From the Sept. 20, 1963 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Comes now, as summer wanes, the season of the tautog, or blackfish, as he is known in some places. The explanation for the seasonal beginning is merely that commercial fishermen of years gone by would begin to fish for tautog at about this time or somewhat later, for the reason that the market was best at Christmas time, and the fish could be kept alive in cars and crates if taken after the summer’s heat had begun to abate. Otherwise, tautog may be taken from spring until late fall.

The older Vineyarders were fond of tautog, usually considering them a choice chowder fish, but more modern people have discovered that a tautog is palatable prepared in almost any style. Thus it is that there are still people on the Vineyard and up and down the coast who fish for the fun of it and who, seasonably, will bend on tautog hooks, and anchor on the ledges when the summer begins to wane.

With a no’theaster breezing at gale force and seas running nine feet high, plus rain squalls and various discomforts, the eighteenth annual Vineyard fishing derby opened on Sunday.

Sixty bass and twelve blues were weighed in on Sunday night, and on Monday morning, forty bass and seven blues, and it is no exaggeration to say that Monday morning’s catch was made in weather far, far worse than that of the day before.

Only two fishermen, George Schaffer of New York and John Cahill of Albany weighed in fish taken from a boat on Sunday. As a matter of fact, only two boats went out and only one did any fishing. The seas were too threatening for one skipper and no one laughed at him when he expressed his views.

How many men fished is not certain but a crowd of considerable size landed from the mainland early Sunday. When the fish were weighed in, the fifty fishermen represented several states, and there were many Islanders as well.

The Sunday catch ranged in weight from 27 pounds, 5 ounces, for the largest bass, and 9 pounds, 3 1/2 ounces, the largest blue, and most of the fish were taken on eels, plugs and a few on sea clams.

Places where the fish were taken caused surprise in view of the weather conditions. Some of Sunday’s fish came from Menemsha Creek, which was favored with a longshore wind, but most came from Katama where the surf was running high, and a few came from Gay Head. On Monday morning, however, Gay Head waters supplied the majority, with a few from Anthier’s bridge and the rest from Menemsha Creek. There were none from Chappaquiddick on Monday.

The consensus is that all bass fishermen are crazy and that this present group is probably the craziest of all.

The no’theaster continued into its fifth day, with more rain descending Monday night, but with a decrease in wind velocity. Still, it was rugged weather, yet anglers were abroad during the day and evening and weighed in 81 bass and 15 blues on Monday night, and 37 bass up to 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning. One or two of these were of such weight as to qualify for the grand prizes.

Of interest to those who are of advanced age, crippled condition, or merely have a fondness for soft living, is the fact that Vincent’s pier, formerly the steamboat dock at Oak Bluffs, is not out of bounds for derby contestants. Here, if anyone is inclined, he can fish under a roof, or not, as he prefers, standing, or if he brings his own camp-chair, reclining. And, in case of need, there is a 16 foot gaff provided by Cap’n Dave Vincent to facilitate landing of the fish. Many bass, some blues and bonito have been taken from the pier and in the waters adjacent.

At the close of Wednesday’s fishing, the total number of fish weighed in was but twenty-six fewer than the total score of a year ago, which has surprised everyone who has taken any interest in fishing this past summer. Apparently the easterly storm was the one thing needed to sharpen things up and cause the fish to bite.

There have been 149 blues and 238 bass weighed in, and the average has been running heavier this year than it did a year ago.

Out in front among the resident bass-fisherman was Henry P. Smith of Edgartown, who had maintained the lead since Monday with a fish that went 45 pounds 8 ounces; but Angelo Tuccelli of Somerville nosed into the lead on Wednesday night among the non-residents with a 42 pounds 2 1/2 ounce bass. Mr. Tuccelli said that he had been using live eels for bait, after soaking them in Italian wine, which he claimed the bass cannot resist.

Capt. Roland Authier of Edgartown had the largest bluefish up to this time, 9 pounds 13 ounces.

As of last night a total of 507 fish were caught. 281 being bass and 226 bluefish as compared with the same time last year when 494 fish were caught, 309 bass and 185 bluefish. To date 260 people have weighed in fish, averaging two fish per person, the bass running small and the bluefish large.

Compiled by Hilary Wall