Saturday, September 15, 2018

State says Lake Erie's 2018 walleye and yellow perch recruitment both outstanding

The following is a straight-up press release from the Ohio Division of Wildlife that states its work demonstrates an exceptional hatch of both Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch this past spring.

These fish should begin entering the system as legal-to-keep fish in about two years. Perhaps the lingering question is the status of Lake Erie's forage base: The stuff these fish will eat as they grow up. With an all ready strong population of mature walleye at least, the health of Lake Erie's forage base becomes ever important.

Anyway, here is the Wildlife Division's take on this year's Lake Erie walleye and perch recruitment.

"COLUMBUS, OH – Early data gathered by wildlife agencies in the western basin of Lake Erie indicate great news for Ohio anglers, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The 2018 walleye hatch appears to be exceptional, the second highest in the history of the Ohio survey, and the yellow perch hatch was strong, well above its long-term average.

"Each year in August, wildlife agencies from around the western basin of Lake Erie sample the waters using bottom trawls in search of young-of-the-year walleye and yellow perch, with biologists from the ODNR Division of Wildlife conducting bottom trawls at nearly 40 sampling locations.

"Data from these bottom trawl surveys are combined into a basin-wide index, and fisheries biologists compare the figures to previous years to estimate the success of the walleye and yellow perch hatches. These data provide biologists with an initial estimate of how many young fish will enter the fishable population two years later.

"The ODNR Division of Wildlife’s 2018 August trawl survey found 112 walleye per hectare. This is the second highest value on record and far above the 20-year average of 27 walleye per hectare in Ohio waters of the western basin. This year’s outstanding hatch combined with the excellent 2015 year-class will ensure an abundance of young walleye to complement the older and larger fish that make up the current Lake Erie walleye population.

"The ODNR Division of Wildlife’s August western basin trawl survey found the 2018 yellow perch hatch to be very good at 511 yellow perch per hectare. This is above the 20-year average of 316 yellow perch per hectare in Ohio waters of the western basin. This above average yellow perch hatch should help bolster the yellow perch population in the western basin and maintain quality yellow perch fishing.

"Initial reports from bottom trawl surveys conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in Ontario waters of the western basin showed similar results, with walleye catches well above average and strong yellow perch catches. During the upcoming months,

"Ohio and Ontario bottom trawl data will be combined to estimate the basin-wide hatches of walleye and yellow perch. These estimates will be used in the process to determine jurisdictional quotas.

"Central basin trawl surveys in July and August are usually impacted by low oxygen conditions that cause young-of-the-year fish to school or concentrate in nearshore areas.

"Estimates for the central basin will be available from the September trawl surveys after the data have been collected and analyzed."

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Ohio Division of Wildlife clarifies ambigous ODNR release on bringing back big game

An Ohio Department of Natural Resources press release omission could lead to confusion by Ohioans seeking to hunt big game in other states and then return with their trophies.

This uncertainty stems from a jumbled August 31st news release by the Natural Resources Department regarding new regulations intended to help curtail the spread of chronic wasting disease in Ohio’s white-tail deer herd.

While the rules focus in some measure on deer-kill reporting requirements in two Ohio counties where CWD was found in captive deer, the release also spends some time on what Ohio big-game hunters traveling out of state may do – and not do – in transporting their harvest back into the state.

No person is permitted to bring or transport high-risk carcass parts of CWD-susceptible species into Ohio from any state or Canadian province, regardless of the CWD status of the exporting jurisdiction. Additional information on carcass regulations can be found at”

However, the issue is that the release does not specify which “parts,” nor does the reference link offer much in the way of an easy detouring route to an explanation. Such an important omission could be – and has been – construed to mean that a hunter returning to Ohio cannot bring back venison or a trophy head of a deer, moose, elk, caribou, or pronghorn antelope taken in a state known to be a venue of the highly contagious CWD.

That annotation now falls to the Ohio Division of Wildlife. In detailing what a successful Ohio hunter who traveled out of state can bring back the agency says that effective this past August 31st, returning Ohio hunters “must bone out the meat before returning to the state with an elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, caribou, or moose.”

