Fish stories
Kids enjoy pirate-themed derby in Laurel Hill Park
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
Oct 08, 2017 | 3413 views | 0 0 comments | 100 100 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Abigail Edwards, with her father Tom and the white perch she caught in the derby.
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Abigail Edwards, 6, quickly shot out from her peers in competition in Secaucus’ fishing derby at Laurel Hill Park. She hooked an 11 1/2 inch white perch and a 10 1/4 inch blue snapper.

Her mother caught a toadfish as well.

“That was like the first fish that I caught this day,” said Abigail, of the white perch. “It's the biggest one ever!”

“I've been fishing since I was young myself,” added Tom Edwards, her father. “She [Abigail] really likes it.”

Young pirates seized the pier for the second annual Riverfest Fishing Derby, Sept. 23. The town holds a separate spring fishing derby each year as well, in the Duck Pond.

The Hackensack Riverkeeper, in conjunction with the Hudson River Fisherman's Association, hosted the event for kids. It featured free hot dogs, goody bags, and even a pirate parade, all under a very cooperative sunny day.


“It's the biggest one ever!” Abigail Edwards


New pier

The participants cast their lines into the Hackensack River from the park's wooden pier, which debuted last year.

The derby helped commemorate that occasion, said Hackensack Riverkeeper Capt. Bill Sheehan. Riverkeeper is a national non-profit organization dedicated to keeping rivers environmentally safe. Among local Riverkeeper organizations, Hackensack Riverkeeper Inc.’s primary mission is to “provide representation for the natural living resources of the Hackensack River” via environmental advocacy, according to the group’s Facebook page.

The non-profit is one of the founding members of the international Waterkeeper Alliance. To date, there are over 200 different waterkeeper programs and affiliates worldwide.

“This is supposed to be a fun day where people come out, catch some fish, have some fun,” said Sheehan.

He lamented today’s youth looking to technology for fun.

“When I was a kid, we were given fishing poles, and we were told to go fish. Nowadays, we give kids a cell phone and tell them go play. I'd rather see kids fishing than playing on their cellphones.”

Part of Sheehan's job is also pushing the state to enforce anti-pollution laws such as the Water Pollution Control Act.

Some of the river's sediments are contaminated, he said. The contaminants later pass through the food chain when fish eat them, hence why the derby was a catch-and-release one.

Kyle Rozario, 12, of Leonia, captured three toadfish early on in the derby. “It was really fun,” he said. “I loved it.”

As he spoke, his father, Carl, managed to hook a crab from the river.

“It's the first crab that I ever caught,” the elder Rozario said, as one kid screamed, “Oh my goodness! That's a nice crab!”

“It's my first catch of the day,” Carl added. He estimated it to be around three, four inches.

Ruth Rodriguez captured an oyster cracker, part of her first fishing excursion. “I'm so excited and I've learned a lot of tips from the guys. They were wonderful,” she said. “I learned how to cast, about the tension on the rod, so many things. I thought I was not going to catch anything today.”

Al Miller, a member of the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association, helped novice fishers with bait and casting their lines.

The 68-year-old, who now lives in Glen Rock, first began fishing in New York 50 years ago. Of why people should take up fishing, he said, “For one thing, it gets you outside. Today says it all, quite frankly. It's outdoor, fresh air fun. Very peaceful, very therapeutic.”

Hannington Dia can be reached at

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