Derby fates favor '06 winner, and an 8th grader
Derby honors are one thing, but Derby stories are something else
It is likely that many of the more than 3,000 fishermen who fished day and night in the 62nd Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby that ended Saturday looked up at a star-filled sky with the hope that he or she would catch a winning fish.
A few fishermen, the better students of ancient Greek history among us, might have been able to pick out a constellation. The gods and goddesses of Greek mythology included three sisters, the Moirae, the goddesses of destiny who assigned each person his or her fate.
The Derby has a mythology. It is built on 62 years of big fish caught and big fish lost; legendary fishermen and magical places with names like Squibnocket and Wasque and Devils Bridge.
And the Derby has its fates. How else to explain the Island boat fisherman who caught a grand leader fish and won the truck grand prize for the second year in a row; or the Oak Bluffs eighth grader who caught and lost and caught again the heaviest bluefish? Or the man who caught the winning bluefish that wasn't?
And the Derby has its grandmothers. There is no substitute for a grandmother's intuition.
Former Derby chairman Don Mohr of West Tisbury received a warm welcome from the crowd.
Sigh of relief
As did many Derby fishermen, Tom Robinson and I fished to the end of the Derby Saturday night. I really wanted to go home, but I could not. The Derby does that to you.
Tom and I were sitting on the beach at West Chop. I calculated that we had to fish until 9:30 pm. After that I said we would be unable to make the weigh station in Edgartown before the weigh master rang the bell at 10 pm to officially end the 62nd Derby.
In a delirious afterthought that reflected the sort of irrational beliefs that fuel Derby fishermen, I told Tom that if one of us did catch a winning fish we could just throw our rods up on the beach and run for the truck.
Tom assured me he could make it to Edgartown in 15 minutes. I reasoned that any Island police officer would never stand in the way of a Derby fisherman rushing to the last weigh-in.
Tom said that wouldn't matter because we would lose precious minutes explaining the story to the policeman. I said we would just have to go for it and explain the story to the officers chasing us once we arrived.
Thankfully my OJ in a white Bronco with a Derby fish scenario did not play out. We said "no mas" and went home.
The official five-week weigh-in tally was 1,413 bluefish, 432 bonito, 509 albies, and 745 striped bass. My sense is that the shore fishing for bluefish, striped bass, and bonito was slow.
Zachary (left) and Zeb Tilton fish together and won together.
The big fish story was the big weight story. Lev Wlodyka, who would end up setting a new grand slam record, caught a 57.56 pound bass that, unknown to him, contained 10 lead weights, which the fish likely ingested as a result of a fishing technique known as yo-yoing.
Although the entire episode was upsetting for the committee members and Lev, it put a spotlight on a technique that is effective but potentially harmful.
The way in which the Derby committee responded also said something about the tribal nature of a fishing contest that reflects the divisions, alliances, and values of the Island community. And the value of not getting lawyers involved.
In Afghanistan, tribal leaders convene what is called a "loya jirga" (literally, a "grand assembly") to deal with important issues. On the Vineyard the Derby convenes a committee meeting with representatives of the Menemsha clans, charter warlords, and tribal members from Oak Bluffs and Edgartown sheiks to hash out issues. Somehow it all works out and it did in the 62nd Derby.
W. Brice Contessa and Robert Morrison won several fly rod awards.
Derby's big moment
On Sunday afternoon, approximately 300 Derby fishermen, well-wishers, and family members gathered for the Derby awards ceremony in the Outerland nightclub. Those gathered included the eight grand leaders, the four boat and four shore fishermen who had caught the heaviest fish of each of the Derby's four species.
The ceremony began with introductions by long-time Derby president Ed Jerome and tireless committee chairman John Custer. One by one fishermen of all ages, many already familiar to the crowd, took to the stage to receive awards in numerous categories.
But that was all a prelude to the highlight of the Derby awards, the moment when Ed calls the eight grand leaders up to the stage.
Each grand leader reaches into a box and picks a number that determines his or her place in the four-person line up in the boat and shore divisions. In turn each person picks a key.
One by one Ed takes the key and inserts it into a padlock held next to a microphone and tries to turn the key.
On Sunday the boat division holder of the key that opened the lock would win a 2008 Chevy Silverado 4X4, courtesy of the Clay Family Dealerships and that wonderful Chappy fishing couple, Bob and Fran Clay.
