Youngsters and their families rose before the sun Saturday morning, some as early as 2 a.m., to claim prime fishing real estate along Duarte’s Pond in West Tisbury. Groups of siblings, friends and parents and chaperones took over precious perches on the pond with beach chairs and tarps. High-pitched voices could be heard exclaiming, “I got one! I got one!” or “Eleven and a half!”; indicators that the first fish of the morning had been caught and measured.

Duarte’s Pond had been stocked with more than 1,000 trout two mornings in a row prior to the event. The occasion was the annual Kids’ Trout Tournament organized by the Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club, a beloved tradition that Cooper and Lela Gilkes have kept alive since the 70s. “It’s been going so long we’ve lost count as to what year of the event we’re in,” said Mrs. Gilkes.

Beginning before sunrise, families gathered along Duarte's Pond. — Maria Thibodeau

Fog hovered over the pond for most of the morning, providing ideal conditions for angling. “Most of your predators do better when it’s darker – [the fish] come up higher in the water instead of staying down. A cloudy day is better than when the sun is bright,” Mr. Gilkes explained.

For many, the early morning conditions were favorable; by 5:25 a.m. Corbin Buchwald, a nine-year tournament veteran at age 11, had caught a couple of the first trout, having staked out a spot right over the bridge with his mother Tamara and sister Tate, 10. Graham Sterns, also 11, wasn’t as lucky. “I’ve been coming since I was three or four years old, but I haven’t caught a trout in like four years,” he said, sounding disappointed but smiling.

Amber Ventura, age 6, snagged the largest fish of the day, a 21-inch pickerel. — Maria Thibodeau

Spare rods rested on wooden signs around the pond reading “No Fishing”. The signs had been put up by organizers after stocking the pond, which was also surveilled by the police department, to keep non-participants from depleting the trout supply. One such rod belonged to Bryce Cadrain, age 13, and had been a prize from the previous year. “Every year I have caught more than three trout,” he said proudly.

Parents and children alike were rewarded for their pre-dawn efforts. All tournament participants went home with Dairy Queen tokens and Flying Horse tickets, while coffee, hot chocolate, doughnuts and hot dogs were available throughout the morning. Winners across a number of categories were handsomely rewarded. Newcomer Zachary Moore, age five, won a brand new bicycle from Wheel Happy for catching the largest trout, an 18-inch tiger trout that he reeled in at around 7:30 a.m. Six-year-old Amber Ventura also won a top prize for her 21-inch pickerel in the largest fish of any other species category. In addition to new bicycles, the winners were awarded trophies and fishing poles.

There were repeat winners too: William Nicholson, seven, who was among last year’s winners, placed first in the youngest age bracket, catching a 15.5-inch rainbow trout. Reilly Sylvia placed first in the nine to 11 year old category, clenching a fist when his name was announced. For 12-year-old Micah Vought, also a prize winner, the draw was less about material reward than spending time with family, including his father, Asa, who also fished in the tournament as a kid. “It’s a cool thing to do with dad and it’s fun to fish,” he said.

Mr. Gilkes echoed that sentiment. “You get these kids really excited about it and that’s what its about — having a good time.”

Foggy morning for fishing. — Maria Thibodeau

In the eight-and-under division, William Nicholson, age 7, placed first with an 18.5-inch rainbow trout. Molly Silvia, 8, placed second with a 13.75-inch rainbow trout, and Grace Cotton, 7, came in third with a 13-inch rainbow trout.

Reilly Sylvia, 11, came in first in the nine to 11 division with a 15-inch rainbow trout. JJ Polleys, 10 came in second with a 14.25-inch brook trout, and Camden Townes, 9, placed third with a 14-inch rainbow trout.

Katherine O’Brien, 12, took home first place in the 12 to 14 division with a 15.5-inch rainbow trout. Micah Vought, 12, claimed second place with a 12.25-inch brook trout, and Veronica Wendt, 13, won third with a 12-inch brook trout.

Amber Ventura, 6, caught the biggest fish of the day with a 21-inch pickerel, claiming largest fish of any species, and Zachary Moore, 5, won largest trout with an 18-inch tiget trout.

More photos from the kids' fishing tournament.