Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree is a celebrated black writer, teacher and speaker and director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. But on Sunday, he accomplished something truly special: he was in the leader’s spot in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby on Sunday, weighing in a 26.68-pound striped bass he had caught earlier in the day, fishing with Buddy Vanderhoop and a couple of friends.
Mr. Ogletree’s enthusiasm for the sport is a perfect match for Aquinnah’s top charter fisherman, Buddy Vanderhoop. The two have fished many derbies together in Captain Vanderhoop’s 30-foot Ovid Ward custom sportfish.
As Mr. Ogletree described it, he went out fishing with Buddy on Sunday morning, the first day of the month-long contest, with two friends: Howard Davis of Washington, D.C. and Dennis Sweet of Jackson, Miss. “It was very rough and very windy,” Mr. Ogletree said.
They left the dock at 7 a.m.
“Dennis caught a 24-pounder,” Mr. Ogletree said — and Dennis thought that was the big fish of the day.
“Then I caught my fish. I got a very hard hit,” Mr. Ogletree said. Then there was a slack. “I thought I had lost it.”
The fish took a run, almost emptying Mr. Ogletree’s reel of all of its line, before they could set the drag right.
“It took 20 minutes to bring it in,” Mr. Ogletree said. The fish was landed at 10:45 a.m.
Stardom, however, was short-lived for the angler. Mr. Ogletree’s fish has since been knocked pretty far from leadership position. Anglers are well into the 30-pound range. The largest striped bass caught so far in the first week of the derby is a 37.25-pound fish caught by Clinton A. Fisher. The leading shore angler, Matthew Gamache, landed a 32.22-pound striped bass on Sunday, the first day. Being a tenth of a pound different, the top two stripers must be cousins.
As for future pursuits, Mr. Ogletree said he plans to continue coming to the Island on weekends to fish the derby.
The derby runs through Saturday, Oct. 18; a lot can happen between now and then. The number of bluefish weighed in this week more than outnumbers all other species combined. In the first three full days of fishing, anglers had weighed in 115 bluefish, 40 striped bass, 25 bonito and 30 false albacore.
That is a healthy start for the contest.
On Tuesday afternoon a core crew of anglers were seated at the end of Menemsha jetty, awaiting whatever King Neptune would send their way.
Quint Long, 15, of Fort Collins, Colo., was seated at the jetty watching as other anglers cast their shiny metallic Deadly Dick lures into the water.
Young Mr. Long was with his father Brian (Gibs) Long and his 10-year-old brother, Jacob. Quint Long said his father looks forward to taking his sons to fish the Vineyard in the fall run. “He took us out of school for a week,” he said. There is no fishing for stripers and blues in Colorado.
Brad Upp, a long-time derby enthusiast, came up from his home in Gladwyn, Pa., just to fish the derby. “This is the most important event of the year for me, without question,” Mr. Upp said. “This helps to center the universe for me. If I didn’t come here for the derby, I’d be in a tailspin.”
The skies overhead were leaden. The color of the water mimicked the sky. And the currents were swirling around the main entrance to Menemsha, Menemsha Pond and the waters that separate Aquinnah from Chilmark. Mr. Upp said this was the place to fish. He reported that there may have been a fast-moving false albacore and a few small bluefish had been caught.
A bite at stardom could be next.