Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

August 01, 2019

New York State Launches New Campaign to Boost Tourism in Lake Ontario Region

Announces Free Fishing on Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and Lower Niagara River through Labor Day as well as 50% Off Camping and Vehicle Entrance Fees at State Parks along Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River

New Television Spot Promotes Travel to Lake Ontario and Surrounding Attractions - View the Ad Here

Hatchery Improvements and Resiliency Grants Will Bolster the $121 Million in Regional Economic Benefit

Furthers Mission of the REDI Commission to Build More Resilient and Stronger Local Communities along the Shoreline by Strengthening Local Economies

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of a new campaign to boost tourism in the Lake Ontario region following recent flooding that has hampered tourism in communities along the shoreline. The new initiative includes free fishing on Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and Lower Niagara River through Labor Day as well as 50 percent off State campgrounds and vehicle entrance fees along the lake and river. A new television ad airing in multiple neighboring states will promote this new campaign and activities in the region. The Governor also announced the state will provide over $5 million to modernize the Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Oswego County.

"Lake Ontario and the assets we have in the upstate region are second to none - and while tourism is way up and it's a big economic generator, in the wake of the recent flooding in the area we have to get the word out about what we have here," Governor Cuomo said. "That's why we are launching a new campaign to promote tourism near Lake Ontario and our point is very simple: if you are looking for a fantastic, affordable and family friendly vacation - look north to Lake Ontario. We are also building back better and stronger so that we can withstand this new normal of flooding, and that's what the resiliency and economic development initiative is all about."

Attorney General Letitia James said, "From stunning vistas, to pristine beaches, to epic mountain hikes, to urban adventures, we truly have it all in New York. Lake Ontario is among our most prized majestic natural wonders. Although this region has faced some difficult times recently, New Yorkers are resilient. And we are grateful to Governor Cuomo for committing additional state resources to encourage people to visit the region and help keep it a popular destination for vacationers and adventurers alike."

"In New York we take pride in the fact that Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River continue to be recognized as premier destinations for anglers, offering residents and visitors an abundance of recreational activities," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "This new campaign will promote free fishing and camping discounts in the area, attracting even more people and boosting the tourism industry. The effort builds on our actions to create more resilient and stronger communities, ensuring they are protected and have the opportunity to grow now and in the future."

Governor Cuomo recently launched the REDI Commission, a multi-agency task force charged with developing a plan to harden infrastructure and increase resiliency along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, while strengthening the region's local economies. The REDI Commission includes up to $300 million in funding available for communities impacted by Lake Ontario flooding. This campaign will serve to remind visitors considering travel to New York State that Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River areas are open for business and filled with great opportunities available for weekend trips or extended vacations.

New York's Great Lakes represent the best the world has to offer in recreational angling opportunities and the Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands regions are estimated to provide $121 million in regional economic benefits from recreational fishing. The past few years have provided record-breaking fishing for several popular species and the 2019 season is, again, providing excellent opportunities along New York's scenic northern coastline. Lake Ontario is known as a haven for trophy trout and salmon fishing. In its 2019 rankings, and for the first time ever, Bassmaster Magazine named the St. Lawrence River as the top bass fishing destination in the nation. While lake levels are expected to remain above average, recent history has proven that fishing in these waters will remain first-rate and appropriate for all skill levels from shore or by boat. For those desiring a guided trip, many fishing charter companies are available for hire.

Free Fishing on Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and the Lower Niagara River

Governor Cuomo announced today that for the first time ever, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is waiving fishing licenses and license fees for fishing on Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and Lower Niagara River starting Friday, August 2, 2019, through Labor Day, September 2, 2019 at 5 p.m. EST. During this time, all state rules and regulations regarding seasons, catch rates, and size limits still apply. Free fishing on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River supports Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative and this new free fishing period on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River is in addition to the remaining Free Fishing Days for 2019 - September 28, National Hunting and Fishing Day, and November 11, Veterans Day. For more information visit

50% Off State Parks Camping and Vehicle Entrance Fees

To encourage visitors to explore New York's State Parks and Historic Sites, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is offering 50 percent off new campsite reservations and vehicle entrance fees at 30 state campgrounds, parks and boat launches along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River for visits through September. State Parks facilities included in the promotion are:

  • Lake Ontario: Chimney Bluffs, Fair Haven; Fort Niagara, Four Mile Creek; Golden Hill; Hamlin Beach; Lakeside Beach; Mexico Point boat launch, Oak Orchard, Sandy Island Beach, Selkirk Shores; Southwick Beach; Westcott Beach, Wilson-Tuscarora,
  • St. Lawrence River: Burnham Point; Canoe-Picnic Point; Cedar Island; Cedar Point; Coles Creek; Dewolf Point; Grass Point; Jacques Cartier; Keewaydin; Kring Point; Long Point; Mary Island; Robert Moses; Rock Island; Waterson Point, Wellesley Island.

Camping reservations can be made online at or by calling toll free 1-800-456-CAMP.

