The annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby is not a simple affair. The five-week contest has numerous rules and protocols.
On Sunday, the Kids Derby reduced the event to its simplest equation. For almost three hours any fish counts and length, not weight determines the winners.
It is the one day that fishing is allowed from the Steamship Authority pier in Oak Bluffs and on Sunday morning kids, accompanied by a host of adults, took full advantage of the opportunity.
There are no guarantees in fishing and over the years the weather has not always cooperated. Sunday was picture-perfect and hundreds of kids were waiting to claim a prime fishing spot along the rail near deeper water when the gates opened just after sunrise.
Within minutes kids clutching a variety of fish were scrambling to the measuring table. Bleary-eyed Derby committee members and parents did their best to make order out of the early morning fish rodeo.
Almost 200 kids turned up to fish. For many, including some of the younger parents, the special day was their introduction to the Derby — and fishing.
Following the awards ceremony, every kid received a coupon for a free ice cream at Mad Martha’s and a tee-shirt designed by an Island youngster, courtesy of sponsors Mad Martha’s, The Fisherman Magazine, and the Derby.
The Derby invited all Island schools to participate in the tee-shirt design contest. The contest was open to all students up to eighth grade but only Edgartown students participated. Megan Donovan had the winning design (followed by Ewellen Carlos, Riley Craig, and Kiley Hatt).
As they have for years, Cooper “Coop” Gilkes and Mike Cassidy, Derby committee members, provided a cooler full of bait. Late the night before, Coop and Mike went to Menemsha with a seine net looking for shiners or sand eels.
A fisherman on the rocks asked the men, “What are you going to do with all that bait?”
“It’s for breakfast,” Coop told him. “We’re going to feed the fish.”
The fish were well fed Sunday morning.
Kids Day Derby Results
Grand overall: Aiden Rogers, 9, 19-inch black sea bass.
Largest scup: Benny McMann, 11, 13.5-inch scup. (awarded a scup trophy by taxidermist Janet Messineo).
Through 8 years old: 1. Christian Turner, 7, 17-inch black sea bass; 2. Mason Mercier, 7, 15.5-inch fluke; 3. Azalea Thompson, 8, 15-inch black sea bass.
9-11 years old: 1. Pibb Wright, 10, 15-inch black sea bass; 2. Nathaniel Packer, 11, 14.5-inch black sea bass; 3. Kaya Maloney, 10, 14-inch black sea bass.
12-14 years old: 1. Walter Greene, 12, 13.5-inch scup; 2. Perry Bliss, 12, 13.25-inch black sea bass; 3. Louis Newell, 13, 13.25-inch scup.