Niagara Gazette

September 29, 2013

Lake Placid, Empire State Shines for Outdoor Writers

By BILL HILTS, JR.
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Nearly 300 media people from around the country that focus on the outdoors gathered in Lake Placid September 13-16 to convene for the 86th Annual conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. In addition, it was a joint conference of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association as they broke bread, shared workshops/craft improvement session and so much more. This was a good thing in so many ways.

More importantly from a tourism standpoint, many of these writers came into the Empire State for pre- and post-conference offerings that allowed them to sample the state’s tremendous outdoor resources. A handful of writers took advantage of some of the trips offered in Niagara USA and they were impressed to say the least.

Dennis Scharadin of Pennsylvania has been a regular visitor for many years but he’s not had an opportunity to fish in Lake Ontario before. This time around he was able to catch brown trout, steelhead, Chinook salmon and lake trout. As the new Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, he was quick to comment that he would be setting up a safari for a dozen of his writers in the very near future.

Scott Pauley of Missouri is a bass fisherman at heart. Within an hour of fishing Devil’s Hole in the Lower Niagara River, he had collected his first salmon – a 25-pounder. Fishing alongside writer Bud Cole of Pennsylvania, they managed to catch seven kings for the morning – pretty impressive.

The next day it was smallmouth bass fishing on the Niagara Bar and it was one of those magical days where everything seemed to go right. The consistently caught fish in the 3-4 pound range and managed to hook a couple of fish in the 5-6 pound class, only to lose the big guys next to the boat. It was some of the best smallmouth bass fishing that the two have ever experienced. That’s what it’s all about. As I’ve said before and I’m sure I will say again, the fish really do make us look good. It helps that we also have a great fleet of qualified charter captains to tap into.

The same type of quality trips were enjoyed throughout the Adirondacks, an excellent playground for the outdoors enthusiast. The Ausable River was in rare form for the writers and it seemed like everyone had fish stories to share. Local lakes and ponds were producing some nice trout, too, for those making the extra effort to sample New York’s natural resources.

A pat on the back has to go out to the state’s Division of Tourism and the Department of Environmental Conservation for getting so involved with this historic conference. The last time OWAA held a conference in New York was in 1991. I was the local conference chairman for the Niagara Falls conference and Bill, Sr. was the president of the national group – something that has never happened before or since, having a president host a conference in his home town. Our state presence was poor at best. They made up for it this time in Lake Placid.

Both agencies had booths and gift bags of information for each and every writer. Gavin Landry, Executive Director for the Tourism Division of Empire State Development, spoke at one of the dinners that the state helped sponsor. He was right on target welcoming these writer to our state and kudos to I Love NY for reaching out and touching the media in several ways. While they need a little work on the press information and what was being passed out, the important thing is that they were there and involved. New York’s outdoors needs to be a bigger part of the overall promotion effort as we move forward in the 21st century.

Our DEC was also available to the writers with Commissioner Joe Martens at the top of the list. I had the good fortune of being the moderator for a session that Martens headlined entitled: Discovering the “New” New York. I had his ear for about 10 minutes prior to the talk and he listened intently as I expressed many of our concerns concerning DEC’s press policy, concern of DEC staffing in Region 9 and much more. Hopefully he took some of this to heart.

If you’ve never had the chance to spend any time in the Adirondacks, you need to make some time. There are so many hidden jewels in this six million acres state park, a favorite haunt of President Theodore Roosevelt. In fact, he was hunting in the Adirondacks when he actually became president – when McKinley was shot in Buffalo back in 1901. There is a storied history there. We’ll have more in future columns.

Fishing Platform Closed Weekdays

Earlier this month, it was announced that the New York Power Authority would be restricting some of the fishing in the Niagara Gorge around the Niagara Project – home to the popular fishing platform. Due to construction that was taking place, half of the parking lot in the lower section was to be closed off, as well as the stairs that lead to the shoreline of Devil’s Hole. Safety concerns were touted as the reasons for limiting access.

