A day with bright sunshine, perfect temperature, soft breezes redolent with honey locust blossoms, a day that begs you to go some place fun, someplace different, a spot where you can enjoy that perfect day with some fishing, maybe other outdoor sports, and your wife and kids can have a great time, too. Does Ohio have a place like that? Sure. They call it the Bass Islands.
The Bass Islands lie like scattered green jewels in western Lake Erie, a cluster of high rising, rock cliffed, and rugged shorelined islands cloaked with maple, oaks, ash, and hackberry. They're just an hour or two away, but it's still amazing how many people have never been there. South Bass Island is the most popular of the cluster by far. It's easily reached via the Miller Ferry from the tip of Catawba Island at the end of Route 53. Another choice is to go by jet boat from downtown Port Clinton on the Jet Express, and there are occasional ferries from downtown Sandusky too.
The jet boat will take you right to downtown Put-In-Bay, while Millers drops you off on the other end of the island. There's always a bus waiting here, along with taxi's, rental bikes, and rental golf carts, or you can make a pleasant walk to the downtown area. What's to do on South Bass for fishermen? There's usually lively action on the South Bass State Park pier, trying for smallmouth, yellow perch, white perch, an occasional small walleye, sheepshead and channel cats. Early or late is the best time, and I've caught all of the above there at one time or another.
Those who want more serious fishing can hire a guide, or a rental boat and try for perch around Starve Island, Gibralter Island (north and west side), and other close and easy to reach spots. There's good camping here too, at the state park or at private campgrounds, and great biking along roads that see little traffic.
For fun time, Put-In-Bay offers a lively nightlife at places like Heineman's Winery, the Beer Barrel Saloon with its "longest bar in the world", Frosties and other watering holes. And the ladies can shop along Delaware Ave. and look for bargains in a number of shops. In-between, youngsters will burn up energy in De Rivera Park with its swings and kids things, or walk with you along docks lined with watercraft to feed ducks or talk to loafing sailors. A nice place with good restaurants, plenty of lodging for those who want to overnight, and more things to enjoy from visits to caves to a ride to the top of Perry's Monument where the Bass Islands spread out far below against blue water.
Kelleys Island is more low key, a place to relax and recoup lost energies, to bike or walk past stately old homes, and look for bone white driftwood along wave swept beaches. Fishing can be good at Kelleys Island State Park and again, there's a nice fishing pier waiting Some shore fishing is available too, and those with their own craft will find good action on smallmouth along the shore, and walleye at Gull Reef and the Kelleys Island shoal.
Camping is excellent at the state park and there's a nice little commercial area with restaurants, bars, some shopping, rental bikes and golf carts, and things for kids to do. But basically, it's a place to relax, to explore an old cemetery, roam blacktop roads and watch rabbits and pheasants feeding and moving at dawn and dusk.
Summer is a good time to see all of the islands, and that perfect day is coming. Call the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center at 800-441-1271, ask any questions about fishing, camping, lodging, etc. then gather up the family and go. It's a unique spot and worth a visit.
* * *
HOOKS & BULLETS
• Applications are open for summer courses at Ohio State's Stone Lab on South Bass Island. High school and college students and educators can apply for a wide range of college courses covering topics from aquatic biology to zoology. Stone Lab's hands-on, intensive classes give students to see science in action during field trips and labs. Students earn two college credits for a one week class and four credits for a five week class. This summer Ohio State is offering a 25 percent tuition discount on classes, making Stone Lab courses more affordable than ever. For a full list of courses, visit go.osu.edu/SLcourses.
• Many Huron County hunters like to apply for controlled hunts each year, so take note that the application period opened June 1 and will run through Monday, July 31. Hunters can apply for the controlled hunts by completing the application process online using Ohio's Wildlife Licensing System at wildohio.gov. There is non-refundable application fee of $3 per hunt. More specific information about hunt dates and locations, including opportunities for youth, women and mobility-impaired hunters, can be found at wildohio.gov on the Controlled Hunts page.
• Fishermen, boaters, and tourists should enjoy a new publication, the Lake Erie Islands Water Trails guide that features five circular paddling routes and associated public interest points around South Bass, Middle Bass, North Bass, and Kelleys Island along with the Catawba and Marblehead peninsula area. For a free guide, visit the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Visitors Centers in Port Clinton and Sandusky.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit his blog at outdoors withmartin.com.