Martha’s Vineyard fishermen claim Island cup

Jim Cornwell of Edgartown fished Nantucket beaches this past weekend from Nantucketer Peter Krough's vintage Willeys on South Shore. — Photo by Jon Cornwell

Members of the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association traveled to Nantucket last weekend and beat their sandbar counterparts on their own turf, to take the 6th annual “Island Cup” catch-and-release surfcasting tournament.

It was not exactly on a par with Chicago Blackhawks victory over the Boston Bruins in the Garden, but it was close. Team coach and cheerleader Victor Colantonio, who lives on a sandbar called Chappy, told me in an email that the surfcasters outfished their rivals by a meager 2.25 pounds.

But the contest was not without a twist. When the clearer minds among the group tabulated the results on Sunday, the Nantucket team had won by 12 pounds. When even clearer minds rechecked the fgures on Monday, the Vineyard team was victorious by 2.25.

According to Victor, Nantucket captain Scott Whitlock rechecked the final figures and determined that there had been a double count on his side. “Much to everyone’s surprise, his recalculation reversed the Nantucket win by 12 pounds and showed the Vineyard on top by just over 2 pounds. Whitlock immediately notified all of the contestants of the new score, rescinded the award to his team and awarded the trophy to the Vineyard at noon, Monday.”

The Vineyarders caught and released a total of 106.95 pounds versus 104.7 pounds for Nantucket. “This was the closest margin of victory in the six-year history of the contest,” Victor said.

A total of 24 fishermen put lines in from 5 pm Friday to noon, Sunday.

The Vineyard team fielded ten: Victor, Jim Cornwell, Jon Cornwell, Peter Sliwkowski, John Piekos, Jim Mullen, Jim Fraser, Joel Graves, Jason Graves, and Bob “Hawkeye” Jacobs. If those names sound familiar it is because they often appear on the daily Derby list.

The Vineyarders were matched against 14 Nantucket Anglers’ Club (NAC) members. Great hosts and eager for the competition, more Nantucketers turned out to fish than there were Vineyarders to match.

In four instances, two Nantucketers fished against one Vineyarder. The Nantucket duos averaged the weight of their largest bluefish and bass to arrive at a total team weight.

If the fishing was good, the food sounded even better. Victor said that Scott and Susan Whitlock hosted the fishermen at their home for a cookout on Saturday “with special treats of a cured leg of venison prepared ‘Parma Style’ by Denny Dias, sweets contributed by Sherry Ostrander and beer and wine provided by George Williams.”

I keep hearing that seals are a problem on Nantucket and have come to associate fishermen with a free meal much the way grizzly bears associate food with campers. Of course, in the case of bears, the meal is sometimes the camper. That is not the case with seals, yet.

“With just two hours remaining before the horn,” Victor said, “the very well respected Nantucketer Campbell Sutton hooked a 36-inch bass on the south side witnessed by six anglers from each side including Joel Graves and Nantucketer Dave Dauphinee, who then were dead-even in the biggest bass category.

“Joel and Dave watched their nice cash prize go up in smoke as Campbell worked the striper onto the beach. In a split second, a huge horse head seal swooped in like a fighter jet, slid across the foam onto the beach and with a flick of its tail surrounded the fish back into the surf. A moment later the seal had the fish in its jaws 20 feet from shore where it stayed for 20 minutes enjoying its breakfast, much to the chagrin of Sutton.

“John Piekos estimated the lost fish to weigh 14 pounds which would have given Nantucket the contest and Campbell sole possession of the largest bass kitty without a doubt. With a little time to kill, the anglers held a brief casting contest trying to retrieve Campbell’s lure, floating 40 yards off shore, which John Piekos hooked up with his dead-eye targeting.”

The Island Cup will be held on Martha’s Vineyard next June. Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters are working hard to enlist local anglers to host the Nantucketers next year.

“It would be nice to get up to 18-20 anglers per side,” Victor said. “It is wonderful to see the contest growing on Nantucket to the point that they have to turn away anglers willing to host a Vineyarder. Our goal is to match up, one-on-one with an opposing Island host without the need to handicap or double up.”

Of the seal problem, Victor said, “Big or little, they lay just off shore eyeing the beach waiting for a hook-up. Then they spring into action to the point that it can be very difficult to get fish to shore without a seal stealing the catch. Nantucket has a local group that is attempting to influence federal regulators to allow certain activities, including culling, that discourage seals from confronting anglers along the shore.”

One more word

Last week, I described the results of the rod and gun club Catch and Release tournament and told the story of Army Captain Nicholas Blair, 27th En Bn (C) (A), of Norton, who won $605 cash and asked that the club give it to the Wounded Warrior project.

This week I want to highlight several other acts of generosity that were emblematic of the tournament. Gift certificates in the amount of $50 to Dick’s and Larry’s were among the prizes handed out. Two fishermen, I did not get the names, handed the gift certificates back and asked that they be used to help kids go fishing. I gave the certificates to Tisbury School principal John Custer who said he would be able to put them to good use.

And once again, Ralph Norton of Oak Bluffs handed club president Bob deLisle a check for $500 in memory of his father, Billy Norton, to help fund the annual spring kids trout derby. That was in addition to a rod donated in memory of his brother Tim.

Many other fishermen, including the Beaulieu family, donated prizes in keeping with the spirit of a contest that puts the focus on the fishing and not the catching.

Courtesy vessel exam

The Martha’s Vineyard Coast Guard Auxilliary Detachment of Flotilla 11-2 will perform courtesy vessel examinations from 10 am to 2 pm, Saturday, June 29 in three locations: the Oak Bluffs town marina; the Lagoon Pond launch ramp in Vineyard Haven and at Maciel Marine off Lagoon Pond Road in Vineyard Haven.

The voluntary safety inspections are intended to promote boating safety and are not part of law enforcement, according to a press release.

Boats that pass the examination receive a decal that can be displayed as a sign of the owner’s commitment to safe boating practices. Failure of an exam results in a list of corrective actions suggested by the examiner. There is no fine or warning.

The vessel safety check is available online at