Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Lake Erie fishing big tourism boost

By Mike
Moore
Editor

Port Clinton, Ohio – Above average walleye fishing on Lake Erie
over the past several years has undoubtedly been a big part of the
tourist draw to the region.

So say some of the area’s tourism officials, who are seizing
upon the daily limits up at the lake to better market other
amenities that go hand in hand with fishing on Ohio’s Great
Lake.

And there is no debate that fishing is big business in the Lake
Erie region where anglers spend an estimated $300 million in
fishing related expenditures annually, according to the American
Sportfishing Association.

‘When the fishing is good like it has been, it provides for
diversification of the economy,’ said Melinda Huntley, executive
director of Lake Erie Coastal Ohio, a regional tourism resource
association. ‘It allows anglers to help fill in the void when other
segments (of the economy) are slow.’

Ohio sport anglers landed 1.8 million walleye in 2006, the best
fishing year on Lake Erie since 1998, said Ray Petering, the DNR
Division of Wildlife’s fisheries administrator. The lake’s charter
boat industry recorded its highest ever catch rate in 2006.

The Ottawa County and Erie County visitors bureaus this year
launched a new branding strategy, sensibly dubbed Lake Erie Shores
and Islands, aimed at capitalizing on the total tourism package
available from Vermilion to Genoa. The package is delivered at the
Lake Erie Islands Regional Welcome Center, a sparkling new visitors
center on State Route 53 that celebrates the history and lore of
the region.

Ventures such as Lake Erie Shores and Islands figures to be part
and parcel of the Ohio tourism engine for at least the next several
years. The $52 million state budget just passed in June included a
40 percent increase in the tourism budget to $6.2 million.

‘I think what our legislators realized is that this is an
investment,’ said Larry Fletcher, executive director of the Ottawa
County Visitors Bureau. ‘It’s an investment that will pay off.’

That’s in no small part thanks to anglers, who bought more than
72,000 fishing licenses in the region in 2006, the most of any area
in the state. There are also 192 licensed marinas and more than
22,000 registered boat docks in the region, which represents more
than half of the marinas and boat docks in the state. Nearly 800
boat captains offer charter fishing services on Lake Erie.

And despite the relatively high price of gas this spring and
summer, anglers aren’t staying away from the big lake. Fletcher
said hotels in the area reported higher than normal occupancy rates
in the spring and into the summer.

Fishing on Lake Erie obviously isn’t the only tourist draw to a
region that also boasts a world-class amusement park in Cedar Point
and island excursions that cater to hikers, bikers, and window
shoppers.

But, it also doesn’t hurt that the walleye bite is the best it’s
been in decades.

‘If you have the ability to go after more markets, that just
helps flexibility,’ said Huntley. ‘There’s something to do up here
for just about everybody.’

DNR Director Sean Logan touched on the region’s importance at
the annual Fish Ohio Day in mid-June.

‘We can see an opportunity to build a place where both business,
nature and family can prosper together,’ Logan said. ‘Our challenge
is to help all Ohioans realize that stewardship of our natural
resource is not only the moral thing to do but the economic thing
to do.’

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