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Second annual Family Fishing Tournament held on City Pier

Fishing poles in hand, aspiring young fishers spent Saturday morning on City Pier in New London, learning how to bait a hook and cast a line during the city’s second annual Family Fishing Tournament.

The event, hosted by the city of New London and New England Science and Sailing, known as NESS, was an opportunity for families to spend quality time on the pier while kids learned how to fish with the help of volunteers from the city, local fire departments and NESS. Brand-new fishing poles were awarded as prizes for those who caught the biggest fish, the smallest fish and the most fish.

Aiden Partao, 5, of Mystic caught the biggest fish of the day, measuring 9.5 inches. He fished in last year’s tournament, too, taking home the prize for most fish caught.

The young fisherman said he was excited to have a new pole to help him keep up with his favorite hobby.

“I love to fish and I love eating fish, too,” he said. “I love fish curry, fish fried and fish anything.”

Arianna Waring, 5, of New London also was hoping to catch her dinner. “I just want to catch a fish so I can fry it and eat it,” she said, her legs dangling off a bench overlooking the water, fishing pole in hand.

Next to her, her brother Elijah, 8, hoped to catch a porgy for his mom and sister, even though he doesn’t like to eat fish. He has been learning to fish and was excited to get a hands-on lesson from state Rep. Anthony Nolan, who helped Elijah when his hook got caught under the pier and taught him how to reel in his line.

The 8-year-old said he loves to fish and hopes to fish off the pier again soon. “I like it because you can look out here and look at the sun,” he said looking out on the Sound. “Some people say it’s boring, but I consider it fun.”

At the end of the pier, Jesus Velez enjoyed coffee and donuts with his daughter and niece as they hoped to catch their first fish of the day.

Velez’s daughter, 8-year-old Kaitlyn, learned how to fish this summer and was excited to keep up with her new hobby. She was teaching her cousin, 8-year-old Olivia Velez, about how to measure fish to decide if you should release them — it was Olivia’s first time fishing.

Volunteers from NESS were on hand to measure fish, take photos, bait hooks and help kids reel in their catches. Rep. Nolan said he was happy to take a break from his hectic schedule to spend some time on the water. He spent most of the morning helping kids bait their hooks, because they didn’t like to touch the worms, he said.

The tournament was free for families, fishing poles were provided for everyone to use and all of the bait was donated by A W Marina on Pequot Avenue, said Barbara Neff, who helped organize the event.

“It’s a good way to get people outside to use the pier and experience something new,” Neff said.

The size of the event was limited this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but about 20 kids and 60 adults were able to fish off the pier in the crisp fall weather. Everyone was required to wear masks, families were stationed 6 feet apart from one another and temperatures were taken upon arrival.

Delaney Holdridge, 12, took home the prize for smallest fish at just over 2 inches, while Teanna Perkins caught the most fish.

“It’s great to see so many families out here on a gorgeous day enjoying the New London waterfront, having fun, and catching fish,” said Chris Mills, assistant sailing director for NESS.

t.hartz@theday.com

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