Assateague Federal Park Closure May Force Annual Surf Fishing Tourney To Ocean City; Request Comes Week After City Heard Complaints From Similar Event
OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and Council approved a request this week from the Assateague Mobile Sportfishermen’s Association to host its Surf Fishing Tournament if the government shutdown is not lifted by next weekend.
A last minute agenda item was brought before the Mayor and City Council this week, as Assateague Island has been closed due to the shutdown of the federal government leaving the Assateague Mobile Sportfishermen’s Association (AMSA) looking to Ocean City as a backup location to host the Annual AMSA Surf Fishing Tournament on Oct. 18-19.
Private Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell explained AMSA is seeking an area on the beach in Ocean City north of 30th Street to continue its popular two-day event. If the federal ban is lifted by next weekend, the surf fishing tournament will relocate back to the federal side of Assateague Island.
There are other events being held in Ocean City that weekend, such as the American Cancer Society Making Strides benefit event and OCtoberfest, but all events will be held south of 27th Street in the downtown area.
“This event has been held for the past seven years. We are a non-profit organization and proceeds are put back into the community,” AMSA President Bill Justice said.
Justice asked for permission to allow two vehicles per team on the beach with surf fishing equipment. Currently, there are about 25 teams registered and Justice estimated there will be about 50 vehicles involved with the tournament spread across a span of at least 20 streets.
Councilman Joe Mitrecic remembered the backlash the city received just a few months ago when the city attempted to approve surf fishing on the beach during the off-season. Most of the complaints were received from residents and visitors who stay in condominiums that overlook the beach in that area. Consequently, he suggested the tournament be staged above 30th Street but stay in the south end of town.
Council President Lloyd Martin acknowledged public and city staff concerns of having Ocean City’s beach remain clean and the threat of more vehicles being permitted could heighten those fears.
According to Justice, AMSA holds three fishing tournaments a year on Assateague Island and has for a number of years. He said participants are familiar with keeping the beach clean as they refer to themselves as “keepers of the beach.”
Councilman Dennis Dare said he had received numerous complaints over the 34th Annual Mid-Atlantic Surf Fishing Tournament that was held last weekend and the lack of respect to other beach patrons.
“Most of the time in the past when the tournament was held the weather has been less than beach bathing weather, and perhaps the fact that there was a lot of people on the beach there was a conflict between them,” Dare said. “I also sympathize with AMSA because of Assateague being closed, but I want it perfectly clear that if there are issues on the beach you can jeopardize not only the use for your organization but for surf fishing in general.”
Dare pointed out the Mid-Atlantic Surf Fishing Tournament was held from 20th to 119th streets and suggested having the AMSA tournament located from the Delaware state line and south to avoid having a fishing tournament in front of the same ocean front properties twice in a short span of time.
Mayor Rick Meehan agreed the council was stuck between a rock and a hard place because of the complaints received over the surf fishing tournament last weekend as well as the recent uproar when the council contemplated allowing surf fishing on Ocean City’s beach on a routine basis during the off-season months.
“At the same time, I would hope the municipal government can act a little bit more responsibly then the federal government, and you have been basically thrown to our mercy here to maintain this event,” the mayor said. “This is an exception, not a rule, and a one-time request. It doesn’t mean we are out there trying to bring in more of these kinds of events. I think we are all in agreement the one we have is enough.”
The council voted unanimously to approve AMSA’s request to hold the annual surf fishing tournament from the Delaware state line and south if Assateague Island is still closed Oct. 18-19.