Foul weather predicted for this weekend may hinder but it won’t slow down the enthusiasts participating in the 63rd annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. Fishing is at a fever pitch.
Sloppy seas and a prevailing east-northeast breeze made the fishing tough this week. Nevertheless, at the Wednesday night derby weigh-in, the derby got a new leader in the striped bass boat category.
Dave Mong, 51, of Morgan City, La., caught a 40.65-pound striped bass while fishing with Buddy Vanderhoop on his 30-foot charter fishing boat Tomahawk. This is Mr. Mong’s first time fishing the derby and he said it has been years since he caught a striped bass.
A retired marine inspector from the U.S. Coast Guard, he came to the Island to fish the derby at the urging of a friend and Coast Guard colleague.
His fish is the largest striped bass caught so far in the month-long contest. The leading shore fisherman, Matthew Gamache, caught a 32.22-pound striper earlier in the derby. The derby began on Sunday, Sept. 14 and runs through Saturday, Oct. 18.
“They didn’t say ‘fishing is least when the wind is from the east’ for nothing,” declared Ed Jerome, president of the derby. “It is the worst wind,” he added.
Yesterday afternoon the wind at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport was clocked at a steady 20 mph.
Weather forecasters are predicting that a storm circling in the waters off South Carolina will bring a northeaster to Cape and Islands waters today and tomorrow. As of yesterday, the National Weather Service was issuing a high surf advisory until tonight and heavy rain through tomorrow night.
There were over 2,000 fishermen registered in the derby as of Wednesday night; the number is expected to continue to grow. Last year over 3,000 fishermen entered the contest.
Fishermen have weighed in 8,103 pounds of striped bass, bluefish, Atlantic bonito and false albacore. Some of the fish has been filleted and distributed to Island councils on aging.
On Wednesday night one of those enjoying the fillets was a 300-plus-pound seal nicknamed Sardini. Matt Malowski, an English teacher who works as the fillet master, was attending to Sardini swimming near the dock, giving the animal tasty sushi. More than 20 people watched as the seal swam for its supper.
This is the third year the seal has visited the derby, Mr. Malowski said. He recalls seeing the seal as a distant bystander three years ago, when it would come near the fillet station but never close. Last year it came a little closer. This year the seal is even closer, taking fish fillets from the hand.
Mr. Malowski slapped a fillet onto the surface of the water, and the seal appeared. It did not stay close for long, but would roll over and either go deep into the water or speed away. A number of people stood by the dock with cameras.
More than $350,000 in money and prizes will be awarded this year at the derby. The grand prize is a 20-foot Eastern center console boat, outboard and trailer for the shore fisherman with at least one of the largest of the four species. The second grand prize is a 2008 Chevy 4x4 pickup truck for the boat angler who catches one of the largest of the four species.
The awards ceremony will be Sunday, Oct. 19 at Outerland. There will be a drawing for the boat and the truck. As in past years, the drawing may include a junior fisherman.
Registration for the derby is at most Island tackle shops. Registration is $45, though there may be an additional charge if a fisherman wants to participate in some of the derby’s other special events. This weekend the angler able to catch the largest false albacore from the shore or from a boat may win $500 in cash.
The derby weigh station is open from 8 to 10 a.m. and from 8 to 10 p.m. daily, in all weather.