A Message from the Derby President

Derby President, John Custer
John Custer with his uncle and fishing partner, Dave Custer

On behalf of the dedicated volunteers that comprise the Derby Committee, welcome to the 77th annual Vineyard fall classic.

The past two years required the Derby to make significant adjustments and changes, due to public health and safety conditions. We remain grateful to all participants for their collective support, patience, and understanding while we worked to ensure we could manage the Derby safely and successfully. We learned a lot, and look forward to a 77th Derby that provides more of what we all expect and love.

Because of strong support from participants, sponsors, and our community, the Derby scholarship program was able to award a record-high $80,000 in 2022 to ten deserving high school graduates. This program, which was the vision of Ed Jerome over 35 years ago, continues to provide incredible opportunities for island students pursuing continuing education. The Derby has now awarded over $800,000 in scholarships. While the Awards Ceremony in October receives appropriate attention, Class Night in June – when scholarships are presented – is an event of equal importance to our organization, and something the Committee is very proud of.

Among the items that the Derby Committee considered and discussed since the end of the past Derby was sportsmanship. While we recognize that participation in the Derby includes the element of competition, we are sincerely hopeful that anglers reflect on the importance of good sportsmanship. It is disappointing to learn when individuals conduct themselves in a manner that negatively impacts the experience of others. Sadly, this occurs too often. We ask that all participants make an effort to demonstrate safe, sportsmanlike behavior – on the jetties and beaches, in tackle shops, on the water, and everywhere else. This strengthens the Derby experience for all of us. Not all are able to catch a winning fish, but all are able to take part in the Derby in a way that is enjoyable for themselves and others. Thank you for doing your part.

Many individuals can look back and identify a person or group that introduced them to fishing, or supported their love of fishing. Those are special people, and we think about them, especially during the Derby. I am fortunate that my father introduced me to fishing when I was very young, and continues his interest in the sport today. I also am fortunate that my uncle, David Custer, shared decades of memorable fishing experiences with me. My uncle lived in Connecticut, and visited the Vineyard frequently over the past 40 years. He particularly liked the fall, due in part to the Derby and the energy it brought to the island. I considered him an unofficial ambassador of the Derby, as he enthusiastically shared souvenir booklets, decals, t-shirts, and hats with his friends at Mystic Shipyard East, where he kept his boat. His love of the Derby and what it represented was a reminder for me, over many years, of what an amazing, special event we have. My uncle passed away this past January. I miss him, but I smile when thinking of the great times we shared fishing together. As you fish the 77th Derby, take a moment to consider those who sparked your own interest in fishing. And, in their honor, participate in the event in a way that celebrates camaraderie, tradition, sportsmanship, and respect for our environment. Enjoy the experience, and thank you for supporting the Derby.


John Custer
President, Derby Committee