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FISHCAP looking for help to make Hometown Hero Muskie Challenge happen

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BRASHER FALLS - FISHCAP officials say plans for a Hometown Hero Muskie Challenge along the St. Regis River are coming along, and now they’re seeking help from Brasher officials to make it a reality later this year.

FISHCAP Coordinator Donald R. Meissner told Brasher Town Board members they have been talking with Fort Drum officials about the event, which would pair up military members with local civilians for a day of catch and release muskie fishing on the river.

“We went there to say our position. The JAG (Judge Advocate General) lawyers approved everything. We talked specifically about the Hometown Hero Muskie Challenge,” Mr. Meissner said.

“It was clear to me that most of these guys are not skilled fishermen. I ask them, ‘What one thing would you like to do’ and it boiled down to ‘We would like to catch muskie,’” he said.

While they have the support of Fort Drum, Mr. Meissner said it would take an effort from more than just FISHCAP to make the event a reality.

“For us to make this really successful, it can’t just be FISHCAP. It has to be Brasher Falls and the outlying areas,” he told board members.

“We here at FISHCAP will work very hard to help you put on a great event. I think working together with FISHCAP you could have a great event,” FISHCAP Advisory Board member Robert Giordano, Chase Mills, said.

Mr. Meissner said that, for starters, they needed to decide if they wanted to make it strictly a fishing event or a “celebratory event” that would include other activities such as dancing and meals.

He said, based on their past experiences with the Fort Drum military, they know the event - no matter which direction they go - will be well received. Mr. Meissner said a local pub in Ogdensburg held a fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors Fishing Tournament and raised $1,200.

“All the money raised goes back to the soldiers to treat them to a special day. The guys said, ‘We’ve never been any place in the country where people reach out and make us feel at home,’” he said.

Brasher officials could leave the military men and women wanting to come back for more, Mr. Giordano suggested.

“You absolutely have a stunning, beautiful town. It’s jus a beautiful place to live,” he said, recommending that Brasher officials provide Fort Drum’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation Division with pamphlets about the town so that servicemembers can learn about the area and plan a trip there.

“I think that may be a boat we’re missing up here. I think you should reach out to them. They have 30 days a vacation a year. When they’re on vacation they can pull out your brochure,” Mr. Giordano said.

Bringing them to the Brasher area for the Hometown Heroes Muskie Challenge could “lay the groundwork for them to come up and relax,” he said, noting many of the Fort Drum personnel aren’t aware of all the communities surrounding them.

“They’ll come here, enjoy themselves and I guarantee they will come back,” he said.

Town Supervisor M. James Dawson said they were happy to help, but needed more information, such as the planned date of the event and where they would find volunteers to assist during the day.

“I recommend you guys pick the day. You know what works best for you,” Mr. Giordano said.

He said their primary concern was choosing a day when the fishing would be good.

“We’ll get a fishing report. We want to make sure the fish bite,” he said.

He also noted that FISHCAP would “reach out to volunteers.”

“We would be there to help you. We need people to help with assigned things. Whatever you guys think is fun and is important to you guys, we’ll put it in the event” and help publicize it, Mr. Giordano said.

“This could be something really special. I think we can make it real good,” Mr. Meissner said.

Mr. Meissner and St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Patricia L. McKeown had first approached the Brasher board last year about staging the event along the St. Regis River, from St. Regis Falls to Helena.

They said it would feature two-man teams, one Fort Drum “hero” and one local angler fishing together. Each boat will have a measurement cradle and camera, and the challenge will rely on the honor system for recording catches.

Prizes would be donated by local merchants, and coupons would be given for area businesses.

They also wanted to sponsor a kids’ tournament in a pond at the Riverside Campground, and hold a block party and food festival for the soldiers and their families.

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