Eight-year-old Donald O’Shaughnessy of Edgartown won the 26th annual Kids’ Mini Derby on Sunday. Mr. O’Shaughnessy caught a 14 3/8 inch scup, the largest fish of the contest. It was the first time an angler had won the morning contest with a scup. The youngster caught his fish at about 7 a.m., at a time when most Island youngsters were at home asleep.
The boy was aglow at the 8:30 a.m. awards ceremony at the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority wharf. He also received a plaque of a good looking mounted scup, made by Janet Messineo of Island Taxidermy.
His fish was not the only remarkable winner. So were 300 children that came out to fish for free. The Island’s children and their friends had plenty of parents to thank for the early morning trip. A lot of the families arose before sunrise.
Christine Wiley of West Tisbury arrived with her family, dressed for winter. She had a ski hat on and winter coat. “All I am missing are my ski boots and my skis,” she said. She reported that the thermometer was 52 when they left the house.
Her husband Chuck Wiley was more accustomed to getting up early than most parents. He runs Vineyard Gardens, a landscape and gardening business with early mornings and late days. “I am already halfway through my day,” he said.
The event was more about children and their loved ones than about little fish from the sea. The Wileys’ son Andrew kept leaning over the rail looking down at the water for signs of bigger fish. Nearby his nine-year-old friend Christopher Aring-Sharkovitz also was wondering where the biggest fish were.
The morning contest was perfect when juxtaposed against the weather of the morning before, with high winds, heavy rains, and stormy seas.
The sun rose above the waters of Nantucket Sound like a brightly lit beach ball. The steady brisk breeze from the west made the seas in the Sound choppy.
For Mark Maciel of Oak Bluffs, a father, the day represented an end.
“This is the last year,” Mr. Maciel said. He turned and looked at his 14-year-old son Jacob. The two have fished plenty of kids derbies in years past, but next year when he is 15 years old, the boy will be too old to fish this contest. It means the father can sleep in.
“It was a lot of fun, but I won’t miss it,” said Mr. Maciel, referring to getting up early to get to the Steamship Authority wharf.
John Custer, chairman of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, was busy making memories with his six-year-old daughter Isabel.
Mr. Custer had his own poignant recollections. This day was a flip in juxtaposition for him, a change in place.
Mr. Custer, a 5th and 6th grade social studies teacher at the Tisbury elementary school, was also revisiting a childhood memory. He said he remembered being a youngster, a participant in Kids’ Mini Derby of years ago and fishing with his father Herb.
“I remember the splashing, when one of the young fishermen caught a bonito. For me this is the best day of the derby,” he said, referring to the much larger, month-long Vineyard derby.
The morning fishing contest for children was run by the same people who run the Vineyard derby, plus sponsors.
The cool morning was an opportunity to connect generations.
Arthur Ben David, former Oak Bluffs harbor master, was at the dock to lend support to his two-year-old grandson Nicholas. Mr. Ben David said he had six grandchildren.
Seven-year-old Baylee Francis of Oak Bluffs stood at the rail at the edge of the dock with her rod and reel. Her baited hook sat uneventfully in the water. Her fishing coach was her grandmother, Norma Marathas.
The two fish together often. “We fished off East Chop last weekend,” the grandmother said. “We go a lot.”
This was an important contest for Troy Blose and his eight-year-old daughter Camille. “We’ve been coming to the Vineyard for seven years and this is the first year that we are here for Kids’ Day,” he said. The two live in Gypsum, Colo. “Every time we get here, we’ve always come a week after it is over,” he said. She caught two fish.
Seven-year-old Bobby Olcott of Vineyard Haven may have caught the smallest fish of the day. The fish measured a little more than an inch. And derby officials observed the little fish seemed to be smiling.
Mel Hauck, an official with the derby, used wool gloves to measure each of the children’s slimy fish. Every fish, every child was accounted for and noted and the records were turned over to Lela Gilkes, compiler and wife of the fishing contest chairman Cooper A. Gilkes 3rd.
The best fishing was early and then it slowed down. Mr. Hauck said there was some variation from what was primarily a scup tournament. “We’ve seen black sea bass, needle fish and I did see a hermit crab,” he said.
His daughter Morgan Hauck, a fifth grade teacher at the Edgartown School, walked among the children and encouraged the youngsters to keep fishing. She said she was cheering them on. At least a half a dozen students fishing were students in her class.
At the conclusion of the contest, Ed Jerome, president of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, gave the awards:
“This is an all-time record for scup being caught,” Mr. Jerome said. In years past fishermen had won with the largest striped bass, false albacore and dogfish. This year’s competition reflected a growing abundance of scup in Island waters.
Further winners are as follows:
Anglers eight years old and younger: 1, Max Eber, 8, 13 1/4 inch scup; 2, Curtis Fornier, 7, 13 1/4 inch scup; 3, Grace Carroll, 6, 12 3/4 inch black sea bass.
Nine through 11 years of age: 1, Dominic Alosso, 9, 13 inch black sea bass; 2, Robert Greenough, 10, 13 inch scup; Thomas O’Shaughnessy, 10, 12 3/4 inch scup.
Anglers 12 to 14 years of age: 1, Michael Montanile, 13, 13 inch scup; 2, Billy Anderson, 14, 12 3/8 inch scup; 3, Tony Debettencourt, 13, 12 1/4 inch scup.
The winners received fishing gear and hats. All who participated in the competition received free T-shirts.