Blue Pike Story Part I                                Exclusively on Outdoors Niagara!

The Blue Pike The Stories Start On This Page.

There is a whole lot of Blue Pike information in these pages. There is no other website that has the in-depth coverage as what appears here in these Outdoors Niagara web pages. A lot of what appears elsewhere was copied from Outdoors Niagara and that is welcomed. The Blue Pike story is interesting and should be seen and heard by all, young & old. The Blue Pike were officially declared extinct by the USFWS in 1976

The article directly below is a fair assessment and with some in-depth research by Mike Gillis.

 by Mike Gillis


Blue Pike were once, during the first half of this century, probably the best tasting, and definitely most, commercially harvested fish in the lower great lakes system. Chances were almost certain, that if you went to a local restaurant for a Friday fish fry, you would be served blue pike, not haddock.

I had the opportunity to sit down and have an interesting discussion with former Lake Ontario commercial fisherman Elton Jeffords of Youngstown, NY, and former game warden Kimpton Vosburg was the head game warden in this area from 1948 until 1979, and returned during the hunting seasons from '83 to '89. We talked a lot about blue pike, some of which Iíll mention in this article, and several other subjects of interest in Niagara River fishing history, which Iíll write about in the future.

According to Elton, it wasn't uncommon to buy a thousand pounds of fish from hook and line fishermen in a day. With his gill nets, it was also not uncommon to catch this many fish. The size of the holes in the gill nets were carefully regulated and frequently checked by men, such as Vosburg, so that only a certain size range of fish could be kept, thus insuring the survival of a good spawning population of fish for future harvest, and giving the smaller fish a chance to grow bigger.

The last blue pike that Vosburg can recall being caught out of the Niagara was in 1955 on the day that Marilyn Bell swam from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto for the Toronto Exposition. Of course, no one blames Marilyn Bell for the disappearance of the blue pike. However, several other reasons to blame do come up. Elton Jeffords believes that over-fishing by the hook and line fishermen and the use of illegal sized gill nets played a large role in finishing off the blue pike.

Kimpton Vosburg attributes the demise to pollution, such as the cyanide that was dumped daily into the water by a prominent North Tonawanda NY company.

Several years ago, when I took a fishery biology course in SUNY College at Morrisville PA, our professor attributed the disappearance of the blue pike to phosphate detergents. Some of you may remember Arthur Godfrey doing the phosphate commercials on your black and white TV sets. Households around the populated areas around the great lakes used these detergents widely at the time. The runoff of these eventually ended up in the water of the great lakes, working its way down to Lake Erie, the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. The phosphates from these detergents promoted excessive aquatic plant growth, thus depleting the deeper water of light and oxygen. This phenomenon had a particularly profound effect upon the deeper water and high oxygen requiring blue pike. Phosphate detergents are now banned.

  The blue pike was officially declared extinct by the 
US Fish & Wildlife Service in 1976.  

Please go to next page for Part Two ["The Present"] of this story.

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