Annual Kids' Trout Derby is a family affair
The best fisherman at the 32nd annual Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club kid's trout derby Saturday morning was a fisher with a distinct advantage. Unlike the hundreds of kids and adults lining the shore of Duarte's Pond in West Tisbury, the single osprey that hovered throughout the morning knew just where to find each trout.
Grabbing a fish out of the water using talons has some definite advantages over power bait and worms. Still, despite the limitations imposed by gravity, line tangles, and brushy obstructions, the kids did pretty well too.
Many of the youngsters arrived well before dawn to secure one of the perennial hot spot fishing locations. Years of experience have proven that not all fishing locations are equal, and some spots seemingly have a family connection, based on the generations of kids that secure them each year.
Joey Uva, Mitchell Chaves, Ryan Uva, and Sami Chaves go toe to toe in the hunt for a big trout. Photo by Brian Jolley
If the early bird gets the worm, it stands to reason that the early fisherman, who arrives before the bird and gets the worm and a good spot from which to cast, also catches the fish. That was true Saturday.
Despite their young ages many of the fishermen are already experienced anglers. For example Harrison Rodrigues of West Tisbury, 11, who was the grand overall winner with a 17-inch trout, took top honors in 2004 as well.
By the time Cooper "Coop" Gilkes, derby committee chairman, sounded a horn about 9 am to end the tournament, many derby veterans had caught winning fish. For other young fishermen, the day provided a pleasant introduction to a fishing tradition now three decades old, and running.
Standing beside her father Bill O'Brien, Katherine O'Brien, 2, said she had caught three fish. "The rainbow one is the biggest one, right daddy?" she told The Times with confirmation from her dad. Her sister, Elizabeth, 6, said she had caught one fish and seemed equally pleased.
The success of the tournament had much to do with the volunteers who rose very early that morning to lend Coop and Bob DeLisle, club president, a hand and make sure everything was ready for the kids. They are the men and women who turn out in fair weather and foul each year to dole out donuts, hot dogs and hot chocolate, measure fish, arrange tackle and when called upon, console a young fisherman confronted with the hard realities of the one that got away.
Sisters Elizabeth and Katherine O'Brien prepared a comfortable resting spot for their trout. Photo by Brian Jolley
"This is my third," said Vito Palermo of Edgartown, club treasurer, standing pond-side as kids and the osprey competed to catch the largest fish.
A former IBM executive living in Connecticut, his Vineyard retirement began when his wife, Mary Ann visited some friends on the Island. "She was here two days and called me up and said, mind if I put a deposit on some land?"
He joined the rod and gun club to meet people and keep busy. That led to two new hobbies - shooting skeet and fishing - and volunteering to help out with the kid's derby.
"To me it's just amazing how many people show up and the fact that so many kids show up with parents," said Vito. "And to watch some of these kids and their faces when they reel in a fish, it's unbelievable."
Club member Fergus Henderson of Edgartown was busy grilling hot dogs, the breakfast of choice for young trout fishermen. "I volunteered to help Coop," said Fergus standing next to the gas grill, "and he said, the hot dog guy left, be there at three [am]; so I was, foolishly."
But Fergus was smiling as he spoke and obviously enjoying himself. Particularly when he tried to pawn off a well-cooked hot dog on Cliff Meehan, club treasurer and another long-time volunteer
Riley Amaral and mom Lorie Pinkham went home with a first-place trophy and a prize. Photo by Cooper Gilkes
A builder of fine homes and avid outdoorsman, Cliff said he attended his first kid's derby in 1979 with his twin girls Kurstin and Jackie, now 22-year-old college students.
Cliff recently spoke to Kurstin, a student at California State Hayward. She said she still misses the derby. "One day I'll be bringing grandchildren," said Cliff. "I'm looking forward to that."
Cliff said his greatest reward comes from watching the kids. "The best part is seeing the smallest kids come in with the first fish of their life," he said.
There are also lessons to be learned. Cliff related a story about how he told one disappointed youngster who had not caught a fish to keep at it. Eventually he did catch a trout.
"They learn something about being patient and fishing," he said.
The osprey that continued to hover over the pond as the last families left needed no lessons.
Grand overall winner: Harrison Rodrigues, 11, 17.75-inch trout.
Largest fish of any other species: Devon Metters, 7, 19-inch pickerel.
Through 8 years old: (1) Riley Amaral, 5, 17.5-inch trout; (2) Cameron Maciel, 7, 16.5-inch trout; (3) Cabot Thurber, 4, 15.35-inch trout.
9 to 11: Gabe Bergeron, 10, 15.75-inch pickerel (2) Anais Bermudes, 9, 15-inch trout; (3) Amber Bettencourt, 8, 14.25-inch trout.
12-14: Emma Forbes, 12, 16.5-inch trout; (2) Kara Steigelman, 12, 13.75-inch trout; (3) Leanne Jackson, 14, 9.5-inch catfish.
Dr. Lawrence Sack Memorial awards: Shannon Levesque; Curtis Fournier.
Lucky fisherman draw winners: Katherine O'Brien, Gordon Lapierre, Vinnie DeGregori, Connor Bettencourt, Marcus Behr, Wesley Haeselbarth, Jacob McCraden, Joey Uva, Chris Costello.