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Port Clinton Walleye Drop live and in-person as partygoers say hello to 2022

After Port Clinton was forced host a virtual Walleye Drop last year due to the pandemic, organizers say the event will be in full-swing this year.

PORT CLINTON, Ohio — For almost 25 years, Port Clinton has been ringing in the new year by dropping a fish.

The fish in question is thankfully not real. Rather, it's a 20-foot long, 600-pound fiberglass walleye named Wylie.

"He's LED-lit and very pretty, or as pretty as a fish can be," said Kristina Tilson with the Wylie Walleye Foundation, the group that throws the event every year.

That might raise some eyebrows, but Tilson says the unique tradition has been a remarkable success for Port Clinton, typically bringing in over 5,000 people to the area during the normally sleepy off-season.

Alejandro Zapata, aka DJ Hondo, the host of the event, says the Walleye Drop is a key part of what makes Port Clinton unique.

"We're very fortunate to have to shut down downtown and do this Wylie Walleye," explained Zapata. "It's something that nobody else has. So a lot of people come around from other cities [and] states and it's nice."

But the arrival of the pandemic last year put in-person events on hold, and the Wylie Walleye Foundation had to get creative.

"We decided in October last year to give the community something, so we decided to put together a virtual event, and it went off amazingly," said Tilson.

While the virtual Walleye drop did receive over twelve hundred particpants, Tilson says it was only a stopgap. 

As soon as the Foundation got the okay to return to doing in-person events from the safety service director and the health department, they jumped at the opportunity. 

Still, organizers say are fully aware that comes with a level of responsibility.

"Obviously there's concerns about COVID, but it's an outside event, we expect people to go ahead and wear their masks and distance just like if they were at any other event," said Tilson.

While it might not feel exactly like a pre-pandemic Walleye Drop, Tilson assures everyone that all of the fun from previous years will still be on full display. And after taking a year off, it'll feel even fresher.

You'll still need to wear your mask if you attend, but Tilson says that all of the games and kids events will return, and the Bar Swim, their version of a bar crawl, will also be going strong - even offering free bus rides to get to all of the stops.

And if you can't make it out in person, The Wylie Walleye Foundation is streaming the whole event on their website.

Credit: WTOL 11