Spring rain and fog did little to dampen the spirits of young anglers and their parents participating in the 35th annual Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club trout tournament early Saturday morning — very early. More than 200 youngsters rose before sunrise to get to Duarte’s Pond in West Tisbury in time for the start at first light.
They came wearing raincoats and rubber boots, bearing cans of worms and artificial bait and laden with fishing gear.
Cooper A. Gilkes 3rd, chairman and veteran organizer, called this year’s morning fishing event one of the biggest and best attended. “Par for the course,” he said of the occasional spats of rain. In all of his years of helping the club host the event, Mr. Gilkes said there have been plenty of mornings with comparable weather. Fishing began at first light, but there was work that went into the event well before dawn. Mr. Gilkes said many of the volunteers with the club got up at 3:30 a.m. to be at the event.
Cliff Meehan, 53, of Edgartown, has been volunteering for the club for 26 years. He said getting up so early wasn’t so bad: “It is worth it, just to see the kids,” he said.
Erin DeBettencourt, 8, of Oak Bluffs, and his older brother Douglas, 10, got up at 4 a.m. Their parents, Ken and Debbie, hustled them down to the shore to start fishing.
Less than 50 feet away stood Brooks Carroll, 6 and her brother Bradley, 12, who also came early with their parents, Marshall and Katie.
A tent set up on the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank property gave organizers a dry spot to get out of the weather and tally results. No sooner had fishing begun than youngsters lined up with the first catch of the day: trout, big and small.
Ed Belisle of Edgartown presided over a hot grill just outside the big tent, flipping and serving hot dogs on rolls.
The catch was not confined to trout — there were sunfish, pickerel, catfish and a few painted turtles.
Down at the far end of the pond, where a wooden walkway runs along the water’s edge, anglers reeled in mostly catfish. The walkway quickly became known as catfish alley.
A gaggle of Canada geese flew in and landed in the center of the pond at 7:30 a.m. The geese watched and honked their applause.
William Herman, 7, of Oak Bluffs reeled in a painted turtle at 7:36 a.m.
Seven minutes later five-year-old Corbin Buchwald of Vineyard Haven hooked another one. After measuring the turtle at headquarters, Mr. Buchwald walked briskly to the end of the dock and released the turtle. He also had caught two catfish. Smiling, his mother Tamara said: “We can go home now.”
Not everyone stayed awake. John Packer of Vineyard Haven took a short nap on the side of the pond while his son David fished. The day before, rod and gun club organizers had stocked the pond with trout from Cape Cod.
The grand overall winner for the largest trout was six-year-old Katherine O’Brien of Oak Bluffs, who caught a 16.5-inch trout. The prize for the largest fish of any other species went to Hunter Wolff, age 13, of Edgartown who caught a 20” pickerel. The two lucky winners each won a bicycle that had been donated by Wheel Happy Bicycles in Edgartown.
The total count of fishermen was 235, making it one of the largest turnouts in the history of the tournament.
The remaining results are as follows:
Ages four to eight, first place, Cabot Thurber, age seven, 15.75-inch trout; second place, Kyle Peters, age four, 15.25-inch trout; third place, Zander Amaral, age six, 15-inch trout.
Ages nine to 11, first place, Brahmin Thurber, age 10, 16-inch trout; second place, Megan Donovan, age nine, 15.75-inch pickerel; third place, Ethan Mendez, age 10, 15.5-inch trout.
Ages 12 to 14, first place, Liam Maasri, age 14, 15.5-inch trout; second place, Will Deitz, age 14, 15-inch trout; third place, Harrison Rodrigues, age 14, 14.5-inch trout.
Hourly winners of the lucky draw were as follows: Age eight and under, Owen Dibiago, Zack Ward and Gregory Clark; age nine to 11, Douglas DeBettencourt, Justin Alexander and Ryan Uva; age 12 to 14, Troy Canha, Gabe Bergeron and Hayley Maciel.