Bayonne has a tight-knit community of fisherpeople who come together every year for various tournaments. Robbins Reef hosts a members-only fluke fishing tournament in July, and then a regional fishing tournament on August 4, called the MARES Charity Fishing Tournament, that raised money this year for Susan B. Komen, a Texas-based organization that raises awareness about breast cancer. This year honors Sharon Balk, a Bayonne resident and breast cancer survivor.
“MARES” is an acronym for five local yacht clubs that have been hosting the charity fishing tournament since 2006 – Mariner’s Harbor Yacht Club in Staten Island, Atlas Yacht Club in Bayonne, Robbins Reef in Bayonne, Elco Boat Basin in Bayonne, and Snipe’s Boat Club in Carlstadt.
“We’re a group of local fishermen that get together to throw a charity fishing tournament every year,” said Michael Hamra, a member of the Robbins Reef Yacht Club who organizes the tournament, and whose boat is named “Hamra-time.” “I’ve been fishing here for 25 years, and this is the best time of the season to get out there.”
“It’s not only a charity, it’s a competition for us. It makes it fun.” - Dan Roszkowski
Various species of fish swim in from the ocean to feed on marine life in the Hackensack River, the Hudson River, and the Kill Van Kull, including striper, blue fish, fluke, black fish, and sea bass.
Dan Roszkowski, a mechanic by trade who beat Hamra in the club’s July fluke-fishing tournament, won with a six-pound fluke. His boat, a 27-foot Baja, is docked a few blocks away from his mechanic shop on 21st Street.
“With the tournaments, it gets everybody involved,” said Rozkowski. “It’s not only a charity, it’s a competition for us. It makes it fun. Then afterward, there’s always a big party. We call out the winners, and then there’s a barbecue and 50-50s.”
Sharon Balk, meanwhile, is no fisherman, but she plans to attend the after party. Her best friend from childhood is married to Hamra, and their families have supported one another through the hardship of a cancer diagnosis. She started a local group called P!ink Rockstars that hosts a fundraiser walk through Liberty State Park every May since 2016 with the sponsorship of Komen.
“Thank God that my husband had insurance, and everything was taken care of,” said Balk. “But there are other women who don’t have the insurance. No one thinks they’re going to get breast cancer, and there are so many people who don’t have insurance. So, this is to raise money so other people without insurance can get the help they need before it’s too late.”
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.