Spring is in the air, and it is also in evidence in the water.
The ocean may still be as blue as it was in January, but there is a new fragrance that goes with a warming ocean. Gulls recognize the change and act with greater urgency as they fly about the harbor looking for dinner. Is it too soon to think of a bluefish blitz at Wasque? Alewives are here in stronger numbers at the local herring runs than we saw a year ago.
Bret Stearns, natural resource director for the Wampanoag tribe, said he hasn’t actually seen the fish, but their signature is in evidence. A large number of small fish scales have been seen along the shoreline of the run. When herring move through the water in large numbers, some will shed their scales.
David Grunden, shellfish constable for Oak Bluffs, said essentially the same thing. Herring are back at the Head of Lagoon Pond. This is a better spring for a fish that was in decline for years and is only now coming back.
Our forebears used to have herring roe at breakfast with eggs. That meal was once a sure sign of spring.
Walking out of the Edgartown town hall on Wednesday, Warren Gaines, assistant shellfish constable, said herring are swimming at the run at Mattakesett.
Though herring are protected from either recreational or commercial fishing until their numbers are better, their return means the bigger fish that feed on them are headed our way.
Cooper (Coop) A. Gilkes 3rd was behind the counter at his tackle shop going through a list of gear on Tuesday afternoon. He and his son Danny fished the night before for mackerel. The mackerel fishery is closing soon, he said. Mackerel schools tend to move quickly through these waters as they head north. After the mackerel the bluefish move in.
On Wednesday, just before sunset, I was applying one more coat of green bottom paint on my catboat, when a familiar voice called to me from the road. His “hello” rose above the sound of birds and neighborhood weed whackers. Though I was on my back, I perched on my elbow to listen.
It was Paul Schultz, one of the Island’s most respected shore anglers, out for his constitutional walk. I saw more of his feet than his face when he spoke. He reported that anglers were catching squid at South Beach and at State Beach.
That settles it. The new fishing season is about to bust wide open.