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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sunday, October 2, 2022
Museum lecture casts a net on NOTL’s controversial fishing history
The NOTL Museum’s next in-person lecture will explore the colourful and often controversial history of fishing in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The NOTL Museum’s next in-person lecture will explore the colourful and often controversial history of fishing in Niagara-on-the-Lake. NOTL Museum photo

Barbara Worthy
Special to The Lake Report

Niagara-on-the-Lake sits beside one of the great freshwater resources on the planet.

And for more than 70 years that resource provided the town with a massive fishing industry that rivalled anything in the world.

The NOTL Museum’s next in-person lecture, presented by Terry Boulton on Thursday Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m., will cast a net on this colourful and often controversial history.

In the mid-1800s, the supply of fish in Lake Ontario appeared to be inexhaustible. Local fishermen harvested sturgeon, whitefish, herring, pike, trout, lake salmon or pickerel, in massive amounts.

Sometimes the catch was so large, hundreds of fish carcasses were simply piled on the beaches. The industry served the town’s hotels, restaurants, the local population, as well as many from upper New York State and beyond.

More than 30 families played a significant role in the development of this industry – but also in its ultimate demise.

Boulton shows how the story of commercial fishing in Niagara is one of conflict. The fishermen and local officials were constantly in disputes over fishing quotas and practices, which many fishermen ignored.

But the lives and colourful characters who made up Niagara’s once booming industry are a major part of local history. And while their contribution to the growing economy of the town may have been controversial, Boulton illustrates how they made an undeniable contribution to Niagara’s society.

Boulton is a descendant of one of those fisherman families. His two most recent publications – “Destroyed: Commercial Fishing in Niagara” (2022) and “Smuggling on the Lower Niagara River” (2021) – uncover many untold stories of living beside this massive water resource.

For more than a decade Boulton has been researching and compiling these stories, not only to search out his own family history, but also to ensure that a significant aspect of Niagara’s history is revealed.

Registration is required. Call 905-468-3912. Tickets are free for members, $10 for non-members.