When I was very young, I caught the fishing bug. I can’t pinpoint where it came from, but when I was 11, I started fishing in a tributary of Lake Erie. It wasn’t long before I was noticed by some of the old “river dogs” who took me under their wing and roped me into dipping minnows at the bait shop. By the time I was in my 20s I was living out my passion for fishing as a walleye Charter Captain on Lake Erie. Every day I would get up at the crack of dawn, run two 6-pack charters, clean fish, leave after dark, check the weather and do it all again the next day.
Charter captains can be an obsessed group. We live for fishing reports, hold group chats to compare notes, and sometimes push limits during tournaments on the quest for that trophy walleye during the Fall Brawl. It’s a culture built on a passion for angling, mentorship, life-long friendships, a love for the Lake, and occasionally good old friendly competition. But you know, I think that’s just how it goes here on Ohio’s southern shore of Lake Erie. There is an infectious nature about everything fishing around here. I guess that should not be a surprise when you live in the walleye capital of the world.
Here’s the wonderful thing that we sometimes forget; fishing is ultimately about community. We go fishing with our friends and colleagues, take fishing vacations with family, go to fish fries with those we love, and even when we do enjoy fishing on our own, we tell our fish stories to anyone who will listen to them. When we fish together, we have fun, get to know each other, and share a memorable experience on the water with others. And one of the best ways for anyone to experience that feeling of community is through a walleye 6-pack charter on Lake Erie.
The 6-Pack Charter
If you’ve never experienced a 6-pack charter, let me share a bit about it. A 6-pack charter boat is generally 27 to 30 ft in length. Contrary to what you might think the name doesn’t come from a Captain’s favorite brewery beverage! It comes from the number of guests that the license allows us to carry. What many guests appreciate about a 6-pack charter boat is the comfort, given it’s limited to six people and that some of the boats include moderate cover from wind, water spray, and the sun which most tournament boats don’t have.
A 6-pack can be booked by a single group or a combination of guests to fill a trip. Trips are offered in half and full days; however, you can’t continue to fish after reaching your limit of walleye, regardless of how many hours you’ve booked. That’s why many charter captains offer trips that include fishing for other species when the walleye limit is reached.
A normal day for a charter captain starts at the dock before the sun comes up. The equipment must be checked, any ice and food loaded, and the rods rigged before guests arrive. We’re usually finishing up the final details of prep and drinking our third coffee when we start to hear the buzz.
It starts off low, then grows with the thump of slamming trunks and doors. And the melody finishes with the sound of coolers being dragged down the dock. With coolers and bags in hand, the happy faces arrive with hopes of massive walleye and a bit of trepidation. Charter captains and crew love engaging with everyone. This is one of the special things about a 6-pack: the smaller size brings everyone together. The captain, crew, and guests are all equally excited, as we head out for our adventure. Enthusiastic chitchat and questions always fly back and forth as the energy grows.
“How has the fishing been?”
“Some friends of ours were out last week and caught a few 6-pounders! Do you think we will too?”
“I’ve heard purple chartreuse is the hot color right now, what have you heard?”
“We did a charter like this last season for a business team-building trip, best team-building ever!”
“With my Walleye, I like to put some cayenne pepper in the egg wash before a cracker crumb dust.”
“We are planning on taking our kids out over their summer break, it’s a tradition we started last year. But this trip, this is for us.”
When venturing outdoors, everyone of course hopes for ideal weather. Keep in mind that “ideal” weather from our perspective and walleyes are not the same. Walleyes are light-sensitive. They will favor conditions with lower light and more chop. But if you are willing to accept the walleye point of view you will find beauty in the blue-green rolling waves of Lake Erie splashing up against the boat. Occasionally this means drizzle or rain, so best to plan accordingly and bring a rain jacket and pants.
Guests will also have a selection of angling methods. The most common is trolling. It has become popular due to its high productivity since we have multiple rods in the water. Trolling is easiest for the broadest skill set of anglers with varying skill sets and puts much of the work in the hands of the captain and crew, leaving guests to enjoy reeling in their catch and more freedom to socialize.
Anglers who want a more hands-on experience may choose to rift and cast for walleye. It puts the rod in the hands of the angler, but it does mean you need basic casting skills. No matter what technique you choose, your captain and crew will be there to support you to make it the best experience possible.
The Fun of Fishing on a 6-Pack
I said earlier that a Lake Erie walleye 6-pack charter was a great way to experience community and share a special angling adventure with others. When you’re on a 6-pack charter, you’re part of a fishing team for the day. Whether trolling or drift and cast fishing, anglers take turns casting or reeling in fish while helping and cheering each other on.
When we hit our first fish, things will start to roll with the first mate calling guests for their turns. Those that are old pros will hoist their catch into the boat with a determined look that says, “fish fry at my house next weekend”! Novice anglers sometimes need a little coaching and when they bring in their first Lake Erie walleye everyone is always ready with claps and cheers! After a few go-arounds, the Lake Erie walleye angler in everyone starts to come out. The group’s small talk shifts to confident banter that grows each time a fish is landed.
“Wow is that a great fish! Did you see that?”
“Nice, work on that fish!”
“Boy that walleye kicked my butt and served me with coleslaw, ha-ha!”
“Did I tell you about my secret for catching the big ones?”
“I’ve got the best fish taco recipe; you’ve got to try it!” “This is the first walleye I’ve ever caught. Hey, take my picture!”
It’s all part of the comradery and sets the stage for the fish stories that we will all enjoy telling for years to come.
The End for Now
For all of us, the hardest part is calling it a day. Heading back to the dock the guests are reveling in their full coolers of Lake Erie walleye and their adventure together. Being on Lake Erie is special, it’s rare you can leave all your daily worries and stress behind and simply engage and enjoy. But that’s exactly what fishing on Lake Erie allows us to do. And walleye fishing on Lake Erie is one of those exceptional experiences that often surprises, energizes, and just maybe lights a spark. A spark that creates a passion that can last a lifetime.