Birds had a lot of company at sunrise Saturday on Duarte’s Pond as early bird boys and girls circled the pond for the 47th Kids Trout Derby.

People set up shop as early as 4:30 a.m., organizer Lela Gilkes said. By sunrise roughly 40 kids between the ages of four and 14 sat around the perimeter of the pond, patiently waiting for a bite.

Owen Emin, age 4, wins for the under eight-year-old division. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“The fish bite more readily at first light,” Ms. Gilkes said.

Cooper and Lela Gilkes held the first derby in 1973 through the Martha’s Vineyard Fishing Club. It started at Mill Pond in West Tisbury then moved to Wiggy’s Pond in Oak Bluffs before settling at Duarte’s Pond to accommodate the amount of kids who wanted to take part, Ms. Gilkes said.

The hardest part of the derby was figuring out how best to bring it back after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Mr. Gilkes said. But Islanders were more than willing to lend a helping hand.

“The Island people are so great,” Mr. Gilkes said. “I have a whole list to check off. I went through it and every single one of the people said ‘tomorrow we will have it ready for you’ or ‘yep, any time, whenever you need.’”

The winners circle! — Mark Alan Lovewell

Dan Gilkes, son of Mr. and Ms. Gilkes, fished in the derby when he was a kid and now watches on as his daughter Hunter, who is six, participates.

“To have my kids come through it and now their kids is unreal,” Dan Gilkes said. “So many of the adults have been through it. It’s amazing.”

Rob Gatchell remembers looking across Wiggy’s Pond in 1987 and seeing a big commotion, he said. He saw water splashing about and knew someone had made a big catch. It turned out that someone was his son Kyle, who was six at the time. The fish was a winner that year and Mr. Gatchell has the mount to this day. Kyle is now 40 and his two kids, Jacob and Alison, have continued the tradition.

Going all in for early morning trout fishing. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“It’s kind of nice, full circle,” Rob Gatchell said. “Getting to be the parent and seeing them get to do the fishing, it’s a nice feeling.”

One year a parent started having special hot dogs and buns shipped to the Island from Florida for the derby, Mr. Gilkes said. Although the hot dogs no longer come from the sunshine state, the hot dog tradition lives on. At about 7:30 a.m. volunteer Chris Greene started up the grill and within 30 minutes served up 60 hot dogs.

“You get that initial rush and you try to get as many hot dogs into as many smiling mouths as you can, as quickly as possible,” Mr. Greene said. “It’s fun, anything for the kids.”

Hot dogs for breakfast! — Mark Alan Lovewell

But not everyone was in the mood for a hot dog.

“Do you have a sausage?” a child asked.

“No sausage, boss,” Mr. Greene said.

A hot dog would have to do.

The derby used to adhere to a rigid start and end time, but Mr. and Ms. Gilkes learned it was best to let the kids decide when to call it quits, Ms. Gilkes said.

“Youngsters lose their attention and we decide it’s time to wrap it up,” she said.

This year interest started to wane at around 9:20 a.m., at which point kids who caught the longest fishes were awarded trophies and new poles.

Jax Trott, overall winner, and Wesley Wlodyka, largest trout. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Christian Fisher, winner of the nine through 11-year-old category, was straightforward when asked how he felt about reeling in a winner.

“Happy because it was the only fish I caught,” Christian said.

Owen Emin took home first prize in the eight and under category, a division he may dominate for years to come — Owen is only four years old.

Jax Trott won the grand prize for largest fish overall, a 17-inch chain pickerel, while his brother, Francis Vincent, won first place for the 12 through 14-year-old division.

Francis Vincent noted that it was a good thing they both won because there probably would have been a fight at home if one did not.

“Home life would have been a lot harder [for Jax] if I didn’t get first place,” Francis Vincent said.


Winner’s Circle

Largest fish of any size: Jax Trott, 17-inch chain pickerel.

Largest trout: Wesley Wlodyka 16-inch rainbow trout.

8 years old and under: Owen Emin, Hunter Peters, Ryder Seaton.

9 to 11 years old: Christian Fischer, Connor Giegler, Finn Cotting.

12 to 14 years old: Francis Vincent Trott, Brady Vought.

More pictures.