Also, only the following parts may be brought into Ohio, says the Wildlife Division:

Meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached;

Meat that is boned out, securely and completely wrapped either commercially or privately;

Cleaned hides with no heads attached;

Skull plates that have been cleaned of all meat and brain tissue;

Antlers with no meat or tissue attached;

Cleaned upper canine teeth;

Hides and capes without any part of the head or lymph nodes attached; or

Finished taxidermy mounts.
hese restrictions and requirements largely follow those of most every other state in what a hunter returning home have to follow.

John Windau – Wildlife Division spokesman – said his agency will be issuing additional information on this subject; a particularly vital one considering that the big-game hunting seasons elsewhere have all ready begun, particularly in the West.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lake Erie water levels begin slow seasonal descent; still well above average

Lake Erie’s water level is showing its typical seasonal drop though it remains near the record highs seen 32 years ago.

The Ohio Division of Geological Survey’s monthly water inventory report for July – the latest month available – says Lake Erie’s water level “declined in July” and was a minuscule 0.23 feet lower than in June.

Even so, the lake’s water level is still 1.64 feet above the long-term average and 4.36 feet above the so-called “low water datum.” It is also only inches from tying the high water levels seen in 1986 and early 1987.

Lake Erie likewise is 0.04 feet higher than it was in July, 2017, the Geological Survey Division’s hydrologist Scott C. Kirk said in the latest water inventory report.

In favor of a continued seasonal decline is that the Survey notes how both the Lake Erie and Great Lakes watershed basins saw below average precipitation during July. Traditionally, Lake Erie’s water level peaks during June, July and August once Upper Great Lakes’ snow melt arrives, and falls during the winter. These water levels begin to climb again by April.

Not that Lake Erie anglers and boaters have begun noticing much difference in water level changes, however.

“It’s been high all year,” said John Windau of Upper Sandusky and a frequent Lake Erie perch and walleye angler. “But I really haven’t noticed much difference, but then I haven’t been out as much lately, either.”

Yet Lake Erie anglers like Windau can anticipate excessively high water levels “for the foreseeable future,” said the Geological Survey Division and quoting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Deviations from the anticipated weather patterns could result in the level of Lake Erie ranging from four inches to as much as 25 inches above the normal seasonal average,” says the Geological Survey Division’s report for July.

The monthly report also says that while precipitation was below normal for July throughout most of the state, the to-date precipitation totals for 2018 is above normal almost everywhere. This surplus – again, as of July – ranged from 1.26 in the Southeast Region to 9.63 inches in the Northwest Region. Ohio is broken down into 10 meteorological regions for the purpose of rainfall and other other scientific data collection purposes.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

U.S. Coast Guard issues Marine Safety Alert on potential radio interference by LED lighting

I’d like to say this came from extensive research but that would make me appear more studious to this issue than I really am. Still, if you are a boater this potentially important stuff; that is, if you have LED lighting, a VHS marine radio and something called AIS.

In any event, here’s the release from the BoatUS Foundation, which obtained a Marine Safety Alert from the U.S. Coast Guard that first discovered the potential problem:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. With their low battery draw, cooler operation and sturdy construction, LED lights have been popular with recreational boaters. The lights may also be causing poor VHF radio and Automatic Identification System (AIS) reception, according to a Marine Safety Alert issued by the U.S. Coast Guard on August 15.

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is urging boat owners to follow the Coast Guard’s simple test procedures for LED interference and report any instances to the Coast Guard Navigation Center.

The alert, issued for informational purposes, outlines reports received from mariners concerning radio frequency interference caused by LED lamps that “were found to create potential safety hazards.”

In some cases, the Coast Guard says, the interference may cause problems if mariners need to call for help. The interference can affect VHF voice communications as well as Digital Selective Calling (DSC) messages, and it may also affect AIS because they also use VHF radio. In particular, masthead LED navigation lights on sailboats may cause problems due to their close proximity to antennas.

