By Maggie Cai and Rawson Jahan
Over 400 fisherman from Long Island gather at the View restaurant in Oakdale on Election Day, November 8 for its 26th annual striped bass tournament. The benefit raised approximately $3,000 for Send The Kids Fishing, a non-profit organization that teaches children to fish.
At 8 am, 400 boats between Moriches Bay and Tobay Beach receive the signal to leave their home ports and start fishing. A boat can consist of individual fishermen or a team. With 11,330 anglers in New York State, competitive fishing can “pay a nice little penny” and cover yearly expenses for some, Thomas Goettelmann, a fishing and hunting guide in Oyster Bay, said.
“The paychecks are very nice, $100,000 per a tournament winning,” Goettelmann said. “It’s not a bad field, you know.” The more experienced anglers there are on a team, the greater the prize is for everyone, Goettelmann said. He has participated in the View’s competition since 1998 as a competitive fisherman.
With money on the line, professional anglers can be hesitant to speak about their experiences with the sport. “Some people won’t talk about it because, ‘this is my bay, this is my fish, this is my spot,’” Bill Falco, an employee at Chasing Tails Bait and Tackle said. His father’s bait store is a few streets over from the View.
When it comes to tournaments, anglers spend time picking their crew, purchasing enough bait the night before, and spending as much necessary to win, Falco said.
For others, tournaments do not cost a thing. Competitors with boats are sometimes sponsored by local and international boat manufacturers. In exchange for covering entry fees, sponsors will put their logo on the sides of anglers’ boats, Goettelmann said.
“Competitive fishing is not a money maker,” Captain Ray, owner of the Carolann P Fishing Inshore and Offshore Charters, said. While he agrees that people can make some money off the tournaments, competitive fishing is not a career. He works as an electrician and boat owner and competitively fishes 10 days a year.
Competitive fishermen fish for a variety of different species of fish, but the striped bass is popular because they are in season during October and November, James ‘Jimmy’ Hahn, the organizer of the tournament, said.
In 2015, there were 3,235,218 New York saltwater fishing trips, which means striped bass trips were 21.34 percent of the saltwater fishing trips in New York in 2015, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Competitive fishing is a tremendous sport on Long Island, Brian Miller, owner of the YouTube channel, Get Reel Bass Fishing, said. “Long Island, especially Montauk, is the mecca for striped bass,” Miller said. Its size and nature makes it the ideal game fish for anglers to catch.
In New York State and for tournaments in the south shore, each person is only allowed to take one striped bass that must be 28 inches due to conservation rules. At the View’s tournament, multiple fishermen can be on a boat fishing, but each member in the group is only allowed to weigh one striped bass.
“It’s an awesome day on the water and getting out and trying to catch a big fish,” Captain Walter, owner of the Captree Fishfinder Fishing Boat company, said. In the past twelve years, Walter has won numerous tournaments.
Boats must arrive back to the View by 4 pm so fish can be weighed. The winning groups will split the prize money among teammates, starting at first place with $5,000.
Bill Connaughton won $5,535 at the 2016 Bass Tournament with a 42 pound bass. His name will join the past winners on a trophy displayed at the View.