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The Nature Conservancy in Ohio

Great Lakes Sportfishing

Recreational boats clog a marina near Toledo along Lake Erie, the shallowest and most fertile of the Great Lakes. Sport fishing is central to the coastal tourism industry, with Lake Erie fishing contributing about $500 million per year to Ohio's economy. © Eric Albrecht

Ohio Sea Grant estimates that over half of Ohio's $1.3 billion boating-related spending is connected to Lake Erie fishing. © Eric Albrecht

Ohio has the largest licensed charter boat industry in the Great Lakes, currently numbering almost 800 captains, including Paul Pacholski, captain of the “Erie Hopper”. © Eric Albrecht

Pacholski readies his boat for a fishing trip to Lake Erie’s western basin, one of the most ecologically important places in the Great Lakes. Warm and shallow, with an average depth of only 24 feet, the western basin produces an abundance of game fish and other aquatic life. © Eric Albrecht

Pacholski has guided in the western basin for 27 years, mostly in search of smallmouth bass, yellow perch and the most popular game fish on the lake, walleye. His crew helps him prepare the boat before launch. © Eric Albrecht

Brightly colored fishing lures, waiting for action. © Eric Albrecht

Maneuvering out of the crowded marina can require more than one set of eyes. The Hopper’s crew help guide the boat to open water. © Eric Albrecht

Humans aren’t the only animals lured to the great fishing in the lake. A double-crested cormorant, a fish-eating water bird, guards the entrance to the marina. © Eric Albrecht

Pacholski heads for the waters between the mainland and the national wildlife refuge at West Sister Island–an important breeding area for herons, egrets and other wading birds. © Eric Albrecht

A blue sky might not last long on Lake Erie. Storms can come up suddenly and stir up dangerous waves. © Eric Albrecht

Captain Paul demonstrates technique. Pacholski says he’s witnessed many improvements in the lake over 27 years, but he is concerned about environmental issues including sedimentation and excess nutrients, the damming of walleye spawning streams and invasive species, like Asian Carp. © Eric Albrecht

A customer battles to bring in his fish. © Eric Albrecht

Not every fish is a walleye. The freshwater drum is common and anglers enjoy its fighting spirit. But generally it is regarded as inedible, and it goes back over the side of the boat. © Eric Albrecht

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