OSWEGO – The rise in COVID-19 cases across the country has shaken the tourism industry. With a little luck and a lot of guidance, Oswego County and its Central New York partners have been able to continue working through a phased re-opening of the region. It is a slow and steady process, but one that will help re-build the local economy and bring tourism back to the area.
“The tourism industry generated nearly $19 million in state and local taxes for our county in 2018; the latest year we have data for,” said Oswego County Legislator Tim Stahl, District 20, chairman of the County Legislature’s Economic Development and Planning Committee. “That translates to a tax savings of $412 per household.”
He added that an estimated 2,874 local jobs are supported by direct and indirect tourism expenditures. “Tourism labor income totaled more than $72.2 million in Oswego County in 2018.”
Sportfishing is a large part of the local tourism industry. In 2018, there were 32,821 fishing licenses sold in Oswego County to out-of-state and international visitors. This does not include online license sales made on the NYS DEC website.
Dave Turner, director of the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning, said, “In general, each fishing charter business has an economic impact of roughly $70,000 in the community where they are based. This year, COVID-19 restrictions and the closure of Wright’s Landing for construction have had a serious impact on our charter fishing industry.
“In the spirit of helping to boost our local economy, I would encourage people to come out to try their hand at sportfishing. We have a large and exceptional fleet of professional fishing charters and guides ready to help you experience some of the best fishing on all of the Great Lakes. It’s not too late to book a charter and it’s a great way to make new family memories and support local businesses.”
One group of fishermen has been making fishing memories for more than three decades. What began as a small group of friends and co-workers has expanded into two groups of friends and family enjoying Oswego County’s renown fishery.
“I’ve been taking these guys out to fish Lake Ontario for more than 30 years,” said Captain Greg Gehrig, of K&G Lodge and Sportfishing. “Getting to know them all these years, and all the things they’ve gone through as friends, I knew they would make it up here when they could. These guys are usually one of my first groups of the year, but with coronavirus restrictions, we had to re-schedule their trip.”
The group started coming to Oswego in the 1980s. The original group of four worked together at Jersey Central Power and Light. They planned and saved all year to make the trip.
“Over the years, some of the guys have had health issues and some new friends have joined the group,” said Captain Gehrig. “This year, one of the original members is bringing his kids along, so it’ll be a quality multi-generational family experience.”
The group has grown so much that this year – for the first time – they’ve had to split into two units. The first half of the group came up in June for three great days of fishing and the second group is scheduled to visit in July.
Captain Gehrig said, “Roughly 90 percent of our charter groups return every year, which is important for building relationships and helping to promote the sportfishing industry in Oswego County.
“Of course, the fishery itself is key and the rest of the season is shaping up to be a banner year. The action on Lake Ontario is good with a wide variety of fish species and sizes out there just waiting to be caught.”
Like other fishing charters, K&G Lodge and Sportfishing had to cancel dozens of trips in April and May due to coronavirus. They are all now working to re-schedule those groups. Since re-opening, charters are following state and local guidelines by requiring face masks and practicing social distancing.
For more information about fishing in Oswego County or for a complete list of fishing charters and guides, go to the Oswego County Tourism website at www.visitoswegocounty.com.