WILMINGTON — A stiff north wind greeted the participants at the first Governor’s Inland Fish Ohio Day at Cowan Lake. The boat captains agreed it wasn’t the favorite wind but were thankful it wasn’t an east wind. The temperature was perfect. Spirits were lifted as a beautiful rainbow appeared over the south shore of the lake. We took it as a good omen for a great day. We were not to be disappointed.
Participants included Governor DeWine, family members, ODNR Director Mertz and her husband, Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker, Senator Joe Uecker and his wife Patti, along with a host of others. Director Mertz is no stranger to Cowan Lake as she often sailed on the lake in her youth. The morning started with a wonderful spread of fruit and pastries plus coffee provided by The Friends of Cowan Lake. It certainly ensured we all had a good breakfast before heading out to fish.
The fishing was lead by Governor DeWine with assistance from several of his children and grandchildren. They all proved to be no strangers to fishing poles and catching fish. More on that later. Governor DeWine has long enjoyed fishing going back to the farm ponds of his youth. Some elected officials talk about the wonderful resources of Ohio but Governor DeWine is anxious to showcase them. He has often been at Lake Erie where the Mike DeWine Center for Coastal Wetland Studies is located near the eastern shore of the Old Woman Creek Estuary and nature preserve.
The captains were all experienced fishermen with some targeting bass while most were after the crappie and bluegill that populate the lake in large numbers. I was one of the boat captains and my guests, which happened to be ODNR Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker and ODNR consultant Mike Budzik agreed crappie is the name of our game. I hadn’t fished the lake since late April but decided to start where I left off. The fifteen boats, which include three pontoons donated by Taylor’s South Shore Marina, soon headed out with the forty or so guides and participants.
Several guides, who shall remain nameless, had pre-fished on Friday to target their “honey holes”. As soon as the boat assignments were completed and the guests on board, we headed out. I immediately noticed the captain for the Governor’s pontoon heading to the same north shore cove that I wanted to fish. I’m not sure if a 9.9 horsepower limit lake and a pontoon boat can pull a hole shot but he certainly beat me there. I normally stop not far inside the mouth of the cove and work back. He went straight to the back, and dropped anchor. We soon heard the laughter and yelling of fish being caught complete with squeals of delight from the Governor’s grandchildren. We knew it was game on for them. We picked up a few fish but soon moved one cove to the west. Others were casting for bass working the shorelines which offer plenty of structure.
We made a good team catching our share of crappie and one white bass. Most were the typical 8 to 10-inch crappie with an occasional larger fish. Budzik was a great cheerleader and especially delighted when one went into the live well. I wasn’t aware he was also a fortune teller, although no crystal ball was required. With each fish he proclaimed, “I see fry mix in your future”. He was certainly correct as everyone enjoyed not only the catch of the day but also some donated walleye after fishing.
The boats returned before noon and anticipation was high to see who caught what variety of fish along with the largest fish of several species. Anglers caught about 200 fish over the course of the morning. The two largest fish of the day were sixteen inches, One a channel catfish and the other a largemouth bass. The Governor’s grandson, Steven Dudukovich, age 6, caught the largest channel catfish, while our own Anna Bolton caught the largest bluegill of the day. ODNR Director Mertz had the largest crappie and Senator Joe Uecker’s wife, Patti, had the largest white bass. Interestingly enough no saugeye, which is one of the popular stocked species at the lake, were taken.
ODNR Director Mertz commented, “I caught some fish and had a great time. Ohio is such a wonderful place to live. Our state offers families hundreds of lakes where they can spend a day relaxing, fishing, sailing, kayaking, or canoeing. Our inland lakes offer so much, and no matter where you are, there is a lake close to you!”
She added her concerns after observing some canoeists on the lake without life jackets, “I believe in safety first. There was a pretty good wind today. There were canoes out in the lake who had some difficulty returning to dock. I was a bit concerned and was glad our officers were on the lake to tow them back. You never know when something may come up and you are always safer with a PFD.”
The Governor, who caught his share of fish, noted, “We had a great day fishing at Cowan Lake. It was a beautiful day on the water. In Ohio, we have world-class opportunities for boating and fishing, not only on Lake Erie, but also on our inland lakes, like Cowan Lake. The ODNR folks can tell you about the fish populations. We want to highlight opportunities for families to fish and spend time together at our inland lakes this summer. It’s a great opportunity for people to get outdoors and have fun. That’s what we did today enjoying our natural resources!”
Larry Moore is a local resident and long-time outdoor columnist.