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Published: Friday, 2/10/2006

Feltman loved Erie, modifying fishing lures

Jim Feltman, 72, avid angler and walleye-lure pioneer, died Saturday in his Toledo home, joining the late legends of Lake Erie sport fish annals.

A lifelong Toledo resident, Feltman's summetime base for many years was Channel Grove Marina at Marblehead-Lakeside, a gathering place for many of the charter fishing guides and anglers who spearheaded the resurgence of the western Lake Erie walleye fishery.

Jim was one of The Originals, if that is what you would call such Erie sportfishing pioneers as the late Jim Fofrich Sr. and Lowell Wodrich, among others. And he did it all from a wheelchair, which he used since being injured in an accident at age 24.

"He was handicapped and made the best of his situation," said his wife, Lucille, who in the golden days was better known at the Channel Grove docks as Lucy. "A lot of his friends helped him - he would go on his scooter and fish. He was very active."

Jim took a classic, basic Lake Erie walleye-lure design - the weight-forward spinner - and modified it to his tastes with dorsal and ventral fins and a blunt, arrowhead-like lead body on a wire shaft. Most of The Originals each took a shot at customizing the weight-forward design.

Feltman called his the Reef Runner, after his boat's name, and it soon became popular because it tracked and fished well - and caught walleye.

"The boat was the Reef Runner because he liked fishing the reefs," said Lucy.

Jim's lures now are among a host of designs from blade baits to crankbaits offered by Scott Stecher, who operates the Reef Runner Tackle Company at Marblehead.

Jerry Abele, a fishing guide and waterman from Lakeside who is among the veterans at Channel Grove, noted Feltman's dedication to the cause of conserving the lake and its fisheries.

"He was one of the guys that fought for this lake forever."

Frank Lawecki, who served as president of the former Lake Erie Sport Fishermen, a sportfishing activitist group, had high praise for Feltman, who was an LESF board member "for as long as LESF existed." The organization was founded around 1975 and continued into the late 1980s.

"We got 127 through, and that was big," said Lawecki about the famous bill that banned deadly commercial gillnets from Ohio waters of Lake Erie. Feltman joined others on many lobbying trip to Columbus - "before buildings were handicapped accessible," Lawecki said. "We had to carry him up the stairs in his wheelchair."

Among other accomplishments, for which Feltman could take credit for was making a fisherman out of former Gov. Richard Celeste. He skippered Celeste at one of the annual Governor's Fish Ohio Days, which are held to promote Erie walleye fishing. After that first trip, the governor often called Feltman and asked to go fishing. Feltman never turned him down.

"He contributed a lot. He never made any excuses," said Lawecki about his friend. Which is a fine way to remember any man.

Services were Wednesday. Memorial contributions can be made to the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Cormorant comment deadline - The deadline for filing public comments on the draft environmental assessment on double-crested cormorant management on Lake Erie is Feb. 16.

Copies of the plan can be downloaded from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Web site at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/MidwestBird/cormorants.htm. Written comments can be mailed to: USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services, 6929 American Pkwy., Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068. The telephone is 614-861-6087 and the fax number is 614-861-9018. Faxed comments should be backed up with a mailing of written comments.

Hawk-eyes needed - Volunteers are needed by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory to staff a hawk-watch from March through mid-May as part of a research project monitoring spring migration of raptors, or birds of prey.

Training sessions, including tips on raptor identification, are set as follows:

Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m., Macomber Lodge, Pearson Metropark, State Rt. 2, Oregon.

Feb. 25, 9 to 11:30 a.m., Knight Preserve Nature Center, Perrysburg.

To register e-mail bsbobird@thirdplanet.net or call Julie Shieldcastle at 419-898-4070.

African safaris - Stan Burger, a professional hunter, and his wife, Jacqueline, a tour guide, are scheduled to host an open meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. about big-game hunting, photographic safaris, and touring in South Africa. The meeting is set for the Albon Inn Again on Airport Highway. For details call Michael Thourot at 419-533-6832.

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