Derby awards ceremony was the answer to a prayer (Part 2)

By Nelson Sigelman

True spirit

The mood of this year's contest was not lost on Ed Jerome, long time Derby president. In his opening remarks he said it epitomized the true spirit of what the Derby is all about.

It was also, Ed said, "The year of the big wind and the small fish."

Derby numbers tell a story of enthusiastic and optimistic fishermen (we all start out that way), and tough shore fishing.

The Derby registered a total of 2,797 men, woman and children. That total included 216 fly rodders, some of whom also registered in the all-tackle division.

The Derby weighed in 147 boat bass and 237 shore bass for a total catch of 384 fish. That was the lowest number since bass were reintroduced to the Derby in 1997 and eight fish less than the previous low set in 2008.

According to a review of Derby records, the boat and shore grand leader bass were the smallest fish ever weighed in the Derby's 65 years.

As for bonito, faggetaboutit! There were 11 from shore and 173 from boat. A total of 131 albies got weighed in, but that figure likely does not represent all the fish caught given the restrictions imposed on fishermen to limit the catch of a fish not considered table fare even for cats.

Thank goodness for bluefish. There were 936 boat and 329 shore bluefish weighed in during the course of the Derby.

Gred Skomal, Derby committee member and Division of Marine Fisheries biologist, told me that except for bluefish (2% increase), all species were down significantly (bonito down 50%, albies down 47%, bass down 9%).

But the scarcity of fish was forgotten on Sunday amid the excitement of the awards ceremony. Each year's award ceremony reintroduces long time Derby participants to many familiar faces. We have grown used to watching kids grow up in one-year increments on the Derby stage, and recognizing adults who were once those kids, walk up to claim a prize.

One moment Sunday was particularly poignant. The opportunity to cheer for a brave little boy.