A Message from the Derby President

Derby President, John Custer
A memorable part of a fishing experience when filleting, feeding scraps to Buddy

Welcome to the 78th annual Derby. There is a uniquely special feel on the island during the Derby, and fortunately it endures for several weeks. Among the many special events and happenings on the Vineyard, the Derby stands out for lasting not merely a day, not just a weekend, not even a week. Rather, the excitement and fun helps create 5 full weeks of memories. And while there are some individuals focused, dedicated, and fortunate enough to fish all 35 days, most participants need to plan their fishing around the weather, tides, work, school, and other commitments. So whether you fish most days during the Derby, or just a handful, please know you are an important part of this storied event.

The Derby Committee is thoughtful about making the experience enjoyable and positive for all participants. We appreciate its history and tradition as we consider current factors and opportunities to keep the Derby strong. The 30+ volunteers who serve on the Derby Committee sincerely care about this event and the organization. We meet monthly, year-round, to plan, discuss, and coordinate. An important part of this work considers the input from participants. To help inform our planning and decision-making, we will distribute a survey on various topics following the 2023 Derby. Survey responses will help inform our work as we look to strengthen the event. When you receive the survey, please complete and submit it, as we hope to gather information from a great number of participants.

Along with you, the Derby Committee continues to pay close attention to the health of the striped bass. It was sobering for fishermen when last spring new information was presented by fisheries managers, showing increased concern for the species. Striped bass is the most important gamefish in our waters. And while it’s disappointing not to include it in the Derby - an historic event that highlights the fish’s very name - we all know what is most important. The health of the species is critical. There were some successes with measures to conserve and support striped bass a few decades ago. But clearly, collectively, not enough was done, and again the fish are in trouble. Let’s learn from this experience, and do all we can to ensure this majestic fish has a promising future.

I never take for granted what it takes to make the Derby happen. In addition to the work of the Derby Committee, so many other individuals and groups help make it possible. Special thanks to the volunteer staff at the Derby weigh station, our generous sponsors, the Edgartown Yacht Club, the Town of Edgartown, and fillet program volunteers. Also, thank you for joining. By registering, you help support the amazing event that is the 35-day Derby, as well as the non-profit corporation that was created in 1986. With Ed Jerome’s leadership, its purpose was to run a fishing tournament and raise money for college scholarships. With well over 3000 registrants annually, the popularity and success of the Derby is apparent. As well, the scholarship program has grown in ways few imagined possible years ago. This year, 13 island high school graduates were awarded a total of $90,000 to pursue college educations. Both numbers are record highs, and the Derby has now awarded well over $900,000 to Vineyard students. Incredible. Presenting these scholarships at Class Night in June is another grand prize presentation at an awards ceremony. We are fortunate to have such Derby celebrations each June and October.

Enjoy the 78th annual Derby. Thank you for promoting good sportsmanship and modeling this for others, to help ensure positive experiences for all during these 35 special days.


John Custer
President, Derby Committee