MV Derby Recommendations

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The Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby is an incredible annual event with over 70 years of angling history, community involvement, and deep Vineyard legacy. Just as the sport of fishing has changed over the last 70 years, so has the fishery and fishermen who love the Vineyard. Many fishermen have voiced concern that the Derby’s structure encourages unnecessary harvest. At a time when there are many negative impacts on our fishery, the Derby’s powerful brand could be used to positively affect the future of our fishery and community. The Derby has the opportunity to use its standing in the community to influence the next generation of anglers, so the fishermen of tomorrow, their families, friends, and loved ones can enjoy another 70+ years of great fishing on the Vineyard.

Recommendation #1: Create a New Catch & Release Division

Creating a new catch and release division will enable additional participation, sponsorships and support from the community. Over time the Derby will see an increased participation in this division alongside the growing shift towards catch and release angling. We would like the Derby to look at the many successful catch and release tournaments throughout the Northeast, Southeast, Florida, The Bahamas and Belize. Their success is massive and sustainable. This is the future of fishing tournaments, and we believe this will become a viable division that will grow to become the standard. Ways to help navigate this are listed below.

  • Anglers can be rewarded for how many fish caught and released during a single day, week, or the duration of the tournament. The size of the fish would not limit participation, each fishermen would have a greater opportunity to be part of the event. Additionally, this creates a great way for the junior division to participate.
  • Encourage angler’s to carry a Boga Grip or similar weight tool. This is especially helpful for quickly estimating a fish weight. Using a net for larger fish and subtracting the net weight also help protect fish.
  • Anglers would be handed out a Derby branded ruler with marks for minimum fish size. Each ruler should have the angler’s pin number prominently displayed in order to help compliance.
  • Phone cameras are widely used and accurate. These are powerful tools that automatically document location, time, and date. This rule could actually serve to ensure compliance in The Derby. Accurate images prior to release will also help certify size and catch details.
  • Zip ties can be used for girth and handed out with entry packets or purchased locally.
  • Using the formula Length x Girth x Girth / 800 = LBS can provide a very accurate weight and with proper angler education (ie. a page in the Derby booklet) this practice can become widely adopted.
  • Incentive this Derby category with a scholarship. This would demonstrate how much money could be raised for conservation and MVRHS scholarships through a catch and release division.
  • Awards for this division do not need to be eligible for the grand prize. This limits cheating. We believe that environmentally-conscious sponsors will respond in kind by allocating their sponsored prizes to this division.

Recommendation #2: Create a 2-3 Fish Per Species, Per Angler Limit

This concept has been successfully implemented with False Albacore and could be beneficial to preserving striped bass, bluefish and bonito as well. The list below highlights the benefits of this change.

  • This proposed rule change would reduce overall fish harvest and encourage fishermen not to weigh a fish that will not place in the tournament.
  • We recommend a 2-3 fish limit with a optional "bump" fish, if your last fish is eligible for the top 3 on the leaderboard.
  • This new rule would make the event more strategic, competitive, and exciting. An angler would need to consider the size of the fish and decide if it will help them on the leaderboard.

Additional Suggestions for Consideration (Phase II)

  • Consider removing or revising the daily prizes and hat trick. The daily awards and hat trick encourage the harvest of smaller fish that will otherwise not land on the overall leaderboard. With a catch and release division in place, the awards can also be presented for most fish caught and released, largest fish released etc.
  • Create a minimum length for weighing striped bass based on the current grand leader fish length. (Ie. if the grand leader bass is 45”, cannot weigh any fish under 40”). Early in the derby, you can weigh a 32-inch fish, but as that fish is knocked off later on by a 40-inch fish, you would no longer be able to weigh a 32-inch fish. Can allow a deviation of 3, 4 or 5 inches below the grand leader in order to give some flexibility for girthier fish.  
  • Increase minimum size for striped bass to 36”. This change would reduce the number of smaller bass (under 15lbs) from being entered.
  • Consider making striped bass or even just breeder class a catch and release division only and not eligible for the grand prize. Slot limits may be best to protect breeding fish, and removing bass from eligibility may be the best way to protect the large female breeding class fish.
  • Increase minimum size for bluefish to 26”+ for similar reasons as stated above for the striped bass.

Thank you for supporting the recommendations above!

 


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