It has been a very quiet season as far as fishing related events go, with Covid-19 to blame for numerous shows and tournaments being cancelled. So it was refreshing to see that tournaments can still be run successfully while maintaining NY State Health Department and CDC guidelines. That was proven two weekends ago with the South Shore Surf Fishing Classic, where 240 casters hit the South Shore surf from Moriches to Jones Beach. The event was hosted by State Parks and The Fisherman, and sponsored by Tsunami and Captree Bait & Tackle. While the popular post tournament awards ceremony had to be scratched due to the crowd it attracts, the folks from Long Island State Parks Recreation Department and the staff at Captree/Robert Moses did a great job coming up with a system that allowed the event to take place. In lieu of the awards ceremony raffle, goody bags were presented to participants via a drive-through process at the close of the contest at noon, Sunday. Thanks to the generous support of the folks from Tsunami, the content of the bags more than made up for the free raffle. Included in the bags were two plugs and a bucktail from Tsunami that were valued at more than twice the cost of the $15 entry fee.
Brenden Rutigliano and his staff from Captree Bait & Tackle managed to safely register the majority of the contestants, while also serving as weigh station for the event. In order for striped bass to be eligible, they had to fall within the newly imposed 28 to 35-inch slot limit. Not surprisingly, all three of the winning fish topped out at the 35-inch mark with less than ¾ of a pound separating them. Rich Sullivan took the top spot with 16.18-pound striper. Ahmed Davies was close behind with a 15.60 pounder, and even closer behind him was William Benard with a 15.50 pounder. There were no qualifying bluefish entries.
Virtually everyone I spoke to on the beach and at the drive-through were happy with the way the tournament went, and many felt the slot requirement helped level the playing field and gave more people a chance to win. Unfortunately, for one participant at least, that was not the case. I regret not getting his name, but he showed up at Captree Bait and Tackle while we were presenting the check and prizes to the winners, lamenting the fact that he has been fishing the contest for many years and he finally caught what likely would have been the winning fish, a 40-something pounder. Instead, it earned him a pat on the back, but a great fish regardless and he had the satisfaction of releasing the big fish.
On the negative side, I was reminded by Dean Ghosio of a darker side to the weekend’s events. Dean wrote: “Something I know you have written about in the past but should be repeated is the proper handling of fish, which maybe newcomers need to be made aware of. I was over at Robert Moses a lot this past week and witnessed so many people dragging short bass 30 feet up the beach, stand on them to unhook them, and then kick them all the way back to the water. Drives me crazy. I’d like to think they don’t know any better but I’m not really sure if that’s the case.”
Whether that is the case or not, there is no excuse for stepping on or kicking a fish back into the water. A thumb hold in the fish’s mouth is the best way to hold and unhook a small striper before placing it back in the surf. Always carry a pair of pliers to help expedite unhooking and get the fish back in the water as quickly as possible. Need I say more.