For Islanders, it is Derby time

Armando and Tatiana Silva of Minas Gerais, Brazil enjoyed some pre-Derby fishing in Edgartown Harbor Monday. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The 67th annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby begins at 12:01 am, this Sunday. It will end at 10 pm on Saturday, October 13.

There should be a test for people who drive vehicles with cutesy license plates that advertise an undying connection to the Vineyard — you know who you are. Drivers who know nothing about the Derby should be forced to go with numbers when it comes time to renew their registration.

Or at the very least, be required to read a copy of, “Reading the Water: Adventures in Surf Fishing Martha’s Vineyard” (if you can find a copy) by Bob Post, or “The Big One, An Island, an Obsession and the Furious Pursuit of a Great Fish,” by David Kinney.

Both books describe the madness that takes over the Island each fall. Irrespective of whether a person fishes or not, the Derby seeps into day-to-day life.

Much will depend on the fishing. If albies and bonito, daytime fish, show up in any numbers close to shore off Lobsterville beach, Menemsha or Edgartown it is a good bet that “the guy” will not show up. Fill in the blank with carpenter, electrician, plumber, landscaper….

Island contractors of all stripes are extremely good at balancing the demands of work with the demands of their outside fishing, hunting, and golf schedules. It demands skill to handle seasonal clients who assume, rightly or wrongly, that their job is a priority.

Not too long ago, while on our way to fish up Island, I had an opportunity to quiz a friend well versed in speaking to clients about what he says to provide hope but no commitment.

Here is what we came up with. My translation is provided in the parentheses: Weather permitting, we should be able to get it done (Too windy to fish, too hot to play golf); Oh, I think we can get some of it done (If I need money to buy some new tuna gear); We’ll see what happens (he knows what will happen but does not have the heart to tell you); I should be able to get it in later this week (based on the Aztec calendar); We ran into a problem with our equipment (he means his boat is fixed and he is taking it out).

I invite readers to submit other examples.

The derby entry fee is $45 for adults and $20 for juniors and seniors. Even if you have never caught a big fish in your life, join the Derby. Think of it as a donation, or an insurance policy — whatever makes it easy to part with the money, but do not assume that because you are new to the game you do not have a chance to catch a winning fish.

One lucky cast is all it takes. It has happened in the past, and it will happen again.

Splash down

Two weeks ago, I described the addition of splash rails to my Tashmoo-18 (Aug. 23, “Dumb boat owner turns to smart rail for a dry ride”). It was a do-it-yourself job using a product called Smart Rail, which relies on a specially designed PVC rail and space-age adhesives.

East Chop, West Chop, and the ferry wake provided a good test of the product. It was a success.

My boat will never be dry, but the annoying wash over the gunwales I had tolerated for years, even in a slight chop, was gone. Best of all, when I returned to the dock, the rails were still in place, a testament more to the quality of the adhesive than my do-it-yourself skill and workmanship.

But boat ownership is a curious thing. For years I took a benign neglect approach. But one improvement begets the notion that you should make another improvement.

I had ignored the rust stain seeping from my forward eye bolt. I had not waxed the hull in two years and it showed. I decided to spruce the Tashmoo up.

The last time I cleaned my boat I used a product called Star Brite Premium Marine Polish. One coat lasted an entire season and the hull looked great. Why mess with success, I thought.

So I walked over to our local West Marine in Vineyard Haven. The 16-ounce Star Brite polish was marked at $29. I could not imagine the price had jumped that much. But I wanted the product.

I found that the same polish is available for about $18 on the web from marine discount websites and Amazon. Why West Marine sells it for approximately 50 percent more is curious.

I contacted Bill Lindsey, Star Brite marketing manager, for some more information. He was generous enough to send along a sampler.

I learned that Star Brite makes an array of cleaning and polishing products and fuel additives for boats, vehicles and planes, and has a well-earned reputation for quality products, judging by the comments on web forums.

Bill sent along a bottle of Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment. “We sell 5 million bottles annually so it either works or I am an exceptionally talented marketing person,” Bill said. “Try it in the worst running engine you can find. Pour it into the fuel, start the engine, and see what happens.”

I run a two-stroke that appears to be impervious. But many people I know have had nothing but engine fuel problems. I did add it to my gas to see how it performs.

The hull cleaner was awesome. It removed the yellow stains from my trailer guide bunks on the gelcoat that I could not remove with acetone or strong detergent, the squid ink stains generated by cutting up bait while fluke fishing, and blood stains — mine and bluefish. If I thought I could brush my teeth with it and survive I would try it.

Of course, once the stains were gone I needed to apply the marine wax and polish. Star Brite polish includes PTEF®, the company’s registered trademark name for polytetraflouroethylene. It is similar to teflon and provides a slick finish that makes cleanup easy.

I am not a detail guy. My idea of waxing anything is to slather it on and wipe it off as quickly and as effortlessly as possible. I once left a hazy car wax finish on a car because I got tired of trying to wipe it off. Applying and removing the Star Brite was quite easy. In fact, I did the job in about 25 minutes.

Now my boat looks so darn shiny and new I do not want to use it. Boat ownership is a never-ending headache.

Lobster trap cutbacks

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) may be best known on the Vineyard for its regulatory role in striped bass management. But stripers are only one species in the ASMFC portfolio.

Last month, the ASMFC approved a plan to dramatically reduce the amount of lobster traps permitted for state and federal waters south of new England. The ASMFC said there are more traps than needed to fish an ever-dwindling resource and cutbacks are necessary to avoid overfishing if and when the resource rebounds. Vineyard lobstermen will be hard hit.

The Commission’s American Lobster Board approved an addendum to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for American Lobster that will cut the overall number of traps allocated in state waters by 25 percent in year one and then by 5 percent for the following five years, ultimately reducing total traps allocated by 50 percent.

Trap totals in federal waters will be cut back by 5 percent each year for five years, totaling 25 percent. That is on top of a recent cutback of approximately 30 percent.

“The Addendum responds to the depleted condition of the Southern New England (SNE) lobster resource and the Board’s intent to scale the capacity of the SNE fishery to the size the SNE resource, with an initial goal of reducing qualified trap allocation by at least 25 percent over a five to ten year period,” the ASMFC said in a press release. “For trap limits to be effective in reducing harvest and rebuilding the stock, latent effort must first be addressed to prevent this effort from coming back into the fishery as the stock grows and catch rates increase.”

I checked in by email with Menemsha lobsterman Wayne Iacono about how these rule changes would affect him.

Wayne responded, “Not good for us. My son wants to come with me and with a smaller amount of gear it will be difficult to make any money for two of us. Once again the big guys will be able to buy more tags to get back to their original levels while we small single handed vessels get screwed. Lobsters have rebounded pretty good with our past conservation practices and we don’t think this drastic cut is needed. If everyone was able to fish the same amount of gear, then that would be a better solution. Say maybe 400 per boat. For everyone!”

For more information on the rules, go to