Golconda fishing decline affects economy - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Golconda fishing decline affects economy

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POPE COUNTY -- Small river towns often rely on tourism to boost the local economy, and in Golconda, folks call fishing a big economic driver.

But fishermen say they can't catch any fish there.

"In the 80s and 90s, it was absolutely fantastic," said local fisherman Kenny Bradford.

Bradford has run the Ohio River and surrounding creeks over 40 years, bass fishing at least a few times a week.

"Since the late 90s, I've seen it decline," he said.

Bradford doesn't haul in as many bass these days, saying some days you can fish for hours and only catch one or two.

"If you're lucky enough to find a school of bigger fish, yeah, you can catch a good limit. But it's usually spotty," added Bradford.

And he's not alone. U.S. Angler's Choice President Rick Byrnes hosts tournaments on this stretch of river, and says the quality of fishing hurts the turn out at tournaments.

"We run tournaments all over southern Illinois and all over the Midwest. When you see a fishery declining, the people that are traveling the farthest are the first to stop coming," said Byrnes.

In some cases, he has to canceling tournaments altogether. That brings less in tourism to towns like Golconda, according to mayor Jon Broadway, who points to the closed-up Subway.

The once popular Sweetwater Saloon has shuttered, and the motel, while open, has hung out the for sale sign.

"We've lost probably four or five businesses in the last four years. The bed and breakfasts, the overnight stays have really declined...We have a motel in town. It's mostly vacant anymore," said Broadway.

"It wasn't unusual to have 100 boats in the tournament, and now 25 to 35 boats is a good turnout," said Bradford.

All parties involved just want to see the fish, and the people, return.

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