Niagara County currently enjoys a resurgence of sports fishing that all but disappeared 30 years ago. Industrial pollutants had taken their toll on water health in and about Niagara and the fishing industry and avocation was a primary casualty. However, looking back to the 19th century, fans of fishing were all about the county dropping their lines in the Niagara River at Youngstown, or Lake Ontario at Olcott Beach or Wilson.
So ardent were these gentlemen and lady piscators, that Niagara County even sported their own Angler’s Club that attended to the needs of local fishers. The Niagara Democrat of 1886 offers a glimpse into this fishy bunch. “There was a large and enthusiastic meeting of the Niagara County Anglers’ Club in the Hodge Opera House (Lockport, NY.) Remarks were made by a number present, as well as whopping big fish stories told.” The initial membership fee was set at $2.00 with annual dues at $2.00 as well. Notifications of the formation of the Club were sent to “parties at Tonawanda, Youngstown, Olcott, Wilson and other points.” By May 1886 the Club had 107 active members and was making arrangements to procure a yacht for an excursion on the Niagara River with the Audubon Club of Buffalo, and for a minnow cart in Youngstown. The purpose of the Club was not only to catch fish but to protect them as well.
The Niagara Falls Journal of 1893 records the following observation. “On Tuesday last another large catch of fish was made by fishermen and about one ton was caught.” Local artist Raphael Beck captured the excitement of one of the club’s outings in 1893 in a stunning painting of the Niagara River with Old Fort Niagara as the backdrop. The painting is currently available in a stunning giclee reprint at the History Center in Lockport. The Anglers’ Club went on for many years but eventually disbanded. In 1982, a new Niagara River Anglers Association was founded and is currently in operation.
Douglas Farley, Director
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094