Lake Erie algae

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

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