First mate Sam Veith (left) pulls a walleye out of the net on a recent Lake Erie fishing trip. Manning the net is charter captain Tom Straus on his boat Erie Drifter. Contributed photo by Bill Reinke
I can put up with a number of discomforts on a good fishing trip. If it rains, I don a rainsuit. If it’s cold, I bundle up with a hooded sweatshirt and coat. If the sun is very bright, I wear a hat and sunglasses. If there are bugs, I use repellent.
I can put up with almost anything for the chance of landing a lunker.
And then there’s wind.
For the most part, anglers hate wind. A little breeze is welcome — it helps keep one cool on a hot day, it keeps the bugs away and it creates the desired “walleye chop” on the surface that often means fishing will be good.
Anything more than a slight breeze, though, is not welcome. Hard winds are uncomfortable, hitting you in the face, blowing off your hat and bouncing you around like a bobber. Not only does it produce large rollers, but it riles the water and makes it muddy, which is not conducive to great fishing.
The shallow waters of Lake Erie are particularly rough when the wind is up.
We left the dock just before 7 a.m. The forecast called for fair skies and diminishing wind out of the southwest. That’s a good direction, and we can put up with a little wind for a while.
It wasn’t particularly rough when we headed out on Maumee Bay on the 33-foot Erie Drifter with Capt. Tom Straus at the wheel. The Yanmar Diesel cut through the waves with ease.
Straus looked for clear water and kept an eye on his instruments to mark fish. Even with muddy water, if he can put us on fish, there’s a good chance some will be caught.
Straus’ first mate on the trip was a likable young fellow named Sam Veith, a 24-year-old Chicagoan who works for Outdoornetwork.com in marketing. The recent Indiana University grad is spending the spring and summer working for Straus with hopes of eventually earning his charter captain’s license.
We found out that Sam knows quite a bit about fishing. While he was tending to the needs of the customers, he also had a line in the water. Let’s just say the walleyes seem to like what Sam, an advertising major, was selling.
Sam did learn a lesson in — well — seafaring superstition.
During a lull in the action, Sam decided to have a quick bite to eat. That’s, when, much to Straus’ horror, Sam started peeling a banana. That’s right, a banana.
If you watch “Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel, you know that bringing a banana on board a vessel is a definite no-no.
If that banana brought bad luck, it wasn’t for Sam. His walleye catching seemed to increase after consuming that dreaded yellow fruit.
Each time Sam would pull up a walleye, Straus would say, “Banana Boy did it again!”
Straus, 50, grew up in Fairfield and graduated from Fairfield High School. Although he now lives at the Wild Wings Marina nearby on Lake Erie, he still has family in Fairfield.
He has been a charter captain for 15 years, starting when he was in sales for a trucking firm.
“Chartering is a great way to entertain clients,” Straus said. “That’s why I got started as a boat captain.”
He has chartered in Florida during winters, working out of the Keys.
It was rather obvious on our recent trip that the 2003-hatch walleyes are dominant. In fact, out of the 18 walleyes we boated — drifting with hairjigs tipped with shiners — only one was right at the 15-inch legal limit. The rest were 22 to 25 inches.
“I think there is some worry about how far these 2003 fish will go,” Straus said. “We (charter captains) have been hearing the limit next April will drop to three and who knows what for the rest of the year.
“There have been a lot of walleyes caught this spring, but the weather has been bad so we have had to cancel or rearrange trips. There have been quite a few days of high winds and storms. I just hope that doesn’t mess up this year’s hatch,” Straus added. “The future of the lake is everything.”
Biologists remember, however, the weather in the spring of 2003 was just as lousy ... and one of the greatest walleye and perch hatches was recorded.
To reach Tom Straus, visit eriedrifter.com or call (419) 349-1129.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2409 or jmorris @DaytonDailyNews.com.
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