Good, Lucky and Hard Fishermen Win Top Prizes in the 54th Derby (Part 2)

By Nelson Sigelman

What, Me Worry?
Lev Wlodyka of Chilmark had caught the heaviest false albacore from a boat. Last year, his father, Walter, had stood on stage as a grand leader in the same division waiting to put a key into the derby lock. Offering some insight on derby nerves, Walter said, "If you are smart you don't even think about it [the boat]. You put it completely out of your mind." But Lev, a perennial derby junior division winner, was acting cool, real cool. Was he nervous?

"Not at all," he said quietly, sitting in a chair waiting to go up on stage. "It was just nice to have the chance." Paul Schultz of Edgartown, a well-known Trustees of Reservations beach ranger and fisherman, had pulled a 14.92-pound bluefish out of Wasque rip during a blitz. Not a terribly big fish by derby standards but all that was needed to give him his first trip to the winners' circle in a year when few big blues were near Vineyard shores. In 1995, he was almost there but got bumped from first place on the last day. Paul has fished the derby every year since 1962, except for two when he was in the Army . He was equally at ease. Offering some perspective, he said, "There's nothing to be nervous about. It's not like I'm going to die if I win or lose." Dave Desmarais said even before the derby began he caught and froze bait and scouted out locations. He admitted he had put in a "good amount of time, fishing hard."

Asked before he went up on stage if he felt lucky, he said, "Oh yeah, but it's not the end of the world if I don't win the boat. I'll try again." Fishing the Menemsha jetties is not for the faint of heart. Boats and errant casts are only a few of the obstacles that temper fishermen casting for derby winners. Asked if he was he nervous, he answered "No, not really," he said, "the nervous part is really over. What happens, happens."

Jen Clarke of Chilmark caught a 44.08-pound boat striper and was the only woman among the grand leaders. She waited with a contingent of friends, happy to just be among the winners. Will DeBettencourt of Oak Bluffs caught a 42.27-pound shore bass. Friends offered encouragement as he waited with the others. Only John Cowart, who caught his fish on a charter boat, was not present to go up on stage. Weighmaster Walter Stacy, acting as a proxy, got to pick in his place and experience derby virtual reality. He looked the least nervous as all seven fishermen lined up in order.