The Green Onion group doesn’t like to mess with a proven formula for fun and fishing success.
“The quality and quantity of walleyes keep drawing us back to Lake Erie,” said Omahan Roger Strickler, the official planner for the 12-member Green Onion group.
“I’ve fished numerous places — the Missouri River chain, Devils Lake, Lake Michigan. I had known for years that Lake Erie was a walleye hotspot. I talked to many people who had been there. You might say it was a bucket-list type of decision. The very first trip was so successful that annually we’ve made at least one trip a year out there.”
The Green Onion group draws its name from the fact that its members have been known to enjoy adult beverages at the Green Onion Lounge. Owner Jesse Jergensen is part of the group that makes the annual pilgrimage to Lake Erie.
The primary focus of the group’s winning formula is the use of Captain Mark Cahlik and his Mark 1 Sport Fishing charter service. The group made its first trip to Port Clinton, Ohio, in 2007.
“They’ve really been a great bunch of guys,” said Cahlik, who is proud that a picture of him with Jergensen is on a wall of the lounge. “They exemplify the groups I get from Nebraska. To them, it’s as much about the fun as it is catching fish.”
Making plans for a fishing trip in many ways is as enjoyable as the fishing itself. The Green Onion group will be on Lake Erie in early June this year, and the anglers already are hashing out plans and recalling past fishing trips whenever they get together.
“Normally,” Strickler said, “eight to 12 guys go on the trip. When you get a group that big, you have to set a date. They can either make it or they can’t. If they can, great. If they can’t, see you next year. Some guys are automatically in every year. While there is a main core of guys who go, there are always a few that change year after year.”
For the most part, the group shares a strong bond — the love of fishing.
“We’re all there for one reason — to go fishing,” Strickler said. “We all love to fish. We’ve had some total rookies along who have never fished before, which is quite an adventure teaching them what to do.”
A newbie joined the group last year — and unsuspectingly provided entertainment that has lasted for months.
“A total rookie went along last year,” Strickler said, laughing. “The guy’s a golfer, but he decided he wanted to go fishing with the boys.”
The newbie caught a walleye and reeled it to the boat. Randy Raudebaugh, one of Cahlik’s charter captains, netted the fish and hoisted it aboard. The joyous newbie was astounded.
“What the guy didn’t know,” Strickler said, “is that Randy had just netted another fish and had taken it off the hook. It was still in the net when the guy caught his fish. When Randy netted the guy’s fish, there were two of them in the net. Randy then told the guy that he had just caught two walleyes on one hook.”
The fish weren’t dinks, either. They were 4- to 6-pounders.
“Nobody has ever told him any different,” Strickler said, still laughing. “We talk about it behind his back, but he hasn’t caught on. He tells people he caught two big walleyes at the same time on one hook. When he sees this article, the cat will be out of the bag. He’ll know then. That’s OK. We’ve had fun with it all these months.”
Will the guy be going with the group again in June?
“He’s contemplating it,” Strickler said. “He says he’s one and done, but a number of guys he enjoys being around are working on him. He’s not sure he can handle the water again. He had trouble getting his sea legs.”
Has seasickness been a problem for some?
“None bad enough that we had to take them in,” Strickler said. “Have they been green around the gills? Yeah. But that normally is self-imposed.”
Former University of Nebraska assistant coach Dan Young was a regular with the group until his death in 2010.
“We sure miss Dan,” Strickler said. “The year before he got sick he caught a huge walleye. And they didn’t weigh it. If that thing didn’t weigh 16 pounds — oh, it was huge.”
The daily limit for walleyes in early spring is four, but it changes to six daily on May 1. There is no possession limit.
“You could stay there and fish as many days as you like and bring back six walleyes for every day you fish,” Strickler said. “We only fish two days and bring home two daily limits.
“Other than one year when we had some weather issues, we’ve always been able to fill our limits. We probably had the best overall quantity of large fish this past year. The 12 of us grossed over 700 pounds of walleyes in two days.”
Cahlik’s charter service gets five-star reviews from the Green Onion group.
“The charter captains — Mark, Randy and Ray (Leech) — put on a great trip for us,” Strickler said. “The facilities — the condos — are second to none. Their fishing equipment is top-notch. It is always new and well-maintained. The fish are taken right from the boat, filleted and kept for us until we leave.”
The Bay’s Edge has blossomed into a resort that caters not only to anglers but also to tourists, including competitive shooters who flock to Camp Perry from throughout the world for championship matches.
“Fishing is still my main business,” Cahlik said, “but a lot of people now stay at Bay’s Edge who don’t fish.”
The resort features 10 townhouses that sleep seven each. The condos are at the edge of a three-acre private lake that provides outstanding catch-and-release fishing for world-class smallmouth bass, plus several other species.
“There’s no way you won’t catch a smallmouth over 4 pounds if you stay there and fish a couple of days,” Cahlik said.
An important factor in a day of fishing with Cahlik and all his charter captains is that the anglers themselves do the bulk of the work.
“When you’re running 10 lines off trolling boards, you’re busy,” Strickler said. “You don’t just sit around. And we do the work. That’s a huge point, a big plus. With Mark, it’s not, ‘Here, I’ll set the hook and you can crank it in.’ Nope. You’re the crew. You do the work.’’