Not all outdoor shows are created equal. Not all fishing areas are the same. Combine one of the top freshwater fisheries in the country with one of the best fishing and outdoor expositions in the state and you’ve found a recipe for success. That’s what happened last weekend at the fourth annual Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo at the Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls.
“You guys are doing it right,” says Mark Romanack, co-host of Fishing 411 Television show that appears on the World Fishing Network and Carbon TV. “The caliber of people that I’ve met here have been exceptional, especially as far as their basic knowledge of the fishery. Many people know what they are doing, but they need a little help in refining their techniques or want to expand their knowledge to include other species. That’s where the expo comes in and the organizers have done an outstanding job putting together the education that people are clamoring for.”
Romanack is in tune with Great Lakes fishing; he’s from Michigan. However, he’s no stranger to these waters either. For three years now, he’s been filming the Niagara River and Lake Ontario for his Fishing 411 show, and he realizes that this place is something special.
“This is the ultimate small boat fishery,” Romanack said. “There aren’t too many places you can go and find the quality and diversity of both warm- and cold-water species.”
Mark’s son, Jake (the other co-host for the television show) could not speak enough about the Greater Niagara Fishing Expo.
“This was my third year here and I’ve always been impressed with the seminars that are available," he said. "Just as impressive, though, is the fact that there is a large amount of retail support for the size of the show. It gets bigger every year. The vendors are quality and the anglers around here recognize that.”
When it comes to the area for fishing, young Jake noted: “Out of all the travelling we do, I look forward to coming here the most. Last year we travelled to 15 states and this was the best area for size, quality and diversity. I can’t wait to come back in the spring and film another show.”
Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls was involved with a new aspect of the Expo – an on-water education lesson that ran each morning from Jan. 19-24 on the lower Niagara River. Despite some fog during the weekend, the effort was successful with 40 people taking advantage of the unique teaching style.
“These people are eager to learn about how to fish in these waters,” Campbell said. “It gave them the basic knowledge, including the products used, in helping them to become more successful on the water. This was hands on and they enjoyed it.”
Mitchell Grant with Rapid Fishing Solutions out of Virginia attended the expo for the first time. He unveiled new products with the help of Bassmaster Elite Series Pro Mark Menendez of Kentucky and local charter captain Bruce Blakelock of Lewiston. The end result was that he sold out of all his stock.
“I was blown away by the hospitality of the staff at the conference center, the quality of the attendees and how well the show was run overall. We will be back next year.”
Lance Valentine with Walleye 101, one of the featured speakers and exhibitors, used his famous quote time and time again. “People don’t go fishing, they want to go catching. This expo helped them to do that. From electronics to boat rigging, from trolling to hands-on casting or drifting, there was something for everyone.”
Dr. John Whiteman of Youngstown was there every day, selecting the seminars he wanted to attend in advance. "Where else can you go for $20 for three days and get the instruction that was available here? This is great for the angler just starting out, the weekend fishermen and even the seasoned angler – there’s something for everyone.”
Each day, at two hour intervals, there were a dozen seminars going on. When they were over, the “students” would head out onto the show floor to purchase a hot bait, a new piece of equipment or whatever else was talked about. Everyone seemed happy.
Joe Yaeger of East Amherst, who coordinated the speakers, was happy to see nearly all of the rooms packed when it came to the seminars.
“Once again, Lake Erie walleye and perch education was huge,” Yaeger said. “We ran a seminar on lower Niagara River trout from shore and there were 50 people in the room. We also sold out our Salmon School once again with the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association (LOTSA), capped at 150 people for a full day of in-depth instruction. In addition, LOTSA is the benefactor of some funds through the expo to help cover costs for the salmon and trout pen rearing project in Olcott. Funds will also be earmarked for sending a few kids to Summer Conservation Camp this year. This expo is a conduit for so many different things.”
Melissa Gearhart of West Seneca, director of sales for the Conference and Event Center, noted that it was very successful this year.
“We received some great reviews from out attendees and from our vendors," she said. "We’re headed in the right direction and education is a priority for the expo. We want people to come back – not just for the expo but to come back and enjoy the region.”
Dates for the 2018 show will be Jan. 19-21.