Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ohio's Wildlfie Division and anglers become target of electronic phishing

Ohio’s anglers themselves have become the targeted catch by spammers looking to snag on-line customers.

The fraudulent sales pitch – called “phishing” in computer geek speak – is coming from a private enterprise that wants the state’s anglers to sign up for a tablet or smart-phone app. The app is being labeled “Pro Angler” and even includes the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife’s official logo.

You're invited to download our new Ohio DNR regulations and fishing app, The Pro Angler Fishing App. With over 60,000 GPS Fishing Spots, Weekly Local Reports, and detailed guide to catching fish in Ohio. See catches near you and around the state, view regulations, boat launches and more,” the unsolicited e-mail shouts, and signed by “The Pro Angler Team.”

Just one problem: There is no credible link between the self-described Pro Angler Team and the Wildlife Division.

In fact, one for-certain take away is that on the soliciting e-mail and next to the Wildlife Division’s logo – which the agency never gave The Pro Angler permission to use – is a graphic that include an image of a largemouth bass. Yet this graphic also features what appears to be a tuna as well as a mahi-mahi; both being salt-water species.

We’ve contacted our attorneys who are trying to reach out to these people,” said Wildlife Division spokesman John Windau. “It even has an official-looking (e-mail) address but it’s not us.”

Windau said the Wildlife Division has received a number of inquiries from Ohio anglers about the e-mail, these fishers noting that when the app is downloaded how legitimate information does appear. However, none of it is related to Ohio’s sport fishing, Windau said.

It’s not a virus or something like that, but the anglers who call us are saying there’s really nothing about Ohio fishing,” Windau said.

Windau said that the agency does have to deal with phishing scams from time to time, though this particular instance the matter is a bit “unusual.”

When such electronic solicitations do occur it is always best to simply put the e-mail into the device’s “spam” folder.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, August 16, 2019

Details coming into focus on Morelet's (Mexican) crocodile showing up in Ohio stream

A crocodile is not something one encounters everyday in the United States, let alone along a small stream in Ohio’s Preble County near the state line with Indiana.

Yet on August 14th the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s officer assigned to the county – Brad Turner – responded to a call that a crocodilian animal was swimming in tiny Brantis Fork Creek near the also small town of West Alexandria.

Turner was notified of the animal’s appearance near a local church camp following a report made by a group leader who was with a number of children. The wildlife officer shot the creature “for public safety,” said Brett Gates, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The Agriculture Department became involved because it is this state body that oversees Ohio’s dangerous wild animal permitting law. This measure was enacted in 2014 following the intentional release of a host of dangerous big-game animals in north-central Ohio.

It is the Agriculture Department which issues permits to entities for possessing specifically named wildlife which are considered dangerous, among them being crocodiles. In all, the Agriculture Department has currently on file 38 dangerous wild animal permits, Gates said.

Gates said the 7 1/2-foot long, 171-pound crocodile was delivered to the Agriculture Department on August 15th. Its carcass was subsequently destroyed via the agency’s bio-rendering equipment.

We wanted to see if the animal was micro-chipped or was otherwise marked in such a way as to identify its owner,” Gate said. “But we also wanted to see what kind of crocodile it was.”

Using various crocodilian identification markers, the Agriculture Department staff concluded the now-deceased animal was a Morelet’s crocodile, also called a Mexican crocodile. This species is native to mostly fresh-water environments across a small swath of Central America that includes Belize and Guatemala and into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Morelet’s crocodiles have also been introduced into the Rio Grande. It is closely related to both the environmentally “vulnerable” listed American crocodile and the “critically threatened” listed Cuban crocodile though the Morlet is considered a species of “least concern.”

And at 7 ½ feet the Bantis Fork Morelet crocodile exceeds the species average length of 6.9 feet while its weight of 171 pounds is considerably much heavier than a wild specimen’s average weight of 84 to 128 pounds.

As for food preferences, the Bantis Fork Creek Morelet crocodile would have found much to its liking, prefering everything from fish to small mammals to birds and reptiles. Opportunistic, Morelets also are known to attack and eat domestic dogs and cats, while incidents of specimens attacking cattle and humans likewise are recorded.

This is one reason why have the dangerous wild animal law,” Gates said.

Gates said the Agriculture Department is working with local law enforcement to try and discover who was the owner of the crocodile and thus to secure information regarding how and why the animal either got away or was released.

Violating Ohio dangerous wild animal law is a misdemeanor of the first degree on a first offense and a felony of the fifth degree on each subsequent offense. A misdemeanor of the first degree In Ohio is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both, and other potential assessments. A felony of the fifth degree is punishable by up to six to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Leeches getting a grip on Lake Erie's Central Basin walleye

Anglers are not the only ones basking in the glory of the walleye gold rush in Lake Erie’s Central Basin.

