They're not the most appetizing fish. With rusty-hued scales, bony heads and unmistakable winged fins, sea robins are often thrown right back in the water.
"They're considered a garbage fish," says Robert Berry, owner of Hi-Hook Bait & Tackle in Huntington. "When you catch them and bring them up to the boat, they actually grunt."
But Berry and two other business owners are hoping to shed the bottom feeder's bad rap Saturday at the Sea Robin Roundup -- a new family-friendly fishing tournament and festival with music, food and cooking demonstrations in Huntington.
The tournament is open to kids and adults who want to vie to catch the biggest sea robin and fluke (register by tomorrow by calling Hi-Hook). It's "something different to get children introduced to fishing," Berry says. "Sea robins are pretty much all along the bottom of the water, and anybody who puts a line in the water can catch a sea robin." Just watch out for those sharp spines -- they can sting.
Competitors can fish anywhere on Long Island, beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday. Fish must be weighed at the park between 4 and 6 p.m. Some boats are available for charter for those who don't have their own, or participants may fish off the beach. Adults (ages 17 and up) can win cash prizes of up to $1,000. Awards for kids are split into two groups -- up to age 10, and ages 11 to 16. The top five place winners will get plaques, a rod and reel.
It's something that Joseph Bradbury, 13, of Huntington, is looking forward to. "I like going out with my dad and just having fun learning and trying to catch bigger fish than I did the day before," he says. "I like challenges."
Joseph will fish with his father, Kevin, and 11-year-old brother, Matthew. "I like the excitement," says Kevin Bradbury, 41. "I didn't know I had them hooked."
AT THE ROUNDUP
The festival will be held rain or shine on the park's two baseball fields. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that assists severely injured veterans.
The jam band Lewd Buddha, which blends rock, funk, soul and blues, will play. Meanwhile, Brian Loiacono -- a 24-year-old Huntington native and sous chef at the three-star Michelin restaurant, Daniel in Manhattan -- will lead cooking demonstrations based on the day's catch.
"I've always been the one who's been saying you could eat sea robin," he says. "In France, they use it for a bouillabaisse."
Loiacono plans to show people how to filet and debone fish, stuff it with ratatouille and bake it slowly. He'll also poach sea robin in a bouillabaisse and offer samples to competitors, who can eat for free. For those who are not competing, The Culinary Studio will dish up sausauges and peppers, pulled pork, burgers and hot dogs ($4-$9). Raffle tickets ($5 each) are available for prizes such as restaurant gift certificates, fishing equipment and charter boat trips.
"This seems like a great time to spend with your family," says Lisa DeMartino of Huntington Station, who, along with her husband and 14- and 12-year-old daughters, will compete in the tournament. If the group doesn't catch a big fish, DeMartino, 41, says, "it's just the opportunity to have so much fun."
WHEN|WHERE 3-10 p.m. Saturday, June 30, Mill Dam Park, West Shore and Mill Dam roads, Huntington
INFO 631-683-4741, searobinroundup.com
COST $30 ($20 ages 16 and younger) for tournament
COST Free ($8 parking)
Looking to introduce the clan to freshwater fishing? I FISH NY hosts a popular, family-friendly clinic that teaches newbies how to cast and reel in fish. Loaner rods and bait are provided -- all you need to do is preregister for one of the 150 spots, then show up.