You take the painting, I’ll take the fluke beer mug

The Slab Men (left to right): Jim Choiner, Steve Barron and Todd Stempien.
Photo by Nelson Sigelman

The Slab Men (left to right): Jim Choiner, Steve Barron and Todd Stempien.

Summer fundraising auctions are big business on Martha’s Vineyard. Every season, well-heeled folks bid thousands of dollars for a piece of art, an opportunity to rub shoulders with celebrities, or a unique trip to some faraway spot.

On Sunday, at the awards ceremony for the 13th annual VFW Fluke Derby, Kenny Silvia and Bill O’Brien traded bids over a beer mug embossed with the name of the tournament and the image of a fluke. Kenny won the mug for $40.

But the real bidding war began when the last mug in a set of four was on the auction block. Linda Betti, one of the women who had helped layout a spread of hot dogs, burgers and potato salad, had the winning bid — $70.

The fact that this tournament attracts Islanders who would bid $70 for a fluke-embossed beer mug is one of the reasons I like the VFW fluke derby so much. I suspect the winning bidders have an ample supply of beer mugs at home. The intention was to have fun and support the VFW.

About 60 fishermen, sunburnt and tired looking men, women, and children, gathered in the VFW hall on Towanticut Avenue for the awards ceremony after the weigh-in scale closed at 6 pm. The final results were not impressive.

Roy Hope was crowned fluke king with a 7.3-pound fluke in a tournament where the winning fish had always exceeded 10 pounds. Those teams that did weigh in fish had mostly 3-pounders.

Todd Stempien of West Tisbury, Steve Barron, and Jim Choiner of Connecticut, also known as the “Slab Men,” finished first among the 12 teams entered with a total weight of 34.4 pounds. That total was built on the four heaviest fish weighed in Saturday (20.3 pounds) and Sunday (14.1). Last year, the winning total was 54 pounds.

Jim also won the sea bass division with a hefty 5.2-pound fish he caught off Cedar Tree Neck. “I’ve been fishing the tournament since 2004 and it’s the biggest one I ever caught,” Jim told me. “It was a grind.”

There is no question that the fluke fishing was poor. On Saturday, I fished with Island visitors Remick Smothers, Vlad Wojcik, and Gordon Giuliano. We started out at Robinson’s Hole and ended up on the other side of Vineyard Sound drifting between Cedar Tree Neck and Cape Higgon. Our largest fluke barely reached 3 pounds.

On Sunday, we fared only slightly better. The main difference was that on Saturday we had some cloud cover and on Sunday, Vlad and I, minus our two teammates who left that day, simmered in the sun.

Peter Herrmann, tournament chairman, told the crowd assembled at the VFW Sunday that 106 people and 12 teams entered the tournament, a drop from last year. Peter said some changes would be made next year.

Most notably, he said, it would be moved deeper into July. “It’s too close to the Fourth of July,” Peter said.

For the most part, the fishermen who enter this tournament do not have a lot of leisure time. They work hard and they fish hard. It is why I like this tournament.

13th annual VFW Fluke Derby results

Grand champ: Roy Hope (7.3 pounds).

Men’s division: Roy Hope, Jim Choinere (5.9), Rick Harvey (5.8).

Women’s division: Beverly Bergeron (4.5), Emily Williston (2.8) and Kris O’Brien (2.7).

13 to 16 years of age: Luke O’Toole (3.0), David Packer (3.0), and Chris Perry (2.8).

12 years of age and under: Charlotte Packer (3.4), Corbin Buchwald (2.6), Dylan Kral (2.2), and Tate Buchwald (1.9).

Largest Sea Bass: Jim Choinere (5.2)

Team division: Slab Men (Todd Stempien, Steve Barron, Jim Choiner).

Bonito have arrived

The arrival of bonito in Island waters is welcome news. So the good news is that Taylor Henderson caught a bonito last Friday on Mutton Shoals just east of the red can that marks Muskeget Channel off the southeast corner of the Vineyard.

Bonito are speedy and tasty. Fun to catch and good to eat is a great combination.

Bonito can be expected to appear in the area of the Hooter, off State Beach, Hedge Fence, Middle Ground and Menemsha.

Speaking of bonito, Arthur Winter died last week on July 4 at the age of 94. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams also died on July 4 (1826) so Arthur is in good company.

Arthur was a fine gentleman and known around Edgartown harbor as the “Bonito King.” He will be missed by his many friends.

Launch ramp debris

I counted five boat trailers parked at the Lagoon Pond launch ramp on Monday. It appears that at least three of the trailers were abandoned by their owners and left as junk.

Not only are the trailers taking up valuable parking space, but ultimately you and I will pay the freight to get rid of the junk. It is unfortunate that some boat owners are so inconsiderate.

Environmental Police Sergeant Matt Bass said he will keep an eye on the ramp parking area. Sergeant Bass is the diligent type and if there is a number he can use to trace a trailer back someone can expect a call.

The ramp has limited space. It is not a storage yard. Strictly speaking, the spaces are reserved for vehicles with trailers. Boat owners whose passengers arrive in separate vehicles can help by asking them to double park, or park in the adjoining dirt lot.

Perhaps the Tisbury shellfish department or harbor department could help Sergeant Bass out and tow some of the trailers to a town lot. The ramp is a valuable resource and everyone needs to pitch in.

Yo, no yo-yo

The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) reminds commercial and recreational fishermen that it is illegal to use a “Yo-Yo” rig where the embedded weights are not attached to the terminal tackle. DMF said hook and line fishermen “may still rig natural baits with embedded weights, provided those weights are attached to your line or leader. This action was taken to prevent unnecessary discard mortality in our hook and line fisheries.”

In many cases a yo-yo rig is created when a lead weight is inserted in a baitfish such as menhaden. A wood or metal skewer or wire is inserted in the fish to maintain the baitfish’s shape. The hooked bait is then bounced, or yo-yoed. A striped bass that swallows the bait also ingests the weight and skewer.

The Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish derby prohibits yo-yo rigs. The issue surfaced during the 62nd Derby when a winning fish weighed 57.56 pounds on the scale, but was found upon examination to contain 10 lead weights weighing a total of 1.68 pounds consistent with yo-yoing. The committee determined the fish had ingested the gear prior to being caught and entered in the Derby.

Bass season opens Thursday

The Massachusetts commercial striped bass fishery opens July 12. Commercial fishermen are authorized to take 30 striped bass per day that are 34 inches or larger on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, the Division of Marine Fisheries said. On Sundays, commercial fishermen may take 5 striped bass that are larger than 34 inches.

The commercial daily trip limits apply to the vessel regardless of how many permit holders are aboard. The commercial fishery will remain open until the state’s 1,057,783 pound quota is harvested.