I LOVE NY Ad Campaign

A new 30-second spot highlighting popular activities and attractions on and around Lake Ontario is airing in targeted markets, including downstate New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. The ad is also prominently featured in a digital campaign that includes advertising and social media promotion, complementing the travel-specific content on, like a 48-hour itinerary of recommended destinations for a perfect weekend trip to the Lake Ontario region.

The ad features family friendly attractions like the shore of Southwick Beach State Park, the Thirty Mile Lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park, and camping at Selkirk Shores State Park. It celebrates the region's historic significance by showcasing Youngstown's Old Fort Niagara - the oldest continuously occupied military site - while paying homage to the region's nautical heritage by featuring the H. Lee White Maritime Museum in Oswego and the world-class fishing on picturesque Lake Ontario.

Hatchery Improvements

Governor Cuomo also announced the investment of $5.25 million to modernize the Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Altmar, Oswego County, to further enhance the fishing experience on Lake Ontario. The funding will support the development of cutting-edge technology to save and reuse water to increase fish production. Raising fish is a water-intensive practice and the hatchery currently uses a water flow of 10,000 gallons of water per minute. The improvements will enable the facility to save money while raising more fish for stocking.

Great Lakes Grant Awards

To further invest in resiliency and economic development projects as part of Governor Cuomo's REDI initiative, DEC and New York Sea Grant today announced awards totaling nearly $75,000 for community-based projects in the region. The Great Lakes Basin Small Grants Program awardees will enhance community, ecological and economic resiliency throughout the Great Lakes watershed. Funding comes from the state Environmental Protection Fund's Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Program and supports the application of ecosystem-based management to complex environmental problems to conserve, protect and enhance irreplaceable Great Lakes natural resources. Recipients include:

  • St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce - $24,999: Lake St. Lawrence Tourism Destination Master Planning. This project is creating an inter-municipal plan to enhance and secure funding for eco-tourism and recreational opportunities, e.g., increasing access to local waterways and land resources for recreational activities year-round, and developing natural and historic interpretation opportunities along trails and viewpoints, thereby driving tourism-related regional economic growth.
  • Environmental Finance Center at Syracuse University - $24,999: From Planning to Implementation: Building Capacity in the Town of Sandy Creek. This project provides local government with targeted assistance in implementing ecosystem-based management within existing plans and developing a planning strategy for the North and South Sandy Ponds' watersheds.
  • Village of Sodus Point - $24,999: Developing the South Ontario Street canoe and kayak launch as an eco-tourism destination for Great Sodus Bay. This project enhances waterfront access with a handicapped-accessible non-motorized boat launch and gateway to a Sodus Bay paddling trail. The site work includes green infrastructure elements and preserves a naturally existing bank area along the bay. Community collaborators include the Neighborhood Association of Sodus Point and Save Our Sodus.

    Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "From day one, the communities along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River have made it clear to REDI Commission members that letting visitors know they are open for business is vital to their region's economy - and we are making it happen."

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River include many of the most beautiful, historical, and fun attractions that can be found in our state. This is especially the case with the region's world-class destination fisheries, offering some of the best fishing sportsmen and women will find anywhere. The new tourism promotion, Salmon River Hatchery investments, resiliency funding, and free fishing without a license this summer, announced by Governor Cuomo today, will help more New Yorkers realize the treasures along our northern shores and attract more visitors to the many great opportunities that await them."

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "There are great campsites in the Lake Ontario region still available, many of which feature lakeside views. I encourage outdoor adventurers to take advantage of this opportunity to visit an incredible part of New York State."

New York State Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, "From island castles and freshwater beaches to jet boat tours and world-class museums, there are countless destinations surrounding Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River ready to give visitors the vacation of a lifetime. Whether boating and fishing or enjoying cultural attractions, families can find what they love this summer on a memory-making trip to the region."

Senator Patty Ritchie said, "Lake Ontario is an enormous asset for economic growth along our lakefront communities. Today is an important step in leveraging all Lake Ontario has to offer, including the incredible fishing. I thank Governor Cuomo for his unwavering commitment to Lake Ontario and look forward to working with him to strengthen on our economy in the future."

Assembly Member Will Barclay said, "By taking steps to boost tourism and promote travel to Lake Ontario, New York is ensuring that Lake Ontario communities will be open for business. I applaud Governor Cuomo for launching this new campaign, which will surely be a game changer for our region."

Mayor of Oswego Billy Barlow said, "As Mayor of Oswego, I know firsthand the impact Lake Ontario has on our economy and the importance of leveraging its assets to boost tourism. Thanks to Governor Cuomo, this new campaign will ensure the economic prosperity of our city and region for decades to come. I commend Governor Cuomo for his efforts to ensure economic growth along Lake Ontario's shoreline communities and thank him for being a true friend and ally to our region."

New York Sea Grant Associate Director Katherine E. Bunting-Howarth said, "New York Sea Grant is pleased to work with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to assist communities throughout New York's Great Lakes watershed identify and address opportunities to apply ecosystem-based practices to build shoreline resiliency and enhance aquatic habitat as well as waterfront tourism and economic development."