PORT CLINTON — Gov. John Kasich pledged that he is “completely, totally, 100 percent committed” to Lake Erie and that he wants to see the lake and its attributes promoted aggressively.
“What we have here is just magnificent,” he said about the lake in a rapid-fire, somewhat disjointed address during an equally rapid-fire visit to the 33rd annual Governor’s Fish Ohio Day in Port Clinton on Monday.
He began the day in Columbus unveiling his Jobs Ohio program, then flew here mid morning, several hours after Fish Ohio Day’s 15-boat fleet of 87 officials, dignitaries, and media left the dock for a morning’s walleye fishing. He quickly boarded skipper Rick Dunlap’s boat at East Harbor for a short fishing excursion, during which he said he landed two sheepshead, or freshwater drum, but no walleye.
“I could have just stayed out there,” the apparently time-pressed governor said. After his remarks and a brief visit with attendees, Kasich was off to Sandusky for a mid-afternoon visit to a senior citizen center and discussion of Medicaid reform. Then he said he was off to Cleveland Wednesday to discuss a plan to reduce the numbers of inmates in state prisons.
At Fish Ohio Day the governor hammered at the need to step up promotion of Ohio tourism and take commercial advantage of the lake, both among nonresidents and residents alike. At one point he even said that the state “never has taken good advantage of this lake.”
Among other things he said that a continued influx of invasive species must be prevented, this in an apparent reference to the much-dreaded threat of Asian carp, which are poised at Chicago to enter Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River watershed via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal network.
He made a brief reference to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its electrical barriers against the carp at Chicago, but admitted: “I’m not an expert. George Voinovich tells me it won’t work.” The latter was a reference to the just-retired U.S. Senator and former governor from Ohio, long a champion of Erie and the other Great Lakes.
“We don’t want anything to come into this lake and destroy this lake,” Kasich stated. He touched briefly on the issue of the Corps of Engineers’ “dumping and dredging,” presumably of the Toledo Ship Channel and other commercial waterways. “We have to figure out better ways to take care of this,” the governor said.
Earlier he noted “having a little success” at the 13,000-acre Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio, the state’s largest inland lake, which has been devastated by toxic algae blooms fueled by phosphorus farm fertilizer, manure runoff, and populations of undesirable “rough fish.”
A treatment program at Grand Lake St. Marys, the governor said, may help show the way for combating similar algae blooms in Lake Erie. He said he wants to “invest the resources to make sure the lake is in a good position.”
He added that it is “a high, high priority” to maximize commercialization of business on Lake Erie, citing among other things tax credits for small businesses dealing with fisheries. In the same breath he took credit for “plugging an $8 billion hole [in the state budget] without tax increases,” thanks also to his “partners in the Legislature.”
Another former Ohio governor, Robert Taft, does not think much of the current State Legislature’s plan to draw more water from Lake Erie for commercial benefit, beyond bounds set in the interstate Great Lakes Water Compact. But that, too, has been ignored by the current administration and lawmakers.
Still, Kasich said, “just let us know how you feel; it’s important.”
Early in his address the governor noted how he had been meeting since before his election with the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, representing some 200 charter fishing skippers, and he continues to do so now.
After the address, Rick Unger, LECBA president, wasn’t so sure about the effectiveness of the meetings with the governor so far. “He thinks solutions are happening, and I don’t see solutions happening.”
“We did get a rough start this spring with the bad weather,” said Bob Witt, owner of the 20-boat Sea Breeze fleet at Wild Wings Marina. It is billed as the state’s largest such charter fleet. Witt, who is the LECBA charter captain of the year, said he lost about 150 trips to bad weather in April and the first half of May.
“But things are going good now.” He expressed hope that fishermen in-state and away would get the message that some good fishing news has arrived.
Fish Ohio Day is sponsored by the Ohio Division of Wildlife and its parent Department of Natural Resources, LECBA, whose skippers donate boats and guidance, the Ohio tourism agency, and Lake Erie Shores & Islands.
Contact Steve Pollick at: email@example.com or 419-724-6068.