Check off the Derby on his bucket list

Michael Gibson holds his winning bluefish. — Photo courtesy of Michael Gibson

To the Editor:

I recently had the pleasure of spending five days on the Vineyard with my son, Michael, to fish the Derby. A native Islander, I could not fully share the passion and excitement of the Derby without bringing my son from Florida, where we now live, to the Vineyard to witness firsthand the experience.

I bought the house in Oak Bluffs that I grew up in and where my family now summers from my mom five years ago. Many stories from friends and family members keep Michael Jr. fishing all summer, but until now he had never experienced the Derby.

In an effort to start what we anticipate will become a long-standing tradition, I promised Mike that we would go to the Island to fish the Derby on the last weekend of every September.

After a few days of fishing from Lobsterville to the South Shore to Harthaven we did not have much luck. On our last day, we hit Lobsterville at 6 am. Not much was happening until close to noon, when schools of small bluefish came rolling through.

Everyone on the beach was on, and the craze was incredible. The great thing was that everyone was catching fish. The problem was that all of the fish were under five pounds.

As we prepared to leave for the morning, Michael Jr. flung one last cast as far as he could toward the Elizabeth Islands. Wham. The pole bent and Mike pulled back as the fish started to run and pull Mike from the shore to the water. After a long fight, he was able to get it to the beach. A group of anglers gathered around to congratulate him on the largest fish caught that day.

After touring the Island, displaying the fish to families and friends, we settled in for a great dinner with great anticipation for the evening weigh-in at 8 pm. When the weighmaster put the blue on the scale, the final number read 11.27 lbs. A new junior shore leader.

After we returned to Florida we were glued to the daily leader board. We were so excited to get the results on Saturday night that Mike’s fish remained on the top of the leader board, and he was the junior shore division Derby champion. I could not have written a script so well.

The past year, I was fortunate to check off some bucket list items. I attended my first Super Bowl and traveled to Augusta for my first glimpse of the Masters. They did not come close to the day I spent with my son fishing the Derby and watching him win the Junior Shore Bluefish Grand Prize. We could not have been so fortunate without the help from so many family and friends. Their local knowledge and passion penetrated our souls to try to be in the right place at the right time. We can’t wait until next year.

We could not make it to the awards presentation at Farm Neck, but on Sunday night we had a big celebration at our home in Florida, to congratulate Mike on his great achievement. I have attached a picture of Mike at the weigh station. Mike is 13 years old and can’t wait to get back to the Island to use all of the things he won. After not fishing in the Derby for more than 35 years, I truly can say it was one of the most memorable things I have ever experienced.

Michael J. Gibson

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida