Every year The Fisherman Magazine hosts its season-long interclub competition that consists of the island’s fishing clubs and their hundreds of club members submitting striped bass, bluefish and weakfish caught while surf fishing in New York waters. While there isn’t a prize of any monetary value awarded to the winners, the competition does bring out some fierce competition among the clubs and individual anglers. In the end, the top anglers earn well-deserved bragging rights and full acknowledgment as some of the hardest-working casters on the island. They’re also awarded pins and plaques for their accomplishments.
I’ll start by taking a look at the statistics for the 2022 contest. Remember, overall standings comprise the heaviest 10 fish for each eligible fish category the clubs put up each month. Eleven clubs participated in the 2022 contest, the same as the year before. The past three years of the contest have had the same number of clubs participating. All clubs tallied 17,881 points in 2022, while 2021 saw a total of 14,842 points, and 2020 only had 11,844 points submitted. This is a tremendous three-year increase due to more striped bass weighed in. A sign of better fishing is most likely the reason for this. This also follows the general consensus of what I heard throughout the season regarding striper fishing from the surf. Ironically the slot limit was put into effect right before the spike in these numbers. Maybe this is a sign that the current regulations on striped bass are doing their job. I still think we need another year or so to confirm this.
We also did see an increase in participation in the contest by 17 individuals, but even with this increase, their points did not account for over a 3,000-point rise from last year. This would be the second year in a row that the final points from all clubs were up about 3,000.
As far as individual species go, every category was up since the last contest, following the trend. Stripers saw 10,088 compared to 9,457; bluefish was 6,015 verses 5,222; weakfish points doubled with 370 in 2022 against 169 in 2021. A promising sign was that none of these comparisons saw a drastic decrease. I know last contest recap, I acknowledged the better weakfishing and mentioned it due to the fish hitting a certain part of their cycle. For those who don’t know, weakfish tend to return year after year, and the class of the fish seems to get bigger every year, and then suddenly, they will disappear for some time. This has historically been the pattern with weakfish. The question is, once again, will weakfish see the same upward trend, or have they reached the end of their cycle?
Another part of the statistics that always intrigued me was the largest fish caught yearly in each category. No doubt, the overall size of stripers was up again in 2022. Probably due to them being protected by the slot limit of 28 to 35 inches. The contest had one 50-plus-pounder, five in the 40s, and 22 stripers in the 30s. The average weight of the top ten fish in 2021 was 36.80 pounds; last year, it was 42.1 pounds, a 5.3-pound increase!
Taking honors this year and winning the overall club standing category for the first time was the All-Island Surfcasters. They’re a fine group of dedicated guys who take their fishing seriously. Leading the way for them was Dylan Jewel, with his first-place finish in the individual angler standings for the second year in a row. He was also an angler who weighed in the lone 51-pounder—a fish in a class of its own—caught on the South Shore in October.
You can find the final leaderboard in the reports section of the magazine. It will give you a little more insight into the stats in the contest. If you are interested in participating yourself, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Clubs that are actively seeking members usually reach out to me to spread the word. I’ll try and put you in contact with one of them. Aside from participating, being in a club is a great way to involve yourself in the surf fishing culture that revolves around Long Island. From my time in the clubs, I could tell you there are certainly a few things you could learn from listening to some veteran members.