Fishermen return to tributaries, giving businesses a boost

Photos by Tom Rivers: Jerry Given of Bradford, Pa. tries to catch a salmon on Monday in the Oak Orchard River. Given made the trip with two other friends. He comes to Orleans County three or four times a year, trying to catch a Chinook salmon or brown trout.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 October 2020 at 2:05 pm

CARLTON – Covid-19 isn’t keeping the fishermen from Orleans County, who are back trying to catch a Chinook salmon or brown trout in local tributaries.

New York’s travel advisory on states with high rates of Covid-19 infections is keeping some people away, but the core group is back from Pennsylvania and other parts of New York.

Local businesses, especially those in lodging, say they have seen an increase in customers, and not only during the tributary fishing season.

Many people from cities have sought out rooms in Orleans County, even if only for a few days.

“We’ve been booked since June and that continues through early November,” said Ron Albertson of Albion, who rents out a vacation lodge in Kuckville, right by Lake Ontario. “We’ve had had families an couples, people from the cities who just want to get away for a few days.”

Albertson lists the cottage on Vacation Rentals by Owner or VRBO. Before the pandemic, he had people stay in the cottage from England, Sweden and Germany. The past six months, it’s been many families who stayed, including one from Holley.

Ron Bierstine, owner of Oak Orchard Tackle and Lodge since 1998, said more people are willing to try the great outdoors during the pandemic.

Ron Bierstine said the travel advisory has kept away customers from West Virginia, who would stay in his lodge and also go fishing.

But he has seen many new faces, including rookies who haven’t tried fishing before.

“They’ve heard about the great salmon fishing here and they want to try it,” he said.

There is demand for more guides to help new fishermen navigate the tributaries and know the best bait to entice the big fish, Bierstine said.

The fish have been making their fall run, and their presence always brings out the anglers, he said.

The fall fishing season is critical for his business and others that cater to the fishermen.

“This is my Christmas,” he said. “If I don’t make it in the fall, I don’t make it.”

His business has struggled like many others with supply chain issues. He doesn’t have the full array of products that he normally has, although Bierstine said he is still well stocked for anglers.

“Things are really starting to ramp up for the tributary season,” he said. “There are plenty of guys around.”

George Lacey, owner of the Captain’s Cove Motel and Marina, joins office manager Alexis Montes at the business on Roosevelt Highway in Carlton, near the bridge over the Oak Orchard River.

Captain’s Cove Motel and Marina has 14 rooms that have been booked solid since the summer and will be until Nov. 30. Many of the customers are fishermen, but Lacey said there has been a big increase in people staying from New York City. They wanted a break from the city during the pandemic and sought out a spot near water, Lacey said.

Captain’s Cove was closed in April because of Covid. Lacey used that downtime to upgrade the motel rooms. The customers have been positive, giving him good reviews online which has brought more people to Captain’s Cove.

The site also rents pontoon boats and motor boats, and gives customers use of kayaks.

“We had people come from Niagara Falls or Rochester, just wanting to stay a day,” Lacey said. “They liked it so much they stayed for a week.”

He knows the pandemic with the restrictions on capacity for some businesses like restaurants hurts many of the establishments in Orleans County.

“This is going to hurt for many years,” he said about the revenue losses for many businesses. “It’s going to be a struggle for a lot of people.”

Lacey invested heavily in Captain’s Cove after significant flooding in 2017. He raised the parking lot by 5 feet.

Sharon Narburgh said Narby’s Superette and Tackle is seeing many new faces during the pandemic.

Sharon Narburgh, owner of Narby’s Superette and Tackle on Route 98 in Point Breeze, never closed during Covid, keeping the gas station, groceries and tackle shop open. She has been with the business for 54 years. She said Narby’s has been busy.

“We’re getting more people who were stuck at home and haven’t fished for years,” she said. “They want to be out of the house.”

The travel advisory has hurt, keeping some long-time customers away. There are currently 32 states on the advisory. Travelers from those states to New York must quarantine in NY for two weeks.

Narburgh said the travel advisory is unpredictable, and it has cost many businesses customers, often at the last second.

“The charters have lost a lot of business, which means we all lose some business,” she said. “That means Orleans County lost a lot of business.”

She said the pandemic has revealed there is a shortage of beds in the county for visitors.

“We try hard to find a place for them to stay in Orleans County,” she said. I don’t want to send them out of county.”

These three anglers fish from a boat in the Oak Orchard River in front of Captain’s Cove near the Route 18 bridge.

Return to top