So too are leeches, parasitic invertebrates that Central Basin anglers who are dragging their rigs close to the lake’s silt-sand and mud bottom are encountering. This is where the leeches live, unable to swim. Here, a leech finds a walleye the perfect place to seek attachment and fulfill its blood meal needs.

Just which species of leech is being found remains something of a minor mystery, however. There is scant scientific data on the subject: and not much more in the way of speculation.

And given that scientists say there could be from 700 to as many as 1,000 leech species worldwide, that leaves some margin of error in determining which one is finding Lake Erie walleye the perfect host.

One known, though, is that the leeches almost certainly do not harm their walleye hosts. More importantly, the leeches do not threaten people’s health when eating the prized fish.

What is understood also is that as the summer heated up and the water temperature rose, the walleye started to hug the bottom. It was than Central Basin fishers also began encountering leeches of one-half to as long as one inch in length.

Most of these leeches were being found at the bottom of ice chests, the creatures having left their respective hosts once the walleyes were deposited into the containers.

The last time (fishing pal) Larry and I cleaned our fish we must have had eight or 10 leeches on the bottom of the cooler. When I pulled one loose it went for my finger,” said Bob Ashley of Mentor.

Ashley typically fishes for walleye off Lake County’s Mentor Lagoons. He and his fishing buddy were employing directional divers set to allow their attached lures to move just above the lake’s floor in about 40 to 45 feet of water, Ashley said.

None of the gullets of any cleaned walleye showed the fish were feasting on the leeches, however, Ashley added.

Marv DeGreen of Huntsburg Township and captain of Evil Eye charters, operates out of the Grand River and said his parties also encountered leeches. But that was earlier in the year when the operation was plying shallower water, DeGreen said.

We’re now running out to 70 and 72 feet of water so we’re not seeing the leeches any more,” DeGreen said.

Scientists with both the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Sea Grant Agency say because of certain factors they are not terribly surprised that leeches are being found in shallow water, though the experience is not particularly well documented.

A 1994 paper noted incidence of a particular leech species attached to Lake Erie Western Basin freshwater drum. This report was prepared by Michael T. Bur, then with the National Biological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan and provided by Ohio Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist Tim Bader with the agency’s Fairport Harbor Research Station.

Bur’s report stated the appearance of the leeches appeared to be associated with three factors. Among them were “above-average water temperatures” that could have sparked increased leech activity; increased water clarity making it easier for leeches to locate their respective host; and an aggressive drum collection program that may have brought on more observations.

Yet not much else is stashed in scientific literature, a detail noted by Bader, Wildlife Division Lake Erie fisheries supervisor Travis Hartman, as well as Kristen M. DeVanna Fussell, the Ohio Sea Grant program’s assistant director of administration and research.

DeVanna Fussell said that while leeches may be common in Lake Erie and most often – when encountered – seen on freshwater drum, they are parasitic invertebrates. Thus if a leech can locate a large enough host it will attach itself for a blood meal before dislocating itself, not harming the fish, the scientist said.

My first thought is that the increased occurrence on walleye is really just due to current densities of the fish. Leeches are opportunistic, and now there are just more walleye for them to attach to,” DeVanna Fussell said.

That is a point that both Bader and Hartman are suggesting with equal accord.

I wouldn’t say it’s common occurrence, but there are a lot more walleye out there for the leeches to find,” Hartman said.

Then, too, DeVanna Fussell says, “there is more than enough decomposing organic matter at the bottom of the lake that I bet leech populations are also doing really well.”

As for concerns about whether a walleye that attracts one or more leeches is safe to eat, all three scientists were likewise in one accord.

No, they’re perfectly fine to eat,” Bader said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, August 12, 2019

Annual Lake Erie status meeting shows progress and pitfalls

(Note: Corrected Jeff Reutter's name)

LAKELINE VILLAGE – Rob Portman, Ohio’s junior senator, brought his annual Lake Erie status roadshow August 10th to this Lake County Village where 90 minutes worth of discussion showed what good was being accomplished on the watershed’s behalf.

And how how much work still awaits.

Joining Portman for this year’s forum was U.S. Representative David Joyce (R-14).

Portman holds an annual round-table discussion on Lake Erie, bringing together local, state and federal government officials, representatives of Lake Erie-designated special interest groups, and other watershed stakeholders. This year’s confab was scrunched into tiny Lakeline Village’s equally minuscule town hall; the village being at 0.09 square miles with a population of only 225 people the smallest community in Ohio’s smallest county.

