WOLLITZ: For some anglers, Erie brings on wave of nausea


For years, I have harbored a secret about my fishing.

I was enjoying a fine day on Lake Erie last weekend, working a tube jig over a deep-water rock pile seven miles east of Ashtabula. The sun was shining and a light breeze helped stifle the heat.

The day held a lot of promise. I already had boated a 4-pound smallmouth bass and a sheephead as broad as a garbage can lid. But a familiar sensation started to creep over me.

My secret is the Achilles heel of my fishing. I get seasick on Lake Erie.

I love the big lake, but more than a few trips for walleyes and smallmouth bass have been dampened by seasickness.

All anglers suffer through the aches and pains of long days of standing, casting and sunburning. We endure fin pricks, snaggle-tooth scraped fingers and occasional hook stabs.

Injuries and sore muscles are to be expected. Seasickness, however, is a special kind of suffering for those of us who are victims. It’s hell on the water.

Last weekend’s episode was caused by rolling swells driven across more than 50 miles of open water by a west-northwest breeze. The wind wasn’t strong, but it had enough momentum to churn Erie and pitch the BassCat like it was on a playground teeter-totter.

Up and down, up and down I rode the swells for 15 minutes before my equilibrium became disrupted.

I have learned I can fight off the symptoms of seasickness by focusing my gaze on far points like the shoreline or the horizon. But a minute spent retying my tube jig after the line became frayed by zebra mussels started the process. It was accelerated by occasional glances to the Lowrance sonar screen to read the bottom.

That was enough to induce a wave of nausea.

Oops!

We who suffer from seasickness know how quickly it can come on and how difficult it is to endure. I’ve had bouts so severe I didn’t care about anything other than gaining relief.

The funny thing about seasickness — for me, at least — is that the moment I’m back in calm water, I immediately wish I was back out there where the big fish live.

Seasickness is nothing new to me. When I was a youngster, I often would get motion sickness during car trips. Mom and Dad learned to plan a pre-emptive stop so I could get out in fresh air and walk around.

I cannot count how many times I’ve developed that Erie feeling. But some cases loom large in my memory bank.

On a bouncy day out of Conneaut aboard my father’s brand new Starcraft cuddy cabin cruiser, it hit me hard. Wife Barb and my Dad were laughing and enjoying ham sandwiches and Cokes, but brother-in-law Gary and I were chumming.

Oops!

Sometimes I think I’m winning the struggle to fend off the nausea. One hot July day several years ago aboard a charter boat with a senator and Ohio Division of Wildlife officials during the annual Ohio governor’s Fish Ohio event, I began to feel uneasy as the seas built throughout the morning.

Just as the skipper announced it was time to reel in and head for the dock, the sickness I’d been fighting overcame me — right in front of the VIPs.

Oops!

So my secret is out. The curse of the Erie angler is a terrible affliction, but apparently not so bad that it keeps me from venturing out there.

Anglers are optimists by nature. Sure, we’ll catch them. And maybe next trip I won’t get sick.

Jack Wollitz is a lifelong angler who has enjoyed serving Vindicator readers with his weekly fishing column since 1988. He also enjoys emails from readers. Send a note to him at jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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