For many locals on Martha’s Vineyard this is literally the most wonderful time of the year. As much as we love our Island summers, the slower pace of September is welcome after a hectic season and the weather is (hopefully) just perfect. Another bonus? September marks the start of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby, more commonly referred to as simply “The Derby.”
This year The Derby celebrates its 74th year and registration is now open. It’s a known fact on Martha’s Vineyard that if you live here and love to fish you are likely to be fishing The Derby, at any and all costs. Sleep, work and the regular responsibilities of daily life are often compromised on-Island during the tournament - and for good reason, the stakes are high. This year the winning shore fisherman walks away with the keys to a Cape Codder 19 boat with Tohatsu outboard and trailer, and the winning boat fisherman rides away in a 2019 Subaru Impreza. You better believe that people are fishing to win!
An Eye on Conservation
The time-honored tradition begins September 15 and ends October 19, 2019 (a shift to one week later than previous years), along with some other changes happening this year. With an eye on conservation, The Derby has made a minimum size increase for striped bass, with the eligible length now being 34 inches, measured from tip of lower jaw to tip of tail. The Derby has also adjusted the Roberto Germani Memorial Award to include a competitive catch and release element. For the first time, Derby anglers will have the option to measure and release a fish, then enter the fish online.
If you’re planning to visit Martha’s Vineyard between September 15 and October 19 and you love to fish you’re in luck. In addition to fishing (and catching!) The Derby fosters friendships and camaraderie, and creates lasting memories, while encouraging participants to fully appreciate the natural beauty of the Island. To fish The Derby is to become part of the fabric of the Island community and its history, and every eager fisherman or woman is welcome to participate.
Giving Back Since 1987
Since its establishment as a nonprofit organization in 1987, the Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby, Inc. has awarded annual scholarships to Martha's Vineyard Regional High School graduating seniors. The total amount of money donated since, now exceeds $640,000. Though the experience of The Derby is more than enough of a reason to enter, the opportunity to help build its scholarship fund provides a meaningful way in which to support the Island community for generations upon generations to come.
Building on a big success last year, another great community initiative inspired by The Derby is the Edgartown Board of Trade’s second annual Bass in the Grass Fundraiser for the Derby Scholarship Fund. Sponsored by Edgartown businesses, an entire school of bass will come to the streets of downtown Edgartown in September, so look out for it if you’re visiting. Each fish is designed by artists and up for auction online, during the 2019 Derby. You can bid on your favorite by October 20th at bassinthegrassmv.com.
Kids Derby & Daily Prizes
Another great element of The Derby? It’s kid friendly too! Enthusiastic anglers ages nine to 14 are invited to compete in the junior division and the youngest fishermen, those between four and eight, compete as mini juniors on the opening day of The Derby. Additionally, The Derby offers a fillet program that provides free fish for the Island elderly. Fisherman may donate any or all of their catch to the program, allowing Islanders of all ages to share in the joy and bounty of this incredible event!
The Derby awards daily prizes for the heaviest striped bass, bluefish, and Atlantic bonito caught from the shores of Martha’s Vineyard or its close surrounding waters. While small cash prizes are awarded daily the bragging rights can be even more valuable. Weekly awards are given in the form of merchandise, fishing equipment and gift certificates, as well as plaques for division leaders and more.
Interested fishing enthusiasts can register for The Derby at several local tackle shops including Larry’s Bait & Tackle, Dick’s Bait & Tackle, Coop’s Bait & Tackle, Keep it Reel Kayak & Tackle, and many other convenient locations listed here. The cost of registration is $60 for adults, $35 for seniors, and $25 for juniors.
The highly anticipated Derby Awards Ceremony takes place on Sunday, October 20, 2019 at 1pm at Farm Neck Golf Club and is free and open to the public. Those that top the leaderboard at the end of the Derby hope to be the ones who attain the winning key to grand prizes and coveted awards that carry the weight and honor of decades of the Island’s local fishing tradition, which in itself, is the best prize of all.
For more information about the Derby visit mvderby.com. If you’re looking for some local fishing tips visit mvy.com/fishing, our nearby bait & tackle shops or contact our local captains and fishing charters. Good luck out there - and remember safety first!
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