Wednesday, May 23, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Matt Markey


Fishing bounty in Ohio and Michigan a pretty easy sell

OBJECTBoth Ohio and Michigan are aware that great fishing is a wonderful marketing tool. Not good — great.

They want to share their precious piscine resources with the largest pool of humanity possible, so the two states employ a proven promotional tool — the free sample.

Maybe you normally wouldn’t wander too far from the vanilla and chocolate case, but if the young lady at the ice cream shop gives you a teeny, tiny scoop of that pistachio almond, you might just opt for a double scoop. The same principle is at work here.

Ohio and Michigan both offer “free fishing days” — a period when you don’t need a license to fish the lake, the river, the reservoir or the pond. In this sales pitch, there’s no bait and switch. It’s bait and catch, repeatedly.

Ohio’s free fishing days are Saturday and Sunday, so for the coming weekend, any Ohio resident may fish in the public waters of the state, including Lake Erie and the Ohio River, without needing to buy a fishing license.

Michigan is so sold on its product, and so convinced that a taste test will lead to a sale, that it offers two free fishing weekends. The first was held in February, and the second free fishing extravaganza is set for June 7-8.

Ohio put the “Free Fishing Days” program in place in 1993. The state estimates that 1.3 million people fish Ohio each year. For the remainder of the year, anyone age 16 and older is required to have a fishing license in order to take fish, frogs or turtles in Ohio’s waters. An annual license costs $19 for Ohio residents.

Michigan schedules its summer free fishing weekend to coincide with “National Fishing and Boating Week” in the first week of June. The summer free fishing days in Michigan take place June 7-8.

There are two important points surrounding the free fishing weekends that every potential test-drive angler in Ohio and Michigan should be aware of: 1. while the fishing is free, all of the fishing rules and regulations apply, in both states; 2. Michigan’s free fishing days are available to both residents and out-of-state visitors, while Ohio’s free fishing days are open to Ohio residents only.

Michigan’s winter free fishing days were a huge hit, either thanks to the weather, or in spite of the weather, depending on your perspective. The extreme cold provided close to ideal ice throughout most of the state, and a number of fishing derbies, winter festivals and introduction to fishing programs took place, attracting more than 3,100 people.

Ohioans taking part in this weekend’s free fishing days will have the good fortune of wetting a line in what is widely considered the best time of the year to catch a wide variety of species. Anglers will still be bringing in spring spawning run walleyes from the Maumee and Sandusky rivers, while the fun, fast and furious run of white bass is beginning to get some momentum.

The crappie fishing should be excellent in the brushy shoreline areas of rivers, streams and inland lakes, and around the structure in marinas. Steelhead are in a cooperative mood in the rivers in the northeast part of the state, while on Lake Erie, anglers are catching some of the largest walleyes of the season, either by jig fishing in the reef areas, or by trolling large crankbaits at very slow speeds.

Elsewhere in the state, the striped bass fishing on the Ohio River is an exhilarating experience for any angler, and it has its addictive qualities. There are also numerous inland lakes and reservoirs stocked with yellow perch and saugeye, and some have yearly plants of rainbow trout.

In Michigan, the free fishing days open the door to a huge range of options, including muskie fishing on the Detroit River, working the bays and near-shore areas of Lake St. Clair for spawning bluegills, and taking advantage of the trout fishing season, which opened Saturday and made the more than 1,500 rivers and streams in the state potential fishing grounds for anglers.

In case the prospective new anglers need a variety of locations to consider, Michigan boasts more than 3,000 miles of shoreline on four Great Lakes, as well as some 11,000 inland lakes, and more than 12,000 miles of trout streams and rivers.

SAFE BOATING WEEK: As the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year, it will continue its vital public education efforts, and mark the period of May 17-23 as "Safe Boating Week." There will be information booths in operation, and Boating Vessel Safety checks to help prepare boaters for a safe Lake Erie boating season. For more information contact Terry Cleary at 419-367-0222 at email address.

BLACK SWAMP TEAM: The Black Swamp Junior Rifle Team won the North Eastern U.S. Regional competition recently, setting a national record with its score. The team had the top qualifying score among some 300 teams that took part in tournaments nationwide, and will move on to the national championship event, to be held at Camp Perry on the last weekend in June. The Black Swamp Junior Rifle Team members are: Sarah Sutton from Oak Harbor High School, Justin Kleinhans from Oak Harbor Junior High, Ian Foos from Bellevue High School, and Sean Roehrs from Northview.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: or 419-724-6068.

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