I know, the title is a little misleading. You might think that I caught a fish worthy to weigh in at the derby, but sadly that’s not the case.
However, I did spend time at the derby weigh in last Friday night, and caught a bit of derby fever myself.
I am not sure if I should admit this or not, but I am not a fisherman. When I was little, I fished with my dad a bit when we went on family camping trips, but I was never hooked (hehe) on it.
When I began to see the fishermen lining up along the beaches this year, I decided it was time that I get to know the derby more, in baby steps.
This year experiencing a weigh in, next year picking up a pole once or twice, and having my own weigh in.
Mornings and nights during the 35 days of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby are for weighing in.
From 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., people head to the Derby headquarters down by the Edgartown Harbor to see if they’ve hauled in a big enough fish to make it onto one of the boards for their striped bass, bluefish, bonito, false albacore, from either a boat or the shore.
I arrived at the headquarters at 8:00 p.m. promptly, and what a scene it was.
Little did I know it, but I was able to witness a pretty amazing catch, a shore caught false albacore that was 14.65 pounds. Mary Ann Angelone was the lucky lady, and her name is still on the top of that category.
People were so excited for her, cameras were snapping, people were clapping, and she was so charming.
Through the many congratulations, she said “There’s a big one out there everyday.” I thought that was a good fishing metaphor that could easily apply to life. It was fun to be a part of this whole experience.
I finally made it inside to where the fish were being weighed and the place was jammed packed, a line out the door.
I snuck behind the counter to where the volunteers were weighing and recording all the fish. You could feel the energy in the room, the anticipation, the excitement.
People weighing in were excited and those just watching were completely enthralled by what was happening.
I loved watching men in bow ties and suits peeking over the crowd to catch a glance at the action. Onlookers were clapping and cheering on the fishermen.
Behind the counters, are volunteers hard at work. Did you know there are 30 people that volunteer their time for the weigh in hours during the derby?
It’s a big commitment of time and work to help make the derby happen, but people love it.
When I was there, the weigh in station manager, aka “Queen of the Derby,” Amy Coffey, a 20 year derby veteran, was there along with Kate Conde, Stacy Hall, Doriana Klumick, Kristy Rose and of course, the weigh master of the evening, John Custer.
There was a lot happening, between all the different categories and fish, yet the team of volunteers handled it with smile and genuine happiness. There’s a lot of fun happening here.
Many of the volunteers have been helping for years. An added bonus is that there are frequently homemade treats available to these hard workers.
Talking to the volunteers who commit so much to this event, it’s easy to see why they do it. There’s such a sense of community about the event.
Since fish don’t discriminate, there are all ages and sizes of people. The joy of watching a little 6-year-old girl with her three bluefish melts your heart.
Seeing the junior leader of boat striped bass continue to fish and weigh in, I couldn’t help but be filled with admiration.
I really enjoyed witnessing all the whole scene, feeling like I was a part of something special. I even felt proud of the people who’s name I recognized on the leaderboards, fingers crossed for a win.
As Amy says, people aren’t just competing against each other, they’re competing against themselves. The derby on Martha’s Vineyard is a special time for so many.
People look forward to the derby all year long, and once it’s here, it’s a priority for them. People fish hard and take it seriously.
Also, if you liked, you could watch the fish being filleted. It’s quite the sight, not my favorite part, but I can appreciate it.
What happens to all the fish, as it happens hundreds and hundred are caught? According to John, about two-thirds of the fish caught goes to the Island’s elderly at the various senior centers.
Fishermen are very careful about keeping the fish on ice, so it can be given to those in need. Wonderful way to help people while having a bit of fun and competition.
As I begin to understand the Derby more, I appreciate our little community even more. The smiles and cheers, and families who are part of the derby, on doing something that you can’t be a part of everywhere, and it’s pretty awesome.
If you’re down in Edgartown at all this week during the weigh in times, stop by. I think you too could catch a little Derby fever.
This is the last week, so it’s going to be busy. After all, two of the prizes include a boat and a truck, not a bad motivation, of course there are lots of other prizes too.
In addition to these volunteers, there’s the Derby committee, and the people who filet the fish and more.
It truly is a community endeavor.
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