U.S., Canada pact marks Fish Ohio day

Port Clinton, Ohio — After a morning that saw the lake’s waves die down from the blustery winds of the previous day, sunny skies and a two- to three-foot roll made for a nice boat ride for 87 anglers on the 18 charter boats participating in the 35th Governor’s Fish Ohio Day on July 9.

Started by Gov. James Rhodes, Fish Ohio Day has been an opportunity to remind the world how important Lake Erie is to Ohio’s economy, health, and recreational opportunities and to publicly pledge to commit to keeping it healthy. The nine counties along the lake are responsible for 30 percent of the tourism revenue generated in Ohio annually.

Even though one of the biggest mayfly emergences in recent years was still in progress, walleyes, freshwater drum, white bass, white perch, channel catfish, yellow perch, rock bass, and gobies were reported in the day’s catch.

Most of the boats chased walleyes the old-fashioned way – by casting rather than trolling, which has become more popular since zebra mussels diminished the lake’s fish production levels. The result was that 175 keeper size walleyes made the trip to the fish-cleaner’s shop.

While aboard a charter boat, State Sen. Edna Brown (D-Toledo) caught her first walleye under the watchful tutelage of captain John Tucholski from one the reefs near Locust Point. Joined by District 2 Wildlife Supervisor Scott Butterworth, Lake Erie Marines Trades Association President Ken Alvey, and Senator Brown’s fishing pal Johnny Hutten, all had a chance to discuss issues that she could take up in the Senate chambers this fall.

Perhaps most importantly, the Senate’s unexpected blockage of the Division of Wildlife’s request to raise nonresident hunting and fishing license rates was discussed and the case made for allowing this to go through next time. Ohio has some of the lowest nonresident fees, even though it boasts some of the best opportunities in the country for trophy walleyes and deer.

However, funding opportunities for wildlife enhancements are being lost due to not having enough matching funds to take full advantage of more abundant excise taxes currently being generated from nationwide sales of ammunition, guns, and hunting gear.

States can claim 75 cents for each 25 cents invested in projects that benefit wildlife populations through land purchases, vegetation/habitat improvements, and wildlife management.

Unfortunately, Ohio has fewer quarters available to invest than the three quarters that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has to match to it and the money is being sent elsewhere.

Gov. Kasich, clearly a fan of Lake Erie and a willing angler, joined his boat late, but still got in some casts off Charter Captain of the Year Dave Spangler’s boat, Dr. Bugs. He landed a couple of freshwater drum, more popularly known as sheepshead, before heading to shore for the luncheon program.

There, Kasich shared the stage with ODNR Director James Zehringer, Division of Wildlife Chief Scott Zody, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler, officers of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, and the Consul General of Canada, following a welcome by Erie Shores and Islands (West) Executive Director Larry Fletcher.

The 120 audience members consisted of reporters, ODNR personnel, tourism leaders, elected officials, agency leaders, charter boat captains, and other key Lake Erie players. Kasich and his cabinet extolled the virtues of a healthy Lake Erie and its importance to Ohio’s tourism economy and gave some examples of current efforts to improve the lake.

The governor publicly stated his appreciation for the federal government’s cooperation with respect to the agreement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to not dispose dredge spoils from the Cleveland Harbor or Maumee Bay into the lake.

In each case, they will both be brought to shore, with the potentially contaminated Cleveland sediments confined to a local disposal area. The clean Toledo mud is slated for reuse on land, with Ohio EPA Director Butler planning to demonstrate how “using these clean dredge spoils will turn a liability into a commodity.”
In addition to his annual Lake Erie recap, Gov. Kasich and Douglas George, the Consul General of Canada, signed an agreement that will involve eight states and two provinces pledging cooperation and expertise in the fight against invasive species in the Great Lakes.

In support of the combat of an Asian carp invasion, they have recently opened a new laboratory in Burlington, Ontario. The agreement paves the way for mutual aid if any exotic species are discovered to quickly combine resources and render assistance to a neighboring state, province, or country.

In his closing remarks, Gov. Kasich pledged “that as long as we are here, we are not only going to protect the lake, but improve the lake – making it better and better and better.”

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