The skies opened up just as Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby chairman John Custer finished announcing the winners of the derby’s annual Kids Day on Sunday morning. Rolling gray clouds overhead had brought trickles of rain earlier in the morning, but the downpour held off until after the awards were complete.
Hannah Landers, 6, of Oak Bluffs took home the Grand Overall Prize with her 14.25 inch black sea bass. Hannah said this was her second year fishing in the Kids Derby. She and her family arrived early, at 6:15 a.m., and shortly after she’d caught her first fish of the day. Though Hannah and her siblings had other catches as well, the first try proved to be the winner.
The Kids Derby is a regular event of the annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, and is open to those age 4 to 14. No registration is needed, and most young anglers arrive at first light, staying for nearly two hours (this year, the rain pushed up the official closing time). Fish are judged not by weight, as in the main derby, but by length.
Winner take home goodie bags of prizes and brand-new fishing rods, but every participant receives coupons for Mad Martha’s ice cream, as well as a free T-shirt. This year’s shirt, designed by Aiden Aliberti of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, featured a large black sea bass.
Aiden’s design proved prescient, as black sea bass dominated the haul from the wharf. Scup were also a common catch, although not in the same numbers. The largest scup caught earns a special prize: a mounted scup created by taxidermist and derby committee member Janet Messineo. Ten-year-old Sophie Nevin, with her 13 inch fish, won the trophy.
Chase Toomey, 6, was fishing in his first Kids Day, but had already made his mark in the overall derby. He is currently leading the junior division of the derby for shore-caught bluefish (older sister Emma is leading the entire event for shore-caught blues). Chase picked up a second-place win on Sunday morning, earning a new rod to help him out while night fishing with his family. Fishing from the wharf was different, he said, just because “there’s so many people there.”
Indeed, organizer Lela Gilkes said that turnout was larger than expected, considering the weather forecast.
"A lot of people plan around this," Mr. Custer said.
In the 8-and-under division, Julia Spanek, 8, was first with her 14 inch black seas bass, and Chase Toomey was second with an equal-sized fish. In the Kids Derby if there is a tie in length, the fish weighed in first takes the top spot. Molly Sylvia, 7, took third place with a 13 inch black sea bass.
Sarah Spanek, 10, was first in the 9t o 11 division with a 13.75 inch black sea bass. Chelsea Bouchard and Kylie Estrella were second and third, respectively, each with a 13 inch black sea bass.
In the 12 to 14 division, Ryan O’Malley, 13, landed a 12.5 inch black sea bass for first place. Jacob MacAffery, 12, caught a 12.25 inch scup for second place, and Addy Schonning, 12, was third with a 12 inch black sea bass.
A Cabela's rod with a Shakespeare reel was left at the wharf; the lost gear can be claimed at Coop’s Bait and Tackle in Edgartown.
For more photos, see the multimedia gallery Rain Aside, Kids Derby Shines.