The pitter patter of tiny footsteps echoed through downtown Oak Bluffs Sunday morning as youngsters from all over the Island scampered across the wooden Steamship Authority dock to compete in the annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby Kids’ Day.

The two hour fishing competition begins at 6 a.m. each year and is open to all kids ages 4-14. Children don’t need to register and fish are judged by length, rather than weight, at the event. Derby president Ed Jerome estimated the contest brought around 200 kids plus their parents this year.

Nine-year-old Myles Sprague, a fourth grader at the West Tisbury School, was one of them. He and his father Dave stepped onto the dock at 5:50 a.m. Myles said this was his first year participating in the derby, but it certainly won’t be his last. He took home the grand overall prize by catching the largest fish of the day, a 17.25-inch bluefish. “It felt good,” he said.

Myles was awarded a bag of fishing goodies, including a brand new rod and a plaque to hang up at home. All participants took home coupons for free Mad Martha’s ice cream as well as a Kids’ Day T-shirt. T-shirts this year were sponsored by Bink’s Garage, L. B. Forms, Mad Martha’s, O’Brien Fine Home Builders and the Skipper party boat.

Angelique Figueron, 7, celebrates after catching a 14-inch black bass. — Sydney Bender

Derby committee member Bob Lane said this year’s T-shirt was designed by Danielle Oteri, a sixth grader at the Edgartown School. “The T-shirt design is a contest we offer to all the schools each year. There’s a panel of off-Island judges who pick the winner and honorable mentions. This week we called the winners to tell them that they won,” Mr. Lane said, adding: “They were all excited.”

Danielle’s winning design is a picture of a little girl fishing while an orange fish jumps in the air. In the picture, the little girl has a big red smile colored in marker. “It’s a cute shirt,” said Mr. Lane.

Smiles are a central part of Kids’ Day. “Each year the kids are always so happy,” said Mr. Jerome, the derby president. “It’s so much fun watching the kids smile from one side of their faces to the other, they’re just so thrilled to be catching fish.”

There’s no arguing that, as kids continued to skip up and down the dock throughout the morning, even if they only reeled in fish no larger than their hands, or nothing at all.

Mr. Jerome said that by keeping the contest open to all kids on the Island, everyone feels like a winner on Kids’ Day.

The day remains a highlight of the derby each year. “They catch the fish and their parents let them run down the dock to get them measured and then they throw the fish back in the water. We try to foster conservation. On this day everyone has fun,” said Mr. Jerome. Even the fish.

Molly Sylvia, 8, caught a 14.5-inch scup that earned her a trophy half her size, the prize for catching the largest scup of the day. She was the only winner this year to take home two titles; with the same fish, she also won a second place title in the 8 and under age group.

Matthew Fontaine, 7, won first place in the 8 and under age group with a 14.75-inch sea bass he caught. Audrey Polleys, 8, placed third with her capture of a 14.25-inch sea bass.

In the 9-11 age division, Edward Cherry, 10, won first place with his 17-inch bluefish. Both Jake Scott, 10, and Matthew Strem, 10, caught 14.75 inch sea bass, but Jake caught his first so he took second place while Matthew took third.

In the oldest age division, Nolan Bouchard, 13, reeled in a 15.25-inch fluke just before the horn sounded, signaling the end of the contest. He took home first place for the 12-14 age division. “A game changer!” shouted the volunteers at the measuring booth.

Shelly Ponte, 12, placed second with a 14-inch sea bass and Avery Gazaille, 13, placed third for her 13-inch sea bass.

By 8:30 a.m., most children and their tired parents had cleared the dock and the dozen and a half volunteers were left packing up their trucks, fishing rods sticking out the truck beds. The mackerel sky had now cleared; clouds gave way to patches of blue. At the end of the dock Myles and his father tried to juggle the day’s grand prizes between their four hands. Sporting identical wide grins, the father-son duo did not speak as they walked to their car, nothing but the sound of their footsteps and a new fishing rod trailing off into the distance.

Photo gallery: Fish and Fun at Annual Kids' Derby.