The sun was bright, the breeze was light, and the smiles were a sight to behold on the faces of more than 100 youngsters who participated in the 13th annual Bayside Snapper Derby at the Bayside Marina on Saturday.
Sponsored by the Bayside Anglers Group, the free event drew families to the marina’s main dock and the fishing and crabbing pier at the eastern end of 28th Avenue.
At the end of the 90-minute catch-and- release competition, trophies were awarded to the three who caught the most fish.
It was 5-1/2-year-old Joseph Weir of Whitestone who caught the first snapper bluefish of the day, earning him a special “early bird” prize for snagging the young bluefish. He got to take home a fishing rod.
From the outset, the fish were biting fast, prompting BAG’s new president, Ira Friedland, to say it’s necessary to time the event to the tide, explaining that there are only two weekends in August when it could be held.
“The action has been great. We’ve had moving tide,” Friedland said. Early on he predicted that more fish would be caught this year than in any of the past several years.
“The kids are getting better,” he added. “They come back every year. It’s always a lot of fun.”
Under the watchful eyes of their parents and members of BAG, the youngsters, many fishing for the first time, took to the event like a fish takes to ... well, they got the hang of things pretty quickly.
Alexis Bartolotta, 9, of Whitestone, who was there with Angelo, John, Chris and other family members, as well as a family friend, 8-year-old Sydney Martinez of Bayside, said, “It’s fun and a little bit hard trying to reel in a fish.” She hoped to catch at least two before the day was over.
Ten-year-old Matteo Filiberti of Douglaston spent some time at his family’s vacation house in East Hampton last week, where they went fishing for fluke, though this was the first time he had competed in Bayside
“It’s fun to fish,” he said. With no set number in mind, adding, “I just want to win.”
At the age of 4, Charlie Erdey of Bayside is already a veteran of the derby, placing second last year with a catch of five fish. When asked how many he’d like to get this year, he said, “Like 10. Then I can get first place.”
Charlie, who is about to enter kindergarten, attended with his firefighter dad, Chuck Erdey, who said he took the day off to bring his son to the tournament. Every day he would ask, ‘Is today Saturday, Dada?’”
Sabrina Ghiozzi, 14, of Fresh Meadows recently went on vacation to Italy where, she said, “Most of the time we spent fishing with our family.” But on Saturday she admitted, “I’ve had a little trouble. I feel it pulling and as soon as I try to bring it up, there’s no bait and no fish.” She hoped to eventually catch “around four,” feeling a friendly sense of sibling rivalry with her brother, Marco, 13.
In the end, Marco exceeded his expectations, winning the entire competition with seven fish. Close behind was 10-year-old Stephanie O’Connor of Bayside, who caught six. Following a tie-breaker, John Bartolotta, 7, was declared the third-place winner with his four catches.
BAG, which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year, is dedicated to the promotion of environmentally sound recreational fishing practices and the stewardship of Bayside’s aquatic resources.
The nonprofit organization sponsors several community events each year. In addition to the Snapper Derby, it hosts the Family Fishing Festival each June at Kissena Park Lake, as well as Waterfront Day in April, focusing on the Little Neck Bay shoreline, and the Little Bay Park Shoreline Cleanup, during the latter part of July.
For more information on BAG, visitBaysideAnglers.com or call (917) 733-0950