It’s a fact of life in these parts. Kids love to fish, and for the last 20 years, the Shelter Island Lions Club has made a tradition of fishing at summer’s end with its annual Snapper Derby.
This year’s Derby is Saturday, September 2, and organizer Darrin Binder has assembled a huge crew of volunteer helpers, contributors and others to stage the weigh-in of all snappers and bluefish that kids catch this Saturday and bring to the judges at the Shelter Island School at 5 p.m. sharp.
Here’s how it works: Kids can start fishing for the prolific snapper bluefish (under their parent’s supervision, of course) as soon as they arise on Saturday morning. The goal of each fisher boy and girl entering the Derby is threefold — to catch the largest snapper bluefish of the day; the largest bluefish of the day; or catch and release the most snappers of the day.
The fish will be weighed on “scales” at the school with trophies and other prizes awarded to winners in different age brackets so that kids of all ages have a chance to win.
In addition, the Derby hosts a popular sign board contest inviting kids to paint a poster with cute sayings or scenes related to the snappers or the Derby. The winners of that part of the contest will have their work printed on next year’s Derby T-shirts which each contestant gets for participating in the event.
Trust me when I say it is a really fun event that parents can enjoy with their children and there is no sign-in or entry fee to participate. Each participant receives a T-shirt featuring last year’s winning poster on it and there is food galore including pizza, lots of popcorn and other goodies.
You can even have your snapper entry cooked right at the barbecue by Lions Club volunteers, as long as you have kept it cool so it doesn’t spoil during the day!
So how do you catch a snapper? Standard gear usually includes a slender 8 to 9 foot bamboo rod with about 15 feet of line tied to the thin end of the rod.
Tie a small snapper hook to the end of the line and put a “bobber” about 3 feet up the line which will signal when a fish takes the bait as it is pulled under the water as the snapper attacks.
You should fasten a small (1/8 to ¼ oz.) split shot just above where the hook is tied to the line so the bait sinks down quickly and finally, make sure that you have an ample supply of frozen sand eels for bait as the snappers are great bait stealers.
As the fish are caught, try not to keep all of them, just keep count of those caught and released and only retain the largest snapper for the weigh-in.
Remember, snappers this year turn into 10-pound bluefish in five years, so don’t waste the little ones, let them go!
Snapper rods, all rigged, are available at most tackle shops including Jack’s Marine on Bridge Street.
Good luck fishing and I’ll see you at the school on Saturday!