When Bill Trump’s “Anonymous” (440-983-7203) fishing boat returned to Geneva State Park Marina three hours early, no one gave the arrival much attention.
Neither did they pay any never-mind when the other nine participating Lake Erie charters each returned well within the Governor’s Fish Ohio Day franchise’s Central Basin episode’s 1 p.m. must-be-back time requirement.
This is – after all – the Walleye Capital of the World’s true White House, something I’ve said before.
And in truth the late, former Ohio Governor James A Rhodes would be happy and proud. Rhodes was the master angling showman who coined the indulgently correct “Walleye Capital of World” moniker.
Rhodes made his comment during the first-ever Governor’s Fish Ohio Day several decades back, and I heard him repeat it during the event’s second or third replay; all of them held around Port Clinton.
Somehow, though, it took all the way to current Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to recognize there are more fish stories to made than those exclusively assembled from outings on Lake Erie. Just as DeWine understands the Earth and Lake Erie do not end east of Sandusky.
Consequently, DeWine decreed there shall be Fish Ohio light both inland as well as the lake’s Central Basin, though the latter was actually begun by his predecessor, John Kasich.
So the minions in his office and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources expanded transforming the idea into a multi-faceted agenda that included - for this year - fishing 692-acre Cowan Lake in Clinton County for bass and panfish.
Oh, and Lake Erie in autumn, but off Ashtabula County’s Geneva State Park instead of the Islands.
While I cannot speak for the Cowan Lake event since I was not there, I will take the word of several outdoors writing friends who were, and who said the event was carried along on heavenly wings, to hear them talk.
On the other hand I did attend the September 28th affair at Geneva State Park. If the Cowan event mirrored the one at Geneva State Park, than my fellow writers’ praise was justified.
Let’s be blunt, the current parental Governor’s Fish Ohio Day has become a bloated and self-congratulatory episode of gratuitous political and bureaucratic glad-handing with a bonus – but still, - superficial relationship to what Governor Rhodes intended: That is, to show-case Lake Erie’s walleye fisheries.
It begins with ushering a crowd of invitees – some of whom often look bored with the prospects of actually fishing. These are people who would prefer to stand around and schmooze with each other, or else lobby the governor and his staff, than to sally forth with some captain whom might himself be ill-prepared for the assignment.
This overblown Fish Ohio Day program ends with a litany of dull speeches too often fueled by trite and tiresome press releases and uninspiring, canned comments. Presented more often than not, too, by individuals who appear they are going to great pains to impress each other and, most importantly, the governor.
That being said, for the Geneva State Park event being aboard the first vessel back to the dock I had the time to observe this Son-Of-Governor’s Fish Ohio Day. And I took the time to observe how the sins of the father were not being repeated by the child, as well.
Clearly, the people involved were enjoying themselves. No doubt, the local Ashtabula County tourism representatives, the marina staff, and the 10 skilled and eager-to-please charter captains let the fish do the talking.
More than anything, what struck me most was how the Ohio Division of Wildlife staff pulled duty for this event. Field commissioned officers, office personnel, and mid-management supervisors of all stripes pitched in.
They conjured the menu of fried fish bits, walleye “crab” cakes, and even fish tacos. These folks not only became chefs but they likewise cheerfully delivered trays of samples around to the guests sitting at picnic tables. Shoot, they event cleaned up the agency’s new traveling outdoors kitchen and put away all of its many buckets, baskets, and utensils.
These men and women - any observer could note without much effort - were simply putting on a Saturday afternoon backyard barbecue for family and friends. They truly enjoyed themselves, and this was conveyed without words via the efficiency, quality, and professionalism of their work.
And if one of them were to be stopped by a non-guest to be asked a question abut this or that Wildlife Division matter; well, they took the time to deal with that one, too.
Then again, so did DeWine. Unlike the parental Fish Ohio Day where the state’s chief executive is followed around by a bevvy of political toadies seeking favorable patronage. Or else by those who want their Facebook friends to know they were invited,.
Yet at the Geneva State Park outing, DeWine did not an entourage of hangers-on looking to be seen or be heard. DeWine likewise was at his relaxed best, and was treated like just any other picnic guest. He met people who came to him, and he would go out of his way to do the same.
This, then, is how I came to enjoy this Governor’s Fish Ohio more than any other for which I have attended in a very long time. Between the local organizers, the 10 charter captains, and the Wildlife Division’s boots-on-the-ground staff the sum put the “fun” back into what the Governor’s Fish Ohio Day ought to be about.
Somehow I can easily picture Governor James A. Rhodes displaying a large grin and ordering in his homespun-Jackson County-born, nasal voice to “let’s go fishing.”