For 44 years, Niagara County has been coordinating a fishing derby in Western New York – the last 20 as the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey. When the Odyssey was first created in 2001, transformed from the County’s Fall Classic Derby, it ended up occurring during one of the saddest times in our nation’s history – Sept. 11, 2001.
The derby began four days prior to that fateful day. Everyone was excited when it began, tabbed as one of the largest derbies ever. After 9-11 hit, no one had their mind on fishing. Airports were closed, as was the lower Niagara River from any kind of fishing or boat traffic. Life was changed as we knew it. As things began to settle down, the Fish Odyssey became a distraction of sorts as anglers began to escape on their boats and along the shores of area waters. However, impacts were evident as the derby fell short of expectations. Too bad.
Fast-forward 20 years and once again we are in the middle of another life-changing event as COVID-19 continues to impact our day-to-day lives. Many derbies and tournaments were not held this year due to the virus. However, the basic makeup of the Odyssey was able to take families on a variety of angling journeys as seveb different species comprised both the Adult and Junior divisions around Erie, Niagara, and Orleans counties. Social distancing was easy when fishing was involved. It brought families together, taking their minds off a global pandemic, if just for a few hours.
One of the themes this year was the fact that some of the winners were caught while targeting other fish species. For example, the winning walleye was caught by a salmon troller working the waters off 4 Mile Creek in Lake Ontario. It is not the first time that it happened, and it probably will not be the last. The important thing is that you must be in it to win it. John Pinkham, of Olcott, was the lucky angler and it was an 11-pound, 2-ounce walleye. It put him into the drawing for the Grand Prize.
In the Fish Odyssey, all the first-place winners are put into a bucket and the Grand Prize involves a little monkey business, quite literally. Emily the Capuchin monkey, courtesy The Primate Sanctuary, picks a bobber from the bucket that earns the $ 3,000 check. If you think about it, a 6-pound smallmouth is just as impressive as a 28-pound salmon or a 28-pound carp. It gives everyone a chance at the prize.
The same thing occurs in the free Junior Division for kids 15 years of age and under. That same theme of catching a winning species while fishing for something else happened to 6-year-old Logan Wilson, of Lewiston. While fishing for bass in the lower Niagara River, he hooked into an 8-pound, 3-ounce walleye on his drop shot rig – his first walleye ever. To add to the young angler’s excitement, he had to rush to the scales because there was less than an hour to the end of the derby. Then, at the awards ceremony in Olcott, young Logan was selected to receive the Grand Prize – a nice package of merchandise, a plaque, and some gift certificates. It was a fun storyline and a fitting end to this year’s Odyssey.
Sometimes there is a silver lining in those storm clouds. Keep an open mind. It helps to spend as much time outdoors as possible, maintain a positive attitude and let Mother Nature work her magic.
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