Menhaden were back in Cuttyhunk harbor this summer, and that was good news to Capt. Bruce Borges. Pogies, as they are called, make great bait for catching striped bass. As a lobsterman, Captain Borges, 74, hasn’t seen much good news along the waterfront in recent years. There are fish out there but it’s a different story for lobsters, and that has made this summer especially challenging for Mr. Borges, who calls himself the last lobsterman on Cuttyhunk.
He said he is considering giving it up. “I am too old,” he said. “I don’t know if I can do it anymore. The amount of gear you’ve got to have in the water . . .”
Captain Borges is a Cuttyhunk waterfront sage. His memories of fishing summers on Cuttyhunk go back to his childhood in New Bedford. This year he and his wife, Carolyn, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. She is a descendant of a longtime Cuttyhunk family.
He works in a 35-foot lobsterboat called OldSquaw, a boat he has fished in for 25 years.
In an interview this summer at the Cuttyhunk harbor, he said part of his personal struggle over whether to continue lobstering is not only about the prices paid to the fishermen, or the rising cost of fuel, or the scarcity of the bait, although those are certainly factors. He said he has watched the fishery decline and it troubles him.
“I am doing a third of what I did years ago,” he said. “And not a long time ago, maybe 10 years ago. The lobsters aren’t there like they used to be. I don’t know what is going to happen. Hopefully the fisheries managers will come up with some deal.”
He recalled better days, when lobstering from Cuttyhunk was a solid business. There were more fishermen and certainly more lobsters. He said he could roam the waters of Vineyard Sound, north of the Island and see quite a few different boats out hauling traps. By contrast, in mid-July this summer, he said: “There were only three guys fishing. There used to be eight or nine of us . . . I remember offloading my lobsters at Poole’s Fish in Menemsha,”
In recent years Captain Borges has turned to charter fishing to make a living. He specializes in light tackle which includes fly-fishing. Cuttyhunk is famous for its striped bass fishing. Which brought the conversation back to menhaden.
“The bait is around,” Mr. Borges said. “There are silversides, sand eels and the pogies,” he said. “I hear the bunker are all over there [in Westport and Padanaram]. It is just nice to see them in Cuttyhunk harbor, where they haven’t been for years.”