It’s been twenty years since I fished Lake Erie. After spending a couple of days with my sons on the water with Dunlap’s Fishing Charters, I’m proud to say that this time was the complete opposite of my previous experience. I try to focus on the positive in life, but there’s no better way to demonstrate the quality of my recent experience without dredging up some bad memories. Instead of staying at some fleabag dive, fishing with a marginal boat operator, and spending 2 days on the water to catch one fish, we went a quality outfit and enjoyed a true world class fishing trip.
I was pretty stoked about getting back to Lake Erie after many years, but more importantly, I wanted to have a great time with my sons Logan and Kyle. Neither of them had ever fished Lake Erie before, so it was important to me that we fished with a crew that would give us the experience we were looking for, and then some. And we weren’t disappointed.
Captain Gary “Turbo” and Beth Mol, owners of Dunlap’s Charter Fishing Service give fishermen a quality Lake Erie Fishing experience. For starters, they have top shelf accommodations at their lodge in Marblehead, Ohio. Fishermen can stay in a comfortable lodge before and after their day on the water. And they have some of the best captains and boathands on the Lake. They treat their guests like family, which is why so many of them come back year after year. Their fleet of boats are also rigged with state of the art electronics and gear. Each boat can comfortably handle 6 fishermen.
On day one, we targeted smallmouth bass. Fishing with soft-shell crawdads on circle hooks, we fished vertical in about 11-14 feet of water and hooked into some dandy smallies. The boys had to get used to using circle hooks. Instead of the quick-snap hook set, circle hooks require a slow pull as the rod loads up with the weight of the fish. This let’s the hook slide to the corner of the mouth so the fish can be easily unhooked and released. Kyle was the first one to hook up, and soon a bronze football sized bullet exploded out of the water. Logan soon got on some fish and we put the smackdown on some Lake Erie Smallmouth.
After hauling in 3 to 5-pound smallies all morning, we headed to Bass Island for lunch. After we chowed down some awesome lobster bisque, Turbo and Beth rented a golf cart and took us for a spin around Put-In-Bay, the small community on the island thriving with shops, wineries and restaurants. Visitors can get to the island by ferry boat and there are plenty of rental homes, hotels, cabins, even a beautiful lakeside campground for those who want to tent camp. In addition to some great fishing, we got a glimpse of another cool attraction to western Lake Erie. We finished the day at the Captain’s Lodge with burgers on the grill, and an evening of great stories with great company.
Day two of the trip was all about getting after some toothy critters. The walleye bite was tough. But fishing with two of the top guides on the Western Basin of Lake Erie certainly helps. Captain “Turbo” and Rick Dunlap (Captain and former owner of Dunlap’s Charter Service) took us north over the border in Canadian waters and worked their asses off to find the fish. The walleye were still a little scattered from the Sunday night storms, but we picked off a few here an there, including a big fat 26-incher. Using crawler harnesses, we drifter over reefs and hooked into some beautiful walleye. The boys got a little queasy from the chop, but I was popping Dramamine like PEZ candy and I was just fine. Despite the tough conditions, we had an absolute blast, saw some spectacular scenery and put plenty of fish in the cooler.
Lake Erie, especially the Western Basin, has gained a reputation as one the best walleye fisheries in the Midwest. But like many lakes, there are cheap-ass, second-rate services, and fishermen looking to book a trip need to be careful of scurrilous guides and charters. If you are like me and work your ass off all year to plan for a trip, you want it to be a great one, not a disaster. Whether you are seasoned vet, or have never fished Lake Erie before, talk to Turbo and Beth at Dunlap’s. They personally cater their trips to the fishing level and needs of their guests. But not to the point where you won’t catch fish. At the end of the day, that’s why you go. And it still big-water fishing — which can mean rough choppy water from time to time. But that’s what separates the fishermen from the couch potatoes.
If you’re digging this article, please do a couple things:
First check out the photos and share this post on your Facebook page.
Next, check out Dunlap’s website HERE at LakeErieWalleye.com and their Facebook page HERE. Then call them when you’re ready for your Lake Erie experience.
And watch for my full article in Farmers Weekly Review!