Charter boating hit hard by pandemic

Published: May. 12, 2020 at 4:10 PM EDT
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Warmer weather is just a few days away, and this time of year, fishermen are racing to get out on the lake. But right now, that's not happening.

Managers with a number of local fishing charters say that their groups have to be smaller now when they go out on the water. So small, in fact, that some charters say they can only take four people at a time.

That’s the case at Sea Breeze Charters and Erie Drifter, both in Oak Harbor. Before the pandemic, they could accommodate six people at a time. At Fisherman's Wharf in Port Clinton, to keep with social distancing, they can only allow eight people at a time. Before COVID-19, they could take as many as 30 people out on the water in one boat.

But it's not just the regulations that are slowing business but fear of being around other people, too.

"With the numbers we've lost, it's just heart-wrenching," Capt. Paul Pacholski, president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association said. "A lot of our guys are full time. They depend on this six-month season to make their livelihoods for the year, and you've already taken away two months of it."

Charter companies like Sea Breeze Charters say they're doing almost half the business they usually do. Captain Pacholski says some are down as much as 60 percent right now. Many hope the nicer weather coming will help bring more people out.