Field Notes could help commemorate Great Lakes journeys

Wayne Piotrowski With Coho Salmon From Erie
Wayne Piotrowski with a coho salmon from Lake Erie.

Wayne Piotrowski of Woodlawn, Ill., could have used the new Great Lakes Field Notes, 48-page memo books for each of the five Great Lakes (

Piotrowski recently completed a personal quest this year that was pretty darn cool – catching a salmon in each of the five Great Lakes. However, the feat was accomplished over several years. Keep that in mind.

On July 19, 2022, Piotrowski was fishing with Steve Hubert of Alpena, Michigan, operator of Chum Bucket Charters, when he caught a Coho salmon to complete his quest. He called me right away to let me know. I had been following his salmon quest and knew he was on the brink of finishing his fishing goal.

It all started with catching his first salmon on Lake Superior out of Duluth, Minn., when he was first married many years ago. It was so long ago, Piotrowski didn’t remember who he was fishing with. He didn’t think anything of it. However, had the Field Notes books been part of his traveling arsenal, he would have been able to capture all the details. That first catch is now a distant memory, but it was the initial spark that lit a fire within.

A few years ago, Piotrowski managed to catch another salmon, this one on Lake Michigan out of Sheboygan, Wisconsin with “Dumper Dan” Sportfishing and he started thinking that maybe he could catch a salmon in each of the Great Lakes. It became a personal desire that he wanted to fulfill. Two lakes down and three to go. Guess what? He didn’t remember the captain on Lake Michigan either. He could have used the Field Notes booklets again.

It was fate, or a peculiar set of circumstances, that led to lakes three and four in Wayne’s salmon journey. In 2019, Piotrowski contracted with a charter captain in Canada on the north shore of Lake Ontario. When COVID-19 hit in early 2020 and he was unable to cross the border, he kept his original flight into Buffalo Niagara International and decided to fish on the U.S. side of the border. He ultimately found Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Wet Net Charters in 2020, who happens to run out of Wilson, NY in Niagara County.

They ended up having a great day on the water catching numerous Chinook and Coho salmon on the famed Niagara Bar. Before the day was over, as Yablonsky listened to details of Piotrowski’s salmon quest, the name of Capt. Pete Alex of Erie, Pa., was put into Wayne’s list of phone contacts. Alex keeps a boat in Wilson, as well as one in Erie on Erie. He travels back and forth between the two lakes regularly from spring to fall.

When you think Great Lakes salmon, Lake Erie is at the bottom of your list. There hasn’t been a Coho salmon stocked in the lake since 2000 (by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission). New York stopped stocking Cohos in 1992 and Chinook in 1997. However, every year, salmon show up on the end of angler’s lines – Chinook, Coho, Pink and even Atlantics – and no one seems to know where they are coming from. It’s all speculation.

That said, Alex has been a fanatic for salmon and trout fishing for a long time. “I started catching salmon in 1980 on my dad’s 21-foot boat,” says Alex. “That was the first year we had downriggers, and everyone was figuring out how to catch these fish in Erie or even where to go. It all began for me back when Pennsylvania introduced Coho salmon into Lake Erie in the late ‘70’s. My Dad and I would enter the marina in 1979 and see those charter boats with big Coho salmon lying on the docks.  My Dad caught Coho fever for a couple years. He upgraded our 18-foot rec boat to a 21-foot Invader, bought Walker Downriggers and then we had to figure it out.  I was 15 years old then and caught the fever as well.”

Of course, Alex accepted the Piotrowski challenge, and it was extra pressure to produce salmon on a pre-arranged trip on a specific day. They fished August 25-26, 2021. The stage was set.

It didn’t take long. On the first morning of the first day, Piotrowski had his Lake Erie puzzle piece, a chunky Coho salmon.

“It felt like I won a tournament because there was so much anticipation, planning and hope put into getting one salmon for him,” said Alex. “I was very excited and relieved.”

Which takes us back to Piotrowski. It was an exciting feat for him, but other than a few pictures, will he remember the specifics of the different trips? Will he remember the captains? He should pick up one of the Great Lakes Field Notes packets while he still can. They are a limited edition, and the cost is $27.95.

I am now documenting all my fishing trips in the Great Lakes. Come to think of it, I’ve caught salmon in Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, but I couldn’t tell you who they were with. I’ve caught plenty of salmon in Lake Ontario, but only walleye, bass, lake trout and steelhead in Lake Erie. I wish I had these memo books years ago. By themselves, they are collector items. Each booklet has a foldout back page that offers some specific details on each of the Great Lakes.

Based out of the Chicago area just a cast away from Lake Michigan, Field Notes is probably best known for its work involving 18 of America’s National Parks. The company offers six different 3-pack memo books that are each 48 pages, focusing on some of the greatest public lands that our country has to offer. If you can’t decide which ones, purchase the box set of all 18 parks. If you plan on visiting them, these memo books will be invaluable.

If you are looking for a gift for a friend or family member that seems to have everything, this could be one of those “wow” presents you’ve been searching for.

Categories: Blog Content, New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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