At 7:59 a.m. the doors to derby headquarters slid open to reveal two derby legends: Steve Amaral and John Custer.

The men stood side by side, with Mr. Amaral holding the official derby bell, ready to ring-in the start of the 77th edition of the beloved Island tradition.

“To officially begin the 2022 derby, a gentleman who has participated in 75 of the previous 76 derbys will ring the opening bell,” said Mr. Custer, the derby committee president.

“Steve has only missed one derby, when he was overseas serving our nation in the United States Army,” Mr. Custer continued. “Steve’s angling successes are legendary. If you ask him, he might tell you a couple stories.”

And with a shake of the bell from Mr. Amaral, this year’s Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish derby was underway. But first there was the matter of who would weigh-in the first fish.

“Usually there’s somebody waiting right when we open,” one angler quipped.

“It’s a great year for albies, they’re everywhere,” another remarked.

Steve Amaral (left) rings the opening bell as John Custer applauds. — Ray Ewing

As the minutes ticked off anticipation grew. A truck with rods hanging off the back approached.

“Could this be it?” someone asked.


More minutes passed with all eyes on every car that came near headquarters. Then a Jeep full of surf-casters rolled into the lot and Lisa Belcastro hopped out with a 29-inch, 10.64-pound albie.

“Wait, has nobody weighed in yet!?” Ms. Belcastro exclaimed as she walked up to HQ.

It was the fourth year in a row that an albie kicked off the competition. And for Ms. Belcastro, it was the first time she’s earned the honor of the derby’s first fish.

Ms. Belcastro said at sunrise the tide was almost dead and church started at 9 a.m., so she had a small window of opportunity.

Hanging out at HQ. — Ray Ewing

“I said it’s the first day of the derby and I’m going!”

On her first cast she decided to try something different, opting for an electric chicken lure, which didn’t yield much luck. She quickly switched to her favorite lure: a pink deadly dick.

“And on my third blind cast I hooked up,” she said.

“I walked it down the beach, there was a nice couple fishing that got out of the way so I could land it,” she continued. “It put up a really good fight, albies just start taking off and when you hear that sound coming from your reel, you’re just like, I love this sound so much.”

Seeing Mr. Custer at the weigh station was also special for Ms. Belcastro because he was a favorite teacher of her daughter when she was at the Tisbury School.

“The fact that he was here and he weighed it in was perfect,” she said.

“The derby is everything. I tell my family there are 365 days in the year and 35 of them are sacred,” Ms. Belcastro said, before heading off to church. “Fishing and friends, friends and fishing, it’s the best.”

The derby continues through Oct. 15. Weigh-ins are 8 to 10 a.m. each morning and 7 to 9 p.m. each evening. Visit