Blue Pike Sprenger Part II

Back to part one         Go to part three            Back to Blue Pike Index Page       Back to Web Site Index Page

PART TWO Ken Sprenger's Blue Pike History

In part one I ended the blue pike history lesson by asking who took more, the hook and line anglers or the commercial netters.

During the day with good weekend weather, the waters off Youngstown might have had 500 boats. Lake Erie anglers, on the other hand, fished nights. Yes, I remember the glow of lanterns resembling a city off Silver Creek and other places.

In either lake, it was not unusual to boat up to a hundred blues per outing in their heyday. Family and friends were supplied with fresh fish.

According to the 1947 figures, Lake Ontario blue pike yield for the year was a little over, 300,000 fish by commercial netters. This was four years prior to the year 1951, which many said was the best.

With my camcorder running, Elton Jeffords put to rest the misconception that the commercial netters were the villains in the blue pike demise. He also put into print the early days as a commercial fisherman. It is in the Youngstown museum.

Elton recalls, "After the spring run, many factory workers would camp on the riverbank and spear fish.” The Jeffords family bought, at times, as many as a half ­ton to a ton of fish from them and hook and line fishermen during the summer months.

They rented out at one time 32 boats, took fishing parties out in two boats and stored another 40. Others rented boats also. The three inch mesh graded the blue pike, which averaged one pound. 100 blues, = 100 pounds. The mesh allowed the small ones to pass through and spawn two or three times. Anglers with rod and reel lines took fish of every size, pre-spawners and more fish than the netters.

I should put Lake Ontario into a historical perspective on man’s impact. Going back, way back, the Native Americans netted the streams. Net weights used by them at one time were numerous at Oak Orchard Creek. I'm sure the Atlantic salmon was spawning there as in the Salmon River, which by its name would indicate a spawning run.

Elton recalled as a boy a picture of Jack Wagner holding all Atlantic salmon during Jack's younger days. Jack was 90 when Elton knew him. That puts the time back before the turn of the century.

Why is this Important? Back then, most of the streams had sawmills or wool mills erected, which prevented the salmon from spawning. Homes were built to protect one's family from blizzards, like 1993's. Also it was vital for clothing to ward off a chill factor of below zero.

Many, many years later, mankind found it needed other things to replace the native metals because of cost or weight and also to mold more easily. Plastics came and then there were chemicals, alloys, etc. that provided jobs needed to raise and educate families. The Niagara Frontier was the hub of that industry and, in the wake, pollution.

Where the earlier settlers put an end to the salmon, modern man dumped waste into the water until the blue pike was completely gone. Toward the end of the blues, 1,000 gallons of cyanide was dumped in the Niagara River daily, according to notes I took at a meeting in 1953.

At first, in the mid 1950s, Elton said that at times the nets were full of dead fish and then less and less full.

In part three will be interviews with some more people who were there when the blue pike became extinct.

Back to part one         Go to part three        Back to Blue Pike Index Page       Back to Web Site Index Page

Back to Outdoors Niagara Home