What’s a splake and other questions answered

By Al Smith - Guest Columnist

This week’s column will go in a bit of a different direction. I’m going to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked over the years from readers.

Probably the most asked question I receive is about fly fishing. People want to know if it is difficult.

No it is not. It may look difficult, but with some patience and persistence almost anyone can learn to fly fish. It may be frustrating at times, but learning how to use a bait casting reel can be frustrating, too. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle. Few people ever start out and balance a bike on their first few tries. Once you get a bike balanced and going, you likely can do it the rest of your life. The same can be said for fly fishing. If you are interested in learning, ask someone you know who fly fishes or contact a local bait and tackle store to find out if they know of someone could help you.

Still with fly fishing, people often ask what is the most unusual fish I’ve caught on a fly rod.

Actually there are two. One was a 15-pound white Amur or grass carp. The other was a hefty dogfish about 8 pounds. I never saw anywhere where some specifically targeted catching these species with a fly rod. Actually it’s unusual for grass carp to bite on a fly or lure.

What is the most difficult game you’ve tried to shoot?

A woodcock. Many people forget this is actually a game bird as is the mourning dove. I have used a plethora of shot shells trying to hit these fast fliers.

What is the most frustrated you’ve been while hunting?

Seeing a huge 8-point buck and trying to coax it close to my deer blind. A grunt tube seemed to do the trick as the deer can me into the ravine near me and was coming up and I could see its rack. Just as quick, he noticed another big buck to his left that apparently also responded to my grunt call. My target went in the other buck’s direction and I was left with no shot at either and frustrated, yet fascinated with the two animals I had enticed with a grunt tube.

What is the most unusual fish and animal you have seen in Ohio?

The most unusual fish were a piranha and a pacu, both popular aquarium exotics species from South America. They were caught by different anglers in a small local lake in northwest Ohio. Quite likely they were released by an aquarium owner who no longer wanted the fish. The two are related but have different kinds of teeth. Pacu have human-like teeth while piranha have sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Neither would have survived a winter in Ohio. The most unusual animal was an alligator that was found in the Maumee River. Again, it quite likely was a pet owner who no longer wanted the gator and dumped it.

What is you favorite fish to eat? Your favorite animal?

When it comes to freshwater fish, it’s the white fish with yellow perch running a close second. As for salt water fish, swordfish, yellowfin tuna and halibut are outstanding. As for game, whitetail deer hands down since you can have such a variety of cuts. Jerky and sausage make great snacks, Brats and burgers are great on the grill. Baked pheasant breasts in wine is my favorite among birds.

Mention a splake and it really throws a lot of people in Ohio. What is it?

It is a hybrid fish species created by cross-breeding lake trout and brook trout. They have been culturally produced since the 1870s. Splake are commonly stocked across the northern United States and throughout Canada for the purpose of providing fishing opportunity. They are found in Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Laker Superior.

What has been your most unusual wildlife encounter in Ohio?

Seeing a badger while rabbit hunting in northwest Ohio and coming face-to-face with a red fox on a trail while walking in a wildlife area. I’m not sure who was more startled - me or the fox.

An encounter that always amazes me is watching a wood duck land in a tree. Only a handful of ducks in the world nest in trees. When you’ve seen a male and female duck in the same tree, you have seen something many people do not see in their life time.

What is your favorite sound in nature?

The haunting call of the common loon. It is a sound you never forget. The unique, loud rattling bugle call of a Sandhill crane is a close second.

I’ve had people often ask how I see so many different animals, birds, etc. in the outdoors.

I’ve often said, you have to get up and off the couch or out of a chair and get off social media and go enjoy the outdoors. Any time you have an opportunity to go fish, hunt, hike, watch wildlife, etc. do it. Over several decades I have been fortunate to spend an incredible amount of quality time sharing fin, fur and featured creatures outdoors with friends and family.


By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. He may be contacted at flyfishman7@hotmail.com or and you can follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. He may be contacted at flyfishman7@hotmail.com or and you can follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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