Asian carps, fisheries management, and business diversification were the topics of the day for more than 200 charter fishing captains at Ohio Charter Captains Conference, held March 6 at the Bowling Green State University-Firelands Campus and sponsored by Ohio Sea Grant, Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), and the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. Often considered the unofficial start of the charter fishing season, the conference, now in its 29th year, gives captains the latest information to help them maximize profits in a difficult economy.
With the invasive bighead and silver carps in the news, this year’s conference included a presentation from Duane Chapman, Fisheries Biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey Columbia Environmental Research Center in Missouri, who updated captains on the ways the aggressive fish might affect the Great Lakes. Jim Kaster from Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray’s office expressed his office’s concern about the carp issue and encouraged those captains in attendance to call his office at 800.282.0515 in support of action to keep the fish out of Lake Erie.
Additional fisheries issues were addressed by representatives from ODNR Division of Wildlife, with Roger Knight, Lake Erie Program Administrator, speaking on walleye management, and Jeff Tyson, Supervisor of the Sandusky Fisheries Research Unit, addressing the 2010 fisheries population outlook. Ohio Sea Grant Extension Educator Dave Kelch encouraged the captains to add SCUBA and snorkeling charters to their offerings as a way to broaden their business prospects. Sea Grant Extension Educator Tory Gabriel, who organized the conference, hopes attendees came out feeling more informed and prepared for the upcoming charter fishing season.
"The Lake Erie charter industry provides unique sport fishing opportunities to a wide range of people who collectively spend $24 million on charter fees, food, lodging, and shopping every year," he says. "Anything we can do to help these captains succeed in business and understand the Lake Erie resource is going to have a positive effect on the lake as well as the economy."