Lake Erie fishing guides were allowed by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to begin to take customers walleye and smallmouth bass fishing on Lake Erie on Tuesday. The charter fishing industry had been shut down by the ODH due to the COVID-19 when social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines were implemented.
Out-of-state anglers were allowed to buy Ohio fishing non-residents licenses again last Friday, a ban put in place to prevent fishermen from traveling to Ohio and fishing without a mandated 14-day quarantine mandated by Ohio.
The ban had frustrated fishermen eager to take advantage of the outstanding Lake Erie walleye fishing. Limit catches have been common, and while the spawning grounds of Western Lake Erie had been especially productive, walleye were being caught in excellent numbers from Toledo to Cleveland this week by Ohio sportsmen.
While the walleye spawning season has wound down on the Western Lake Erie reefs and in the Maumee and Sandusky rivers, the catches by anglers trolling stick baits or minnow-style plugs has been tremendous when the weather cooperates. Some walleye are still being caught around rock piles in shallow water on lead-head jigs with a hair skirt.
Charter fishing guides and their customers will need to diligently follow the COVID-19 protocols mandated by Dr. Amy Acton of the ODH.
Those protocols include:
- Require face masks or covering for all clients and customers.
- Conduct daily health assessments of employees and employers.
- Maintain good hygiene, social distancing and hand washing.
- Clean and sanitize workplaces often.
- Maintain social distancing practices of 6-feet between people.
Other than the listed protocols, there were no firm guidelines given to Ohio’s fleet of about 800 Lake Erie fishing guides.
“It will be up to the fishing guides to determine how to do this,” said Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “It will probably mean a reduction in the number of fishermen on a boat, in order to maintain social distancing.
“This isn’t a one size fits all rule,” said Mertz. “Business owners will have to analyze their operations and make sure they comply. If a lot of charter captains don’t do that, or if there should be a spike (in COVID-19 positives), we could have to shut down fishing charters for the rest of the summer.’’