Thunder and lightning didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of 84 kids who participated in the Ocean City Fishing Club’s 43rd annual Boys and Girls Surf Fishing Tournament Saturday morning.
The two-hour event was curtailed after just a little more than hour of fishing, when the first thunder claps sounded and radar indicated lightning strikes just two miles away.
“Everyone cooperated when we had to call a stop to the event because of the storm coming,” said Ed Hoban, the fishing club’s chairman of the event.
The tournament was held on the beach near the Ocean City-Longport Bridge.
“It’s safety first,” Hoban said. “You have to do the smart thing. No sense putting anyone in harm’s way.”
Up until that time, the children were excited about winning prizes donated by local merchants and organizations. Top prizes included new bikes, trophies and ribbons.
Danielle Audet, 10, of Lumberton, led the girls division, and Justin Lowery, 11, of Woodstown, represented the boys division, each catching the largest fish. Both caught summer flounder. Danielle’s fish measured 16.25 inches, while Justin’s fish was 15.5 inches.
“It was very exciting to catch such a big fish,” Danielle said. “I felt it was there on my line and then I thought I might lose it.”
All of the boys and girls who fished in the tournament received prizes, ranging from backpacks and magnets to gift cards and food certificates. The first, second and third place winners who caught the most fish in each age category took home a rod and reel, along with place ribbons.
First, second and third place winners in the 8-10 age group were Luke Whitworth, Kyle Markley and Julia Roman. Whitworth and Roman also were overall winners of the most fish caught by a boy and a girl, with Luke landing eight bluefish and Julia catching two fluke.
In the 11-13 age group, Justin Lowery took top hook, followed by Finn Seeger and Jack Reiscke. With just two winners in the 14-16 age category, Adam Madkour came in first followed by Andrew Mattia.
Andrew Mattia, 14, of Furlong, Pa., said he’s participated in the tournament a couple of times and credited his grandfather with teaching him how to fish in salt water. He caught a six-inch kingfish during the tournament.
In all, the kids caught 32 fish, many of which were small bluefish, some fluke, and a smattering of other species, including sea robin.
Courtney Stimson, 13, of Monroeville, has participated in the tournament for three years. She reeled in the first fish, which was a 9.25-inch kingfish.
“I didn’t think I had anything on my line at first,” she said excitedly. “But I just kept reeling in and there it was.”
Fishing club volunteers had the children’s parents or guardians sign waivers for insurance purposes and register the boys and girls. Club members also manned the beach with measuring devices to record sizes of the fish the youngsters caught.
“It’s the first year we had waivers to sign,” said Frank Pizzutilla, Ocean City Fishing Club president. “It’s a smart thing to do and I want to thank everyone for understanding and cooperating.”
In addition to measuring fish, volunteers also helped the younger anglers cast and gave fishing advice to those who were novices.
The fishing tournament was held in cooperation with the Ocean City Department of Recreation.