The shore fisherman with the right key stood to win a 19-foot Boston Whaler Montauk, Mercury outboard, and trailer, courtesy of the Derby and Boston Whaler.
Derby fates intervene
Among the eight grand leaders on stage that day hoping to win a new truck or boat were two brothers who fish hard together, Zeb Tilton, who caught a winning 56.51-pound boat striped bass, and Zachary Tilton, whose 40.61-pounder topped the shore bass division.
For Clark Goff Jr., a Chilmarker who now lives in North Carolina, it must have seemed like a dream. The first albie he ever caught weighed 15.86 pounds, and now he was up on stage as his parents, Pam and Clark, looked on from the seats in front.
Geoff Codding, boat bonito winner, had been on stage only the year before with a winning boat albie. He arrived for Sunday's ceremony in the truck he won that day.
The Beaulieu/Loud Memorial award for a parent-child fishing team went to Patrick Jenkinson and his son Wyatt.
Up until last year the Derby fates had not been kind to Geoff, who had been bumped out of the grand leader spot to second place eight times.
The fates were certainly looking out for 13-year-old Christopher Morris who earned his place among the adults on stage when he caught an11.70-pound shore bluefish that put him in the grand leader spot.
Chris fishes with his dad, Steve Morris, former Derby chairman and owner of Dick's tackle shop in Oak Bluffs. The Derby schedule was homework then fishing.
Father and son were casting eels when Chris hooked a nice bluefish that broke his line. "So he retied and he started casting again," said Steve, "and darn if he didn't catch another one."
When Steve went to unhook the fish, he could not believe his eyes. "Chris," he shouted to his son, "it's got your other hook and eel in its mouth."
William C. Kadison and Isabella El-deiry won the Victor Danberg Trophies.
Unknown to Chris, a larger bluefish would be caught only two days before the end of the Derby when Al Mattera of Rochester hooked a 11.99-pound bluefish at Wasque while fishing with a group of friends that included Richard McCauley of Randolf.
Thirteen years ago Richard and his family established an award to honor his brother Tom, a dedicated Derby fisherman who died unexpectedly less than one month before the start of the 50th derby. Like many Derby fisherman Tom had a favorite registration number.
The Thomas McCauley Award allows any fisherman, registered in the Derby or not, to weigh in any size fish under badge number 204, Tom's number, for a chance to win a new reel in a drawing.
When Al walked into the weigh station Friday with his bluefish and told the weigh master to weigh it in under badge 204 the weigh master looked at him and asked, "What number?"
Al told him he wanted to put it under badge 204 and that was that. When I heard the story Sunday I could think of no non-alcoholic reason for Al's decision. Days later Richard provided me with an explanation.
Al had not registered in the Derby. I asked Richard what Al said when he found out his fish would have earned him thousands of dollars in prizes and a chance to win a boat. "Actually, he hasn't found out yet," said Richard Tuesday. "We're afraid to tell him."
Professional fly fishermen Marika Cicoria and Alberto Salvini traveled from Italy to fish the Derby and film it for an Italian fishing show.
A combination of fate, luck and fishing skill had assembled eight Derby fishermen on stage Sunday. Bruce McIntosh was the first boat fisherman to hand Ed his key and wait apprehensively for the sound of a click as the lock snapped open.
Zeb Tilton was next. The crowd murmured with excitement when Sandy Fisher, the third man in line handed Ed his key. It did not turn and Sandy gave the last man in line a big hug as the crowd roared.
Ed turned Geoff's key in the lock. Click.
All attention focused on the shore fishermen. Chris handed Ed his key as the crowd held their collective breath and the room grew silent. Click.
Jonathan Mayhew holds his daughter Maggie, mini-junior bonito winner.
Chris looked stunned as Ed, former Edgartown School principal, embraced the young boy. Steve stepped up on stage and gave his favorite fishing partner a hug. Asked for a comment, the most he could muster was, "This is awesome."
Among those in the crowd shouting for joy was Emily Frank of Edgartown, Christopher's grandmother. She almost did not make the ceremony.
Emily had made plans with her sister Mardell Francis to go off-Island Sunday to attend a nephew's baby shower. When Dottie Grant, Emily's friend heard about her plans to go off-Island she told her, "You're going to be sorry if he wins that boat."
"So I went to Mardell's," said Emily, "and I kept thinking about it and I thought, I can't go, he'll probably win that boat and then I'll be so mad that I wasn't there. So I took her to the boat, I went home and called Dottie, and she came and picked me up and we went up there."
Emily said she was watching Ed Jerome when he took her grandson's key and could tell it was going to open by the way his thumb was moving. "And I just let out a scream cause it went click. I was overwhelmed."
Chris Morris, with his grandmother Emily Frank and parents Cathy and Steve Morris, aboard his new boat.
Special Presentations and Awards
Top Rod Award, awarded to the individual who has won the highest number of daily pins at the close of the derby:
All tackle: David C. Kadison (10); Junior: Brendan R. Morris (14).
Wayne Jackson Memorial Award, for the heaviest fish caught by a junior: Dale E. McIntosh, II (striped bass, 35.92 lbs.).
Victor Danberg Trophies, for the heaviest bluefish caught by a junior boy: William C. Kadison, 14.31 lbs.; for the heaviest bluefish caught by a junior girl: Isabella El-deiry, 13.05.
Chamber of Commerce Award for the heaviest false albacore caught by a junior: Jacob S. Waters-Maciel, 10.83 lbs.; for the heaviest shore bluefish caught by a senior: Art Geary, 10.88 lbs.
Dr. David Finkelstein Award (1) for the heaviest boat bluefish: Bruce E. McIntosh, 14.62 lbs.; for the heaviest shore bluefish: Chris A. Morris, 11.70 lbs.
George H. Pye Award, for the heaviest shore bluefish caught by a resident: Stephen F. Amaral, 8.54 lbs.; caught by a non-resident: Art Geary, 10.88 lbs.
Brendan R. Morris won the junior Top Rod award.
daRosa Awards For the heaviest overall bluefish: Bruce E. McIntosh, 14.62 lbs.; For the heaviest overall striped bass: Zeb Tilton, 56.51 lbs.
James P. Catlow Memorial Award for the heaviest shore bluefish caught by a male resident: Chris Morris, 11.70 lbs.
Thomas Nessa Memorial Award awarded to the individual who weighs the heaviest striped bass on the first day of the tournament: Tom L. Langman, 36.21 lbs.
Bill Ashak Memorial Award for the largest shore bass caught by a junior: William B. Stewart, 23.71 lbs.
Kastmaster Joe Memorial Award in memory of Joseph Kresky awarded to the individual who weighs in the heaviest shore bluefish on the first day of the tournament: James K. Kresge, 9.65 lbs.
Abe Williams Memorial Award awarded to first all-tackle angler to record a shore Grand Slam: Julian Pepper.
Derby Special Awards - 2007
Madison Alwardt Memorial (bluefish)
Boat: Dick Cudmore
Shore: Art Geary
Bob Clay congratulates Geoff Codding in front of the boat grand prize.
Ray Metcalf Memorial (striped bass)
Boat: Ed Amaral
Shore: Wallace White
Arnold Spofford Memorial (bonito)
Boat: Tom Langman
Shore: Bernie Arruda
Howie Leonard Memorial (false albacore)
Boat: Don MacGillivray
Shore: George Gomez
Thomas McCauley Memorial Award (for any species weighed in under badge number 204)
Cutler Bike Shop Award
Dale McIntosh; Chris Morris.
David Furino Memorial Award (sibling spirit)
Christopher and Maggie Mayhew.
Beaulieu/Loud Memorial (awarded to a parent child fishing team)
Derby president Ed Jerome hugs Christopher Morris, Derby shore bluefish grand leader and the winner of a new boat, motor, and trailer. Photo by Louisa Gould
Patrick and Wyatt Jenkinson.
Roberto Germani Release Awards
Flyrod: Patrick Paquette
All-Tackle: Sandy Lockwood
Robert "Huff" Langley Memorial Award
Boat: "Wampum" (Lev Wlodyka, Geoff Codding)
Shore: "Hanapa'a" (Morgan Taylor, Julian Pepper
Creek Company Flyrod Shore Award
W. Brice Contessa
Congratulations to all the fishermen in the 62nd Derby. This is my last regular fishing column of the season. It provides an opportunity to say thank you to the many people who shared their stories and photographs with me and say thank you also to my many readers for their words of support.
Click here for 62nd Derby Results >