A major bass fishing tournament is coming to Buffalo's Outer Harbor next summer. What tourism leaders hope it will do is, besides generate a modest one-time economic impact, reel in additional interest in an already busy local industry.
The Costa Fishing League Worldwide Series event will take place on the final weekend of July 2018 and bring an estimated 350 anglers to Safe Harbor Marina, where the tournament will be hosted.
The estimated economic impact of the event, which includes an anticipated 1,200 hotel room bookings, is more than $836,000.
"There's always a mystique about the bass fishing on this end of Lake Erie," said Todd Ceisner, who writes for several outdoor sports publications and sits on the Erie County Fishery Advisory Board. "Year in and year out, people come here for the chance to catch the fish of a lifetime. There are very few places in the world where a six- to eight-pound smallmouth is available on your next cast. I'm not exaggerating."
The publication Bassmasters recently ranked this region the top place to fish in the Northeastern U.S. and the seventh-best place in the entire nation. Western New York's fishing industry does brisk business. Local fishing and tourism leaders say in Erie County alone, about one in every eight people have a fish license and Western New York sells more licenses than any other region in the state.
The statewide economic impact is estimated at $2.4 billion. But local fishing advocates hope they'll get a better idea just how much of that is happening in Western New York and how much of an impact fishing tourism may make in the future.
"That's one of the things this tournament provides us the opportunity to do," said Thomas Hersey, Erie County's Commissioner of Environment and Planning. "It's to do some measuring of that. We'll know where people are staying, how much they're spending, those kind of things."
In addition to bass, Lake Erie has a strong reputation for walleye, perch and muskellunge.
"We have full boats going out almost every day for walleyes. We're getting limits of walleyes every day," said Captain Larry Jones, president of the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. "Some of us are catching them daytime and nighttime out here, where you can 20 fish in a couple of hours. Also, we have one of the best muskie fisheries in the whole United States and Canada out here right now."