Even though a category two hurricane called Ophelia missed us and passed several hundred miles to the east of Martha’s Vineyard last weekend, local rod and reel fisherman have few kind words to say about it. Though far away, turbulent waves from the storm muddied the waters and have nearly shut down the best fishing in this fall’s 66th annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. Fish are scarce but there is hope it will change this weekend.
Only top anglers are coming in with big fish. On Wednesday night, just 14 fish were weighed in by anglers at the headquarters at the foot of Main street in Edgartown. No fish were caught by junior anglers or by fly rod fishermen.
Roy Langley, weigh master, said yesterday that just for fun, he tried to start a rumor that the derby weigh-in was going to be closed in the mornings because it was so slow. “I wanted to see if anyone was paying attention. I wanted to liven things up with the idea,” he said. But he got a quick response: No.
On Monday, Don Sicard, 51, of Maynard, was the only angler to weigh in a striped bass caught from the shore for the whole day. Mr. Sicard is an avid derby angler. He said he caught his 18.28 pound fish using bunker as bait at around midnight, the night before. Mr. Sicard said he was fishing with Jack Creighton of Yarmouth. Both are members of the Cape Cod Salties, a recreational fishing organization on the Cape. The two had fished the south shore under starry skies.
On Sunday evening, Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree landed a 15.5-pound bluefish, which now leads in the boat category. Mr. Ogletree fished earlier in the day with his friend, attorney Dennis Sweet, from Mississippi. They had fished with Buddy Vanderhoop, a charter fisherman from Aquinnah, in his boat Tomahawk. It was their second trip of the weekend. Mr. Ogletree and Mr. Vanderhoop and their friends have spent a lot of sea time together through the years.
Mr. Sweet caught a 14.29 pound bluefish, which placed second for the day, behind Mr. Ogletree. On Saturday, Mr. Sweet caught a 29.63 striped bass, which earned him a second place for the day.
Mr. Ogletree said the weather on Sunday was good for fishing though there were eight to ten foot swells. “It was to my liking and Buddy’s liking, an average day on the water,” he said.
Anglers have been watching two brothers, both superior fishermen, competing in the Atlantic bonito boat category for the Grand Prize.
Domingo (Mike) Canha, 67, of Vineyard Haven took first place on Thursday, Sept. 22 for a large 8.62 pound bonito. Two days later, his brother, Joe P. Canha, 64, also of Vineyard Haven, bumped him down to second place with a 9.40 pound fish. But the story isn’t over.
Last Sunday, while fishing together, Domingo moved back up to first place with a 9.79 pound bonito, which still stands as the biggest fish.
“They are dedicated to their families and have a true bond. They spend a lot of time together on the water,” said Jeffrey Canha, their second cousin who also runs Done Deal Charters. “Those two have a knack for finding big fish and they are very persistent.”
With eight days left in the derby, it is very likely that at least one Canha will be a winner.
Yesterday morning, Cooper A. Gilkes 3rd walked into derby headquarters after the door had opened less than ten minutes earlier. Mr. Gilkes carried in a 34.34 pound striped bass he had caught from the shore. Mr. Gilkes and his catch pushed David Nash aside into second place. Mr. Nash has been at the top with his 30.76 pound fish, since he caught it early in the morning on the eighth day of the derby, Monday, Sept. 19.
There are now over 2,400 fishermen registered in the contest and this is the last big push.
The Columbus Day weekend is big weekend for young and old anglers.
Amy Coffey, who oversees the crew behind the counter at the weigh-in headquarters, said she has seen very few junior anglers weighing in fish. “They have all been in school. But that will change this weekend,” she said. “Everyone will be out.” There are 247 junior anglers registered in the contest.
Junior anglers have weighed in 206 fish. All tackle anglers have weighed in 1,420 fish.
Of all the fishermen in the contest, note that there are 272 women registered in the all tackle division and 15 registered as fly rod anglers. There was a time when fly-fishing held a significant role in the fishing contest. In 25 days of fishing, though, the anglers have only weighed in 30 fish, including eleven bluefish, four bonito, twelve false albacore and three striped bass.
The fishing contest continues to Saturday, Oct. 15. Registration forms are available at all local tackle shops. The entry fee is at a minimum of $45. The weigh-in headquarters is open mornings from 8 to 10 a.m. and in the evening from 8 to 10 p.m. This weekend, being a holiday three-day weekend, will offer plenty to watch. The headquarters will likely attract a lot of spectators, not to mention the anglers and their families. The daily results are posted online at mvderby.com