EDITOR’S NOTE: Many thousands of anglers travel to Ottawa County each year to fish the rich waters of Lake Erie. More than 800 charter captains ply those waters, but only a small handful are female, including Carole Vukmer. In a three-part series, the women describe their love of the water and fishing. The first in the series can be found by clicking here. The second in the series can be found by clicking here.
BY SHERI TRUSTY
For the past 37 years, Carole Vukmer of Myrmidon Charters has been taking anglers to the fish. When she enrolled in a charter captain course in 1987, she was the only female in a class of more than 50 students. When the instructor made an occasional snide comment, she ignored him and learned what she needed to learn.
“Only 10 of us passed the class,” she said. “The Coast Guard guy asked me if I wanted to go for my master’s license, too, so I got that. With my master’s license, I can run the ferry boat. I can run all the big boats.”
And she does.
Vukmer’s 35-foot, 1980 Henrique Main Coaster named Myrmidon is a big boat in the Lake Erie charter world.
“My boat is unique,” she said. “It’s a hand-built boat, and up until two years ago, it was the only one of its kind on fresh water in the world.”
When Vukmer became a charter captain in 1987, there were only 10 female charter captains licensed in Ohio. There are not many more than that today. In an age when women are making their way in many male-dominated fields, it is still rare to find a woman at the captain’s wheel.
“I think women are not comfortable driving a boat,” Vukmer said.
Becoming a charter captain was a natural step for Vukmer, who has lived near water her entire life. She grew up in Pennsylvania in a fishing and hunting family and formerly lived on the edge of a reservoir in Cortland, Ohio.
“I grew up sinking rowboats on the water. I lived on water my whole life,” she said.
Vukmer has embraced life on Lake Erie. She boats, fishes, swims and teaches fishing to kids through Ohio Sea Grant.
“When you’re around water, you do whatever the water offers,” she said.
For many years, Vukmer was a diver and offered diving charters, taking clients to the many sunken ships across Lake Erie.
“You can’t imagine what’s below you when you’re on top of the water,” she said.
The world has changed much in the past 37 years, but has Lake Erie fishing changed?
“I’m not sure that it has. You’re still going out to fish,” Vukmer said. “There are different ways of fishing now. Some just troll.”
Vukmer is equipped to troll, but it’s not her preference.
“I can troll, but I don’t like it,” she said. “I like to teach people how to fish, not have the boat catch the fish for them.”