62nd annual bass and bluefish Derby starts Sunday
The 62nd annual Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby begins one minute after midnight Sunday morning. It ends five weeks later at 10 pm, Saturday, Oct. 13.
Many folks throughout New England and elsewhere will focus their attention over the next several weeks on baseball. On Martha's Vineyard the Derby takes center stage.
The members of Red Sox nation all want to meet Big Papi. I want to meet big bass.
I needed the correct spelling of Big Papi. So I asked Times sports editor Don Lyons.
"Faithful Blue" by artist and fisherman Dimitry Schidlovsky is the fourth in a series of oil paintings and signed limited edition prints the Derby committee commissioned to honor the skill and determination it takes to win the grand slam competition.
He immediately assumed I was going to write something derogatory about one of his favorite Red Sox players.
"He's a nice man," Don said to me from his desk across the room. In all fairness Don thinks lots of people are better than they may be, but it is in his nature to think that.
"I'm sure he's a very nice man," I told Don.
My guess is that he is the exception. I do think baseball players do not work as hard as Derby fishermen. I certainly know that they are paid a lot more and produce nothing eatable.
I feel good about my prospects this Derby. I feel less confident about the Red Sox chances in the playoffs.
Last year was not a good year for me. I was in the Derby basement and did not even weigh in a fish.
Last year I relied on the lightning plan. I sat on a beach and waited for Derby lightning to strike. It never did.
I enter the 62nd Derby with a new game plan. It includes more fishing in better locations with a new species of bait.
Some folks who take issue with the way I treat bluefish will immediately jump to the conclusion that I plan to use cat. While it is true that I consider cats to be only slightly above goldfish on the pet scale it is not true.
I have read my Derby rule brochure. It specifically states that Derby anglers may not use cats as bait. It is important to read the rules.
This year there are some changes and additional twists to the Derby competition. Most of the rules are unchanged. I will provide an overview.
The big addition to the competition is a two-man team division. This is in addition to the regular competition and will cost the registrants an additional $10 each (Rules are available here).
The way it works is two fishermen sign up as a team specifying shore or boat division. A team name is a requirement (I suspect the Derby censors will be busy). And teams must register at least 24 hours prior to weighing in a fish.
Each team can count only one fish of any of the four eligible Derby species. For example, let's say my partner Tom Robinson catches a 20-pound bluefish (dream on) and I catch a 15-pound false albacore and 50-pound striped bass (delusions). Our team weight is 85 pounds.
Because this is the first year, the committee decided only to award a nice plaque. There will be no prizes. I think team bragging rights are just fine.
Undoubtedly some fishermen will have some suggestions about ways this can be improved. The committee members will be happy to receive constructive ideas.
One idea intended to drum up excitement, Super Saturday, returns with a slight twist. Each Saturday of the Derby the committee will award a $500 check to the boat and shore fisherman who caught the largest fish of a specific species on that particular Saturday. Bluefish is the species for the first week, followed by false albacore, striped bass, and bonito.
The twist is that on the last Saturday the cash prizes will be awarded in an open drawing for everyone entered in the Derby who has paid the $10 Super Saturday fee irrespective of their fishing luck.
Some Derby rules remain unchanged. But for some reason some fishermen never get around to reading the rules until it is too late.
It is important to pay attention to the boundaries. It is also important to remember that you must weigh in a fish within 12 hours.
Speaking of time, it is very important to keep any fish you catch and plan to weigh in or donate to the fillet program in good condition. That requires putting fish on ice.
If you are on the beach and do not have access to ice you can dig a trench in the sand and cover the fish with damp seaweed. Do not let a fish sit in the sun or in a dry fish box all day and expect the weigh master to accept it.
There are very specific rules about what constitutes a boat fish and a shore fish. That should be simple (if you are in a boat it is a boat fish), but for some people it is not. The one exception is Memorial Wharf in Edgartown where fishermen are allowed to play a fish by stepping onto a rafted boat "accessible to the general public."
The minimum size limits for bluefish (22 inches), bass (32), false albacore (25) and bonito (21) remain unchanged.
A fisherman may only weigh in three false albacore during the entire Derby. I do not expect to have a problem with that rule. I do not think I have caught three in the past three years.
Some Derby rules are based on common sense. For example, register for the Derby before you catch a Derby winning fish and not after.
Some entrants are not aware that the Derby rules require that all fishermen act in a sportsmanlike manner. A man or a woman who acts like a complete jerk - or worse, threatens other people - can be made to answer for his or her actions.
Any person can file a grievance with the committee. Simply describe what happened on a piece of paper noting any witnesses who can corroborate the story and submit it to a committee member.
Derby fishermen need to police the Derby. We cannot leave it to others.
The Derby registration fee is $45 for adults and $20 for juniors and seniors. I think the fee should be reversed. Charge the seniors and kids $45, they can afford it.
For Super Saturday, add another $10. For the team competition, add another $10. For the divorce lawyer you will need to hire after the Derby, add another $10,000.
The Derby web site (mvderby.com) was updated this week. For some time it was inactive. That left a large void in the lives of Derby fishermen who used to spend the time they were not fishing chatting, complaining, and trading tips on the Derby web site forum. The Times has created a Derby topic on the Times reader forum (62nd annual Derby talk) where fishermen can share their thoughts, tips and complaints.
Win a new vest
Tomorrow is the last day to enter to win a 2007 model Hodgman Fly Fishing Vest. The contest rules are simple. Click here to send an e-mail to me, or drop off a description of what is going on in the photo published in last week's issue of a catfish that swallowed a basketball.
I will pick a winner. There are no rules. The contest deadline is Friday, Sept. 7.
Life imitates art
Fishermen can get in the spirit of the Derby and demonstrate an appreciation for art and culture tomorrow night.
From 5 to 8 pm Friday, The Louisa Gould Gallery on Main Street in Vineyard Haven holds an opening reception for a Martha's Vineyard Derby Art show.
The gallery will display the works of a number of fine artists. The lineup includes oil paintings by artist and fisherman Dimitry Schidlovsky, commissioned by the Derby committee to create a signed limited edition print to honor the skill and determination it takes to win the grand slam competition; gyotaku ink fish prints by Steve London; sculptures by Janet Messineo; paintings by Doug Henry; and prints by Peter Corbin.
Derby president Ed Jerome will be present Friday to sign copies of the book "Fishing the Vineyard," by Ray Ellis, Ed Jerome, et al (Compass Books).
The show runs until October 16. For more information, go to www.louisagould.com.