By Claire Wala
This year marks the second annual Jordan Haerter Fishing Tournament, an event that lets local anglers loose in the waters between Shinnecock Inlet and Montauk Point, casting hooks with the hopes of reeling in the fattest striped bass or bluefish they can find.
Last year’s winning bass—wrestled into the boat by Rich Nessel—weighed-in at 28.05 lbs., and its bluefish counterpart—caught by Ken Freese—came in at 12.6 lbs. Though the bass was found in the waters off Montauk, event organizer Richard Flood says that’s no indication of where hopeful anglers should set their sights this year.
“There are plenty of sweet spots, it’s just a matter of knowing where they are,” Flood added. When asked to divulge information on the whereabouts of said sweet spots, he chuckled: “If I could do that, I’d be the winner of the tournament!”
According to Al Daniels, an outdoor columnist for the Sag Harbor Express, serious fishermen will most likely troll through Plum Gut, Gardiner’s Island, The Race or Montauk; and most will use live bait (bunkers, if possible, but probably porgies). For those who choose to fish with lures, Daniels predicts most will use parachutes or drifting bucktails.
If anything, Flood believes weather will probably be the biggest challenge for participants; though—as of publication—he said it was too soon to tell how it would affect conditions for Saturday’s tournament.
“Last year it was rough,” he remembered, quickly adding, “It was a beautiful day to be on land, but it was rough out on the water.”
Daniels agreed, saying that the windy conditions during last year’s tournament definitely took some competitors, including himself, out of the running. But this year, Mother Nature shouldn’t pose a threat.
Anyway, what it comes down to, Daniels said, is very simple: “The key is just to put the line in the water and wait… wait… wait…”
This year participants will set sail at 4 a.m. Saturday, and be back in Sag Harbor by 2 p.m. for the official weigh-in. The winners from each category will receive cash prizes, and will be able to celebrate their victory at Saturday’s Fishing Party, which will kick-off at 11 a.m. and is open to the public. The party will include a raffle, silent auction, food, music and, of course: fish.
Last year, attendees got the taste of grilled victory, as Nessel’s prize-winning bass was thrown to the flame and served to the hungry crowd.
“Striped bass is a very tasty white meat, so you can cook it any way you want,” Flood said. “Bluefish is stronger, so you have to do whatever you can to mellow out the flavor — it’s much more of a culinary challenge.” Though, Flood added, it’s delicious smoked.
Flood expects to see around the same number of participants as last year (about 105), which — even though not everyone will bring-in a catch the size of a cocker spaniel —will certainly supply the event with enough seafood for the day. (Any extra fish will be donated to the Sag Harbor Food Pantry.)
All proceeds from the weekend will be donated to The Wounded Warrior Project and Building Homes for Heroes.
The tournament was founded in memory of Sag Harbor local Jordan Haerter who was killed in the line of duty while guarding a Marine and Iraqi police compound in Ramadi, Iraq in 2008. He was just 19. In the wake of numerous memorial services held in honor of the young hero, Richard Flood and Doug Herrmann felt compelled to do something more. They imagined the fishing tournament last spring as a way to honor Haerter’s memory while giving something back to the local community.
“We thought it would be nice to create more of a family event,” Flood said.
This year’s event will also honor the memory of 24-year-old Joe Thienert of Shelter Island, who died in Afghanistan in June.
In addition to the main event, the Jordan Haerter Fishing Tournament includes a free Snapper Derby for children under 10.
“Some of the kids have never caught a fish before,” Flood added, “so they’ll be able to catch a fish for the first time [on Saturday].”
New this year, there will also be a Fisherman’s Ball held the night before the tournament. It will be catered by The Seafood Shop “Food for Forks” and cost $100 to attend. Flood likens the ball to the annual gala held by the Bay Street Theatre, also on Long Wharf.
“Every summer we see that monstrous tent go up for Bay Street, but you’ve gotta have deep pockets to attend,” Flood said. “So we thought we’d do a similar thing for smaller pockets.”
However, just like the gala, Flood hopes the Fishing Tournament will make a lasting impression on the community: “We hope that this will become a part of Sag Harbor’s annual list of events.”