53rd Derby Enlarges One Angler's Personal Tradition (Part 2)

By Nelson Sigelman

Sherm Goldstein of West Tisbury, a member of the derby committee, said that "in a very real way Jerry helped bring the pleasure of surf fishing to every man." But it is the fact that for 53 years he has come to fish the Vineyard and the derby that is so special. "He is the living, breathing history of the derby," said Sherm. "Here is a guy who knew them all from the beginning to the middle to the present." And the fact that he made the trip again, said Sherm, "Well, doesn't it say wonderful things about the derby?" Jerry still fishes with a conventional Penn Squidder and braided line. He does not bottom fish or use a spinning rod. And he still favors a blue Atom Bomber plug and tin squids. Asked about the most unique derby fisherman he met over the years he named Serge de Somov, who accomplished the unmatched feat of winning four derbies, three of them in a row.

"They called him the 'mad Russian,' but he was a very fine gentleman, a former diplomat for the czar," said Jerry.

"What was unique about him was that he went to places nobody else went to, used to fish bottom, and used lobster tails. He had his own way of doing it and had a knack for getting fish." Jerry said that some of the happiest days of his life were spent on the Vineyard with his wife, Lillian. Last year, after she died, he traveled to the Vineyard and spread her ashes in Menemsha Creek, where they had spent many happy days together.

"And that's where she is now, resting, and when I go I'll be in the same place, I guess, when the time comes as it surely will," says Jerry. Last year, he had a triple bypass operation. Soon after he went salmon fishing on the Miramichi in Canada. On Oct. 10 his daughter drove him to the Vineyard. What is it that attracts such dedication? Jerry said, "I think the thrill of surf fishing is being able to determine where the fish are going to be, wait for them, know they're going to be there, go there and get them, bring them back, that's the big thing about it. It is the challenge." "I don't go up there to get fish; if I want fish I can go to the market and buy them," said Jerry. "But I go up to the Vineyard with the old idea of putting your own skill against the fish." Asked what makes a successful fisherman, he says that while some people get lucky, it is persistence and determination.

Jerry says, "Determination exceeds strength in every endeavor you go into, and the guy who goes out there and fishes a lot is the guy that's going to get the fish."

Jerry Jansen cast his old Harnell rod again last derby. There were no derby winners. But measured against the tradition and history of the annual contest, he was already a derby champion.