The Red Mill Inn in the News
B'ville hopes to spin carp into gold
Charlie Farrell has lived in Baldwinsville his entire life and like most residents of the village, paid little attention to the mammoth fish swimming near the bottom of the Seneca River.
"All of us who have been here think of carp as a junk fish," said Farrell, 57. "Who's interested in carp?"
Judging from the interest in this week's American Carp Society Northeast Regional Tournament, taking place Wednesday through Saturday, it appears Baldwinsville's "junk" may turn to gold.
Anglers from three European countries England, France and Romania and 14 states plus the District of Columbia will converge this week on the village in the northwest corner of Onondaga County to fish for carp.
Tournament officials estimate the four-day tournament will add $100,000 to $150,000 to the local economy, but the bigger prize is what it could mean for Baldwinsville's future. The village might become a tourist destination for people from all over the world.
Internet Web sites already tout Baldwinsville as a carp fishing Mecca. One fisherman, from Japan, and his family have booked a week at Baldwinsville's Red Mill Inn in August. His plan, said Red Mill co-owner Jake McKenna, is to fish for three days and take day trips to nearby attractions, such as Niagara Falls and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown.
State officials with the "I Love New York" campaign are interested in putting together a tourism package for Baldwinsville centered on carp fishing, said Farrell, president of the village's Chamber of Commerce.
"Carp fishing is the hook," Farrell said, "but they'll also promote the Beaver Lake Nature Center, motocross and the indoor water park being built in Van Buren. The plan is to sell Baldwinsville all over Europe."
Carp are revered by anglers in most of Europe, Southeast Asia and Southern Africa, mainly because of the size of the fish and the powerful battle they put up when hooked. Two years ago, a world carp tournament on the St. Lawrence River, near Waddington, attracted 118 three-person teams and pumped about $1.5 million into the local economy, according to a study commissioned by the State University College at Potsdam.
"Once we come in and do a tournament, the residual and the ripple effect afterward can be enormous," said carp society publicist Kathy Kelly. "Many of these fishermen will come back."
The carp society has four other regional tournaments planned this year in the United States and wants to return to Baldwinsville next year, Kelly said.
When McKenna and his partner, Jay Bernhardt, were turning a 180-year-old flour mill into the Red Mill Inn in 2005, they one day climbed to the third floor and saw hundreds of carp in the river below. Bernhardt made an offhand remark that when they finished the Inn, they ought to think about a carp tournament.
Bernhardt asked his son, Jason, 26, to research carp fishing on the Internet. He stumbled upon the American Carp Society Web site, sent an e-mail and heard back from Kelly, who is originally from Baldwinsville.
Society officials, including tournament director David Moore, traveled to the village about a year ago. They caught 40 carp in one day, consistently landing fish weighing 20 pounds or more, McKenna said.
"Before they left that day, they committed to us that we would get a tournament," McKenna said.
The cost of hosting a tournament is about $30,000 in expenses and prize money. All of that has been covered by sponsors, including Anheuser-Busch, and a $7,500 economic tourism grant from the state. The carp society, Red Mill Inn, Baldwinsville Chamber of Commerce and village of Baldwinsville are co-sponsors of the event.
Thirty-five two-person teams will fish for 50 consecutive hours; May 1 was the deadline to enter. First-, second- and third-place prizes of $5,000, $2,500 and $1,500 are based on total combined weight of carp caught. A $1,000 prize will be awarded for the biggest fish. All fish caught will be weighed and released.
The biggest winner figures to be Baldwinsville.
"We're opening up a resource that was never utilized before," Farrell said. "It's got the potential to be a real lightning rod."