Lifelong Vineyard fisherman Bill Potter stood aboard his boat, Fatfish, on a blustery Thursday afternoon last week, eyeing his two rods and patiently waiting for a nibble. The seas were rough, but his friends and fellow competitors in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby had been scoring big catches all week and he wanted in on the action.

When a rod began to quiver he rushed toward it, catching a glimpse of a giant false albacore that had taken his bait and was making a run.

A battle ensued and after wrestling with his rod and fumbling with his net for what he said felt like ages, Mr. Potter hauled in a near-record-breaking 19.21-pound false albacore — the second largest in the history of the derby.

“During the fight, I realized, wow, this is going to be a really good fish,” Mr. Potter said during an interview at his home a few days later. “But when I lifted him onto the boat and out of the net, I just raised my arms way up and screamed as loud as I could. I couldn’t believe it.”

At the weigh-in station last Thursday. — Courtesy Bill Potter

Mr. Potter’s false albacore, or albie, fell a fraction short of breaking the 19.39-pound state record set by Island angler Donald MacGillivray during the 1990 derby.

“Albies are really one of the greatest obsessions for all fishermen,” Mr. Potter said. “People take vacations just to fish for false albacore.”

Albies are one of three species in the derby and are popular among anglers due to their fighting nature. It is also rare to catch one in Vineyard waters larger than the average 10-pounder, Mr. Potter said.

“When I caught [the albie], I thought that for sure he was 20 pounds right away,” said Mr. Potter. “And then he started bleeding and throwing up sand eels, and I’m just like, oh no.”

Brimming with excitement, Mr. Potter quickly texted his daughter, Chesca Quinlan-Potter, that afternoon. The two have been fishing partners since her early childhood, and now that she is in college her dad updates her on all of his solo fishing adventures.

Fishing with his daughter Chesca has been a big part of the derby for Mr. Potter. — Jeanna Shepard

“Really a big part of my fishing story is me and my daughter,” Mr. Potter said, pointing to a collection of the pair’s fishing awards on his living room wall. “She won the junior derby one year and I told her that I haven’t had this feeling since I helped her net the big fish that she caught to win it.”

It is a big shift, fishing without his daughter, but with friends scattered across the water fishing in the derby, Mr. Potter said he feels far from alone.

“My texts, you know, they just go on forever from people that I haven’t talked to in years congratulating me,” he said. “It’s been so fun sharing this story.”

And although just shy of the state record, Mr. Potter’s Albie sits high atop this year’s derby leader board. There are still two-and-a-half weeks left in the competition, but already he is dreaming of standing on the winners’ podium on Oct. 15, looking for a chance to win a new boat.

For more information about the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, visit