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Help land the big one; Contest to promote fishing in Olcott could draw attention to entire region

All of Western New York needs to put its collective weight behind the effort to help Olcott land the title of "Ultimate Fishing Town" in a contest sponsored by cable television's World Fishing Network.

A win for the Lake Ontario hamlet could spawn benefits for the entire region. Right now Olcott is in second place -- behind Waddington, on the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands -- in the race for $25,000 and a 25-minute video. Voting began May 1 and runs through May 31. The winner will be announced June 6. Votes can be cast for Olcott at www.worldfishingnetwork.com/uft/town/olcottbeach-ny

This area is blessed with outstanding water resources, especially the Great Lakes of Erie and Ontario, connected by the Niagara River. The river serves as a magnet at different times of the year for bait fish, which, in turn, attract larger sport fish such as salmon, trout and bass.

Places like Olcott realize how important sport fishing is to their entire tourism effort. Just before a public meeting Wednesday evening in the Town of Newfane's Community Center to solicit ideas on how to get people to cast votes for Olcott, Newfane Supervisor Timothy Horanburg stressed the contest's importance.

"We need the whole county to help us with this. We're too small to do it on our own," he told a News reporter.

Horanburg is absolutely right about the need, but the effort should spread beyond Niagara County. Laying claim to a title like "Ultimate Fishing Town" would be a huge accomplishment and would promote fishing opportunities across Western New York. The value of that publicity is much greater than the check.

The contest is one way to recognize one of the area's natural resources.

Sportfishing is an activity that nearly anyone can participate in, and not just during the main vacation season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Some of the best fishing is on the "shoulder seasons," spring and fall.

There's also outstanding angling action in the dead of winter, especially along the lower Niagara River, which never freezes, according to Bill Hilts Jr., outdoor specialist for the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. and the person who nominated Olcott for the contest.

This area offers anglers a wide variety of quality fish, from trout, salmon and bass to walleye and musky.

Right now is a very busy time on Lake Ontario. The Wilson Harbor Invitational will draw 75 boats, with a $1,000 entry fee and a $25,000 first prize. Occurring at the same time is the Lake Ontario County Trout and Salmon Derby, which ends Sunday. The leading fish so far is a 31-pound, 6-ounce salmon caught off the shores of Niagara County. The leading lake trout, also caught off the shores of Niagara County, is 29 pounds, 10 ounces.

Those are big fish, and part of the reason the area is such a popular fishing destination. The contests and non-competitive fishing attract people from all over the world. We can improve that draw by helping make Olcott the official "Ultimate Fishing Town."