FISHCAP a working Vision supporting the North Country
FISHCAP, what is it? That was the question which would often be asked by many as I started my Professional fishing career two years ago in 2011. People saw a name and a logo of a giant bass which claimed the rights to one of the best freshwater fishing areas in the world. I get many questions from people as I travel to different parts of the country fishing my events. When I explained where I was from and what we had, many people often thought they knew where I was from and say “I was up by you a long time ago, in Clayton”. This was a common reference people made who were not from the North Country. I began to see a pattern; people believed the end of the world stopped in Clayton, NY. My job as a FISHCAP board member became to promote what our area has to offer relating to fishing and tourism. This common theme of nothing being North of Clayton was sometimes frustrating to me when explaining where I was from as I thought of the endless freshwater fishing opportunities in the North Country.
Fast forward to 2013 and ask the same question, What is FISHCAP? The official answer would be more like… the first ever public/private partnership created to promote sport fishing as an economic driver for communities in the St. Lawrence River Valley. It is also the first ever economic and educational initiative in the region not supported with taxpayer dollars. The unofficial answer would be more like a group of volunteers who had a vision and believed sport fishing could make the North County prosper with a little hard work and determination.
There is no doubt after the Bassmaster Elite Series, Evan Williams, St. Lawrence River Showdown event our area can stand up to any challengers that might not think we are the fishing capital of the world. FISHCAP, local chambers of commerce, businesses, law enforcement, politicians and residents of the North Country were able to pull together and create one of the best events the Bassmaster Organization has ever seen. I know when this event started to take shape some people questioned whether or not a fishing tournament would bring in tourism or have a significant impact on the North Country that it would be worth all the effort and hard work. Well over 34,000 people passed through the tiny town of Waddington during that event, so my answer would be, yes it did. Clarkson University conducted an official study on the impact of the area and the results should be out in November.
I attended the event and had my sponsored wrapped truck and boat displayed. People were beyond excited to see what was going on, I heard plenty of people state that they never thought watching some guys drive off in their bass boats early in the morning and weigh their fish in at the end of the day could be so much fun. The sport is often compared to NASCAR and fans with all of the same hype. Everyone has their favorite angler, fantasy fishing leagues of which some pay out 1 million dollars to the winner of that league. The event came and went and all we can do now is wait on the results of the economic impact and wonder if this event will bring tourism back to the area. I can say from firsthand experience, yes it will.
Since the event aired on ESPN and can be viewed on the internet I have personally been contacted several times from people out of the area wanting information about fishing. I have had numerous requests for a guided fishing trip on the river because they want to experience some of that giant smallmouth action. Unfortunately this season I was not ready to add that task to my workload, I do plan on setting up a guide business and to open the doors on that during the 2014 season.
I did however have contact that I could not turn down; I met a special couple last year while preparing for my Everstart Event in Clayton. I was getting ready to launch for the day out of Morristown when I was approached by a guy from New Jersey. Dan and his wife Donna came up to the river to spend a week’s vacation and fish the river. After speaking with Dan he informed me the fishing was really slow and they were not having much luck. I gave Dan and Donna a handful of baits and pointed out some spots where they could likely catch some fish. I gave them my card and told them if that did not work to call me and I would figure something else out for them. I received a phone call later that night and still the fishing had not picked up. I was right in the middle of one of my most important events of the year for practice but I told Dan to meet me at the launch the next day at 6am and I would take him out for a couple hours to get him started. Those two hours went by quick and we caught plenty of fish. I can tell you Dan was smiling from ear to ear when we finished up. At the end of 2012 around Christmas time I was contacted by Dan’s wife Donna who wanted to get Dan a birthday present, a day fishing with ME! I was apprehensive at first because my schedule is crazy during the fishing season and two I would feel terrible if I took someone out and we don’t catch any fish. Donna’s persistence paid off and I agreed to a trip. The best part of this story is they came up again during the 2013 season and Vacationed for a week with their own boat because they love the area. So plans were made that on October 12 I would take Dan out for a day of fishing. I began scouting and planning a route where we would be able to easily catch fish. During that time I had a friend who contacted me from Pennsylvania and had purchased some equipment up here. He told me you know I can not drive up there and not stay to fish for a couple of days. I told him to come up and he could help me scout and prepare for my trip on Saturday. My friend Jason and I had two days of beautiful weather and although the bite was a bit slow for this time of year we caught giants. On our last day out our five best fish weighed just over twenty pounds and we caught them all in about 15 minutes!
Dan and I took that trip on Saturday October 12th and what a great trip it was! The weather other than the North wind was perfect, warm with slight cloud cover and a breeze. We fished all day and easily caught fish on almost every stop that I made. Our biggest fish at the end of the day was just less than five pounds. When Dan and I finished at the end of the day he was smiling like a little kid at Christmas time!
Does FISHCAP work? I am just a small piece of that puzzle and yes it does! To further support this claim DEC records show that seven day non-resident fishing licenses sales in St. Lawrence County increased 200 percent since the FISHCAP program began. With proper education and conservation everyone can enjoy what our area has to offer. There is plenty more new and exciting things we will be working on for the 2014 season, so be sure to show your support for the FISHCAP organization as it will help the North Country prosper.
Jason Ober, PA Pictured with two 4.5 pound smallmouth caught while fishing with me on a perfect fall day throwing spinnerbaits and spooks.