Article published Friday, April 11, 2008 U.S. anglers off hook in Canadian waters OUTDOORS LINKS VIEW: Ohio DNR LINK: Purchase a fishing license LINK: Find a place to fish VIEW: Fishing regulations VIEW: USGS Real-Time Water Data for Ohio VIEW: Current fishing reports VIEW: Lake Erie navigational charts VIEW: Blade outdoors coverage VIEW: Steve Pollick columns E-MAIL: Blade Outdoors Editor Steve Pollick By STEVE POLLICK OUTDOORS EDITOR U.S. fishermen on Lake Erie will not have to report either themselves or their boats when returning from fishing in Canadian waters, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has decided. The ruling, undoubtedly a welcome relief to fishermen and charter guides as well, was confirmed last week. "That's totally accurate," said Brett Sturgeon, public liaison officer for CBP's field office in Chicago. "Fishing is OK." The ruling also applies to the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, and the St. Clair River, which is welcome news for walleye, black bass, and muskellunge fishemen who frequent those waters. A furor of controversy arose last month after a CBP officer from Cleveland announced an array of reporting mandates and need for certification paperwork at the annual captains' conference of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. Some captains stomped out the door in disgust and said they would scrap trips to the Ontario side of the lake rather than attempt to comply with a pile of reporting rules Details about proper reporting under the announced CBP program were reported in this space last Sunday, with the important fishing question still hanging fire. Now it is settled - in fishermen's and charter guides' favor. "You don't even have to report the [return of] boat, added Sturgeon. Reporting the return of boats and individuals, possibly in person under various circumstances, had been distinct possibilities. But ultimately, CBP backed away. "I'm relieved. It's been a lot of work, a monumental task," said Rick Unger, president of the 175-member LECBA. The organization took a lead role in arguing for relaxed rules that have followed past practices, including bringing veteran U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) into the fray. In short, David got Goliath to back down. Unger said he understood the position of the Cleveland-based CBP officer who addressed the captains' conference and outlined the initial policy. "He had his marching orders [from Washington]," Unger said. The revised, relaxed fishing policy, Unger said, "is important to the [lakeshore] economy, important to the moms and pops when they fish over the line, everybody. Everybody wins on this one." That includes CBP, Unger added, for having the wisdom to be reasonable with a basically patriotic, law-abiding American public. Skippers now likely will be helpful eyes and ears on the lake for the agency, rather than disgruntled adversaries. Throughout more than a month of meetings, calls, and negotiations, Unger said it had been "weighing on my mind - is it going to hurt national security?" His concern for homeland integrity, was honest. Boats and individuals will have to report a return to U.S. ports only if they actually land on the Canadian side and pass through Canadian customs - including at such remote, small outposts as the docks on Pelee Island. In such cases only, the stricter reporting rules - from toll-free calls on up to reporting at a CBP office in person - will apply. CBP also clarified a few other uncertainties. If you are fishing in Canadian waters it is OK to drop anchor - that is not considered landing in Canada as so doing once was interpreted. Nor is proximity to a "hovering vessel." Bottom line is, go fishing in Ontario waters if you like. Just be sure to have their angling license.