Gone Fishin' : Familiarity breeds success in Kids' Trout Derby
The shouting erupted from a knot of kids and parents, one of many groups at the shore of Duarte's Pond in West Tisbury. The excited tone was unmistakable. Someone had caught a nice fish.
"That'll be a big one," said Cooper Gilkes, Kids' Trout Derby chairman, to one of the volunteers sitting behind the measuring station table in a tent set up on a patch of lawn next to the pond.
Within minutes, Harrison Rodrigues, 9, of West Tisbury arrived at the weigh station tent carrying a whopping 19.5-inch trout. It would be the largest trout caught that morning and the grand prize winner in the 30th annual Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Kids' Trout Derby.
For many Island kids, the annual trout tourney is their first introduction to fishing, a gentle precursor to future days on the water and the Island's liveliersaltwater action.
On Saturday, more than 250 kids tried their luck. Although not all went home with a trout, at least one young boy demonstrated that he was already developing the philosophical approach needed to take the vicissitudes of both fishing and life in stride.
"Come on kiddo," I heard a dad say to a little boy following him up a path back to the road before the end of the contest. The little boy, still maintaining his leisurely pace, said reassuringly, "Well, I caught a lot of catfish anyway."
It used to be that fishing was one of the main activities the Island offered young people. Not any more. Many young fishermen had arrived before dawn, put in an hour of fishing, then left for soccer or baseball practice.
Young fishermen were not the only early risers. Cooper, and his wife Lela, official record keeper, were up at 3 am to begin getting ready for the fishing contest. At the pond they were joined by numerous volunteers, preparing to dole out hot dogs, donuts, hot chocolate, worms, and tackle.
The morning broke clear, sunny, and cool. On an adjacent pond, several pairs of geese, displaced by all of the commotion, honked impatiently as they waited for the intruders to leave.