77th Derby ends on a high note

With 111 triple crowns and 19,000 pounds of fish, Derby saw record numbers.

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The 77th Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish came to an end this weekend, rounding out with its traditional awards ceremony, held at Farm Neck Golf Course in Oak Bluffs Sunday afternoon. 

Hundreds of anglers, young and old, gathered with family and friends under a massive white tent along with sponsors and event volunteers to celebrate a Derby well-fished. 

This year’s Derby saw “remarkable” numbers, announced committee chairman Phil Horton, with 3,131 entrants, and 1,960 completed weigh-ins, totaling a whopping 19,000 pounds. 

Additionally, 111 triple crowns, 56 of which were from shore — an “eye-popping” number, Horton said, directly “speaks to the perseverance of the anglers fishing this Derby.” 

“Catching wasn’t always consistent … it never is,” he said, but noted there were a few quite memorable Derby moments from the season, including an exciting two-day bonito blitz in Aquinnah, and “epic” bluefish bites at Norton Point. 

Preceding the awards, John Custer, Derby president, addressed the crowd. “Thank you for being here to celebrate the conclusion of a very successful, and very enjoyable, 77th annual Derby,” Custer said to the crowd. “It’s gratifying to be part of an event and organization that our community loves, and gets behind fully … so thank you.” 

“One year ago, right here, I said, Hopefully 2022 brings us closer to a full Derby experience,” noting that this year was just that. “It’s a great feeling,” he said.

“I’d be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to remind folks of the reason behind the Derby,” Custer said. “The event itself, and specifically the income from registration fees, merchandise sales, auction, raffle proceeds allows the nonprofit Derby corporation to award scholarships to Island students.” 

Due to the “collective support” from various Island entities and trusts, he said, the Derby was able to award 10 Island students a total of $80,000 in college scholarships — a record high. In a nod to former MV Derby president Ed Jerome, the brainchild of the Derby scholarship program, who passed away in 2018, Custer said granting the scholarships “gives the Derby committee great pride, and it highlights the importance of [the organization’s] volunteer work.” 

“We recognize, understand, and appreciate the importance of the Derby to our Island community,” he said on behalf of the nearly 30-member committee. “It’s an honor and a privilege.” 

Custer took a moment to thank all of the sponsors of the event for their continued commitment and support for the event, and everyone involved, in helping “our mission to support students’ continuing education.” Custer noted that since 1988, a total of $840,000 of college scholarships have been awarded to Island students. 

Awards were given out to dozens of winners, including all-tackle first place winners for bonito catch: Peter Crabtree (10.86 pounds from boat), Mark Campos (8.36 pounds from shore); bluefish: Elizabeth O’Brien (19.3 pounds from boat), Peter Hess (17.16 pounds from shore); false albacore: Mark Leonard (16.52 pounds from boat), Matthew Strem (13.28 pounds from shore).

David Kadison and John Thurgood took home first place in triple crown all-tackle from boat and shore, with a total of 41.62 pounds and 31.54 pounds, respectively. 

After a short break, the lively crowd simmered as the six grand leaders lined up on stage for the infamous key ceremony. After the keys were distributed randomly, Elizabeth O’Brien — in the running for her 19.3-pound boat-caught bluefish —  got the first shot at the padlock, which clicked open at the first turn, granting her the grand prize —  a turnkey Eastern 22-foot Sisu, sponsored by New Hampshire–based Eastern Boats. 

Upon the audible click of the unlock, the crowd burst into applause, as O’Brien grew tearful and immediately embraced her family and friends. 

O’Brien expressed quick thanks to her family and friends for their support; particularly her dad, with whom she’s spent her life fishing. 

Chairman Phil Horton took pause to pay tribute to longtime Derby participant Jim Wareing, who passed away at Lobsterville Beach on Oct. 2. Wareing “was known amongst the shore fishing community as a skilled and successful angler,” he said, “But more importantly, as a positive, helpful, and caring friend who is missed by many of us on the beach and throughout the Derby.” 

Hundreds of cups, cans, and glasses lifted up into the air, as Horton invited the crowd to give a toast to their missed cohort. 

2 COMMENTS

  1. A big Congratulations to Elizabeth O’Brien for her huge win in the 77th Derby!! I was just wondering- has a woman won the Grand Prize before in the Derby’s history? If not, then she’s a true groundbreaker and inspiration for other female anglers. If she’s not the first, she’s still an inspiration!

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