Authors Posts by Nelson Sigelman

Nelson Sigelman

Nelson Sigelman
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A newly installed security camera recorded a woman pocketing money and led to her arrest in connection with several thefts from cash boxes.

At the Grey Barn farmstand, meat, cheese and produce are sold on the honor system. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated at 12:15 pm, Wednesday, October 29.

Chilmark police Sunday arrested Sasha Wlodyka, 37, of State Road, Chilmark, in connection with a series of thefts of cash from money boxes and produce from the Grey Barn and Farm off South Road, and Mermaid Farm and Beetlebung Farm on Middle Road in Chilmark.

Ms. Wlodyka was booked at the Dukes County Jail Sunday night and released Monday on $1,000 bail. She is scheduled to be arraigned in Edgartown District Court on Friday, October 31.

Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi said he could confirm the arrest but would not comment on the details while the investigation remains active and arraignment is pending. Police arrested Ms. Wlodyka on three counts of larceny over $250 on a single scheme and one count of forgery and uttering in connection with alterations she made to ledger sheets.

“Our department worked hard on this case which reflects on the quality of life in our community,” Chief Cioffi said. “At the end of the process, our goal, as always, is to see that the victim is provided with appropriate restitution.”

Eric Glasgow and his wife, Molly, own Grey Barn, a small-scale certified organic farm located just past the West Tisbury town line where they raise cows, pigs, and chickens and produce a variety of products, including two types of cheese, meat, pork, eggs, and raw milk, all of which are sold at their farmstand.

In a telephone conversation Monday, Mr. Glasgow said the farmstand operates on an honor system. Visitors are asked to record what they take on a ledger sheet and leave payment in a cash box. He became aware that someone was stealing from the farmstand in August when product inventories, ledger entries, and cash did not add up. While some discrepancies are to be expected due to honest math mistakes, he said, “if it indicates that there should be $400 and there is only $200, that’s a problem.”

As the thefts continued intermittently, Mr. Glasgow said, he became very annoyed and decided to do something about it. He ordered a security camera but got busy and delayed installing it. “And then of course, it happens again, and at that point I’m super angry at myself because I hadn’t even managed to install the camera,” he said.

Saturday he and his son spent the better part of the morning installing the camera. That evening when he went out to collect the money he saw that a ledger sheet on which he had transcribed some customer comments was missing and the money appeared to be off.

“I went and viewed the footage, saw the perpetrator and called the police,” Mr. Glasgow said. “They were able to take the information they got off that and figure out who it was and make an arrest.”

Mr. Glasgow said the recording shows that Ms. Wlodyka’s young daughter was present in the farmstand Saturday as she took bills out of the cash box, he said.

“It is a rather disheartening thing to see the crime taking place in front of a young child,” Mr. Glasgow said.

Mr. Glasgow said it is difficult to calculate exactly how much was stolen because Ms. Wlodyka, a frequent farm stand customer, removed the original ledger sheet and replaced it with a doctored sheet.

Mr. Glasgow said he appreciated the response of the Chilmark police. “The surveillance video was pretty conclusive, but they obviously made pretty quick work out of figuring out who it was since I didn’t immediately recognize the person.”

Mr. Glasgow said the entire episode is regrettable and reveals that the Vineyard is not immune from the type of petty crime that is more often associated with the mainland. “We like to believe that we can have an honor box and people are not going to steal,” he said. “Unfortunately it did not play out.”

Chief Cioffi said at this point he has no credible evidence that the Sunday night arrest of Ms. Wlodyka is related to a string of nighttime thefts in Chilmark and West Tisbury during the first week of September, in which entire cash boxes were stolen from Mermaid Farm on Middle Road, North Tabor Farm on North Road, and the flower stand on the Menemsha Cross Road.

That same week, West Tisbury police were called to investigate break-ins at Leona’s Pet Supply and Fiddlehead Farm. In all cases, the robberies occurred sometime between the close of business on Tuesday and early Wednesday morning, according to police. Cash registers at both businesses were stolen and scales were also taken from Fiddlehead Farm.

For Joe Lopez, an unexpected trip to Martha’s Vineyard was the setting for an extraordinary reunion with a man he had never met.

Retired Army First Sergeant Jon Hill, recipient of the Silver Star, with a pair of blues. – Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

The Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby ended last week in a frenzy of activity that would have made it easy to overlook a small group of Island visitors, veterans of combat and in several cases still recovering from grievous wounds suffered in Afghanistan, who from Sunday to Thursday enjoyed fishing and the hospitality extended to them by the Nixon family of Chilmark, and a group of dedicated Island volunteers.

Five years ago on October 3, 2009, Army First Sergeant Jonathan Hill woke up to the sound of gunfire and rocket explosions when up to 400 Taliban attacked 54 U.S. soldiers based in Combat Outpost (COP) Keating set at the bottom of three steep mountains just 14 miles from the Pakistan border. Retired after 21 years in service to his country, last week Jon’s only concern was how to improve his luck after being outfished by retired Marine Joe Roberts, who despite falling over in his wheelchair at least once, kept catching all the fish as guests of veteran Island charter captain Scott McDowell, one of a group of Menemsha captains who donated their time and boats in a community-based effort  known as the the American Heroes Saltwater Challenge.

Now in its sixth year, the fishing respite began when Jack Nixon, then 7, saw a newspaper photo essay about the challenges facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and told his dad, Bob Nixon, a documentary filmmaker, that he wished some veterans could fish the Derby.

Jake Tapper, CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent, described COP Keating, the men and their battle in his bestselling book,“The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor,” published by Little, Brown and Company. The daylong battle left eight American soldiers dead and 22 more wounded, making it one of the deadliest military fights in decades.

Mr. Tapper and his wife are friends of Bob and Sarah Nixon, owners of the Beach Plum Inn, Menemsha Inn, and Home Port restaurant. Last spring, Ms. Nixon called Mr. Tapper to see who among the group of men he had chronicled might like to visit the Island and participate in the Saltwater Challenge. It was the start of a new chapter that placed COP Keating at the nucleus of the event.

COP Keating, which was slated to be closed, came under attack from all sides just before 6 am. The attackers quickly overran the base and set fires that burned down most of the barracks. Within the first hour, the defenders had “collapsed their perimeter” to the immediate area around the command post, which became “their final fighting position.”

At the Beach Plum Inn during a break in the fishing, golfing, and eating schedule, Jon Hill spoke about what it meant to serve his country, the Army, the men he served with, and his work as a member of the board of directors of the Defenders of Freedom, a group that assists active and retired military members.

Captain Rahul Harpalani (left) and Jonathan Hill on the patio of the Beach Plum Inn. – Photo by Nelson Sigelman
Captain Rahul Harpalani (left) and Jonathan Hill on the patio of the Beach Plum Inn. – Photo by Nelson Sigelman

“I’ll tell you, those were some of the best men that the United States Army ever had in one spot, in one fight and I couldn’t be prouder of the guys I served with,” Sergeant Hill said. “The men there fought valiantly, they fought hard and they did some phenomenal things under the worst circumstances.”

Medically retired, Jon, 42, lives in Louisiana with his wife and two children, a 13-year-old girl and a boy, 17. He said what he misses most about the Army is being with young soldiers, watching them grow, mentoring them, “and putting them on a good path to success.”

Jake Tapper called and told him about the Vineyard trip. “I was not going to say no,” he said. “It’s a once in a lifetime chance for folks like me.”

There was one regret. “I really wished I could bring my family,” he said. “There are a lot of spouses and children that go through a lot of pain while their loved ones are deployed and I think they should get recognized a little more than they do.”

Jon likes to fish and hunt. But most of his time is spent working on behalf of Defenders of Freedom. “The best therapy for me is helping other vets move forward,” he said.

The organization offers a menu of services to help veterans who are making the transition from military to civilian life get back on their feet. “Being in military is like being institutionalized, you get so used to doing things so differently from the civilian world,” he said.

Across the dining room, West Point graduate Captain Rahul Harpalani was having a grand time with his fellow fishermen. Next year he will leave the military and enter Columbia Business School.

Sergeant Hill and Capt. Harpalani met at COP Keating. One month later, on May 15, 2010, Lieutenant Harpalani lost his leg to an IED (improvised explosive device).

“What makes me so proud to know him and say I would follow a guy like that into hell,” Jon said, “is he is a torch-bearing leader. He is an example of the ethos of, I will never quit. He has moved forward, he has rehabilitated himself, and now he is a captain in the Army and when he was injured he was a lieutenant. He is a testament to the fact that you can continue to move forward and continue to do great things and I have a lot of respect for that. He is setting a huge example.”

Jon said he was asleep when the attack occurred. He and the other members of his platoon had no time to don body armor. “It was just chaos outside,” he said. His first concern was getting men and ammo to guard positions.

What Jon never mentioned as we spoke was the Silver Star he received “for exceptional valor in action against an armed enemy.”

The citation states that Sergeant First Class Hill “led and directed his platoon while exposing himself to a heavy barrage of enemy fire. With no regard for his own personal safety, Sergeant First Class Hill organized multiple efforts to recover fallen soldiers under effective, accurate fire.”

The full citation only hints at the drama of the battle and the selfless nature of ordinary men caught in an extraordinary situation.

That day was far from his mind last Tuesday. “I’ve had the best two days I’ve had in a long time, catching fish or not,” Jon Hill told me.

Before he would leave the Vineyard, Jon would also would make a difference in the life of one soldier still grappling with the loss of a brother in arms and create another link in a story now intertwined with the Derby and the Vineyard.

Joseneth (Joe) Lopez, Army specialist 1st Infantry Division, was stationed at COP Keating. Three months prior to the battle, and after 12 months of intermittent fire, Joe’s unit was transferred out. Specialist Nathan Nash, a senior member of the platoon, remained behind a few weeks to help introduce the new men to the surrounding area. The newcomers included Sergeant Hill, who by coincidence had been Nathan’s drill sergeant in basic training.

Army veteran Joe Lopez holds a bluefish he caught in the Saltwater challenge. – Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop
Army veteran Joe Lopez holds a bluefish he caught in the Saltwater challenge. – Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

One of the men newly assigned to COP Keating was Stephen Mace, Joe’s bunk mate and best friend throughout basic training. The two men reconnected briefly at COP Keating. Months later Joe learned his friend was among the battle dead.

Joe, 25, left the military and moved to Orlando to attend school, but the memory of his best friend’s death in a place he had left continued to haunt him. Last fall, Nathan Nash was a member of the group of soldiers that visited the Vineyard. Nathan Nash encouraged Joe to make the Vineyard trip and speak to Jon Hill.

Last week, with Menemsha as a backdrop the two men met for the first time. “We sat down and we spoke and I told him about Mace and he told me he was his platoon sergeant and he told me how he passed away and I finally got closure out of it due to this magical trip,” Joe told me in a phone call Tuesday. “We were able to hug it out and I felt like for a second that Mace was next to me and at that point it was beautiful.”

blackfoot troop
Joe Lopez was a member of Blackfoot Troop 6-4 Cav (Dirty) Third platoon, shown here at COP Keating. – Photo courtesy of Joe Lopez

They spoke about Mace and how great a person he was and how he lives through them. Joe said that he had not been able to stop mourning his lost friends. The Vineyard embrace, the beauty of the environment, “no sense of rush or regular life,” helped soothe his pain.

“A lot of questions were put to rest because of First Sergeant Hill and the way he was able to close those wounds,” Joe said. “It’s crazy. We don’t know each other from nowhere, but somehow the stars align and we all got to talk about it.” On Martha’s Vineyard.

This is my last weekly fishing column of the season. Tight lines.

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Mary Ann Angelone holds her 14.65-pound false albacore as she waited to walk up to the weigh station table Friday. —Photo by Paula Sullivan

With the fishing competition furious heading into the homestretch in the 68th Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, character, class, fishing skill, pluck, luck, albies and faith combined on a small stretch of beach in Aquinnah last Friday.

Phil Horton (right) admires the fish that Mary Ann Angelone landed and which would bump him from the top spot. —Photo by David Balon
Phil Horton (right) admires the fish that Mary Ann Angelone landed and which would bump him from the top spot. —Photo by David Balon

Mary Ann Angelone of West Tisbury is a woman of indomitable spirit who learned to fish at the elbow of her husband, Albert “Angie” Angelone, a familiar if inscrutable, retired member of the Island fishing community, when he died July 29, 2006, of heart failure on a beach at the age of 67, doing what he loved to do — fish on Martha’s Vineyard.

At the time, very few people knew that Angie had a legendary 21-year Secret Service career, much of it working undercover, that earned him a reputation for bravery, quick thinking, and humor. He and Mary Ann also raised two sons, one a Marine officer who recently left the military and at the age of 36 enrolled in medical school, and the other a Secret Service agent.

When Mary Ann first started fishing, Angie was the ultimate guide and loving husband. “He would take my hooks out, and he would tie my knots, and in the beginning he wouldn’t let me fish near anyone else because I couldn’t cast straight,” she said with a gravelly laugh. “It was something we did together and it was nice. He taught me to enjoy the beauty of nature.”

Mary Ann loves the spirit of camaraderie that permeates Derby competition. “You go on the beach and it is almost sort of a family, you get to see the same people and know them,” she said.

Last Friday, she decided to fish the bowl at Lobsterville Beach. The albies had been running and the beach was crowded with fishermen. David Balon was there. His emailed account, slightly edited, follows.

Derby proud

“Mary Ann was fishing in that spot because she had decided to walk down to congratulate Phil Horton [of Oak Bluffs] for having the lead shore albie at that time. He had a 12.55-pound albie from shore and was really proud of that catch and also nervous, for obvious reasons.  Mary Ann walked about two-thirds of the way to the bowl area just to congratulate Phil. This is a very long trek as you know. She came up to Phil and gave him congratulations and Phil humbly took the praise. They chatted for a while and then Phil graciously offered to make room for Mary Ann to fish right next to him because of the large picket line of fishermen. Coincidentally, Ralph Peckham, currently in third at that time with an 11.64 shore albie, also made room for Mary Ann to fish.

“Shortly after, Mary Ann hooked into an albie and to be honest it did not appear to be anything out of the normal craziness of hooking one. As time went by and Mary Ann struggled to get the fish to shore, about 10 minutes plus, the fish paralleled the beach inside a wave. Everyone’s eyes popped out at the size of the fish and everyone stepped back with eyes as large as marbles. Wow! This was now way more serious than originally thought.”

Mary Ann told me that all the fishermen also stopped casting so as not to risk casting over her line. Phil, who knew he was likely to be bumped out of first place was by her side offering encouragement and tips. When she finally landed the fish, her first albie of the Derby, she was completely spent.

“Phil measured the fish at 30 plus inches, unhooked it for her and gave her a heartfelt congrats. Phil then offered to carry all of Mary Ann’s gear so she would only have her albie to carry all the way back to the parking lot, at least one quarter mile or more. Mary Ann declined and carried her fish back, leaving her tackle on the beach because she wanted to return to fish with Phil later in the morning.

Dave said watching Phil, who had just got knocked off the grand leader board and Ralph, who had just got knocked off the divisional board, help and congratulate Mary Ann exemplified the true meaning of the Derby and sportsmanship.

“Mary Ann began the long trek back to her truck to ice the fish down. When she eventually got back an hour or so later her spot was still available as we had all saved it for her. We all joked with her about going through her tackle bag and touching her rod for good luck. Of course, all that is sacred and it was left alone like it was guarded by her late husband Angie of the Secret Service.”

Life’s moments

Describing that morning, Mary Ann told me in a telephone call Tuesday, “Whether it holds up or not is not what’s important. It was a good day and you know what I’ve decided: You have to enjoy the good moments in life and that was one of them.”

Mary Ann said she thought of Angie. “When I catch a good fish I always thank him,” she said. “He would have been really happy for me.”

Mary Ann immediately called her good friend and fishing companion, Paula Sullivan of West Tisbury, town postmistress and Derby committee member.

“She called me all through the day and she said she wanted to peek at the fish,” Paula said. “And I kept saying, ‘keep the lid shut.’

“She said, ‘maybe I should turn the fish over,’ and I said, ‘no keep the lid shut.’”

Paula met Mary Ann outside the weigh station Friday night. There was a line of people waiting to weigh in fish when the door opened at 8 pm.

“She was in the parking lot and said, ‘do you want to look at it?’ and I said, ‘no, keep the lid shut.’”

Word had gotten around the Island pretty quickly. A crowd of admirers and friends that included Phil and Ralph were gathered at the weigh station for the official moment.

Mary Ann Angelone celebrated the moment of truth. —Photo by Paula Sullivan
Mary Ann Angelone celebrated the moment of truth. —Photo by Paula Sullivan

Speaking of Phil and the Derby, Dave Balon said, “I know very few people that would have made a spot for someone to fish during the Derby, get beaten out of the lead, put aside a night of fishing to go to weigh-in and then toast to the victor, all with a smile. There is always one day in every Derby year that you never forget, and this was it for me.”

Inside the small, rustic wood shingled building where Derby hopes soar to the heavens and fall back to earth on every change of the scale, there is a rope line. Spectators stand on one side of the path it creates to the table where the weighmaster stands ready. When a potential grand leader in one of the four shore or boat fish categories comes in all eyes are on the scale’s electronic scoreboard.

The cooler lid did not open until Mary Ann picked up her false albacore and walked into the weigh station and took her place as the new shore albie grand leader with a 14.65 pound fish. I have no doubt Angie was walking right beside her up to that scale.

Still lost and one found

Last week, I told the story of Jim Cornwell of Edgartown. The hard-fishing 77-year-old gentleman had his 10.5 foot St. Croix rod and Shimano wide-spool reel stolen off the top of his Tahoe parked  in the driveway of his house on Windsor Drive in Edgartown, a dead end. I repeat what I said last week. This is just plain wrong. Someone on this Island knows something. Ask around. We need to get Jim his outfit back.

On a more positive note, Bob Green emailed me and said that his Albright fly rod and Orvis reel that he left on the side of the road at West Chop was found and returned.

Derby awards ceremony

The Derby ends at 10 pm, Saturday when the weigh station door slides shut for another year. But the good times do not end there. The awards ceremony is always a fun-filled event with a dramatic finish when one lucky fisherman wins a boat, and another fisherman wins a truck. The ceremony begins at 1 pm at the big tent on the grounds of the Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs.

69th Derby Grand Leaders (as of Oct. 15)

Boat bluefish: Preston A. Butler, 15.00

Shore bluefish: Michael J. Mulcahy, 15.20

Boat bass: Vinny Iacono, 39.77

Shore bass: Creanga L. Cosmin, 38.63

Boat bonito: Norman E. Bouchard Jr., 10.47

Shore bonito: Michael V. Berninger, 7.49

Boat albacore: Mason Warburton, 13.17

Shore albacore: Mary Ann Angelone, 14.65

(Daily, weekly, and division results are available atmvderby.com.)

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The sounds of Dixie at the Derby: Charles Klinck, Jim Smith, Sandra Smith, Cooper Gilkes, Heather Klinck and Gene Klinck. —Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Coop will have a plan. Coop always has a plan, I told a group of friends who arrived from Alabama on Thursday of last week. What it will be and how it will work out, I don’t know, but he will have a plan and we’ll have fun, I assured them.

Cooper “Coop” Gilkes is one of those individuals who can turn a trip to the supermarket into an adventure if the route goes by any body of water that could potentially hold fish. He wanted to take our Alabama friends out fishing, and since the weather ruled out a boat trip I figured we would hit the beach.

Charles and Heather Klinck, with Jim and Sandra Smith, had driven up from Union Springs, a rural farming community in the heart of Alabama where good manners and good hunting dogs are highly valued, for a quick Island visit. The Klincks, longtime seasonal West Tisbury residents, had some final details to attend to following the sale of their Island house and the occasion of their visit provided an opportunity for Coop and me to reconnect with people who exemplify Southern hospitality.

In January 2010, Coop and I made the first of two trips to Union Springs (Feb. 10, “Island hunters find fun, friends in Alabama”). The life-size bronze statue of an English pointer on a granite pedestal in the middle of the Bullock County seat not far from the courthouse and a banner over a hardware store welcoming deer hunters provided a sense of the town’s priorities. A dinner party Jim and Sandra Smith hosted in a steel barn on their plant farm introduced us to the community and the importance Southerners place on a well-cooked pot of grits.

I had just gotten home and my couch was feeling pretty comfortable when the phone rang. “Be here at 6:30 pm,” Coop said. “They’re going to come over after dinner and that will give us time to get the rods ready.”

The notion of getting “anything ready” at Coop’s, the home that shares space with his well known tackle shop off West Tisbury Road in Edgartown, is subjective. Everything at Coop’s is in a state of more or less semi-readiness. Duck and goose decoys sit by the shed. Rods for every purpose lean against the garage. Eel pots, buoys, clam rakes, lines, coolers, boats and all the assorted collected paraphernalia of a life spent outdoors is in the yard.

I learned long ago to open coolers cautiously. One warm summer day I asked Coop if I could borrow a small cooler. Coop, who is as generous to strangers as he is with friends, said, “Sure Bud, no problem. Just grab one outside by the driveway.” Inside the cooler were several eels left over from a fishing trip many days earlier — spontaneous generation in reverse.

Coop’s guiding schedule and my work schedule had made it difficult to fish together and I was looking forward to anything the night might bring. Jim Smith, Charles Klinck and his brother, Gene, who had stopped in Vineyard Haven on his way south by sailboat from Maine to Mobile, Alabama, joined us at Coop’s about 7:30 pm. The ladies, Heather and Jim’s wife, Sandra, had wisely opted to stay out of the howling, cold north wind. The first order of business was to sign up for the Derby.

Had I been in charge of this expedition I would have grabbed some bags of squid out of the freezer of which Coop has an ample supply. But that is not Coop’s style. The “plan” was to jig for fresh squid. “It makes a difference,” Coop said, and he was on a mission to see the southerners catch fish.

There is a knack to jigging squid. It takes time to develop a feel for the embrace of squid tentacles. Coop and I were delighted when after several misses the guys started landing squid, a primordial style of fishing that is plenty of fun, and comes with the risk of getting a shot of ink. It was getting near my usual bedtime when Coop decided we had what we needed and we left for Katama. Coop, who appears to be able to exist on 18-minute naps spread across a circadian cycle — often taken while he is standing up — was just getting his second wind.

We set five rods out in a line spaced about ten yards apart. Glow sticks on each tip danced in the wind. Each time a wave or wind gust bounced a rod one of the guys would start for his assigned rod. “Don’t worry,” Coop said, “you’ll know when you’ve got a real one on.”

My rod was at the end of the line, an old Fenwick I had owned for more than 25 years but which was still capable of bringing in a big fish in the surf. “I bet ya a buck you don’t have any bait left,” Coop said. Coop’s tackle shop wall is adorned with signed dollar bills and he wanted to add another one of mine to the collection because I was not using a float to keep my bait away from crabs.

I wisely refused the challenge but decided to check my bait. I rebaited the bare hook and had just walked back to the truck, which was acting as a windbreak, when Charles shouted that I had a fish. With instincts borne of many Derby nights, I ran to the rod. With some help from Coop I landed a 20-pound bass.

“I can’t believe you grabbed that rod,” Coop said to me in a disapproving tone.

I had not thought to do otherwise. Now I was faced with a horrible prospect. What if the guys didn’t catch a fish?

The rod went down again. “Quick, Charles,” I said, and half pulled him to the rod, even as he protested that it was my rod and I should reel it in.

The fish were moving past. Several hits followed. The guys ran for the rods only to be disappointed. But that did not last long. Jim and Gene each caught a small bass. But it was not long before the rod tip arced with the weight of a big striper. “Quick, Jim, that’s a good one,” Coop said. Jim, a plant farmer by profession, put his arms and back into the rod.

Jim Smith weighs in a Derby striped bass.
Jim Smith weighs in a Derby striped bass.

The striper, every bit of 20 pounds, slid up on the beach and earned Jim a daily pin that he was overjoyed to bring back to Bullock County. It was all just part of the plan.

Give it back

Jim Cornwell of Edgartown is a hard-fishing gentleman who, at 77 years of age, still out-fishes and out-catches fishermen half his age. Sunday, he returned from pitching eels into the surf at Quansoo and parked his Tahoe in the driveway of his house on Windsor Drive in Edgartown, a dead end. Normally, he takes his rods off the rod rack and puts them in his garage, but he started watching the Pats game and never went out.

The next morning, he woke up to go albie fishing but his surf rod was missing from the top of his SUV. He thought his wife might have brought it into the garage.

In fact, the PVC rod holder had been pulled off his truck, leaving only the stainless steel screws, and the outfit, a 10.5 foot St. Croix rod and Shimano wide-spool reel, was gone.

The rod had been a father’s day gift from his son last year. He had only bought the reel several months ago.

“It was like part of me being ripped out,” Jim said. “I cherished the whole thing because it’s light as a feather, and hey, at 77 I need all the help I can get. It’s just kind of a sad thing to have happen. And to think they’d come right on my own property and lift it off my vehicle, that makes it more irritable.”

This is just plain wrong. Someone on this Island knows something. Ask around. We need to get Jim his outfit back

Lost fly rod

A clear indication that the Derby is entering the home stretch is a report of gear left behind by a tired fisherman. Bob Green placed his Albright fly rod and Orvis reel on the side of the road at West Chop. By the time he realized he had left it behind and returned to West Chop the rod was gone. Please help him get it back. He can be reached at 617-899-2065.

69th Derby Grand Leaders (as of Oct. 8)

Boat bluefish: Preston A. Butler, 15.00

Shore bluefish: Ryan J. Pinerio, 15.05

Boat bass: Vinny Iacono, 39.77

Shore bass: Creanga L. Cosmin, 38.63

Boat bonito: Norman E. Bouchard Jr., 10.47

Shore bonito: Kerry Leonard, 6.63

Boat albacore: Mason Warburton, 13.17

Shore albacore: Trevor C. Knowles, 11.95

(Daily, weekly, and division results are available atmvderby.com.)

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The Loki II ran aground on Chappy. —Photo courtesy of Charlie Blair

Two fishermen returning to Edgartown harbor early Saturday night in dark, rainy weather in a 22-foot Jones Brothers center console boat went off course, plowed across a dock in front of the Chappaquiddick Beach club and ran up on the beach. The impact sent both men flying onto the sand.

Edgartown Police chief Tony Bettencourt said that miraculously, the men suffered only minor injuries. Police charged the operator of the boat, Harley L. Stowell, 51, of Manchester with operating under the influence of alcohol and negligent operation of a motor vessel. He was arraigned Monday morning in Edgartown District court.

The outcome of the accident might have been far different but for an unusually high tide that placed the dock nearly under water. As a result, the fishing boat skimmed up over the dock and its planks.

The damage to the dock is clearly visible in this photo taken the following day.
The damage to the dock is clearly visible in this photo taken the following day.

Two police officers working a paid detail in the police/fire boat in connection with a private fireworks display off Edgartown Lighthouse for a wedding responded to the scene of the collision after the crash.

Chief Bettencourt said that just before 8 pm, Saturday, members of the fireworks crew on the barge heard a loud roar. “They thought it was an airplane that went overhead,” Chief Bettencourt told The Times. Weather conditions were dismal and visibility was very low.

Immediately after hearing the sound, one of the men on the barge called the officers on the police boat radio, according to the police report, and told the officer that a boat traveling at a speed he estimated to be nearly 40 miles per hour nearly hit the barge “and I think it just flipped over somewhere.”

The police boat is equipped with a thermal imaging camera that can peer through the night darkness. “They had the camera on at the time,” Chief Bettencourt said, “and they scanned the beach and they saw the boat with two people up on the beach near the beach club and headed over.”

They found the boat up on the beach and the two men standing on the beach “with sand all over their bodies and faces.” Edgartown harbormaster Charlie Blair, who was on scene in connection with the fireworks display and had also received the call about the speeding boat, also responded, as did medical personnel. The men were taken to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital where they were treated for minor injuries.

Chief Bettencourt said the boat operator told the officers he was returning from “the north shore of the Vineyard,” according to the police report. “He knew it was late and he thinks his GPS must have malfunctioned because they were properly following the route.”

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Mark London will retire from the MVC. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Mark London, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), will leave the powerful regional permitting and planning agency he has led since 2002, at the end of next summer.

Mr. London informed commissioners of his retirement plans in a brief email sent Thursday, Oct. 2, and in a brief announcement made at a meeting of the MVC Thursday night.

“I just wanted to let everyone know that I informed the executive committee this week that I am planning to retire at the end of next summer,” Mr. London said. “This will give the commission four to six months for a search, the new person two to four months to relocate, and will let us overlap next summer.”

No plans

In a telephone conversation with The Times Tuesday, Mr. London, who lives in Chilmark with his wife, Linda Thompson, spoke about his decision.

Asked why now, Mr. London said it was time. “I’m getting older, and I have had health issues off and on for the last three years,” he said. “Everything’s fine now, and I’m in great shape, so I want to have some time to myself and with my family. I’ll be just about 68 when I retire. I think that’s a good age.”

Mr. London said his contract was not a factor. He has no immediate plans and will stay on the Island. I have all kinds of plans, but I haven’t got any plans,” he said. “I have a list of projects, and I’m not going to open it up until I’ve had a few months of rest and relaxation.”

Mr. London said he provided almost a year’s notice because it takes time to find someone with the right background for the job who is willing to pull up roots and move to Martha’s Vineyard.

I had been coming here for 25 years before I moved here full-time 12 years ago,” he said.

Mr. London said the commissioners will put together a committee that will decide whether they will conduct the search or hire a company to do it. Realistically, it will probably take a month or two to start advertising, and then it’s advisable to have several months to get the word out and do interviews,” he said. “Also, if the person selected is not from the Island, he or she will need time to wrap up his or her affairs wherever they are.”

Planning is key

Mr. London presides over an agency with an operating budget of $1.5 million. Salaries and employee benefits that include the cost of funding retirement benefits lay claim to the largest share, $1.1 million of the MVC budget. The commission has 10 staff members. Mr. London earns $128,224 annually.

The bulk of the MVC’s income comes from Dukes County taxpayers through town assessments based on property tax valuation. All seven towns in Dukes County, which includes Gosnold, share the cost of planning, according to their relative property valuation.

In 2002, Mr. London, was a longtime seasonal Island visitor and city planner in Montreal, Canada, when he was hired to lead the MVC.

At the time, Mr. London predicted that better planning would help clear the way for the MVC’s regulatory arm. “The planning will help us in the DRI [Development of Regional Impact] process afterwards,” he said in an interview shortly after he accepted the job.

Mr. London explained why he was attracted to the Vineyard. “The character has been largely maintained, notwithstanding the fact that the Island has almost tripled in population,” he said. “That really is quite remarkable.”

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The SSA is diverting ferries from the Oak Bluffs terminal to Vineyard Haven due to weather.

9:10 am, Wednesday, Oct. 1

The Steamship Authority has begun diverting ferries arriving to, and departing from Oak Bluffs to Vineyard Haven due to weather and sea conditions.

SSA schedules could change with improving weather conditions. For current information call 508-548-3788 or 508-693-0367. Current Conditions may be viewed at http://www.steamshipauthority.com/traveling_today/status

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Ben Nadelstein, 14, of Vineyard Haven (center) posed at the Derby weigh station with a 14 pound striper he caught from the beach fishing with his dad Sandy and brother Gabe. —Photo by Nelson Sigelman

There are some unmistakable signs that it is Derby time on Martha’s Vineyard. Every fifth vehicle has a fishing rod on top, whether the driver likes to fish or not. There was a fight on the Menemsha jetty. And my boat and trailer moved out of the driveway, and it was not due to a tsunami.

On Saturday, overcome with guilt at the sight of pine needles building up inside the hull of my Tashmoo 18, and with the knowledge that the forecast called for about as perfect a fall day as one could want, I hooked up my boat and drove to the Lagoon Pond launch ramp. It was early, but  there were only two parking spots left.

My plan was to look for false albacore or bonito, then drift an eel or two for striped bass or bluefish. I recognized it was an overly ambitious plan, but I have always been unrealistic about the Derby and what I can actually accomplish in the span of one day, which accounts for why my wife no longer makes dinner plans, or any plans for that matter, that include my actual participation.

It was flat calm, and I made good time, pushed by my 30-horsepower Evinrude, a rope-start, two-stroke 20-year-old outboard that is probably responsible for thawing some polar bear’s ice floe but remains quite dependable. A knot of about a dozen boats lay off the entrance to Tashmoo. A group of albies broke near David Thompson, fly-fishing from his canoe. The flotilla converged on him, and I remembered why I do not like fishing for albies.

The school popped up about 100 yards away and the flotilla moved, some boats faster and less considerate than others. The more considerate fishermen will defer to fishermen in the boat closest to the breaking fish so they get a good shot. The less considerate just hit the throttle unmindful of anyone in their way.

I decided that that fishing was not for me, and I left in search of more fish and fewer fishermen. I went across Vineyard Sound to see if there were any fish in Lackeys Bay between Naushon and Nonamesset, just to the west of Woods Hole, an occasional hot spot. As I approached, I could see birds working over breaking fish. There was only one boat in the bay, a wooden skiff. My first assumption was bluefish, but to my surprise they were albies. Other fish broke. There were pods of fish all around.

I was quite pleased that my hunch had paid off. More than 30 casts later with a metal jig and without a strike, it was beginning to seem academic. A small group of boats fishing albies off Nonamesset were moving with even more albies in my direction with the falling tide. The fish came up and went down. I cast and I cast.

The popular definition of insanity is: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. How, I thought, is that different from fishing for albies? So by definition, Derby albie fishermen are insane, which explains the story I heard about a fight on Menemsha jetty, where the fishing is often elbow-to-elbow when the albies are running through the channel.

What I heard — and whether it is true or not, it sounds like it could be true — is that a guy showed up to fish and found his employee, who was supposed to be working, on the jetty. The boss tossed his employee in the water and then the employee threw the boss in the water, and in between it all some punches were thrown and some fish were caught, or not.

Acknowledging my own slide to insanity, I decided a change to a lighter leader and a different lure was called for, so I tied on a 10-pound fluorocarbon leader and a small, green-striped, jointed minnow.

The fish had begun to move with the current, and I moved closer to a group of six boats where fishermen were casting without success to breaking fish. A pod of fish began thrashing the water. I cast into the middle and felt an albie take the plug. It was the first albie I had hooked in years, and I remembered why the quest for these mini-tuna becomes an addiction.

The fish went down, it went out, it swam so fast back in my direction that for a moment I thought it had come off the hook. It swam around the boat and I stumbled around my center console. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a boat.

It was one of those ultra-speedboats good for nothing but racing from a bar in Falmouth harbor to a bar in Oak Bluffs. The bozo at the helm was heading right though the cluster of drifting boats and albies. My guess is the engine noise on those things gives anyone in the boat a concussion. I suppose the only benefit is that he could not hear anything the woman standing next to him was saying (Like my nails, honey?) and she could not hear anything he had to say (Should I shave my chest, honey?).

The guy cruised right past me, saw I had a fish on, and waved. Honest. Got to be the concussion.

His wake hit my stern and set me to rocking as I continued to battle my fish and brought it to my net. The fish was not particularly big. I tossed it like a torpedo back into the water. And I left, more than content and not willing to make one more cast and confirm the Derby diagnosis.

69th Derby Grand Leaders (as of Oct. 1)

Boat bluefish: David C. Kadison, 14.72

Shore bluefish: Ryan J. Pinerio, 15.05

Boat bass: Vinny Iacono, 39.77

Shore bass: Creanga L. Cosmin, 38.63

Boat bonito: Dylan C. Kadison, 9.17

Shore bonito: Kerry Leonard, 6.63

Boat albacore: Mason Warburton, 13.17

Shore albacore: Bernie B. Arruda, 10.76

(Daily, weekly, and division results are available atmvderby.com.)

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Molly Sylvia, 8, of Oak Bluffs hold the trophy she won for catching the biggest scup. Myles Sprague of West Tisbury was the grand champ with a 17.25 inch bluefish. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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As dawn broke Sunday, young fishermen claimed their spots on the rail hoping for a big catch. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Glen Caldwell helps Julia, 6, reel in a scup while sister Samantha, 8, watches. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Elizabeth and Michael Prime, visitors from Pennsylvania, had a great time. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Nicholas Rabeni, 7, of Edgartown and his father Anthony, focused on the fish. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Nicholas Rabeni and his dad Anthony look for the tale of the tape. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Quentin Conopask, 12, reels in a fish. —Photo by Michael Cummo


After 32 years, the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby Kids Day outing still has what it takes to put a smile on the face of a little kid, and big kids too. The annual event, held on the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority pier, is based on the simple formula that most kids just like to catch fish and there is no need to make the experience difficult.

As dawn broke Sunday, young fishermen claimed their spots on the rail hoping for a big catch.
As dawn broke Sunday, young fishermen claimed their spots on the rail hoping for a big catch.

Early Sunday morning, kids, parents, and grandparents lined the railing, squid close at hand, and dangled baited hooks. A steady stream of young fishermen ran down the dock clutching a variety of fish to the measuring table where volunteers sat waiting behind a table outfitted with a yardstick. There is an art to measuring flopping sea robins, scup, fluke, sea bass, and bluefish before you have had your second cup of coffee.

Derby president Ed Jerome and tournament chairman Cooper “Coop” Gilkes stood on the dock surveying the scene.

Glen Caldwell helps Julia, 6, reel in a scup while sister Samantha, 8, watches.
Glen Caldwell helps Julia, 6, reel in a scup while sister Samantha, 8, watches.

Coop has an eye for talent and knows what it takes to catch fish. “Boy,” Coop said, “we sure have got some kids coming up that are going to be fishermen.”

A little kid ran by holding a fish. “He’s so excited,” Ed said to me. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Ed has seen a lot of excited kids. The retired Edgartown School principal and longtime Derby president reflected on 32 years. When it first began, Zebco, maker of the classic pushbutton reel, was the main sponsor.

Nicholas Rabeni, 7, of Edgartown and his father Anthony, focused on the fish.
Nicholas Rabeni, 7, of Edgartown and his father Anthony, focused on the fish.

A little boy ran back from the measuring table to his waiting father. “Dad,” he shouted, “it’s bigger than you expected, it’s 13 [inches]!”

Attend a fishing tournament as many years as we have, and you start to measure the passing of time. It is not always flattering. I pointed out to Ed that I was seeing people I remembered as kids who were now losing their hair.

“It’s always one of my favorite days,” said John Custer, Derby chairman and Tisbury School principal. “I think it’s great.”

John pronounced the turnout good, in part due to the warm, clear weather. “It’s better than last year,” John said, referring to the rain that dampened the 2013 event. Irrespective, it is always fun. “One guy told me, if you think it’s all about the fishing, you’re missing the point,” John said.

Much of its appeal for Islanders is the tradition. John recalled fishing the tournament in 1981. Now he was there with his own children.

Elizabeth Prime, 8, smiles when she sees her first catch of the tournament after her father Michael Prime pulls it over the edge of the dock.
Elizabeth Prime, 8, smiles when she sees her first catch of the tournament after her father Michael Prime pulls it over the edge of the dock.

That sense of tradition is not reserved for Islanders. Further down the rail, Karin and Michael Prime from a town outside Philadelphia stood fishing with their three children, Elizabeth, 8, Shawn, 7, and Daniel, 2. The family comes to the Vineyard this time every year on vacation, and makes it a point to attend Kids Day.

“The kids love the Derby, and all three of them love to fish,” Karin said. “It’s well-run.”

Shawn stood in his socks and held a fishing rod missing about the top eight inches. I pointed that out to his dad. “Got to do what you’ve got to do,” Michael said.

Kids Day Derby Results

Biggest scup of the day: Molly Sylvia of Oak Bluffs (age 8), 14.5 inches.

Biggest fish of the day: Myles Sprague of West Tisbury (age 9), 17.25-inch bluefish.

Through 8 years old: 1. Matthew Fontaine (age 7), 14.75-inch sea bass; 2. Molly Sylvia (age 8), 14.5-inch scup; 3. Audrey Polleys (age 8), 14.25-inch sea bass.

9-11 years old: 1. Edward Cherry (age 10), 17-inch bluefish; 2. Jake Scott (age 10), 14.75-inch sea bass; 3. Matthew Strem (age 10), 4.75-inch sea bass.

12-14 years old: 1. Nolan Bouchard (age 13), 15.25-inch fluke; 2. Shelly Ponte (age 12), 14-inch sea bass; 3. Avery Gazaille (age 13), 13-inch sea bass.

Each young fisher received a gift certificate for a Mad Martha’s ice cream and a T-shirt with a design chosen in a school-wide competition. The T-shirt design contest winner was sixth grader Danielle Oteri of the Edgartown School.

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Lost net

A visiting fisherman stopped into the office with a black hand net he found on the Eastville Jetty. Stop in to claim it, or give me a call at 508-693-6100, ext.13.

Weigh master Roy Langley slid open the door of the Derby weigh station at 8 am, Sunday morning and rang a handbell, signifying the start of the five-week contest. His grandson Nick Jerome, holding two bluefish, was first in line. —Photo by Lynn Christoffers

I set my alarm for 3:45 am. Technically, it would be morning but conceptually, it would be the middle of the night. Despite my misgivings at the loss of sleep and the zombie state it would induce, I was determined to look for a good striped bass on the first day of the 69th Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby that began at 12:01 am Sunday.

I expect that fatigue and fishless nights over the next five weeks will deplete the reservoir of enthusiasm I had at the start of the Derby. But the Derby is a little like a Christmas present — there is plenty of excitement and anticipation while the present is still wrapped.

My preparations began Saturday afternoon after I returned home from hanging a deer stand, the first of several I expect to put up in the weeks ahead. The need to prepare for archery season, which begins one day after the Derby ends, is one of the many logistical hurdles I and many other Island fishermen face, that and the lesser responsibilities of home and the workplace.

The task had gone quickly, as the tree and I are familiar with each other. The bark still retained the scuff marks from the previous year, and I had little doubt I would shoot a deer from that spot. I approach every outdoor season — fish, deer, duck, goose, scallop — with a sense of optimism, not because I expect to reap a bounty but because I am happy to be here to enjoy it.

My plan for the opening day of the Derby was simple. I would put the small fiberglass dinghy I had bought for my wife Norma years ago, which had been resting comfortably upside down in our yard for years providing shelter for mice, into the back of my Nissan pickup. Tom Robinson and I would row across West Basin and cast eels into Menemsha channel before the sun rose. Low tide was 6:30 am. I figured we would have about one hour of productive fishing before the current went slack. I hoped one of us would hook a big striper and walk into the weigh station that morning.

A normal person might have greeted that plan with some degree of skepticism. But Derby fishermen are not normal. Tom asked what time I planned to pick him up. I said 4:15 am. “OK,” Tom said.

Before the sun went down I took my light, nine-foot surf rod out of the basement and put it on my truck. Coop built the rod, a birthday present from Norma with my name on it, more than 20 years ago. The reel is a classic Penn 704Z. It is more than 30 years old, but still has what it takes to wrestle a bass out of the surf. It felt right to begin the Derby with that outfit.

Norma is a Derby wife. By way of definition, she does not like to fish but she understands the Derby state of mind. She did not flinch at the sight of a bucket of eels and the noise of a running aerator in the basement. “Just don’t wake me up,” she said about my plan.

My alarm is set to WCAI, the local NPR station. I was concerned that at that hour the BBC would be reporting in hushed, knowing tones from some distant corner of the world. I worried an English accent might not have what it takes to jar me awake. But my internal Derby clock was all I needed. By 3:30 am I was up and tiptoeing out of the bedroom.

My clothes were laid out on the couch at the ready. I turned on the coffee pot and went downstairs for the eels. As I walked up the steps I imagined what would happen if I were to drop the bucket. The fishing columnist smiled at the thought of the story I might write. The would-soon-be-dead husband gripped the handle more tightly.

Tom was waiting when I pulled into the driveway. In fact, he’d been waiting some time. “I thought you said quarter of four,” Tom said.

There were half a dozen cars and trucks parked at West Basin when we arrived. A few guys were standing in the predawn darkness talking by the back of a truck. I assumed the other vehicles belonged to fishermen on the Lobsterville jetty. The Derby has begun in earnest, I thought,

The crossing was uneventful. The fishing was equally uneventful.

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Fishermen Jim Cornwell of Edgartown greets a well wisher at the Derby weigh station. —Photo by Lynn Christoffers

I caught one bass about 30 inches long and I hooked another smaller fish in the tail. Tom caught no fish. The sun rose and the wind picked up out of the north. By 7 am, I was rowing us with some difficulty, against the wind, back to the dock.

A north wind often triggers albies to feed off Lobsterville Beach and the jetties. Tom and I had brought rods rigged for albies in the event the fish were hitting.

Derby albie fishing is 96 percent waiting, talking, and casting without any evidence of fish, and 4 percent Red Bull–driven panic when the fish break. In the parking area, Phil Horton and Tim Sherren were comparing notes on the morning. Both fishermen had surrendered to the stiffening wind. Had they seen any albies, I asked. A few breaks here and there, but not enough to keep them battling the wind. The conversation all seemed so familiar, so Derby.

I stopped at the Scottish Bakehouse for a cinnamon bun, arguably the best on the Island and my reward, applying Derby logic, for getting up so early. MIke Stimola of West Tisbury was there. I had not seen Mike all summer and was happy to run into him. He had gone out after midnight and been rewarded, Mike said, with a nice striped bass.  He was on his way to weigh it in. We compared notes. I learned later that his fish weighed 19.59 pounds and earned him a third-place daily pin.

It was all so familiar, so welcome, so Derby.

Jason Graves brought his five-year-old daughter Ava and a 19.80 pound striped bass to the weigh station Sunday morning. —Photo by Lynn Christoffers
Jason Graves brought his five-year-old daughter Ava and a 19.80 pound striped bass to the weigh station Sunday morning. —Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Kids day is Sunday

The Kids Mini-Derby is Sunday, Sept. 21, from 6 am to 8 am at the Oak Bluffs Steamship pier. No casting skill is required, and a simple fishing rod will suffice. Simply bait a weighted hook with a piece of squid or sand eel and drop it to the bottom where, with luck, a hungry scup or sea robin lies in wait.

The mini-derby is strictly for kids old enough to hold and reel a fishing rod, through age 14. It is not for adults. No matter how bad you want your kid to catch a fish, do not fish for your kid. It is against the rules, it violates the spirit of the event, it irritates the people who follow the rules, it teaches your kid all the wrong lessons, and if that is not enough, you risk the embarrassment of being told all of the above by a Derby committee member in front of your kid.

It is also the one and only time fishing is allowed from the pier. The event is free, and open to all kids.

Lost fly rod

The Tisbury police are holding a nine-foot, Lamiglas Infinity fly rod turned in over the weekend. Identify the reel and reclaim the outfit. Tisbury police I spoke with expressed no interest in learning to use a fly rod. Most prefer to catch fish with their bare hands —  once it is battered and fried.

69th Derby Grand Leaders (as of Sept. 16)

Boat bluefish: Estey L. Teller, 13.38

Shore bluefish: Clinton A. Fisher, 13.34

Boat bass: Joseph E. Canha, 28.17

Shore bass: Tom E. Barber, 26.53

Boat bonito: Mike J. Balzarini, 7.58

Shore bonito: Kerry Leonard, 6.63

Boat albacore: Mason Warburton, 13.17

Shore albacore: Colin T. Britt, 9.84

(Daily, weekly, and division results are available atmvderby.com.)