WPBS-tv programs of soldiers fishing in the North Country a step closer to reality
Saturday, October 29, 2011 - 4:45 pm

CANTON –Public Television programs on 10th Mountain Division soldiers fishing the waters of the North Country, the keystone of an effort to highlight fishing here and promote increased tourism, are a step closer to becoming a reality.

Members of the FISHCAP Advisory Board voted unanimously last week to underwrite the national distribution of “Fishing Behind the Lines,” a 13-part documentary series on angling, on soldiers, and on the fish-filled waters of the St. Lawrence River Valley, produced by WPBS-DTV Watertown.

Each episode of the series, hosted by veteran angler Don Meissner, who also coordinates the FISHCAP project, will highlight a day of fishing in one of the lakes, streams or rivers in the WPBS-TV broadcast region, with eight of the episodes planned for St. Lawrence and Jefferson Counties.

The shows will focus on fishing and the benefits of fishing for soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, stationed at Fort Drum. Some of these soldiers have been classified “wounded warriors” by the military.

“This is one of the most exciting things we’ve done so far,” said St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pat McKeown, also co-director of FISHCAP. “Imagine our rivers, our lakes, our streams, with all their beauty and all their thousands of game fish, being shown all over the country through the respected medium of public television.

“Since our entire mission is to show the world what we have and to bring visitors here to enjoy the whole angling scene, PBS has given us a great opportunity to show our stuff – and we’re going to do it!”

FISHCAP’s three-year mission is to create an economy around the sport fishing industry by bringing sport-fishing enthusiasts to the St. Lawrence River Valley. The FISHCAP Advisory Board believes that these programs, especially when distributed nationally, will not only drive tourism but will also do much to link the military and civilian communities, as well as fostering civic, community and national pride in the North Country.

Each week of “Fishing Behind the Lines” will highlight a specific regional waterway, filmed with the cooperation of the U.S. Army at Fort Drum, and focusing on both recreation and the soldier’s experiences. In addition, a five-minute segment on each week’s show will be devoted to other tourist destinations in the target area.

“This idea has been in the works for some time,” said Lynn Brown, Executive Vice President of WPBS-DTV, Watertown. “We have longtime experience with Don Meissner and know the audience he commands. This new series will combine the best of everything: our beautiful North Country outdoors, a seasoned veteran at the helm, and a rich and plentiful fish population. We believe ‘Fishing Behind the Lines’ will also build new bridges between our civilian and military communities.”

Meissner was host of “Rod & Reel Streamside” on WPBS-TV for 18 seasons. He is now a radio host on Boston and Montreal radio stations. The “Streamside” show is expected to be re-run beginning in January.

Meissner believes that with over 200 lakes, rivers and streams in St. Lawrence County alone, anglers of all ability levels will be able to enjoy great fishing destinations and meet wonderful people.

“But this series of programs means more than just fishing and celebrating our region,” Meissner said. “‘Fishing Behind the Lines’ gets right down to highlighting the most basic forms of human recreation and how people have connected to other people since the beginning of time.”

Major funding for national distribution of the series will be provided by the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency (RVRDA) with help from the FISHCAP Partners, including the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, Alcoa Foundation, the Town of Massena, the Corning Foundation, the Town of Brasher, North Country Savings Bank, the City of Ogdensburg, the St. Lawrence County IDA, and the Town of Waddington. Extra support for production and distribution comes from North Country Savings Bank.

The series is scheduled to premier in Fall 2012.