Tom Rapone has his Superman phone booth routine down. Shortly after the weigh station opened Wednesday morning, he appeared in white Grunden’s and boots with a false albacore in hand. After weighing the fish, he moved down the counter to collect his certificate, and a weekly prize bag for the top striped bass (35.76 pounds) from a boat for caught in the fourth week of the Martha’s Vineyard Bass and Bluefish Derby.

Shelly O'Neil, Polly Conway, Lizzie Wallo and Joe El-Diery. — Timothy Johnson

But he doesn’t wait for the paperwork from the weigh station ladies. Instead he promises them he will be right back.

A minute or so later, he returns, in slacks and a button-down shirt. He collects his paperwork and heads off at a trot. He’s late to work at his job as an Edgartown attorney.

Every minute on the water counts as the last few days of the derby slip by. As the weather finally turns fair, the tension will ratchet up for those on the leader board, hoping their fish will hold up until the weigh station door closes at 10 p.m. Saturday night.

“The next couple of days are supposed to be nice,” Mr. Rapone said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of fish caught.”

His comment was a little more prophetic than he hoped. Mr. Rapone was on the leader board until later Wednesday, when Michael Capen brought in a 39.69-pound striper to displace Mr. Rapone for the top spot in the boat bass division.

More people than ever entered the derby this year. With three days to go, 3,321 anglers registered to compete in the tournament, eclipsing the previous record of 3,262 entrants.

Eli Bonnell in action at the derby fillet table. — Timothy Johnson

But even with a record number if fishermen, Bob Lane hasn’t seen many fish on the filet table as the derby winds down.

“Couple of fish a day, that’s it,” Mr. Lane said.

The species totals indicate fewer fish are being weighed this year than last year, except for striped bass. With three days of fishing left, competitors had weighed in 273 stripers, already more than the 259 counted last year.

Barring a fishing blitz in the final days, it seems certain that totals in the other three species will be down significantly.

On Thursday morning, 773 bluefish were weighed in, compared to 891 for the entire tournament last year.

A total of 240 bonito were weighed by Thursday morning. Last year 340 bonito landed on the scales. There was still only one bonito weighed so far in the shore division.

False albacore numbers have seen the biggest drop. with 231 weighed through Thursday morning, compared to 467 last year.

Weather was a big factor as the derby swung into the home stretch, with one day of drenching rain and several other days with gusty winds approaching or exceeding gale force.

On Sunday, Oct. 9, more than 2.5 inches of rain fell, and wind gusts in excess of 60 miles per hour were recorded by National Weather Service observers.

“We have had our share of wind,” said derby committee treasurer Chris Scott. Reached on his mobile phone, a bell on a navigation boy clanged in the background. He was on a boat, somewhere “south of the Vineyard,” keeping any more specificity about the location to himself.

Bill O'Brien at East Chop Yacht Club: forecast calls for a tasty dinner. — Timothy Johnson

“I’m certainly enjoying my day,” Mr. Scott said. “I’ve got a nice bluefish in the box. We’re getting about one an hour.”

Mr. Scott visited derby headquarters Wednesday evening to weigh in a 13.72-pound bluefish, second best of the day.

“In general, the fishing has been very good when the weather permits,” he said. “The shore fishermen are a hardy bunch. The worst days, they’ve found some shelter where they are bring in some decent fish.”

Mr. Scott is a couple of degrees more optimistic about the fishing than many of the derby competitors.

“Sloooow,” said Kathi Pagoda, whose name has appeared often on the leader boards in the 21 years she has fished the derby. She said several offshore storms have affected fishing, and what fish have been caught, are smaller.

“They were in, but after that, no,” Ms. Pagoda said. “We’re kind of used to bigger fish. They’re all small this year.”

She has weighed in only one fish so far, a false albacore just over nine pounds. While she is disappointed in her results, she has not lost any of her optimism.

Derby regular Victoria Scott at the leader board. — Timothy Johnson

“Just being here, this is so beautiful, even on a bad day of no fish, it’s heaven,” she said, just as the morning sun broke through a dull sky. “When you do catch a fish, it’s everything.”

The derby committee is acutely aware of the smaller numbers of fish recorded at the weigh station this year, but Mr. Scott and other committee members are not convinced it reflects fewer fish being caught.

Several rule changes were intended to discourage fishermen from weighing smaller fish that have little or no chance to win a daily, weekly, or grand prize.

“We’re not a catch-and-release tournament but we are very interested in conservation,” Mr. Scott said.

The committee is collecting additional data on the fish this year, to help determine if changes in minimum length are warranted in future years.

“We’re collecting data on the length of the bass that are caught,” Mr. Scott said. “Internally it gives us more of a handle on an informed decision, on whether you should increase the length. We want to create a balance. For a lot of people, just weighing in a fish , whether they win a prize or not, makes the derby for them.”

The committee is also collecting scales from some striped bass, to be analyzed by fisheries scientists.

Many fish or few fish, big fish or small fish, the lure of the Martha’s Vineyard Bass and Bluefish Derby never seems to waver.

Late this week, Tommy Reynolds was leading the tournament in the boat bonito division, after weighing in a 9.78-pound fish. But if you call his house to ask him about it, Lisa Fisher answers.

“He’s out fishing,” she says. “I don’t know when he’s coming back. It’s still the derby. There’s always another big one out there.”