BY SHERI TRUSTY
Division of Wildlife District Two Manager, Scott Butterworth; Seabreeze Charters owner, Captain Ron Eickholt; and State Rep. Gary Click fished for walleye on the 43rd annual Governor’s Fish Ohio Day on Thursday, July 20, under a bright sun reflecting off Lake Erie. The conversation naturally drifted to the toxins that harm the lake and the fish that make it home.
That was the point of the annual event, to start conversations about Ohio’s most influential natural resource.
Eickholt, a former farmer, initiated the discussion. As an Ohioan with ties to both sides of the toxic algae debate, he offers a uniquely important perspective.
“I used to farm, and I swore for years that toxins had nothing to do with farming. Now I know it’s all about farming,” he said.
Click listened to Eickholt’s concerns about lake health, and he learned from Eickholt and Butterworth about many different threats to Lake Erie.
“I’m very aware of what this lake is like out here,” Eickholt said.
Eickholt talked about the swelling population of double-breasted cormorants, considered a nuisance species. Butterworth told Click that cormorants eat two tons of fish annually and kill vegetation with their acidic feces.
Hearing their concerns while boating on the lake gave Click a deeper understanding of the problems.
“Ron and Scott can always come and talk to our committee, but it’s better to talk out here on the lake,” Click said. “It gives me a better feeling of what they’re talking about.”
Those conversations epitomized the success of Fish Ohio Day.
“This event speaks to the importance of Lake Erie, of how important it is to the State of Ohio as a multibillion-dollar industry,” Butterworth said. “It teaches people about the fishery and about the threats to Lake Erie and what we can do to prevent it.”
Buoying the conversations on the boat was the fun the anglers were having casting for walleye. Also fishing were young brothers Brendyn and Thomas Ash, 17 and 15, of Fremont. Neither had fished on Lake Erie before. Not only did Fish Ohio Day give the Ash brothers the opportunity to catch fish, but it also developed in them a new passion for boating and fishing on Lake Erie.
“It was fun. I enjoyed the fishing,” Brendyn said.
Those kinds of positive experiences on the lake can inspire the next generation of anglers to safeguard Lake Erie. DeWine has committed to addressing detrimental water issues through his statewide, water quality initiative, H2Ohio.
“We all had fun. This was my third Fish Ohio Day trip, and I always have fun,” Click said. “One thing has remained the same. We all want to support the H2Ohio program and preserve our lake.”