If you need to talk to Steve Morris this weekend, you probably won't find him working behind the counter at his store, Dick's Bait and Tackle, in Oak Bluffs.

If you are looking to chew the fat with Patrick Jenkinson at Up-Island Automotive in West Tisbury, you are also probably going to be out of luck.

And if your water heater breaks and you need Steve Amaral to fix it, you better call another plumber.

In fact, if you are not a 50-pound striped bass or 20-pound bluefish, a lot of people around the Vineyard are not going to be interested in talking much in the next five weeks.

Slip on your waders, pick up the eels and throw the rods in the car: the 60th annual Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby starts at 12:01 Sunday morning.

"It's just a great time to be a fisherman on the Vineyard," said John Custer, chairman of the derby's executive committee. "From what I have heard, it seems like everyone is ready. The weather has been great, the fish are showing up, and I think with this year being an anniversary, we're going to see a lot of action."

The five-week tournament, which ends Oct. 15 at 10 p.m., has become a New England institution. More than $350,000 in prizes await winners in an array of categories and divisions. There are daily and weekly prizes for adults and juniors to go with the dozens of awards presented in the awards ceremony on Oct. 16.

The two grand prizes are a new Chevrolet Silverado 4x4 and 19-foot Boston Whaler. Like last year, the winning shore fisherman takes home the boat while the winning boat fisherman is handed the keys to the truck.

Last year, Tom Langman won the truck with a 10.13-pound bonito snagged off Noman's Land and Robert W. Thomas won the boat with 12.48-pound false albacore hooked off Memorial Wharf in Edgartown. Mr. Thomas weighed in his winning fish at 8:01 a.m. on the first day of the derby.

"I think that right there shows you that you just never know when that winner is going to hit," Mr. Custer said. "I think that's part of what makes the opening weekend so exciting."

Size requirements for eligible fish are 32 inches for striped bass; 25 inches for false albacore; 22 inches for bluefish, and 21 inches for bonito. All fish must be weighed in within 12 hours of being caught.

Earlier in the week, the signs of things to come were everywhere. On Wednesday, members of the derby committee prepared the weigh-in shack in Edgartown, fastening the filet table and hanging the leader boards. Bait and tackle shops were busy selling lures and live eels while changing hundreds of feet of line and making sure leaders were tied up nice and tight.

"We've seen a few more rods on the tops of trucks in last few days," said Matt Malowski of Dick's Bait and Tackle. "We've tuned up a few reels."

Derby fishermen, meanwhile, milled about the Island, biding their time until the first line is cast.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Langman was waiting for his dinner outside the Home Port restaurant in Menemsha, anxiously looking ahead to Sunday and beyond.

"Oh, I'm ready for the derby," he said with a wry smile. "I've been ready all summer."

About a hundred yards away, his 25-foot center console Boston Whaler, Phoenix II, was tied up at his dock, full of gas and ready to hit his secret spots in search of another winning fish.

"I'll be going to Brooks Brothers soon enough," he said with a laugh, referring to a fishing hole he frequents. While he would not reveal anything about the secret spot other than its affinity for large fish, he gave a clue as to what draws him there.

"Like the store, the place has a lot of stripes," he said with a wink.

Mr. Malowski, a teacher at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School as well as a member of the derby's executive committee, is also anxiously looking ahead, but for a different reason. His wife is due to give birth next week.

"Bad timing," he joked. "It will be strange not being out there."

Mr. Custer said Thursday that registration numbers look on par with, and could easily surpass, last year's totals. Between the good weather and the milestone anniversary, he expects this year's derby will provide ample excitement.

"Obviously you never know how it will turn out, but there are new things we are doing this year that should add to the fun," he said. "We are giving away lots of new special event prizes, as well as some other surprises."

One of the biggest additions is a one-day tournament within a tournament on Oct. 1.

Anyone who enters - it costs an additional $10 on top of the standard $40 registration fee - is eligible to win $500 should they catch the biggest fish in any of the four categories. For example, whoever catches the largest bonito on that day, from either the shore or a boat, will win $500.

Entrants in the one-day tournament will also be enrolled in a raffle to win an aluminum boat with a motor and a trailer. The raffle winner will be announced at the awards ceremony.

Mr. Custer said he was unsure how rocketing prices in fuel will affect the derby, other than it will make going out in the boat much more expensive than last year.

Another financial concern for fishermen is the higher cost of eels. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warned this summer of potentially devastating declines in the American eel population, and proposed to put it on the endangered species list. Once prominent in Vineyard waters, local eel populations have dropped significantly. Bait shops now import most of their eels from Canada.

But despite the shortage, Mr. Malowski said they are well stocked and ready for the onslaught of fishermen.

"We haven't had a problem, other than the price going up," he said.

He said a dozen eels at Dick's last year went for between $12 and $14. This year, a dozen eels cost $16.

Mr. Custer emphasized a few changes to derby rules this year. Responding in part to what the committee felt was excessive fishing of false albacore last year, the board decided to implement a three-fish limit for the species. Each false albacore brought in will count toward the limit regardless of its size.

"We hope people will be really aware of what size albacore is leading the derby, and choose not to bring the smaller ones in," Mr. Custer said. "We weighed in 601 albies last year, and because you cannot eat them, we felt we had to do something to discourage people from overfishing them. We really hope people are understanding of this."

Mr. Custer's words come as the albacore arrive in Vineyard waters. They join an abundant supply of bonito, which have been prominent around the Island for several weeks.

"With the blues and stripers, it seems like we are ready for some good fishing," Mr. Custer said. "Hopefully, that means there will be a lot of people waiting in line at the shack in Edgartown on Sunday morning."