If Joseph Jemiolo had his way, Lake Erie would be a much busier place.
Jemiolo, a member of the Erie County Fisheries Advisory Board, was one of the guides Tuesday during a fishing outing sponsored by Erie County, the Chautauqua County Fish Advisory boards and the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boats Association. I was a member of the "89 Surprise" charter boat, which was captained by Roger Corlett. Our crew also consisted of County Legislators Thomas DeJoe and George Borrello, Don Einhouse of the Department of Environmental Conservation office in Dunkirk and my son, Carter.
The lack of activity on the lake, many sportsmen in the two counties believe, is tied to not having enough fishing tournaments scheduled here. It is likely costing the region millions of tourist dollars annually.
Carter D’Agostino shows off the walleye he reeled in on Tuesday.
"Over 10 years ago, economic impact in Ohio for sport fishing was over $2 billion directly related to Lake Erie fishing," Jemiolo said. "That's a significant amount of money."
That infusion of big bucks cannot happen here without the support of the two counties in New York state that border Lake Erie working together. This outing - the third of its kind in recent years - was a step in that direction.
"What we'd like to see is Erie County and Chautauqua County get together to form a union and support a new hot spot map (for fishing) that would be from the upper Niagara to the Pennsylvania line strictly promoting Lake Erie and, of course, the inland waters here," Jemiolo notes.
But getting governmental entities in Western New York to work together on anything is almost like navigating the choppy waters of Lake Erie on that Tuesday morning. You know there will be some ups, and a lot more downs.
Jemiolo, however, keeps plugging away. "Hopefully we can make some headway," he said, leading Legislator Borrello to note that he would be involved with any effort to promote Lake Erie. DeJoe quickly indicated an interest as well.
The benefits seen in Ohio - and in Dunkirk with the recent AMARA-CAN tournament - prove the value. The city fishing event alone brought in more than $1 million to Dunkirk over the three days it took place earlier this month.
"You could have a tournament in Dunkirk every couple of weeks," Jemiolo said. "Believe me."
If that happens, the money - and tourists - will multiply. When that happens, the waterfront will become even more of a gem than it already is.
"We have a tremendous fishery out here," Jemiolo points out. "Let's bring those tourist dollars here. It would help everyone."
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to email@example.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.