Opening day at the 2007 Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby was a smash, including the recording of a first day grand slam by Capt. Tom Langman of Menemsha, likely a first day record. Derby president Ed Jerome said of the slam: “We don’t keep records for that but I don’t ever remember it happening on the first day. Certainly we’ve had one-day grand slams before but they are rare.”
Mr. Landman weighed in a daily winning 36.21-pound bass in the early morning, then returned to the water to complete his slam with over 57 total pounds.
On day one 189 fish were weighed in, including 60 in the morning following the opening bell at 8 a.m. and 129 during the 8 to 10 p.m. evening weigh-in. Veteran weigh-in volunteers said the opening day fish total eclipsed the best day of the 2006 derby by 20 to 30 per cent.
The hits kept coming Tuesday morning, with a 45.68-pound boat bass caught by Geoff Codding shimmering on the morning chalkboard, larger than last year’s 43.86-pound winning boat bass by David C. Hearn.
Weigh station volunteers and contestants were excited by the size and by the balance of species caught. Seventy-three bluefish averaging 6.7 pounds, 44 bonito averaging 4.8 pounds, 57 albacore averaging 9.1 pounds and 33 striped bass averaging more than 21 pounds slid across the scales on Sunday, according to figures on the official derby Web site, mvderby.com.
Boat fly fisherman W. Brice Contessa was feeling a magic day, weighing in a 12.36-boat false albacore and a 4.64-pound bonito at 8:35 a.m. Twelve hours later, Phil Cronin weighed in a 12.46-pound albie and just three minutes before deadline, Tom Capone dropped a 5.37-pound bonito on the table. Oh, well. Mr. Contessa did win one of five daily mystery prizes in addition to his two daily pins. Entrants got a lesson in the importance of weighing in from Tom O’Hanlon’s winning 3.91-pound bluefish in the flyrod boat division.
Fish-catching drama was leavened with the delight of watching all manner of anglers and onlookers mingle at the weigh-in, including derby veteran Dylan Kadison, now five years old, who struggled a 4.65-pound bonito onto the weighing table. Dylan, who first weighed in last year, was with his brother William, 12, and dad Dave. William weighed in a 10.35-pound albacore caught off Hooters trolling with plugs and was on the winner’s board with two first-day fish.
Philip Smith provided the sartorial moment late in the first day, weighing in a relatively unremarkable fish (10.16-pound boat blue) but doing it dressed in a pink blazer, pink and white striped button down dress shirt and nicely contrasting blue flowered tie. He completed the ensemble with khaki trousers and muted gray buffed suede boat shoes. It was not determined whether he was wearing socks.
Parents and children, Brooks Brothers in line with Carhart’s are moments that draw visitors like Wendee Pringle and her husband Colin to the initial derby weigh-in for 10 years in a row. “We love this and we don’t even fish,” she said, gesturing to the crowded weigh-in station, redolent of unwashed fish and anglers, far from the sights and smells of her Essex Junction, Vt. home.
Derby volunteer Amy Coffey would qualify for an unsung hero award. Ms. Coffey had tickets to the Jimmy Buffet concert at Foxboro but left them unused because she was unsure she’d make it back to Edgartown for the opening.
Derby firsts included team fishing and high-quality free coffee and tea, provided by Vineyard Bottled Water. Results from team fishing were not available at press time because team rules require partners be registered 24 hours before weighing in to avoid individual large fish catchers trolling for similarly endowed partners before weighing in.
Most anglers reported using plugs and poppers rather than bait and the admitted hot spots included Edgartown harbor, Wasque and Menemsha beaches, although information provided about bait, lures, tackle and locations must be taken with a grain of salt, former derby chairman Michael J. Cassidy said wryly. Several anglers reported blitz and heavy schooling patterns. James Cornwell first cast at 12:01 a.m. off Wasque and had two keepers and two bass released within 40 minutes.
First fish weighed went to veteran derbyman George Moran of Oak Bluffs with a 19.05-pound bass caught off Norton beach with a plug at 2:30 a.m. Mr. Moran said he was not the likely disappointed angler who arrived at the beach by 7:30 p.m. Saturday to claim an active new hole by the breach. After setting his gear on the beach, the early bird retired for a nap where he was observed, still sleeping, just minutes before the opening bell.
First bluefish went to Jim Kresge of Edgartown, who weighed a 9.65-pound blue caught at Menemsha and held up as the beach blue award winner.
Other first day grand leaders were: Boat: bluefish, 10.63 pounds, Benny Syslo; bass, 36.21 pounds, Tom Langman; bonito, 6.62 pounds, Cody T. Chandler and false albacore (fly), 12.46 pounds, Phil J. Cronin; all tackle, 11.92 pounds, Jason F. Ketchen. Shore leaders: bluefish, 9.65 pounds, Jim Kresge; bass, 22.58 pounds, Paul Lescault; bonito, 5.29 pounds, Zachary K. Tilton, and false albacore, 10.56 pounds, Conor J. Smith.
Fishing is catch as catch can unless you’re Peter Cabana of Vineyard Haven who brought his brother Eugene Cabana of Barnstable and some philosophy to the weigh-in. “I don’t fish. I clam and shellfish. You’re guaranteed to catch something and you always get a meal,” he said.
To view complete derby results and board leaders, visit the Web site mvderby.com. A weekly tide chart is published in the Gazette each Friday.