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Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Landlubber Discovers Lake Erie

Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, May 30, 2009.)

Our haul tripled what other charters
out of Port Clinton, Ohio took that day.
I’m not particularly aquatic. You might call me a landlubber, a terrestrial. What I’m trying to say is I seldom go fishing.

But once in a while I can’t resist the opportunity to put a line in the water, so I’ve spent a few days aboard fishing charters. The first was off the coast of Cape Cod with a commercial cod fisherman.

We were using large, shiny, triangular jigs, bobbing them up and down off the bottom of the ocean. The day started out slowly. Someone asked the question, “How will we know when we get a bite?” The fisherman answered, “You’ll know, believe me, you’ll know.”

We didn’t know. The hits were so soft that none of us realized when we had a fish on. Bringing them to the surface was like reeling in an old sneaker. Things got interesting when we netted a few strange-looking bottom-dwelling creatures. Interesting, but not very exciting.

My next trip was to North Carolina’s Outer Banks where we joined with another vacationing family on a charter boat. I don’t remember what we caught, maybe because I didn’t catch anything. While others were boating some kind of small, silvery fish less than a foot long, I failed to hook any.

The hook I was using was terminally rusty, its business-end as blunt as a pirate’s peg leg. So, I asked the first mate if he would tie on a sharper hook. He touched the well-rounded point and jerked his finger away. “Ouch! You better be careful with that!” he cried. I didn’t get a fish and, it might be worth mentioning, he didn’t get a tip.

I’ve also fished Alaska. In the mid-90s my family hired a charter to fish for silver salmon in the Resurrection Bay off the Kenai Peninsula. The captain (I think this guy actually was a pirate) wanted to leave the marina without bait, figuring we’d somehow catch our bait and then start fishing for salmon. I persuaded him to send “Cutter” (his first mate, and a kid I wanted far away from my daughter) to buy some bait.

It didn’t matter much. He wouldn’t go anywhere near other boats that were catching salmon. Instead, he kept his boat in the deepest water. Even though his paying customers wanted salmon, Ahab was after sharks. Trying to build our enthusiasm, he claimed to have hooked a huge shark a few days earlier that dragged his tub all over the bay.

We caught a few small flounder, plus two or three little sand sharks that he insisted would become man-eaters if he didn’t kill them. And we saw some incredible scenery. That was the extent of this adventure. I’d caution against hiring this charter if I could remember its name, but it’s probably no longer in business anyway.

My next fishing trip was on Lake Erie in July 2006. I highly recommend Captain Pete Alex of Vision Quest Fishing Charters (www.dreamsteelie.com).

That day Lake Erie was whipped into whitecaps by high winds and rain. Still, we managed to catch some “eyes,” plus a few bonus smallmouth bass. Pete Alex can’t control the weather, but this very professional, highly knowledgeable fishing guide knows Lake Erie as well as anyone, and he proved he’ll work hard for you.

Then last week I went to the west end of Lake Erie on a trip for walleyes, and met another reliable charter captain, John Tucholski of J. T. Sport Fishing Charters (www.lake-erie-walleye-fishing.com). A light wind is needed for good drift fishing, and despite the calm weather John knew how to find the breezes.

John spent a little extra time until we limited out on tasty walleyes (including a 29½" Ohio state citation fish caught by my friend Jim Brys.) Our haul tripled what other charters out of Port Clinton, Ohio took that day. We landed with 130 pounds of fish to be filleted, and the fish cutter said the next biggest box of fish had been only 40 pounds.

It took this landlubber some years to find his way to Lake Erie. If you’re hunting for a great fishing charter, take my advice: you don’t have to go far from home.


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