Two-rod rule should stay on Lake Erie

Captain Dave Spangler handles a rod on his fishing boat during an outing in early July. (Photo by Mike Moore)

Ohio’s latest effort to project recreational angling regulations into the 21st century is taking a two-steps-forward, one-step-back approach.

At hand is a proposal by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to increase the number of fishing outfits an angler can use at one time on Lake Erie. This increase would raise the allowance from two rods to three. In effect, the regulatory change would match what the state now permits at 16,349-acre Pymatuning Reservoir – a detail mandated since Pennsylvania was enlightened enough a few years back to allow the use of more fishing rigs.

Ohio had to go along with that change because it shares a portion of Pymatuning Reservoir with Pennsylvania. Thus, it makes sense that, if Pennsylvania allows up to three outfits per person, than so should Ohio.

Yet elsewhere in Ohio, the state forbids anglers from using more than two rods per person. That rule does not sit well with crappie anglers who want to “spider-rig” their fishing boats: equip vessels with a device that can hold a multiple number of fishing outfits that are swept in an arc across the bow of the craft. Such a setup permits an angler to employ different baits at different depths, consequently enabling the angler to best utilize his or her angling resources.

Two rods per person simply fails to address the crappie angler’s desires. Importantly, an increase in the fishing outfit allowance would not harm the resource. That logic is because a limit of crappies is still a limit of crappies, whether two rods per person is employed or three.

Much the same is true for the Lake Erie troller. Here, the situation is magnified, in fact. With 3,568 square miles of fishable water at their disposal, Ohio’s anglers have a lot of state-designated territory to cover. And also depth in order to locate hungry fish.

That means experimenting with different types of lures, trolling speeds, line distances employed, and support equipment on the order of planer boards, directional and in-line divers, downriggers, and such.

Lake Erie anglers have long sought an expansion of the clearly out-dated two-rod rule, too. More than a few Lake Erie anglers continue to flaunt this rule, too, these fishers willing to risk a citation from Wildlife Division officers. The rule and the citations are  – not surprisingly – often viewed with chicken-scratch disdain.

No question the proposal is a good one, but is one that goes too far. The problem would come about by allowing a shore-based angler to use three rods instead of the current two outfits. Such an increase poses a very real threat as to how a few anglers – or even one – could dominate a choice stretch of a public fishing pier, breakwater, jetty, or riverfront section.

I can think of any number of places that such a likelihood is not only plausible but almost certain. Among them would be a couple of short sections on the lower Grand and Chagrin rivers, where private property owners allow public access, and at Lake Metroparks’ Grand River Landing in Fairport Harbor, which has become a go-to destination for catfish anglers.

Similar limitations very possibly will be encountered in downtown Cleveland with the Cleveland Metroparks’ various shore-based angler access points. No doubt the same will be seen to the east and west of Cleveland and Lake County, as well.

And I have encountered such issues in Florida, where my wife and I spend several weeks each winter. There, we hit several public fishing piers in search of saltwater favorites. We often have to arrive early, however, for the simple reason that Florida’s liberal allowance of fishing outfit use can leave little or no space for other anglers.

So, yes, while Ohio’s jettisoning of the two-rod rule and the move toward a three-rod rule is a wise decision, clearly it is also a case of too much of a good thing being, well, a bad thing.

Best go back to the drawing board, Ohio Division of Wildlife, and make a design change – one that won’t leave shore anglers high, dry, and with no elbow room to fish.

Categories: Blog Content, Ohio – Jeffrey Frischkorn

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