Kids trout tournament celebrating 50 years

Tomorrow, swarms of kids will cast out at Duarte’s Pond with a hope to win the largest trout.

Cooper “Coop” Gilkes, far right, begins the awards ceremony. —Gabrielle Mannino

Tomorrow, hordes of kids will descend upon Duarte’s Pond in Vineyard Haven to participate in the 50th Annual Kids Trout Tournament, hosted by the Martha’s Vineyard Rod & Gun Club.

They’ll be there before the sun rises.

“There will be kids there at 3:30 am, and there will be kids pleading with their parents to stay overnight, though we don’t recommend that,” said Cooper Gilkes of Coop’s Bait and Tackle, known just as “Coops” to those that frequent his shop.

At sunrise, Gilkes will blow the horn and signal the start of the tournament.

Gilkes, at the head of the tournament since its inception fifty years ago and on the executive committee of the Rod & Gun Club, got the idea after he moved off the Island “scratching and kicking” when he was in the 6th grade and participated in a similar derby in his new hometown of Laconia, New Hampshire. When he came back to the Island at 24-years-old with his own kids in tow, he suggested they start one.

Run through the Rod & Gun Club for the last 40 years, the tournament started with the Martha’s Vineyard Fishing Club, which eventually went defunct.

The pond hosts on average 75 to 150 kids on a weekend spring morning each year, and it’s like Christmas morning for some kids.

“From my own experience, it’s tough getting kids to go to bed,” said Gilkes. But for tournament day, “some of them bounce out of beds and wake their parents up.”

Kids and their parents can come to the pond Saturday morning to sign up and enter into one of three age categories: 0-8, 9-11, or 12-14.

It’s the tournament’s last run with Life at Humphreys, which always provides 3 big racks of donuts for the crowd; they are closing in May. There will also be hotdogs for breakfast, said Gilkes.

From around 5 am to 8 am (the start and stop times aren’t very strict), kids will cast out with bait only — lures aren’t allowed — and reel in potential winners, determined by inches at the site’s weigh station. At stake are two bicycles and many trophies, which sat atop a cooler at Coops Thursday night.

“If the fishing is good, it’s very exciting,” said Gilkes. “It gives the Island kids a chance to see something.” One year, they had golden trout, and right in front of the kids, an osprey dove in the water, grabbed one, and dropped the fish in a neighbor’s yard. “It was the neighbor’s hand-delivered breakfast that morning,” he recounted.

“It’s special to me,” he said. “It’s a way for the club to give back.” Gilkes said he can’t thank donors enough.

“It’s been one heck of a trip,” he said.


  1. Hi dear . Greetings from Brazil .I love to eat trout . It IS só delícious . I do Hope the Winner share his trout with Others people on Kitchen meals . GOD BLESS YOU ALL. If somente there knows Joe MacCter from Citgo gás Station Extramart Please say HELLO tô MY friend.

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