There is a seasonal change on the water this week. Atlantic bonito are showing up in greater numbers just south of the Island and false albacore are only a few weeks away. There are also more stories of tuna.
Steve Morris of Dick’s Bait and Tackle Shop had an early birthday present on Monday. Mr. Morris turns 50 years-old next Thursday and to celebrate he went offshore fishing with Greg Lee. They went on Mr. Lee’s boat, Sea Ox II, and caught long-fin albacore and one 40-pound wahoo.
The two men caught a dozen long-fin albacore ranging in weight from 20 to 30 pounds. They caught the fish south of the Dumping Ground, in waters referred to as the Shipping Lanes. They kept five and released the rest.
“We left the dock at 5 a.m. and got to the fishing grounds at about 7:30,” Mr. Morris said. They were back at the dock by 5 p.m.
“It was incredible, non-stop action,” Mr. Morris said.
Mr. Morris said he is leaving the cooking to his wife Cathy. “She knows what to do,” he said. She marinates the fish with a ginger soy mix and cooks it on the grill.
The 68th annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby is less than a month away. The derby starts on Sunday, Sept. 15, and runs through to Saturday, Oct. 29. On Tuesday one of the top prizes in the contest, a brand new Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, arrived on the Island. The truck is provided by the Clay Family Dealerships. The other big prize, a brand new powerboat, is provided by Eastern Boats.
John Custer is this year’s chairman of the contest.
“I am excited. This is going to be a great derby,” he said.
There is a new derby pin this year. In addition to the daily award for the largest fish, there will be a pin for biggest fish of the week.
There is also a new look for the derby hats. Derby committee volunteer Tom Smith, a sergeant with the Edgartown police, has been charged with picking the colors. He is working with Vineyard Vines and looking for “law enforcement colors” for this year’s selection.
The derby will host a special weekend fishing event for kayakers from Friday, Sept. 27, to Sunday, Sept. 29. “It is called Kayak Challenge weekend and it is to encourage the growing fishing technique of fishing in kayaks,” said Chris Scott, a volunteer member of the derby and long-time treasurer.
“We are going to award a beautiful kayak to the fisherman who catches one of the heaviest fish,” Mr. Scott said. The selection will be similar to the derby’s other grand prize winners with a drawing held that includes the four leading kayak fishermen.
The Nixon family is once again hosting the American Heroes Saltwater Challenge, running from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4. The event honors war veterans recovering from injuries and invites the soldiers to the Island to fish the derby and stay at the Beach Plum Inn.
The state is putting restrictions on the conch fishery, also called whelk, to insure its continued success and survival.
Conch minimum size is 2 3/4 inches but beginning next year the minimum size will be 2 7/8 inches, and will rise to three inches in 2015. The change is being made to insure that the animal is allowed to reproduce at least once before being caught.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is also proposing changes in the way fishermen can fish with pots next year. In the interest of minimizing whale entanglements, the federal fisheries managers are recommending that fishermen no longer be allowed to fish one buoy for one pot. They want fishermen to use a string of pots, on a trawl line, for each buoy. The intent is to minimize the number of vertical lines that extend from the surface to the bottom. The deadline for comment is September 16 with implementation possibly as early as the end of 2014.
The American eel, once prolific in these waters, is in serious trouble and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has come up with regulations to protect the fishery.
“The Massachusetts eel fishery is a remnant of what it was in the 1970s to 1980s,” said Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries. The states are looking at imposing a nine inch minimum size on the catching of eels.
Looking ahead to next year, there is a possible change for commercial striped bass fishermen. One can expect to see the State of Massachusetts require that commercial fishermen of striped bass begin tagging their catch. Fish will be tagged before they enter the market to cut down on the poaching of striped bass, and under reporting of landings.