The following story first appeared in the June 2 Press.
The Avon Lake Boat Club has been a fixture in the community for decades, allowing generations of boaters a guaranteed spot on the lake to search for walleye or perch.
The club, located next door to the Folger Home at Veterans’ Memorial Park, has about 175 members, from owners of kayaks to small motorboats to small sailboats. Ray Frank, the club’s commodore this year, said boating season generally gets underway with a clean-up of the launch area and nearby beach during the city’s Pride Day, which was held May 15.
“Officially, that’s when we expect all our boats, all the fishing boats, to be turned over and ready for use,” he said.
The boating season runs to when the weather turns in the late fall, he said, without a set closing date. The club keeps the facility open for members’ use to give them the opportunity to participate in the fall perch season.
There are two fishing derbies during the season, walleye in July and perch in September.
The tournaments are for club members, their families and friends, Frank said. The derbies include cookouts and awards for largest fish, the most fish and the heaviest fish. The club also has a Valentine’s Day Fish Fry for residents of the Beach Park Towers.
Most boaters go after the walleye and perch, but they also catch bass and catfish somtimes, along with the “infamous sheepshead,” he said.
The sheepshead fish are great for kids to try to catch, he said, but “I don’t know of any member who actually consume those.”
Most of the boats are 14-footers, but a few 16-foot-long boats are grandfathered in. Kayaks are kept on racks near the club storage building.
The club is a unique launch site. The rail system devised by club members is similar to the trolley system used in coal mines, Frank said. The boats are kept on racks that slide out onto the dolly on the rails, which the members then push out to the launch facility. The hoist at the launch carries the boat into the water. It was designed to allow boaters to go out alone if they wish.
The launch facility is only a few years old, having been financed internally by the club and professionally built in 2007.
“We believe the structure is going to last a long time,” Frank said. “The last one was over 50 years old.”
Club member since 1977 and former Commodore Don Wagner said the club officers had played around with the idea of building a new launch ramp.
“I wasn’t there when they constructed the first launch over 50 years ago, and how it held up is something we all wondered,” he said.
Don Boldman, the club’s financial secretary, figured the club would need about $100,000 to build a new launch. Then the officers estimated it would cost club members about $500 each. Instead, they assessed club members $200 twice a year for two years. New members would pay higher dues and existing members would pay $50 less in theirs. Wagner and Frank met with then-Mayor Rob Berner to discuss this, as the club rents its land from the city. After seeing the financial plan, Berner took the launch matter to City Council, which fronted the money for the new launch facility until the club paid back the city over the course of two years.
“It worked out very, very well for everybody,” Wagner said. “It’s really a good launching ramp and cost under $100,000, as it turned out.”
While the club is open to residents of Avon Lake, there aren’t enough spots available for everyone wanting to join. The current waiting list includes 81 people as of Feb. 6. The earliest entry on the list is Aug. 25, 2004.
A number of the club members are retired, so they are out on the lake often, Frank said. He said he’s out in his boat as much as he can, but there’s never enough time. When he retires, he said he’ll spend more time out there. It’s possible doing the same thing all the time may take away from his enjoyment, he said.
“You just can’t do it every day,” he said, “but I’d like to try.”
Contact Bryan Wroten at email@example.com