Medina Journal-Register — Local sports shops have been faithfully stocking up on bait this week, in preparation for the start today of the 22nd Erie Canal Fishing Derby, which runs through July 15 on canal waters between Tonawanda and Albion.
“I stocked up on extra bait Tuesday and I’ve got more stuff coming in on Friday,” said canal derby believer John Macleod, the owner of Wiggeling Willies Bait Shop on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.
“I can always count on a substantial increase in business during the derby. This year, I put a banner across Oliver Street and that has also helped me tremendously. A lot of new people are coming in and some say they never even knew I existed.”
The cost to enter the family-oriented derby is $7 for boys and girls 14 and under and $12 for everyone else. The family rate is $22 with a cash bash of $5.
The grand prize once again is a new fishing boat and trailer, courtesy of Bryce Marina in Rochester. There are a total of $20,000-plus in prizes, including a tagged fish worth $2,500. There are also daily kids prizes with the grand prize of a new canal trail bike.
Divisions again this year are bullhead, bass, walleye, carp, Northern Pike, catfish and sheepshead.
Wiggeling Willies (870-9167) is one of six designated weigh stations during the derby. The others are Niagara Outdoors, Witmer Road, North Tonawanda (695-5873); Les Allen Live Bait, Hawley Street (433-8983); Harrington’s, Telegraph Road, Gasport (772-7972); Middleport Sports Shop, Main Street, Middleport (946-9943); or Jeddo Bait & Tackle, Ridge Road, Medina (585-318-4310).
Interested participants can sign up for the derby at any of the above locations or at Gander Mountain, 880 Young St., Tonawanda (743-2300).
Macleod praised the efforts of derby founder and annual organizer Steve Harrington of Gasport for promoting fishing on the canal.
“Steve’s one hell of a guy. He’s really into it and now he’s rubbed off on me and got me involved,” Macleod said. “What I see every year is more repeat customers and some new people. It’s a success for me every year and it seems to be drawing more and more people every year.”
Local businesses are sponsoring the 50 tagged fish, which will be stocked shortly by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, a Bureau in the Department of Interior.
Weigh stations during the derby are at the following locations:
An avid fisherman, Harrington said he’s most proud of the fact that the derby remains a family-oriented local event that takes advantage of the historic canal.
“It’s just people getting out together because mom and dad are both working and here’s a chance to spend a weekend or a night or day or two fishing together along the beautiful canal. Spending time together — that’s what it’s all about.”