When Ed Walsh, a retired South Bronx firefighter, isn’t scuba diving in Bora Bora or training in martial arts, he spends almost every day working as the manager for the Jones Beach Fishing Station.
“Every weekend someone comes in here and says, ‘I didn’t even know this pier was here,’” said Walsh, 44, as he poured a cup of beer for a fisherman in the shop. “But we have some regulars who come here every day and are retired from anything like a neurosurgeon to a school janitor.”
The second annual Jones Beach Classic Bluefish and Striped Bass Surf Fishing Tournament kicked off Friday with 150 participants and runs until 5 p.m. Sunday. The fishermen who catch the biggest Bluefish and Striped Bass receive $500 each and a 3-foot trophy. Others who place in the top five receive prizes such as rods, reels and instructional DVDs.
The best month for fishing off the Jones Beach Pier is November, according to Walsh, who decided to begin the tournament in 2010.
“The tournament gets a lot of people out here,” said Paul Lamia, 70, of New Hyde Park. “We come here for the camaraderie. With nice, fresh air and pleasant people, what more could you want?”
The boundaries for the tournament stretched from Debs Inlet to the Fire Island Lighthouse, just east of Robert Moses State Park.
As of Saturday afternoon, the largest Striped Bass weighed in at 39.93 lbs and the heaviest Bluefish was 28.92 lbs. The average weight for both species is 12 to 20 lbs, said Walsh, who expects to see a Striped Bass of over 40 lbs during the weekend.
“It’s great to catch fish but you make so many friends here too,” said Aaron Goldfried, 44, of Levittown as his young son showed him a clam he had caught with friends. “I like to bring my son to be outside because you just can’t do things like play Xbox all day.”
Most of the people in the tournament were regular who come to Jones Beach almost every day to fish, said Walsh as he identified every fishermen on the pier from over 150 feet away.
“It’s always good to be here, tournament or not,” said Victor Singh, a chef from East Meadow who was in second place in the tournament at the time. “We all just love to fish.”