Monday, June 26, 2017 Elyria 55°
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Outdoors

Look at lake's bright future, not bleak past

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I get a number of emails from folks whose intentions, I’m sure, are good. They would like me to write from a different perspective … let’s call it a “greener” point of view.

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ll see that I do write about environmental issues, and I often write about topics of conservation.

However, there are two things I just don’t like doing and that’s: 1.) Beating a drum, it comes off as preachy, and 2.) Politics, particularly the type that disguises itself as being concerned about nature, the outdoors or sportsmen’s issues.

After I interviewed the Director of Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency and reported on his giving the health of Lake Erie much-improved marks, here came the emails.

Again, I don’t want to accuse anyone of being less than genuine, but I find some claims to be just plain untrue.

When people ask me how I can ballyhoo the terrific fishing here when “the Central Basin has become one big dead zone that has extended all the way to the south shore” and tell me the fishing was much better in decades past, I have but three words to say:

Burning River, 1968.

Unless for some reason I am writing about locally brewed beer, this is the only time you will read that phrase in this column. I prefer to look to our very bright fishing future instead of repeating corny old Lake Erie jokes from the “Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show.”

Every year over 150,000 people fish with Lake Erie charter boats. It’s a great experience for anyone, but particularly for people who don’t fish a lot. I encourage you to join the party on a charter boat and see how much fun and easy Lake Erie fishing can be.

According to Rich Carter, Executive Administrator of fish management and research for ODNR’s Division of Wildlife, our fishing future looks indeed bright.

“As fish populations go, it’s necessary to recognize that fish populations are cyclic, and right now, we’re on the up side on most of our fisheries,” he said.

Following surveys made of the lake, Carter says,”We had a very robust walleye hatch in 2014, and then one of the best hatches on record in 2015. So, those are already starting to contribute to some mighty fine fishing in our big pond.”

Walleye from 2014 are already over 16 inches in length, so they are bigger than the legal minimum.

The 2015 class of walleye will be in that same legal range as we move through this summer.

With a 15.8-pound walleye (just short of the state record) caught just three weeks ago, and terrific results from the tournament at Huron last week, there’s no doubt there are some heavy fish in our back yard. Expectations are pretty high that the record is going to fall within the next year, according to state fishery managers.

A fishing gem like Lake Erie doesn’t come around by chance or nature alone. It’s carefully managed. In March and April, ODNR announced it would stick with a four-fish limit of walleye per person on Lake Erie to protect spawning. Then during the summer season the legal limit will increase to six fish.

Fishing license sales went up about 3.5 percent in 2016, and are expected to increase about that much this year. That’s good news, as that money goes right back into redoubling our fishery management efforts. It’s especially good news as some states to the north of us traditionally associated with good fishing have seen license sales slip over the last few years.

In conclusion, of course there are problems with farm and residential lawn chemical runoff, municipal sewer overflow, invasive species, the dredge of the Cuyahoga River and other issues. There’s no way you can have this many people living and working here and not have environmental issues.

But week after week I see terrific catches, and I stand by my word that Lake Erie is the single best freshwater sports fishery in the world. As a tourist destination we are selling it short.

By the numbers

According to Lake Erie Shores and Islands, Lake Erie tourism brought over $1.8 billion to the Ottawa and Erie county economies last year, generated $236 million in taxes and supported 14,000 jobs.

Across all eight counties that border Lake Erie, tourism generates $14.1 billion dollars.

Reservations up

In last week’s column I made a typographical error, stating Ohio State Parks reservations are up 5 percent over last year.

In fact, reservations are up over 30 percent as compared with last year.

Contact Byron Scarbrough at ByronOutdoors@gmail.com.



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