The Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority pier was crowded with kids on each side when I arrived early Sunday morning. Little boys and girls ran by me grasping gasping scup.
Scup are great little fish. They fight hard for their size, are tasty to eat, and easily caught. And they are cute, really, in a Disney sort of way. One little girl held her fish with both hands like it was a prize she did not want to give up. I imagined the fish yelling, “Whoa, not so tight.”
Derby kids’ day is the one day a year fishing is allowed from the SSA pier. A few years from now there will be a new location and a lot more time for fishing once the state Department of Fish and Game builds a new pier just to the north of the SSA terminal.
The wind was stiff out of the east and chilly. That close to 300 people turned out to fish said something very good about the Island and the Derby and our community.
Scup may be the backbone of this fishing Brigadoon, but there were some very respectable other species caught that morning, including a number of sizable black sea bass. The largest was 19-inches.
I had lingered over a cup of coffee and was not among the large group of kids and adults who gathered at the gate about 6 am ready to rush out on the pier and grab one of the more coveted spots that provide access to deeper water and, I am sure they hoped, bigger fish. Derby fishermen learn the art of strategy early.
The Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby committee has run the morning event for more than 30 years with the help of local sponsors. This year Mad Martha’s ice cream provided T-shirts and rods for all the kids. The shirt featured a kid-created design.
Committee and Coast Guard auxiliary member David Pothier had arranged a special treat for the kids and adults with Coast Guard Station Menemsha chief Jason Olsen. The 47-foot motor lifeboat was set to tie up at the pier but wind and waves made it unsafe and the crew returned to the station, but not before demonstrating some impressive moves.
All agreed it was a great effort. Hopefully, next year the Coast Guard will return.
“Papa, papa,” I heard a little girl yell as she ran back into a knot of adults and kids having just returned from measuring a scup. “It was 12 and a half inches! That’s bigger than all of them!”
A little further down another little girl contemplated how to get the scup she had just caught to the measuring table. “Just pick it up and carry it,” her dad instructed her.
“No,” she said flatly.
Along the pier little boys and little girls reeled, cast, ran, yelled, shrieked, laughed and tussled. The adults did their best to control the situation. It was a fishing platform turned into a playground.
Kids Day Derby Results
Grand overall: Chelsea Bouchard, 7, 21.25-inch striped bass.
Largest scup: Nick Ben David, 6, 14.25-inch scup (awarded a scup trophy by taxidermist Janet Messineo).
Through 8 years old: 1. Kayla DeBettencourt, 7, 18-inch black sea bass; 2. Tayla BenDavid, 5, 18-inch bluefish; 3. Jacob Scott, 7, 17-inch sea bass.
9-11 years old: 1. William Herman, 10, 19-inch sea bass; 2. Joe Crenshaw, 9, 17-inch sea bass; 3. Shelby Ponte, 9, 16-inch fluke.
12-14 years old: 1. Jeremy Mercier, 13, 17.5-inch fluke; 2. Thomas O’Shaughnessy, 14, 16.25-inch sea bass; 3. David Packer, 12, 16-inch sea bass.
Fish by the foot
Ignorance of the law, and that includes fishing regulations, is no excuse. That is why it is good practice to always have a tape measure on board your boat and know the legal limits. But fishermen forget things. We forget the tape measure and on occasion we forget the regs.
Alejandro Carreno has come up with a colorfully illustrated, laminated tape measure perfect for sticking to a cooler or hull. It includes drawings of popular fish and information on current seasons and limits. It sells for about $10 and is available in many local tackle shops.
Lost tackle bag
Albert Thomas left a tackle bag at the Vineyard Haven drawbridge about midnight, Friday night. “This bag contained all the fishing gear that I own,” Albert said in an email to me.
It is a devastating loss, one that every fisherman can understand. With several weeks left in the Derby, Albert would dearly like to recover his tackle bag. He can be reached at 774-563-0503.