Author: Longeretta, Emily
Date published: June 22, 2011
The expression "give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; teach him out to fish and he'll eat forever" goes into practice this weekend when the state Department of Environmental Conservation holds free fishing days. Well, sort of: These days are catch-and-release events, and Onondaga Lake fish shouldn't be eaten, but the skills learned can translate to other angling opportunities. Saturday, June 25, and Sunday, June 26, mark the seventh annual Free Fishing Weekend during which families can fish at Willow Bay in Onondaga Lake Park with no license required.
Saturday's event features a carp tournament, while Sunday's is the Family Fun Fishing Derby, marking 25 years of both catching lunkers and raising awareness of the gradual improvement to Onondaga Lake. Both events will be catch and release, with more than $2,000 in prizes awarded after the carp are weighed and measured.
"Fifty years ago, there were maybe five types of fish in Onondaga Lake," said Albert Daher, who manages the weekend. "Now, there are approximately 50. We want to raise awareness and get people to reconnect to the community."
That awareness is important for Central New York's self-esteem. "You've heard the jokes," Daher said, referring to those that trash talk the lake. "We not only have to restore the resources, we have to restore the pride."
This year, new educational components on Sunday include DEC staffers speaking about conservation issues, and how people can help. A "learn to fish" table will also be set up in which tips on how to catch bass and carp will be shared.
In the past, this event has drawn 80 participants on average for the carp tournament, and more than 100 for the fishing derby. Others come just to enjoy the show and peruse the informational tables. Tickets are available at Griffin Visitor Center, 106 Lake Drive, Liverpool; Mickey's Live Bait & Tackle, 715 South Bay Road, North Syracuse; or at the event. The carp tournament costs $10/adult, $5/under 15. Sunday's derby is $2 and $1. For more information, call 247-4315.