Anglers hit the canal
Written by The Journal Register   
Thursday, 06 July 2006 13:11

It’s that time of year again when people load up their boats and tackle boxes, buy some bait and spend the day casting and reeling, hoping for the big catch. The 16th annual Erie Canal Fishing Derby began Wednesday and will run through July 16.

The derby was the brain child of Gasport resident Steve Harrington, who came up with the idea after being involved in a car accident 16 years ago.

“I couldn’t drive or do anything for about three months, but I noticed a lot of people fishing in the canal,” Harrington said. “I looked at my wife and I said, ‘I ought to start a canal derby.’ ”

During the early planning stages, Harrington had his share of naysayers.

“Everybody looked at me crazy and said there were no fish in the canal, but there is,” he said.

Harrington said he has been involved in a lot of derbies as a charter captain on Lake Ontario, but planning and organizing his own derby took a lot of effort. His wife, Lynn, said Harrington works hard for months prior to the event.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “He starts back in the beginning of April, and he goes person to person (looking for sponsors). He meets a lot of nice people.”

Even though Wednesday was just opening day, Harrington said registration is going well.

“Everything is going really good,” he said. “Sales are about the same as usual, maybe a little better.”

One change Harrington is noticing is the amount of families that are entering the derby.

“They’re spending time with their kids,” he said. “What makes this derby is the canal banks. You don’t need a boat, you don’t need fancy equipment. It’s just great.”

Anglers can fish anywhere along the canal from North Tonawanda to Albion, but must register before 9 a.m. on the day they want to weigh-in a fish. If they register later, the fish can not be weighed until the following day. There will be daily prizes in the children’s category for the heaviest fish, as well as overall prizes for adults in seven categories. The winners from each of those categories will be placed in a drawing to win a boat, motor and trailer, and one child will win a canal trail bike. There are also $10,000 in prizes available for catching tagged fish.

Sixteen years after coming up with the idea, Harrington said he is pleased with the results.

“Everything is going really, really great,” he said. “We’re hoping the weather stays with us and it should be a great year.”

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