By MADDY VITALE
Kaden Ireland, of Galloway Township, isn’t a professional fisherman. He doesn’t even fish a lot.
But on Sunday, as he got out of a boat, the 13-year-old proudly displayed what became the envy of even veteran fishermen – a 21-inch flounder caught during a fishing trip courtesy of the Ocean City Yacht Club and the Ocean City Marlin & Tuna Club.
Kaden and his uncle, Jimmy Neithardt, of Absecon, were among 115 people from 40 families, some of whom have physical, mental or learning disabilities or financial difficulties, for an enjoyable day on the water.
“It was fun. I got to see some new stuff,” Kaden said with a smile.
Then he held up his impressive catch for all to see, as people took his photo.
“This was his first time locally in the bay,” Neithardt said of Kaden’s fishing trip. “We had a good time.”
Now in its 29th year, the fishing event brings families together and gives some kids a new experience and new love of the water and fishing.
The organizations brought together for the outing included the Challenge League out of Philadelphia, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern New Jersey and the Variety Club of Philadelphia. Members of the Ocean City fire and police departments were on hand to make sure everyone unloaded safely.
Some of the families were out on a boat for the very first time. Altogether, 25 boats participated Sunday.
“We caught two flounder and a rainbow fish,” Daniel Brown, 22, of Lehighton, Pa., said with excitement. “We even caught a shark we threw back.”
Brown’s mother, Gail Sacelaris, said the family had a wonderful time.
“I didn’t know the Variety Club (of Philadelphia) did this. We have gone camping and to other activities, but not on the fishing trip,” she said. “We would do this again.”
Some dignitaries were in attendance including Mayor Jay Gillian and First Ward Councilman Terry Crowley Jr.
“It is spectacular,” Gillian said of the event. “This is what Ocean City is all about. It brings so much joy.”
Ocean City Yacht Club Commodore Baron Schlachter and his wife, Shauna, who is commodore of the OC Marlin & Tuna Club, said the event continues to grow.
“We are excited that the number of families participating is growing again. This isn’t the biggest, but it is getting back to what it was before the pandemic,” Baron noted.
Shauna described the volunteerism for the event from the community and members of the club, “Everyone has come out to help today. The families are thrilled. There was little wind, the fish were out, and the water was great.”
After the fishing trip, Bill McGinnity, a chef who is in charge of food at the yacht club, provided the meals for the guests.
Ocean City Yacht Club member Doug Walters, a past commodore, helps organize the land operations for the fishing trip each year as the event co-chair.
Each year, George Robinson and Brian Logue, both of the OC Marlin & Tuna Club, work on the event together.
Robinson, co-chair of the event, who lives in Florida and has a vacation home in Ocean City, has been in charge of running the water portion of the event for the last 20 years.
One of the participants was in a wheelchair. He was on Robinson’s boat.
“I’ve been doing this event for over 20 years and it is one of the best things. It is a special day. Our family that we brought out had a boy in a wheelchair,” he said. “He got into the moment, and he loved the rocking of the boat. It brought out the best in him.”
Logue, a boat captain who lives in Ocean City, enjoys helping with the event each year. “My job today really is to play boat traffic controller,” he said.
Logue added, “One of my favorite things is to see the kids’ reactions when they come in from fishing.”