New York – Bill Hilts Jr

Recognizing the next generation

It’s good to see fishing and hunting participation on the rise. Based on recent reports revealed through the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, angler numbers have increased by 11 percent and hunter numbers jumped by nine percent since 2006 – the last time the survey was conducted. National organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation and…

The underrated Upper Niagara River

There’s no question that we're spoiled when it comes to fishing here in Western New York. Being the outdoor sports specialist for Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation certainly has its advantages – although I wish I fished half as much as everyone thinks I do. Catering to media and holding on-the-water meetings are part of the job … but someone…

Guiding light: Hire a charter

It was one of the hottest weekends of the year … so far. I found myself on the boat of local St. Lawrence River region legend Capt. Allen Benas of Clayton, owner of the Thousand Islands Inn and Thousand Islands Fishing Charters. My wife Sandy and I were part of a mixed half-day charter that benefitted a father and his…

Cooking spices up outdoor experience

Hunting and fishing are a huge part of the outdoor experience for sportsmen. However, it doesn’t have to stop there. Preparing your fish and game can add some flavor (pun intended) to your overall enjoyment and satisfaction, allow you to experiment with how it's prepared and ultimately how it tastes as you complete the cycle. I love cooking. My favorite…

Florida trip teaches lessons

Our ultimate destination was Ponce Inlet, Fla. – south of Daytona Beach on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state. My wife Sandy and I were visiting her son Keith and his family in Jacksonville – wife Brandy, sons Mark (9) and Chris (7); daughters Giselle (5) and Alaina (1 1/2) and we found a short-term rental of an excellent…

Ultimate honor for Olcott Beach

Olcott Beach, a small hamlet on Lake Ontario in the Town of Newfane, Niagara County, is relatively quiet, unassuming … and a good spot to go fishing! After a monthlong voting process and a record number of votes being cast (nearly 330,000), Olcott Beach was named the Ultimate Fishing Town USA by the World Fishing Network. It was made official…

Becoming a 'Happy Camper'

It was just a few days before Memorial Day weekend and I had still not made any arrangements for camping. The group I had been camping with at Pendleton Center United Methodist Church decided to hold off on camping this holiday weekend, something we’ve done as a group for over a decade. But sometimes life just gets in the way….

WFN helps highlight N.Y.’s angling resources

New York has work-class angling opportunities. We know that because we live here. I’ve been fortunate to travel all around this state, from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario to the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain; from the Hudson River to the Finger Lakes; from the Catskills to Chautauqua Lake … and many points in between. I Love NY Division…

2012: A smelt odyssey

The oldtimers remember how it was with smelt, the tasty baitfish that became somewhat of a springtime tradition. It was sort of like spring bullhead fishing; a good time to catch and eat. The smelt seemed to be everywhere – in the tributary streams off Lake Ontario and in the Finger Lakes streams of New York. For most, that’s become…

Pen projects' unsung heroes

It’s all about what’s going on behind the scenes to make our sportfishing resource one of the best on the planet. Yes, we know about the fish hatcheries themselves and the personnel who collect the fish eggs, hatch them and get them ready for fish stockings each spring – the salmon and trout for the Great Lakes. But it doesn’t…

First trout a memorable one

I’m not sure how old I was, but I was definitely knee high to a grasshopper. Mom, Dad, my brother Rick – that was our family back then. It was before David and Susan came along, so I was probably seven or so. The Hilts clan was camping in the Adirondacks and Lewey Lake in Hamilton County was our preferred…

Crossbow movement takes shape

It’s no secret that I’m an ardent advocate for the crossbow in New York. I’ve used these tools for more than two decades and see them for what they truly are – a fun and effective way to hunt … with limitations. As the crossbow fever starts to spread across the Empire State, the effort needed a conductor, a director…

Watching the neighbors

While attending the Allegheny Sport, Travel and Outdoor Show in Monroeville, Pa., it a tradition to pick up a copy of the Pennsylvania Outdoor News to see what’s happening in the Keystone State. In the Feb. 24, 2012 issue, the lead story talked about trout being destroyed in an Erie hatchery due to disease issues. Steelhead to be stocked in…