The program was intended to serve as much as a listening post for the two elected officials as it did a soapbox for presenting their own thoughts.

“We’ve developed good partnerships, and I believe there are a lot of good ideas out there,” Portman said. “This way we can be more successful.”

Portman than rattled off some of those partnership-associated accomplishments; ones that always have proven best when accomplished in a bipartisan way, the senator said.

Found on Portman’s list of objectives accomplished was the re-authorization of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This Congressionally approved plan – which also featured support from Ohio’s senior senator Sherrod Brown and other Democratic colleagues – will see funding in the neighborhood of $300 million annually, rising to $475 million in Fiscal Year 2026, Portman acknowledged.

Portman expounded on this commitment by noting as well his authorship of a measure that will seek to address the harmful impact of algal blooms. These explosive outbursts of nutrient-consuming single-cell organisms are brought about each summer by the residue of fertilizers channeled into Lake Erie’s watersheds via run-off.

“We need to focus our attention like a laser” on this subject, not only on Lake Erie but throughout Ohio, Portman said, explaining how the issue has taken front-burner attention regardless of the state’s geographic location.

Yet Jeff Reutter, retired head of the Ohio Sea Grant program and now with The Nature Conservancy’s Ohio unit, pointed out the problem is a long-lasting one. He illustrated this longevity by saying that while the deluge of heavy rains of late seriously cut into the numbers of farm fields being planted, the resulting precipitation run-off allowed for a greater leeching of fertilizer into the Lake Erie basin.

In effect, Reutter said, “we have not seen any meaningful change” in the nutrient loading of the Lake Erie watershed.

“You’ll be bleeding huge amounts of fertilizers from these fields for years,” Reutter said.

Portman and others attending the conference pointed out also the multi-faceted and on-going issue of plastic contamination into Lake Erie. Everything from discarded plastic bags and other products to plastic microbeads are negatively impacting the lake, said the attendees.

On that score, emerging technologies are being developed to help address this subject in water delivery and recycling systems, said several speakers as well.

Even so, cautionary yellow lights flashed during the 90-minute presentation, too.

Kelly Frey – Ottawa County’s sanitary engineer – explained that all corrective and mitigation plans must demonstrate in some measurable way their successes.

“There has to be a uniform approach for the public to understand it all,” Frey said.

Crystal C. Davis, Policy Director for the Alliance for the Great Lake Lakes, could not agree more. Only by engaging the public in a proactive manner can success be achieved, especially since the people are the lake’s chief and most vital constituency, Davis said.

“There must be more people at the table and more importantly, they have to have a greater voice at that table,” Davis said.

If for no other reason, both Portman and Joyce also said, than because all of these initiatives, programs, projects, ideas and proposals cost dollars. Lots and lots of dollars, they admitted.

And considering the federal budget covers more than just environmental issues, neither Great Lakes residents and their elected officials can afford to become complaisant or silent, Joyce and Portman each stated.

“We have to keep going back and fighting for every dollar during each budget just like every other legislator in this country does for their projects,” Joyce said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, August 9, 2019

Even after amending, Ohio's three-rod proposal is still seriously flawed

Once again, the Ohio Division of Wildlife does not get it.

While the agency (correctly) is proposing is to allow anglers to use up to three fishing lines per person on Lake Erie the measure also would permit such use on the Ohio River, since those states permit angers to employ a trio of lines.

This amendment to include the Ohio River and its tributaries to the first dam was made August 8th and presented to the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council. It is this body that will have the final say on October 9th, though I am not holding my breath the eight individuals will do the right thing and retain the two-rod rule for shore fishing only.

So far so good, but now comes to bad.

The Wildlife Division continues to have an uncanny inability to look at the problems that almost certainly will arise with allowing shore anglers to use up to three poles per person. As has been noted here previously, such an allowance very possibly – no probably – will grant one, two or three individuals the ability to dominate public piers, docks, breakwaters riverfront access sites and other choice locations where good fishing and high pressure angling areas all ready currently exist.

Such dominance is common in places like Florida. Here, an angler or two can – and actually, do – control favored angling outposts.

For the Wildlife Division to ignore such examples and proceed with an idea that will shut-out shore-restricted fishers clearly is an insult to common sense and the agency’s stated desire to provide fishing access for people of all economic and social status.

=- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Ohio's three-rod rule change would unfairly snag shore anglers

Ohio’s latest effort to project recreational angling regulations into the 21st century is taking a two-steps forward but one-step back approach.

