Huron, OH – Regulation changes, harmful algal blooms and a substantial walleye hatch were popular topics at the 35th Annual Ohio Charter Captains Conference on March 5, 2016.
More than 175 charter industry personnel attended the conference, which was held at the Cedar Point Conference Center at the Bowling Green State University Firelands Campus in Huron, Ohio.
The event was co-sponsored by Ohio Sea Grant, Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife and the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association.
The heartening news about 2015’s walleye hatch was presented in the opening session by Chris Vandergoot, supervisor of the Sandusky Fisheries Research Unit of ODNR.
“I think the most anticipated talk was the status of the Lake Erie fisheries and 2016 fishing outlook,” said Ohio Sea Grant Fisheries Educator and Program Leader Tory Gabriel, who organizes the conference. Data collected in 2015 showed last year’s walleye hatch was by far the biggest Lake Erie has seen since 2003 – about 34 on the abundance index, compared to an average of around 4 in the previous ten years.
“It takes two years for walleye to get to a catchable size, so it’s great to see the 2015 big hatch,” Gabriel said. “(The captains) probably won’t see the benefits of that until 2017, but they do foresee an increase in the walleye population.”
Ray Petering, chief of the ODNR Division of Wildlife, talked about ODNR’s Lake Erie perspectives and presented the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (LECBA) Charter Captain of the Year Award to Peggy Van Vleet of Blue Sky Charters in Port Clinton, Ohio.
“(Van Vleet) has been very involved with coordinating the boats for Fish Ohio Governor’s Day, and she runs a kids fishing derby at Tall Timbers Campground in Port Clinton,” says Gabriel, who is a member of the LECBA.
Another popular topic covered using the harmful algal bloom (HAB) tracker from the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory to plan fishing trips. Dr. Tim Davis, a molecular harmful algal bloom ecologist, was the presenter.
“He walked the captains through some of the resources available to them on GLERL’s website that can help them plan their trips, based on the data (GLERL) has collected,” Gabriel said. “It shows where the bloom is expected to go and how they can best avoid it.”
As in years past, feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive, with 97 percent saying they learned about Lake Erie and natural resource issues, recreation or tourism opportunities. About a quarter of this year’s participants were first-time attendees. Among returning attendees, 90 percent said they used information they learned at the conference to improve their operation.
Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant Program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 33 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For more information, visit ohioseagrant.osu.edu.