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Charter boat captain: Lake Erie in poor condition

Register • Apr 15, 2014 at 12:40 PM

I’ve lived on Catawba Island since 1960, fished most of those years, received my Charter Captains License in 1980 and started in earnest of catching walleyes and small mouth bass.

Back then you could catch 20 to 30 small mouth bass in a day’s charter around the islands. I don’t think one could catch half that many in a week now.

Ten fish used to be the daily limit for walleyes, 60 fish could be caught in half a day. Running 2 a days was the normal for most charter boat captains.

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The zebra mussels came in and devastated the walleye population, eliminating all the reef fishing. Nobody did anything to fix the situation, to this date, other than a lot of “discussions”

While we were wringing our hands, the quagle mussel came in and outnumbered the zebra 10 to one. They are still thriving as witnessed at the shoreline.

Five years ago the walleyes were beginning to leave the western basin. You had to go into Canadian waters to get a decent catch of 10 to 12 fish. Three years ago they were almost nonexistent in American waters.

Factory farms moving into Lenawee County, Mich., with 20,000 dairy cows and 10,000 pigs per farm dumped their waste products onto the farmland they bought. Field tiles to ditches to streams to Lake Erie had nothing to do with the algae problems being experienced in the western waters of Lake Erie?

In 2013, I turned down dozens of charters because of terrible fishing. I wouldn’t take their money for 2 to 5 fish in a day’s trolling the American side.

The green soup that was out there the past few years just disgusted me to the point that I sold my 30-foot Baha Cruisers boat in October and let my license expire.

Herls Harbor used to have 12 charter boats docked there. When I left, there was only one left. West Harbor used to have a continuous line of charter boats leaving Captains Cove Marina for the lake for a day of fishing. Last year there was a pitiful few going out.

I ran three trips last year because my customers couldn’t believe what I was telling them: July 30 — four walleyes in seven hours of trolling; Aug. 15 — three walleyes; Oct. 2 — 17 perch for three guys, fished everywhere. I only charged them $300 a trip. Running to Rondeau Bay for fish was not my cup of tea.

Wisconsin DNR ran an article on “Dioxins, fluorinated compounds and Blue green algae. These are not well understood. Blue Green alga can produce toxins that are harmful to fish, and eating these fish can cause health risks largely unknown. Green Pea Soup, green or blue paint they described on the water is what I’ve seen in Lake Erie. They recommend: “CHOOSE ANOTHER WATER TO FISH” I took their advice. Remember the thousands of walleye that washed up on the shore in the Catawba area two years ago? The official reason was stress. Really? This lake is not going to fix itself guys. Are you going to wait for sickness, poisoning the population, etc., before someone takes some positive action to fix it?

— Philip Gutkoski of Port Clinton

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