For 34 years, the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey has offered anglers a wide-ranging competition for a good mix of species near the end of the warm-weather fishing season.
This annual contest has regularly run in mid-September, with the final weigh-ins and awards presented during National Hunting and Fishing Day weekend, the fourth Saturday in September.
This year, Fish Odyssey organizers decided to move the 35th Annual Fall Classic Derby up to Aug. 20-28. Also, this year's event has been named the Curt Meddaugh Memorial. The recently deceased Meddaugh had devoted countless volunteer hours to this and other outdoors efforts in Niagara County and Western New York. "Each year we try to dedicate the Fish Odyssey to an outstanding person who has recently died," explained event coordinator Bill Hilts Jr.
What makes this competition attractive to young and older area anglers is the variety of options for fishing and catching. Like the Erie Canal Derby, anglers can compete in the Fish Odyssey while fishing from a well-equipped boat or with basic gear from shore.
Fishing is open on all public waters of Orleans, Niagara, and Erie Counties during the nine days of competition.
Along with a $2,500 grand prize, prizes go to the top three fish entered in six divisions: Salmon, Steelhead/Brown Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, and Carp. Kids 15 and younger can register for free and enter catches in a separate Youth Division.
Registrations can be made and fish can be weighed in at Big Catch on Niagara Street in Buffalo, Creek Road Bait & Tackle in Lewiston, the Wilson Gas Shack, Slippery Sinker Bait & Tackle in Olcott, Boat Doctors in Olcott, and Narby's Superette in Kent/Point Breeze.
As for catching prospects for the various divisions, salmon anglers in recent years have noticed a sharp increase in salmon fishing in Lake Ontario in August. Many 30-pound kings have been caught this season.
The trout fishery, on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, has been excellent, with bigger browns moving close to shore on Ontario and several near-record lake trout taken from Lake Erie during summer outings.
Smallmouth bass fishing has been outstanding throughout the summer on all waters open to Fish Odyssey contestants. Carp-catch predictions vary, but the options of fishing late-summer hours could make this fishery more interesting.
Hilts noted that one of the main reasons for the change of dates was to encourage more youth participation. "Kids are in school (in September) and even after school they have less daylight hours to fish," he said.
A Charlie the Chimp Challenge offers kids entered in the Youth Division a chance to win a prize. A weight is set for each division for youths and each kid who catches a fish over Charlie's catch gets a prize.
Winners will be announced Aug. 28, the final day of competition. Product prizes go to the top three Youth Division entries. The Grand Prize goes to the winner of a drawing of the top six division winners.
For registration details, entry listings, and contest rules, go to fishodyssey.net. For questions, call 282-8992 (ext. 303).