A record number of 140 children and their families turned out at the Bayside Marina last Saturday to see who could catch and release the most snappers in the 14th annual Jimmy Miranda Memorial Bayside Snapper Derby.
“I love to fish because I catch a lot of fish,” said Alexandra Peon, 7, of Bayside, who later won first place in the derby, having caught a total of 16 fish.
The next greatest number of fish, 11, was caught by both Tyler Lue, 12, of Bayside and Peter Dujmouz, also 12, of Whitestone. After drawing lots, Lue took home the third-place trophy and Dujmouz took home second place.
The program is sponsored by a group of fishing buddies, the Bayside Anglers Group, which must perform community service to maintain its nonprofit status, said Ira Friedland, coordinator of the event.
The group sponsors several annual community service projects, including an April shore cleanup day at Little Neck Bay and Little Neck Park.
“This is unparalleled. It gets bigger and bigger every year,” Friedland said of the fishing derby.
By about 11:30 a.m., almost all the group’s 100 fishing rods had been given out and the marina’s boardwalk resembled an E train platform at morning rush hour.
The event, named after one of the original Bayside Marina owners and a big supporter of the fishing derby, has a carnival atmosphere, with a cannon-boom blast to announce the opening and closing of the event.
Angler Glen Oberwiler walked around with a loudspeaker, acting as emcee and announcing catches as they were landed. The club supplied rods, bait, trophies and giveaways such as water bottles. They raffled off fishing rods, gift certificates and other things from area businesses and gave free pizza to the children.
Morgan Oberwiler, age 8, niece of the emcee, snagged a prime location right in the middle of the boardwalk that juts out into the water, an area where the fish seemed to be particularly abundant.
Besides Peon and a smattering of other young “old hands,” many of the derby contestants had their first experience with a rod and reel. Cub Scout Pack 201 of Jackson Heights participated in the derby, providing Quinton Owens and his pack mates with their first chance to fish as Scouts.
“We waited three years to be able to go fishing,” said Quinton’s mom and assistant cub master of the troop.
Her son joined the Scouts with the specific intent of fishing on a camping trip, but when they got to the camp, there was no lake. After spending an entire second year as a Scout without fishing, Quinton finally lived his dream on a warm but not hot Saturday morning.
“It’s like my second time. I’m not good at it but I’m learning,” said Cub Scout Gabe Fernandez, who said he is 9 years old but clarified that he will be turning 10 in three months.