The Coast Guard advises that it is possible to test for the presence of LED interference by using the following procedures:
  1. Turn off LED light(s).
  2. Tune the VHF radio to a quiet channel (for example, channel 13).
  3. Adjust the VHF radio’s squelch control until the radio outputs audio noise.
  4. Re-adjust the VHF radio’s squelch control until the audio noise is quiet, only slightly above the noise threshold.
  5. Turn on the LED light(s).
If the radio now outputs audio noise, then the LED lights are causing interference and it is likely that both shipboard VHF marine radio and AIS reception are being degraded by LED lighting.

Potential solutions include contacting an electronics repair facility to address the problem, changing the LED bulb to incandescent bulb or fixture, or increasing the separation between the LED light and antenna.

The Coast Guard also requests those experiencing this problem to report their experiences to the Coast Guard Navigation Center by selecting “Maritime Telecommunications” on the subject drop-down list, then briefly describing the make and model of LED lighting and radios affected, the distance from lighting to any antennas and radios affected, and any other information that may help them understand the scope of the problem.

If you’d like to learn more about VHF DSC radio or AIS operation, BoatUS Foundation has online courses and a free DSC VHF tutorial at

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Sunday, September 2, 2018

UPDATE/ODNR denies saying its document states Ohio Division of Wildlife on cusp of merger

An internal Ohio Department of Natural Resources electronically obtained a document copy from multiple sources indicates that the agency intends to merge the Ohio Division of Wildlife with a sibling division; likely the Ohio Division of Forestry.

The document also states that Natural Resources Department Assistant Director/Division of Parks and Watercraft acting chief Gary Obermiller will retire October 31st.

This document was prepared August 30th and was written following a Natural Resources Department in-house meeting.

For its part the Natural Resources Department denies that any merger of the Wildlife Division with any other sister division is planned, now or later.

The division of wildlife is not merging with any other divisions. The notes referencing that were taken out of context when referring to what other states have done. There is no merger,” said Natural Resources Department spokesman Matt Eiselstein.

However, the document’s specifics do not reference any other state and are quite plain, stating: “We will be merging with Wildlife at some point in the future.”

Forestry has come under close scrutiny under the Kasich Administration and the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly. Critics have charged an indifference exists from each political entity, the general points being that both the Administration and the state legislature have bled Forestry of General Revenue funds, have failed to adequately maintain a stable and efficient work force, have sought to expand recreational usage by off-road enthusiasts on state forest lands, have disbanded its specifically applied commissioned officers, have engaged in questionable logging operations, have conducted questionable burns at some areas, among other issues.

Similarly, Wildlife Division commissioned officers were ordered a few months ago to disengage from conducting law enforcement operations on state forests except for those that are hunting or fishing related or if they involve a felony matter.

As for Obermiller, the assistant director will leave his post October 31st, or one week before the November 6th general mid-term election. That is when Ohioans will choose either Democrat Richard Cordray or Republican Mike DeWine as the next governor of the state.

It is a widely held thought throughout Ohio’s outdoors community that either DeWine or Cordray will almost certainly make sweeping changes to virtually all agencies within the executive branch, including replacing the leadership of the Natural Resources Department. So much so that several appointed and ranking officials of both the Department and the Wildlife Division have said they fully expect to be out of a job when a new governor is installed January 14th, 2019.

Eielselstein says that Obermiller has 30-plus years of service with the state and “could have already retired.”

No formal announcement has been made about his retirement.,” Eislestein said.

The document also appears to take note of the long-held opinion by critics outside and within the agency that the Natural Resources Department is suffering from internal discord. It states that employees should “have a positive attitude, don’t be a cancer.” and “If you don’t like things the way things are going, then be the one to change it.”

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Lake Erie's deadly boating season

Lake Erie’s prominence as a great place set sail and catch fish is being seen as a chief mitigating factor leading to a boating season more deadly than in any of at least the past five years.

Yet almost lost in the equation is how some marine law enforcement officials see how a five-year-old law has hogtied a desire to crack down on unsafe and illegal boating practices.

