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

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Through all of June, people can participate in the first-ever Great Smallmouth Bass Fishing Challenge on a 99-mile stretch of the Great Miami River from Sidney to Hamilton.

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.”

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.

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 www.greatmiamiriverway.com.

“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.”

Trophy-sized fish from the Great Miami River

Here are numbers of trophy-sized fish for some species caught on the Great Miami River from 2014-2019:

  • Blue Catfish (at least 35 inches to be trophy-sized) — 7.
  • Channel Catfish (26 in.) — 133.
  • Common Carp (28 in.) — 91.
  • Crappie (13 in.) — 22.
  • Flathead Catfish (35 in.) — 56.
  • Freshwater Drum (20 in.) — 10.
  • Hybrid Striped Bass (21 in.) — 15.
  • Largemouth Bass (20 in.) — 16.
  • Longnose Gar (34 in.) — 3.
  • Northern Pike (32 in.) — 24.
  • Rock Bass (9 in.) — 121.
  • Sauger (16 in.) — 24.
  • Saugeye (21 in.) — 171.
  • Smallmouth Bass (18 in.) — 330.
  • Spotted Bass (15 in.) — 2.
  • Sunfish (9 in.) — 7.
  • Walleye (25 in.) — 4.
  • White Bass (14 in.) — 16.
  • Yellow Perch (12 in.) — 1.

Source: Great Miami Riverway, based on Ohio Department of Natural Resources data.

Another Fishing Tournament, for Father’s Day Weekend

The Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum is having another fishing tournament, this one for children on Father’s Day Weekend (Saturday, June 20) at the park’s lower pond.

  • Take your rod, fishing gear and a picnic lunch for the derby for children 12 and under, in the catch-and-release tournament that will last from 10-noon.
  • It's free.
  • There will be prizes for the biggest fish and most fish caught, with fishing equipment being the prizes.
  • For people participating in the event, admission to the park is free that day, and participants are welcome to enjoy the sculpture park afterward.
  • "The Pyramid Hill Fishing Derby has become an annual family tradition for so many in our community," States Sean FitzGibbons, Pyramid Hill's Executive Director. "Of course this year's derby will be a little different due to the park's social distancing guidelines. However, we are thrilled that Pyramid Hill can provide families with a safe outdoor activity."
  • Age groups are 5-7; 8-10; and 11 and 12-year-olds.
  • Registration starts at 9:30 a.m. that day.

More info can be found at www.pyramidhill.org/events .

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