Huron, OH For a fishing charter boat captain, one of the first steps in preparing for Lake Erie’s fishing season is getting up-to-date information about the lake and its fish at the annual Charter Captains Conference on Saturday, March 3, 2012 at the Bowling Green State University Firelands Cedar Point Center. This year marks the 31st year that Ohio Sea Grant Extension has hosted the event, and the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association and ODNR Division of Wildlife cosponsored the conference.
Nearly all the captains who attended the conference reported that they learned new information that will help in future decision making and that they intended to share what they learned. Three-quarters of captains who attended previous years said they modified their behavior because of what they learned at the conference and 30 percent reported an increase in profitability thanks to information from the conference.
"By educating the charter captains who essentially act as fishing guides on Lake Erie, we are able to reach several thousand fishermen," says Ohio Sea Grant Extension Educator Tory Gabriel. "Not only did captains learn about how to improve their business, but they learned about this year’s fishing outlook and new legal regulations that will affect their day-to-day operation."
Conference attendees heard from several experts about Lake Erie’s 2012 fishing outlook, lake conditions, licensing, regulations, and business management. Ohio Sea Grant Director Jeff Reutter addressed the causes and effects of harmful algal blooms (HABs), which were so prevalent on the lake last summer. Mary Clifton of the Ohio Department of Health discussed how HABs can affect human health and Ohio’s strategy for dealing with the blooms (which includes awareness and education and best management practices).
HABs sometimes produces the toxin microcystin, which can harm people who come into contact with it. Jeff Tyson of the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s Sandusky Fisheries Research said his agency is continuing to research the toxin’s effects on people who consume fish from Lake Erie, but so far, research has shown that fish metabolize microcystin quickly and it doesn’t appear to be a concern.
As for the fisheries, Tyson said the predicted walleye population is slightly higher this year than in 2011 and that generally, walleye will continue to be large. The yellow perch fishery should remain strong and the smallmouth bass population is moderate, but improving.
Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 32 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For information on Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab, visit ohioseagrant.osu.edu.
Tory Gabriel, Ohio Sea Grant, Extension Educator, 419.898.3631, firstname.lastname@example.org.