The Town of Brookhaven, in partnership with the Montauk Surfcasters Association, hosted the “Keith Romaine Memorial Snapper Derby” at Union Avenue Dock in Center Moriches on Sept. 26 in hopes to encourage young people to start fishing. 

Romaine is the late son of Supervisor Ed Romaine. He also served as a town councilman.

Around 20 kids hung onto their fishing poles while parents watched from behind them at the Union Avenue Dock in Center Moriches.

Children up to 18 years old competed in a variety of categories such as catching a snapper bluefish. Cash prizes of $100 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third place were donated by the Chamber of Commerce of the Moriches.

“Our goal is to plant a seed for a fishing tournament and have the chamber of commerce and Town of Brookhaven nourish it and make it grow into a larger event,” said event organizer Bill Jakobs, president of Montauk Surfcasters Association, of Center Moriches. “The kids are the future of fishing.” 

Participants were asked to donate $5 to the Moriches Bay Project, an environmental organization that aims to improve water quality through oyster farming.

“My kids love to fish and we thought it’d be nice to contribute to the Moriches bay project,” said Katelyn Clancy. 

Participants brought their own fishing gear. Each participant received a complimentary T-shirt donated by the Montauk Surfcasters Association. 

“We just got into fishing and came to just spend time together,” said another attendee, Dan Mendoza. 

Due to COVID-19, entry to the event was limited to 50 participants, and everyone was expected to follow social-distancing guidelines. 

“We are taking all the necessary steps,” Jakobs said. “We are following the pandemic guidelines and are socially distant and wearing masks.”

The first-place winner was Liam Kalinowski, who caught an 8 ¾-inch snapper. He was followed by Mason Neobauer, who reeled in an 8 ⅛-inch, second-place catch and Shawn Norman’s 6 ¾-inch, third-place haul.  

Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico was also among the participants with his son. 

“I’m here with my son today and I think the fundraiser is great,” Panico said. “It was named after my predecessor and friend Keith Romaine who was a member of the yacht club and used to fish off these very same docks.”

This is the first year that the Montauk Surfcasters Association and the chamber of commerce are sponsoring the derby and hope to turn this into an annual event.