Gone (or soon to be going) fishing: Charter captains prep for new season, new teaching

Ohio Sea Grant's annual Charter Captains Conference has become a tradition for Lake Erie charter boat captains, with many attendees regularly returning for the latest updates on Lake Erie fishing, regulations, and business opportunities. This year's conference was no exception, with more than half  the 168 attendees indicating that they had been to a previous conference.

"By educating charter captains who can in turn educate many other anglers on Lake Erie, we are able to reach thousands of fishermen," says Ohio Sea Grant Fisheries Outreach Coordinator Tory Gabriel, who organizes the annual event. "Not only do captains learn about how to improve their business, but they also hear about this year's fishing outlook and new regulations that will affect their day-to-day operation."

"Charter captains have taken on a leadership role in protecting Lake Erie as a valuable resource. This lake is their livelihood, and they're fighting to keep it that way for future generations."—Tory Gabriel

In the end-of-conference survey, 92 percent of respondents said they learned new information they will be able to use in the future, and 91 percent plan to share the information with others. Ninety-four percent felt that attendance at the 2013 conference was a worthwhile experience, and 40 percent of return attendees felt that their profitability had increased after an earlier event.

The keynote presentation was given by John Goss, Asian carp director for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who provided an update on the Obama Administration's effort to prevent Asian carps from becoming established in the Great Lakes. Amy Jo Klei of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) introduced the Lake Erie Charter Boat Captain Sampling Program, launched last year in partnership with the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (LECBA). The program recruits captains to take water samples during their normal charter outings, which can then be analyzed by OEPA.

"Charter captains have taken on a leadership role in protecting Lake Erie as a valuable resource," said Gabriel. "This lake is their livelihood, and they're fighting to keep it that way for future generations. The LECBA has proven to be a fantastic partner in the past, and this new collaboration should be a perfect fit."

Many speakers, sponsors

Other speakers included representatives from the Ohio Travel Association, the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, the Sandusky Fisheries Research Unit and Lake Erie Law Enforcement Unit of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Scott Zody, ODNR Division of Wildlife Chief, presented the Charter Captain of the Year Award to Captain Ron Eickholt.

The event, which is co-sponsored by Ohio Sea Grant, Ohio State University Extension, the ODNR Division of Wildlife, and LECBA, is held at Bowling Green State University's Firelands Campus in Huron.

Information about next year's conference is available from Tory Gabriel, Ohio Sea Grant Fisheries Outreach Coordinator, at gabriel.78@osu.edu.

More information about the conference will be available in the upcoming issue of Twine Line, available at http://ohioseagrant.osu.edu/publications.

-- Christina Dierkes, Ohio Sea Grant Communications