Forgive Chris Martin if he goes all Zen on you when describing his business.
The owner of River Lures in beautiful Grand Rapids, Ohio, can’t help himself when it comes time to describe the peaceful adventure that awaits on the big, broad Maumee River that courses through Indiana before dumping into Lake Erie.
“What I preach all summer long is that I’m selling peace and serenity and what I’ve gathered over the years is that people really need it,” he said. “The river is quiet and it only goes one direction. You can’t go back, so you might as well enjoy it.”
Northwest Ohio doesn’t have the rolling hills like those in central Ohio, the rugged Applachian glacier cuts like the ones in the southeast, and forested regions like the ones that blanket the northeast corner of the state.
But we’ve got water, lots and lots of water. With Lake Erie to the north and the Maumee plowing through a big chunk of the area, the region is blessed with two mainstays of outdoor adventure. Toss in the sprawling Oak Openings Preserve Metropark and its vast array of unique species and plant life, and you’ve got a wonderful weekend of boating, hiking, and bike adventures.
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■ Lake Erie
Don McGee is drawn to the lake the way some people gravitate toward a job or hobby. He’s in his late 50s and has been charter fishing on Lake Erie since 1981.
“I bought a boat before I bought a car. I’m just that kind of a person,” he said.
He is one of about 500 licensed captains who take everyone from hard-core anglers to inexperienced weekend casters out on the water throughout the boating season, which starts in the spring and goes to the fall.
“I get people who come in with the fanciest equipment and understand the principles of fishing and I get people who walk in with high heels and dress shoes,” he said. “Our job is to just teach them to understand what we need to get done and what to get accomplished.”
McGee’s King and Eye Charters is about 10 miles east of Toledo in Curtice at Meinke Marina. He takes boat loads of up to six people out at a time. Expect to be on the water for six to seven hours and spend about $100 a person for the day to rent the boat and receive the captain’s expertise on fishing the lake.
But don’t worry, if you don’t know what you’re doing, Mr. McGee will take it easy on you.
“I’m not a tyrant who’s going to stand over you with a club telling you what to do,” he said. “It’s your day and I get people who don’t fish. They just sit down and enjoy the breeze.”
The fishing is mainly for walleye and perch, which you can keep up to your limit, but other fish such as catfish and steelheads are caught for sport and tossed back into the water. You can buy a one-day fishing license either online or at a bait store for $11.
It’s not guaranteed that you’ll catch any fish, but a good captain will know the lake well enough to make it highly likely, Mr. McGee said.
A Google search for Lake Erie fishing charters will yield a lot of results. Mr. McGee’s phone number is 419-277-4787.
■ Maumee River
Mr. Martin has owned River Lures in picturesque Grand Rapids for nine years. The village is a destination in itself, with antique shops, arts stores, and good restaurants. He has grown the business to 80 watercraft, including kayaks, canoes, and pontoon boats.
The Maumee starts in Fort Wayne, Ind., and works its way north through towns and villages such as Defiance, Waterville, Antwerp, Perrysburg, and Maumee before plowing through downtown Toledo, which is about 25 miles northeast of Grand Rapids.
Mr. Martin said wildlife abounds along the river and said he’s seen various kinds of turtles, water fowl such as ducks, egrets, and herons, raccoons, deer, and coyotes. Perhaps coolest of all are the bald eagles that have aeries along the Maumee and that feed in the water.
“It’s unbelievable what a great resource we have here and a lot of sections are remote,” he said.
River Lures has six, nine, 11, and 13-mile runs that range from two to five hours. You start in Grand Rapids and then disembark and are driven back. New this year on the six-mile trip is the chance to get out of the river and exchange your canoe or kayak for a bike that can be ridden back to Grand Rapids on a bike path.
Costs range from $20 to $35 a person and there is a canal where folks can receive lessons for $10 on kayaking or operating a stand-up board. There are some mild rapids in the river, but nothing dangerous, and if the water level drops below two feet, River Lures does not put boats in the water.
River Lures, 23416 Front St., in Grand Rapids, also rents fishing equipment because walleye fishing especially is popular on the Maumee and the water is often low enough that you can stand in the river and fish.
Its Web site is www.riverlures.com and the phone number is 419-832-0989.
■ Oak Openings
While in northwest Ohio, if you have the time, peel off for a hike at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, which is in the southwest corner of Lucas County near the airport and not too far from Grand Rapids.
It’s a great place for bird watchers and its expansive hiking trails easily absorb the thousands of people who use the park each year. Much of the terrain is sandy, but some of the trails are lined with ferns and are almost primeval in appearance. Within the park the terrain ranges from oak savanna to woodland to prairie.
The park also has a long bike trail running through it, more than 20 miles of hiking trails, including one designated for people riding horses, and this also is an excellent place to give your dog a good, long satisfying walk.
Its address is 4139 Girdham Rd., and the Web address is www.metroparkstoledo.com.
Contact Rod Lockwood at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6159.