September 25, 2023

Throwback to the 1952 M.V. Fishing Derby

A few years ago while rummaging around on the internet we found a 16mm Kodachrome home movie from 1952 for sale. The handwritten label on the film canister read “Fishing on Martha’s Vineyard. Rocky, Fisi, Squitz, Dom, & Bulger. 1952”. We bought it and waited patiently by our mailbox. When the time came, we fired up an old projector and were amazed at the luminous and colorful moving picture that took us back in time to October 1952 when five friends (presumably the aforementioned “Rocky, Fisi, Squitz, Dom, and Bulger”) hit the road for a weekend of up-island fishing on Martha’s Vineyard. It was so enjoyable that we sent it out to be digitized so we could share it with you right here.

The footage from their trip takes us over the Bourne Bridge, aboard the Islander ferry (just two years old in 1952!), along brightly foliaged up-island roads, down the cliffs of Gay Head, and through the village of Menemsha in pursuit of the winning catch in 1952’s Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass & Blue Fish Derby. ‘The Derby’ has been an annual tradition on Martha’s Vineyard since 1946 when it was organized by a handful of island leaders to support fall tourism and generate ticket revenue for ferry operators. Given the island’s piscatorial acumen, it didn’t take long for ‘The Derby’ to catch on with enthusiasm. For a complete history of the Derby, check out this thorough accounting by island renaissance man Mark Alan Lovewell.

Though our new angling friends hooked some pretty big bass according to this vintage footage, it doesn’t appear that they hooked any winners in 1952. According to the Derby’s official roster of winners that honor went to Oak Bluffs resident John O. Sylvia with a bass weighing in at 48.1 lbs.

Without further ado, Winnetu Oceanside Resort presents: Rocky, Fisi, Squitz, Dom, and Bulger on their fishing adventure 71 years ago.


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