The signs are everywhere: just take a look at any one of the local traffic jams.There is an unmistakable abundance of cars and trucks with fishing poles sticking out.
Take a walk on Main street in Edgartown late in the afternoon and there is more evidence. Spirited fishermen, of all ages, are walking carrying fishing poles. It isn’t just those folks dressing up for a dinner and a dance on the waterfront filling the streets. There are people walking around with tackle boxes. Memorial Wharf is busy with anglers.
Whereever the water meets the shore in Menemsha harbor, it seems someone is either carrying a pole, or an implement that involves fishing. Or, if their hands are empty, they’ve got a fish tale to share.
It’s pretty clear that this has been an extraordinary fishing season. First of all, there are plenty of fish around and they are accessible. Fluke, striped bass, bluefish and black sea bass are here. Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of a banner 2012 year has been squid. The state Division of Marine Fisheries has reports that dock draggers landed 2,028,450 pounds of loligo squid from April 23 to June 9, when the state waters were closed. That is roughly 5.5 times what was landed a year ago (368,751 pounds).
Part of the enthusiasm around the start of the summer fishing season comes out of great fishing in May and June. This was an extraordinary spring for both bait and the fish that feed on bait. Squid were all over Nantucket Sound.
When state waters were open for squid draggers, they were all over Nantucket Sound. And when the season closed in state waters, the draggers shifted their attention to federal waters south of the Vineyard and Nantucket.
Doug Asselin of Dick’s Bait and Tackle Shop had plenty to say about how easy his job got this spring working behind the counter: “It was 100 per cent better than last year. There has been plenty of bait, and a lot of fish are sticking around feeding on them.”
Mr. Asselin said he often has a tough time pointing “wanna-be great fishermen” towards the water. “It is not always easy telling people where to go, what to use and how to get them. It is not always that easy,” he said. But this spring, he said: “I could point them to State Beach. It couldn’t get any easier for me to teach people how to fish.”
For those that went to State Beach, they could go fishing for squid. And if they hooked it well, they could toss that squid back into the water to hook a bluefish or a striped bass.
While he was talking on the phone to this columnist, Capt. John Potter of the charter party fishing boat Skipper watched one of his anglers, 14-year-old Jeanie Lisanti of New Jersey, catch her first squid using a hook with a small piece of squid. Call it catching squid with squid.
While the young lady reeled in her fish, a large bluefish charged on her squirming squid and bit it in half. Miss Lisanti got half of her catch.
Captain Potter said it has been an unusually pleasant start to the fishing season, probably due to a number of factors tied to the abundance of squid and warmer water.
Three weeks ago, one of Mr. Potter’s clients surprised him, catching a 15-inch triggerfish while fishing off West Chop lighthouse. “That is very strange,” the captain said.
Triggerfish are a tropical fish, most often associated with the Caribbean. They have sharp teeth and feed on sea urchins, and are only rarely seen in these waters at this time of year. “That is very strange,” the captain said of the catch.
Captain Potter said this is his 25th year running his business and he has never seen a triggerfish caught in Vineyard waters this early in the season. Usually if any do show up, they do so at the end of July at the earliest. Mr. Potter credits both a warm winter and the abundance of bait.
On June 9, we watched a long line of draggers taking their turn filing into Hyannis harbor to unload their squid at one small dock. Each vessel took its place to unload fish totes full of squid onto a waiting large refrigerator truck, parked near Asselin Park. The informal parade went on all afternoon.
The recreational fluke fishing season has picked up as well. Here is another popular fish that counts on the abundance of bait in Nantucket Sound.
Captain Potter not only reports seeing fish landed on his boat, but seeing the success of others. Mr. Potter said Mark Clark of Vineyard Haven came in on Monday with five fluke in his boat. The fish were just over the legal minimum of 16.5 inches and closer to 18 inches. Captain Potter said he believed most of them were caught off Lucas Shoal.
This should be an easier summer for those who love to catch fluke. The state has lowered the minimum size by an inch to 16.5 inches this year. A lot of fish were thrown back last summer by anglers who narrowly made the state’s 17.5 inch minimum.
Any time there a new boat on the waterfront, it gets noticed.
Sgt. Matt Bass of the state environmental police has a new 23-foot boat.
Sergeant Bass’s boat is fast. The 23-foot-long aluminum boat with a rigid hull collar arrived last June. The boat is powered by the same two 150 horsepower outboards that pushed his previous aluminum boat. But this one, a dark green, is far more comfortable in all weather. “It is a totally different style boat from the previous one,” the sergeant said. “It is weather-proof. It can handle rough seas a lot better, plus it is a lot safer.”
Sergeant Bass lives on the mainland and commutes to the Vineyard on this boat.
If the conditions are right, the sergeant said he can speed from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven, dock to dock ,in 12 minutes. The boat can go 45 knots, or 52 m.p.h.
The boat is made by Safe Boats International, the same company that makes rigid hull aluminum boats for the Coast Guard, and they are all quite similar.
Sergeant Bass said he will continue to do his boating trips, but now with a better tool. He was involved on Wednesday with a joint mission with the Coast Guard over providing ferry escort exercises. For the sergeant and for his organization, it is about sharing resources. “We do have similar missions: boating enforcement, search and rescue and promoting safe boating.” Sergeant Bass shares his area of coverage with a state environmental police boat that operates out of Falmouth. “They have a boat like my old 25-foot Parker,” the sergeant said. “We are updating all of our boats.”
Steve Morris of Dick’s Bait and Tackle Shop is out in his new orange 22-foot Eastern outboard. Mr. Morris won the boat in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, for catching the biggest shore bluefish, a 14.86 pound fish.
The orange boat is easy to spot on the water. Mr. Morris was seen off Oak Bluffs on Tuesday in pursuit of fluke.