A Message from the Derby President

Derby President, John Custer

During the winter of 2020, when the Derby Committee voted to suspend striped bass from the event, most figured that would remain the most newsworthy item for the Derby throughout the year ahead. Then, several weeks later, the novel Coronavirus pandemic showed its effects on all aspects of our lives, throughout the world. During the spring, the Derby Committee's focus shifted entirely to considering if and how we could support and facilitate the Derby, safely and appropriately. As we do with all issues, the men and women who volunteer to serve on the Committee thoughtfully weighed and debated the information available to us, and relied heavily on the input from municipal and public health officials.

As I write this note in late July, I remain hopeful that the 2020 Derby – the 75th anniversary of this amazing event – will take place in the fall. On behalf of the Committee, I appreciate your understanding, patience, and flexibility in acknowledging that the event will look and feel different. The Committee appreciates that, while we had hoped to celebrate the 75th anniversary in grand style, this year's tournament will not be able to offer everything we would like to the participants and community. Still, even having the Derby should be welcome news to many who look forward to the event annually. Providing that all necessary health and safety precautions are honored, the Derby can give people a wonderful, welcome opportunity to experience the unmatched outdoor beauty of Martha's Vineyard waters in the fall. That is something our community needs and deserves.

While it has now become a secondary story, it is important to acknowledge the Derby Committee's decision to suspend striped bass as an eligible species. We remain mindful and concerned – albeit hopeful – about the health of the species. Thirty years ago, the Derby Committee also made this decision. Sadly, it is necessary again, as fisheries science suggests. We will continue to work closely with organizations on monitoring the health of striped bass stocks. The striped bass is arguably the most important fish in our waters, and we recognize the need to work together to ensure the long-term success of the species.

It is likewise important to not lose sight of the primary objective of the Derby – awarding college scholarships to Vineyard high school graduates. In 2020, a record high $50,000 was awarded to eight deserving students. Please read more about the scholarship program and these exceptional young men and women in this booklet. Ed Jerome would be incredibly proud of the Derby's efforts in this realm.

The 2020 Derby will offer a different experience to participants. However, fishing – whether alone or with family or friends – remains a wonderful activity that can be practiced and enjoyed safely. Please understand that any and all changes to our event, particularly in regards to the weigh station, are to ensure the health and safety of all. Thank you for accepting this reality and supporting the Derby. While the past several months have been challenging, we welcome the Derby for what it can provide to us.

Please remain safe, modeling this for other participants. Your support of our organization and event is gratifying, and we appreciate your positive spirit. The Derby means so much to so many. The 75th anniversary will undoubtedly provide some great memories. Thank you for being a part of that.

Sincerely,

John Custer
President, Derby Committee