bass and catfish.

The Keims, who admittedly only fish a couple of times a year, chose the Ohio River because they've never fished it before and thought it would be an interesting trip.

We launched out of the Newburg Ramp in Toronto around 9:30 in the morning to gray skies and cold 60-degree temperatures for the first week of June. The mighty Ohio was running pretty good as six gates were open on the New Cumberland dam, and the water was cloudy, but the river height was a fishable 14-feet (USGS water data https://waterdata.usgs.gov/oh/nwis/uv?site_no=03110690).

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With the wind blowing the same direction as the current (one thing that almost never seems to happen on the Ohio), we started at the dam and floated downstream, fishing the Ohio side and it wasn't long before Leroy had the first fish in the boat, a nice 17-inch channel cat that hit a perch-colored Rapala lure. Brian was next with a small smallie on a red and yellow Rapala, and I finally hooked into a fish, getting a gar to hold onto a Smithwick Rogue all the way to the boat (I love those quick releases of toothy critters).

It wasn't like we were catching fish on ever other cast, though, so I went to the hottest lure on the market right now, the Ned Rig. The jig and Z-Man TRD grub is a bass killer, and Brian spent the rest of the day learning how to fish it, and quickly became an expert with the combination. While the majority of the smallmouth bass were in the 10-11-inch range, he did hook into some bigger ones, including the fish of the day, a 15-inch smallie that he coaxed out of a deep hole under a railroad bridge. It was in a tributary to the Ohio, and I knew of the spot from past trips, and knew it was worth navigating the shallow channel back to the bridge.

For some reason, 90 percent of the river under the bridge is 1-2-feet deep, but on one side there's a 12-foot hole that butts up against the bridge wall. And though it's only about 75 feet long and 10 feet wide, it always holds fish, and last Wednesday it didn't disappoint. We probably caught 10 fish out of the hole that day, with Brian's bass the best. I also caught a sauger on a live minnow in the deepest section, while Leroy flipped a jig-and-minnow for smallies.

When the action slowed down, we headed back to the main river, and continued floating south, picking up fish mostly in and around the many pylons that dot the Ohio, large steel towers once used for boats to tie up to.

When the fishing got tough, Brian spent his time rifling through the well-filled lunch box his mother packed and devouring everything in it. In fact, I think he's the only fisherman I've taken out on my boat whose lunch box was bigger than his tackle box.

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"I know what they mean when they say 'eating you out of house and home,'" said Leroy, who works as a cheese maker for Heini's Cheese in Bunker Hill.

For the day, we ended up catching seven different kinds of fish, including smallmouth, largemouth and rock bass, bluegill, sauger, gar and channel catfish. No crappie, skipjack, hybrid or white bass, though.

The lack of crappie was a surprise, as we had stopped at the Tappan Lake Marina on the way down to Toronto to pick up minnows specifically to catch some Ohio River slabs. But, the current and dingy water kept us from targeting them in the spots I've found them before.

Still, when it was all said and done, it turned out to be a great day.

As we fished, we watched tug boats push 600 feet of barges up and down the river, saw a young osprey peek his head out of a nest high up in steel girders, found some chewed sticks of a beaver, became friends and enjoyed the day.

And Brian -- he was either too busy fishing or eating -- to say much to me, but did indicate that he enjoyed the day.

Oh, and when we stopped at Wendy's on the way home for burgers and a frosty, he was too full to finish his ice cream.

Imagine that.

Outdoor Editor Art Holden can be reached mornings at 330-287-1650, or at aholden@the-daily-record.com


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