As Capt. Ernie Calandrelli of Lewiston set the hook, there was a big smile on his face. “It feels like a good one,” he said with excitement in his voice. We were fishing on the lower Niagara River along with outdoor writer Dave Barus of East Aurora and it was a beautiful morning. When he pulled the walleye to the side of the boat, we netted it, took some photos and weighed it before releasing it. It weighed 8 pounds, 7 ounces.
That’s the way our day went, catching bass and walleye throughout the morning as he hopped along from drift to drift, seeking out cooperative fish. Throughout the morning he would share some stories along the way, keeping us entertained when we weren’t reeling in fish.
No matter where you live in this country, if you hunt and fish there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Capt. Ernie. He’s has been in the outdoor industry for over four decades, enjoying hunting and fishing even longer than that. He grew up in Western New York, living in Niagara Falls. After winning numerous turkey calling competitions with his good friend Paul Butski, Ernie started working for Quaker Boy Game Calls in Orchard Park.
After working some 32 years with Quaker Boy as the director of public relations and advertising, he finally retired earlier this year. Out course, that “R” word is a bit of a misnomer. No, he’s not going to work for Quaker Boy every day like he used to, but he’s still doing many of the same things he’s always done in the industry. He is an old school icon who often volunteers his time for the next generation of outdoorsmen, he will continue to be a Great Lakes charter captain and he will continue to hunt turkey and deer around the country.
While is name is normally associated with turkeys and turkey hunting, he’s also one heck of a deer hunter. He’s been on numerous television programs, videos and radio shows. He’s been the subject of countless newspaper and magazine articles. Now it’s the Internet. Social media has become an important outlet to get his messages out. He’s always willing to give a talk or share his time, especially when kids are involved. In 2016 alone he was involved with youth hunts in Texas, Ohio and Georgia.
As far as his fishing exploits, he’s been a Great Lakes charter captain licensed by the U. S. Coast Guard. His angling “home” is the lower Niagara River and Lake Erie Charter – bodies of water he’s fished for over 25 years and is considered one of the best in the business. He fishes year-round for a variety of species, but his focus is bass, walleye, salmon and trout – not necessarily in that order. Not only is he an ambassador of our fisheries, he is very giving of his time and energy as he does his best to pass on these traditions – starting with his own family. His son Nick (who is also a charter captain now) is a chip off the old block – and it scares him!
Capt. Ernie regularly shares his expertise and knowledge with the next generation of hunters and fishermen as we’ve mentioned. And he’s always donating his time for local fundraising efforts. He’s been involved with the Jim Kelly Charity Shoot held for several years at the Three-F Conservation Society (his home club) in Lewiston as one example. He’s also been involved with the Lower River Sport Fishing Challenge for the fight against Cystic Fibrosis. His life has been all about the outdoors and he shares that passion every chance he gets.
As we finished our fishing trip on the river, Ernie carried the same excitement with him as when we started. “Let’s do it again sometime soon,” he said as we gathered up our gear. We were happy and blessed for the invitation. If you’ve never been fishing with Calandrelli, give him a call someone and get to know one of the true outdoor legends in New York and the country. He can be reached at (716) 609-3064.
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