CLEVELAND - Every year, the buzzards return to Hinckley, the swallows return to Capistrano and the seals return to Ohio from Canada, or so the press release said.
Coming on the heels of the buzzards returning to Hinckley just two weeks prior, it seemed plausible. Every year the Lake Erie seals would migrate from Point Pelee, Canada to the Ohio shoreline of Lake Erie.
WEWS assistant news director Bob Woods and assignment editor Chris Geiselman approached reporter Jay Bacchus with a press release from a local nature facility. They told Bacchus to go in search of the migration.
Chopper 5 was called into action as an aerial view would be the best way to see the spectacle of nature in action. The annual migration of seals would be breathtaking.
Bacchus was having difficulty with the story as no matter where he and Chopper 5 pilot Art Fantroy went, there were no seals heading to Ohio across the waters of Lake Erie.
Of course not Jay, it was an elaborate April Fools prank as the press release was a fabrication of the news managers.
In our video player, we get to see Ted Henry read the story from April 1, 1980. As he reads it, his mood gets a bit silly. Ted confesses at first he thought it was real too.
Jeff Maynor joins in the prank announcing Jay would soon be searching for "Easter" seals.
But the story gets better as we head out to our parking lot for Don Webster's weather toss.
Don tells people not only is there is no seal migration, there is no fish count either.
The fish count was an occasional gag here at WEWS. Think pollen count and replace the word pollen with fish.
A statistic shown on the weather menu denoting the number of fish fisherman could expect to find in an average square mile of Lake Erie water, the higher the number, the better your chance of catching a fish.
Viewers would call the assignment desk apologizing for missing the weather segment asking for the fish count.
One story from the fish count days goes, our general manager, an avid boater, stopped into a lakeside eating establishment where a blackboard displayed weather conditions and the fish count.
He said the joke was out of control and it was time for it to end. Party pooper.
Happy April Fool's Day.