Overcast, rainy skies last Saturday morning did little to discourage the Vineyard’s youngest fishing enthusiasts from attending the early morning start of the 34th annual Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club trout tournament.
Scores of young children lined the shoreline of Duarte’s Pond in West Tisbury at first light to catch a fish and win a prize.
They wore raincoats. They wore tall boots. They wore hats. Many wore sweaters. Though the weather was wet with occasional moments of drizzle, the wind was thankfully absent. The air was still. The ripples on the water were made by the fish.
Three species of fish participated in the tournament. There were large trout, which had been raised on the Cape, brought over to the Vineyard earlier in the week and put in the pond. Add to that the pickerel and catfish that naturally occur there.
Eight-year-old Donald O’Shaugh-nessy arrived with his family at 4:30 a.m. to start fishing. The youth sported a black-and-yellow hat he got from Disney World, a black hat with yellow fingers coming out.
Mr. O’Shaughnessy is an avid angler. His skill and technique earned him the biggest trout in the tournament. By 6:30 a.m., he had caught the tournament’s largest fish, one measuring 17 1/2 inches, while some late arrivals scrounged around in the early morning light getting their baited hooks into the water.
Lela Gilkes, who kept track of the entrants and winners during the tournament, said she was pleased with the turnout of at least 150 participants. In years past when the weather was more favorable, as many as 200 youngsters would show up.
“This was an amazing turnout considering what the weather forecast was,” she said.
Shortly after 7 a.m., attention shifted from the shoreline to the center of the pond where a hungry osprey flew in and made an attempt to catch a trout that was being reeled in by a contestant. The raid failed.
Cooper A. Gilkes 3rd, chairman of the fishing contest, enjoyed the avian moment. In years past, ospreys have taken an interest in the fishing contest, especially since the pond was stocked and osprey food was swimming around and available for grabbing.
A lot of the catfish caught at the tournament were handled by club volunteer Dick Pytko of Edgartown. Mr. Pytko was an official fish measurer.
Saturday’s event is one of two fishing compeitions held each year on the Island for children. In both cases, the fish are measured, not weighed. Mr. Pytko’s morning chore was to measure each of the fish brought in and note the child’s name. He and two other club members shared in the work.
Mr. Pytko said he rose at 3 a.m. Saturday morning to get to Duarte’s Pond in time to help his club colleagues set up for the big event. Most of the fish coming in were catfish, Mr. Pytko said, and they measured as big as seven inches, though there may have been one or two larger.
Not one catfish earned a prize in the contest. But for those anglers who didn’t catch a trout, catching a catfish was not so bad.
Ed Belisle of Edgartown was the grill master and he served fire-cooked hot dogs on a roll. He was assisted by Karen Kukolich, another club member.
The winners of the contest received trophies. The top winners received a bicycle. Young lady fishermen who won received pink-colored fishing rods. Boy winners received silver-colored rods.
Winners were: largest trout: Donald O’Shaughnessy, age 8, 17 1/2-inch trout; largest fish of any other species, Aurora Austin, 10, 14 1/2-inch pickerel.
Age categories, all trout: Eight years old and younger: 1, Elizabeth O’Brien, 8, 17 1/8 inches; 2, Owen DiBiaso, 4, 15 inches; 3, Emily Maciel, 4, 14 inches.
Fishermen ages nine through 11 years old: 1, Paul Mayhew, 11, 14 1/2 inches; 2, Ethan Mendez, 9, 14 inches; 3, Brandon Steigelman, 9, 13 1/2 inches.
Twelve through 14 years of age: 1, Hayley Maciel, 12, 16 1/2 inches; 2, Mark Turner, 12, 15 1/2 inches; 3, Zoli Clarke, 12, 13 3/4 inches.
Winners of the hourly “lucky fisherman” drawing: Fishermen eight years and younger: Kayleigh Bollin, Curtis Fournier, Macol Oliviera. Nine through 11 years of age: Colin Buckley, Zale Narkiewicz, Kyra Whalen. Twelve through 14 years of age: Gabe Bergeron, Kyle Stobie, Dennis Rose. Dr. Lawrence Sack Memorial Award: Gabe Shriver and Katie Oliver.