Islanders of all ages celebrated the life of beloved community member Luke Gurney for the fourth year this past weekend, as hundreds of anglers turned out for a commemorative fishing tournament dedicated to him and his legacy.
In 2016, Gurney died in a fishing accident aboard his boat, No Regrets. Now the entire fishing community on Martha’s Vineyard celebrates Gurney, his skill as a fisherman, and the impact he had on the island during his life, and after. The tournament also raises money for Gurney’s family.
This year’s Fluke for Luke weekend tournament saw 328 participants and 29 teams from all across the Island and the world, and there was some fierce competition.
At the awards ceremony on Sunday, the fluke came flying in — freshly caught, from trucks still filled with fishing tackle.
Anglers of all kinds turned out for the competition this year, and Sunday’s ceremony showed just how wide Gurney’s circle of influence was, and how much he meant to the Island.
Before giving out the awards, which included specialty plaques, competition reels and rods, and even some handmade gear, longtime Vineyard marine biologist and shark expert Greg Skomal said a few words about his time with Gurney. “In the mid-’90s, a fellow named Luke Gurney came into my office and said he had just graduated from the University of New England and he would love to work with me … The only reason I got to where I am today is because of guys like Luke,” Skomal said.
Several years ago, Skomal tagged a great white shark and named it Luke, after his longtime colleague and friend.
Every year, as the Fluke for Luke tournament is happening, the shark returns to the Cape and swims around the Vineyard for a while.
Occasionally, Skomal will catch a glimpse of the shark, and will reflect on Gurney and his life. “I get to see white shark Luke, and I reflect about the free spirit and the wildness of Luke Gurney, and that’s what really brings us all together here every single year,” Skomal said.
Joe El-Diery, vice president of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, kicked off the awards ceremony by letting the audience know that Gurney’s son Jacob graduated from high school this year, and will be attending the University of Rhode Island in the fall, where he plans to study marine science and biology.
El-Deiry said the Fluke for Luke is a cherished opportunity for Islanders to remember Gurney, who was a friend to so many, especially within the fishing community.
“We get to spend some time thinking about him, and remembering his awesome life,” El-Deiry said. “He would be really happy knowing that we are all getting out there and doing something that he loved — doing something that we all love, and can remember him by. The fact that I get to go out and fish with his boys, his wife and siblings, and all of his nieces and nephews is so special, and I feel very grateful.”
Here are the winners of this year’s tournament:
Individual winners based on single fish weight. Team winners based on overall weight of fish caught.
- Geoff Rushing: 5.8 pounds
- Jena Beaureguard: 5.96 pounds
- Josh Kresel: 6.15 pounds
Adult sea bass:
- Julian Pepper: 3.65 pounds
- Martha Montesion: 3.83 pounds
- Sam Gurney: 3.89 pounds
- Dukes of Fluke: 23.15 pounds total
- Two Buoys and a Gull: 17.99 pounds total
- Portuguese Bald Eagles: 14.46 pounds total
- Ethan Rivers: 6.10 pounds
- Dylan Cafferty: 6.36 pounds
Junior sea bass:
- Ethan Rivers: 2.56 pounds
- Levi Kochin: 3.88 pounds
- Dylan Cafferty: 4.42 pounds