From the Sept. 30, 1949 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

No change in the top rankings in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass Derby were recorded this week. Up to now, the tally shows that 394 fish have been officially weighed in, the number being about the same as at the midpoint of last year’s derby.

A great many bluefish have been taken recently, and for stripers the best fishing places lately have been Gay Head and Katama, a variation from a previous report.

Among the week’s annals is a trial between two rival plug manufacturers, fishing together. There were three in the group, Bob Pond, maker of the atom plug, Chester Adams, maker of the blue streak, and Tom Barnes, also fishing with a blue streak.

The three took twelve bass and three blues, seven of the bass and three of the blues being credited to Bob Pond. But although he took more fish, the fish of Chester Adams weighed more. So the passage can’t be said to have proved anything.

From Friday till Tuesday, by boat and beaches, there was no startling change in the order of leaders in the bass derby, nor was there any sensational news from the rod-and-reelers ashore or afloat. Preston W. Cook of Rumford, R.I., brought home a 5 1/2 pound bluefish, which took the lead in the entries for that species of sea-food, but the score for the bass fishermen, native or non-resident, remained the same.

The daily score dropped considerably, due to weather conditions, according to the prophets and others, and what was even more noticeable, the school of large fish which has been hovering over the rocks at the hottest spots, unaccountably disappeared. Coincident with the thunderstorm, as the fishermen told it, these big fish simply scattered and vanished.

In place of these, a new body of fish moved in, the size running from twenty to thirty pounds, and all the way in between. This didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the rank and file who fish because they love fishing, but it did increase the lead of the front rank of the procession, who landed their big fish while the fishing was good.

There was no question that the heavy surf and unusually strong tides had their influence over the activities everywhere. The high winds and low temperatures also affected matters. Granted that striped bass enjoy cold water, this is not altogether true of the people who strive to catch them, especially when a quart or two gets inside the waders.

The committee announced a prize for the entrant who lands the greatest poundage during the derby, and also announced that as of Tuesday, the number of contestants was just about a thousand. Of these, some seven hundred were from the mainland, but, they said, more entrants are needed.

As of Tuesday, this was the lineup among the leading fishermen in the contest:

Shore, non-resident, Stuart Cogswell, 41 pounds, 3 ounces; shore, resident, George Marshall, 46 pounds, 14 1/2 ounces; boat, Frank Iadevaia, 33 pounds, 8 ounces; veteran, Stuart Cogswell; women, Marion L. Bonthron, 21 pounds, 15 ounces; juvenile, Stephen Gentle, 23 pounds, 12 ounces; senior (over 65 years old) Leopold Schlais, 30 pounds, 8 ounces; bluefish, Preston W. Cook, 5 pounds 8 ounces.

Oh fishers all, list to this tale from far Squibnocket Bight, of how two rod and reelers bold collapsed on Tuesday night!

Chill was the fierce wind from the sea and dark the lowering sky. High rolled the surf upon the ledge and few the passers-by, when to the beach the fishers came, oh bold were they indeed. And each to each they said: “This night is just what fishers need! The weather drives the crowd away, the fish will hug the shore. With waders high and staunch new gear, how could we ask for more?”

So wading deep in the surf they stood, well-braced and far apart, and in the darkness practiced then the surfside fisher’s art. Too distant for comparing notes, too wrapped in roaring murk, the fishers cast and cast again, intent upon their work.

And then, and then! — that thrill sublime that every fisher knows, came to them both, electric shocks struck each from head to toes! The reels sang loud and sweet! Against the pull of the line and surf they barely kept their feet!

Raged then a battle in the dark, a wet and dreary fight. Grim tragedy swooped low above those fishers at night. Yet both knew that an ocean prize would crown their works with fame, with tight-clenched teeth and straining thews they groaned and played the game.

Full half a hectic hour passed, exhausted leaned the men. But nearer, nearer, they groped, and then — two atom plugs with hooks entwined, they slowly drew to the land! The looked, they realized, and they fell, unconscious in the sand!

And that is why these fishers bold did not weigh in that night. Yes that is why they shrink from tales about Squibnocket Bight. With blistered hands and painful sprains received from sand and stone, in sheer and shame-faced misery, they convalesce alone!

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox