There apparently is a lot more Vineyard sole left to be fished.
For the first time, Massachusetts commercial fishermen failed this year to reach their quota for harvesting fluke. As a result, the commercial fluke fishery, which normally closes by the end of the summer, is still open.
Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries, called it a “success story.” But local fishermen said the facts are more complicated.
Fluke (sometimes called Vineyard sole and summer flounder) are a migratory flounder that arrive in the summer months.
A quota was set for Massachusetts fishermen this year at 1,156,952 pounds, the highest quota in many years. As of the first of November, fishermen had caught 1,097,610 pounds.
Last year the quota was 846,667 pounds.
To Capt. Craig Coutinho of Vineyard Haven, “It was a fair season.” Mr. Coutinho said he fished through the summer; now his 40-foot wooden boat Viking is tied up in Oak Bluffs harbor. He said the season has been over for weeks, brought to an abrupt end by tropical storm Irene.
“The fish have gone offshore,” Mr. Coutinho said. “I don’t go offshore much. I am older and I don’t want to push the boat.”
Viking was built in 1929 in Fairhaven and was fished by three generations of Coutinhos. Mr. Coutinho, who is 62, said he wants to sell the boat.
Capt. Dennis Jason, 25, of Chilmark is also a third-generation fisherman who works out of the 42-foot wooden dragger Little Lady, built in 1929. He learned to fish from his father, Dennis, and grandfather, Leonard.
He also quit fishing right after Irene. “The fish left after the hurricane,” he said. He also said there are fewer draggers out on the water these days.
Mr. McKiernan acknowledged the trend. “We have a loss of vessels,” Mr. McKiernan said. “Fishermen have gone on to do other things.”
Louis Larsen of the Net Result fish market in Vineyard Haven said his fluke, which is marketed as Menemsha flounder and Vineyard sole, has been selling well.
“What is the definition of locally-caught fish? I definitely sell a lot more fluke. But I still sell as much yellowtail flounder. People prefer yellowtail flounder,” he said.