Promoting Lake Ontario through Sportfishing Promotion Council

2020 Whi Champs

I received a call from Capt. Rob Westcott of Hamlin, the skipper of Legacy Charters out of Bald Eagle and president of the Lake Ontario Charter Boat Association. Through his leadership and guidance, the charter fishing industry became part of Phase One in the Empire State when things began to open back up in May 2020. That was huge. However, charter captains still took a big hit last year due to complications of Covid-19.

At the top of the list was the restrictions imposed by traveling out of state for customers from around the country. Throw in the cancellation of several key fishing contests, such as the Spring Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby and the Lake Ontario Pro-Am Salmon Team Tournament out of Niagara County, it limited the number of fishermen traveling for those events … and chartering a trip specifically for the contest.

One bright spot was that many charter operations needed to refocus their marketing efforts within the state. An increase in resident fishing license sales opened a new market for the charter fleet. They turned to social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, not all skippers are social media savvy when it comes to navigating the Internet.

That was when Westcott asked me about the Lake Ontario Sportfishing Promotion Council. He wondered what and who it was.

My first thought was how could he not know? It was then I realized that as a loose knit organization, we really have not done a very good job promoting ourselves. Instead, we have been focused on our ultimate goal – promoting Lake Ontario as a world-class angling destination.

The Lake Ontario Sportfishing Promotion Council, or LOSPC for short, is made up of the seven counties that border Lake Ontario, including: Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga, Oswego, and Jefferson County. Their goal is to collectively promote year-round Lake Ontario fishing opportunities, including charters, tournaments/derbies, lake access, tributary fishing, and more. Each county represented has a person who speaks for the Tourism Promotion Agent for each county. We recognized that sportfishing was an important tool in the tourism toolbox when it came to promotional efforts.

Early on when the group was first formed with the help of the Bureau of Fisheries for the Department of Environmental Conservation (back in the early 1990s), the original intent was to promote this Great Lake and disseminate essential information through each tourism office relative to recent stocking reductions. The agency admitted that they had handled things badly and that they needed help. We were more than happy to oblige.

In fact, the group became so successful, the counties banded together to kick-start a new fishing derby – the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby. This was necessary after the old ESLO Derby was shut down due to internal conflict. We needed a special event to attract new and existing anglers back to Lake Ontario. After several years, it became too much for the group to handle and they handed it off to Dave Chilson, who still operates 3 LOC derbies on the lake in the spring, summer and fall. He had been involved with ESLO.

The group could get back to their original task of promotions. In previous years, the tourism group would attend sport, travel, and outdoor shows throughout the Northeast to market to anglers. With many shows shut down in 2021 and attendance questionable if it is being held this year, LOSPC has turned to the Internet and social media to get the message out about the world class fishing in New York’s great Lake Ontario.

LOSPC has announced that the group recently unveiled a new website (www.lakeontariofishing.com) and a new Instagram account (www.instagram.com/lakeontariofishing). It is part of a new marketing effort for the lake to help offset the effects of COVID-19. It includes weekly fishing reports for many of the counties.

This important group has been around for nearly 30 years. As president the last 20 years, it has been a pleasure working a diverse group of individuals who are dedicated to the betterment of our counties, our lakeshore communities and for the Empire State as a whole. It is time to finally step down and let some younger blood take over.

We have been flying under the radar because we are not looking for accolades or a pat on the back. We were doing our part to help the charter fishing fleet, the economy and all things fishing. Now you know the rest of the story.

Categories: Blog Content, New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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