By Bill Hilts Jr.
Director, Outdoor Promotions
Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.
The Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey Derby - the derby formally known as the "Fall Classic" - will hold its 40th annual contest Aug. 20-28.
In what started out as the Niagara County Fishing Derby, this competition is now opened to three counties (Niagara, Erie and Orleans) in an attempt to encourage more involvement in this family-oriented event. With a big focus on the junior division, this move will give the kids more opportunity to wet a line, because of the fact that they are out of school.
This year, we will be celebrating four decades of fishing contests. With the huge Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Fall Derby kicking off Aug. 19, this will give contest-hungry anglers an appetizer for the big bucks.
While most everything else is the same, there are a few new twists that could land one a few extra dollars - including a much-larger prize structure. The grand prize is now $4,000, and the divisional prizes are $750, $500 and $250 for first, second and third in the adult division. Also, a daily $100 prize for the biggest salmon caught each day - taking a page out of the LOC event - is being offered Aug. 20-28.
The Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association (LOTSA) is back again with a special $500 cash prize for the largest salmon caught by a LOTSA member while competing in the derby. In addition to that, the witness (which also has to be a LOTSA member) will also receive a check for $200. When you register for the Fish Odyssey, toss in another $10 for your LOTSA membership and you'll be considered registered in that organization. You can also register online at www.lotsa.org.
Species categories for the adults include salmon, smallmouth bass, walleye, carp, lake trout and brown/rainbow trout. For the kids (ages 15 years and under), categories will be salmon, trout, bass, walleye, carp and panfish. Entry fee will stay the same, at $20 for the adults and free for the kids. A one-day pass will also be available for $10. Kids can register online at www.fishodyssey.net. The adults can, too.
Changes to the Fish Odyssey website should be in place very soon, thanks to Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors. Check out www.fishodyssey.net regularly. Registrations should be out wherever LOC registrations are available in Erie, Niagara and Orleans counties.
Every year, the derby remembers someone we lost previously who meant a lot to the fishery. This year it's Capt. Jeremiah Heffernan of North Tonawanda, who passed on in 2015. He was one of the top captains in the area, fishing Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the lower Niagara River. We are sad to see Jerry go, but his memory will live on in the Fish Odyssey this year.
Once again, The Primate Sanctuary (thanks to Carmen and Christie Presti) will donate a new bike that will be drawn at the awards ceremony for every kid who's registered in the fun contest.