The 42nd annual Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Kids Trout Derby attracted more than 155 young fishermen to the shore of Duarte’s Pond on Lambert’s Cove Road in West Tisbury on Saturday morning.
The competition officially started at sunup, but, with the skies thickly overcast, 5:30 am was the designated starting time. The most dedicated fishermen (along with moms and dads) had arrived hours earlier to claim a prime spot of fishing real estate.
Days earlier, the club had stocked the pond with several hundred trout, paid for by a generous donor. The early-morning fishing tableau presented an idyllic sight: Individuals and small groups of all ages were spread around the edge of the pristine pond — a filled cranberry bog, if truth be told — equipment and supplies at hand, chatting, relaxing, and waiting for a bite.
The operative words Saturday morning were family, fun, and patience. The prevailing view among many participants was that the fish were not biting as much as they would have liked. Ricardo Valentin of Edgartown and his young sons Victor and Diego were still waiting for their first catch midway through the tourney. “We’re hoping. What else can we do?” Ricardo said.
“We caught a trout last year,” added Victor, “but not big enough for a prize.”
Diego summed up the situation: “I like when you catch it.”
Josh Aronie of West Tisbury, accompanied by his 5-year-old son Eli, fished from a narrow wooden boardwalk that splits North and South Duarte Ponds. With many casts and only one fish caught, theirs was a philosophical approach. “You go in, you go out,” Josh said, “and that’s what you keep doing.” Eli, who was wishing for better results, had to agree. “Patience,” he said.
Farther down the bridge, a mother-and-son team were having no better luck. West Tisbury fourth grader Andy Carr and his mom Sarah had started the day on the shore of the pond, but moved to the boardwalk where, according to rumor, the fish were biting. After their first cast “went into the bushes,” they improved their technique, but still with no success.
“Truth is, we’re novices,” Sarah said with a chuckle. “Yeah,” Andy added. “At the Bass and Bluefish Derby last fall, we caught a two-inch black sea bass.” Both laughed at the memory.
Edgartown residents Ryan and Julia Smith, with children Hailey, Mya, and Hudson in tow, were among many families that had set up shop as though on a beach outing. They had arrived at 4 am to grab a comfortable spot and do some fishing before the derby opened. “The fish eat early,” Ryan said.
Unfortunately, the dense cloud cover resulted in zero visibility and serious casting problems. “We did a lot of untangling,” noted Julia. But with daylight came success, as evidenced by three decent-size trout displayed on the ground, one of them a nine-incher caught by 5-year-old Mya.
When the closing horn sounded, everyone gathered at a small tent where prizes awaited. “It’s a fine turnout,” Cooper “Coop” Gilkes, trout derby chairman since its inception, said. “These children are involved in many activities these days, and they still love to fish. Besides, where else do they get to have hot dogs for breakfast?”
Coop thanked the participants, and expressed gratitude to the many sponsors, in particular Caleb Nicholson of Oak Bluffs, a longtime participant and Rod and Gun Club member who, for the past five years, has financed the stocking of the pond.
Coop then turned to the business at hand, the announcement of the winners and the awarding of prizes.
Prizes were given out in five different categories. The grand prizes for largest trout and largest fish of another species went to 11-year-old Tate Buchwald, who caught a pickerel measuring 16.375 inches, and 10-year-old Camden Townes, who landed a trout measuring 14.75 inches. Each girl went home with a new bicycle.
The general consensus among Trout Derby participants: No matter how many fish were caught, it was a lot of fun.
Trout Derby winners
Grand overall winner: Camden Townes, 10, 14.75-in. trout.
Ages 8 and below: 1. Conner Giegler, 5, 14-in. trout; 2. Dreyden Thomas, 7, 13.5-in. trout; 3. Zachary Moore, 6, 13.12-in. trout.
Ages 9-11: 1. Kayleigh Bollin, 11, 14.5-in. trout; 2. Waylon Sauer, 9, 14-in. trout; 3. Christian Turner, 10, 14-in. trout.
Ages 12-14: 1. Jake Scott, 12, 14.5-in. trout; 2. Emmalee Maciel, 12, 12.75-in trout; 3. Riley Sylvia, 12, 12.5-in. trout.
Largest fish of any species: 1. Tate Buchwald, 11, 16.375-in. pickerel; 2. Amber Ventura, 7, 15-in. pickerel; 3. Hunter Meader, 13, 14.5-in. pickerel.