One is a magic number as the 62nd annual derby enters its final day of an event with big numbers, bountiful fishing and a short ride through controversy.
This derby has recorded a number of one of a kind and unusual events. For example, the total of fish weighed in is already greater than the number of entrants. Through Thursday, entrants totalled 2,976 and fish weighed in were 2,996, or one for every angler. With two days to go as of Thursday night, it’s likely that the final fish tally will be 35 per cent higher than last year and the highest total in several years.
And Martha Smith has one day left as operations manager at the weigh-in station. Martha and her husband Charlie Smith have donated an estimated 12,000 hours to the derby over the past 20 years, equivalent to nearly one and one half years of total time. Her successors will be Maria Plese and Amy Coffey, who have volunteered at the weigh in on a daily basis for more than seven years.
On Thursday morning, Ms. Smith rubbed her face and searched for summary words about her 20-year run as weigh-in major domo. “It’s time. Maria and Amy will bring fresh thinking and passion and new ideas to this wonderful event,” she said.
“I need my schedule to be more flexible. I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to build community relationships and to meet fishermen from all over the world,” she said. Ms. Smith will continue to volunteer at the derby. “I’m looking forward to working the fillet table,” she grinned, then added pensively, “I wonder what it will be like when I come for the first day next year.” She credited husband Charlie with supporting her passion for the derby. Charlie has been weighing fish in since 1993. “I could not have participated like this unless I had Charlie who loves fishing and the derby as I do,” she said at the 10 a.m. closing before regretfully turning away a late-arriving fisherman. “Don’t worry, it’s not going to be a winner today,” she reassured the angler.
The 2007 derby also encountered one major controversy over weighted fish and enacted one major rule change mid-derby to deal with the issue and to return the event’s good humor.
Finally, one derby-long building demolition occurred 20 feet from the weigh-in shed; The Navigator restaurant is being razed to make way for a chic new development on the same site.
Meanwhile, the consistent rhythm of derby unpredictability continued this week. The flyrod shore bass leader board, blank for more than a month, suddenly filled with rapid overnight lead changes. Wednesday night Patrick Paquette was first on the board with a 12.32 pounder that made way for a 13.80-pound fish weighed in by Alberto Salvini later in the evening. Anglers weren’t done. Mr. Paquette weighed a 17.61 pounder early Thursday then held his breath and a microscopic lead as George P. Moran weighed in a 17.50-pound bass minutes later. Several all tackle anglers with flyrod gear have been analyzing the board for opportunity and have turned their attention to the category recently, so the leaders may be pressed up to the final bell tomorrow at 10 p.m.
Grand slam division leaders in the all-tackle boat and flyrod boat divisions hold razor-thin leads and second and third places are up for grabs in virtually every grand slam division in a banner year for the event.
While huge individual fish have been capturing headlines, several other hotly contested categories will go down to the wire.
Team standings, a new category this year, has four shore teams battling. The Blind Squirrels lead with 52.59 total pounds. Hanapa’s is second at 51.12 pounds, McRats at 47.17 pounds and Rusty Hooks at 45.49 pounds are close behind. In boat teams standings, Wampum has consistently built its lead over several weeks and is now at 76.99 pounds, leading Phoenix with 60.10 pounds, Team Nomad with 52.89 pounds and Stunards with 52.01 pounds. Teams may weigh only one fish per species but may replace a weighed fish with a heavier one so standings can change quickly. And the shore race is wide open.
The women’s category also offers a lot of opportunity to finish on the board. In boat bass, Louisa Gould is alone on the leader board with a 31.74 pounder. In addition to fishing and photographing the derby, Ms. Gould has dedicated her art gallery on Main street in Edgartown to Vineyard artists with derby theme work. The show remains open through Sunday on Main street in Vineyard Haven.
Women leaders include S. Blair with an 11.80-pound boat blue and K. Nolan with an 8.84-pound shore blue. Also, Maryann Nunes-Vais has the boat bonito lead with 8.12 pounds followed by Marica Cicoria at 5.56 pounds. False albacore leaders are A. Cingle with a 9.66-pound boat albie and Fran Clay with a 9.82 pounder from shore.
Senior grand leaders as of Thursday morning were Dick Cudmore with a 12.93-pound boat blue and W. Crocker Jr. with an 8.66-pound shore blue. Senior bass leaders are E. Amaral with a 36.38-pound boat blue and W. White with a 22.68-pound shore bass. Tom Langman, who scored an unusual day one grand slam, leads boat bonito anglers with a 7.42 pounder. B. Arruda leads with a 6.31-pound shore bonito. False albacore senior leaders are D. McGillivray at 10.32 pounds from a boat and G. Gomez with 10.65 pounds from the shore.
Last-minute changes are likely. The derby also has a special $500 prize for last-minute registrants. While weighing in is not required, derby officials hope to attract weekend visitors and procrastinators.
“The derby ends just in time for a lot of us,” Ms. Smith said, watching Beverly and Eugene Bergeron enter headquarters Thursday morning, Beverly weighed down by a 30-pound bass and suffering from severe back pain after five weeks of fishing. “We’ve weighed 45 fish between us, won eight dailies and a couple of weeklies,” Ms. Bergeron said. “I’m this close to a third place grand slam. I’m going home to rest my back and get ready to go out on the boat tonight.”
The derby’s effect on relationships and family are simple to understand by watching parents and kids at the weigh station. Early in the week, two proud fathers walked out, congratulating their sons on rigorously following the rule of completing homework before fishing for the past month. On Tuesday night, mini-junior Maggie Mayhew reached for dad Jonathan Mayhew’s supportive hand after weighing in a 28-pound boat bass to the cheers and shouts of a crowd.
Maggie’s fish put her in second place among junior grand slammers behind Michael Morris. Other junior leaders include Dale W. Morrison with a 35.92-pound boat bass, Sarah J. Williston with a 23.67-pound shore bass, William C. Kadison with a 7.35-pound boat bonito and a 14.31-pound boat bluefish. Shore bluefish junior leader is Chris Morris with an 11.7 pounder. Jacob Waters-Maciel leads boat false albacore with a 10.83-pound fish and Conor Smith weighed in a 10.56-pound shore albie for the lead.
In mini-juniors, Christopher Mayhew has the heaviest boat bass at 33.34 pounds. His sister Maggie is in second place at 28.06-pound, followed by Victoria Scott at 25.61 pounds. The Mayhews switch spots in boat bonito with Maggie leading at 7.34 pounds, while her brother at 6.56 pounds, is second and just ahead of Brendan Morris’s 6.36 pounder.
Curtis Fournier leads mini-junior boat bluefish with a 10.44 pounder. Brendan Morris and Paul Lorusso are in hot pursuit, ounces behind. Brendan Morris currently has a commanding lead with an 8.51-pound shore blue over Quinn Keefe at 6.79 pounds and Abigail O’Connell at 3.62 pounds.
Abigail is also on the board for boat albie in third place (8.84 pounds) behind Justin Alexander (10.18 pounds) and Caelan Watts (8.96 pounds).
Donald O’Shaughnessy sits blissfully alone in the shore false albacore category. His fish weighed 8.04 pounds.