Anyone who fishes in New England knows about the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby and most anglers would share in the belief that there’s just something extra special about the event which is now in its 77th year. Angling celebrities have been made thanks to this hardcore fishing marathon. The book Reading The Water, by Robert Post is considered required reading for anyone that fishes for striped bass or that loves the history of fishing in our region and it is all about the Derby and the people who poured their lives into it. The book highlights names like Kib Bramhall, Ray Metcalfe, Cooper Gilkes, Arnold Spofford, Nelson Bryant and Janet Messineo; these are names indelibly etched into the columns of our fishing history. And they were put there by the Derby.
Regrettably, I have never fished the Derby but my readings indicate that the contest has two distinct halves and each one has a unique feel, some even say that each week has its own unique flavor and corresponding methods and locations for finding fish. As this story reaches your eyes, the Derby will be entering its second half, a time when many longtime participants feel a sense of urgency, it’s also a time when heroes are made.
I called the crew at Dick’s Bait and Tackle in Oak Bluffs to let us in on some late Derby hotspots that might save the day, hook a winner, or turn you into the latest in a long list of later-Derby heroes. With striped bass off the list of eligible species for now, we’re left with the two hardtails, false albacore and bonito, along with bluefish. Here’s what they said.
Larry said the best spot for late-Derby blues is definitely Wasque Point. The rips that set up along this stretch make it a great spot for shore and boat anglers alike. Most of the fishing is done in the daytime here and most of it is done with topwater plugs or flashy tins, shore anglers tend to lean on the longest-casting lures in their bags; things like pencil poppers, Ranger Plugs and large metals like Hopkins and Kastmasters. Boaters will have a bit more leeway because long casts are not needed; they will find success using large spooks like Splash Walks, casting vibrant swimming plugs like SP Minnows or pulling any number of trolling options behind the boat. He also said that some very large blues are caught from Wasque at night on chunk bait from the beach. His final words of advice were to concentrate on dropping tides with a southwest wind.
Larry told me that it’s kind of a tossup between Menemsha Harbor and Edgartown Harbor for the hardtails you’re likely to find both species in each location. Shore anglers will be battling it out for legroom on the jetties here and hoping the speeding schools of albies and bones will pop up in their casting lane. Many anglers rig two rods, one with a longer-casting jig like a Hogy Epoxy Jig or a Game On Exo Jig and another with a soft plastic like an Albie Snax or Ron-Z. Boaters will have their own flotilla of adversaries trying to score winning fish from the speeding schools. The lures of choice won’t change much, but those that catch the most fish tend use their motors the least. Larry went on to say that northeast winds tend to fire up each of these locations, so keep your eyes on the weather.
I’m told ‘Derby Time’ is a phenomenon unique to the island and that there’s nothing quite like it. One of these years, I plan to experience it firsthand, and when I do, you can bet I’ll be rereading this story.