When Lake Erie Charter Captains Meet

  • Trolling, Casting?
  • Stickbaits or Live Bait?
  • Depth, Direction, Lure Details and GPS Numbers
Choosing the right lure, the right color, right size are key to success. Charters Captains have a virtual tackle shop aboard their fishing rigs. Forrest Fisher photo

The sky doesn’t fall in when charter captains meet, but secrets may be shared and debated. If you were a fly on the wall, you might want to be there. The knowledge of professional fishing guides and Great Lakes charter captains is one of those fishing resource elements that all who fish yearn to know more about – the guides know so many details.

They understand the important elements of water depth, wind direction, forage location and related changes, fishing line – type and strength, rods – length and action, reels – level wind or spinning, boat gear – safety first, landing nets – handle length and hoop size, cooler efficiency – Orion long-life coolers, live wells, sonar – Hummingbird and Lowrance, GPS, diving planes – Dipsey divers and Pink Lady’s and so many more, downrigger balls and releases – Black’s releases or Cannon or Big Jon or others, leader materials – Fluorocarbon or doesn’t it matter? How many are a gazillion things to know? These guys know all the not-so-little things.

When professional fishing guides and charter captains sit down together for great food and kinship at a 5-star facility such as Peak’N Peak Resort and Spa, do they share fishing secrets? You can ask ‘em! From left to right, Captain Frank Shoenacher – Infinity Charters, Gene Pauszek – Dunkirk Observer News, Captain Joan Erhardt & Captain Lance Erhardt – Sassafras Charters, musky guide – Captain Larry Jones, Captain Dan and Mrs. Korzenski – Hooked-Up Charters, and Captain Roger and Mrs. Corlett – 89 Surprise Charters. Forrest Fisher photo

Charter captains live to fish every day. They understand the pedigree of changes where they fish and believe it or not, most of them that catch fish all the time, share their effective fish-catching details with other trusted charter captains. Why? So that they are all in the winning column when they return to the dock with paying customers. That’s where the final score is decided.

Well-equipped fishing rigs are the standard for professional charter captains and guides where safety and fishing success is the objective every day. Forrest Fisher photo

Winning on the water means return trips in the future, extra tips at the dock and maybe even a Christmas card with a Tim Horton’s gift card in there. Paying customers are those folks that usually have little time to fish – but love to fish, and they have no time at all for learning the fishery and the gear, and all those things that matter so they don’t waste time looking for fish. When they are ready to try their luck, these folks NEED charter captains that know. They are willing to pay extra for that privilege and if you figure it all out, it may be way less expensive to simply fish with a good charter captain than on your own if time and money are a limitation for you.

It costs more to fish on your own, takes longer to learn all the necessary things to know, but its fun doing that too.

My last new boat, motor and trailer was list priced at $48,000. That’s not counting such necessary gear as sonar, rods, reels, line/lures, leaders, snap-swivels, etc. It’s a long and pricey list. At that price, I could take 3 charter trips of $500 each about three times a year, fill my freezer and do that for about 32 years and include a $100 tip at the dock for every good trip. That would result in a happy captain and I would probably get preferred status in the captain’s book when I call to go fishing.   Not a bad way to go right?

Steve Geertsen (Clam Outdoors), with a whopper walleye caught near Dunkirk Harbor, Chautauqua County, New York. Forrest Fisher photo

Where I live, Captain Lance Erhardt and the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (ELECBA) share information among themselves and their clients when it makes sense to do that. All fishermen have secrets, some things are special and some things are top-secret, like where they store the toilet paper when you really need it. The charter captains are always good for a few laughs.

When New York Outdoor News editor, Steve Piatt, fished with Erhardt and first mate, Zen Olow last week Piatt said, “We had such a good time, we laughed, we had lots of hook-ups, caught multiple species – especially walleye, and best of all, when we returned to the dock, we smelled pretty fishy! I think that’s the goal!” Not everybody does.

ELECBA has top captains that are drug tested prior to membership, first mates too, and so clients know things are on the up and up. Clients like that.

When the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW) and the New York State Outdoor Writers Association (NYSOWA) met in Chautauqua County (New York) at Peek’N Peak Resort and Spa in mid-September (2016), ELECBA was the organization that provided the large group with the opportunity to learn about Eastern Basin Lake Erie fishing and catching opportunities. They excelled in their task. Camera shutters and video cam’s clicked for several days in a row and it was exciting for these visitors to experience fishing success like they did because they can spread the information across their respective communication links – newspapers, television, radio and website blogs. That means economic impact in a positive manner for the future.

Our fishing/communicator team of Dave Mull (Midwest Outdoors), Steve Geertsen (President of Clam Outdoors) and myself, fished with Captain Roger Corlett aboard his 31-foot Sea Ray, with first mate, Dennis Gullo, to catch seven walleye, a surprise pink salmon, a feisty steelhead, some hard-fighting sheepshead and a few giant silver bass.

All this in less than 4-hours on the water. Photo opportunities! I took 350 pictures! Dave Mull video’d several catches. One of our walleye measured 29-3/4 inches and neared the 10-pound mark, another was 28-1/4 inches and 9 pounds, and the other walleye were not little fish. That’s a freezer full.

Captain Roger Corlett has sore arms from Eastern Lake Erie walleye near Dunkirk Harbor. Forrest Fisher photo

The next day we shared the best problem, sore shoulders, hot coffee and no complaints. Dave Mull was mulling for a while that he lost a giant walleye that could have been a new state record, the fish was a monster – but slipped away. Do we wanna return? We left warm wishes for that with a $100 friendship tip. What fun!

We learned about setting diving planes, multiple line deployment tactics, lure selection options and why, and depths to fish.

The best deal is not when charter captains meet, the best deal is when you meet with the charter captains. Pass the word and get out there to learn more about where you like to fish when you get to fish on your own. Do it the hands on way with a charter captain or guide that is a professional and knows the ropes.

Here are a few of the Great Lakes Charter Captain’s from Dunkirk that I had a chance to meet over the conference, there are many more, and you can contact Captain Lance Erhardt (see below) for a complete list:

Tight lines!