From the Sept. 19, 1980 edition of the Gazette:

When summer ends and autumn begins seems a matter of our own business here on the Vineyard. We know well enough. Our experience and expertise begin early in life and continue into a lingering maturity, unless we spend too much time in the cryptic population centers of the mainland. Our own business it is, we know the signs, and we will attend to them in our good time. Yet we acknowledge that there is an official version, an astronomical encounter which we may regard in the popular current idiom as a “guideline.” This is known as the autumnal equinox and occurs sometime on Sept. 22. Old time Vineyarders said that the sun crossed the line. One of the ablest of the modern celestologists (our own word) says that “sun arrives on the equatorial plane today, at the point in the constellation Virgo known as the autumnal equinox.”

None of this means, however, that we should take in our geraniums from outdoors where they look so bright, or cover our roses, or neglect to look for ripened tomatoes in the wilted and dying garden. Nor does it give us any intimation as to the first front, or the time to haul up our boats, or the arrival of the closed season on visiting relatives and old college friends.

The foregoing explains why we say that the end of summer and the beginning of autumn is our own affair.

The first three days of the 35th annual Chamber of Commerce Bass and Bluefish Derby produced quite a few strong fish at a time when Island anglers were counting on painting their picket fences because of the rumored bad fishing. It is certainly early, but the tournament leaders have fish that look to stand up for a while longer.

Edgartownian Porky Francis’s 17 lb. 12 ounce blue, caught from a boat Wednesday led the tournament as of last night, making 89 per cent of the par weight for blues. Par weight is obtained by averaging the last 10 years of leading derby bass or bluefish.

The tournament leading bass belongs to Whit Manter of West Tisbury, who swears on whatever he can get his hands on that he caught his 45 lb. 8 oz. specimen at 12:05 a.m. Tuesday morning from the shores of Gay Head. The derby began at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday morning. Whit’s bass is 89 per cent of the par weight for bass in the derby.

The Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority wharf freight has been transformed by the volunteer work of Everett Wharton, Steve Wharton, and David Grunden and members of the derby committee into a serviceable derby headquarters with adjoining fillet room. With some plumbing from Edgartown’s marine biologist Scott Colby, the Whartons and David Grunden built the fillet room from scratch. For that feat, they have the chamber of commerce’s lasting gratitude, said Laura Weigle, the organization’s acting director.

The one kink in the derby works in the early going, by now hopefully solved, was some confusion about weigh-in times. The posted times of 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. every morning and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night will be strictly adhered to, Miss Weigle says. Fishermen should get their catch in before 10 p.m. to qualify for a prize that day, she added.

But the mood at derby headquarters was otherwise relaxed this week, and rolling credits seemed the order of the day. Derby organizers had praise for many, thanking John Terry for his murals on the outside of the fillet shed, thanking the construction crew, and the many volunteers who dropped in and out to fillet a fish or fix a lock.

For the fishermen, nature served up two nights out of three of cool, clear weather. Wednesday was clear, but windy on the South Shore. Thursday was dull, drab and depressing. But by last night the weather had cleared.

One of the best fish for its category was brought in Thursday night — an 8 lb. 6 oz. bonito hooked by Frank Mancini of West Tisbury. The weight was just two ounces shy of the world record for bonito. The best action so far seems to be in boat blues and shore bass. The best boat bass, Lenny Goguen’s 29 lb. 2 oz. catch is one of the only two boat stripers entered. As for shore blues, Richard Rabbitt of Boston leads the visitors category with an 11 lb. 12 oz. take, and Ken Lobdell of Vineyard Haven leads the residents category with a 13 lb. 12 oz. fish.

But to get an idea of how the shore blues are going, one must consider that a 4 lb. 7 oz. blue is in third in the visitors’ column. In that category, anyway, one can expect some movement soon.

Flyrodders have been particularly quiet for the derby opening, with Dan Purdy’s 7 lb. 1 oz. blue and his 7 lb. bonito being the leaders, with no flyrod bass or weakfish entered.

Peter Gillis of Vineyard Haven is leading the junior bass category with a 24 lb. 11 oz. fish. Heather Hearn and Toby Galvin are tied for junior blue at 4 lbs. 5 oz. Heather is from West Tisbury, Toby from Brunswick, Me.

W.C. Lenz of Summit, N.J. is leading the senior citizens’ bluefish category with his respectable 17 lb. 2 oz. catch.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox