Derby fishermen rescue tangled turtle

Fish weren’t biting, so they went for a ride that turned into an adventure.

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Brian Cory and his passengers rescued an entangled leatherback turtle on Sunday. This photo is a screenshot from a video shot onboard Mr. Cory's boat.

Brian Cory and his friends were out in his 23-foot Mako, Almost There, Sunday morning on the hunt for a fish to weigh for the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, but the bites weren’t coming, and they were getting bored.

Mr. Cory, who lives near Lambert’s Cove, said he was surprised that his favorite spot in Horseshoe Shoal wasn’t yielding any fish, but decided to take his friends and their kids for a ride out to an observation tower.

In a spot that’s smack-dab between Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cape Cod, they came across a leatherback turtle that seemed to be entangled in a conch line, Mr. Cory said.

“At first we thought it might be a seal,” he said. “We made our way over to it, and realized it was a large leatherback turtle.”

Mr. Cory described the creature as being about the size of a coffee table.

“It was trying to dive under when it saw us,” he said.

On a video filmed by passenger Paula Durval, you can see the turtle flailing helplessly in the water, one flipper splashing violently in an attempt to get free. On that same video, you see Mr. Cory, his friend Ryan Cabral, and Mr. Cabral’s son, Quin, spring into action. You can also see Mr. Cabral’s daughter, Lillie, craning her neck for a better view of the action.

In less than two minutes, Mr. Cory cut the turtle free and it was back swimming in the water.

“It was tangled up pretty good,” he said. “As soon as we got the last bit of line cut, it dove underneath and took off. It seemed like it was in good health. There was some blood on the rope, probably from where the rope started to rub through.”

You could see the sense of relief and satisfaction in their faces on the video. “It was a pretty awesome experience. It felt good to do that,” Mr. Cory said. “Everyone was pretty excited afterward.”

The rescue paid off in good karma. They didn’t catch any Derby fish to weigh, but their rods were bent for the rest of the afternoon after they returned to Mr. Cory’s favorite fishing spot.

“The ocean must have thought we did a good deed,” he said.

Mr. Cory was feeling like there might have been some divine intervention in their poor fishing performance. “I always catch fish in that spot, but this time we didn’t,” he said. “Something saying to go over there. I’m glad we did.”