Tourism promoters want fishing expo to put Massena on the map
BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week
MASSENA -- Organizers of next month’s Massena Fishing Expo are hoping to start an annual event to link the North Country with the larger national sport fishing community.
The event, slated for Feb. 14 to 16, will be in the St. Lawrence Centre’s new expo center. The former wing of the mall that housed Hills, and later Ames, has been renovated and the expo will be its debut."This will be a celebration of the unique growth of our fishery here in the northeast that makes it the best place to come to fish in the country,” said Massena sport fishing promoter Don Meissner. He contracts with the town to promote the area at regional outdoor sports expos, and now he’s managed to bring one to Massena. Dan Kenney, who organizes large-scale fishing expos around the country, is the promoter behind the event.
Kenney said he chose Massena because of the quality of fishing on the St. Lawrence and its tributaries.
"One of the things that's going to set it apart ... is that I hand-selected this area because of the incredible fisheries, and arguably the best fishing in the northeast of the country,” he said.
He hailed the waterways for “multi-species fishing” -- bass, pickerel, pike, walleye, muskie, and others.
The Massena expo will include events for kids, fishing pros giving seminars throughout each day, and exhibitors showing off their fishing-related wares.
For kids age 12 and under, there will be a pond stocked with live trout. The kids will be able to catch fish, and if they want, take them home and eat them. Kenney said the trout will come from New York state hatcheries. There will also be a free archery range for kids to try bow shooting.
Although the schedule is still being worked out, they are planning to have hourly seminars each day where top anglers and expert guides talk about the sport.
"The goal is, we'll have ice fishing seminars, muskie seminars, walleye seminars, bass seminars by industry professionals" and pro tour anglers and longtime guides, Meissner said. The seminars will be presented from a stage.
"Plus there will also be a focus on conservation,” said Linda McQuinn, who assists Meissner in his promotion efforts.
Kenney said fishing conservation advocate Barb Elliot will discuss how to safely catch bass and safely return them to the water.
"Our sport is catch-and-release … [Elliot] is a warrior in this regard,” he said. "[Conservation] is very important. If you're marketing and selling bass fishing as the end all be all and the best in the country and you can't back it up with protecting and taking care of that species, you're giving mixed signals to the community."
Local exhibitors will include Runnings, a combination outdoor sports and hardware store with an outlet in Malone; MGC Fishing and Tackle; Adirondack Power Sports with ATVs, UTVs and snowmobiles; and Blevins Motors with boats and small campers.
"The key is to have a little bit of something for everybody. The guy that makes spinnerbaits in his basement ... those guys are welcome at our show, because they make good products, typically,” Kenney said.
They are hoping for an eventual tie-in with Canadians and Akwesasne.
Kenney said he would like to see it grow into “a Can-Am type show.”
"I would like to bring the Mohawks into everything we do. Everything," he added. "There's so much professionalism on the reservation."
The organizers said they want the local economy to benefit from the presence of an event on this scale.
"The area has been down and out a little bit in recent years. Everything I've seen with the St. Lawrence Centre and re-building of the community. I hope to be on the upswing of the pendulum,” Kenney said.