By MARK ALAN LOVEWELL
This is a summer of leatherback sea turtle sightings by local fishermen. Capt. Dick Smith of the charter fishing boat Patriot Too has seen quite a few of these large sea turtles in Vineyard waters.
“During the summer, the jellyfish come through Nantucket and Vineyard sounds,” Mr. Smith said. “Leatherback sea turtles are usually out there on the Gulf Stream, but their diet is jellyfish, so they are here.”
Earlier in July, the captain said, he saw quite a few sea turtles almost daily.
On Tuesday morning, he saw a leatherback off Cedar Tree Neck at about 10 a.m. while doing a fishing charter. On Wednesday, he saw a dead leatherback sea turtle afloat off the North Shore.
His charter boat business works out of Falmouth but Island waters are his fishing grounds.
Mr. Smith said business is off compared to past years. The season started strong in June, he said, but slowed down early in July. “It started picking up this past week,” he said.
Rising fuel prices have had an impact on his business and the choices customers make. He raised the cost of a 4-hour trip $5 for adults, from $35 to $40, to cover additional fuel costs.
“We left the fee for children at $25 and we’ve gotten a lot of happy parents because of it,” Mr. Smith said.
As for fishing, Mr. Smith said it is a good season on the water.
Capt. Charlie Ashmun of the charter fishing boat Cay Lee fishes out of Edgartown. The boat is a Fortier 26 with one diesel. Mr. Ashmun has owned the boat for two years and he is happy with the boat’s fuel efficiency. “It is great on fuel,” he said.
Still, the rising cost of diesel fuel has caused him to raise his half-day rate $50 from $500 to $550.
“I know of a lot of guys that are charging $750, and some guys are only doing 6-hour full-day trips,” he said.
After spending around $250 for 50 gallons of fuel to top off his tank, Mr. Ashmun said, he is constantly looking for ways to economize.
“I try and match my fishing trips with the currents,” he said. He confers with his Eldredge Tide Book to check those currents.
Of fishing, Captain Ashmun said, “With striped bass you really have to work at it. You got to work, but it is fun.” Bluefishing is easier, more reliable, he said.
He adds: “The bonito are here. We lost one right next to the boat the other day.”
Capt. John Potter of the 40-foot party fishing boat Skipper, out of Oak Bluffs, has an interesting charter next week. He is taking Paul Caruso, a senior fisheries biologist with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, out on one of his usual trips on Tuesday.
Mr. Caruso, accompanied by other fisheries experts, will measure and count fish. They are going to bring weight scales and notebooks and pay attention to the landings of black sea bass, fluke and scup.
“They will talk to passengers and get a perspective on what is going on out here. This kind of work is good for Nantucket Sound,” Captain Potter said.
Massachusetts anglers spend a lot of money. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released their 2006 national survey on fishing, hunting and recreation associated with wildlife.
Massachusetts recreational anglers were busy two years ago. According to the survey, a half million recreational anglers spent more than $769 million in the state.
Fluke and Striped Bass Quota
The commercial season for fluke is about to close. “It will definitely be closed within the next week,” said Micah Dean, a fisheries analyst for the state Division of Marine Fisheries.
As of Wednesday, the state reports on its Web site, 82.9 per cent of the fluke quota of 615,218 pounds or 510,082 pounds has been harvested.
Mr. Dean said data reflected on the Web site, the quota, is actually not up to date, as there is a lag between the time that the fish are landed and the numbers turned in to the state. Vineyard consumers who like to buy the fish as the catch of the day should buy it now before the fishery closes.
Menemsha is an important hub for fluke landings. The fish is landed almost daily, except for days when the fishery is closed. A small fleet of fishing boats go out and harvest the fish. They don’t have to go far. Vineyard Sound and its many shoals are the best places to land fluke.
The recreational season for fluke continues.
Meanwhile, the commercial striped bass season is moving ahead at a slow pace. With the first two weeks of the landings reported, fishermen have harvested 242,870 pounds, or 21.9 per cent of the 1,107,828 pound quota. Typically, the striped bass season should last well into August.