Lake Erie Outdoor & Fishing Show was a success

Submitted Photo Aiden Gatto, of Brocton, shot this turkey while hunting with his dad, Dave Gatto, and his godfather, Steve Hook. Dave and Steve called in 8 toms and 4 jakes. They even got to witness a turkey fight among some toms and jakes. The turkey weighed in at 18 lbs 3 oz, with a 9 1/2” beard.

The first Lake Erie Outdoor & Fishing Show, held Saturday at the Clarion Hotel on Lake Shore Drive in Dunkirk, is now history, and will go down as a success.

This event was a project originated by OBSERVER Publisher John D’Agostino, and took over a year to develop. Judging by the comments of the participants, it was well worth the wait. In fact, most everyone who I spoke with commented we should have done something like this sooner. Many of the older patrons who came by the OBSERVER stand compared this event to the old, now defunct, ICEBREAKER events that were held at the Dunkirk Armory. The ICEBREAKER, for you younger readers, was put on through the efforts of a local fishing group called LESTA, which stood for Lake Erie Salmon and Trout Association. This group was popular and active back in the late 1970s and early 1980s when we had coho and chinook salmon stocked. A story for another time.

From a personal perspective, there were many familiar faces in the crowd. Many of them stopped by to say “Hi!”and comment on the columns in the Sportsman’s Journal, and the fishing and hunting in general.

If there was anything negative to report on the LEOFS, it was a lack of parking space. Vehicles were backed up along Route 5, in the parking lot across the street from the Clarion, and surrounding areas. People traffic was steady from 10 a.m. until about 2:45 p.m., when the crowd started to die down.

While chatting with the numerous vendors, it seemed everyone was pleased with the performance of the event. The outside food vendors were a hit, as well as the those displaying their wares and raffle items. There were a few seminars for this first time event, and seating was limited but cozy. Presenters were familiar and passionate about their presentations.

In the crowd were Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello; Outdoor Writer Dave Barus of Forest Fisher; David Nelson, the editor of the very popular outdoor publication “Conservationist”; former teacher/Berkley Ambassador Bob Green; Chautauqua Beagle Club President Mr. Criscione; and Paul Cybart, who used to write the outdoor column “Piscatorially Speaking” (and who, incidentally, also taught me how to play pinochle — thank you!)

Bob Berek was also there, a person from whom I purchased my first hand carved/painted duck decoy, and there were many, many more familiar faces. Speaking of hand carved decoys, Paul Schonhart and his wife, Byrnie, from King Decoys of Forestville, had a beautiful display of some of their masterful creations.

Chautauqua Vacationlands Director Andrew Nixon was also on the scene, and was obviously pleased with the success of the event, which was well publicized locally and well received. Thank you to all who made this new event a success. Look for the LEOFS to continue and grow, expanding on the success of the first one. I hope I can continue to be part of it.

(A footnote: There was a good representation from the younger set in attendance, but many teens were probably out for the Youth Turkey Hunt weekend. Send us your success photos and stories.)

Calendar: The Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club Ladies Auxiliary is having a chicken barbecue today with dinners served from 1 until 3 p.m. Tickets are still available at $10 perp person. Open to the public.

The Ripley Rod & Gun club will host a ham shoot today starting at noon. This event will include an archery and cross bow competition (bring your own equipment), rimfire rifle and pistol (bring own ammo) and shotgun (slugs and shot shells will be provided). Muzzleloaders and scopes will be allowed. Ripley is also having an air rifle field target competition today with a free intro to air rifles at 8:30 a.m., safety and range briefing at 9:45 a.m. and match shooting at 10 a.m. Four loaner rifles available. Open to ages 8-11 accompanied by a parent. Ages 12-18 are allowed without parent or guardian. Eye protection mandatory for both events and hearing protection for the ham shoot.

There will be a 3-D archery shoot at the Bear Lake Rod & Gun Club on April 29. Call Rudy at 397-9717 for information.

There will be a pistol course at the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club on Sunday, April 29 from 2:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. There is a an $80 fee for this course. Call Gary Dudek at 366-3397 for more information.

Monday night, free fly tying courses at the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club are from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Tying vises, instruction and materials are all provided free. No registration is necessary. The Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club is located on Mullet Street in Dunkirk. Turn towards the lake at the Country Fair store located on Lakeshore Drive West (Route 5).

The Children of the Stream Youth Fly Fishing Program will be starting its 18th year of providing weekly free fly tying and fly fishing classes to both youths and adults in our area. Classes are Wednesday evenings from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at the Costello Community Room (P84) in the new addition to the Rockefeller Arts Center at SUNY Fredonia. You do not need any prior experience to attend these classes, and the course is geared towards ages 10 and older. For more information contact Alberto Rey at 410-7003 or alberto@albertorey.com.

The Great Lakes Experience Festival in Dunkirk will return this year on June 9 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. The event will once again be held in Memorial Park. More details at a later date.

If your club or organization is holding a hunter safety training/trapping course or a turkey shoot or any other outdoors event, and would like to see it posted in the calendar, send information to the OBSERVER, 10 East Second Street, Dunkirk, NY 14048, or call the sports department at 366-3000 ext. 5 after 6 p.m.

Note: If you have a big-game fishing or trapping success story you would like to share, call 366-1772, or 467-2079 and leave a name, phone number and a time you can be reached. You can also call 366-3000, ext. 5, after 6 p.m. or email Sports@observertoday.com.