It’s almost inconceivable that during Plattsburgh’s first couple of centuries it barely paid any attention to the wondrous lake at its doorstep. Except for the heyday of the Plattsburgh City Beach, incredibly, the city didn’t begin exploiting its waterfront until the last couple of decades.
Now, the city has a new source of economic prosperity in the more than half-dozen fishing tournaments it hosts every year.
As these tournaments began to learn about and appreciate what Lake Champlain has to offer, the community wondered whether they withdrew more from the area than they infused: Were they draining the fish population? Were they actually yielding all that money we were told, in hotel-room rentals, restaurant meals and shopping sprees? There was a lot of speculation that the participants would come into town at the last minute, often aboard a stocked camper, and leave for the next tournament as soon as this one concluded.
True, the tournaments brought some excitement to the 120-mile length of Lake Champlain â€” seeing the racing boats speed to and from all crannies of the lake and observing the weigh-ins and other festivities â€” but was that enough?
As for the loss of the fish population and the ecosystem’s delicate balance, a decisive answer is still awaited. Studies are under way as to whether the lake is robust enough to harmlessly support such concentrated fishing. There is also concern that the standard practice of releasing the caught fish in the Plattsburgh Bay region presents an unsustainable imbalance for some of the fish.
But, as for the economic stimulus created by the tournaments, there seems to be no question about that.
Chad Gay, public-relations director for the latest tournament in Plattsburgh, the Walmart FLW Tour, claims a $1.5 million boost to the Plattsburgh area. We feel secure in the figures that respected Plattsburgh State economist and Press-Republican columnist Dr. Colin Read has calculated: that all tournaments in 2009 provided an economic impact of $8.4 million, which works out to a 2,852-percent return on the region’s investment of $108,000 in hosting fees and $30,000 in in-kind services.
And another respected North Country stalwart, Nine Platt Hospitality Group President Bob Smith confirms that his Best Western Inn at Smithfield did stout business over many days before, during and after the FLW last week.
We believe what they say. They have always had the region’s best interests at heart and have broad expertise in the areas they address.
Thus, the fishing tournaments represent a bonanza to everyone in the Clinton County area and perhaps beyond.
And we hope marine biologists will assure us soon that all this recreational and economic surge comes at a price our resource of fish can afford.