Awesome Clinton Hill angler Athena Murray, 8, fished for fun and found it when she cast her line into Prospect Park Lake for the Macy’s Fishing Contest, and netted herself a prize for hauling in the first catch of the day — a comely catfish, which was admired, measured and recorded before being released back into the water.
The nifty matelot, who attends the Brooklyn Friends School in Brooklyn Heights and whose big sis Adrianne won last year, received a tackle box for aceing the first contest of the 63rd annual five-day tourney, which drew dozens of children, 15 years old and younger, to its new location — the lake shoreline of the borough’s only freshwater lake at Wellhouse Drive and the Peninsula. All of the contestants were hoping to hook the most and the largest gilled beauties for daily prizes, a lifetime of bragging rights and the grand prize of a family fishing trip.
Brown bullhead, black crappie, bluegill and pumpkinseed all tested their slippery wiles against the wits of patient, eagle-eyed youngsters, who put to good use the ins and outs of angling, aquatic ecology and fishing gear they learned at a free, pre-contest workshop given by Urban Park Rangers and the Prospect Park Alliance.
“They were smiling, but in awe and also a little perplexed, staring tensely at the water as if to say, ‘What’s coming outta there next,’ ” laughed Prospect Park spokesman Eugene Patron, adding that the choice catch, up until a couple of years ago, was a largemouth bass, specially tagged for the grand prize and named R.H. Macy after store founder Rowland Hussey Macy, Sr., but big-fish bosses did away with that portion of the competition after having an eco-friendly epiphany.
“It was stressing the fish because we were keeping it alive in a bucket, and the whole purpose of the contest is to educate kids about ecology,” said Patron.
If so, the timing could not have been worse: The lake has been swimming in its own headlines, these days after 290 geese were rounded up by federal wildlife agents and slaughtered in the name of air safety on July 8 — and the surface of the lake was eerily calmer than ever without all those water fowl around.