Trout and turtles and kids, oh my
It was a perfectly wonderful scene. A little girl holding a bullfrog walked into the tent set up for the Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Kids Trout Derby Saturday morning and plunked the understandably jumpy amphibian down on the measuring table.
Despite its official name, the annual derby is not species-specific. The longest critter qualifies. The frog, its legs extended to full thrust, was duly measured next to a ruler and declared to be ten and one half inches long.
The frog objected, squirmed free and made a hop for freedom. Doyle Bunch, one of the many volunteers seated at the table, quickly corralled the critter and handed it back to eight-year-old Erin DeBettencourt of Oak Bluffs.
Erin took the frog in the white cloth she had used to carry it from Duarte's Pond to the tent. It appeared to be her only concession to any squeamish tendencies.
Janet Messineo of Tisbury, a well-known Island fisherman and taxidermist, suggested the frog might be a prince in disguise. However, the price of discovery was too high for Erin. She passed on a kiss.
The frog joined a morning lineup that included brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, pickerel, catfish, hornpout, and several turtles.
The trout derby began 35 years ago. It remains a testament to the spirit of the Martha's Vineyard community and the timeless pleasure of watching children catch fish.
As they have for more than three decades, tournament chairman Cooper "Coop" Gilkes and his wife, Lela, the clerk of the works for most everything Cooper is involved in, rose very early in the morning. Young fishermen had already claimed prime spots by the time the couple arrived at the pond off Lambert's Cover Road in West Tisbury in the dark.
"I arrived here at five," said Brian Welch of Oak Bluffs with his son Brendan perched on his shoulders. "I thought it was kind of early. but the place was already packed."