|Fluke King Colin Buckley and his entourage, dad Steve, mom Jessica, and sister Layla, at the VFW awards ceremony. Photo by Nelson Sigelman
Seven-year-old strikes it big in VFW fluke tourney
It was clear to me as I surveyed the dozens of boats drifting between Cape Higgon and Cedar Tree Neck over the weekend that the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) annual fluke tournament would likely not be confused with any invitational billfish contest.
It is not fancy and Rolex does not sponsor it. Local Island businesses and individuals provide the prizes and cash support.
This year's tournament featured heightened competition both individually and among the 15 registered teams comprised of up to four fishermen each. And like some good adventure tale, a young boy beat the pirates and won the crown. The only prop missing was a fluke fishing rod to pull out of a stone.
The fluke fleet included a collection of wooden work skiffs, small center consoles, and commercial fishing boats. On board were Island families, husbands and wives and the familiar faces that make up the Vineyard's year-round community.
|Team 4Bs, plus seven-year-old Colin Buckley, pose with Saturday's catch. From left to right: Bob Goff, Bill Dreyer, Ben Ross, Colin and Steve Buckley. Photo courtesy of Bill Dreyer
Brothers Joe and Mike Canha of Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs were out with cousin Sam Jackson of Edgartown in the Canha's boat "Island Style." Husband and wife Gene and Beverly Bergeron of West Tisbury, a team on the land and on the water, were out also looking for big fluke.
For the Fraser family of Oak Bluffs, the tournament is always a family affair. Hospital surgeon Dr. Denise Fraser, Jim Fraser, and their sons, Brian and Douglas (who toughed it out one day despite being ill), were in the hunt for a big one until the end. Brian had his game face on - or to be specific, game haircut, which was a design of a fluke shaved into his head embellished with a pair of stick-on eyes for effect.
Edgartown commercial fisherman Donny Benefit's boat was decked out with lawn chairs for the crew and a large pirate flag flying smartly from the mast. Not quite "Pirates of the Caribbean," but it was an impressive display for Vineyard Sound.
|The pirate flag was flying among the fluke fleet Sunday. On board the Payback: (left to right) Bill Bishop, Jim Klingensmith, and Jim Cornwell. Donny Benefit is out of sight in the cabin, as any good pirate captain should be. Photo by Tom Robinson
Jeff Tomkins of West Tisbury, 2005 Fluke King, was out trying to hold on to his crown, along with teammates brother Mike Tomkins, Ken Silvia, and Joe Fontaine, fishing as team "Twin Hopes."
I was part of a two-man team given the name by my fishing partner Tom Robinson of Vineyard Haven, "Lost at the Net." Early Saturday morning waiting for Tom to get the engine going I thought of changing it to "stuck at the dock" or "devoured by gnats." But after some anxious moments of lots of cranking the Yamaha kicked over and we were on our way to Vineyard Sound.
Saturday was hot and calm and judging by the results it was the best day of fishing. Playing a hunch, Tom and I left the boats clustered off Seven Gates and headed for deep water (passing numerous man-of-war) off Naushon where we caught a regular bouillabaisse that included a huge scup the size of a permit, dogfish, fluke, striped bass, a skate, and several nice-size fluke but no giants. We would finish a respectable eighth.
|The Sole Men hold up the T-shirts they received for their team victory. (From left) Cooper Gilkes, Mike Amaral, Rick Harvey, and Ray Long. Photo by Nelson Sigelman
The Sole Men, led by the fluke whisperer Cooper Gilkes, remained on station and on plan. The boat was loaded with fluke heavyweights and dethroned fluke kings Mike Amaral (king, 2004), Rick Harvey (king, 2002), and Ray Long (second place vassal, 2003).
On Saturday, the Sole Men weighed in four fluke weighing 4.5, 6, 5.1 and 10.3 pounds for a one-day total of 25.9 pounds. But it was not enough to best the total brought in by the 4Bs led by Billy Dreyer of West Tisbury, men's division winner. The four men (including Ben Ross, Bob Goff, and Steve Buckley) weighed in fluke weighing 10.7, 7.7, 6.2 and 6.2 pounds for a total of 30.8-pounds.
In addition to the fluke, Bill reported that Ben Ross also pulled in a new rod and reel attached to a 16-ounce sinker. But the boat's biggest catch of the day was by Colin Buckley, 7, Steve's son, who was along for the ride and not a member of the team.
The first-grader hauled in an 11.9- pound fluke.
Despite his age Colin behaved with the demeanor of a fisherman, which is no surprise since his dad is an experienced charter captain from West Palm Beach. Bill said that when the boy realized he had a big fish he simply sat down and began to reel.
