62nd annual bass and bluefish Derby gets off to a fast start
There is a fishing truism that states that ten percent of the fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish. On Sunday, the first day of the 62nd Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, that other 90 percent got lucky.
According to Ed Jerome, Derby president, the first day of the five-week tournament accounted for a record number of fish brought to the weigh station at the edge of Edgartown Harbor.
I count myself among the Derby 90 percent. For several years I have had no reason to visit the weigh station on opening day or any other day except to poke around for a story.
George Moran of Oak Bluffs was the first fisherman through the door. His bass weighed 19.06 pounds. Photos by Ralph Stewart
I will be honest. The Derby makes me jealous of other fishermen. So I prefer to sulk in private.
On Sunday morning I went fishing with Ned Casey and his son Ned off Chappaquiddick. I reeled in a false albacore respectable enough to bring to the weigh station.
In Pennsylvania the opening day of deer season is big. In Vermont it is trout. On Martha's Vineyard it is the Derby. Fishing the first day has become a ritual for many families and friends.
The weigh station is open from 8 to 10 each morning and evening. I thought that if I arrived about 8:30 the initial rush would be over, but I was wrong.
Jim Kresge of Edgartown weighed in the first bluefish of the Derby.
The line of fishermen holding fish wrapped around the Derby weigh station - a small weather-beaten shack that, like a fisherman's version of Brigadoon, appears on the harbor every fall.
Men, women, and children clutched or cradled a mix of bass, bluefish, bonito, and false albacore. In line behind me was Chris Scott of Edgartown, executive director of the Preservation Trust, his wife Pamela, and little daughter Victoria, proudly holding a bluefish.
Familiar faces waited in line ahead of me. As the line slowly moved forward into the shack, fishermen greeted each other and swapped information about the day's fishing.
That the Derby has survived 62 years has much to do with its roots in the community of Martha's Vineyard and the attachment it provides to our community for those who come here for short periods of time.
The Derby has the best attributes of a school reunion without the awkward need to find something to talk about with people you hardly know or remember. The fishing is always the topic.
I arrived at the weigh table out of practice. Evening weigh master Charlie Smith knows the drill well and keeps the flow of fishermen moving.
Weigh master Roy Langley rings in the Derby.
He took my albie and laid it on the table along a tape to be certain it met the Derby's 25-inch minimum length requirement.
Boat or shore?
Fly rod or all tackle?
He placed the fish on the scale. He read off the weight, "10.65, boat, all tackle, badge number 1120," he said. David Crawford, a computer technician who helps keep the technology flowing, recorded the details of my catch.
Charlie handed me my fish. I moved to another table where I received and signed a printed sheet with all the information attesting to my catch.
Outside, disheveled fishermen milled around with Island fans and well-dressed tourists who had wandered over to the building curious about why so many people were walking around carrying dead fish.
Although the 90 percent caught fish, the other ten percent were not idle. Not surprisingly, familiar names were easy to spot on the leader board. Likely they will disappear and reappear in the days ahead, as will the fish.
And the winner is
About a month ago I received an e-mail with several photos of a catfish that swallowed a kid's basketball and a description of what happened.
Supposedly (how can you believe anything on a computer?) a guy who lives at Lake Conroe, Texas, saw a ball bouncing around "kind of strange in the lake" and investigated.
It was a flathead catfish that tried to swallow a basketball. The fish was exhausted from trying to submerge. The man tried unsuccessfully to remove the ball until his wife thought to cut the ball in order to deflate it, thereby freeing the hungry catfish.
I included one photo in a column published on August 30 and asked readers to describe what was going on in order to win a new Hodgman inflatable Fly Fishing Vest.
I received more than 60 contest entries. The majority of those were correct but quite unimaginative (By the way, if you Google the phrase, "catfish with basketball stuck in its mouth," you will find pages and pages on the subject which proves that fish stories sell and the news business is going to hell.)
A few folks had interesting ideas but none came close to Bill Moody of West Tisbury. He wrote: "Many people don't know that when Larry Bird retired, he decided to take up fishing. Now, in the southern United States, there are many ways to catch a catfish. You can go "grabbling" (also known as "noodling"), which entails groping along the banks of ponds and slow-moving rivers to find the holes where big catfish like to hang out. Then you reach in the hole, under water and bare-fisted, and grab on to the lower lip and pull like heck. You can also put a chicken liver on a hook (even a chunk of Ivory soap has been known to work), and fish for the big cats more conventionally - as with a trot line or a rod and reel.
Well, Larry Bird came up with another solution. He would just hang out under the shade of a willow tree in the heat of the summer and wait for a big ol' catfish to come up for a gulp of air. Larry would take a free throw, and there you have it; a fried catfish dinner with hush puppies. Nothing finer!
Now, I know all this about catfish because I grew up in Louisiana before becoming a transplant to Massachusetts 26 years ago. I do miss tangling with a big catfish now and then, but now I'd actually rather catch a striper. (By the way, noodling doesn't work too well on bluefish!)
I placed the correct but boring answers in one hat. I placed the snappy answers in another hat. Then I went through all of the entries and looked for people who said nice things about me. Those I put in another hat.
Then I picked a winner at random - Nichole Napolitano.
Among the entries was an e-mail from Holly. She wrote, "I am writing because I have MS (multiple sclerosis) and I am an avid fisherman with really bad balance. And have a tendency to fall. I wear neoprene waders but they are heavy and too buoyant for me and I have a hard time in them. I just bought a pair of breathable waders but know I don't have any of the buoyancy so I think this vest would be a good idea, and if I can win it well that's even better."
Times editor Doug Cabral agreed to pick up the cost of a vest for Holly.
Since Doug was in a generous mood, I grabbed four Times hats. Those will go to four other winners. The good folks at Entertainment Cinemas in Edgartown (www.yourneighborhoodtheatre.com) provided me with six movie passes that I will also provide as prizes to six lucky readers.
Kayak fishing derby
In recent years the kayak has become an increasingly popular means of fishing. Once thought of as a craft best suited for coastal ponds and bays, kayaks are bobbing up all around the Island including off Squibnocket, where intrepid Island fishermen often fish for big striped bass.
With the Derby in full swing, a pair of kayak enthusiasts decided to have a contest within a contest. Co-organizer Jim Feiner told me, "Kayak fishing is a blast."
Kayak fishermen who want to double dip, competitively speaking, can enter the first Martha's Vineyard Kayak Fishing Derby to be held this Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
Registration for the Kayak contest takes place Saturday between 4 and 7 pm by Little Bridge in Oak Bluffs. The cost to enter is $25 and participants must also be registered for the Derby.
The registration period will include kayak fishing demonstrations and safety and fishing tips (I wonder if that will include how to fend off a great white with a paddle) and hot dogs. The grand prize is a new fiberglass fishing kayak worth $2,800, according to a flyer.
For more information, call Jim Feiner (508-367-0199) or Chick Dowd (508-693-9727).
Kids Day is Sunday
The Kids Mini Derby is Sunday. This free contest is sponsored by the Derby and is designed strictly for kids old enough to hold and reel a fishing rod through age 14.
Fishing is allowed from the Oak Bluffs Steamship pier from 6 to 9 am. Parents and guardians are reminded that this event is for the kids, not adults. That means no stage moms or dads. The pier is for the kids.
Click here for 62nd Derby Results >