Old fishing memorabilia brings new life to Sports Club


Kathryn Ford presents Sports Club director Richard Ulasewicz with a mounted 48-inch, 28-lb. muskellunge for display in the Sports Club. Ford’s father caught the fish on Chautauqua Lake in 1962. Photo by Eve Edelheit.

Patrick Hosken | Staff Writer

In August 1962, Kathryn Ford set sail on Chautauqua Lake with her parents. Cruising in the family’s mahogany Chris-Craft, her father caught a 48-inch, 28-lb. muskellunge with a Silver Flash lure. Instead of keeping and eating the fish, Ford’s father had it stuffed and mounted in Jamestown.

“I don’t remember her fighting very much. She was an old fish,” Ford said. “She was too old to eat.”

At the beginning of this August, Ford gave the mounted musky to Sports Club director Richard Ulasewicz to put up on display in the back room. Ford wanted the fish facing the lake because, as she said, that’s where it belongs.

This musky joins two others already prominently featured on the walls of Sports Club. The two decorate opposite sides of the same wall, mounted just above the double doors that lead into Sports Club’s back room — often used for ping-pong and duplicate bridge. One is a large striped musky, called a tiger musky; the other is a regular musky that resembles Ford’s fish quite a bit.

In fact, Ford said, her father knew the man who caught it: a fellow fisherman named Don Kramer.

“They were great friends, but they were rivals, too,” Ford said. “They used to tell fish stories.”

Since Ford’s father and Kramer were fishing around the same time, it’s likely that two of the fish now adorning the Sports Club walls once cohabited in Chautauqua Lake, Ulasewicz said.

“I really believe (both fish) were swimming around out here together 50 years ago, and now they’re both back at Sports Club, which is really wonderful,” Ulasewicz said.

The walls at Sports Club also contain other snippets of Chautauqua Lake history, Ulasewicz said. In the back right corner, near the bait fridge and the lures on hooks, hangs an old photo of a former Sports Club director with a large musky he caught. Just below the tiger musky in the back room, two gentlemen holding a group of caught fish — including one trophy-sized musky — occupy another old photo.

The two fishing poles hung just behind Kramer’s muskies are old, too, Ulasewicz said.

“Those poles, for example, I found in the garbage, and they are old,” Ulasewicz said. “They’re 50-something years old, and that musky could have been caught on that pole. It’s that era.”

Stories and memorabilia like these inspired Ulasewicz, known by all as “Uke,” to set up a vintage fishing gallery at Sports Club full of Chautauqua fishing artifacts. Uke said he welcomes any and all photographs, mounts, poles, reels, lures, tackle or anything else that has a Chautauqua connection.

Uke said he’s looking for all species of fish found in Chautauqua Lake, not necessarily just muskies. To be considered a trophy fish, a musky must be at least 40 inches long.

Uke said he hopes this new endeavor will leave a lasting impression for any first-time fishers who step into Sports Club to rent a pole, Uke said.

“Little kids come down here and we get them fishing with tackle and bait, and I’ll say, ‘You may catch one of those!’ and point to (a mounted musky), but that’s a whole conversation,” Uke said. “The impressions are lasting.”

For Ford, fishing is a relaxing affair that requires attentiveness, something that young line-casters can appreciate.

“It’s a very quiet sport,” she said. “You don’t listen to your iPod; you listen to the sound of the reel.”

The fishing gallery project will be ongoing, an open-ended invitation for those in the community to submit their memorabilia to be put on display at Sports Club. Uke’s wife, Peggy, organizes the Old First Night Run/Walk/Swim, and the couple has lined Sports Club’s interior with posters and T-shirts of previous years’ races.

This artifacts collection will be just another aspect to the Ulasewicz legacy, which will be left at Sports Club for years to come.

“To look around and see that I had something to do with all the fishing stuff would be really cool,” Uke said. “I’d like to see this place filled with stuff.”