Charter boat captain: Lake Erie in poor condition

Apr 15, 2014


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.

Click HERE for more Lake Erie-related stories

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



Yes but milk sure is cheap from those factory dairy farms, I save at least 30 cents per gallon! Who needs LAKEERIE fish anyhow? China has some really cheap fish these days and the chartercaps can move to china to get jobs cleaning and packing North American fish!
Anyway truth be told: The jobs that LAKEERIE supports can't hold a candle to the local political power of the local farming economy that is ultimately responsible for most of the runoff that causes the pea green soup. And that farming economy is NEVER going to stop with wholesale chemicalization of the croplands.
Next topic please!


If the sportfishing is ruined, the states around the lake can start selling the water. Easier to clean polluted fresh water than taking the salt out of seawater.
It is just a matter of time until water sells for as much per gallon as gasoline. Fracking is going to make sure of that.

Whiskey Tango F...

The fishing is far from ruined... The game has changed, but this guy is far from accurate with his findings. I have had tough days, but I come home with many full boxes of both perch and walleye. We run to rondeau for the steelies and it is infested with walleye. Limits af walleye came through the ice, limits are being caught right now off of turtle creek. If you want to write a compelling article, use some more facts.

4-wheeler al

June,July and Aug. not very good in production in numbers of fish caught. lake erie heats up fish goes to deeper water and they scatter in smaller groups. Cold water fishing always the fishing time.90 per cent of my fish I catch is on the ice early spring and fall.

The Big Dog's back

Some of you people just can't come to terms with facts. The Lake is becoming a sh hole. Yes, really it is.

Darwin's choice

Hell is freezing over tonight! I agree with Big Dog !!!

I spend a lot of time on Lake St. Clair, and the water is unbelievable compared to Lake Erie. Now, it does run through/past democrat detroit on its way here, so that's a huge problem in itself, and probably a major pollution source....


This is more true than cynical.... one of the crimes that Kwame is in prison for is Detroit paying to haul sewage sludge that never happened.


It is really sad to watch Lake Erie decline once again after such a remarkable recovery in the 80's and 90's. I was convinced that the Clean Water Act of 1970 something eliminated phosphates in detergents and put an end to industrial pollution from Detroit and north. Also, local sewer plants were upgraded at the cost of millions to the taxpayers. Unfortunately, many cities surrounding the lake still dump sewage when excessive rainfalls overtax the processing plants.

It is also true that the US population since 1970 has risen approx. 60%. This is where the problem lies. Everything else is a result of population growth.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Your last point is true and a sobering challenge. The EPA and other groups can enact regulation and impose law but the fact of the matter is there will only be more and more of us. Yet no law has yet to be made to limit humans (in the U.S. anyway). Unless you count the efforts to have birth control pills fall as mana from heaven. Though nobody pushes it for that reason. You can only wonder though...

Especially because I believe I remember reading that in big cities measurable amounts of birth control hormones can be detected in the water because so much of it is taken and passed into the recycled water supply. It could have an inadvertent "soft sterilization" effect.

Guess we must stay tuned?


As a kid back in the early 60's, I lived near the lake and remember it was in serious condition then. If memory serves, I believe the Zebra mussels had a lot to do with clearing up the lake's water. Unfortunately they soon became the problem. Lord knows what's contained in the ballast water of some of the freighters that come to port... but as DOWNTHEMIDDLE pointed out, not only has the US grown 60% in over 30 years, what about the rest of the world? More people, more byproducts. What humankind will really need is another planet. Ever read the book or see the movie Soylent Green? Fiction? How would you handle over population? I'd love to hear some theories. I'd first start by herding people into more populated controllable concentrations by seizing or restricting the use of their land.