At first light on Sunday morning, young anglers lined the Steamship Authority wharf in Oak Bluffs, rods and reels in hand, to fish in the annual kids derby. Parents stood just over their shoulders, cheering as they watched the children haul their catch over the railing.

The kids derby is a long-running part of the annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, but there are a few different rules. For one, the Steamship Wharf is open for fishing for two early morning hours, the only time during the whole year this is possible. Kids are also allowed to receive a helping hand from their parents, something that is strictly forbidden in the regular derby.

Ashton Trott, 11, takes second place for a huge Black Sea Bass. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Lastly, the kids are fishing for a different group of fish which are measured by length instead of weight. Black Sea Bass and scup are often a top catch, but it is not rare to see an eel, a crab or a side-hooked peanut bunker pulled over the pier. All are eligible contenders for the tournament.

This year it was clear that Black Sea Bass led the way.

Clara Rabini, age nine, won the derby with her 20-inch black sea bass, two and a half inches larger than the second place fish. Clara remained tight-lipped about the fishing techniques that landed her the derby winner.

The winners and their new gear. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“I got in the ocean,” she shrugged.

Seven-year old Brycen Millen had some more advice to offer.

“I just reel in really, really quickly,” he said. “And my dad helps out a little.”

Ellis Estrella, age five, and winner of the youngest anglers division with his 17-inch sea bass had a different strategy.

“You just sit there and wait,” he said.

Holding his enormous fish out in front of him to gaze at it face to face, he continued: “It was a long fight, but I just plopped it in and it chased me to the dock.”

The measuring team! — Mark Alan Lovewell

By 8 a.m. the sun was beginning to rise high in the sky, cutting away at the morning fog as kids gathered for the awards ceremony. Derby president John Custer spoke to both adults and children alike about the importance of fishing to the community. And he thanked the parents for bringing their kids to the wharf at the crack of dawn.

He also thanked Cooper and Lela Gilkes for their help in organizing the first kids derby over 30 years ago.

Mr. Custer said that he remembered fishing in the event himself, when he was a kid. “[Coop and Lela] were here when I did the kid’s derby and they are still here today,” he said to the crowd. “I very much love seeing parents and their children fishing together. What a beautiful day.”

“This is what it’s all about,” Mr. Gilkes concluded.

More pictures.