Editors, Vineyard Gazette;

The Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby has taken center stage every fall on the Vineyard for the past 77 years. The event attracts more than 3,000 participants annually, most of whom fish from shore.

Even though the event takes place on an Island, surrounded by water, access to shore fishing spots is often lacking. The combination of private property, limited parking and limited oversand vehicle (OSV) access serve to significantly reduce shore fishing availability.

Of particular concern are the Norton Point and Chappaquiddick properties. These properties offer some of the best shore fishing opportunities on the Vineyard, however the majority of both properties is practically accessible only by OSV. It’s also worth noting that these two properties represent 47 per cent of the public beaches on the Vineyard.

In addition to giving back to the community through our scholarship, fillet distribution and other programs, conservation has always been part of the derby mission. The derby encourages all parties including property owners, beach managers, local officials and anglers to work together to find a balance between shore fishing access and conservation. This is particularly true for Norton Point and Chappy, which include some of the most productive shore fishing areas on the Vineyard. Many of the Derby’s older participants and folks with limited mobility can only fish the derby by accessing the Norton Point/Chappy properties via OSV.

Shore fishing has been an important commercial and recreational activity on the Vineyard for generations. Let’s all work together to keep it part of the Vineyard and derby tradition.

Phil Horton and the Martha’s Vineyard Derby Committee

The writer lives in Oak Bluffs and is chair of the Martha’s Vineyard Derby Committee.