By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show
Here’s a merry Christmas tale. Inspired by a little girl in his neighborhood named Sophia who was diagnosed with cancer and lost her battle, retired Brooklyn, Ohio, firefighter turned charter captain Michael Mochan and fellow Lake Erie fishermen organized an auction to help other kids in the hospital at Christmas time. The group auctioned off all sorts of fishing gear, including some of the most popular hand-painted walleye lures of the season, created by NFP Customs. Last year, the Auction for Sophia raised $4,800 for toys and gifts that went directly to University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s. As of press time, three days into the five-day social media event, the auction had already raised over $6,300.
“We had some guys bidding against each other, and the one guy wanted to win and said ‘When I win it, give the lures to the guy who lost,'” Mochan says of a recent bidding war for 10 NFP custom lures. “So, when we closed it I told him ‘You got the lures’, the guy said no, and matched the winner’s offer. That raised $3,000.”
The Auction for Sophia continued until Dec. 3 with all proceeds go to buying Christmas gifts and toys for kids battling cancer at Rainbow Babies. For the final tally, or if you’d like more information on bidding or donating in next year’s auction, visit facebook.com/michael.mochan.9.
Speaking of Lake Erie walleye fishing…
Walleye derby hat trick
Jake Runyan of Cleveland and his walleye tournament partner Chase Cominsky of Hermitage, Pa. won the Blaster Walleye Fall Brawl, Walleye Slam and Lake Erie Walleye Trail Championship, awarding the pair an estimated value of $306,000 in cash and prizes for the unprecedented victories.
Cominsky and Runyan won the Fall Brawl by a slim margin with a 12.770-pound walleye caught Nov. 23, topping Ronald Masal’s 12.665-pound entry. Jerry Weaver was third with a 12.020 fish.
As with the many anglers who entered both walleye derbies, Runyan and Comiskey’s Fall Brawl winner also topped the Walleye Slam results. In addition, a Comiskey walleye finished 10th in the Walleye Slam, earning $5,000.
The pair dominated the prestigious LEWT title event as well, weighing a limit of five walleye that stopped the scale at 42.69 pounds. Lucas and Gordon Hahn were more than eight pounds back in second place with 34.20 pounds, with David Frey and Lonnie Hanchosky third at 34.15 pounds.
Runyan said trolling Bandit deep-diving lures was the key to their Lake Erie walleye success — including those custom-painted by Nick Peters of NFP Customs in Cleveland, who donated baits to the recent Auction for Sophia.
Deer gun success up so far
Last month’s two-day youth gun season netted 7,634 deer during the, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife (ODOW), well above the three-year average. The weekend season was open to all hunters aged 17 and under who were also accompanied by a non-hunting adult.
The top 10 counties for deer taken during Ohio’s youth season include: Tuscarawas (322); Coshocton (307); Holmes (250); Knox (228); Guernsey (220); Muskingum (209); Ashland (179); Washington (179); Meigs (169); and Ashtabula (167).
Of the deer taken during the 2021 youth weekend, 4,053 were bucks, 2,625 were does, and 956 were button bucks. In 2020, young hunters harvested 5,795 deer during the two-day youth only season. The average number of deer checked during the past three youth seasons is 6,210. The most deer taken during a two-day youth season was in 2007, when 10,059 deer were checked by young hunters.
Ohio’s statewide deer gun hunting week began with a bang, with 21,754 deer checked on Monday, Nov. 29, the opening day of the season, a 62% increase over the past three year average of 3,349 deer. Ohio’s gun season is open again for two days on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18-19. We’ll have a county-by county breakdown of the entire deer firearms season harvest in the next issue of OCJ.
Fall turkey harvest down
Ohio hunters checked 694 wild turkeys during the 2021 fall hunting season, open in 70 counties from Saturday, Oct. 9 to Sunday, Nov. 28. That’s a drop from of 1079 three-year average. The top 10 counties for wild turkeys taken during the fall 2021 hunting season include: Highland (29), Trumbull (29), Columbiana (27), Ashtabula (25), Stark (25), Coshocton (22), Tuscarawas (21), Guernsey (20), Clermont (19), and Knox (18).
The average harvest for the previous three fall seasons (2018, 2019, and 2020) is 1,079. In 2020, hunters took 1,063 birds. The Division of Wildlife issued 7,470 fall turkey hunting permits in 2021. This is 21% below the 3-year average (9,428 permits).
Wild turkeys were extirpated from Ohio by 1904 and were reintroduced in the 1950s by the Division of Wildlife. Ohio’s first modern day wild turkey hunting season opened in the spring of 1966 in nine counties, and hunters checked 12 birds. The spring wild turkey harvest topped 1,000 for the first time in 1984. Spring turkey hunting opened statewide in 2000. Fall turkey season first opened in 19 counties in 1996. Learn more about wild turkey hunting at wildohio.gov, including information about previous seasons’ harvest numbers.