Ed and Steve Amaral fished the first Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish derby in 1946 when they were 10 and nine years old, respectively. Seventy five years later the brothers Amaral are still fishing the derby.

Steve, 85, was inducted into the hall of fame in 2015 and Ed, 86, earned his hall-of-fame stripes in 2017, becoming the first and only brother combination to earn that honor.

It all started with their father, Gus Amaral, who owned a fish market on the corner of Dukes County and Masonic avenues in Oak Bluffs. The building is now the Periwinkle studio but the stripers Gus painted on both sides of the building are still there today.

In 1946, at the very first derby, Gus weighed in the very first fish. His sons were with him and recalled the moment this week as they reminisced at Steve Amaral’s house.

Gus Amaral and son Ed in the very early days of the derby. — Courtesy Ed Amaral.

“My father got the first fish by the parking lot of the Little Bridge, imagine that,” Ed said. “Back in the old days our uncles used to fish down there religiously, more so than the Big Bridge. I can remember our father telling us how he and our uncles used lard fashioned like a fish to catch bass.”

In fact, a lot of the fishing gear the brothers used when they were young could be put together with their own two hands. Ed remembered his uncles using cellophane from cigar wrappers as a popular build-it-yourself lure. The shine the cellophane gave off worked just as well as anything else to attract big bass, he said. They also used bamboo stakes for fishing rods, bought some varnish at Leonard’s Package store (now Jim’s Package store) to seal the bamboo, and added some rod eyes and stainless steel clamps to hold the reel on.

With their DIY rods, tackle boxes, a bucket of bait and a sack lunch, the Amaral brothers would bike down to the Lagoon and load up their skiff for a day of fishing.

“We used to take a plug, throw it out behind the boat and one of us would row while the other guys had the rods out and that’s how we would troll,” Steve said. “No motor, no problem.”

“It was all completely new for us and just so exciting as kids,” Ed said, referring to the early derby days.

Steve Amaral with a huge striped bass at the 1975 derby. — Courtesy Steve Amaral

Steve agreed. “For me, and everyone else, you couldn’t wait for the derby to start.”

One of Steve’s favorite memories is being on the beach fishing with his dad and other more seasoned anglers. He could cast as far out into the surf as the older guys lined up on the beach with him.

“I wasn’t really thinking about catching a fish, I was getting so charged up that I could put my Ferron jig just as far as they did,” Steve said with a laugh.

But casting wasn’t the only competitive element. “Everything was done with gusto but secretively,” Ed said. “You didn’t give anything away. With us, it was all passion and we had to hide what we knew.”

And while there were other activities the boys enjoyed doing together, fish was the family business and their father kept them busy. Steve and Ed caught herring by the bushel and shucked towers of scallops they would pick up from Aquinnah after school.

Ed Amaral and Sol Watson. — Courtesy Ed Amaral

“We had to get so many done, which we did, then rush home and get washed up to go to basketball practice at 6 o’clock,” Steve said.

“It was a hard life but it was a good life,” Ed added.

Today, the Amaral brothers still pick up their derby pins and put lines in the water every fall. In fact, Steve has only missed one derby in all of its 75 years, when he was serving in the Korean War. Ed admitted to missing out on a few derbies.

“It takes a lot of effort but you never think of it as effort,” Steve said. “It’s always more fun than anything else.”

“We’ve been very, very fortunate to meet a lot of wonderful people through the derby and on the beach,” Ed added.