Lake Erie algae

I’ve lived on Catawba Island since 1960 and have fished most of those years. I received my Charter Captain’s License in 1980 and started in earnest catching walleye and small mouth bass. Back then you could catch 20-30 small mouth bass in a day’s charter around the islands. I don’t think one could catch half as many in a week now. Ten fish used to be a daily limit of walleyes; 60 fish could be caught in half a day. Running two-a-days was the norm for most captains until the zebra mussels came in and devastated the walleye population, eliminating all the reef fishing. Nobody did anything to fix this situation, to this date, other than a lot of “discussions”. 

While we were wringing our hands, the quagle mussel came in and out numbered the zebra ten to one; they are still thriving on the shoreline. Five years ago the walleye were beginning to leave the western basin; you had to go into Canadian waters to get a decent catch of 10-12 fish. Three years ago they were almost non-existent in American waters. Factory farms moved into Lenawee County, Michigan, with 20,000 dairy cows and 10,000 pigs per farm dumping their waste products onto the farm land they bought.

Field tiles to ditches to streams to Lake Erie had nothing to do with the algae problems being experienced in the western waters of Lake Erie. In 2013 I turned down dozens of charters because of terrible fishing. I wouldn’t take their money for 2-5 fish in a day’s trolling on the American side. The green soup that was out there the past few years just disgusted me to the point that I sold my 30’ Baha Cruiser boat in October and let my license expire.

Herl’s Harbor used to have 12 charter boats docked there. When I left there was only one. West Harbor used to have a continuous line of charter boats leaving Captain’s Cove Marina for a day of fishing on the lake and last year there were a pitiful few that went out. I ran three trips last year because my customers couldn’t believe what I was telling them. July 30 we caught four walleye for seven hours of trolling; Aug. 15, three walleye; Oct. 2, 17 perch for three guys and we fished everywhere. I only charged them $300 a trip. Running to Rondeau Bay for fish was not my cup of tea.

Wisconsin DNR ran an article on dioxins, fluorinated compounds and blue green algae. Blue green algae can produce toxins that are harmful to fish. Eating these fish can cause health risks largely unknown. Green pea soup, green or blue paint they described on the water is what I’ve seen in Lake Erie. They recommend, “Choose another water to fish.” I took their advice. Remember the thousands of walleye that washed up on the shore in the Catawba area two years ago? The official reason was stress? Really? This lake is not going to fix itself. Are you going to wait for sickness and poisoning before someone takes some positive action to fix it?

Philip Gutkoski
Port Clinton


Farmers hear why and how they can help heal Lake Erie

Jeff Reutter, Director of Ohio Sea Grant, reports on the health of Lake Erie.

On the same day that the Ohio House of Representatives Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee gave unanimous approval to SB150, the Nutrient Management Bill requiring farmers to have state certification to apply synthetic or chemical fertilizers to the land, the Lake Erie Farm Forum and Conservation Fair were held at Ottawa County Fairgrounds near Oak Harbor. 

At the forum, hosted by Mike Libben of the Ottawa Soil and Water Conservation District (OSWCD), speakers addressed the health and importance of Lake Erie and how farmers can voluntarily help to heal the lake and prepare for meeting the standards that will be enforced in 2017.


Gardner announces new Healthy Lake Erie Initiative

State Senator Randy Gardner, who represents Ottawa and Erie counties, announced Tuesday, March 18 that a new Healthy Lake Erie Initiative has been included in the state’s new Capital Appropriations Budget introduced Tuesday in the House of Representatives.

The initiative will provide $10 million over the next two years in funding to support efforts to reduce open lake dumping in Lake Erie and to implement other clean lake strategies.  Administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the fund will be used primarily to find alternative uses for dredge materials versus current and prospective practices which may be considered less environmentally friendly.

ODNR Director Jim Zehringer praised the initiative as another in a series of efforts to make progress on cleaning up Lake Erie, particularly the toxic algae problem.

“Protecting Lake Erie remains a top priority for Governor Kasich’s administration,” said Zehringer. “Thanks to the partnership and collaborative efforts of Senate President Keith Faber and Senator Randy Gardner through the Healthy Lake Erie Initiative, we will continue practices to address nutrient issues in the Lake Erie watershed. We recognize more needs to be done and with the help of the governor’s capital bill, we can work toward our shared goal of improving water quality in the western Lake Erie basin.”

Gardner said the new capital funds will build on other efforts to find answers to Lake Erie environmental challenges.

“I am thankful that Senator Faber and Governor Kasich agree that more needs to be done to attack problems affecting Lake Erie,” Gardner said. “The lake is one of Ohio’s great natural assets with tremendous impact on jobs and quality of life.  We have an obligation to continue the fight.”

While Gardner said most of the efforts to date have focused on the western Lake Erie basin, recent controversies in Cuyahoga County regarding dredging disposal issues indicate attention is needed all along Ohio’s northern coast.

Gardner praised the involvement of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, the Charter Boat Association and the Lake Erie Improvement Association, among many organizations, in addition to ODNR and Ohio EPA officials for providing ideas to help mitigate the need for open lake dumping of dredge materials.  

House and Senate committee hearings are expected in the Ohio House and Senate over the next couple of weeks.

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