BY D’ARCY PATRICK EGAN
When you travel to Port Clinton and Ottawa County, it’s a guarantee you’ll see boats, and plenty of them. There will be thousands nestled in their docks along the Ohio shoreline, and fleets both on the highways and byways looking to launch or riding the broad waters of Lake Erie.
The boating industry in the king of the local economy, and greatly helped produce an economic impact of $6.4 billion in 2022, according to a recent published Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) report. Last year, people spent 315 million hours boating in Ohio, and if you’re fishing or boating on Lake Erie on a sunny, summer Saturday right now, that’s easy to believe.
Fishing accounts for almost 34% of all boating time — and the Ohio shoreline of Lake Erie is the acknowledged Walleye Capitol of the World — supports almost 900 fishing guides and thousands sport fishing boats.
And it’s not just a guy’s domain. More than 24% percent of non-motorized boats are women, and 5.4%% of motorized boats.
Despite a rare gloomy day in early May, a gaggle of legislators settled in for a buffet breakfast courtesy of Jim Stouffer, President of the Lake Erie Foundation and CEO of the Catawba Island Club, a prelude to the opening day of the Progressive Catawba Island Boat Show being held in the marina.
Local and state legislators, conservationists and county managers from around Ohio were there to focus on Lake Erie environmental issues at the special Lake Erie Marine Trades Association Legislative Brunch at the Catawba Island Club. Featured speakers were Lt. Gov. John Husted, Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne, President Larry Fletcher of Shores & Islands Ohio, Chris Winslow of Ohio Sea Grant and Michelle Burke of LEMTA.
All are heavy hitters when it comes to Lake Erie, boating and fishing. Few were surprised by the ODNR study that recreational boating contributed $3.66 billion and 25,476 jobs to the Ohio study. A staggering $.75 billion and 20,3980 jobs were attributed to the marine trades industry.
“The boating industry lifts up the economy for local communities all across Ohio,” said Director May Mertz of the ODNR. “The boost ripples out from the water and into local business, supporting jobs all along the shores — from marinas and boat dealers on the coast, to restaurants and hotels further inland.”
It’s a reason why the ODNR just opened a new $1 million marina at Mosquito Reservoir State Park in Northeast Ohio, and many thousands to add state-of-the-art fish cleaning equipment and brick-and-mortar restrooms at the busy Mazurik Boat Access on Marblehead.
Gov. DeWine is a fisherman, and has never missed his Governor’s Fish Ohio Day on Lake Erie based in Port Clinton. So is Lt. Gov. Husted, who frrequently fishes with his dad while on the family boat docked on Catawba Island.
Many had heard the Ohio’s “The Heart of it All” slogan when its was the long-time branding from 1984 to 2001. It let people know that if you live here, you’ll be close to 60% of the U.S. and Canadian population.
Ohio has 653,136 registered boats, ranked sixth in the U.S., and 241,000 non-registered craft. The Waterway Safety Fund gets funding from a variety of title and registration fees to support boating with $6.6 million each year. A cut of Ohio’s gas tax nets boating programs another $22.8 million.