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Curious about New York's key fishing resources? DEC has answers at Niagara Fishing Expo

As the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation ramps up its efforts to celebrate its 50th anniversary in the Empire State this year, it’s only appropriate that the agency start on an impressive note by offering something that’s never been tried – an open house at a sport show.

On Jan. 18, DEC will give access to the leaders of many of New York’s key fishing resources at the Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo to be held at the Conference and Event Center, 101 Old Falls St., Niagara Falls.

“This provides the opportunity to have folks talk directly with the biologist and managers one on one,” said Steve Hurst, chief of the Bureau of Fisheries for DEC. “We want to have dialogue with our anglers. It’s a new way of doing business.”

“What I like about the Niagara show is that it’s an educational show. People are there to learn," he said. "We’re the management side of the equation and attendees can learn from us, too.”

By having an open house, attendees will be able to better understand who DEC is and ask questions of the people making management decisions, the biologists doing the research and the conservation officers enforcing fish and game laws. Ten stations will be set up in the Cataract Room from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For example, if you have an interest in Lake Ontario (open lake), Chris Legard (Lake Ontario Unit leader), Mike Connerton (aquatic biologist) and Jessica Goretzke (aquatic biologist) of the Lake Ontario Fisheries Unit will be available to discuss Lake Ontario fisheries management, the open lake creel survey, fisheries assessment and research programs, stocking and the cooperative pen-rearing program.

Dan Yaeger with a chunky Lake Ontario salmon caught in 2019. Talk to DEC experts at the Fishing Expo to see how the fishing is expected to be in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Joe Yaeger)

If Lake Ontario tributaries and the Salmon River interest you, Fran Verdoliva (special assistant for the Salmon River) and Scott Prindle (aquatic biologist) of DEC Region 7 Fisheries will share information and knowledge about the trout and salmon fisheries of those locales.

If you have questions on Great Lakes fish production and stocking, Thomas Kielbasinski (Fish Culturist 4/hatchery manager) and Peter Kinney (Fish Culturist 2) from the DEC Salmon River Fish Hatchery will be available to discuss things related to raising fish at Salmon River, including egg collections, stocking and hatchery improvements.

Jason Robinson (Lake Erie Unit leader) and Jim Markham (aquatic biologist) of the Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit will be available to discuss fisheries management and research on Lake Erie and its tributaries, as well as the Cattaraugus Creek fish passage. Current research topics include studies on Lake Erie walleye movements, lake trout spawning habitat selection, steelhead stocking strategies and changing angler demographics.

The Niagara River will receive special attention as Mike Todd (aquatic biologist) and Chris Driscoll (aquatic biologist) of DEC Region 9 Fisheries in Buffalo will be on hand to discuss fisheries management, fish stocking and fishing opportunities of the river.

If the St. Lawrence River is a favorite resource, Region 6 Fisheries Manager Jana Lantry will provide details on DEC fisheries management programs and sport fishing opportunities in the river and eastern basin of Lake Ontario.

The Finger Lakes and tributaries will be represented by Jim Everard (aquatic biologist) and Pete Austerman (aquatic biologist) of DEC Regions 7 and 8 Fisheries. They will discuss fisheries management, fish stocking and fishing opportunities of the Finger Lakes.

Joelle Ernst (Fishing Education & Outreach Unit leader, Albany) and Payton Hanssen (Lake Ontario tributary creel technician) will represent women anglers in New York State, and discuss the DEC’s ideas for introducing more women to angling.

Scott Cornett (aquatic biologist) can speak with attendees about the proposed statewide trout stream management plan that recently was discussed through a series of public hearings across the state. He also will answer questions on the fishing and access for all inland trout streams in Region 9.

A Niagara County Environmental Conservation officer will be on hand to discuss the role of New York’s “thin green line” in enforcing environmental conservation laws, including those related to environmental quality, hunting, fishing, trapping and protection of natural resources.

In addition to these stations, Hurst, DEC Great Lakes Fisheries Section Head Steve LaPan, DEC Assistant Director of Fish and Wildlife Douglas Stang and Region 9 Fisheries Manager Mike Clancy will answer questions regarding fisheries management in the state.

Steve Hurst, chief of the Bureau of Fisheries for DEC, will join a large crew of fisheries folks from the agency who will attend the DEC Open House at the Greater Niagara Fishing Expo next weekend. (Bill Hilts Jr./Buffalo News)

There will be abbreviated versions of the State of Lake Ontario (6 to 7 p.m. Friday) and State of Lake Erie (7 to 8 p.m. Friday) to see and hear how the lakes are doing for people who can’t attend the full versions of the public sessions in the winter and spring. DEC also will have a double booth with all its literature for the duration of the three days, and some key DEC personnel will sit in on seminars to add insight into the corresponding fishery.

“This is one small aspect of the big picture for this Expo,” says Joe Yaeger of East Amherst, coordinator of the seminar schedule. “It has been rebranded as The Teaching Fishing Show because that’s what we do. With over 200 seminars being taught by over 100 speakers, there isn’t another three-day show in the Great Lakes that can offer as much education. We’ve expanded our bass and fly fishing series, offering incentives along the way to attend seminars."

As an added incentive to attend this year’s series of bass seminars, there will be a chance to win a trip for two to attend this year’s 50th anniversary of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk March 6-8 at Lake Guntersville, Ala.

The Greater Niagara Fishing Expo collaborated with the Greater Gadsden area of northeast Alabama and BassFan.com to make this happen. To qualify for an entry, attend one of the many bass fishing seminars or instructional sessions at the Hawg Trough and fill out a survey form. Attend more than one session and receive an entry for each educational class focused on bass and bass fishing. The winner will receive airfare to the Bassmaster Classic for two, a hotel room, a rental car and VIP passes for the weigh-in at this historic event.

There is a fly fishing school for beginners on Saturday. Attend the seminars for the day in that skill level, complete all the classes and you will be good to wet a line. There also is expert instruction by Rick Kustich, Scott Feltrinelli, Nate Carr, Nicholas Sagnibene and others for advanced classes.

There also will be 170 vendor booths to help find the right equipment, from boats and electronics to rods and reels to tackle.

For information on the Greater Niagara Fishing Expo, visit the show website at www.niagarafishingexpo.com.

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