After days of bad weather, most of it wind, the fall derby busted open last weekend with great fishing from off Wasque to Devil’s Bridge in Aquinnah. This is the closing week of the 65th annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. With more than 2,700 fishermen registered in the contest, a lot of fishermen were out on the water to make up for lost time. The contest ends at 10 p.m. tomorrow night.
Columbus Day weekend was the last chance most anglers would have to devote high energy to the sport.
The weather was spectacular, as evidenced every morning and night at derby headquarters at the foot of Main street in Edgartown: While carrying in big fish, anglers sported freshly pink noses and cheeks from spending hours in the sunlight on the water.
They lined up, young and old, as many as a dozen fishermen at a time waiting their moment under the lights, in front of the official electronic fish scale. Their voices were loud, rich in storytelling.
On Monday night, the 30th night in the derby, Charlie Smith, a weigh master for 17 years, moved the anglers quickly through the process. Each fish was put on the shiny, well-varnished tabletop.
Mr. Smith asked the next angler in line, 11-year-old Christopher Mayhew, of Chilmark, for his badge number. Once Amy Coffey, seated nearby at the computer terminal, recorded Mr. Mayhew’s 2394, Mr. Smith, his arms sporting an assembly of tattoos, lifted the shiny, wet bluefish with both hands and put it gingerly on the scale.
During most days Mr. Smith is a softly spoken foreman for the Edgartown highway department. Tonight, with firm voice, Mr. Smith called out the weight above the noise of the chatter in the room. Mr. Mayhew’s fish weighed 9.73 pounds.
As soon as the young Mr. Mayhew and his father, Jonathan, had moved aside, Mr. Smith asked the next angler for his badge number.
In that night alone, from 8 to 10 p.m., Mr. Smith weighed in 88 fish, which is more than one fish every two minutes. “It was not the busiest night of the derby,” Mr. Smith said later, but it was a busier night than many in the week before.
Through the evening, anglers toting striped bass, bluefish, bonito and false albacore of every size, would rush into the headquarters like waves rolling in amid the rocks. The angler’s friends would follow as he weighed in his big fish, and then all of them would recede out the doors carrying a number on their lips. There was a 19-pound striped bass weighed in and quite a few in the teens. But it was mostly a night of bluefish.
The whole crowd watched in earnest as nine-year-old Victoria Scott moved closer to Mr. Smith.
The noisy room echoed with voices repeating “14.77,” after Mr. Smith called out the weight.
The young Edgartown blonde, sporting a derby hat, not only had weighed in the biggest bluefish by a junior, she had weighed in the biggest bluefish of the day and it earned her a hat trick.
Thomas A. Teller and his lovely wife, Estey, of Edgartown, leaned against the rail near the entrance to the derby headquarters, watching the night’s show. The two senior anglers were greeted by friends. The couple always has fished together as a team. Their boat is a 24-foot Topaz called Ol’ Salt.
Neither of them knew that on Tuesday, the next day, late morning, their world would be turned upside down and spun around when Mrs. Teller hooked her first fish of the day.
Mrs. Teller came into derby headquarters on Tuesday night with the heaviest bluefish caught in the monthlong contest. It was 16.29 pounds, almost four pounds heavier than this year’s leading shore bluefish caught by Jacob R. Bordelon. The boat bluefish she caught weighed two pounds more than last year’s derby winner.
Mrs. Teller is no casual lucky winner. She has caught many fish in the derby through the years and weighed in big ones. Three times she has won a derby special prize for catching the largest bluefish by a woman. And she has won many second and third place awards for her efforts.
Whether Mrs. Teller can stay on the top and win a grand prize, a truck, will be determined in the hours ahead and this Sunday.
The awards ceremony takes place on Sunday at Nectar’s, at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Beginning at 1 p.m., in two hours, the derby will award prizes to the anglers with the biggest fish in the contest. There will be a drawing for a Chevrolet four-wheel drive pickup truck and a 24-foot Eastern center console boat with outboard. The results are posted online at mvderby.com.