Stories of People Connected to the Lake
Just outside the gates of Rondeau Provincial Park is a pub and restaurant called Rondeau Joe’s. With a variety of beers on tap, a patio and a full marina out back, and a breathtaking view of the sunset over Rondeau Bay, there’s no better place to spend a summer evening by Lake Erie.
Paul Trudell couldn’t agree more. Eight years ago, he bought the restaurant. But for him, the move wasn’t just a business opportunity.
Lake Erie holds a special place in the 50 year-old’s heart. He grew up in Tilbury, Ont. (which is located about 20 minutes away), and spent his childhood camping beside and exploring the lake as a Scout. And during his teen years, Paul and his friends would have bonfires on the beach on Friday and Saturday nights.
Paul’s childhood memories of Lake Erie have even inspired his restaurant’s menu. He offers locally sourced smelt as a throwback to the smelt runs that used to happen in the lake when he was a kid.
“You’d get a call at 10 or 12 o’clock at night saying the smelt are running,” recalled Paul. “You’d see hoards of people with their little fishing nets. You’d only have to go in knee deep [in the water], and you could bring in buckets and buckets of smelt. You don’t see that anymore.”
The success of Paul’s business is closely tied to the health of Lake Erie. It’s one of the reasons why he is concerned about the algae blooms that have been happening in the lake, and the dead fish that have been rolling up on shore.
“When they have the no swim zones and all that because of the bacteria counts, people stop coming to the beach, they stop coming to this area, which impacts business,” he said.
“When you get the kill-offs of fish, they roll up on the beach, and again, no one wants to go to the beach, because all they smell is rotten fish,” he added.
When asked why people should care about Lake Erie, Paul noted that it’s part of a whole ecosystem, and if one part is impacted, so is the rest.
“If you’ve got a dead lake, where are you going to get your fish from, your food? Where’s the water going to come from? All of our water comes from Lake Erie.”
For almost 30 years, Lake Erie has been in JoAnne Chrysler’s backyard. Read JoAnne’s story.
Kimberly Shillington is an avid paddle boarder on Lake Erie. Read Kimberly’s story.
For his entire life, Brian French’s family has owned a cottage on the shores of Lake Erie. Read Brian’s story.
Todd is a Lake Erie commercial fisherman based out of Wheatley, Ont. Read Todd’s story.