Winter skeet shooting always a challenge

The wind was blowing out of the southwest 25 to 35 miles per hour and the outside temperature – without wind chill – hovered around the 30-degree mark. There was a threat of snow in the air and being outside was the last place I wanted to be. One problem: This was going to be the only day that I…

Ding Darling Refuge a great destination

It was four degrees on the thermometer with a wind chill that dipped below zero – a rare occurrence so far this winter. As I sat in front of the fireplace drinking a cup of hot coffee and surfing the television channels for something of interest, I was hooked by the CBS “Morning Show” with the traditional closing scene of…

Park plans face state hurdle

Joseph Davis State Park in the Town of Lewiston (Niagara County) has long been considered a diamond in the rough. This picturesque piece of real estate, encompassing some 350-plus acres, was once a vibrant public hangout. In the last 20 years, however, the park fell into a state of disrepair and slashed budgets on the state level all but forgot…

New York’s monster muskies

  My first musky was a memorable catch, as it should be. I was a junior at Starpoint Central School in Pendleton, finding my niche with other fishermen on the baseball team. Senior Paul Kennedy knew I loved fishing and suggested that we skip one afternoon to hike down into the Niagara Gorge to cast lures from shore for a…

Peck’s a great pick

Peck’s Lake, located just outside Gloversville on the fringe of the great Adirondack Park, was a hidden jewel of sorts that I had the brief opportunity to explore in October. The “excuse” for visiting was the Annual New York State Outdoor Writers Association Conference in Fulton County Oct. 13-16. This manmade creation stretches out 1,370 acres – five miles long…

Iowa hosts Great Lakes writers

What does Iowa have in common with New York and the other Great Lakes states? Plenty of outdoor opportunities! The Hawkeye State had an opportunity to show off those outdoor resources when the state hosted the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW) in September for its 55th Annual Conference held at Honey Creek Resort State Park on Rathbun Lake….

Catching a cure

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Western New York has found a way to use fishing as an important part of their fundraising effort, a near-perfect marriage as both individuals and companies work together to catch a cure for this debilitating disease. It started with the Greater Niagara BassEye competitions, spearheaded by Bob Rich, Jr., of Buffalo (and Rich Products) 10…

Rob Ray: A nice guy – off the ice

Rob Ray, retired National Hockey League tough guy who played many years with the Buffalo Sabres (and a short stint with the Ottawa Senators), had a reputation of being hard-nosed and tough. If anybody took a cheap shot at one of his teammates, he was the enforcer to set the record straight. Off the ice, though, he’s a great guy…

Three cheers for three rods?

Freshwater anglers are now entitled to use three rods per person thanks to legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Is this good news? The bill was designed to favorably impact a fisherman’s experience by increasing the probability of catching a fish. According to the new law, catching a fish is the primary determining factor in whether a…

N.Y. angler takes his title shot

Everyone loves an underdog. Darrin Schwenkbeck of Varysburg (Wyoming County) is all of that as he competes for the Forrest Wood Cup Aug. 11-14 on Lake Ouachita. All the action for this world championship of bass fishing will be taking place out of Hot Springs, Ark., — 116 of the top bass fishermen on the planet, with half of them…

Underwater viewing out West

As I stood in the Bradford Island Visitors Center of the Bonneville Lock and Dam in Oregon, I looked out through windows portraying surging waters. I wondered if it was an aquarium. Almost immediately, I saw a fish swim by. A steelhead! Within the next 60 seconds, I witnessed another dozen fish swimming by. There were several windows on the…

Experiencing the Bird in Utah

Utah gave me The Bird – and that was a good thing. I’m sitting here in my room at the Cliff Lodge of Snowbird Resort – The Bird – located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. I’m a half-hour ride from Salt Lake City and the 84th Annual Conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America is underway. Looking out my…