Jurich: Maumee Fishin’Written by Stacy Jurich | | email@example.com
A few summers ago, I lived Downtown in a warehouse, a football field’s throw in one direction to the Amtrak station and in the other to the Maumee River. On my way home late afternoons and on my way out in the mornings, I’d route myself to stop by the riverfront by the old Murphy’s. This stretch in front of Promenade Park is where you are likely to find some urban fishing.
There was one fisherman in particular I liked to visit. He was a veteran who lived Downtown and would fish almost every day, all day. He’d bring a thermos full of coffee, fishing gear and cigarettes. We became friends of sorts. He got a kick out of me riding my bike all over the place and I got a kick out of his Jeep factory stories and the way he pronounced fish, like “feesh.”
I was also intrigued, mostly confused, by watching him throw cigarette butt after cigarette butt into the water where he fished. It would not have surprised me if he had reeled in his line to find one of those butts on the hook. But instead he would pull in catfish and sell him to a shop owner who would then sell them or cook them. My friend didn’t sell them for much, but at least someone found value in Maumee catfish.
I’ve only fished in the Maumee four times. The first time I went fishing was at International Park, at night, in high school. It was probably illegal and I’m embarrassed to say what we used as bait. That time doesn’t count.
The second occasion was with the aforementioned “accomplished” fisherman friend. I caught a rubber glove, the yellow kind you clean with, and a plastic bag, like a mini zip bag.
The next urban fishing experience was on a really windy day with my friend Michelle. We were just down the way from where my friend would successfully fish, over by the docks that are always covered with white bird crap. Again, I caught a piece of garbage.
My latest attempt (but not final) was again with Michelle, but we thought we’d increase our chances at a catch by moving away from Downtown. It was sunset in Waterville, trying our chances with a variety of baits. Our intentions were strong, but alas, we went home with our heads-a-hangin’.
The part of the Maumee that passes through Downtown is actually a freshwater estuary, a transition zone where the mixing of lake and river water occurs, which “influence(s) important ecological processes,” according to Wisconsin’s Freshwater Estuary Initiative. Collectively, the Great Lakes form the largest surface freshwater system in the world and represent 84 percent of North America’s surface fresh water, according to the EPA.
The Maumee is the Great Lakes’ muddiest tributary, not a bad thing, as it is also the fishiest. Residents of the Maumee watershed, many of whom consume or care about fish, we are faced with challenges.
The “Muddy Maumee” is faced with both physical pollution in the form of litter and garbage, and biological pollution in the form of industrial, agricultural and (sub)urban toxic runoff and probably hazardous waste pollution, too.
How can we protect the largest Great Lakes tributary (Maumee) and our freshwater lake? With our river and Lake Erie having more consumable fish than all the other Great Lakes combined, it makes sense to do our part in keeping a clean, safe and healthy ecosystem where fish populations can thrive.
There are many organizations with efforts under way to protect our watershed. They have volunteer opportunities year round and some offer memberships for a higher level of involvement. Consider actively participating with any of these groups: Lake Erie Waterkeeper, Western Lake Erie Sierra Club, Partners for Clean Streams, Rain Garden Initiative, Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy, LEWAS, Lucas Soil and Water Conservation District.
In the midst of writing this article, I met a fellow water advocate who fishes the Maumee. Not here and there, but every day and with great success. I have a feeling that when he takes me out on his boat this week, I’ll have my first Maumee fish on the hook and perhaps my first Maumee blue gill dinner.
Email Toledo Free Press Star columnist Stacy Jurich at firstname.lastname@example.org.