The last two weeks of the Derby are heart-pounding, thrilling, frustrating, and a whole lot of fun. The pressure is on, and the leaderboard can be in a constant state of flux as the bigger fish move in, and anglers are weighing in contenders instead of weighables.
Watching the leaderboard can be addictive, and there’ve been a lot of changes in the past few days. Stephen Wood weighed in a 9.42-pound bonito from his boat on the first day of the Derby. He held onto that lead for 11 days, until Alan Schweikert weighed in a 9.76-pound bone. On Sunday, David Kadison, who already holds the leading boat bluefish (14.89), weighed in a 10.60 boat bonito. Can he hang onto both leads for the next 10 days?
The big bluefish are swimming closer to shore, and lead changes are moving as fast as the fish. Marc Normandin weighed in a 13.80-pound blue on Sept. 27 to take the lead, but held it for less than 24 hours. John Calcor brought a 13.99-pound bluefish to Derby headquarters the next day. John held the lead for two days, until Bob Bottary hefted in a nice 14.56-pound bluefish last Friday.
Bob, who’s from Hyde Park, is a Chappy fisherman. He knows the waters better than most, and is no stranger to leading Derby fish. Bob earned the Grand Leader Shore Bluefish in 2017 and 2019. Could 2023 be the year Bob wins another Derby key, and this one unlocks the boat?
I love watching kids fish, and I love taking them fishing. There’s not much better than watching a child land her or his first fish, or catch his or her first Derby fish. My friend Dardy Slavin is spending a lot of time this Derby fishing with her son Corrick. “I’ve lost count of the days. It’s been a lot,” said Dardy, who operates Slavin Chiropractic at Integrated Health Care in Vineyard Haven.
On Sept. 27, Corrick celebrated his 13th birthday fishing in Menemsha. Corrick didn’t catch a fish, but Dardy caught her first albie, and weighed it in. “Corrick may not have caught his birthday fish, but the one that birthed him did!” Dardy posted on Facebook.
Corrick didn’t have to wait too much longer for his moment in the sun, or sunrise. Early Monday morning, Corrick’s lure got a solid hit, and his line went screaming. Within minutes, Corrick landed a 4.92 bonito to take the lead in the Junior Shore Bonito from his friend Dylan Waldman (3.71).
“I love the thrill of hooking up and the struggle of reeling in a fish,” said Corrick. “It was exciting [to land the bonito], because I hadn’t caught a fish on the jetty, and I’d been fishing there since the Derby started.”
Dardy said Corrick was so excited he wanted to leave for Derby headquarters as soon as they put the fish in their cooler. “I told him it was too early,” said Dardy. “We went back out to the jetty, and he caught an albie. It wasn’t big enough, but two fish in one day was awesome.”
I asked Corrick who was the better fisherman — him or his mom. He politely answered, “I’m probably the better fisherman,” adding, “Fishing with my mom is nice because she’s very supportive, and helps me set up all the fishing gear.”
I had some fun fishing with teens Jackson Munson and Jake Ponte over the weekend. I ran into Jake again on Monday morning. He outfished me, two albies to none. He had to leave for school and I had to leave for work before either of us caught a weighable, but Jake defined our morning perfectly.
“Catching two albies is a great way to start the day. Gets you pumped up. Fishing before school, or work, is the best morning,” said Jake, who is currently in second place with his junior shore false albacore.
As he looked out at the water, watching his lure on the retrieve, Jake glanced over and said, “I just like fishing.”
Me too, Jake. Me too.
Above all the casting and catching is the spirit of the Derby. Last week we saw this in small, big, and memorable ways. I watched a fisherman take a lure that had just landed a few morning fish off his line and hand it to a young boy. Pure perfection!
Fishermen gathered on Monday, Oct. 2, to celebrate the life of beloved fisherman Jim Wareing, who passed away last year while fishing at Lobsterville. Jim’s wife Celeste and daughter Leah spent the weekend with Jim’s friends at some of Jim’s favorite fishing locations. Jim was one of the kindest people you would ever meet. His impact was vividly obvious by all who celebrated his life and embraced his family.
The Derby posted a beautiful story of Derby angler Donald Muckerheide offering to donate a slightly used rod and reel to a young fisherman in need. A mom called in and said her 8-year-old son had just started fishing, and would love the tackle. Now we’re all hoping to see a young “Cooper” bring a fish to weigh in.
We also heard the story of Kevin Beaulieu’s stolen custom rod. That’s the sad part of the story. But not the ending.
Kevin called his friend Matt Brewer, and told him about the missing rod. “I know Kevin pretty well. During last year’s Derby, Kevin raised money for a guy whose rod was stolen. I knew I had to do something for him,” said Matt.
Matt went to his Facebook page. He scrolled through his contacts alphabetically, looking for fishermen. He made a list, created a group instant message, and asked people to chip in to get Kevin a new rod and reel. “We raised $750 in three hours,” said Matt.
Kevin had a custom Aubut rod. Only problem: Chris Aubut wasn’t making rods anymore. Enter Zach Magid. Zach texted Chris. “Chris was awesome,” Zach said, adding, “I said, ‘I know you’re not doing rod building but …” After explaining Kevin’s situation, Chris agreed to build him another rod at cost.
“The rod was irreplaceable, because Chris doesn’t make them anymore. Eventually, Kevin will have his rod back,” said Zach.
Matt purchased a replacement reel at Larry’s Tackle Shop. “Julian [Pepper] was spooling the reel, and said, “I got the line,’” said Matt.
Derby spirit at its finest. And in case you’re wondering, Kevin just took over third place in shore false albacore (11.92), behind Julian (12.01) in second, and George Hughes, currently in first (12.29).
Kevin expressed his thanks on Facebook: “I really cannot express my gratitude enough. To the community of Martha’s Vineyard, in particular the fishing community, this gesture was simply above and beyond. Having an irreplaceable rod replaced. Wow, just something you don’t hear about anywhere else. These are the type of things that make remaining on this Island a no-brainer. I could go on and on about what this means to me, but I will leave it with expressing the most sincere thank you to everyone involved, and bless you with 100 years of good Derby karma.”
Good Derby karma is what everyone is hoping for in the last 10 days. Let’s see what happens.
I’m still casting for that BIG bluefish. Could be tonight.
I hope to see you on the beach.
Lisa Belcastro is the director of the Harbor Homes winter shelter, served as the regional coordinator for the National Alliance of Mental Illness for five years, and continues to volunteer for NAMI. She is passionate about serving in her church community, and leading youth groups and vacation Bible camps. Her life-changing experience with the Venezuelan migrants created a new passion for policy changes for immigrants.
Lisa loves fishing and gardening — being outdoors. She has run a marathon in all 50 states, and is currently on pace to run every Disney race in one calendar year.