Dreams Come True in the 51st Derby (Part 2)

By Nelson Sigelman

Of course, the answer to that question was that all the other crazy derby fishermen who thought that all they needed to do was make one cast in the right place were out as well. In Menemsha a group of fly fishermen made their way out carefully along the jetty where it was possible to sail a fly as long as you could keep your footing and avoid becoming a human kite.

At Tashmoo, two guys were tossing squid into the channel, three guys were hunkered down in the rocks on the beach watching bait rods, and Jared Hull was talking fishing with Bob Wilcoxson as he sat in his truck. Bob had actually ventured out to the end of the jetty with his fly rod and stood battered by the waves casting for 45 minutes until reality and good sense convinced him there were no winning stripers or bonito cruising beneath the churning waters. The best fishermen use their instincts and experience to compose good hunches. So it was no accident that on the last day of the derby the Edgartown Memorial Wharf bonito brigade suddenly appeared on Menemsha jetty, a spot that until that day had not seen many bonito. Perched out on the rocks were Peter and Paul Bergeron, Albion Alley and his son, Bernie Arruda, Dave Desmarais, and Dennis Gough, playing the odds that the bonito would show up. And they did. No derby winners, but that is how derby winners are made. And throughout the last days and nights of the derby, if the fishing was hard the derby fishermen just fished harder, until the last ring of the weigh station bell at 10 p.m. Saturday.

The award ceremony on Sunday was a chance for everybody to share a few fish stories and wait to see which of the eight grand prize winners would win the 20-foot Ocean Scout. The eight assembled shore and boat fishermen who caught the heaviest bluefish, bonito, false albacore, and striped bass all had a chance to pick a key and insert it in a lock. If it opened, the boat was theirs. Derby president Ed Jerome told the more than 250 people in the Atlantic Connection that the derby had given more than $80,000 in scholarships over the last 10 years. "We are quite proud of that," he said. Derby chairman Mike Cassidy told the crowd, "Now comes the hardest part for me, to calm down and know everything has been taken care of."

In fact, Mike, serving his last year as chairman, was everywhere but on the beach fishing during the derby, putting all his time and energy into making sure the whole operation went smoothly and was a success. All eight grand leaders lined up on the stage and took a key. But it was not until the third fisherman in line, Phil Willoughby of Oak Bluffs, put his key in and turned it that a loud "click" echoed in the breathless quiet, and the room erupted in a cheer. Pumping his fists and jumping for joy, Phil shouted, "Yes! Yes! Thirty-five years of fishing, second place, third place. To all you kids, you stay at it. The derby's great!" Later, Phil said fishing was something positive all kids could do.

"Stay off drugs," he advised. "Go fishing."

Standing next to his father, a proud Brian Willoughby, 17, said, "He deserves it." Phil said he never thought his false albacore would be big enough to win the derby, let alone the boat. But he said that over the last three days of the derby his brother Paul had dreams that he would win the boat. In the 51st derby, dreams came true.