The most stressed-out fish of the sea, the false albacore, made an appearance a week ago. They scared the bonito away and now it seems as though both are absentee.
False albacore and bonito are among the fastest swimming fish of these waters from late August to October. They are a finicky warmer weather fish. It is hard to write a sentence about one without mentioning the other in the same paragraph.
But the prevailing northeast winds of the last few days have cut down on a lot of the boat fishing.
Bottom fishing for black sea bass has been a constant all summer.
The recreational season for fluke is over, so don’t catch any.
The shoals in Nantucket Sound were stunningly productive more than a week ago. Fish were seen on the surface and well below.
When the prevailing winds shifted from southwest to northeast, fishing captains reported the arrival of plenty of “weed.” As one angler reported this week, “It is hard catching fish when your third cast comes back full of seaweed.”
This could all change after this weekend as anglers keep their eyes on the three tropical storms in the Atlantic. Fishing trends can change dramatically overnight.
Steve Purcell at Larry’s Tackle Shop in Edgartown was the first to report that false albacore were being caught. “The albies were real thick at the beginning of last week,” Mr. Purcell said. Fish were spotted off Tashmoo opening and in Edgartown outer harbor.
One of our Vineyard Haven spotters saw the familiar splash that everyone associates with albies, but there were no boats in the area at the time.
False albacore are a high speed tuna-like fish, hence the name. They feed in tight schools, and often there are plenty of splashes in one instant, then calm. Moments later a few dozen yards away, more splashes. Only terns are able to keep up with the drama.
Mr. Purcell said it is the time of year to remind boat owners not to attempt to mimic fish with a boat. The lifestyle of these high-powered fish and the birds that fly over them shouldn’t be duplicated by anyone at the helm of a boat.
Last fall we got a few reports of fishermen driving their boats right on top of the schools of fish in an effort to jump into the fun. The naval maneuvers caused a fray between anglers, and so had the opposite effect. Lines were cut. Shouts were made. Schools were broken up. The albie angler fleet got a bad reputation not only for being unprofessional, but unsportsmanlike; it is just not the way to catch fish.
Who wants to be part of that kind of fishermen’s frenzy?
Mr. Purcell said, “I did hear of some boat backing into a fisherman’s line.” After a while, Mr. Purcell said, the fishermen usually figure out how to behave.
“I like to wait on the outside. The fish usually come over to me,” he said. Schools of false albacore are erratic. “Take your time,” Mr. Purcell said.
Striped bass and bluefishing has also slowed down with the shift in the wind, though there have been good reports of the waters south of the Vineyard. Mr. Purcell said he has heard of striped bass being caught in daylight hours by shoreside anglers. That is a significant change from a few weeks ago, when in the heat of the warmer August, the only stripers caught were by anglers out at night.
The fish reports this week are typical for the approaching start of fall fishing. The 63rd annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby starts at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 14. The month-long fishing contest attracts anglers from around the world to compete for the largest striped bass, bluefish, bonito and false albacore. As many as 3,000 fishermen are expected to participate this year.
Though the event is a week away, the first visible evidence of the tournament will be seen tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. when the derby volunteers gather at the headquarters at the foot of Main street in Edgartown to begin the necessary heavy lifting. They will transform what is the Edgartown Yacht Club’s annex to the Junior Yacht Club into a weigh-in station. The committee volunteers will come by to do all the carpentry work, hang the fishing tackle and boat banners outside. On Tuesday the committee meets again to assemble the floating fillet shack in the late afternoon.
This year’s derby button has no color — it is black and white.
One of two of the grand prize items, a brand new boat on a trailer, already is here and being prepared for public viewing in the weeks ahead. This year the derby is awarding a 20-foot center console fishing boat provided by Eastern Boats of Milton, N.H.
The Florida-based Boston Whaler has stepped aside from being a long-time derby sponsor.
Sharing the Ocean
Sharing the Ocean, Stories of Science, Politics, and Ownership from America’s Oldest Industry, by Michael Crocker, photography by Rebecca Hale. Tilbury House, Gardiner, Maine, 134 pages, color photographs. $20.
Fisheries management has got to be the most complex subject to explain. There are federal agencies, commissions and councils. At the state level it is almost as complex. Most fish stocks in United States waters are in trouble and the prognosis for the future is only a glimmer of hope.
No writer would dare write a book to explain what has become an awful mess, for it would certainly fall into a barrel and be called remainder. A good reason for the decline of the state of New England fishing has to do with the lack of attention it gets from “John Q. Public.” And a good reason for that is, it is so confusing.
When he goes shopping in the store, the consumer wants some seafood that is fresh. And with airplanes delivering fish from all over the world, it is easy for the shopper to lose sight of the fact that the New England fish stocks — more specifically, the groundfish stocks and the fishermen who pursue the fish — are in the worst shape they’ve ever been.
Michael Crocker has made an intelligent attempt to explain the debacle that will end up costing a generation of New England fishermen and a loss that will take years to repair. Cod and a dozen other significant species of important fish have faded not only in the Vineyard or Cape Cod’s backyard, they have disappeared from the nation’s front yard.
The story is difficult to explain. The enemy isn’t some foreign distant bad guy who can be targeted and then brought into a gun sight. The problem can’t be boiled down and summed up in a “nut graph.”
But the book contains illustrations and pictures trying to explain what has occurred. There is a chronological history going back more than 20 years. And using instructive examples of the nation’s efforts to restore the environment in other areas, Mr. Crocker points to a possibly positive future.
If the oceanic resource were cut to a fraction in only a few months and the price gone through the roof such as happened this summer in world petroleum, the story would have seen front page coverage. This story is about political leadership making decisions that are political — affecting a culture where communities and their fishermen are dependent on the sea to make a living.
Today the fishermen from small communities such as Menemsha, Chatham and similar towns going up the Maine coast have been shut out of the fishery. The last of the fishermen come from New Bedford, Portland. Even Gloucester is a skeleton of what it was 20 years ago.
The second half of the book includes 31 portraits, one and two-page profiles, of fishermen, environmentalists and an environmental lawyer, from Portland to Chatham. The juxtaposition of their stories against Mr. Crocker’s narrative about the failed fisheries management shows plainly that this story is not about bad fishermen, bad people.