Vineyard tops Nantucket in fishing contest

Island Cup trophy returns to the Vineyard after weeklong event comes to a close.

Nantucket angler Kurt Wiggin hands over the Island Cup to one very happy Jason Patterson of the Vineyard Surfcasters. — Courtesy Victor Colantonio

The Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association brought home the Island Cup trophy after a weeklong fishing battle with our rival island, Nantucket.

Of course, the tournament builds camaraderie, and is all about good fun and good sportsmanship, but that’s not to say things don’t get intense.

The Nantucket Anglers Club still leads in the annual competition, 8-6, but fishing is about fun and friends, so at the end of the day, everybody wins. 

Apart from this year, where anglers from both islands were forced to fish on their home turf due to travel restrictions, the fishermen would do a sort of angler’s exchange program.

Folks from the Vineyard would travel to Nantucket one year and stay with their competitors, then alternate to the Vineyard the following year, and so on.

Last year, Nantucket took the trophy, so you know Vineyarders are doing a little victory dance this time around. 

Vineyard fisherman Victor Colantonio and his longtime friend Scott Whitlock of Nantucket founded the tournament after surviving 9/11 together, and Colantonio said it couldn’t be a better representation of the bond they shared on that day.

The winning team is determined by the total weight of all fish caught, and the 2020 contest was significant because of the number and size of fish caught by both sides. The Vineyard had a team total of 419 pounds, versus 307 pounds for Nantucket. Each fish that is caught is measured, then that measurement is transferred to a weight. For example, a 30-inch striped bass transfers into 14 pounds of fish. Every Vineyard competitor landed at least one bass and one bluefish toward the team tally, which Colantonio said is very unusual. Hard fishing by the surfcasters led to a 112-pound win in the team’s total weight. 

Anglers used artificial bait, lures, and flies, and the entire competition was catch and release, as it always has been.

This year, the Vineyard Surfcasters saw their largest turnout yet, with 22 anglers on their team. The largest previous turnout was 20 anglers.

Contestants had Zoom meetings throughout the competition to discuss their progress, share stories, and maybe tell some jokes. 

Joe Uva won the overall biggest fish award for a 40-inch, 30-pound bass. Colantonio said it was Uva’s first Island Cup contest, and he instantly gained the respect of Nantucket anglers for his three massive bass; each would have won top prize at over 38 inches and 26 pounds. 

Tyler Poole also entered his first competition, and won the MVSA cash award for the largest bluefish at 14 pounds. 

On the Nantucket side, the top bass was landed by Bob Betchold at 19 pounds, and the largest blue was a tie, with Harold Wiggin and Dave Small landing 10-pounders. 

After three days of competition, the Vineyard was ahead by 120 pounds, then Nantucket had a strong run of luck and reduced the lead to 21 pounds on day five, Colantonio said.

Peter Sliwkowski, owner of Larry’s Tackle Shop in Edgartown, produced a page on Larry’s website that kept track of each fish landed on a near minute-by-minute basis. 

Colantonio said after successfully holding this competition, he is confident that nothing will stand in the way of competition in the future. “We will do our level best to keep the Island Cup contest thriving in the future,” Colantonio said. “We have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and in the past, issues of sea level rise, piping plovers and other endangered species closing down the prime fishing beaches, climate change diminishing fish populations, thousands of fish-thieving seals when fishing on Nantucket, a fire on an inter-island ferry, and changing recreational bass and bluefish regulations. On top of that, we’ll now have to deal with masks, social distancing, travel restrictions, and dire economic consequences for years to come.” 

But Colantonio said all the problems in the world melt away when you are standing on the shoreline with a rod in your hand and a fish on your hook.

“How does anyone deal with stress in our increasingly complicated and dysfunctional world?” Colantonio asked. “Well, grab a fishing rod, join the surfcasters, and we’ll show you how.”

Nantucket team members have offered to host the 2021 contest on Nantucket.