Ice fishing nets cold, hard cash for local economy

Local businesses are hoping to catch some cash from the upcoming ice fishing tournament at Mosquito Creek Reservoir.

The fourth annual ice fishing tournament is set for Jan. 27, contingent on the state of ice.

While the first place prize is $1,500 based on 75 teams, the economic impact for the community could be four times as much, according to Stephanie Sferra, executive director of the Trumbull County Bureau of Tourism.

“We’re hoping – praying – that we have a good ice for this year,” said Linda Finlaw, owner of Causeway Sporting Goods,

Finlaw said her small bait and boat rental shop depends solely on ice fishing for its winter revenue.

“Last year we had none, and it was hard,” Finlaw said. The shop was started 60 years ago by her father.

This winter Finlaw said she is hoping twice as many people turn out for the tournament. This will be the fourth annual tournament on Mosquito and the third year that the bureau has sponsored the tournament.

The bureau hosted a walleye tournament in April that Sferra said has a comparable economic impact to the upcoming ice fishing tournament.

At the last walleye tournament, about 70 teams of two competed and many completed a survey about their experience in the county, she said. Many of the teams came from out of town, stayed at hotels and ate out at restaurants. This generated more than $3,000 in direct sales and about $6,000 in induced sales, according to Sferra.

“Not everyone will stay in hotels,” Sferra said. “But they’ll eat.”

When visitors eat out at restaurants, the benefits compound to the local grocery stores that the restaurants purchase from, she said. One example she often gives is that if a fisher pricks his finger with a hook, he will go to a drugstore to buy a bandage, and even that is an economic impact.

The most recent available information on the economic impact of fishing year-round reported that Ohio anglers spent close to $1.1 billion on their trips and equipment in 2006. There was a 17 percent increase in fishing from 2006 to 2011 in the Great Lakes, according to Vicki Ervin, Ohio Department of Natural Resources communications manager.

The Tourism Bureau and Causeway Sporting Goods will be partnering with to present the ice fishing tournament. Joel Prince, 33, of East Canton, is on the Prostaff for IceFishOhio, particularly covering the northeast Ohio area, and has been ice fishing since he was 4 years old.

“I like the quiet and the solitude,” Prince said.

Fishing in the summertime is stressful, Prince said, but in the winter it is peaceful and the nature is beautiful. Prince said that with the equipment he uses, he stays warm and comfortable.

Ice fishing economically benefits local bait shops in the winter that otherwise might not be making revenue, he said. After speaking with an employee at Causeway Sporting Goods, he said it is particularly important that the company has a good year on the ice because of the effects of the summer drought.

Finlaw said that last year, there were about four goodweeks of fishing at the end of March and beginning of April, but then the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began letting water out of the reservoir to compensate for water needs elsewhere because of the drought. By July, she had to stop renting boats, she said.