Outdoor Expo has focus on fishing education

The third annual Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo is scheduled to be held Jan. 22-24 at the Conference and Event Center in Niagara Falls. Once again, there will be more than 120 seminars and over 100 exhibitors, combining a wide variety of activities all under one roof. The amount of work and planning that goes into an event like this is mind boggling. I know because I’ve seen first-hand what goes on behind the scenes. After two years of tweaking, this coming year’s version looks like a real winner.

If you want to learn about fish and fishing, this is a one-stop shop for novice and veteran alike. Beginner seminars start out simple, like “this is a fish.” The legendary Vince Lombardi started his Green Bay Packers that way by using a football and you see where they ended up! From rods and reels to rigging your boat, there’s enough knowledge there to not only get you started but get you catching fish right off the bat. Don’t think this is just for salmon and trout either. Walleye, bass and musky will be a huge focus throughout the three days, too. Last year one of the most popular seminars was yellow perch, and there will be talks on ringbarks again this year. Ice fishing has its own separate component, as well. There are even special learning sessions for the kids.

Of course, there are also some of the most advanced classes you could ever receive at a show (or anywhere for that matter). For example, the highly-popular Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association (LOTSA) Salmon School is set for Jan. 23, again a component of the Expo overall even though it’s a separate charge by the club. It sells out every year and with good reason – it brings in some of the biggest salmon fishing names on Lake Ontario and even other Great Lakes, like Michigan. This year, Capt. Pete Alex with Vision Quest and Capt. Pete Lahosky of Prime Time are the Lake Ontario headliners. For Lake Michigan, it’s Capt. George Freeman of Ludington, Minch. – one of the best cut bait fishermen on the lake. It’s a separate registration through LOTSA at www.lotsa.org but it’s worth it for a full day of teaching from the pros … and a pass to the Expo.

There is one other seminar that’s a separate charge – the Ultimate Electronics Seminar by Lance Valentine with Walleye 101. He’s giving a primo session on electronics on Friday afternoon (Jan. 22) that will be a couple hours long. For $25 it will be the best money you ever spent if you are looking at getting the most out of your fishfinder. If you have a Lowrance HDS unit you’ll want to bring it to the show for a free update from Valentine.

Mark and Jake Romanack with the Fishing 411 television show will be bringing their expertise on walleye and salmon to the Expo, including a two-hour walleye talk that has limited space. Sign up at the Fishing 411 booth after the show opens. Tickets are free but it will be first come, first served. Mark and Jake will be giving other one-hour sessions throughout the three days. They will also have their fully-rigged boat in their booth in the main exhibit hall so you can go one-on-one with questions and answers.

For the ice fishing enthusiasts, if this mild weather continues you may have to settle for indoor simulated ice fishing experiences thanks to Clam Corporation. The Northeast Region Ice (Fishing) Jam is a new focus of the show and there isn’t a better person to kick it off than the godfather of ice fishing – Dave Genz – giving some talks and mingling with the crowds. Local Ice Team pro staffer Scott Brauer will also be a huge piece of the iceberg at the Expo.

After that, every other fishing seminar is around an hour in length. Some of the other big names in attendance sharing their intimate fishing tips include Great Lakes tributary author and stream expert Rick Kustich; local fishing guides Frank Campbell and Matt Yablonsky; a long list of manufacturers with their own expertise, and much, much more. Check out the list so far at www.niagarafishingexpo.com.

In the hunting arena, Charlie Alsheimer is back giving three excellent seminars on Saturday. He is giving his popular “Whitetail Strategies” workshop in two parts; and also giving a talk on Nature and Wildlife photography. Gerry Rightmyer and Steve Schicker of the Forever Wild Outdoors Adrenaline Adventures TV show will be there giving talks on big game and turkey hunting. Craig Robbins of Oakridge Game Calls will be keying in on waterfowl and turkey. Kevin Kishel with Kishel Scents will be talking deer.

That’s just a taste of some of the seminars. There is also a section of the show devoted to kids and families. Interactive exhibits like the Niagara River Anglers Association’s fishing pond and the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs’ air rifle trailer start things off, but there are other things to see and do like the Primate Sanctuary, Sky Hunters Birds of Prey and the entire Family Fun Zone –  ideal to get your kids involved with nature and the outdoors.

The show is the great way to buy new gear for fishing at discounted rates, but on Sunday the LOTSA Lake Ontario Marketplace will be setting up shop for selling used gear, as well. It’s the perfect way to get started with fishing if you don’t have the cash to purchase top-notch quality equipment at an affordable price. Get there early on Sunday for the deals! Joe Yaeger, current president of LOTSA, has been the point person for seminars and exhibitors of the Expo. He’s done an outstanding job in working with the Conference and Event Center’s Melissa Gearhart to make the upcoming show something special. With a three-day pass for the show at just $16, this is a great place to just hang out for three days … and learn.

Some of the proceeds are going to a very worthwhile cause – the LOTSA pen-rearing project in Olcott. A portion of the money coming in on Sunday will be earmarked for LOTSA’s program to raise salmon and trout in pens each spring. The purpose of the pen project is to not only improve survival rates but also imprint those fish better to the waters that they are being stocked in. That should ensure a better chance for success overall. Special package deals are available through local hotels and Niagara Falls is always a spectacular attraction any time of year. Expo tickets are now available on the website at www.niagarafishing expo.com

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