If you’ve been having a hard time getting a plumber, gardener, carpenter or even reaching a bank president lately, have no fear. The 76th Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby is almost over. The historic monthlong Vineyard fishing contest attracts people from around the world, but a recent visit to the weigh station at the foot of Dock street in Edgartown confirmed that the most diehard contestants are Islanders.

“It’s all about the camaraderie, everybody comes down to the station, chitchats. This is where they all come to catch up after the summer,” said Leah Fraumeni, a committee member and avid angler.

Kristy Rose and Patrick Paquette jig for squid during down time. — Ray Ewing

Janet Messineo, another waterfront veteran who has fished the derby for 40 years, chimed in. “Yeah, like, hey there’s your Dad, go say hi,” she quipped.

It’s clear from the conversation that while the derby is a contest, it’s more about the inner competition than with others. For some just being out on the water is enough — and that’s a good thing because sometimes the people show up but the fish don’t. The fervor that many have for this fall classic can be seen in those who return year after year, even without catching a fish big enough to weigh in. Weigh master and longtime derby organizer Mike Cassidy summed it up with a story.

“There was this one guy, you couldn’t believe it, finally after 10 years or something, he finally caught one that was big enough to weigh in, and he was so happy. It was like he won the whole thing. That’s what turns me on,” he said.

But when conversation turns to the leader board, the names of top competitors have their rightful place. These are the women and men who will have the best chance to win it all, after the final weigh-in takes place Saturday night from 8 to 10 p.m.

Kathi Pogoda, who leads in a number of categories including with a monster 12.31-pound albie caught from the shore, may be the one to watch. And junior anglers Elizabeth Thompson and her partner Aubrey Warburton may be a good bet for the 10-14 age group. They call themselves “Girls Kick Bass,” and have been fishing from a boat. What kind of boat? “Their Dad’s!” came the reply amid peals of laughter.

Ryan Kiel brings in his 8.98 pound boat caught bluefish. — Ray Ewing

Mr. Cassidy and Ms. Fraumeni, who are also teammates, showed off their boat which was tied up near the weigh station. Ms. Fraumeni explained that while Mike had been fishing the derby for 20 years, this is the first year he has fished from a boat. The vessel is a small canoe with an engine and outriggers. “You cannot tip it over!,” she exclaimed. “Our team name is Canoe Catch a Fish?”

Of course the winner is in no way assured until the final bell. There have been people knocked off the leader board minutes before the last weigh in. “You come here tomorrow night and you’ll see everybody but the six leaders watching what goes on inside the shack, you’ll see them with their eyes peeled on the parking lot, hoping and praying no one shows up to knock them off the board,” Mr. Cassidy said.

And after it is all over? “The day after the derby is the best, I mean you get to sleep in a little,” Ms. Fraumeni said. Mr. Cassidy had a different take. “I don’t know, for me it’s kind of sad, you know?” he said. “Driving into the parking lot here after it’s over, you know, bittersweet.”

But that’s all for next week. For now, there is plenty of fishing left to do.

The 76th derby comes to a close Saturday night. The awards ceremony is Sunday, by invitation only due to the pandemic. The Gazette will carry full coverage on its website at vineyardgazette.com.

More pictures.