By Joseph Wolkin
The bait came out and so did smiles across the faces of 43 children on Saturday, June 11.
The 14th annual Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve’s Junior Angler Fishing Tournament was a big catch for Smithtown’s youth. As the bait flew into the water, the kids battled one another to see who would catch the most fish, the largest pan one, along with the biggest “other” fish.
One of two natural preserves on Long Island, Caleb Smith State Park Preserve sits amidst 543 acres in Smithtown. Named after Caleb Smith, who was a judge for the Court of Common Pleas of Suffolk County, along with being a member of the state assembly in the 18th century, the property was dedicated in his name when it was acquired by the state in 1963.
At the end of the tournament, Garrett Warren, 11, came home with the largest fish of the day. Warren set a record for the largest fish caught in the tournament’s 14-year history, catching a 19.5-inch bass and shattering the previous record of approximately 15 inches.
“The fish cooperated and nearly every child caught a fish,” Tom Tokosh, president of the tournament, said. “Last year, we were in the neighborhood of maybe 32 [kids]. It goes year-to-year. I think we did better with marketing this year. I went to some trade shows and put flyers out and stuff.
“We also had a high participation rate. Last year, we had 25 people sign up for the afternoon session, but only 18 showed up. It depends on the weekend I think.”
10-year-old Erik Trovitch ended the day with the most fish caught, reeling in 17 creatures during the afternoon session for kids 9 to 12.
Parents were not allowed to help their children during the afternoon session. However, during the morning round, parents could cast the line, but the children needed to reel the fish in and bring them to shore.
During the morning session, which featured children from ages 5 to 8, 6-year-old Anderson Martinez won first prize for catching a morning-high 12 fish. Additionally, Veronica Leitner, 5, caught the largest “other” fish, bringing home a 14-inch bass.
“All of the fish were released,” Tokosh explained. “We might have hurt a few getting the hooks out, but basically, all of the fish were released. The kids had a great time, and it’s a good experience for them with their parents to bond and do stuff together.”
At the completion of the tournament, 204 fish were caught, measured and released, breaking the previous record of just under 200 fish caught during the tournament, according to Tokosh.
Among those also winning trophies were 9-year-old Gianna Valenti in the largest pan fish category and Brendan Lee-McGraw, 6, in the same section but during the morning round.