VIP fishing events important reminder of great resources of western N.Y.

The angling resources in the western part of New York State are outstanding. Anglers from far and wide know about it, thanks to one of the most effective forms of advertising – word of mouth. Outdoor media also plays a huge role in helping to get the word out to the fishing fraternity. Outdoor sport shows do their part in creating awareness for our fish and fishing as well. One group of folks we need to do a better job with is our elected officials. They can make a huge difference.

At the 11th Annual Great Lakes Experience VIP Fishing Day in Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, held Aug. 7, more than 65 registered participants took advantage of a beautiful day on the water, some excellent walleye fishing and a great shore lunch at the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club in Dunkirk overlooking the harbor. When you add in volunteers, charter captains and their mates, the overall figure was closer to 100 people.

In what started out as a fun fishing day with a few key elected officials like then-Assemblyman Dick Smith (a charter captain himself) with members of the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, the first Lake Erie VIP Fishing day was born. Eventually, the county fisheries boards from Erie and Chautauqua teamed up with each county’s tourism offices to expand the event into the gala celebration it is today.

When the morning fishing and shore lunch is complete, it’s a good opportunity to shout out some key pieces off information. This year, the feel-good presentation was made by Dr. Jason Robinson, Lake Erie Unit Leader for DEC. He talked about the excellent walleye population that we are currently enjoying and will enjoy for many years to come. He also shared some of the data that has been collected so far on walleye movement in the lake, all extremely interesting and beneficial to management of the fishery.

A second presentation was made by Rich Davenport with the Erie County Fisheries Advisory Board, talking about the importance of Lake Erie as a natural resource. He went on to chastise the wind energy projects that are currently being considered in Lake Erie and why we need to fight these types of projects in the Great Lakes. It’s important for elected officials to hear from sportsmen on issues that impact our natural resources negatively.

A week later, Niagara County held a similar VIP Day, but on a much smaller scale. Again, it was the Niagara County Fisheries Development Board and the county tourism office (Destination Niagara USA) organizing the effort, along with some key members of the Niagara County Legislature. This time, Lake Ontario was the focal point, at a time when anything positive on the lake was a welcome addition.

Earlier in the month, the state announced that fishing licenses would be free from Aug. 2 through Sept. 2, along with half-price admission and camping at State Parks along the lake, the Niagara River and the St. Lawrence River. While there was concern over the impact to the Conservation Fund (a loss of license sales revenue), the Great Lake needed some help in the way of an economic catalyst after record-high water levels hit the lake two out of the last three years. Businesses were ready to go under unless something was done. Time will tell if this had any impact.

The VIP Day (named the Samuel Ferraro Memorial fishing day after the late Commissioner of the county’s Economic Development office) did face some adverse weather conditions, but everyone weathered the storm. It offered some very good networking opportunities and a chance to see what Lake Ontario is all about in the way of salmon and trout fishing. The day ended with a fine lunch at Live Edge in Newfane, with everyone sharing fish stories.

State assemblymen, county legislators, town supervisors, city mayors and more made up the 25 participants and six members of the local charter boat fleet donated their time to help showcase the local fishery. Even the chief of the Bureau of Fisheries for DEC, Steve Hurst, came and rubbed elbows for the special day. It was a win-win for all involved.

It’s important to educate our elected officials about the importance of our natural resources, whatever they may be. We are stewards of these resources and we need to create a better awareness for what we have to the people who are making the decisions that could impact our outdoors. Think about that.

Categories: Blog Content, New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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