SARANAC LAKE - Gov. Andrew Cuomo fished on Lower Saranac Lake with Sen. Betty Little and state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens Saturday.
Cuomo, who was in the Adirondacks to celebrate the grand opening of the Keene firehouse later that morning, went fishing to promote New York's free fishing weekend, which allows anglers to hit the water without a license. The weekend is meant to attract newcomers and out of state residents to the sport. The free fishing days program began in 1991.
"It's a great pastime," said Cuomo, standing at the Ampersand Bay state boat launch after his trip. "It's also great economical development for the state of New York. It's big business, fishing in the state of New York."
From left, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, Head Fire Driver Rick Yorkey, Ray Brook guide Joe Hackett, ORDA Chairman Pat Barrett, state Sen. Betty Little and Gov. Andrew Cuomo return from fishing on Lower Saranac Lake Saturday morning.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
To further encourage fishing in New York state, Cuomo signed legislation last year expanding the opportunity for free fishing clinics, allowing more New Yorkers to experience fishing for the first time by enabling DEC to increase the number of free clinics that can be held throughout the state, according to a press release.
According to statistics provided by the governor's office, New York state ranked No. 2 in the nation in total angler expenditures in 2011 and No. 6 for out-of-state visits from anglers. Sport fishing accounted for more than 32,000 jobs in 2011 and generated $334 million in state and local tax revenues.
New York's sport fishing industry generates an estimated $1.8 billion in economic activity annually.
The group went fishing on a pontoon boat led by Ray Brook guide and Enterprise columnist Joe Hackett. Olympic Regional Development Authority board chairman Pat Barrett was also on the boat. They were out for more than an hour fishing for bass. Cuomo said the group had "lots of luck" on the trip.
"Lost track at one point," Cuomo said. "That is an accurate statement. We lost track. Don't you think so, senator?"
Apparently, Little had the biggest tug of the morning during what was her first-ever fishing trip.
"Truthfully I didn't get it until I had something really pulling on my line and thought, 'Wow, this is exciting,'" Little said. "It did get away. It had to be huge."
Largemouth and smallmouth bass are the most popular freshwater sport fish in New York, according to the governor's office. Trout are the second most popular.
This isn't the first time Cuomo has gone fishing in this region, including on Lower Saranac Lake. His most recent publicized fishing trip was last September, when he invited media from all over the state to join him at Boreas Ponds, which the state is planning to add to the Forest Preserve in the coming years. Boreas Ponds is former Finch, Pruyn & Co. land that is currently owned by The Nature Conservancy.
"We're in this neck of the woods today, and whenever we can bring attention to the Adirondacks, we try," Cuomo said. "It's a hidden treasure for the state, and it's great for the economy in the North Country. So we put both things together, had a little fun, a little tourism and some official business."