BY SHERI TRUSTY
One of Lake Erie’s most passionate supporters has hung up her captain’s hat. After 25 years as a charter captain, decades of Lake Erie advocacy, and a lifetime of fishing, Charter Captain Peg VanVleet retired in July. Although she is no longer at the helm, she can still be found almost daily at the reel end of a fishing rod talking about the importance of protecting Ohio’s Great Lake.
VanVleet caught her first fish at age five, was given her first boat at 16, and earned a charter captain license when she was in her forties. Since then, she has used her boat as more than a business. As she connected her clients to fishing hotspots, she also connected their hearts to the lake. Adults gained a greater respect for the lake’s impact on Ohio, and many children fished in the shadow of “Captain Peg” and developed a fascination with the waters that surrounded them.
“I talk to adults about what’s going on with the lake and the importance of taking care of it for kids, and I talk to the kids, so they can grow up to be better ambassadors,” VanVleet said.
Throughout her years of lake advocacy, VanVleet worked hand-in-hand with the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, Ohio Sea Grant, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Division of Wildlife, which presented VanVleet with the prestigious Wildlife Award at the 2023 Ohio State Fair for her commitment to protecting wildlife.
Although Peg will spend the rest of her life advocating for the wellbeing of Lake Erie, some of Ohio’s top dignitaries wished to honor her on her retirement as a charter captain.
Here they are, in their own words.
Governor Mike DeWine: “I have been honored to call Captain Peg my guide and my friend for several Fish Ohio Days. Her passion and dedication to Lake Erie is unmatched, and she will be missed in the charter boat ranks. My grandchildren have been lucky to have enjoyed Captain Peg’s expertise, humor, and kindness, and I thank her for being an advocate for the outdoors and Ohio’s greatest natural resource, Lake Erie.”
ODNR Director Mary Mertz: “Captain Peg was a shining example of someone who loved what they did and shared that love with others. Her dedication to boating and fishing in Ohio helped so many people discover the true beauty and fun of Lake Erie. We applaud Peg for being a vocal supporter for the state’s great outdoors.”
Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker: “Captain Peg has been a good friend to the Division of Wildlife for 25 years. She is a champion to all those who fish and boat on our Great Lake. I wish her well in the next chapter of her life, and I know she will continue to be a valued partner in conservation and advocacy for Lake Erie.”
Ohio Sea Grant Director Christopher Winslow: “Peg is one of the most passionate people I have ever met. She is not only passionate about Lake Erie and the fishery, but she also cares deeply about the charter captain industry and ‘her guys.’ What also draws me to Peg is her desire to always learn more and to communicate what she has learned. I am so happy for the lake and for the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association that Peg has taken on an active role as Vice President of Environmental Issues. Finally, congrats on winning The SHORE Award.”
Lake Erie Charter Boat Association President, Captain Paul Pacholski: “Although Peg is retiring from fishing on Lake Erie and her daily presence will be sorely missed, she will continue her important role with Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. As Vice President, Environmental Issues, Peg will remain a strong voice for the betterment of Lake Erie.”
Shores & Islands Ohio President, Larry Fletcher: “I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet and work with Captain Peg and look forward to continuing that relationship! She’s one of my favorite people, period, and also happens to be a skilled fishing guide and staunch advocate for the health of our Great Lake Erie. At our organization’s annual meeting and awards luncheon this past April, she was recognized as the recipient of our highest honor, the SHORE Award.
“This is given to an individual in our region who demonstrates the true spirit of hospitality, customer satisfaction, and commitment to service to the people of our community and our guests. This individual goes beyond the typical job description to enhance the guest’s experience which contributes to the overall destination success of Shores & Islands Ohio. Captain Peg truly checks all these boxes and many more!”