To date, Ohio has recorded eight Lake Erie-associated boating-related fatalities. That number compares to six for all of 2017. In fact, the number of such similar fatalities generally have been ramping up: in 2013 the total figure for Lake Erie-associated boating-related fatalities was three – a number that fell to two in 2014. However, that deadly tally climbed back to three in 2015 and again rose in 2016 – this time to four.

It is this growth in boating-related fatalities that most alarms local, state and federal waterways safety official, even as the boating season is starting to wind down. As late as August 25th, a boating-related drowning occurred off the Mentor Lagoons in Lake County. As of this writing the victim’s body has not yet been recovered.

Brett Trump - a lieutenant with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Parks and Watercraft with responsibilities for the Island area – believes that increased boating activity is naturally helping to drive a rise in the number of boating-related fatalities and accidents, called “incidents” in official speak.

And this growth in boating activity has some signature in the sprouting of more anglers chasing down an abundant population of fish, Trump says.

I think it’s that and also because we’ve had a lot of good weather, including an awful lot of hot days, that have resulted in more people boating,” Trump says. “That certainly has been a factor.”

So, too, Trump says, is that this year (and perhaps also because of the hot weather) more boaters seem to be jumping off their boats and into the water in order to cool off.

They’re not wearing life jackets or else they’re not anchoring their boats, which are drifting off off,” he said.

As well, Watercraft officers are seeing more “no wake” violations, which potentially puts other recreational water users at risk, says Trump.

Not being seeing as much anymore, however, are vessels striking breakwaters or boats running into each other. Each of these types of incidents have proven deadly in the past, says Trump.

We have seen, though, some unusual fatalities the past couple of years like the couple that was overcome by carbon monoxide and the young man that was electrocuted dockside,” Trump said.

Yet at least one community-based law enforcement agency with a Lake Erie marine presence suggests there exists another underlying contributor to boating incidents and even fatalities. That altruist being a state law that now prohibits marine-associated law enforcement officers from conducting random stops and boat checks on the water without probable cause.

This law – known as the “Boater Freedom Act” - was signed by Ohio Governor John Kasich in 2013.

I would definitely say there’s a correlation there, and if we could make stops and on-water boat checks without first needing probable cause it would absolutely be helpful,” said Frank Leonbruno, chief deputy for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.

Leonbruno is in charge of the Department’s 12-person seasonal marine patrol program which operates out of the Grand River.

While a more legally active law enforcement role would be useful in helping to put a check on boating-related fatalities, Leonbruno – himself a Lake Erie angler – said the seemingly increased number of walleye fishers does not appear to be a factor in driving up boating-related incidents. At least off Lake County where yellow perch fishing is more of a boating activity engine, says Leonbruno.

We are just now seeing more perch fishermen around ‘the Hump,’” said Leonbruno, identifying the go-to perch-fishing destination off the Grand River.

It is perhaps telling as well that boaters elsewhere across the Great Lakes likewise have been demonstrating less than stellar boating behavior this summer, a Coast Guard official says.

It’s interesting because at the start of the boating season our activity was fairly normal; maybe even a little below average,” said Mike Baron.

Baron is the civilian Recreational Boating Safety Specialist for the Cleveland-based Coast Guard Ninth District, which is responsible for 47 stations on all five of the Great Lakes.

But recently there’s been an uptick on all the Great Lakes but especially on Lake Erie,” Baron said. “Maybe it’s a matter that as the boating season is winding down people are trying to get in as much time on the water as they can.”

Baron said the Great Lakes are something of a unique boating venue, too. Of the 12 million registered pleasure boats across the country, fully one-third of them call the Great Lakes their home port.

That means even though the Coast Guard’s Seventh District – largely comprised of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico – have an equal number of registered pleasure boats its boating season is a 12-month affair. Not so the Great Lakes where boaters storm the waters fast and furiously for only a few months and not always safely, says Baron.

Baron said too that the Coast Guard’s Ninth District is seeing an increasing number of paddle sport vessel incidents along with those pleasure boats under 26 feet. Both classes represent growing market shares which has translated into increased boating activity that has resulted in keeping the Coast Guard’s assets around the Great Lakes at peak demand.

