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NORTH TONAWANDA – Both longtime fishermen and novices alike can cast their lines at Gateway Harbor’s third annual “Hooked on the Tonawandas” fishing tournament Saturday and Sunday.

The tournament is held in conjunction with the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s annual free fishing weekend, where anyone can fish anywhere in the state without a license.

“Hooked on the Tonawandas” fishing tournament takes full advantage of the state event.

Boat fishing will also be allowed, but everyone in the boat must be registered for the two-day tournament. Plenty of shoreline fishing for nonboaters will be available along the canal.

Gateway Harbor officials said they created this event to introduce the public to Gateway Harbor and the Erie Canal as a fishing resource. The canal offers easy access and a wide variety of fish species, they said.

The tournament also offers $3,500 in cash and prizes. This year’s event will benefit Mercy Flight.

A free “Cast Off” concert will kick off the weekend from 7:30 to 9 p.m. June 28. Refreshments will be available on both weekend days. For fishing, there will be bait and tackle available at the registration area at Gateway Harbor Pavilion, Sweeney and Webster streets.

Adult contestants who register for the tournament can try their luck at catching the largest fish by weight in each of the following categories: smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, carp and perch. The largest game fish will net a prize of $500 and the largest carp or perch, $150. Second- and third-place winners will also receive prizes.

In the junior division, ages 15 and under, kids can fish for free to win merchandise and a chance to win a bicycle. Kids can also register as adults to compete for cash prizes. The cash prizes will be handed out from participating sponsors, and a number of door prizes will be awarded to registered participants.

The competition is restricted to fish caught in the Erie Canal in the cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda.

Registration for the tournament is $15, for one or both days, with registration forms available at the following bait and tackle shops in North Tonawanda: Niagara Outdoors, 223 Witmer Road; Rainbow Sports, 267 Oliver St.; and Wiggling Willies Bait Shop, 457 Oliver St.. Registration is available in Buffalo at: Schime’s Tackle, 2815 River Road; Big Catch Bait and Tackle, 2287 Niagara St.; Russ’ Bait and Tackle, 1226 Niagara St.; and Worm’s ’n Things, 1111 Furhmann Blvd. Additional registration forms are available at the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas, 15 Webster St., North Tonawanda.

The tournament registration tent will be at Gateway Harbor Pavilion, at the corner of Sweeney and Webster streets, from noon to 9 p.m. June 28; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 29 and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 30.

The “Cast Off Concert” on June 28 will feature the Mojo Hand Blues Band.

An awards ceremony will conclude the event at 4 p.m. June 30.

Also on June 28 is the Serviceman’s and Woman’s Dinner from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Young Street in the City of Tonawanda. Free to WWII and Korean veterans; $5 to the public.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com