The High-Main Bridge and Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument is visible under the arches of the Black Street Bridge Wednesday, April 22, 2020 in Hamilton. View looking along the Great Miami River From Combs Park. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Photo: Nick Graham
Photo: Nick Graham

Event highlights Great Miami River status as state’s best smallmouth bass fishing stream

In this time of coronavirus, with use of technology to register catches, people can enjoy the outdoors and not worry about traveling somewhere to record their prize fish: They will use the iAngler app to register, and their own tape measures to photograph the catch and record basic information while on the water.

“Fishing is a great social distancing activity during this time of coronavirus,” said Pete Ziehler, president of the National Association of Professional River Anglers, which is running the event. “We hope people take advantage of this family-friendly activity to get out on the Great Miami River, whether they’re fishing from a bank, wading, or on a watercraft.”

The idea for the competition happened after Barry Puskas of the Miami Conservancy District discovered the Great Miami River is Ohio’s best river or stream for catching smallmouth bass.

Puskas, an avid fisherman, is the conservancy district’s chief of engineering and technical services. He looked at Ohio Department of Natural Resources fishing databases and was surprised with what he saw.

“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s interesting, it’s the No. 1 stream in the state for smallmouth bass, according to the ODNR information they have on record. Lake Erie is Ohio’s top water body for smallmouth bass, “but that’s such a big body of water,” Puskas said.

Michael Porto, a Xenia-based fisheries biologist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said he’s certain the Great Miami is southwest Ohio’s top waterway for smallmouth bass. Although there are advisories for eating some species of fish caught in some parts of the river, water quality is improving and more fish that are sensitive to pollution are returning to the river, he said.

Any smallmouth larger than 18 inches is considered trophy sized.

“There are some smallmouth up to 24 inches in the Great Miami,” Puskas said. “Part of it’s water quality, and good clean water.”

RELATED: Region ready to embrace Great Miami River after long estrangement

It’s a catch and release tournament only. Anglers can fish anywhere on the Great Miami River from Sidney to Hamilton, Ohio. Participants will use the iAngler app to record catches. Registration is $25, but only $15 for those who enter through May 31.

Prizes will be awarded for Top Slam, the person whose total length of their five largest smallmouth is greatest; biggest single smallmouth; and biggest length of a single smallmouth caught by someone 12 or under. Top slam winner gets a $100 gift card, and the other two winners receive $50 gift cards.

Dan Foley, a former Montgomery County commissioner and clerk of courts who is director of the Great Miami Riverway tourism-building effort, said cities along the river have had large amounts of investment in the past decade and are attractive places for people using the bikeway or on the river to stop, shop, and have lunch or dinner.

“We think the river itself and the bike path that connects the 99 miles of our communities really can help communities get more investment,” Foley said.

RELATED: Regional tourism: Great Miami Riverway more than the river, bike path

Puskas fly fishes with lures that go underwater, with sinking lines that go along the bottom, using minnow and crayfish patterns. He catches them and then releases them back to the water. His biggest smallmouth on the river was 20-21 inches.

“They’re really beautiful fish,” Puskas said. “When you stop and look at the colors in these things, they’re just really gorgeous fish.”

For complete rules and learn how to register for the tournament, visit

“Get out and enjoy the river, and do it safely,” Puskas said. “Be careful. Wear lifejackets if you need to, if you’re kayaking or on any kind of vessel.”

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