Showing Off Lake Erie

The 30-foot Sportcraft guided by Captain Pete Scheid carried its occupants (me included) across Lake Erie’s surface. The water was only slightly rolling on this early morning voyage taken last Monday. Thoughts of walleyes being pulled into Captain Pete’s boat was shared among the passengers, all there participating in the 33rd Annual Governor’s Fish Ohio Day. The event brings together members of the media, ODNR’s Division of Wildlife, tourism industry, and of course, local and state government officials, to promote Lake Erie’s sport fishing and tourism. I’ve been invited to attend this special event for the last few years and I’ve always come away with some answers regarding Ohio’s great lake and the Buckeye State’s state of game fishing in general.

The night prior to the fishing event, I spent the evening at the Americas Best Value Inn in Port Clinton (1-866-734-2101). My corner room provided tandem water views – one of Lake Erie and one of the waterway used by pleasure boaters, charter craft, and the Jet Express (a high-speed ferry to access South Bass Island and Put-In-Bay). The sunset was one worthy of photographing. The fiery display in the sky added to the pleasures I experienced while sitting on the hotel’s patio, watching the occasional passing boat headed for its mooring on a warm summer’s night.

At 6:30 the next morning, Fish Ohio Day invitees gathered at the Lake Erie Islands Regional Welcome Center located on SR 53 just north of SR 2, between Port Clinton and Marblehead. The Lake Erie Charter Boat Association provides several boats and their captains to host the show. This year I was assigned to Captain Pete Scheid who owns and operates as Captain Hook Fishing Charters (1-800-453-8403). One look around Capt. Pete’s boat and it was clear he ran a tight ship and after answering a few questions, it was also clear he understood Lake Erie and the fish that swim in it. Forty minutes after leaving the dock we were baiting up and preparing to offer the fish a breakfast they couldn’t refuse. A mayfly rig tipped with a nightcrawler was the culinary choice and it turned out to be a popular selection for a variety of fish species – including the star of the gamefish community – walleye.

Also under Capt. Pete’s wing that morning was Sue Howard – ODNR Divison of Wildlife’s Assistant Chief, Tom Jackson – President of the Ohio Grocers Association. We were supposed to have aboard, former US Senator George Voinovich and his wife Janet. The Voinoviches had to cancel at the last moment – too bad, because I had a few questions for Mr. Voinovich, and he missed out on some fine fishing as well.

Captain Pete put us on fish more than once during our four-hour float. Over twenty walleye were put in the ice chest between the four of us. The total fish caught during the event were donated to local food banks. As the causal waves raised us up and down, conversation of our love of Ohio’s natural resources was non-stop. Current issues such as the several algae blooms that have impacted several of Ohio’s waters were discussed. Sue Howard ensured us that the Division of Wildlife is dedicated as ever to managing Ohio’s natural resources for now and future generations. She backed this up with stats of successful programs that are currently showing progress throughout the state.

Captain Pete has seen a drop in the charter business, but by no means has Lake Erie lost any popularity. Ohio families that normally head for the Atlantic Coast for summer vacations are now appearing on the shores of Lake Erie. “There’s much to do up here to satisfy anyone’s taste of adventure,” said Captain Pete. “A couple days of touring the sights and attractions along Lake Erie’s coast are topped off with a day on the water fishing with us. A great vacation that fits the shrinking vacation budgets that many folks are experiencing.”

A thunderstorm pushed us off the water, but that was probably a good thing since we were catching fish, nobody wanted to quit. Early that afternoon, Fish Ohio Day participants met back at the welcome center for a press conference with the heads of the ODNR and of course, Governor John Kasich. The audience was informed of conservation challenges being tackled by the multiple divisions of ODNR. Governor Kasich message was this – “Each time I visit Lake Erie I am in awe of what it means to Ohio. It’s the crown jewel of the state – it’s an amazing recreational destination, economic generator, and environmental treasure.”

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