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Snapper Derby offers kids competition and fun on Fire Island

Jake Polito, 13, of East Patchogue, and his

Jake Polito, 13, of East Patchogue, and his dad, Chris Polito, hold a snapper they caught Saturday at the Seashore Snapper Derby on the Fire Island. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Some children were fishing for the first time while others were just enjoying a day with family and friends.

Fun, though, is what hooked all those who competed in the 10th Seashore Snapper Derby on Fire Island on Saturday.

At the derby, 28 children ages 7 to 14 competed against one another to fish for snappers around Fire Island National Seashore. Children and their parents competed from morning to midafternoon to see who would catch the largest fish for their age group.

Danielle Jacobs-Erwin of Mattituck was by the docks and was delighted when her daughter Heidi Erwin, 7, quickly caught a 7 7/8-inch snapper. The catch was enough to win Heidi third place in her age group’s competition.

“I had turned around for 10 seconds, and when I turned back, she caught it,” said Jacobs-Erwin, who came with friends to visit the seashore for the weekend. “She was very excited, she was going, ‘Aah! I caught one!’ ”

Pat Riley, an event organizer, said the derby gave young children who were still new to fishing an opportunity to learn pointers such as how to properly bait the hook.

“It’s meant to be fun and learning at the same time. Snappers are easy to catch, so the kids really get into it,” Riley said.

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Chris Polito, 46, of East Patchogue, and his son Jake, 13, were all smiles after Jake won second place in the age 12 to 14 competition. Jake’s friend Dylan Horn, 13, of East Patchogue, won first place in the competition after catching a 9 3/4-inch snapper.

Jake, who caught nine fish total at the Saturday derby, said he most enjoyed the competitive nature of fishing. “When you first catch the fish, the first fish you catch makes you keep going. It’s just the rush, the excitement of it,” he said.

Dylan, who caught the winning fish, said his prize catch put up a fierce fight. “It was going crazy, it was like wiggling everywhere,” he said.

On the docks of the marine park, Matt Gambale of Brooklyn and his sister Antonia Landgraf were watching as Landgraf’s sons Cole, 10, Chase, 8, and Jack, 6, threw their reels into the Atlantic waters hoping to catch plenty of snappers.

“It’s been wonderful,” Gambale said. “As soon as we pulled into the marina, we could see the snappers jumping around, everyone was excited, so we knew we would catch some. We got a few bites, we threw one back.”

Cole, who had just finished catching a snapper, said he had never gone fishing before. “It was fun. When I pulled it up, it put up a little bit of a fight,” he said.

“But it was no match for these guys,” Gambale said with a laugh.

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