SOMERS POINT — The 10th annual Assault on Patcong Creek crabbing tournament wrapped up two days of competitive crabbing last Friday and Saturday, leaving participants and townsfolk with smiles and lots of memories.

The 335 crabbers, and their family and friends, made up a crowd of about 1,300 people that attended the tournament and the after-party, and came from 14 different states for the festivities.

“In the 10 years of this event, we’ve never had a Maryland crabber win the tournament,” said tournament founder and Somers Point Councilman Ron Meischker, “but this year one finally did — although it was a close call. There was literally less than a milimeter difference in the two largest crabs.”

Charles Bruff, Nathan Rice, Paul Kenzejewski and Donna Weber-Mitzel made up the Maryland team that caught the winning crustacean, which was 6⅞ inches from point to point. Their names will grace the tournament plaque with the other winners of the past decade, but the prize is bragging rights only; the Assault on Patcong Creek is a free event and funded by donations to the Patcong Creek Foundation, the environmental nonprofit that organizes the event each year.

Although the main focus of the tournament is to catch the largest crab, other activities at the event added to the fun.

“Our crab cake eating contest is always good for getting the crowd on their feet,” said Jenn Jennings, administrator and outreach coordinator for the Patcong Creek Foundation. “Our winner this year was Shawn McCulley, and he really gave it all he had. The kids had their own contest with the crab races, and a magician who kept them guessing how he did his tricks. All in all, there was something for everyone at the Assault.”

For those who didn’t want to compete, there was plenty of food. A twenty-foot-long table of crabs took the center stage at the after-party, but the supporting actors of pulled pork, lasagna, Key lime pie, pizza and dozens of other potluck dishes brought by tournamentgoers contributed to a vast number of delicious dining options.

“Most people bring something to share when they come. It’s like a giant family picnic,” Jennings said.

Family is exactly what the Assault crabbing tournament feels like to the attendees, who return year after year to see the same faces and old friends.

“We have over 60 crabbers who have participated in over five tournaments, and two who have been to every single one,” said Meischker. “You get to know each person and their story, and watch their families grow.”

The tournament has become a family destination event for many, and crabbing is good clean family fun.

“When you see a child smiling because they caught their first crab, it makes everything worth it,” said Meischker. “They’ll never forget an experience like that, and it’s the first step in teaching them the value of protecting the environment.”

Meischker’s nonprofit, the Patcong Creek Foundation, focuses on that mission to educate and protect the Patcong Creek watershed and estuary. It regularly holds creek cleanups to keep the wildlife healthy, and water quality seriously affects the quality of the native blue crab.

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