On a rainy Monday morning, fisherwoman Holly Szuch steers her boat to the loading dock at Catanese Classic Seafoods in the Flats. She and her husband unload crates of yellow perch that are so fresh, they're actually still flopping around in the beds of ice.
Szuch, who lives in Toledo, married into a fishing family that's been casting nets into Lake Erie's waters since 1928. As she puts it, "For a woman, you either marry into it or you're born into it — it's not like Barbie ever came out with a fishing doll." During peak season, she and her husband often work 16-hour days, rising at 1:30 a.m. to head out onto the water.
For the past few years, the fishing in Lake Erie has been pretty good, as walleye and perch populations –have remained steady, dipping only slightly. Commercial fisheries in Canada are the only ones that catch walleye, because the Ohio Department of Natural Resources believes that commercial fishing could harm this fragile population. But yellow perch are fair game within annual limits. Once Szuch reaches the quota she's allowed to pull out of the lake, she heads to the shore to catch rough fish like white bass, porgie and sheepshead, which are often sold outside of Northeast Ohio.
The growing popularity of lake fish is driven in part by chefs like Jonathon Sawyer of the Greenhouse Tavern and Doug Katz of Fire, who tout the benefits of eating local foods. Not only are lake fish delicious and good for you, the logic goes, but your dollars go to support local businesses and reduce your environmental impact.
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