Captain Dave Slavensky helping a participant during the Governor’s Lake Erie Fish Ohio Day (photo courtesy of Ohio Department of Natural Resources)

What I Learned at the Governor’s Fish Ohio Day

The annual event features a morning of fishing that celebrates the bounty of our freshwater natural resource and how it connects people from across the state.

As I woke up in Port Clinton on the morning of July 25, 2024, I had no idea what to expect at my first Governor’s Lake Erie Fish Ohio Day. To be part of such a long-running tradition was exciting, and I wanted to make the most of my initial experience casting a line in what is known as the Walleye Capital of the World.

When Gov. James A. Rhodes started Fish Ohio Day in 1979, fishing on Lake Erie was good, but the walleye population numbers were less than stellar. Since then, impassioned people from many different disciplines have come together to promote and protect Lake Erie and its fishing. Today, walleye fishing on Lake Erie is better than it has been in decades, with six consecutive years of above-average hatches, including the three largest hatches ever surveyed — a boom that will help ensure Lake Erie’s walleye fishing remains strong for years to come.

Around 5:30 a.m., I made my way to the Shores & Islands Ohio Welcome Center, where I would soon be matched up with one of the 19 licensed charter boat captains who had donated their vessels and guidance for the event. 

Boats at the marina in Port Clinton as we head out to the docks to begin our day of fishing on Lake Erie (photo by Erin Finan)

First things first, though, I needed a fishing license, and the Ohio Division of Wildlife staffers at the Shores & Islands Ohio Welcome Center quickly directed me to the online portal where I could purchase one. Within five minutes, I had a 1-day fishing license and was ready to head out on the water.

As other participants — members of the state’s conservation and tourism industries — began to trickle in between 6 and 7 a.m., I took time to explore the welcome center, familiarizing myself with the different species of fish we might encounter during the day by reading over the informative exhibits and even brushing up on the history of the area, including significant sites like the Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial and Marblehead Lighthouse.

After briefly meeting with the other members of my boating group, it was time to depart on our voyage, so we headed out to the marina, down the dock of Crazy Lady Charters and onto our fishing boat. There to greet us with a warm smile was our captain, Rich Turturice.


As we cruised out into the open waters, the group was abuzz with conversation. I was struck with the feeling that we were all there for the same reason: We loved Lake Erie.

Paul Pacholski, president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, was with us in the morning. He grew up in the area and had fished for most of his life. He had been participating in Fish Ohio Day since the early 2000s, so when he showed me how to cast, you can bet that I listened to him.

Around 8:15 a.m., I got my first bite.
      Ohio Magazine Associate Editor Erin Finan at the Governor's Lake Erie Fish Ohio day on June 25, 2024

Ohio Magazine associate editor Erin Finan during the Governor’s Lake Erie Fish Ohio Day on June 25, 2024 (photo by Andy Chow)

I pulled hard on the line, and even though I hadn’t quite gotten the feel for it yet, I could tell the fish was hooked. I reeled quickly, calling out that I had something. Not experienced enough to understand fish behavior, I had no clue what it could be, but everyone on the boat was sure. It was a walleye.

Captain Turturice came with the net, and within seconds, the shining, golden-and-olive-colored fish was jumping on the bottom of the boat, the first catch of the day.

I was beaming. In just a few seconds, I completely understood the thrill of fishing: the elation of a clean cast, the excitement of a tug at the pole, and the complete satisfaction of seeing the fish and holding it in your hands (in my case, dropping it twice while trying to pose for a picture, but oh well).
      Some of the day’s walleye catch in a cooler (photo by Erin Finan)

The day’s catch in a cooler aboard our charter boat during the Governors Lake Erie Fish Ohio Day on June 25, 2024 (photo by Erin Finan)

The morning was filled with the sounds of lines whirring overhead, the occasional call for a net when something was hooked and the hum of conversation and laughter.

I caught my second fish roughly 15 minutes after my first, another walleye, another keeper.

I caught my third and final walleye (also a keeper) around 9:15 a.m., just as a storm was beginning to roll in. (Between that and my second walleye, I had snagged a sheepshead, which we tossed back, so I was at a grand total of four fish for the day.)

Around 9:30 a.m., the storm was upon us. The dark clouds overtook the soft yellow of the horizon, and suddenly, after only about an hour of fishing, the raindrops began to fall. A flash of lighting followed, after which came the slow, rolling boom of thunder.
      A man holds on to a fishing pole in choppy waters during the Governor’s Lake Erie Fish Ohio Day (photo by Erin Finan)

As the storm clouds rolled in, our day out on Lake Erie was cut a bit short, but we had already reeled in several catches by the time we had to head back to shore. (photo by Erin Finan)

Captain Turturice informed me that if it was just a shower, we could have waited it out, but you don’t mess around when there’s electricity in the air. We quickly reeled in the lines and sped off back to shore.

The rain was coming down harder now, and the lake was getting choppy. Drops were hitting the deck and spray was coming up over the sides of the boat, showering us with even more water. It was thrilling. Sitting huddled in my rain jacket, even though I was drenched and our fishing trip had been cut short, I couldn’t have been happier.


By 11 a.m., we were back at the Welcome Center for lunch. As a bonus, members of the Ohio Division of Wildlife were frying up some breaded perch and preparing fish tacos, which I learned was a more recent addition to the event. And good thing they added it, because they were delicious. (I even snagged the recipe pamphlet to try making it later.)

Just before the speakers were set to begin, I had a conversation with Gov. Mike DeWine, and the true power of the event, one that I had felt throughout the day, was articulated for me.

“It’s just a great place to relax, a great place to have to have fun,” DeWine said. “… We bring a lot of people together who normally aren’t together.”

And that’s exactly what I had seen all day.
      Gov. Mike DeWine delivers remarks during the Governor’s Lake Erie Fish Ohio Day on June 25, 2024 (photo by Erin Finan)

Gov. Mike DeWine speaks to attendees at the Governor’s Lake Erie Fish Ohio Day event (photo by Erin Finan)

I had talked with people from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, who informed me about the invasive sea lamprey. I met a fellow Ohio University alum and reminisced on years spent in Athens. I learned from master anglers who grew up in the area and had spent decades fishing on the lake. I heard speakers rave about Ohio’s world-class fisheries and the booming walleye population and share excitement about the current renovations being done to improve the historic fish hatchery at Put-in-Bay.

We had all come together with something in common. We loved Lake Erie and everything that it does for the state, from supporting the ecosystem to boosting the state’s economy to providing a place where people can come together, have fun and fish.

As Larry Fletcher, president of Shores & Islands Ohio shared during a speech at the event, 2023 data from TourismOhio shows that for the eight counties that stretch across Lake Erie, the total economic impact of our Great Lake was nearly $20 billion, which accounts for almost 30% of the total tourism economic impact in Ohio.

“And to me,” Fletcher said, “that’s the power of Lake Erie.”

More information about Lake Erie fishing is available at