Bill Hilts Jr. retires from Niagara County Sport Fishing Promotion Program | Local News

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If Bill Hilts, Jr.’s labor of love as the Niagara County Sport Fishing Promotion Program Coordinator goes back to its roots, it could be an unforgettable day as a young boy he spent with his family camping in the Adirondack Mountains.

It’s the story of holding on to something and never letting go.

“Growing up with our family we had a solid experience of the outdoors, especially when it came to camping and our favorite place was Lewey Lake in the Adirondacks (northeast of Syracuse),” said Hilts.

“I remember catching my first trout in a creek there. I was very young and standing on a tree stump. My parents warned me that I might fall. I grabbed something, lost my balance and fell into the water. I ran to dry land, never letting go of the rod, and I caught the fish.

Hilts, who has followed in his father’s footsteps as a respected columnist and outspoken ambassador for all activities involving the outdoors, announced he was retiring on Friday, bidding his heartfelt farewell after 35 productive years.

On March 1, Lewiston’s Frank Campbell, no stranger to sport fishing circles, succeeded Hilts Jr. as a full-time local charter captain for nearly three decades.

“I realize I have big shoes to fill, but Hilts is not just going to go away,” Campbell said. “I have new ideas that I will try to implement while continuing many of the other important programs that Hilts has started or been involved in. I can’t wait to take on the challenge.

In addition to his role as the County Sport Fishing Program Coordinator, Hilts Jr. has worked as the Director of Outdoor Promotions with Destination Niagara USA (formerly Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation) since 2003.

Hilts, Jr. wished to thank the Niagara County Legislature for following the lead of the Niagara County Fisheries Development Program and the late Senator John Daly, who provided the initial funding to create a sport fishing promotion program. .

“It was because of that kind of leadership that the program was launched 35 years ago, and it was up to me to keep it going. However, it was a team effort that really made Niagara County and western New York City shine over the years, ”said Hilts, Jr.

“We formed the Lake Ontario Sport Fishing Promotion Council in the early 1990s with the goal of getting everyone on the same page when it comes to marketing Lake Ontario. During that time, as a group, we’ve spent over $ 1 million to help put Lake Ontario on the map as one of the best fishing destinations in the world. Even though I was president for the past two decades, it was a group effort that really made a difference. And the work will continue after I retire.

Hilts, Jr. said one of LOSPC’s crown jewels was the creation of the Lake Ontario County Trout and Salmon (LOC) tournaments on the lake in the 1990s. After building a solid foundation, they handed the popular event over to Dave Chilson and ESLO Promotions in the early 2000s. Derbys are still popular events today, he said.

Throughout his 35-year tenure, Hilts has always focused on the outside media.

“Television, magazines, newspapers and electronic media around the world have helped tell the story of fishing in the region,” he said.

“Behind the scenes, it was the fish that really helped make the region stand out through the many media. “

Hilts, award-winning writer and photographer, has organized hundreds of media events over the years. He said he would continue to avidly write a local newspaper as well as the NY Outdoor News and other outdoor media. He began writing for the Niagara Gazette, following in his father’s footsteps.

“Thanks to my father, we had the opportunity to travel across the country, camping across Colorado, Idaho and Saskatchewan, Canada, where my father was attending a writers’ conference. “said Hilts, Jr ..

When asked about the future of local sport fishing and outdoor tourism in Niagara County, Hilts replied, “Frank Campbell”.

“Frank fits the program perfectly. He has new ideas and he knows everything I’ve done over the years, ”said Hilts, Jr ..

“He’s one of those guys involved in a lot of different things. “

Campbell has served on the County Fisheries Development Board for over 20 years, 10 of which as Chairman of the Board. In addition, he was also a member of the board of directors of Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation, as well as chairman of the board of directors of the tourism agency. He is currently the county delegate for the state’s Lake Ontario Fisheries Task Force.

Hilts, Jr., who graduated from Starpoint High School in 1974, and his wife, Sandy, have four children, Natalie, Kim, Marla and Keith. Bill Jr. said his father, today, “was still breathing” at the age of 89 and lived in Sanborn.

“My wife has been very supportive of me in everything I do,” said Hilts, Jr.

Follow the reporter Jean D’Onofrio on Twitter with “Good Morning, Lockport, NY” on weekday mornings at @LockportJournal.


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