Larger striped bass moved closer to shore in the past weekend, as the 63rd annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby entered its second week. The month-long fishing contest continues through Saturday, Oct. 18.
The evidence of bigger fish was written on the derby headquarters blackboard. Shore flyfishermen are starting to bring in striped bass. David W. Skok, weighed in a 17.24-pound striped bass he caught on Thursday. Dan Pribanic, caught a 13.96-pound striper on Sunday. When they show up, it means the fish are not only here, they are close to the beach. Flyfishermen don’t use bait to hook a fish, they make their own flies that look like bait fish.
“It is about the same as it was a year ago,” said Steve Amaral about the effort it takes to catch fish this year. He is an avid Oak Bluffs recreational, conventional shore angler who fishes hard with lures and eels. He showed up at the derby weigh station yesterday morning with an 18.15-pound striped bass he caught the night before while fishing the South Shore with his friend Mike Alwardt. Last year Mr. Amaral, 72, was added to the derby hall of fame for his consistent fishing prowess. This is the 62nd year he has fished the derby. “I only missed it once,” he said.
Mr. Amaral’s assessment of how the fishing has begun? No one, boat or shore, has caught a 40-pound striped bass, he noted. “Catching a 40-pound striped bass will come hard on the beach,” he said. The boat fishermen are already into some pretty big fish.
But for shore anglers, Mr. Amaral observed, shifting sands are making beach access more difficult. Erosion is making some Island beaches narrower and impassable. That makes getting fish harder.
Norton Point Beach opening has changed the way anglers think about fishing Chappaquiddick, too. Until last year, Norton Point Beach was a part of the exit strategy for a fisherman looking to go home after fishing late. With the opening, late night shore anglers have to commit a full night to Chappaquiddick; ferry service to the Vineyard’s little island doesn’t run all night.
Striped bass continue to rule the derby in popularity, though not in numbers. A total of 119 striped bass have been weighed in during the first week of the contest, with 429 bluefish, 76 bonito and 96 false albacore.
This weekend members of the Massachusetts Striped Bass Association arrived for the duration of the contest, renting a house in Edgartown as they have in the past. The association has been around for 58 years — not quite as long as the derby. Club member John Cherico, of Somerville, came to go fishing with Charlie Barr, 72, of Oak Bluffs. Mr. Cherico, 82, a retired contractor wearing a Red Sox cap, said yesterday he knows the fishermen are coming. “Eight fishermen arrived on Sunday,” he said. Some will go back to the mainland, but many more will replace them.