July '23 - Lake Erie

Sometimes adventures are best when adhoc!  Carpe diem, right?  That's the case of our 2023 BigCountryBigVenture trip.  We were so blessed with multiple adventures in 2023 that were amazing times together, and new to places for most of us, but there was always one or two of us who had been there.  

- Steamboat
- Arizona
- Wyoming 
- Minnesota
- Big Sky 

Because the goal for the Big Country Big Venture trip is to go to a location that NONE of us have been, we were not sure we could make it happen in 2023. In fact Mom and Dad had silently decided that would be the case.  But then one day Mom came home from work and said words to Dad that caused him to question what she was sniffing at work: "What do you think about going Walleye fishing on Lake Erie next weekend?"   What?  Can you repeat that please?  YES, of course we want to go walleye fishing!

Mom had a patient that day who had just returned from a visit to Lake Erie.  He had gone multiple times with the same captain and had limited out every time!  Mom wanted a meat haul, made the phone call, and found out there was an opening on that Sunday July 23rd.

So on Saturday we packed-up the car and headed north towards Sandusky, OH to fish with Captain Jim Kramer from Champion Charters.

We stopped for lunch at a place called Sweet Dreams, in Napoleon, OH with a great outdoor backyard we had to ourselves.

As mentioned at the start, this trip was very much a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants trip.  Not the way Dad is generally comfortable rolling....but, hey, Mom was taking us walleye fishing so he was rolling-with-it!  One of the items that had not be finalized as we drove north was....where to stay that night.  We soon learned that there was a number of large summer events happening locally and almost all the lodging was gone!   But Mom called around and found a compelling option. Camp Perry, the National Guard training facility, and one of the top public shooting ranges in the US, had an opening despite the National shooting event taking place. 

We had to get there quick to get checked-in before dark, get the key (a real one), and locate our.....concrete barracks. When we found rows of barracks open to the public, it reminded us of the vibe at the Indy 500 tailgate. The shooting events for the day were long over, and every barracks had a jolly group of souls circled up in lawn chairs, with a grill and cooler of good'ol American beer stationed in the middle (sadly, no pics). 

We quickly unloaded and headed to Cedar Point so the kids could hit the amusement park and Mom and Dad could do some exploring on their bikes.  

Mom and Dad had dinner at the "Bait House Brewery" 

One of the big events taking place on Sunday was IRONMAN Ohio.   Dad made the realization while there that one of our good friends was completing in it the next day.  They checked out the start and finish area, and called him with good luck wishes since it was doubtful we'd be done fishing in team to cheer him on.

When we returned to our barrack, it was well after dark and the lawn chairs and coolers were empty.  

Waking up at 5am wasn't tough.  God bless all those who serve in our military.  Hopefully the money Uncle Sam is saving with those blue plastic coated mattresses, is going to their health and wellness....

We packed up and headed to the marina to meet our captain.  

This was our second Great Lakes family fishing trip.  The first one was out of South Haven, MI (which Dad had organized 'cough') involved a captain who had a bad temper and smoked like a chimney, a mate who showed up an hour late with blood shot eyes, everyone seasick, and almost no fish to show for it. 

So the bar was low.  But when we met Captain, his first mate Sean, and a bonus guest mate, his Dad, we immediately knew Mom should arrange all future fishing trips;)

We snapped a couple pics and settled in for the 1-2 hour ride out to the walleye grounds in Lake Erie as the sun crested the horizon.

This is the part Dad gets to talk about his passion regarding the US conservation efforts. The restoration of the walleye population in Lake Erie is a significant environmental success story. While specific populations studies are obviously not available pre and early 20th century, there is good evidence the walleye of Lake Erie were abundant and a key source of food for indigenous peoples and us new comers from the east and north.
Then in the mid-20th century, walleye population in Lake Erie faced severe declines due to a combination of factors, including industrial pollution, habitat destruction, and overfishing. In response, a coordinated effort between the United States and Canada was launched.
In the 1970s and 1980s, these efforts began to show results. Key initiatives included stringent regulations on industrial pollution, leading to a dramatic improvement in water quality - a key factor for walleye which are mostly found in the northern, colder, cleaner waters. Moreover, fishery management practices were overhauled. These included imposing stricter fishing quotas and size limits to prevent overharvesting, along with more effective monitoring of the walleye population. Stocking programs were also introduced.
Today the lake was celebrated as a premier destination for walleye fishing and our captain shared multiple anecdotal stories of the changes he has witnessed. The Lake Erie walleye recovery is often cited as a model for how collaborative, science-based management can successfully restore and sustain a critical fishery.
Ok, enough on that, let's get to the actual fishing. The fishing technically was different from any Dad had conducted for walleyes. The captain and his mates, once to the fishing grounds, commenced putting out wide ranging planer boards to spread up to 8 lines out of the boat at one time.                 
It didn't take long and we were hooked up!

We trolled and caught fish almost non stop until 11:30am when we had reached our limited of 30 walleyes (6 per person). It was the largest cooler of walleye Dad had ever seen and he used to go to Canada for a week with Grandpa and Uncle Merlin. The largest was 27" and most were in the mid 20s (the lower slot is 15")

Unfortunately, due to our previous great Lake Experience, Katie had opted to 'Go Big' on the motion sickness medication this time...and by 10am, she was....... motionless....

We pulled in lines and started the 2+ hour trip home from the Canadian border at the center of the lake. Due to our limited barracks sleep, fast walleye action, and drone of the big diesel engines, Katie wasn't the only one down for the count on the way in.

Generally Dad loves to clean his own catch, but with 30 fish, one knife, and a long drive home yet ahead, he took the captain up on calling a local fish cleaning facility. A driver met us at the dock and took our fish away after we snapped a pic of our haul.

We went to the local catholic Church and and then headed to pick-up our fish. Unfortunately, it had been a good day for other boats, and there was a major delay. Seeing the sign as he entered the door to inquire on the delay, he politely said we would be back to check again in a couple hours...

The delay gave us time to find an outstanding ice cream spot nearby called Brown's Dairy Dock. We limited out on ice cream too.

We eventually picked up our fish as the sun was setting and started the four hour drive back to home, exhausted in that way you are after sun-up to sun-down adventure day. Anna and Dad packaged the fish for the freezer.
Our freezer is stocked with outstanding walleye and we are excited to be sharing when friends and family come to visit!