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Hook, line, and bunker: Local fisherman land the big ones at MRBYC's Stewart Bluefish Tournament

Last Saturday's weather was pluperfect for the Mianus River Boat and Yacht Club's (MRBYC) 28th annual Stewart Bluefish Tournament as the fishermen headed out at 5 a.m. to their favorite hunting grounds along the Greenwich coastline and beyond.

The tournament attracted 47 boats with 160 fishermen -- all out to catch the biggest blue. As the lines were thrown over with chunks of bunker bait the clock was ticking. The fishermen had until 1 p.m. to meet the weigh-in deadline for their bluefish catches -- with the heaviest taking the top prize.

"Bluefish are the best fighting fish in the world for the weight," says MRBYC member Bill Wurst of Greenwich, a retired contractor. Wurst took his boat out early and came back early with a few catches he called non-contenders.

As the day progresses, the deadline nears. Boats begin double docking with just 15 minutes left to deadline time.

Bounding down the dock, Jordi Pryde, 11, one of the young fishermen in the tournament, held high a sizeable catch (It weighed in at 8.92 lbs.). Kids such as Pryde are very much part of the action in the Stewart Bluefish Tournament, which is named after the late Richard Stewart, a member of the MRBYC. "Dad was fond of the little kids in the clubhouse who were fishermen," says Scott Stewart, Richard Stewart's son. "Commodore Billy Ingraham named the Tournament after him after my father died in 1993. It was a great honor."

The weighing station, located under a tent and manned by two club members, is where the action is at countdown time. John Sanna lays one of two fish on the scales. "They're almost nine pounds each," he says.

"Five minutes left," the weighers call out.

Jason Shockley hurries forward to lay his fish on the scales. It's a 12.2 pounder. "It's a good fish," he says.

"Two minutes," is the last call. And then it's . . . "BOOM!" The Club's cannon, of Civil War vintage, goes off promptly at 1 o'clock.

The final entries are weighed and the crowd, some 300 strong, wait for the results. But before the winners are named, Ingraham shared some sad news, about the passing of MRBYC member Paul Santora. "Paul intended to be here today," he says. "He passed away this morning. Our flags are at half-mast."

What comes next would have had artist Norman Rockwell busy with his sketch book. The winners of the age 12 and under class of fisherman are called up first. Accepting first prize for his 9.26 pounder, was 5-year-old Richie McMurray, who reached for his award of $150 in half disbelief from Thad Kochan, Volunteer event organizer. McMurray's proud grandmother, Carol Willson, was in the crowd snapping his picture.

Then came the big boys . . . Tony "Beacon Point Marine" Arturio is announced as the winner with his catch, a blue that weighed in at 14 pounds, 22 ounces. Coming in second was Ingraham who reeled in a 13.92 pounder.

Then the day closes with a Tournament tradition -- the gifting of a beginner rod and reel to all kids 12 and under. They drift forward from the crowd, all sizes, boys and girls, to get their free fishing poles.

One small boy who can't be more than four is handed his rod but struggles to get a grip on it as it falls to the ground. "Hold it up, son," says his father, "Hold it up straight! "That's right. That's right!" Read Full Article 

Ingraham takes the whole scene in. "I've never seen a fisherman who didn't like to see a kid fishing," he says. "This tournament encourages everyone to grab a kid and go fishing."

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