Fishing tournament fiasco

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show 

If you were on social media in the last month you no doubt got wind of the Lake Erie walleye tournament cheating scandal that involved a popular two-man fishing team from Cleveland and Hermitage, Pa. It received significant national print and electronic coverage as well, and rocked the competitive fishing world, at least in the Great Lakes. The two guys put lead fishing weights and filets from other fish into their walleyes before weigh-in, to boost their weights and win the first place $20,000 prize. Well, they got caught red-handed when the tournament organizer smelled something fishy and cut into their walleye, finding the illegal ballast. The situation quickly escalated when fellow competitors surrounded the cheaters, and the pair was fortunate that police we nearby and escorted them to their truck, or else they might’ve eaten some lead themselves from the surly crowd. By the time you read this, details are sure to have emerged and potential punishment leveled.

The reason I mention the fishing fiasco at all is that I am questioned at times for not covering fishing tournament news and results in my writing, such as this column, or on my weekly radio show, Buckeye Sportsman. That’s on purpose. I’m just not comfortable promoting an activity that personally rubs me the wrong way. Making my favorite pastime into a competition goes against why I started fishing in the first place as a kid. I grew up playing the traditional ball sports, was a decent athlete and enjoyed it for the most part. But competitive sports often left a bad taste in my mouth because that for me to win, someone else had to lose. They also required me to be go up against at least one other person to participate, and I enjoyed being by myself at times. So, I fished. Usually with a friend or family member, but often alone, by choice. I still do.     

When I saw the big money beginning to be offered by the tournaments on Lake Erie in recent years it bothered me even more. When two anglers died while participating in one such event, broadsided at night in late autumn by another competitor’s boat, it hit me hard. Would any of them have even been out in those conditions had there not been several thousand dollars in prize money involved? Likely not.

Now we have a pair of guys caught outright cheating, stealing prize money and accolades from their peers who fished fair and square. That doesn’t square with me, so I’ll continue to try to share the abundance positive outdoor news and leave it to others to cover tournament fishing.  

MWCD Lakes’ annual autumn drawdown

Speaking of fishing, millions of visitors enjoy the lakes of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) each season to enjoy outdoor recreation ranging from fishing and boating, to camping and hiking among a variety of other opportunities. While relaxing on the water or reeling in a big catch are obvious benefits of the lakes, the most important function of the MWCD is to mitigate flooding for the entire Muskingum Watershed region.  

To prepare for winter, on an annual basis the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) conducts annual temporary drawdown of the normal pool elevation of the lake levels. The drawdown allows for additional flood storage capacity needs during the winter thaw and spring rains and allows MWCD personnel to access near-shore areas for shoreline stabilization projects and other reservoir maintenance activities. Drawdown this autumn will begin in early November and the return to normal pool elevation will initiate in February. Normal pool elevations will be obtained in time for the next summer recreation season. 

The temporary 2022 – 2023 drawdown dates and lake levels are as follows: 

ReservoirNormal PoolWinter LevelTotal Drawdown (feet)Begin 2022 DrawdownRelease Duration (days)Suggested intermediate refill by March 15, 2023
Atwood928.00920.008.0November 1542926.00
Charles Mill997.00994.003.0November 1535995.00
Clendening898.00893.005.0November 135896.00
Leesville963.00955.008.0November 142961.00
Piedmont913.00908.005.0November 1535911.00
Pleasant Hill 1020.001014.006.0November 1421018.00
Seneca 832.20827.205.0November 1535830.20
Tappan 899.30893.306.0November 142897.30

Several hunting seasons open

Ohio’s Youth Small Game Season is open Oct 22-23 and Oct 29-30 statewide. Lake Erie Marsh Zone goose and duck hunting season is open Oct 15-30, while the North and South zone’s waterfowl hunting season is open from Oct 22-30. Visit wildohio.com for details.    

A small non-profit called Eriesponsible is helping keep Lake Erie free of trash. With the help of volunteers, Eriesponsible organizes regular cleanups across the Lake Erie shoreline at marinas, fishing piers, and on the water. In addition to cleaning up, Eriesponsible focuses on awareness and education about the health of the lake through programming in schools.

“Unfortunately we could clean until we’re blue in the face every day. And, if it’s 2,000 pounds a year we pull out, that’s really nothing compared to the 2 million plus pounds that get dumped into the Great Lakes every year,” said Director/President Joshua Dysktra.

But it’s a start. If you’re interested in volunteering, donating, or getting involved, visit: eriesponsible.org. 

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