OSWEGO, NY – The conversation continued Monday as to how to make Oswego friendlier for those who want to fish the Oswego River.
A few weeks ago, councilors heard from some residents and business owners who said the DEC is too quick to ticket anglers and that Brookfield (Renewable Energy Group, operators of the hydroelectric station in the Oswego River) are forcing people out of the water and prohibiting access to the best fishing areas along the river.
“We are not river (fishing) friendly,” Council President Ron Kaplewicz reiterated. “There used to be thousands of fishermen, shoulder to shoulder, in the river. That’s not the case anymore.”
Larry Muroski of the Oswego Salmon Shop told councilors that Brookfield is making it nearly impossible for anglers to enjoy their sport in the Oswego River any more.
At one point, he said, he counted “127 fishermen left and went to Pulaski,” when the Brookfield warning sirens sounded recently.
Councilor Mike Todd agreed that river fishing has declined sharply in recent years.
“That river used to be full with people casting over each other’s shoulders,” he said. But the other day, “There were exactly two people fishing on that water – two. There used to be thousands on there. I’m trying to figure out, who on God’s green earth, authorized Brookfield to say who could and who couldn’t fish in the river.”
City Attorney Gay Williams said there is an agreement in place between the city and the company regarding the river.
She didn’t recall the specifics of the pact, but will research it to see if the company has over-stepped its boundaries.
“They’ve basically shut the whole river down,” Todd said.
“If there is something that is different than what’s in the agreement, then we need to look into that,” Williams said. “I can’t tell without pulling out the agreement and comparing it to what is happening now.”
Kaplewicz said he is trying to facilitate a meeting between city officials and representatives from Brookfield to discuss the situation.
He added that he has also received complaints about the company’s alarms going off all the time and that they can be heard just about all over the city.
“It’s a plain nuisance. I’m just going to say it the way it is; it is a nuisance,” he said. “It bothers me when I hear that thing going off for a half an hour.”
“My personal belief is we’ve taken a prime fishery and an economic engine and we have shut it off,” he added.
Todd suggested the city get out of the agreement all together.
It was a tragedy that some fishermen drowned in the river, he said, “but for as long as this river has been here, people have drowned in this river,” he said. “People get in car accidents every day and they don’t shut the highways down. Brookfield has taken advantage of this thing … they’ve completely destroyed the fishery here in the city of Oswego.”
You enter that river at your own risk, Todd said. What happens after you go in that river is on you.
“You make intelligent decisions for yourself,” he said.
In the past year, there has been a high-profile campaign to ensure everyone going into the river is wearing a lifejacket.
An Oswego native told the councilors he began fishing in the river when he was 7 years old, “and, like Mr. Todd said, there were thousands of people. They were all over the place. There was no regulation.”
The DEC stepped in and started some regulations, which drove many people away, he added.
“You’ve allowed a company, a foreign company at that, to govern one of the best natural fish hatcheries in the Northeast,” he continued. “Local people don’t fish for the salmon. We fish for the trout and the steelhead.”
Kaplewicz said he is hopeful that he can arrange a meeting between the city and Brookfield for sometime later this week.
He wants to discuss the sirens and the impact on the local fishing industry – including the many local businesses that cater to anglers, he explained.