On Sunday the fishing slowed considerably. Fishermen had all they could do to break the four-pound mark.
In the lead Saturday, the 4Bs faltered Sunday, coming up with a 6.5, 3.6, 5.9 and 4.1 pound fluke for a tournament total of 50.9 pounds.
The Sole Men, led by Ricky and Coop's two big fish, stuck to their game plan and pounded Vineyard Sound coming up with a 4.2, 7.4, 9.3 and 4.7 pound fluke for an overall tournament total of 51.5 pounds. It was enough to take a 6-ounce lead and claim the team championship.
Waiting for the awards ceremony to begin Sunday, Bill Dreyer realized the wrong Buckley was on his team. "My only regret," said Bill outside the awards ceremony Sunday, "is that Colin was not part of the team and his dad was on the sidelines."
But Bill went from coach to lawyer when I went up to interview Colin, every bit the self possessed gentleman, who stuck out his hand, looked me straight in the face with his piercing blue eyes and said, "Hi, my name is Colin." I found his poise as impressive as his catch.
Bill was worried I would take advantage of the boy's trustworthy nature under the guise of interviewing him in order to find out where the 4Bs were fishing.
"Colin, you can't tell him where we were fishing," said Bill. "He's going to ask you questions and he's tricky. Just say you caught your fish in Vineyard Sound in the mouth."
I was outraged at Bill's statements. Of course I had every intention of taking advantage of Colin's trusting nature, but Bill actually made me feel guilty wheedling information out of Colin.
Peter Hermann, tournament chairman, began the awards ceremony by describing how the whole contest began. Like so may other Vineyard events, the origin was a few people talking on a winter evening.
The first prize went to Colin who was handed a trophy and in keeping with tradition, a Fluke King crown. Colin turned, put his hands on his hips and struck a Superman pose that brought a big laugh from everyone in the VFW.
Watching the excitement of the kids, one woman laughed and said, "I wish I was young again."
Over the weekend many fishermen were.
Seventh Annual VFW
Fluke Fishing Derby results
Fluke King: Colin Buckley, 11.9 pounds.
Team Division: 1. Sole Men, 51.5 lbs. (Cooper Gilkes, Ray Long, Mike Amaral, Rick Harvey); 2. 4Bs, 50.9 lbs. (Bill Dreyer, Ben Ross, Bob Goff, Steve Buckley); 3. Slabmen, 47.2 lbs. (Jim Choinere, Steve Baron, Karl Callweer, Todd Stempion).
Men's Division: 1. Bill Dreyer, 10.7 lbs. 2. Cooper Gilkes, 10.3 lbs; 3. Jim Choinere, 9.3 lbs.
Ladies Division: 1. Denise Fraser, 7.4 lbs. 2. Annette Cingle, 6.4 lbs. Beverly Bergeron, 5.6 lbs.
Boys and Girls (13-16): 1. Antone Silvia, 7.2 lbs. 2. Emily Williston, 5.3 lbs. Mike Huss, 4.7 lbs.
Boys and Girls (12 and under): 1. Colin Buckley, 11.9 lbs. 2. Sarah Williston, 8.4 lbs. 3. Brian Fraser, 6.8 lbs. 4. Gus Hoy, 5.7 lbs. 5. Connor Chisholm, 4.8 lbs.
Eddy "Bonito" Lepore of Vineyard Haven weighed in a 6.7-pound bonito at Dick's he caught Sunday morning trolling off Cape Poge. I call that an encouraging sign.
Check those flares
The US Coast Guard was checking out boats for proper safety equipment over the weekend and issuing citations for those lacking the proper gear. In particular, one captain received a warning for having out-of-date flares. Don't skimp on safety - those new flares could come in handy in the event of an emergency.
Rene Sehr and Ton Kalkman (aka the Dutch guys) returned to Holland after a fun-filled week of fly-fishing on Martha's Vineyard in June, which included some gentle ribbing during the Catch and Release tournament awards ceremony. Rene is a port controller for the port of Amsterdam and writes an occasional story for Dutch fishing magazines.
A description of his latest trip under the title "USA 2006," along with photos appears on his web site (www.bassflies.nl/usa/usa2006.htm). In part he had this to say: "Ach, we gaan weer sparen en volgend jaar hoop ik toch wel eens mijn 20+ ponder aan de ?vlieg te gaan vangen. We beginnen ... vorige week of vorig jaar ook nog zo slecht geweest. Voor ons is het glas nooit half leeg, maar halfvol."