It seems every day the fish get bigger at the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, now entering its third week. There have been numerous lead changes in all categories. Daniel Hiemer, 40, of Waldeck, Germany, is currently at the top of the bluefish caught from a boat with a 19.69 pounder, the largest anyone has seen in years. The fish is over four pounds larger than last year’s biggest bluefish.
Yesterday morning another big bluefish moved to the top shore division. Mike Alwardt, a familiar West Tisbury shore fisherman, came in with a 14.53 pound bluefish. He said he caught the fish in Aquinnah.
The 68th annual derby is now at the halfway mark in what is a five-week event. Over 2,000 fishermen have registered and already well over 600 fish have been weighed in, including striped bass, bluefish, bonito and false albacore for an approximate total of 6,500 pounds.
Yesterday morning Cooper A. Gilkes 3rd of Edgartown stepped into first place in the bonito shore division with a 6.58 pound fish. The derby has a minimum size on all fish and this was the first bonito caught from shore big enough to weigh in. Bonito must be at least 21 inches long. As of yesterday morning, all of the other 100-plus bonito have been caught by boat fishermen.
The largest striped bass weighed in by an angler so far is 30.06 pounds caught by Julie M. Immelt from the shore. But the big ones have not yet arrived. The water is still warm and the fall migration is just beginning. Last year’s largest striped bass, caught from a boat, weighed 44 pounds.
Mr. Hiemer caught his leading bluefish last Sunday while fishing with Tony Serpa of Edgartown in Mr. Serpa’s 21.5 foot white Chris-Craft. Mr. Hiemer has been fishing the derby for four years, often with Mr. Serpa, his first cousin’s husband.
When asked where he caught the fish, Mr. Hiemer said: “In the water.”
When Mr. Serpa was asked where the fish was caught, he said: “Off East Beach.” The fishermen were using lures.
One has to go back to 1998 to find a bigger bluefish brought in at the derby, weighing 20.58 pounds and caught by Abram Williams.
Next up is the Kayak Challenge Weekend beginning at 12:01 a.m. this morning and running to Sunday at 10 p.m. Regular derby rules apply and the anglers who catch the biggest fish in each category qualify for a drawing for a new kayak to be held at the end of the derby.
Next week is the fifth annual American Heroes Saltwater Challenge sponsored by the Beach Plum Inn. This event runs from Monday to Friday and provides a group of wounded soldiers the opportunity to visit the Vineyard and take part in the derby for free. The soldiers stay at the Beach Plum Inn and local charter fishermen donate their time and boats. This year’s event includes golf at the Vineyard Golf Club.
Yesterday, Sarah Guinan Nixon, key organizer of the event, said they are expecting 10 heroes and their families. She said community support is still needed to complete what is always a special event. For more information, visit saltwaterchallenge.org.
The striped bass and bluefish derby website is mvderby.com.