Queens kids reel in a good time at fishing tournament

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The Bayside Anglers reeled in more than 50 neighborhood children for the group's eighth annual Snapper Derby last weekend at the Bayside Marina, where participants took home prizes and trophies for catching the most fish.

Bayside children and their parents lined up along the marina's boardwalk between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday with their fishing poles, patiently awaiting tugs on their lines. Event coordinator Phil Romano said the tournament, which began in 2001, provided many neighborhood youths with their first fishing experience.

"For many kids, the first fish they ever caught was with us," he said. "At the end of the event each year, every kid will tell you they had a good time. We have almost as much shoreline in New York as Florida, but most people in the city are under the impression that our water is polluted. It's not anymore, so we want to reintroduce people to the water. Plus, a bad day of fishing is better than a good day of working."

Romano said the event, which featured competitors ages 16 and younger, featured "catch and release" fishing and that the top three participants who caught the most fish would receive trophies.

Bayside's Matthew Stasi, 14, who won the third-place trophy for the past two years, said the tournament is a great event for new fishers.

"There's a lot of fish here," he said, pointing to a snapper swimming under the dock at the marina. "And it's fun to catch fish."

John Peck of Bayside said he brought his son Nelson, 9, to the event because both of them enjoy fishing.

"Fishing is my passion," he said. "And sometimes there's a limited amount of time for me to do it, so this is great."

Romano said winners at past tournaments have caught as many as six to eight fish and that most participants typically catch at least one fish. The young anglers were given small prizes each time they caught a fish during the tournament.

The state's Department of Environmental Conservation was on hand to identify the various types of fish caught and provide free bait and rods to participants.

City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who took part in the tournament, said he hoped the event would not only instill a love of fishing in its participants, but also get them thinking about environmental issues linked to the borough shorelines.

"This builds a connection between the residents of Queens and the bounty and beauty of the coastal waters," he said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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