False albacore have yet to make a strong appearance in the first week of the 56th annual Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. So far only small, undersized false albacore have been seen. The contest began on Wednesday morning with just two fishermen weighing in their fish in the first half-hour of the contest.
The weigh-in headquarters opened with the ringing of the bell at 8 a.m. by Roy Langley, weigh master. Mr. Langley shook the cow bell and opened the large barn door to allow the entrants access. In years past close to a dozen fishermen have lined up. This year there were only two.
Peter J. Pate, 24, of West Tisbury was the first to walk in. He carried a striped bass and a bluefish. His striped bass tipped the scales at 21.08 pounds; the bluefish weighed in at 11.06 pounds. Following right behind him was his fishing partner and co-worker, Dan Keniston of Vineyard Haven. Mr. Keniston carried in an even bigger striped bass, a fish weighing 22.93 pounds, and a smaller bluefish weighing 5.16 pounds.
Both men work for Dale McClure of Watercourse Construction in Vineyard Haven.
"We got a half hour of sleep last night," Mr. Pate said. "We were bottom fishing off the north shore, using fresh squid." The two started fishing right after midnight and caught their fish at about 3 a.m.
Mr. Pate said he has participated in the annual month-long derby as long as he can remember, and that means back to his youth.
Mr. Pate said he was surprised to be the first angler with a fish in this year's contest. "I just went fishing," he said.
More than $100,000 in prizes will be awarded during the fishing contest. Fishermen will compete for daily, weekly and grand overall prizes for the largest striped bass, bluefish, bonito and false albacore. Though the state has minimum sizes on some species of fish, the derby has established its own minimum sizes for entries. The state minimum size for striped bass is 28 inches, but the derby has set 32 inches as their minimum size. In the contest, bluefish must be at least 22 inches to be entered; Atlantic bonito must be 21 inches and false albacore must measure 25 inches.
The largest prize is an 18-foot Boston Whaler Dauntless with a Mercury outboard on a trailer. To lure the fishermen, the derby has parked the winning boat next door to the weigh-in headquarters at the foot of Main street in Edgartown, beside the Navigator Restaurant.
Tomorrow morning the derby will cultivate a new generation of fishermen as the Island's youngest anglers gather at the Steamship Authority wharf in Oak Bluffs for the annual Kids' Derby. The fishing contest begins at sunrise and will be over before 10 a.m. It is free for all fishermen 14 years of age and younger. In years past, there have been as many as 200 anglers at the contest. Fishermen will compete for the largest fish of any species.
An awards ceremony will conclude the morning conttest. Young anglers could potentially walk away with a new fishing rod and tackle.
David Pothier, vice chairman of the derby, said he has only seen small false albacore weighed in to date. Fishermen are still waiting for their arrival, though there seem to be plenty of the three other derby species.
There were a few electronic glitches in posting derby results on the Internet on the first day of the contest. Mr. Pothier said they hope to have daily results on the derby web site by 10:30 p.m. each day. The web site address is http://www.mvderby.com