On Saturday, trout and kids met at the annual Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Kids Trout Derby. Also in attendance were parents, pickerel, catfish, and a very interested osprey keeping an eye from above.
The spring fishing contest — Saturday’s was the 38th according to some contest historical research — provides an annual milestone in the aging process for those who have been attending it for almost as long as it has been introducing kids to the fun of fishing on Martha’s Vineyard.
Not that many years ago, or so it seemed to one observer, Lev Wlodyka of Chilmark was among the many kids casting a line into the pond. On Saturday, the well-known bass and bluefish derby champ was focused on figuring out just what it was that his four-year-old son Wesley wanted to do: fish, eat a hot dog, eat a donut, or go home.
A number of the moms and dads located around Duarte’s Pond in West Tisbury easily conjured up their own memories of fishing with mom or dad at the kids’ trout derby. “I remember when I used to be on that point,” Kevin Peters told The Times.
There are several points around the pond that have earned a reputation over the years for providing access to derby-winning trout. The critical element appears to be the proximity to the deep water the points provide.
Duarte’s Pond is not a pond in the strictest sense of the word. It is a long-ago flooded cranberry bog. The deepest point is in the area of the sluiceway that feeds it and that is where the trout tend to congregate.
The early bird gets the worm and the early fishermen get the prime point. The Uva family of West Tisbury know that, which may account for the fact that the Uvas vanguard — mom, Lara Uva, with her sons Joey, Ryan, and their friend Colin Shay — arrived about 2 am to stake claim to a prime point.
They arrived in the dark, prepared with a stock of worms, a camping stove, frying pan, and bacon. The plan was to add trout but they never got around to adding one to the pan.
“It was the frogs and us,” the intrepid mom said.
Asked about waking up that early to fish, Lara, the daughter of Dick and Patty Goodell of West Tisbury, said, “I think I like it as much as the kids do. I remember doing it when I was a kid. We just sit there, and it is beautiful.”
Their strategy was a winning one. At about 8 am and nearing the finish they had tallied more than 35 trout since the start of fishing.
Carly Uva, 8, finished second in the eight and under category. Her brother Ryan, 13, took third place in the 12-14 age category.
Lela and Cooper Gilkes of Edgartown have presided over the trout derby since it began. On Saturday the Gilkes rose before dawn to make sure everything would be ready when the signal horn blew the official start of the derby. Other volunteers prepared the hot chocolate, manned the measuring table, and fired up the hot dog grill.
Every year is different. Sometimes the weather is perfect but the fish do not cooperate, or it is the other way around. This year it all worked out.
“We had a very succesful tournament,” Lela told The Times in a telephone call Monday. “The fish were cooperative, and the kids had a great time.”
She estimated about 150 kids fished. That number was down a bit, she said, just judging by the amount of kids and adults encircling the pond.
Years ago the trout derby was a major attraction at a time of the year when there was a not a great deal to occupy kids. These days, sports like soccer and T-Ball and a menu of electronic distractions lay claim to the attention of kids and parents.
Asked for his assessment, Cooper Gilkes was enthusiastic. “We had a good tournament, an excellent return on trout,” Coop said. “There were a lot caught, so that was good. But no one caught Mo.”
Who, or what is Mo? “One great, big huge brook trout,” Coop said.
He estimated “Mo” was about 28-inches long. One very big trout placed into the pond for one very lucky fisherman. “As far as I know he hasn’t been caught,” Coop said Monday afternoon. “That osprey better look out.”
Coop said he was grateful to all the volunteers who showed up about 4 am to help organize the tournament. “I don’t want to mention any names or I’d leave someone out,” he said. “It was a ball working with the kids.”
Each year the Rod and Gun Club pays the tab, with help from generous sponsors, to provide a free fishing experience for every child that arrives at the pond — no fishing experience necessary. Coop said it costs about $3,500 to put on the tournament, about $3,000 of that is the cost of purchasing the trout from a private hatchery.
This year the club lost a major company sponsor. It was a $1,000 hit. Coop remained upbeat.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to pick up some more sponsors and we’ll be all set,” he said.
For another generation of young fishermen, the future is always about one more cast.
Grand overall winners
Largest trout: Wyatt Nicholson, aged
5, 18.75-inch trout
Largest fish of any other species: Isabella Levy, 4, 19.25″ pickerel
Ages 4 to 8
1st – Audrey Polleys, 5, 17 7/8″ pickerel
2nd – Carly Uva, 8, 15 3/4″ trout
3rd – Jack Hayden, 5, 14 3/4″ trout
Ages 9 to 11
1st – Brendan Morris, 10, 14″ trout
2nd – Moushe Oliveira, 9, 13″ trout
3rd – Anthony Cimeno, 11, 12 3/4″ trout
Ages 12 to 14
1st – Grant Santos, 14, 17″ pickerel
2nd – Tony Canha, 14, 16″ trout
3rd – Ryan Uva, 13, 15 1/4″ trout