Frank L. “Baldy” Reynolds, Jr., owner for 50 years of a Lake Erie commercial fishing business, one of the last in the state, who remained on guard against regulatory and environmental threats, died Thursday in St. Charles Hospital. He was 77.
He’d had a heart attack and kidney failure, his wife, Shirley, said. A longtime Oregon resident, he lived most recently at the Lutheran Home in East Toledo. He last went out on a fishing boat in June, 2011, said his son Todd, who now operates Reynolds Fisheries.
Since the early 1960s, Mr. Reynolds and at least one other boat of his fished Lake Erie for yellow perch, white perch, white bass, whitefish, catfish, buffalo fish, and sheepshead.
He had been a design engineer for Dana Corp., Rowe Industries, and Tillotson Manufacturing Co.
“His dad was a commercial fisherman,” his daughter Cindy said. “He always fished, and so when his dad died, he decided, ‘I can’t punch a clock. I’m not that type of person.’ And he started building up Reynolds Fisheries.”
Each boat went out with a crew of four, and he often recruited Clay High School football players who wanted a summer workout, his daughter said.
“He put to work every kid in our neighborhood between Harbor View and Oregon,” his daughter said.
His customers, generally fish processors, came from Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ontario. He brought the fish home, his daughter said, “and big semis would roll in late at night and take it away, all iced down.”
He worried even as he lay ill about the harm caused by algae in the lake. For years, he battled regulations — through lobbying and filing lawsuits — that he believed favored sports fishing over those who fished for a living.
“There is not one state in the U.S. where you can buy American-caught walleye,” Mr. Reynolds told The Blade in 2007. “It has to come from Canada, because the states of Ohio and Michigan have decided that it’s more economically viable for them for sports fishermen to take them than commercial fishermen.”
He also was a persistent critic of FirstEnergy and its Bay Shore power plant, where large numbers of fish died around its water intake.
“He was strong-headed,” his daughter said. “He was a tough, stern cookie. He knew everything about the lake. People would call him and ask him all the time about Lake Erie.”
Mr. Reynolds formerly led the Ohio Fish Producers Association and was a member of Lake Erie Water Keepers. He had few hobbies. He spent winters mending nets and getting his boats ready for the season. He had an interest in renewable energy, and he liked to read about electric cars and wind turbines.
He was a dog lover, though, and he had an eye for strays.
“He’d have to keep them all,” his daughter said. “And they rode with him on the van and went out on the boat with him.”
He was born Dec. 23, 1935, to Martha and Frank L. Reynolds. He was a 1953 graduate of Clay High School. Afterward, he attended Bowling Green State University and took correspondence courses.
Surviving are his wife, Shirley, whom he married in July, 1956; daughters, Pam Reynolds and Cindy Basden; sons, Mark and Todd Reynolds; sister, Dorothea Besgrove; nine grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday in the Freck Funeral Home, Oregon, where services are scheduled to be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
The family suggests tributes to the Toledo Area Humane Society, Maumee, or a charity of the donor’s choice.