Good, Lucky and Hard Fishermen Win Top Prizes in the 54th Derby

By Nelson Sigelman

There are lucky fishermen and there are hard fisherman, and sometimes hard fishermen get lucky. That was the story of the 54th annual Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish derby. The fishing was slow throughout the more than month-long tournament, but by the final derby weigh-in it was the hard fishermen who caught most of the winning fish. That is the way hard fishermen think it should be.

It is one thing to lose to a tourist who walked down to the water with a rented rod and made a lucky cast. It is quite another to concede derby victory to a fisherman who puts his time in on the shore or water. Dave Desmarais of West Tisbury, the winner of the derby grand prize, is a hard fisherman who was also a lucky fisherman. That is a good combination.

By the fourth week of the derby he had caught a 14.30-pound false albacore from the tip of the Lobsterville jetty to take the lead in that division. The following week he caught a 10.33-pound bonito to take over that lead as well.

He was at his rocky perch most days before sunrise, a member of a small fraternity of hard Island fishermen who accept the part that luck plays in the derby but use fresh bait and sharp hooks to attract it. On Sunday afternoon, Dave was one of seven fishermen, six men and one woman, all derby grand leaders, standing on the stage of the Atlantic Connection as an enthusiastic crowd called out encouragement.

After more than four weeks they had caught the heaviest striped bass, bluefish, bonito, and false albacore from shore and boat and it was time to see who would win the grand prize boat. For the first time in many years, all but one of the grand leaders picking for the top prize was an Island resident. None betrayed any nervousness.