OCEAN CITY — A near-record turnout of youngsters this year highlighted the Ocean City Fishing Club’s 44th Annual Boys and Girls Surf Fishing Tournament.
“The weather certainly helped bring out the kids,” said Ed Hoban, who chairs the event for the club. “We had to expand the area along the shoreline for the tournament to have enough space so they all could fish.”
The 115 young anglers, ranging in age from 8 to 16, caught a total of 136 fish during the two-hour tournament that was held at the north end beach near the Ocean City-Longport bridge. Last year, 84 youngsters caught 32 fish in the tournament that was cut short after an hour due to thunder and lightning in the area.
“We get so much support from local businesses and organizations,” Hoban said. “They donate all the prizes that we’re able to give out.”
In addition to those prizes, the Miller family donated Huffy bicycles for the boy and girl who caught the largest fish. The Millers have supplied the bikes the last three years in memory of Ralph Miller, who was chairman of the tournament, and his wife, Marion.
First, second and third place winners in the 8-10 age group were Dean Teti, Robert Simiraglio,
and Julia Roman, who placed third last year, also. Girls swept the 11-13 age group, Kaelyn Sheenan took the top hook, followed by Allie Darmohray and Hope Mallon. Alexis Erazmus came in first in the 14-16 age category, with Xavier Ladik second and Adam Madkour third.
Tops with the most fish caught, Allie Darmohray also received a trophy for catching six fish in the girls category, along with Gavin Sauder, who landed five fish and a trophy to top all the other boys.
George Shimp’s 13.5-inch flounder and Danielle Audet’s 15-inch flounder put them on new Huffy bikes for catching the largest fish in the boys and girls groups, respectively. Danielle also won a bike in last year’s tournament.
In addition to fluke, youngsters landed a variety of fish, including sea robin, sand sharks, and kingfish. Some, like Lilly Fuchs, 16, of Mullica Hill, was participating in the tournament for the first time and were thrilled when they landed their first fish. Lilly beamed, proudly showing off a 12.25-inch flounder, which surprised her as it nearly squirmed out of her hands and onto the sand before she returned it to the water.
“We’re just here on a day-trip,” her mother, Lisa Fuchs said, while watching Lilly and son, Ryan, 14, cast their lines into the surf. “This is our favorite beach and we try to get here as much as we can.”
Katie Drago, 8, of Aston Park, Pa, looked tired after she reeled in her 11.5-inch fluke. “My muscles hurt,” she claimed, before re-baiting her hook, trying to out-fish her brother, Ryan, 9.
“They fish nearly every day in freshwater back home,” their mother, Kathy Drago, said, “but this is their first time in saltwater. I think they’ll want to come here again for next year’s tournament.”
While the tournament offers youngsters an opportunity to compete among children in various age groups, Carter Linden, 11, had his friendly rivalry, with his pal Luke Finnegan, 12. When Carter landed a kingfish, Luke also beached one within minutes of his friend.
“When I get one,” Carter told his buddy, Luke, “you get one, too!”
“No! When I catch a fish, then you get one!” his friend Luke countered, adding his emphasis. Both friends laughed together, and then tossed their lines in the water again, hoping to lay claim to the next “first” catch.
“They love to grab their rods, hop on their bikes and spend the day fishing,” said Christie Linden, Carter’s mother. “They’re best buddies, but they’re competing all the time.”
Fishing club volunteers had the youngsters’ parents or guardians sign waivers for insurance
purposes and register the boys and girls. Some club members also manned the beach with
measuring devices to record sizes of the fish the youngsters caught. Others also helped the younger anglers cast and gave fishing advice to those who were novices.
“It takes a lot to put on a tournament like this,” Hoban said. “But it’s great to see it grow to this size. Everyone enjoys it, from the youngest to the oldest.”
The fishing tournament was held in cooperation with the Ocean City Department of Recreation.
Founded in 1913, the Ocean City Fishing Club is the oldest, continuously operated the fishing club
in the nation.