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For Lake Erie fishermen, Mother Nature gives and takes away.

Fishermen thrilled lake is ice-free but surprised by damage to Sturgeon Point Marina
Posted at 5:00 AM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 07:04:38-05

TOWN OF EVANS, N.Y. (WKBW) — After a very mild winter, satellite pictures show Lake Erie is wide open without any ice cover.

That is great news for local fishermen and charter boat captains who are counting on an early start to spring fishing. Lake Erie is a hot spot for spring bass fishing with many out-of-state fishermen now booking excursions for May. The lack of ice will also make April perch fishing a possibility.

"90% of the bass trips that local captains do is for people who are out-of-state," explained Jim Hanley, an Evans charter boat captain. Hanley said there is a large economic impact from spring fishing as the out-of-state sportsmen will provide an influx of money to hotels, restaurants, and local gas stations.

"It is a great benefit to make another $5,000 to $10,000 early in the year. It is great for the economy," added Hanley.

Normally, ice cover on Lake Erie can delay the start of spring fishing. That infuriates local fishermen who believe the ice boom is responsible. "It means the loss of tens-of-thousands-of-dollars for charter boat captains," said Hanley.

During last winter, the New York Power Authority was unable to start removing the ice boom until May 2, 2019 because there was so much ice in the lake.

With no ice this year on Lake Erie, the NY Power Authority said it could expect to see the boom removal starting before April 1st. (The earliest the ice boom has been removed was February 28, 2012 and the latest was May 3, 1971.)

However, what Mother Nature gives on one hand, she takes away with the other.

Sturgeon Point Marina and harbor are now clogged with a tremendous amount of sand that was pushed in by high-water levels and strong winds.

"I call it Sturgeon Point island. It is just massive," said Town of Evans Supervisor Mary Hosler.

While it is normal for some sand to accumulate throughout the winter, several residents in the Town of Evans told reporter Ed Reilly they have never seen so much sand in the harbor.

The problem for Evans, and the fishermen, is the sand has to be dredged-out before the marina can open - something that could be very expensive for town taxpayers.

"I am very concerned about what this bill will look like when we are done," added Hosler.

Supervisor Hosler is meeting with FEMA officials hoping to get emergency reimbursement money for the extra dredging and to pay for storm-damage that occurred to electrical systems and the break wall. It is estimated Sturgeon Point Marina has $1 million dollars in damage.

The supervisor said the town is hoping to have the marina opened by May 15th, but the extra dredging needs to be done properly or the harbor will have to close early at the end of the season.

Sturgeon Point Marina is considered a regional asset as it is the only safe-harbor between Buffalo and Dunkirk, where boaters can dock in the case of storms.

If Mother Nature's challenges aren't enough to worry about, fishermen like Jim Hanley, along with the Town of Evans, are gearing-up to fight a proposal by Governor Cuomo to construct 50 off-shore wind turbines in Lake Erie.

"Put the wind turbines on the land. There is plenty of land around here. Don't put them in the water. Nobody wants them here," said Hanley, who is concerned the machines will change currents, fish habits, and affect the quality of the water.

Hanley is collecting petitions on change.org to stop the plan. Click here to see the petitions.