It is down to the wire in the 67th Bass and Bluefish Derby

Tim Walsh (left), captain of the Helen L. out of Menemsha, and mate Myles Whyte, both of West Tisbury, posed with the 1,100-pound giant bluefin tuna the men caught off Cape Cod after an eight hour battle. Unable to hoist the fish aboard, they had to tow it, which made for a long trip back to Woods Hole where the fish was sold for the Japanese market. — Photo courtesy of Tim Walsh

The 67th Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby ends at 10 pm, Saturday night. For the eight grand leaders, the next several days will hold varying degrees of anxiety.

The other night, Tom Robinson and I sat drowning squid on the south shore. When we are not catching fish, we occupy ourselves with various topics. Tom and I have a lot of time to talk.

I passed on a tip to get through the election season. Whenever a political television ad comes on I immediately switch to the Outdoor Channel, I told Tom. Even Norma, I said, would rather see a hunter whack a deer or elk or elephant than watch Warren or Brown or Obama or Romney tell us why his or her opponent, if elected, will send the middle class to hell. The Outdoor Channel appears to be a political ad free zone.

But mostly we talk about fishing. Tom and I agreed that of the four Derby species, bluefish, striped bass, false albacore and bonito, the fisherman leading in the bass category could not relax until the final bell.

A big striped bass can hit the hook anytime and Martha’s Vineyard has produced its share of big fish, particularly late in the season. Historically, late October produces some of the larger fish.

Bluefish less so, but it is another category that can change. Because both bluefish and striped bass hit readily at night, no grand leader is safe until the clock strikes 10 pm.

Bonito and false albacore are a different story. They are daytime, warm water fish. And every time that northeast wind blows, I am sure the albie and bonito fish leaders breathe a sigh of relief.

Of all the categories, I would most enjoy walking in with a big shore striped bass. There is no question in my mind that the shore bass represents the heart and soul of the Derby.

It takes grit, perseverance, long hours, skill and some degree of luck to haul a big striped bass up onto the beach. The bass fisherman must navigate around rocks on the north shore, or swells and back wash on the south shore.

I sat back in my beach chair — yes, we bring chairs — and imagined hauling a 40-pounder out of the surf on Saturday night. I could see the bass glistening in the starlight.

I imagined the derby weigh station crowded with onlookers and fishermen in anticipation of the last bell. I could see myself walking up to the weigh station ramp, as heads turned and jaws dropped. The crowd parts and I walk up to the counter where weighmaster Charlie Smith asks me for my badge number with only a hint of a knowing smile.

He takes the bass and lays it on the scale. The numbers roll past 40. The crowd cheers a classic Derby moment.

I imagined hitting a deer on my way to Edgartown. “I would call a taxi,” I told Tom.

Tom said I should not count on a Vineyard taxi to get me to the weigh station. Good advice.

If you see a guy hitchhiking with a bass on his shoulder Saturday night, please stop.

Derby awards ceremony

The Derby committee will hand out awards on Sunday, October 14. One grand shore leader will leave with a new boat and one boat grand leader will leave with a new truck.

In a change of venue from past years the ceremony will take place under the big top at the very pretty Farm Neck Golf Club off County Road in Oak Bluffs. The fun begins at 1 pm and includes free food, prizes, a raffle and silent auction.

Arrow a bass

The House Tuesday passed a bill (H-247) that would allow spearfishermen to shoot striped bass. The bill’s backers claim that Massachusetts loses tourism dollars to Rhode Island and New Hampshire because of its ban on spearing bass.

I never thought of spearfishermen as big spenders. And I do not agree with the notion that tourism dollars should drive decision-making.

When I was a kid I liked to spearfish. Mostly I impaled flounder and an occasional cod. It is a cool way to nail a fish until a fish decides to nail you — and as we know, there are fish out there now that can do it.

I am not so sure I like the idea of allowing spearfishing for bass. Rod and reel fishermen need to find the bass and then hope to entice a big fish to strike.

A spearfisherman can hang back and watch a school of fish until he or she spots a big striper. I would not be happy at the sight of a dive flag off Gay Head, or a 40-pounder floating on the surface with a spear.

Islands Rep. Tim Madden voted in favor of the bill which next goes to the Senate. Cape and Islands Senator Dan Wolf is a sponsor. Readers with views on the bill should contact lawmakers.

Gone missing

Fishermen lose gear during the Derby. It is a fact. More often than not, a fisherman operating on little sleep leaves something behind on the beach and it turns up. Sometimes, thieves strike. I hope that is not the case with a rod that went missing last week.

Bob Dunn told the Derby committee he was fishing West Chop and returned to his car to find a rod, which was in a rack on top of his car gone.

The rod was a 7-foot, 6-inch St. Croix, green blank, with a Pleuger Medalist reel spooled with fresh 17-pound test line and a green L-Jack lure on it.

If you know anything about the missing rod shoot me an email ( or give me a call at 508-693-6100, ext. 13. No fisherman should lose a rod to theft and no Derby fisherman should allow it to happen.

Also gone missing, two yellow Perception Prodigy 10 kayaks from the rack in the Mink Meadow beach association parking lot with the name “Higby 1” written in black magic marker.

Fishermen who may have seen someone lifting the kayaks are asked to contact Matthew Crowther at the Mink Meadows Golf Club office ( or 508-693-0578). The association was generous enough to open the lot to fishermen for the Derby. This is a chance to repay the favor.