In addition, many of the fishermen were upset when the No. 1 generator was taken off line for some maintenance work. It’s not the first time that its happened and it won’t be the last. It’s one of the only times that they can perform said maintenance, so anglers will have to learn to be patient.

To make matters worse, though, an announcement from NYPA on Friday reported that the fishing platform will be closed weekdays starting Monday, Sept. 30 through the remainder of the fall fishing due to the major roadwork renovations underway along that south access road. It will only be open on the weekends. Again, safety reasons. 

Who can argue with that? The construction taking place will create a path from the upper lot to the lower lot and fishing platform that will be off the road, which can be quite busy. And in the scheme of things, we’re talking about one of the largest hydroelectric power generation facilities in the world versus some recreational fishing.

In defense of the fishermen, though, this is the salmon run – the fall return of the king – and it seems like no one cares what happens to them and their pastime. One has to remember that the fishing platform would not be there if it wasn’t for NYPA. On the other hand, what do you think the lower river would be like if the Niagara Power Project wasn’t there? In looking at all of the natural resource development and restoration going on above Niagara Falls, it’s time that the lower river fishermen get their fair share of what’s coming to them. Yes, they deserve more respect.

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Calendar of Events for Week of September 29, 2013

Today

• Wilson Conservation Club 3-D Archery Shoot from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. All shoots open to the public. Children under 12 are free. For more info visit www.wilsonconservationclub.com. This is the final shoot of the fall.

• NYPA Wildlife Festival continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kids fishing contest continues with weigh-in from noon to 2 p.m. Awards will be at 3 p.m.

Tomorrow 

• Final day, lake trout season in the Great Lakes.

• Final Day, license year for hunting and fishing. A new license year starts on Oct. 1.

Tuesday

• Start of a new license year for hunting and fishing in New York State.

• Southern Zone early archery season opens.

• Fall turkey season opens in the eastern half of the state. Consult regulations guide for specific areas and bag limits.

• Deadline for entering the Deer Management Unit permit lottery through license issuing agents around the state.

• Lake trout season is now closed in Lake Ontario through Dec. 31, 2013.

• Small game seasons open for ruffed grouse, coyote and cottontail rabbit in WNY, with opportunities for varying hare, pheasant and turkey opening up in other locations around the state.

• Opening day of woodcock season through Nov. 14. Daily limit is three birds.

• Niagara Musky Association will hold their monthly meeting at Eldridge Club, 17 Broad St., Tonawanda starting at 7 p.m.

Wednesday

• Brauer’s Restaurant Fishing Club monthly meeting on Campbell Blvd., Pendleton starting at 8 p.m. New members are welcome.

• Monthly meeting of the WNY chapter of the Safari Club International at Michael’s Banquet Facility, Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg starting at 7 p.m.

Thursday

• General membership meeting, Tonawandas Sportsmen’s club, 5657 Killian Road, Pendleton. Call 692-2161 for more information.

Saturday

• Middleport Rod and Gun Club, Mountain and Freeman Roads, Middleport will be holding a Sportsman Tailgate Sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They will also be holding a chowder sale. Call 772-2207 for more info.

• The Birth of a Wonder presentation at Artpark State Park, Lewiston from 1-3:30 pm. Call 282-5154 for info and registration.

• Chautauqua Lake Kayak Adventure at Long Point State Park from 9-11 am. Call 549-1050 for info and registration.

Weekend of Oct. 12-14

• Youth Firearms Deer Hunting Weekend through Monday, Columbus Day. For licensed junior hunters ages 14 and 15. Junior hunters must be accompanied by a licensed adult. Consult the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov for complete details.

• Youth waterfowl hunting weekend for the Western Zone (Saturday and Sunday) for junior hunters ages 12 to 15 with licensed adults. Consult the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov for all the details.

• Youth pheasant hunt weekend in Western NY. Contact DEC for details at www.dec.ny.gov.

Bill Hilts Jr. is an outdoor writer with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. Contact him at billhiltsjr@gmail.com.