Oh boy, what a derby this is.
The second week produced at least two records as eager anglers produced leader changes on a daily basis in most categories.
Discussion of the sheer number of grand slams, including flyrod grand slams and a grand slam on opening day, almost tore the attention of Chris Scott away from a school of false albacore breaking 150 yards away from the weigh-in shed on Monday morning.
Watching a kayaker paddle furiously toward the albie school, the derby treasurer said, “We’ll certainly set a record for grand slams this year. We’re already past last year’s totals.”
Zeb Tilton’s 56-pound boat striper recorded last Friday was “ in the top five bass ever recorded in the derby,” Mr. Scott said.
A record weight grand slam was also recorded by Mr. Tilton, who parlayed his winning bass into 81.70 total pounds, a tenth of a pound more than Lev Wlodyka’s record catch several years ago. Mr. Tilton’s bass was about 18 years old, according to a weight/age scale produced by StriperSurf.com.
The intensity of the derby was not lost on veteran derby man Paul Schultz late Saturday night on Norton Beach. Mr. Schultz had weighed in nearly a nine-pound shore blue earlier in the evening and was hoping it would hold up for the bluefish Super Saturday special $500 prize. It did.
Mr. Schultz had hunted blues all day, finally hooking up with the winner on his sixth but not final fishing spot of the day. Each Saturday, a $500 prize is awarded for a particular species for both shore and boat. False albacore is the species for the Sept. 22 Super Saturday event.
Anglers fished hard on Saturday despite bad morning weather. Only five overnight and early morning fish were weighed but 96 more fish hit the scales by 10 p.m. for a daily total of 101, no doubt spurred by the Saturday event.
Twelve of the seventeen first-week leaders were replaced by new leaders during the second week. In all, more than 800 fish were weighed in by the end of the second, more than half of the total recorded for the entire 2006 derby.
“Of course, it could change with a patch of weather,” Mr. Scott cautioned, “but the weather looks to be great all week this week.”
Derby Hall of Famer Cooper Gilkes was awed. “ It’s been a long time since we’ve seen anything like this,” he said.
Women anglers showed up in force last week, with Amy Lawry winning a daily on Sunday for shore bluefish at 9.98 pounds, Bridget Rauh weighed a 21.77 pound boat bass on Sunday with Ann Metcalf in third at 19.19 pounds. Beverly Bergeron was hard behind the leader in boat bluefish with a second-place 11.57 pounder. Sarah Williston continued the family weigh-in tradition, showing up on the board with a third-place all tackle boat bluefish at 10.09 pounds.
Junior contestant Christopher Mayhew turned a lot of heads on Sunday, weighing in a 6.54 all tackle boat bonito, good for first place in the division and in the junior division and in the mix for the overall tournament, trailing leader Jeremy Scheffer by about one pound.
Asked if large fish, including a near-record bass, would discourage fishing, weigh-in workers and committee members chorused “No” on Sunday evening.
Martha Smith, weigh-in major domo, said that, on the contrary, fishing will become more aggressive, particularly when a $1,000 prize for a new record species catch awaits on Oct. 13.
“If there’s a 56-pounder, why not a bigger fish? I think it’ll spur them on,” she said.
Ms. Smith also noted that despite record weigh-ins, recent regulations on false albacore seem to be working. “We used to see people weighing four or five fish, now they’re bringing in one or two. It’s working well for species conservation,” she said.
In all, 881 fish were caught through Monday morning with a total weight of more 8,500 pounds. Weight by species was consistent, with the average bluefish at 7.33 pounds, the average bonito at 4.91 pounds, the average false albacore at 9.22 pounds and the average bass at nearly 21 pounds.
Anglers and derby watchers have been buoyed by the division of fish caught by species this year. At the end of the second week, bluefish represented 40 per cent of the weigh-in, false albacore were 26 per cent of the fish weighed, bass were 18 per cent of the weigh-in and bonito were 16 per cent of the total.
Several veteran anglers said they would focus on bonito this week, fearing that the proliferation of the larger false albacore specie with similar feeding patterns to the bonito would force bonito from the Sound.
Mystery prize winners for Sept. 16 included Gene W. Bergeron, Tom L. Langman, William Seabourne, Robert D. Morrison and Gus N. Hoy. Mystery prize winners take fishing tackles prizes and are awarded from all weigh-ins of bass, blue and bonito.
In addition to Mr. Tilton’s leading boat bass, other division leaders through Sunday, Sept. 16 included Matthew Sudarsky’s 25.53 pound all tackle shore bass, Jeremy Scheffer’s all tackle boat bonito at 7.67 pounds, Zachary Tilton’s 5.29 pound shore all tackle bonito, Glenn Pachico with a 13.69 pound all tackle boat blue, and Jim F. Creedon with an all-tackle 10.73 pound shore blue.
False albacore leaders include Andre Levesque’s 14.28 pound in the all tackle boat division and Mr. Creedon with a 13.39 pound all tackle shore albacore. Jaime H. Boyle become the new leader in the flyrod boat striped bass division with a 23.14 pounder edging Thomas J. Rapone’s 22.19 pound early leader.