By Jane Beathard
Gov. John Kasich caught two walleye and a potential new business for the state during the 34th Fish Ohio Day, held July 11 in Port Clinton.
The event is sponsored annually by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, Lake Erie Shores and Islands West and the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association to promote tourism in the region.
Kasich was on board Capt. Don “Buffalo” Lowther’s Osprey Fishing Charters when he hooked the walleye and received a cell phone call from a company looking to relocate in the Buckeye State.
“We may have caught a company,” Kasich joked at the post-fishing luncheon.
As the 2011 charter captain of the year, Lowther played host to the governor, other state officials and Kasich’s special guest, former U.S. Sen. George Voinovich.
The weather was better than the fishing for the 150 travel and outdoor writers, business leaders and state and local officials who registered for the event. They boarded an armada of 19 charter boats for a day of fun in Lake Erie’s Western Basin — dubbed by the late Gov. James Rhodes as the world’s “Walleye Capital.”
Fish Ohio Day provided Kasich a platform for boosting Ohio’s $800 million sport fishing and $10 billion tourism industries.
He said recently signed legislation (Senate Bill 314) will add to the state’s tourism budget and help Ohio compete with Michigan for travel dollars.
“We have a new program to promote Ohio tourism,” Kasich said.
Lake Erie water quality and diversions were other topics on Kasich’s mind at Fish Ohio Day. He said lessons learned in controlling phosphorus runoff and toxic blue-green algae into Grand Lake St. Marys will guide similar efforts at Lake Erie.
“We told farmers (in northwest Ohio) they had to get with the program,” Kasich said. “We are committed to cleaning up the lake.”
Last year, Kasich bowed to pressure from environmental and sportsmen’s groups, vetoing legislation that allowed industries and municipalities on the lake to siphon large amounts of its water from its depths.
“The ‘take’ was too great,” Kasich said.
He noted Ohio is also working with other Lake Erie states and Canada to better manage walleye populations and allocate catch rates.
Cabinet directors James Zehringer, Scott Nally and Dave Daniels were on hand to reinforce Kasich’s messages.
Zehringer, the director of natural resources, said Ohio’s future is tied to Lake Erie.
“As Lake Erie goes, so goes the state,” Zehringer said.
Agriculture director Daniels promised a solution to the algae problems in both Grand Lake and Lake Erie.
“We’ll come up with a solution to insure water quality,” Daniels said.
Nally said his Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is currently partnering with Battelle, Wright State University, Heidelberg University, Stone Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey and some charter captains to sample water from Lake Erie and its tributaries.
A sampling network will measure changes in water quality as the state implements clean-up practices, Nally said.
Fish Ohio Day festivities ended with Kasich’s signature on an executive order that prohibits drilling for oil and gas in and under Lake Erie. A federal ban on drilling is already in place.