You can call it the only kids’ saltwater multispecies fishing tournament on the Vineyard. Very early Sunday morning, anglers from around the Island, all under 15, went fishing at the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority wharf. They caught lots of fish: bluefish, scup, black sea bass, skate and summer flounder (fluke). They kept nothing; the tournament is catch and release.
But there were plenty of prizes to go around. Close to 200 anglers (not all of them were children) participated. And most caught fish.
The Oak Bluffs ferry wharf is well known as a good place to catch fish. And on every day but one throughout the year, the area is closed to fishing due to safety concerns. On Sunday morning the place was overrun by anxious, energetic young fishermen. They arrived before sunrise and finish by midmorning.
Cary Morotan-Straton, seven, of West Tisbury, caught a 17-inch bluefish from the dock and won the grand overall prize for the longest fish.
Hailey Rogers, 11, of Edgartown showed grace and good sportsmanship when she caught an eight-inch bluefish and chose to release the fish almost as quickly as she caught it. She said she wanted the fish to get bigger and come back another day.
The tournament attracted senior anglers too, including Arthur Bailow, 62, a dockworker for the Steamship Authority. Mr. Bailow said he spent his summer chasing people with fishing rods off the wharf, which is attracts a rich collection of sea life. “I throw people off the dock all the time,” he said. But this day was different.
Mr. Bailow loves fishing and he also loves being a grandfather. He accompanied his six-year-old grandson Micah Vought of Oak Bluffs to the tournament.
Between casts, he stopped for a moment and looked up and down the dock. He said he could count 15 of young Mr. Vought’s relatives. “There are uncles, grandmothers and plenty of cousins. They are all here,” Mr. Bailow said.
There were a lot of grandmothers on hand as well as parents, uncles and aunts who had risen at 5 a.m. and driven from distant places.
Mitchell Chabes, 10, of West Tisbury was having a ball. His father, Ernie, stood quietly a distance away, watching with pride.
Baylee Francis, nine, of Oak Bluffs had caught nine fish by 8 a.m. She credited her morning success to her grandmother, Norma Marathas. She said the two often spend afternoons fishing off the Oak Bluffs dock near the Island Queen.
Dozens of fish were caught, brought to the measuring station, and released. Juvenile scup were swimming all around the dock. Children happily measured their fish and then ran over to the edge of the dock and threw their fish back in for another day.
Seven-year-old Frank Grey of Oak Bluffs caught a scup that was 14 inches long and won the annual scup trophy, a prize made by Island taxidermist Janet Messineo of Vineyard Haven. The realistic trophy glittered in the sunshine. Frank also won a third prize in the eight-and-under category. The young angler’s fish was a quarter of an inch bigger than one caught by Ethan Donovan.
The winners of the event are as follows: grand overall winner: Cary Morotan-Straton, seven, West Tisbury, 17-inch bluefish.
Winners aged eight and under: 1, Carly Uva, age seven, West Tisbury, 15-inch sea bass; 2, Nathaniel Packer, age eight, Vineyard Haven, 14-inch black sea bass; 3, Frank Grey, Oak Bluffs, 14-inch scup.
Winners aged nine through 11: 1, Ricardo Andre, age nine, Oak Bluffs, 16.75-inch skate; 2, Ethan Donovan, age 11, 13.75-inch scup; 3, Devon Metters, age 10, Vineyard Haven, 12.75-inch scup.
Winners aged 12 to 14: 1, Heidi White, age 11, Oak Bluffs, 14-inch fluke; 2, Tom O’Shaughnessy, age 12, Edgartown 13.25-inch black sea bass; 3, Jill Allen, age 12, Bellingham, 13-inch black sea bass.