Local High School Fishing Clubs Are the Reel Deal

By JULIET KASZAS-HOCH | Jun 05, 2019
Photo by: Jay Mann SRHS Fishing Club

Long Beach Island — This Thursday, June 6, dozens of teenagers will gather after school on the 9th Street beach in Barnegat Light for the 11th installment of Battle on the Beach, an annual surf fishing contest among fishing teams from Southern Regional, Barnegat and Lacey Township high schools, and the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science. For the students, both novice and experienced anglers, the event marks the nearing end of the academic year and caps off the past seasons of each club’s fishing ventures both from shore and off boats at sea.


At last year’s surf fishing competition, close to 50 participated, and all four clubs caught fish – a combination of game fish – said Southern Regional Fishing Club advisor Jason Hoch, whose team took first place at that 2018 Battle.

In the fall and spring, Hoch regularly took his club members to surf fish off one of LBI’s beaches, usually in Surf City, also the location of Panzone’s Pizza, where the group would head for dinner afterwards.

“It’s a good way to show the kids how accessible the fishing is locally,” said Hoch. All gear is provided (as is the pizza), so it’s no cost to the students.

“We’ve been very fortunate that people in the community have donated rods and tackle that they no longer use, and it’s made it that much easier because we have enough equipment,” Hoch explained. “Local tackle shops – Fisherman’s Headquarters, Surf City Bait & Tackle and Tony’s Bait & Tackle – have been consistently supportive of our clubs, which has also kept costs down.”

The pizza, meanwhile, is one of the items covered by the club’s Fishing Flea Market fundraiser, held each February. The money raised also offsets the cost of trips for the students on the Carolyn Ann III, docked at Viking Village in Barnegat Light, “and is the perfect charter boat for our club members to start out and get a good first impression of fishing,” Hoch noted.

“Proceeds also go toward scholarships for four-year members of the club. And during the fall, we enter the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic.”

Dave Werner, who started the MATES Fishing Club in 2012, takes his students on fall and spring sea bass trips aboard the Carolyn Ann III. “We also had a successful blackfish trip last December,” he pointed out.

As Werner explained, MATES/OCVTS (Ocean County Vocational Technical School) has the RV Sirenia, a 28-foot Parker vessel used for research and fishing club trips.

“We also love competing in the annual Battle on the Beach surf fishing tournament,” Werner remarked. “The tournament promotes responsible fishing methods and environmental stewardship.

“It has been so much fun running a fishing club at MATES,” he added. “MATES is a rigorous program and the students are able to take a break from their studies and fish!”

Carolyn Skodi, meanwhile, has recently taken over the Barnegat High School Fishing Club advisor reins from Brett Taylor. As that club’s mission statement reads, “Our goal is to teach students an understanding and appreciation of all that our natural fish resources have to offer, and how to use and enjoy them responsibly.”

The club meets monthly. Each meeting includes a lesson pertaining to a species available at that time of year, as well as club business and fishing reports by the members.

In addition, there are chartered trips at least a couple times a year. The club website states, “Each trip allows for many teaching moments, such as fish biology, how that species fits in the food chain, its common name, its food value. What we see on each trip varies, but all pertain to our mission.”

At Lacey Township High School, advisor Jeremy Muermann oversees fishing trips, an annual Fisherman’s Flea Market in January, and other events such as the 4th Annual Lacey Fishing Derby in Memory of Terry Stuart, scheduled for 7-10 a.m. this Saturday, June 8, at Lacey’s First Lake (Mill Pond).

Before that, though, the Lacey club members will join those from Southern, MATES and Barnegat to battle it out on the beach. Head judge Bob Massa is again presiding.

The Barnegat Light Heavers Fishing Club judged the event since its inception, but this year, the Village Harbor Fishing Club is taking over that role. “I want to thank the Barnegat Light Heavers for devoting so much time and effort as the weigh masters from No. 1 through No. 10 (contests),” said Massa. “Their efforts insured a competitive field for all of the teams, with nonpartisan officiating and timely tips for weigh-in techniques to the coaches. Pam, Dominick, Mike, Rich, Gary, Mike Jr. and Nelson deserve a round of thanks from all.”

Meanwhile, the Village Harbor Fishing Club, Massa noted, “has responded with a strong showing of recruits for officiating and the yeoman’s duty of keeping track of the fish caught.

“This year should be an exciting match with both SRHS and Barnegat returning strong fishing entrants as well as a rich crop of newbies,” he explained. “The advisor from Barnegat is in her first year, so there may be some early butterflies, but she has a returning senior who can put fish on the beach. SRHS still is the favorite, with a strong team of seniors. The last two years produced a lot of fish so the kids had a great time fighting, landing and weighing them.”

Massa added, “I strongly emphasize that youth groups and high school activities are the best way to keep all of the fine young people within the community focused. Every adult should take the time to get involved in an activity with the youth of our community to understand and appreciate the outstanding achievements our young adults are accomplishing.

“I just wish more adults and seniors would get to know the kids. They have much common ground and could learn a lot from each other. Maybe the oldsters would also get younger!”

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch


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