It’s summertime, and the fishing is fine.

From summer flounder (fluke) and striped bass to that lightweight favorite of anglers young and old — snappers — there’s a bite just waiting for your next cast.

There’s also plenty of fishing tournaments where you can test your skills against others, garnering bragging rights or winning a little extra cash.

“There is something special about participating in fishing contests,” says Stan Burghardt, 74, from Ronkonkoma. “I’ve been fishing for 64 years and I still get excited with every tournament I enter. A lot of people go fishing each day, but only one will catch the biggest fish. I’d like to be that guy.”

Ed Walsh, who runs a series of fishing derbies out of Jones Beach Fishing Station, loves the fun and camaraderie at the shop’s events. “Most of our contests center on fishing from the shore or Jones Beach Piers,” he explains. “That means everyone has access to the same fishing areas even if they don’t have a boat. We all have a ton of fun, especially the youngsters.”


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Most fishing contents offer prizes including raffles and drawings, “so you might not even have to catch the biggest fish to win something,” says Ray Bartlett, 69, of Brightwaters. Some tournaments are more serious than others. Expect to pay an entry fee.

The Aug. 12–20 Hamptons Offshore Invitational has more than $20,000 in total prize money as big boats race up to 100 miles offshore in search of tuna, shark, mahi and bluefish while raising money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island.

Less intense is the July 30 Fluke Rodeo Special Olympics Fundraiser, offering roughly $1,000 (cash/fishing accessories) for the biggest summer flattie hauled in between Jones and Shinnecock inlets.

Then there’s the Sept. 2 Shelter Island Snapper Derby with trophies for lucky winners who catch the diminutive but tasty baby blues. The first-place fish in this contest generally weighs a little less than a pound, and chefs from the Lions Club will cook your catch before the awards ceremony.

Most contests also have several divisions — kids, adults, boats, and catch-and-release (for those who don’t want to take their prize home for dinner). The Aug. 12–13 Captree Snapper and Crab Derby even has a category for blue claws.


Even for expert anglers, fishing contests provide more pride and satisfaction than payouts and awards.

“No matter the prize, you need to keep things in perspective — and you have to keep it fun.” says Stephen Roland, captain of the Montauk charterboat Professional Crier. Roland has finished in the money in several major offshore tourneys. Beyond general equipment prep and smart bait choices, he says, “you really need some luck because no one knows for sure if a big fish is going to bite.”

While fishing in the annual Star Island Shark Tournament in in Montauk in June, Roland and crew hooked into a mako that tipped the scales at a whopping 780 pounds. But the boat couldn’t make it back to the dock in time for the weigh-in, missing the deadline by 20 minutes.

“That would have been a cool $50,000 or more,” Roland says. “But we were all still thrilled in the end because that was the biggest shark any of us had ever seen.”