There’s an awful lot going on here,” he said.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, August 20, 2018

Sen. Portman's Lake Erie round table focuses on positives but shuns wind farm controversary

The problems with Lake Erie did not start yesterday and they won’t be resolved overnight.” - Leonard Hubert, Ohio Executive Director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

OAK HARBOR: An annual “round table-style” presentation by Ohio’s junior U.S. Senator Rob Portman on August 10th largely focused on the positive that government is doing to protect and enhance Lake Erie’s water quality.

In doing so, Portman and several other round table presenters said, the lake’s commercial, recreational, fisheries, and agricultural components all will benefit – a belief that a rising tide does float all ships. The forum was held at Green Cove Condominiums, just west of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant.

“We are now seeing the government and industry are finally working together,” Portman said in his opening remarks to about 50 nearly all Lake Erie Western Basin stakeholders.

Those remarks came about following the efforts of both entities to look for ways to keep so-called microbeads from entering Lake Erie, which in turn contaminate its waters. Microbeads are plastic objects smaller than than a maximum of one millimeter in diameter, and which are sloughed off from a variety of everyday products and thereby are potentially harmful to any living thing that absorbs or eats them, intentionally or otherwise.

“It’s been an important success story,” Portman said.

So too, says Portman, are the bipartisan efforts to hammer in place a better and larger Farm Bill. Those efforts include versions that have passed in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the US. Senate with a joint reconciliation group designated to fine-tune a measure that will be given to President Trump for his approving pen stroke, Portman said.

“It has more money earmarked for conservation that ever before,” Portman said of at least the Senate’s Farm Bill version. “That is also important because we can better (fiscally) work with the people who have to deal with these water quality issues on a daily basis like county soil and water conservation districts.”

Portman and Ohio Environmental Agency director Craig W. Butler tag-teamed the federal and state government’s successful browbeating and lawsuit threatening actions directed at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That process was undertaken to terminate the Corps’ annual dumping of dredged material removed from riverine shipping channels into Lake Erie’s open waters.

As a result, speakers at the federal and state levels said their respective administrative handlers “now have a good working relationship with the Corps.” That essential work-day ethic cannot be minimized, either, speakers said, given that about 20 million cubic yards of sediments are dredged annually from Ohio’s Lake Erie tributaries where such operations are conducted.

The key now, said also several of the round table speakers, is finding a place where this muck, sand, mud and soil can find a new home and perhaps become a valuable and coveted commodity.

Karl Gebhardt, the Ohio EPA’s deputy director, added that new strategies developed at helping the toxic algal blooms at Grand Lake St. Marys are going to find applications in the Maumee River. The Maumee is the chief culprit of nitrogen-bearing contamination into Lake Erie and for which the various harmful fisheries, human health, and tourism-defeating issues take up front page space every summer.

“The object is to reduce the influx of such nutrients into Lake Erie,” Gebhardt said.

Chiming in as well was Ohio State Representative Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton, who said that a $36 million segment has been added to the state budget and specifically allocated for designated Lake Erie projects. Included in the funding’s shopping cart is money to help upgrade scientific equipment at the Ohio Sea Grant’s Stone Laboratory at Put-in-Bay, a facility dedicated on Lake Erie research.

Among the account’s other designated funding is $20 million for nutrient reduction work along with $3.5 million to be channeled for county soil and water conservation districts.

“That’s (all) actually a significant amount of money,” Arndt said.

However, not everything was addressed in such glowing words. Left out of the positive equation was any commitment to help resolve the high-profile/deeply dividing subject of placing electricity generating stations and massive wind farms both along the Lake Erie shoreline as well as in the lake itself.

Portman pretty much passed the buck by saying that the question is not a federal one, but, rather, a “local and state issue.”

Likewise, Frank Szollosi, manager of the National Wildlife Federation’s Regional Outreach Campaign, said his group “has not taken a position on it;” the “it” being Lake Erie-based wind-powered electricity-generating units.

In the end, though, said Portman, there have been more positives and gains this past year than negatives and steps back.

“We’re lucky to have such good partners like Ohio Sea Grant and the Ohio EPA,” said Portman.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn