Derby awards ceremony was the answer to a prayer

By Nelson Sigelman

The 65th Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby concluded with a dramatic awards ceremony. The common thread among the many boisterous well-wishers crowded into Nectar's was the fishing contest, but in fact it was a fishing contest that is about more than catching a fish.

Scott Duhaime knew that was true when he carried his cancer-stricken son Brendan up on stage to receive an award for the second biggest bluefish in the mini-junior division, and the crowd cheered as the little boy inwardly beamed from a frail body too tired to smile.

Roger Schaefer, a man who had lost everything he worked for but still retained the things that are important, won big when his key opened the lock of a brand new Eastern boat much to the delight of his 101-year-old grandfather, who celebrated like a man not past 70.

"So many things have changed from when I was a kid but the Derby is still the Derby," Roger told a cheering crowd.

Michael A. Paone of Newtonville arrived every weekend to fish the Derby. On the same trip, his 13-year-old son Giovanni caught a bass that put him on top of the junior division and dad landed the 37.60 pound striper that landed him a new Chevy Silverado pickup truck, courtesy of the Clay Family dealerships.

Gary Root, 68, of Colrain wore a bemused expression on his grizzled face when he stepped up on stage to receive a special award given to the non-resident senior who catches the heaviest shore bluefish.

"I didn't know I was going to get an award," he said with a smile. "It's only because I'm from off-Island and I'm old. I walk four miles a day to fish."

Charlie Smith of Edgartown, longtime Derby night weigh master, received a special award: a big hug from his daughter Heather Smith after the presentation of the first Martha's Vineyard Surfcaster's Sportsmanship Award.

"Sportsmanship shows how devoted you truly are to something and I can't think of anyone more dedicated to something than my Dad to the Derby and everything it stands for," she said in her nomination letter read from the podium (available at