Six years ago, the Plattsburgh State Fishing Club leaped into the national spotlight with a second place finish in the national championship and earned a shoutout on ESPN.
“That’s where I want the club to get back to,” club President Donald Espey said.
The club hasn’t managed to reach that milestone again and has struggled at times to secure enough support. The lack of their own boat, instead relying on the help of members, family and friends, has hampered their ability to truly compete against the larger programs.
“I have to call 30 people and say, ‘Hey, do you want to drive all day and not be able to fish?” Espey said about their upcoming tournament sunday at Schoharie Crossing on the Mohawk River near Amsterdam.
Without a boat, the team can’t fish.
Originally founded in the mid-2000s, the club competes across New York and the northeast, fishing Lake Champlain, the St. Lawrence River, Lake George and others against other college programs like Clarkson University, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and SUNY Cobleskill.
Prior fishing experience or equipment isn’t necessary to join and the club welcomes new members of all skill levels. About 20 students are actively involved in the club, but many are seniors and Espey is worried about how new anglers will perform without the help and assistance of the older members.
“We don’t need people who already own thousands of dollars of fishing gear,” Espey said. “We just want people to come fish and hangout with us.”
The club does receive funding from the school for most of their fees and equipment, including their 12 rod and reels, bait, tackle and an eight-person ice fishing shanty. Espey is happy with the amount of funding the club receives from the college but, further relying on the inconsistent support of outside parties poses problems.
Along with the tournaments and competitions, the club tries to use their knowledge and experience to do well for the community. They’ve done educational work on proper fishing techniques, safety, handling fish and environmental conservation, along with taking part in local clean-up initiatives.
“Fishing is just a place where you can go out, usually without cell service and be all by yourself,” Espey, a senior that has competed since his freshman year in Plattsburgh, said about why he fishes. “Just being out there where there’s nothing going on.”
If the fishing trip goes according to plan, the free dinner is a plus, too.
Email Ken Bates at firstname.lastname@example.org