At hand is a proposal by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to up the number of fishing outfits an angler can use at one time. This increase would raise the allowance from two poles to three poles. In effect, the regulatory change would match what the state now permits at 16,349-acre Pymatuning Reservoir – a detail mandated since Pennsylvania was enlightened enough a few years back to allow the use of more fishing rigs.

Ohio had to go along with that change because it shares a portion of Pymatuning Reservoir with Pennsylvania. Thus it makes sense if Pennsylvania allows up to three outfits per person than so should Ohio.

Yet elsewhere in Ohio the state forbids anglers from using more than two rods per person. That rule does not sit well with crappie anglers who want to “spider-rig” their fishing boats: Vessels that are equipped with a device that can hold a multiple number of fishing outfits that are swept in an arc across the bow of the craft. Such a set-up permits an angler to employ different baits at different depths and consequently, enabling the fisher to best utilize his or her angling resources.

Two poles per person simply fails to address the crappie angler’s desires. Importantly, an increase in the fishing outfit allowance would not harm the resource. That logic is because a limit of crappies is still a limit of crappies whether two rods per person is employed or three poles per angler is used.

Much the same is true for the Lake Erie troller. Here, the situation is magnified, in fact. With 3,568 square miles of fishable water at their disposal, Ohio’s anglers have a lot state-designated territory to cover. And also depth in order to locate hungry fish.

That means experimenting with different types of lures, trolling speeds, line distances employed, and support equipment on the order to planer boards, directional and in-line divers, downriggers and such.

Lake Erie anglers have long sought an expansion of the clearly out-dated two-rod rule, too. More than a few Lake Erie anglers continue to flaunt this rule also, these fishers willing to risk a citation from Wildlife Division officers. The rule and the citations are -not surprisingly - often viewed with chicken-scratch disdain.

No question the proposal is a good one, but is one that goes too far. The problem would come about by allowing a shore-based angler to use three poles instead of the current two outfits. Such an increase poses a very real threat as to how a few anglers – or even one – could dominate a choice stretch of a public fishing pier, breakwater, jetty or riverfront section.

I can think of any number of places such a likelihood is not only plausible but almost certain. Among them would be a couple of short sections on the lower Grand and Chagrin rivers where private property owners allow public access, and at Lake Metroparks’ Grand River Landing in Fairport Harbor which has become a go-to destination for catfish anglers.

Similar limitations very possibly will be encountered in downtown Cleveland with the Cleveland Metroparks various shore-based angler access points. No doubt the same will be seen to the east and west of Cleveland and Lake County, as well.

And I have encountered such issues in Florida where my wife and I spend several weeks each winter. There, we hit several public fishing piers in search of salt-water favorites. We often have to arrive early, however, for the simple reason that Florida’s liberal allowance of fishing outfit use can leave little or no space for other anglers.

So, yes, while Ohio’s jettisoning of the two-rod rule and the move toward a three-rod rule is a wise decision, clearly it is also a case of too much of a good thing being, well, a bad thing.

Best go back to the drawing board, Oho Division of Wildlife, and make a design change. One that won’t leave shore anglers high, dry and with no elbow room to fish.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Jeffrey L.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Lake Metroparks (Ohio) again hosts county residents-only controlled archery deer hunts

Like an increasing number of county park districts and municipalities in Ohio, Lke Metroparks in Northeast Ohio hosts controlled archery deer hunts.

And as is the case for any number of these entities the hunts allow the use of archery tackle only and are open only to residents of either a respective county or city or village.

Lake Metroparks is no exception.

That being said, registration for Lake Metroparks 2019-2020 Controlled Hunt Program lottery is currently open and will be available through Tuesday, August 20, 2019.

Lottery results will be posted August 22, 2019. For more information about the program and a link to register for the lottery online see the agency’s web site at

If you need assistance registering for the lottery please contact Lake Metroparks Registration Department at 440-358-7275.

If you have questions about the Controlled Hunt Program, please contact the Natural Resources Department at 440-639-7275, extension 1875.

Participation in the 2019-2020 controlled, archery-only hunt will be limited to Lake County residents or business owners 18 years of age or older only.

Interested eligible applicants are required to apply.

Lake Metroparks employees and immediate family members residing within the employee's household are not eligible.

For the 2019-2020 Controlled Hunt Program, archery hunting will take place at River Road Park in Madison Township, Indian Point Park in Leroy Township, Lake Erie Bluffs in Perry Township and Hell Hollow Wilderness Area in Leroy Township.

Assignment to a particular hunting time and location is dependent upon the order in which an applicant’s number is drawn in the lottery.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn