Wednesday September 17, 2003

Pulaski Awaits Fishing Surge

Fishing is "make or break" season for Pulaski businesses.
By Dola Deloff

    In early fall the Salmon River is teem-ing with fish, and area hotels are filled with people who want to catch them. National magazines such as Field and Stream and Outdoors have placed the area on lists: one of 24 top destinations in the U.S. for fishing in the former, and No. 5 in the latter.

    ?The publicity has been great,? Christine Gray, Oswego County?s director of tourism said. ?The word is getting out.?

    The bed tax, the revenue collected by the county from hotels, has been up for the past two quarters, according to Gray, and so far it appears that this season will be no different from others.

    Chuck Krupke knows the impact the fishing industry has on the Salmon River corridor. President of the Seaway Trail and chair of the county tourism board, Krupke refers to Pulaski as the ?Cooperstown of fishing,? with a nod to the Baseball Hall of Fame in the Leatherstocking area village. And as owner of the Redwood Motel near the intersection of Interstate 81 and Route 13 and the Driftwood Motel on Route 11 north of the village, Krupke directly experiences what fishing brings to the area.

    ?We had a typical August,? he said, ?and many of our rooms are booked a year ahead of time, some two years ahead of time.? When the salmon fishing season is at the peak?the last two weeks of September and first two of October, 100 percent of Krupke?s rooms are taken. ?I could probably fill four motels,? he added. ?We do as much business in September and October as we do the other 10 months combined.?

    Much of the area?s popularity is spread via word of mouth, Krupke said. ?People go home and tell their friends about the size of the fish,? he said. ?Many can?t comprehend a 25-30-pound fish, even up to a 48-pound fish. They just have to come and check it out for themselves.?

    What they find, the board chair said, is exactly what had been described to them?fishermen standing elbow to elbow in the river striving for that big catch. ?The crowds add to the euphoria of the experience,? Krupke said.

    But salmon isn?t the only fish of interest, the motel owner said. Steelhead follow the salmon, seeking their eggs, and the fishermen are ready for them as well, replacing the salmon fishermen although not to as great a degree.

    ?Without the salmon, it would be difficult for us to do business,? Krupke said.

    Another area businessman feels that another sector should be promoted more?lake fishing. Bill VanWormer has been a charter captain for Lucky Dutchman Charters since 1987.

    ?This summer, business was way off,? VanWormer said. ?I don?t know if it?s the economy or the price of gas, but it seems like more could be done to let people know about the lake and what it has to offer.?

    The charter captain said someone traveling on Interstate 81 wouldn?t even know Lake Ontario was nearby if he weren?t told. ?I?ve heard there are going to be signs eventually,? he said. ?We should have more lake access around here as well.?

    VanWormer said there is virtually no place where anyone can go and sit on the shore and watch the sunset in Port Ontario, just west of village, where the Salmon River meets Lake Ontario. ?Most of it is private property,? he said, ?or it?s owned by the county or state, and they charge admission.?

    It spite of the dwindling numbers of lake fishermen, which VanWormer claims is the case, the charter captain has no intention to shore his boat at this time. ?We?ll keep fishing until the money?s gone,? he said.

    VanWormer?s lodge business, on the other hand, is doing as well as anyone else?s, he said.

    But Al Maxwell, who works part-time at Woody?s Tackle & General Store, Inc. in Port Ontario, said that the charter business is as good as ever. ?We know of at least 11 boats out there now,? he said at the beginning of September. ?Everyone out there is chasing after them. They aren?t done yet.?

    By mid-September, according to Krupke, the salmon will be out of the lake and will be after the cooler waters in the Salmon River, but Woody?s won?t be adversely affected by the change in fishing preference. ?We?re open year- round and carry anything a fisherman, or any sportsman, for that matter, would need,? he said.

    Woody?s has been around for 35 years, Maxwell said. Dave Wood purchased the store from his father, George, a few years ago, he said. ?It was Woody?s Sunoco for the longest time,? Maxwell said, ?and as fishing grew, the place evolved.?

    The general store also has some rooms to rent, and they are often booked solid during the salmon season, the worker said.

    ?If you ask me, I think the county is doing a great job promoting the area,? Maxwell said. ?And not only the lake and river but the other activities and events that are happening as well.?

    Maxwell said that it?s difficult to keep county tourism publications and other area-based magazines in the store for very long. ?They are snatched right up,? he said. ?More than just fishermen are coming here. They are bringing their families, and they are looking for things to do.?

    The village of Pulaski understands the needs of both visitors to the area and the residents, Mayor Ed Delaney said. The third annual Salmon Festival was held mid-September in the village parks, and the village is looking for more ways to accommodate the influx of visitors and also improve the quality of life for the residents, he said. ?There isn?t a whole lot of money,? he said. ?We had to cut the festival from 2 days to one, but we?re doing what we can do.?

    Although it has fallen behind schedule, Delaney said, the sidewalk project is underway, and the mayor hopes that some day Pulaski will be a ?pedestrian village where people can enjoy walking safely wherever they wish to go.?

    ?We?ve also maintained our parking areas well for the fishermen,? he said, referring to the free lots on Maple Ave. and at the Black Hole.

    Delaney said that the fishing industry ?contributes greatly? to the economy, making infrastructure projects such as a new waterline on Route 13??the growth route??more possible. ?Fishing plays an integral role in this village and in the county,? the mayor said.

    Other county agencies, aside from promotion and tourism, also realize the impact of the fishing industry on the community. The county?s planning department has been studying the Salmon River corridor in order to better advise the bordering towns, said the department?s director Brian Frazier. ?We?re completing the component parts of the study,? he said, ?and soon we?ll be helping the towns develop comprehensive plans.?

    The plans are necessary, the director said, for land use protection. ?The area is growing, and people want to use it in different ways,? he added. The study examined the structure of the river and land around it along with the ecology of the area. ?The towns need to decide how they are going to use this information, how they are going to plan for the future.?

    While fishing does contribute greatly to the area economy, he said, other activities do as well, such as camping and snowmobiling. ?The resulting plans will take this into account,? he added.

Oswego County Business Magazine
Issue 160

Issue 160
February/March 2019

Cover Story


James Weatherup

On The Job

What Are Your Goals for 2019?

Success Stories

Laser Transit Ltd.

My Turn

The Incompetent Boss and the Peter Principle

Economic Trends

Economic Advancement Plan Progress Report

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Chena Tucker