Super Bowl Weekend. Love or hate it, it’s a national event. To be truthful, I don’t watch football. Until I started writing this column, I didn’t know who the Chiefs were playing on Sunday. (Thank you, Google.). The only reason I know the Chiefs are in the Super Bowl is the abundance of Taylor Swift images on social media last week, most about her football-playing boyfriend. I’ve just shared the bulk of my football knowledge.
While the nation, maybe even the world, was planning and shopping and dreaming in preparation for Super Bowl Sunday, the members of the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association gathered last Saturday at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown to celebrate our own Super Bowl: the annual MVSA Banquet and Angler of the Year awards.
The banquet, more than 30 years running, is part meeting, part award ceremony, part food fest, and a whole lot of fishing info. Don’t get me wrong, quite a few of those fishermen in attendance will be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, and maybe a few of them and their wives will be waiting, or hoping, to see Taylor Swift break out in song as the surprise guest of the halftime show, or in victory if the Chiefs win, but on Saturday, all talk focused on fishing, beach access, friends in attendance, and friends who couldn’t be with us.
The MVSA Banquet draws fishing enthusiasts like bluefish to bunker. While there were 70 or more Island fishermen in attendance, there were another two to three dozen club members who made the journey to the Island solely for the banquet.
“For me, the banquet is a great time to renew bonds with everyone, without the fishing pressure. It is also off-season, so you might actually be able to share some truthful fishing information, and no fishing lies. LOL,” said Dave Balon, who lives in Western Mass. “It is also a time when I can give back to such a great fishing club (helping with setup, raffles, and silent auction), and try to make it a great event for everyone.”
Club elections were the first order of business, after lunch, of course. Donald Scarpone was elected president for the eighth time. The prez announced that it will be his last year as president, whether we like it or not. Kevin Seger was elected the vice president, Dave Kolb secretary, and Phil Horton treasurer.
Phil shared that we have $19,000 in our scholarship account, thanks to our super-popular annual used tackle sale in September. “We will be able to provide some very nice scholarships to a few graduating seniors in June,” said Phil.
This year, the topic on every fisherman’s mind was beach conditions and Chappy access. Both guest speakers addressed beach conditions and OSV access.
Edgartown Parks Commissioner Andy Kelley reported on the town’s first year as custodian of Norton Point Beach, and the current conditions. “The beaches took a pummeling. We plan to shore up Left Fork and fix Atlantic Drive. We are waiting on permitting from the state,” said Andy.
“We hope to open Norton Beach in April, and we look forward to seeing everyone taking rides on the beach,” said Andy, to an appreciative audience.
Andy mentioned that they are hiring rangers, and we can apply online. They also need bird monitors, which brought an audible cringe from all of us in attendance. Andy responded, “Ultimately, it’s a bird habitat. We want OSV access. We want fishermen. It’s all about trying to find balance.”
“We are thrilled with Andy and Norton Point,” said John Piekos of the M.V. Beach Access Group. John updated us on the NOIs before the Edgartown conservation commission, including a new NOI filed by a Chappy homeowner, which will be heard on Feb. 14. MVBAG has written a response to the ConCom in objection to the new NOI.
As fishermen asked questions and expressed concern about OSV access on Chappy, John stressed the importance of the upcoming ConCom meeting for the Trustees’ NOIs on Feb. 21. “Write letters to the ConCom. Use your voice, especially about Cape Poge,” said John.
After the cautiously hopeful beach updates, It was time for the awards ceremony. Members of the Surfcasters are eligible for numerous awards throughout the year, all culminating with the Big Ones at the banquet.
Each month, the top three fishermen win a monthly award, and are entered into the year-end drawing for a new reel. Matt Brewer won the overall third-place reel. Then Matt’s name was drawn again for the second-place reel. Way to go, Matt! The luck of draw for the first-place reel went to venerable fisherman Ralph Peckham.
This year we had over a dozen MVSA members earn a Triple Crown. The club gave out plaques to the top three. Zach Magid took first, with Kevin Seger close behind him in second, and Ralph Peckham cleaning up with third.
Then a hush filled the room, as it was time for the top four awards. First Place Bluefish, weighing 16.57 pounds, went to Zach Magid. Zach is famous for his bluefish tacos, but you’ve got to be on the beach when he’s cooking them up to sample the deliciousness.
New club member Luke Brewer took home the First Place Bonito award for his 7.09-pound bone, the same fish that helped Luke take third place in the Derby Triple Crown and his team win first place.
Kathi Pogoda couldn’t be at the banquet this year, and was deeply missed, but her granddaughter, Hunter Creanga, stepped forward to collect Kathi’s First Place False Albacore for a beautiful 11.87-pound hardtail.
The big moment had arrived — Angler of the Year. Though we all knew the totals from our monthly newsletters, the excitement couldn’t be contained. A round of applause ripped through the crowd of fishermen as the prez called Kevin Seger up to receive the Angler of the Year trophy and plaque.
I asked Kevin how he felt seeing his name on the perpetual trophy. He replied, “Like a sapling amongst the trees.”
Kevin fishes “almost every day,” from early April to late November. And he fishes hard. During the Derby, he leaves his phone in the car so he’s not distracted on the beach. I asked him last fall about taking pictures, and he shrugged and said something about, A fish could be swimming by while he’s taking a picture, and he’d miss the fish. He might have said that casting while I was taking a picture of the sunrise, and not winning a trophy. LOL.
The hours Kevin logs in are certainly one of the reasons he accumulated the most points to win the Angler of the Year award this year. But the hours are not the sum total of Kevin’s success. Kevin loves fishing, and when you see him on the beach, he is always smiling. And I mean always!
“I think I have the soul of a fisherman, because I’m just the happiest person on earth when I’m doing it,” said Kevin.
For those of us who didn’t win one of the top awards, there were plenty of raffle and silent auction items still to be drawn and awarded. A couple of dozen happy fishermen collected lures, glasses, beach passes, clothing, fishing rods, and more.
To close out the fun day, the club offered a 50/50 raffle organized by Mark Wrabel. For a mere $20, we purchased 50 tickets. We bought $750 worth of tickets, making the winning ticket worth $375. I held my 50 tickets in hope, as young Luke Stobie drew the winning ticket and read out the lucky numbers. We all scanned our numbers until Scott Maccaferri gave a shout of victory.
As we cleaned up the Old Whaling Church, a few of us made plans to go fishing together in the near future, though not on Super Bowl Sunday.
I admit I won’t be watching football on Sunday, but today, while I’m sitting at my desk with my new — and empty — fishing journal staring at me and waiting to be used, I can’t help but think of Taylor Swift. All those fish to catch, and all those blank spaces to write a name — bass, albie, tog, perch, bluefish, bonito, fluke, sea bass. I’ve got a blank space, Fishy, and I’ll write your name.
If you’re singing the song, you’re welcome. 😉
I hope to see you on the beach, and I hope we’re filling in those blank spaces.