By Larry S. Moore
The Lake Erie morning was dawning very cold. A strong “nor-easter” had blown through the lake for the previous couple of days. Experience told me the lake will be stained with the walleye blown and scattered. It was not the kind of weather one hoped for on a Lake Erie fishing trip. Especially when that trip involved family members new to the “Walleye Capitol of the World.”
Joining me were son Trent, his wife Edna and their daughter Eva. While Edna had been perch fishing once, granddaughter Eva had never fished the big lake. She is an experienced fisherwoman on the small lakes and ponds of southwestern Ohio where she has caught many crappie, bass and bluegill.
Eva, awoke early, bounded into breakfast wide-eyed and giggling with the excitement of a ten-year old. She could hardly believe the largeness of Lake Erie and she had only seen a small portion from the window of a hotel! I knew she was in for quite an experience and wished the weather was cooperating. Lake Erie is not controlled by our desires.
When making these trips you hope the lake will be good to you but you take what it gives. Still I remained optimistic. The major reason for optimism is the experience of the Charter Captains chosen for this trip. Today would test their knowledge and experience and, within a few hours, we would know the outcome of that decision.
So, with my granddaughter still wide-eyed and bouncing with excitement, we headed to Lakefront Marina. We arrived at the boat, the Betty Jane, just as a brilliant sun was crested above the horizon of Lake Erie. She sat at the dock shimmering in the sunrise and appearing as excited for the trip as my granddaughter. Although the shore temperature was still in the thirties, that big globe was a welcome sight especially after the recent storms.
Choosing a Charter Captain is an important decision. I think many people choose captains two ways. The best is from a personal recommendation. The other choice, too many times, is picking someone from the internet because they have the open date the customer wants. We chose Two Bills LLC from personal knowledge. Bill Wood Jr and Sr comprise Two Bills LLC. My son and I have worked with Wood Jr setting up my smaller boat. We’ve exchanged notes, experiences and the equipment needed. During that process, we got to know each other’s Lake Erie experience and fishing techniques. We both knew what to expect and that is important for both sides.
There are good reasons to book a charter trip on Lake Erie. Obviously this trip was to introduce a couple of the ladies to walleye fishing. A charter captain increases the odds that the trip will be successful. While they can’t guarantee success, a good captain will have the equipment and the experience needed for the best chances. Two Bills LLC offered that combination. Bill Wood Jr and his father, Bill Sr, have over fifty years combined experience fishing Lake Erie.
They work as a team to utilize that experience to the best advantage of the customer. Of course, they also have the other charter captains from the marina to share information. All this helps to target the best potential locations to find fish. The equipment comes into play for both a comfortable day fishing and a safe day should the lake turn ugly. Of course the objective is that great day returning with a cooler full of walleye to be cleaned.
The Betty Jane, is a 28-foot Baja Cruiser hardtop. This is one of the work horse fishing boats well laid out to accommodate six fishermen plus the two captains. The boat is clean and equipped with plenty of storage, electronics for communications, navigation and fish finding. As required, they have all the Coast Guard required safety equipment. They also gave us the required briefing which is seems some captains occasionally skip. While the boat can be used for drifting fishing and casting, we were trolling.
Bill Wood, Jr. explains, “We mainly troll. You can’t get any real numbers of fish drifting now. The lake is so much cleaner and fishing has changed. You have to get the baits away from the boat. Trolling increases the odds of catching fish by getting the lures out and covering more water. I want to do what gives my clients the best opportunity to put fish in the cooler and have a memorable Lake Erie trip.”
Wood explained the trolling techniques, “Trolling requires specific knowledge of the rods, type of baits and use of planer boards. The proper combination of equipment is required to place the baits at the necessary depth where the walleye are either suspended or very close to the bottom.” The trolling was done with the large or big-board planers. Each side of the boat had six lines out at various depths. Wood has the boat laid out with each rod holder numbered or lettered.
This permits quick reference when a fish is on plus it aids in setting each line to the correct depth. He involved all of us in the process both explaining his system and allowing us to assist with the fishing experience. Captains, or their mate, normally net the fish for the client. So as the ladies got their first fish, Wood became the coach carefully explaining to them how to handle the rod to ensure the fish doesn’t get off. His instructions were outstanding and, with a little luck, we didn’t lose any fish.
Shouts of encouragement, smiles, and sometime giggles of excitement were the rule of our day. While we didn’t quite get our limit, we had plenty of fish to show for our trip. Back at the fish-cleaning house we learned how fortunate we were. Ours was the largest catch of the day at least at this fish cleaner. That speaks to the experience of Wood team.
My son and I had already measured the day as a huge success, simply based on the smiles. My greatest satisfaction was watching granddaughter Eva and daughter-in-law Edna catch fish. The excitement finally took its toll and Eva crashed on the way back to the dock.
Thanks to Two Bills LLC for helping introduce the new fisherwomen to Lake Erie. Their efforts made it a great family experience. More information about charters with Two Bills LLC can be found on face book or by calling 937-248-6334.
Larry Moore is a Greene County resident and long-time outdoor columnist.