OSWEGO — High levels from Lake Ontario and unseasonable weather have put a damper on local happenings around Oswego County.
One of those events is the annual Oswego County Pro-Am Fishing Tournament, which was has been canceled this summer because of conditions around the lake and at the marina.
The City of Oswego went forth with temporary closure of the marina late last month, due to it being deemed an unsafe environment with the lake levels.
“The fact that the water is so high and the marina is closed is really the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said David Turner, director of the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism, and Planning.
In what was supposed to be 25th edition of the tournament this year, the event was also going to be renamed the Kevin Davis Memorial Pro-Am Tournament, in memory of the late fishing guide.
Some anglers were especially upset about the cancellation, in part because it was the first year of the tournament being named in honor of Davis.
Turner, however, assured that the name change would happen in the future.
“We’ll still have the tournament named after Kevin at some point,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it won’t be this year.”
High winds mixed with the lake levels factored into the decision to ultimately cancel the tournament.
“If we have a big wind on that particular weekend, you could end up spending a lot of money to get here,” Turner said. “High winds would be a safety hazard for the anglers.”
The annual tournament has featured Pro Division and Amateur Division teams. The Amateur Division teams tend to have smaller boats and most if not all of their boats are not docked in the marina.
“I think that’s where it hurts us the most because those boats are at the most risk with the boat launch closed and high lake levels,” Turner said.
Some fishing teams that typically travel to take part in the Oswego County Pro-Am were hesitant to sign up this year because of the potential conditions, something over which Turner and Tom Burke (owner of Cold Steel Sportfishing and organizer of the Pro-Am) have no control.
“They have to have a place to keep their boat if they get here,” Turner said. “It didn’t make sense to wait and see if we ended up having a really nice day. It’s too much time, effort, and expense to try and put that all together.”
Out of the three Pro-Am tournaments in central/western New York — the other events are in Wayne and Niagara counties — Oswego County’s event has teams wait longest to register.
“Because of where we are on the lake, it’s a fact that ours is usually the one that people wait the longest to enter,” Turner said. “They want to have a better feel for the water conditions.”
The tournament, which offers cash and merchandise prizes, has seen a decline in participating teams in recent years. The event once saw 50-60 teams roll out to participate. In 2017, there were 19 Pro Division teams and 20 Amateur Division teams. Last year saw 15 Pro Division teams and 18 Amateur Division teams.
Burke and Turner did everything they could to accommodate teams and tackle the issues brought to them from the lake.
“We went on social media to put the word out as much as we could, but the possible conditions of the tournament made it impossible,” Burke said.
Burke mentioned how organizers of the tournament waited for weeks to see what docks would be available for the tournament. However, team interest made it difficult to push forward with a backup plan.
“We took all of the factors involved. It was tough to make it happen,” he said. “It was hard to generate enough confidence in the teams.”
Local businesses annually benefit from tournament teams spending money on fuel, food, lodging, and other expenses. That money won’t be there this year.
“It’s everyone in the businesses that are touched by those visitors,” Turner said. “They would’ve benefited from those people being here.”
With the cancellation of this year’s Oswego County Pro-Am, planning for next year’s tournament will begin earlier than usual. The status of the 2020 tourney is to be determined.
“That remains to be seen,” Turner said. “There are some guys that want to try and make sure everything happens next year. They’ll come together and say let’s start planning early and have a Plan B.”
Burke added,“Each year will have to be judged on the time of the tournament. Team participation goes along with it, too.”