‘”Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, we’re so glad you could attend – come inside, come inside.” – Emerson, Lake and Palmer
The 5th Annual Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo is here (www.niagarafishingexpo.com). Slated to be held Jan. 19-21 at the Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls, it’s a consumer fishing show like no other. If you are an avid fisherman, weekend warrior or thinking about taking up the popular pastime, this is the perfect show for you. If you are already in tune with a particular species but have thought about expanding your casting horizons, there isn’t a better organized gathering on the Great Lakes.
Are you in the market for a boat? Buy a show ticket and meet with boat dealers. You can also attend boating-related seminars. If you have a boat and want to learn how to get the most out of your electronics (or you need to buy a fish finder), this is the best venue available to get that task accomplished. There are four electronics dealers that will be in attendance (Lowrance, Garmin, Raymarine and Humminbird). There is even a special clinic on using your fish finder with Lance Valentine of Walleye 101. If you have a Lowrance HDS Unit, bring it along to the show and he will update it for you for free on the spot.
When this show was put together five years ago, organizers weren’t sure what direction to go in. After a year or two, it became evident that education was the way to go. The craftsman was Joe Yaeger of East Amherst, president of the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association (LOTSA).
“There are so many benefits by focusing on education,” Yaeger said. “As we teach people how to fish, they will become more proficient catching fish. They will need more equipment to help that success along and the Expo is one of the most ‘pure-fishing’ shows on the Great Lakes. People attend the seminars – given by experts in the field – and then head out onto the show floor to find the lures and other tools that were talked about. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
One of the models for all of this education is the LOTSA Salmon School, a full day of intense salmon fishing education by three instructors. This school has been going on for a decade, selling out every year. This year, the school sold out in December, the earliest ever. LOTSA came up with another 20 seats and those were gone in a few hours. People are clamoring for fishing knowledge.
The best tribute to the Salmon School was paid a couple of years ago when two attendees from the Adirondacks sat through the full day of instruction. The duo decided to come and fish the Niagara Bar in the spring during the Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Derby in 2015, applying the knowledge that they learned. They asked their fishing friend Mike Hay to come along. The rest is history.
Using the lure they were given as part of a goodie bag during the specialized school, Hay reeled in the fish of a lifetime on the famed Bar to win the $15,000 check for catching the largest salmon in the spring derby. It was meant to be. And it all started with attending the expo.
If you are a walleye fisherman, there are more than 22 walleye-related seminars. Whether you are into trolling, drifting, jigging or whatever, there are seminars that should peak your interest. New this year is a walleye clinic given by Capt. Joe Fonzi of Thumbs Up Charters. While 95 percent of all the seminars are free, this one is a pay as you go (like the Salmon School). For $20, Fonzi will give you intimate details on fishing for ‘eyes from May to November. He’ll share tips and tactics from how he uses his electronics to how and where he fishes at different times of year and what he’s looking for.
As a side note, Fonzi is a wealth of knowledge and a heck of a fisherman. I’ve had the opportunity to fish with him one or two times annually the last couple of years and I really believe he thinks like a fish. This past August he took me on a recon mission to locate pods of walleye that we could drop shot for. Using 3-inch Gulp minnows as bait, we did exactly as he said – pulling up numerous walleyes, a few bass and some other fish. What a cool experience and something completely different when you think of walleye fishing.
There are a few different pay-as-you-go clinics like Fonzi’s. Another is detailed instruction on trout fishing in the lower Niagara River from a boat. Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charters will go into intricate details on fishing the lower river in the winter time. In fact, this is the second year he will also be offering some on-water instruction with a group of experienced captains. His $125 package will include three hours of fishing on the water before the show in the morning, admission to the show and his classroom instruction. The lower Niagara winter trout fishery should be on everyone’s bucket list. However, if you just want to take the classroom instruction, you can do that, too. Many of these special clinics will also offer goodie bags of related products, a perfect incentive for signing up.
Let’s not forget that more than 115 of these fishing seminars are free. There are classes for all levels of experience, as well as a wide variety of fish species and fishing techniques. Fly fishing, center-pin fishing, drifting, trolling and casting; boat rigging, electronics and buying a boat. And some of the biggest names in the fish world can be heard for just the cost of a $10 admission ticket. Icons like Bassmaster Elite Pros Shaw Grigsby and Mark Menendez, Mark and Jake Romanack with Fishing 411 TV Show on the World Fishing Network and many, many more headline an impressive list of experts. All told, there are 70 different speakers for the three-day event. Buy the weekend pass for $20 and set aside all three days. It will be the best investment you will ever make as a fisherman.