On the eve of the start of the 63rd annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby a cadre of friends gathered to celebrate a derby birthday. Don Mohr, 85, of West Tisbury, was honored by his friends and wife at a party at his home on Otis Bassett Road.
Their fish lines not yet in the water, derby anglers gathered for sandwiches and beverages and to share stories with Mr. Mohr, who was chairman of the derby from 1989 to 1991 and derby committee member from 1984 to 1991.
His wife Marian made sure all the guests were appropriately served and their whistles wet, so the fish tales could fly.
Mr. Mohr has fished every good spot on the Vineyard from East Beach to Aquinnah. He has also fished with the best, including the late Arnold Spofford.
He read from a log he has kept of all the people he met when he fished from the shore. The list of names was long, and many who attended the party felt honored be included in the Mohr memory book. “My favorite fishing spot is of course Wasque,” he said. And he got plenty of names there for his log book.
He offered his own predictions for shore fishing in the month-long derby. He said the largest bluefish caught this year will weigh 16.9 pounds. “And it will probably be caught at Wasque,” he said.
The largest striped bass in the derby will weigh 39.7 pounds and it will be caught at night at Squibnocket on a plug in a southwest wind, the veteran angler predicted.
Seated not far from him was Daniel J. Geary of Edgartown, paying close attention. Mr. Geary holds the recent record for landing the largest bluefish from the shore. He caught a 15.60-pound shore bluefish at East Beach and won the 2002 derby. There have been other big bluefish caught from boats, but no one on the shore has yet beaten that fish of record. A note keeper has to look back years to find bigger shore bluefish.
Bluefish aren’t as big as they used to be. The derby record for the largest bluefish was held by Jean Hancock in 1972 who caught a bluefish weighing 23 pounds from a boat. Mr. Geary wondered where the big blues are today.
He retold his personal story about how he caught his big one, how he had arrived at a favorite fishing bowl on East Beach and met a frustrated angler leaving the beach. Mr. Geary said the man gave up and was going home. A short time after that conversation with the tired angler, Mr. Geary caught the fish on an old lure that he had found and recycled: a Creek Chub.
But Mr. Mohr wasn’t finished with his predictions: “Fran Clay will win the women’s award,” he declared. Seated nearby, she expressed surprise.
The afternoon broke up after everyone had finished off the birthday cake, though the stories could have gone on a lot longer.