Final Derby days 

Gavin Smith holds a king mackerel. — Courtesy Gavin Smith

The Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby is nearly complete, and the general consensus around the Island is, things have been slow. 

Last week’s tropical storm system Melissa stirred things up, making the water weedy and murky, and ground fishing to a near halt for a few days. I had the good fortune to get out on a boat the day after the storm. It was an almost perfect day — the sun was shining, the temperature was reminiscent of summer, and everyone was back on the water after many anglers took a break to stay safe and dry. As someone who fished during the storm, I can tell you that they didn’t miss much. The only thing missing for us on that beautiful day was fish. We spent a little over six hours on the water, and only caught a single sea bass. 

It’s easy to get frustrated when you spend what some would consider an irresponsible amount of time fishing in a tournament with very little to show for your efforts. Just a few days ago I visited one of our local tackle shops. I walked in frustrated, after catching my ninth bonito that was too short to weigh during the Derby. As I gathered a few things to gear up for a night of bass fishing, I overheard a young man who was just getting his Derby pin say something along the lines of, “I would just like to catch one albie.” He had never done it, and had traveled here just for the opportunity. That sentiment reminded me of how lucky I am, and how far I have come personally as an angler. Just last year I did not catch a single bonito during the Derby. I am fortunate enough to live on this amazing Island, and have had the opportunity to catch countless albies. 

I think all of us who sign up for the Derby have some real hope that anything is possible. The weeks roll on, and we tell ourselves that it could happen any minute. As the Derby winds to a close, however, there is a real feeling of urgency. The beaches are packed with anglers, and the rips are stacked with boats as everyone with a pin seems to be trying for that 11th-hour miracle. 

With one more storm system due to hit the Island before the close of the Derby, anything could happen. Every time there is a storm on the horizon, you begin to hear theories. Some believe the fish go crazy in the nasty weather, whereas others fear the outcome of the last storm. As of yesterday, the fishing seemed to be picking up after a dry spell, but Thursday could certainly stir things up again. 

The Derby awards ceremony will be held at Farm Neck Golf Club on Sunday, Oct. 20, at 1 pm. There are still a few days left to catch a fish worthy of a spot on the board, and I for one will be fishing them hopefully. 


Gavin Smith began fishing when he moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 2014. He is a self-admitted novice, but a truly avid one, eager to learn and share as much as he can. Gavin is a private chef and passionate foodie who appreciates the bounty that Vineyard waters provide, and likes nothing more than sharing his passion with his clients. He is a regular contributor to the Fishing Report.