With the 62nd annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby now at full speed, two events are running along on the side.
One is for youngsters. The other is a kayak fishing contest. Both start on Sunday.
While plenty of big fish were caught by grown adults in this first week of the derby, attention shifts Sunday morning to the youngest of anglers. Soon after sunrise, as many as 200 young children will gather for the Mini Kids’ Day Derby at the Steamship Authority wharf in Oak Bluffs.
“You better come early, 6 a.m.,” said Cooper A. Gilkes 3rd, chairman of the free contest. The three-hour fishing event is open to all children 14 years and younger.
Every year at this time, young boys and girls get up before dawn and rush to Oak Bluffs to the unlikely place, a wharf that reaches out into Nantucket Sound. This is the second year the event is being held on a Sunday; it used to be a Saturday event. Some of the parents are young enough to remember when they were juveniles in the contest.
This is the only time when the Steamship Authority wharf is open to fishing. Mr. Gilkes said anglers can expect to find plenty of fish, just as they’ve found in past years. It is well known that a school or two of striped bass take up residence below, amid the barnacle-covered spiles. Fishermen likely will catch bonito, false albacore, scup and they might even catch a fluke.
“There are a lot of fish waiting,” Mr. Gilkes said. Since the place is closed to public fishing all year round, Mr. Gilkes said: “This like our own private stocked pond.”
“The most exciting for me will be if one of the youngsters hooks a false albacore or a bonito. There is usually some one down at the end willing to coach the youngster. It isn’t easy bringing in one.”
The mini-derby is put together by many of the same people who volunteer to run the larger month-long fishing derby. Mr. Gilkes said he and his committee will assemble at the dock as early as 3 a.m. to make sure all is ready when the youngsters show up. There will be plenty of bait for those youngsters without any. The only requirement: bring a rod and reel.
The kids’ contest is different in a lot of ways from the larger derby. Fish entered in the contest are measured by length and not on weight. Volunteers stand at tables and document each of the fish brought forward. The longest fish is the winner. A child can walk away with the top prize by measuring in the longest fish, an eel, a dogfish.
There are hourly awards for the largest fish too. The fisherman with the biggest scup will be able to get his fish mounted by Island Taxidermy.
“Everybody gets a prize,” Mr. Gilkes said. The organizers of the event have gone to great trouble to make sure there is something for everyone. Prizes include fishing gear and there will be plenty of T-shirts.
One of the challenges in this year’s juvenile fishing contest concerns fluke. The state Division of Marine Fisheries has closed the fluke recreational fishery for the remainder of the season. Fluke also is called summer flounder.
If a youngster does catch a flounder, Mr. Gilkes said organizers are prepared to help the youngster measure it and release it. It will be a quick catch-and-release so no laws are broken.
Another event, a new one, is slated for this weekend: fishing kayak derby. The three days of fishing begins Sunday at 12:01 a.m., but registration will take place on Saturday afternoon from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Little Bridge in Oak Bluffs.
Jim Feiner, a recreational angler and kayaker, said the contest, he has helped organize, is for derby fishermen who fish in kayaks. Registration is $25. To enter, a fisherman must also be entered in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.
Any fish caught in the kayak contest must be entered in the regular derby as well.
The contest will offer a South African 14.5-foot fishing kayak as first prize. The boat, which is made of fiberglass and carbon fiber, was donated by Wilton Holmes.
Mr. Feiner is running the event with Carolyn (Chick) Dowd, who operates a kayak rental business called Island Spirit.
The event is not part of the derby but Mr. Feiner hopes that will be some day.
Normally an angler fishing in the derby, who catches their fish in a kayak, must enter their fish in the derby’s boat category. While it may be technically accurate, Mr. Feiner put his three-day event together out of an effort to recognize the skills of kayakers and give them a level playing field.
On Saturday afternoon, a safety briefing will be held for participants. Fishermen are going to be required to wear life jackets, possess a flashlight and encouraged to carry a marine radio when they fish. The contest ends on Tuesday, at 10 p.m. when the derby headquartes in Edgartown closes.
An awards ceremony is being put together on Wednesday afternoon at Menemsha Beach. Fishermen will turn in their derby weigh-in slips and awards will follow.
For more information call Mr. Feiner at 508-367-0199 or Ms. Dowd at 508-693-9727.