A family that fishes together wins together

With multiple first-place awards, the Warburtons dominate the state derby.

Islanders are known worldwide for their fishing prowess, and hundreds of anglers come from all over the world to compete in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby every year.

For the Warburton family, Derby season is a time to come together and have a blast out on the water, but it’s also a time for friendly (yet intense) competition.

In 2019, the Warburtons dominated the M.V. Derby, and their hard work and skill, displayed in that competition, bore fruit in the state saltwater derby as well.

Every year, the state awards anglers with either the heaviest catch (weigh-in) or the longest catch (catch and release) of each eligible species in three divisions: men’s, women’s, and juniors. 

Fishing dad Nick Warburton is a commercial and charter fisherman who is well-known on the Island. He has instilled in his children the very same passion for fishing that he has felt since fishing the M.V. Derby when he was young.

The family charter company, Featherwedge Charters, is all about reeling in trophy-size stripers, and even nailing some offshore tuna.

“We’ve been fishing the M.V. Derby as a family for six or seven years. I do a lot of commercial rod and reel fishing, and I run a charter fishing company too,” Warburton said.

Last year, Nick Warburton weighed in a 52-pound striped bass that placed at the top of the state leaderboards for boat fishing in the men’s division (he caught the heaviest striped bass in Massachusetts).

And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as Warburton’s son, Mason, brought in a 37-pound bass, heading up the state leaderboards for junior stripers fishing from a boat.

For that fish, Mason also made it to the Grand Leader stage at the M.V. Derby, alongside his sister, Aubrey.

Aubrey landed a 20-pound bluefish last year that not only won her a car at the M.V. Derby and got her the first-place spot for junior bluefish in the state, but she also broke a world record for bluefish off a boat in the girls small-fry category (from ages 5 to 10). 

Mason also got a big blue in 2017 while fishing from his boat for the 72nd M.V. Derby when he pulled up an almost 19-pound bluefish. His first time as a Grand Leader in the M.V. Derby was in 2014 for his 13-pound false albacore from a boat, for which he also won the state derby in his division.

In 2018, Mason also won the state derby for his 10-pound bonito (needless to say, this family really can fish).

Mason told The Times he started fishing when he was 5 years old, and has been in love ever since. He said his favorite thing about fishing is the feeling of freedom out on the water, and the ability for him to exercise his creativity in landing the biggest fish he can.

Aubrey started fishing around the same age, and said she loves being out on the boat with her family. “It’s just a lot of fun. We’ve seen sharks, turtles, and all sorts of other cool stuff out there,” Aubrey said.

Usually, Warburton said, the family is fishing all the way through to the end of the M.V. Derby season, so they know where they will land in the state competition if they top the boards in the local Derby.

In recent years, Islanders have taken over a large portion of spots on the state leaderboards, and the Warburtons say that won’t change anytime soon.

“The kids have their own Whaler to fish on, then we have our main boat,” Warburton said. “We are really looking forward to it.”

For this upcoming M.V. Derby, Warburton said the family will switch up their tactics because of the ineligibility of stripers in the competition for sustainability reasons.

“This year we’ll focus more on bonito and albacore, and we will be doing plenty of bluefishing too,” Warburton said.