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FISHCAP awarded top honors at tourism conference

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CANTON - FISHCAP, a public-private partnership promoting St. Lawrence County as “the fishing capital of the world,” has been awarded top honors by the New York State Tourism and Visitors Association at NYSTVA’s annual conference this week in Niagara Falls.

In announcing the award, Suzanne Bixby, marketing and communications director of Campground Owners of New York and spokesperson for NYSTVA, wrote,: “It is my pleasure to inform you that the nomination for FISHCAP was selected by our judges as the WINNER of the 2013 Excellence in Tourism Award for Tourism Marketing (entities with budgets under $500,000).”

FISHCAP was established in 2010 by Pat McKeown, CEO of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce; Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray; and Project Manager Donald R. Meissner, a noted angler and WPBS program host. The project is the first ever public/private partnership, created to promote sport fishing as an economic driver for communities in the St. Lawrence River Valley.

It is also the first-ever economic and educational initiative in the region not supported with taxpayer dollars, developed solely by a strong team of volunteers, run through a chamber of commerce with oversight by an advisory board of professional and amateur anglers, and hailed throughout the county as a viable way to build a future.

“We had a tremendous amount of response to our call for nominations,” wrote Director Bixby in announcing the award; “and the FISHCAP project had some very interesting and worthy competition. We congratulate you on your tourism project and your selection as the winner of this award!”

FISHCAP is ending its third year of operation. All efforts during Phase One (2010-2013) have been focused on strong growth, increasing awareness, developing local business, and driving angling tourists to the North Country region in record numbers. To support this claim, DEC records show that seven-day non-resident fishing license sales in St. Lawrence County increased 200 percent since FISHCAP began.

Phase Two, which begins Aug. 1, will build on the successes of Phase One and will move the project into a regional approach, branding the FISHCAP name, mission and logo, and marketing the tourism focus beyond St. Lawrence County into both Franklin and Jefferson Counties as well as targeted markets in the Canadian Provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Fundraising for Phase Two is already underway.

“We are pleased as punch to be recognized as the best in New York state for 2013, particularly by a group of our own peers,” said McKeown, co-chair of FISHCAP. “We couldn’t have done it without our partners and without our volunteers. This award is a tribute to everyone affiliated with FISHCAP.”

Current FISHCAP partners are North Country Savings Bank, town of Massena, St. Lawrence County IDA, Corning, Inc., St. Lawrence Redevelopment Agency, City of Ogdensburg, SeaComm Federal Credit Union, town of Brasher, Alcoa Foundation and the town of Waddington.

Advisory Board members include Burnell Haney, Watertown, US Army (ret.), professional angler; Lewie Barkley, Waddington, longtime St. Lawrence County angler; Bob Giordano, Chase Mills, USAF (ret.), professional angler; Hank Bouchard, Ogdensburg, former sports shop owner, angler; Dave Swanson, Canton, bank president, angler, videographer; Mike Seymour, Ogdensburg, outdoor sports writer, fishing guide, angler; Mike Gagner, Massena, walleye restocking, tournaments, angler; Will Clute, Akwesasne, fishing guide; Chris Flint, Potsdam, professional angler; Chris LaShomb, angler and outdoor adventure TV host. Volunteers are Ed Reyes, Massena, fishing guide and angler; John Pierre Basham, Potsdam, angler and media; Fred Morrill, Dekalb, professional bass angler and county legislator; Steve Thornton, Potsdam, banker and fishing enthusiast; and Patrick Ames, St.Lawrence County Cooperative Extension and angler.

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