Lake Erie Seaway Trail Center presents the Great Lakes

On Thursday evening, several members of the Chautauqua County Sports Fishery Advisory Board attended a presentation at the Lake Erie Seaway Trail Center located in the former Wanakah Works building on Route 5 in Hamburg. The guest speaker for the evening was former Assemblyman, and sport fishing advocate, Dick Smith. Smith gave an informative talk on the history of Lake Erie. Smith noted on several occasions that Lake Erie, as well as all the Great Lakes, are a treasure. Smith, who is in his 70’s, talked with the energy of a man half his age and had a wealth of knowledge of how the Great Lakes were formed. I was surprised to learn that while drilling for oil the exploration companies hit salt. In fact over 35 percent of the salt utilized commercially in our area is mined and produced from the Great Lakes. Lake Erie, as many of you readers are probably aware, is the shallowest of the Great Lakes with the deepest point around 200 feet deep. Lake Huron would be next at 750 feet deep followed by Lake Michigan at 920 feet then Lake Ontario over 1,000 feet and Lake Superior over 13,000 feet deep.

Smith also touched on pollution in Lake Erie. He commented on how slag was poured directly in Lake Erie at Woodlawn back in the 1950’s from the steel mills, how the water from Lakewood to Smokes Creek was actually orangish in color and how the fishermen had to drive through several miles of the tainted water to find clean water capable of sustaining fish. Then the fishermen would have to spend three hours of scrubbing down their boats with brillo pads to cleanse the filth off their vessels. Smith also remembered the now-extinct blue pike. Fishermen would come home with bushel baskets of pike, which measured about 15 inches in length and were the sweetest eating fish around. During a question and answer period, Smith offered that he believes the blue pike are indeed extinct and were only native to the eastern basin of Lake Erie. The reason being that they might have been an invasive species from Europe brought over and released in ballast water. What killed the blue pike is a mystery, with a number of contributing factors including over- harvest, and pollution, but scientists have noted that the blues dined heavily on may flies and when the may fly population declined in the 50’s so too did the blue pike. Every so often a so called “blue pike” will surface but the DNA studies reveal it is a walleye that is effected by it’s surrounding water color.

Lake Erie is always flowing. Scientist’s estimate that every two years the lake has all new water, with the old water flushed over the falls. Erosion also is gobbling up the falls area and in several hundred years Niagara Falls may be where Athol Springs is.

Sewer overflows contribute to algae growth in all lake systems including the Great Lakes. The phosphates in Lake Erie in the 50’s were so bad you couldn’t drive along Route 5 because of the stench. Industry cleaned up and stopped dumping phosphates in the lakes but now fertilizers are leeching into the lake especially in the Western Basin. The result is a huge algae bloom that threatens fish and plant life in the lake. It is estimated that 50 percent of the algae is good and the other half is toxic. The only way to tell which is which is with a microscope. People flushing unused medication into their toilets is contributing to a rise in estrogen in the water which is producing more female fish, and upsetting the balance of nature in the ecosystem. So what can we do as individuals to protect our Great Lakes? Get involved! Clean up litter and do not contribute to debris that finds its way into the lake. Don’t flush paint or discarded gasoline into storm drains. Ask elected officials what they are going to do or have done to help protect our Great Lakes!

Like I mentioned early in this article, the Lake Erie Seaway Trail Center serves as a tourism and visitors center for the western segment of the NYS Seaway Trail System. LESTC provides current travel and routing information, a wide range and variety of information on tourist attractions throughout the region and info on the Seaway Trail. The Exhibition space is loaded with some awesome fish mounts, used to educate the public on local history, culture and points of interest as well as our environment is my favorite area. Bathroom facilities and a relaxing scenic rest spot from travel activity are also available.

On Sept. 19 the next speaker at the LESTC is Bruce Fisher, Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at SUNY Buffalo. Fisher will talk about the economics of the lake and what impact doing nothing will have on the region.

Oct. 24 will feature Cameron Daboin speaking on “Paranormal Activity” and Nov. 14 will feature Helen Domske Sea Grant/ Great Lakes Program at UB. For more information on attending the free lectures or learning how to get involved with LESTC contact Patty O’Shei at 627- 2773 or go to


Fishing Tournaments: Niagara Fish Odesey- On Lake Ontario and the Lower River – This is a multi-species event out of any port. The event runs from Aug. 17 until Aug. 25. Go to

LOC Fall Derby on Lake Ontario -Species are Salmon & Trout from any port. The event is from Aug. 16 until Sept. 2. Log on for details.

King of the Lake from Port Dalhousie, Lake Ontario, Canada Species -salmon from Port Pier Marina. Five salmon per day for two days. On Aug. 31-Sept. 1. Email: for details.

Walleye Hunter Shootout- Port Maitland Lake Erie, Canada. Target species are walleye. Fish out of Grand River Dunnville Ontario. Four walleye /one day . Sept. 7. EMail:

Upcoming trapping classes: Falconer Rod & Gun Club located on the Buffalo St. extension in Falconer, Sept. 25 from 6-10 p.m., returning on Sept. 28 from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Register at first class. Limited to 30 students.

Trapping class at Westfield Fish & Game on Oct. 4 from 6-10 p.m., returning on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Call Rich at 595-3917 for a work book. Limited to 35 students.

The Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club will host a firearms safety course on Aug. 21 and Aug. 22, from 5 until 10 p.m. Two-day attendance is mandatory for certification. The bow course will be held on Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., while the trapping course will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

The Bear Lake Rod & Gun Club will host their Memorial shoot & Gun Raffle on Sept. 15.

The Annual Hunting Expo held at the Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel, located at 777 Seneca Allegany Blvd., Salamanca, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. For more information, contact Jim Buck at 569-6810 or visit

There will be a gun show at the Frewsburg Firemen’s Rec Hall, 25 Hazzard St., in Frewsburg, on Oct. 26 and Oct. 27. Call 569-6810 for more information.

Gene Pauszek is an OBSERVER outdoors columnist. Send comments to