More fishermen are coming: the Vineyard community, sportsmen and local businesses are pooling their resources to greet the Monday arrival of five men and two women who were recently seriously injured during military service. The veterans are coming to fish the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, now entering its second week.
What better opportunity to bring out the best of the Vineyard than to share a local passion with those who have served their country?
Six Maine veterans are coming thanks to the efforts of the Togus Veterans Administration Medical Center in Augusta. The seventh is an active duty Army serviceman from Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
They will stay until Thursday.
The idea for the Beach Plum Inn American Heroes Saltwater Challenge came from eight-year-old Jack Nixon of Chilmark, the son of inn owners Bob and Sarah Nixon. Doriana Klumick, assistant manager at the inn, who worked to coordinate the event, remembers the moment.
“He was reading David Kinney’s book The Big One. A newspaper article was sitting there. He looked at the article and said he wished some of the men who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan could fish the derby. So that is kind of how it came about.”
Mr. Nixon, who with his wife also owns the Menemsha Inn and Home Port restaurant, asked Ms. Klumick if she could make the time to put the event together.
The derby committee greeted the idea with enthusiasm.
Ms. Klumick spoke with Dr. Tamar Martin-Franklin, a psychologist who works with veterans afflicted with postwar medical problems. Dr. Martin-Franklin, an avid fly-fisherman, is a member of the local New York chapter of Project Healing Waters Flyfishing Inc., a nationwide organization dedicated to physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active duty military personnel and veterans through fly-fishing. There are 75 chapters and they organize outings.
Dr. Martin-Franklin said: “We’ve been given such great support. Everybody has a personal story, a connection. Even if they are not veterans, they have a story to tell. This is about giving back to those who are still struggling.” She said her husband, Richard Franklin, is a fly-fishing photographer and is coming for the event.
Of the veterans who are coming, two are women, one in a wheelchair. One of the men is blind. Some are experienced with freshwater fly-fishing. “This will be their first saltwater experience,” Dr. Martin-Franklin said.
“This is about healing,” she said.
Each veteran will be given free entry in the derby.
“This is a wonderful opportunity,” said Ed Jerome, derby president. “When it was mentioned to us that there were disabled veterans, we said absolutely, let’s help.”
Ms. Klumick said: “Everyone that has heard about this has offered to help. They offered picnic lunches. They’ve been offered rides around the Island. We have a couple of taxi companies that want to give free transportation. It is great.”
Charter captains offering their services include Scott McDowell, Buddy Vanderhoop, Tom Langman, Jennifer Clark and Craig Keefe. Janet Messineo has offered to take the veterans shore fishing at Menemsha. Photographer Peter Simon will record the event with his camera.
Author David Kinney who wrote The Big One will meet with the veterans and give them autographed copies of his book. There will be delicious meals at the Beach Plum Inn and the Galley and a clambake by the Larsens.
The veterans arrive on Monday afternoon and will be taken to the Beach Plum Inn for a late afternoon reception at the Hay Loft. And after that the fishing begins.
Meanwhile, with the derby nearly a week old, the fishing was great until Wednesday night, when a persistent easterly breeze kicked in.
There are now 1,505 fishermen registered. They have caught 359 fish, weighing just over 3,400 pounds.
Jim Cornwell, 72 of Edgartown was the first to walk into the headquarters on Sunday at 8 a.m. Since then anglers have weighed in 64 striped bass, 67 false albacore, 53 bonito and 175 bluefish. On Sunday David Nash of Edgartown was a couple of minutes behind Mr. Cornwell at the weigh-in station with his 26.15-pound striped bass. It still leads the derby in the shore division. Stephen J. Petruska leads the boat division with a 44.68-pound striper he weighed in last Sunday night.
The wind was expected to shift last night.
Sunday morning is the annual Kids Derby. Young anglers under the age of 15 will compete for prizes starting at first light. An awards ceremony will be held before 9 a.m. Any fish can be weighed in: eels, scup, sea bass, you name it; if you are under 15 and you catch something, you can weigh it in. Except an old shoe.