Hooked on fishing

Editor’s note: Last week, Skeeter Tower outlined the importance of fishing to historical Dunkirk. This week her two-part article concludes as she focuses on fishing in Dunkirk today.

Fast forward to the present. Dunkirk remains in the area known as the world capital of walleye fishing. Walleye is one of the largest of the perch family and generally considered the best-flavored freshwater fish. Eastern Lake Erie is also rated third in the world for smallmouth bass fishing, according to Zen Olow, local promoter of the sport. It is apparently not a secret that the Redman Smallmouth bass competition in Buffalo recently was won by a Japanese fisherman who pre fished off Canadaway Creek for a week before the competition and won the first prize by returning to this area on the day of the big win. Other fish in abundance and popularity currently in local fishing grounds include Lake trout, rainbow trout, and yellow perch.

A new sign at the Dunkirk waterfront and fish cleaning station, announces a comprehensive marine shop under private management and open 12 hours a day – “Chadwick Bay Marina: live bait, tackle, snacks and drinks, ice, boat supplies and services, boat repairs, dockage, gas, fuel, cleaning station.” The city boat launch is much improved this season with plastic bumpers to prevent damage to boats. There are now cleats to tie up the boats and facilities to launch or pull out four boats at a time. The launch costs $5 for Dunkirk residents and $7 for non-residents. Seasonal passes are available for $30 for residents and $50 for non-residents. Depending upon the weather and the wind, there are anywhere from 10 to 50 boats out during the course of the day so far this season.

Dredging of the channel will be very important and is anticipated. Dredging of the entire inner harbor would be very useful but also extremely expensive.

License plates from places including Texas, Connecticut, Iowa, Georgia, Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia show the variety of fishermen who come here. Each is bringing money into the local economy. Most are experiencing a top notch fishing experience with stories to take home and photos to back them up.

New owner of the Chadwick Bay Marina, Jeff Gambino, is certain there is money to be made here and he has invested thousands already to upgrade the facilities. He plans to erect arched signage for each charter boat along Pier A so it will no longer be a secret that Dunkirk has first class charter captains ready to accommodate fishing folk. Lack of appropriate signage has been a major issue for these local businessmen. The new restaurant, right off the pier, is on the drawing board and will be five times the size of the building recently demolished. Both outdoor and indoor seating will be available for seafood. Construction begins right after the Fourth of July celebrations and this new restaurant could be in operation by next season.

Perhaps there is no one as passionate and committed to supporting fishing endeavors in the area as Zen Olow. He has worked with other members of the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club to sponsor the very lucrative and well known Walleye Derby (this year August 1 to 3), a 100-team event with a $150 registration fee. Each participant contributes an average of about $1800 to the local economy.

The Con Club is known for promoting fishing to elementary school children. Fishing pole giveaways, essay writing contests, “Take a Kid Fishing” days as well as the Great Lakes Experience at Memorial Park are some of the activities it sponsors or participates in.

Want to know about the life habits of the Walleye, the effects of the moon on the fish or any other fishing fact along the Great Lakes? Ask any one of the members of the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association.

Captain Gary Katta recently shared his enthusiasm and knowledge of the local fishing hot spots, and favorite baits and lures. All of the dozen or so fishing charters in Dunkirk are full service, meaning they provide the bait, equipment, instruction and even clean the fish caught on board. Katta’s boat has 28 fishing rods on board to meet every style and technique. (An experienced fisherman like Katta can clean a fish in 2 minutes, I learned.) Check the internet for Dunkirk Fishing Charters and you will be treated to great photos showing amazing fish and happy faces.

These captains are ambassadors for the area, steering their clients to restaurants, overnight accommodations and other services. They look forward to the time when there are more choices for visitors in search of specific foods, services and activities.

Dunkirk has an opportunity to offer a full range of waterfront activities like sailing, water skiing, jet boat and kayak rentals and diving shops to promote exploration of the graveyard of sunken ships off the harbor. (There are two informational signs behind the marina shop showing the shore bird varieties for bird watchers and the location of sunken ships in our nearby waters.)

For now, the fishing opportunities are abundant and becoming more visible. Dunkirk’s proud fishing legacy has reinvented itself and we can expect new activities on the water. What better place for the proposed Fish and Wildlife Research Center and Museum! Good things yet to come, maybe even Horatio Brooks’ King Neptune fountain in a new secure waterfront location.

Thanks to the Dunkirk Historical Museum, Dunkirk historian Bob Harris, Elizabeth Crocker’s book “Yesterdays” and Captain Gary Katta of Kongo Charters, David Spencer, Zen Olow and the folks at Chadwick Bay Marina for sharing information for The Sunshine Corner.

For now, the fishing opportunities are abundant and becoming more visible. Dunkirk’s proud fishing legacy has reinvented itself and we can expect new activities on the water. What better place for the proposed Fish and Wildlife Research Center and Museum! Good things yet to come, maybe even Horatio Brooks’ King Neptune fountain in a new secure waterfront location.

The columnist thanks the Dunkirk Historical Museum, Dunkirk historian Bob Harris, and Captain Gary Katta of Kongo Charters, David Spencer, Zen Olow and the folks at Chadwick Bay Marina for sharing information for The Sunshine Corner. She also used Elizabeth Crocker’s book “Yesterdays” as a source of information.

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