Martha’s Vineyard Fish Tales by Nelson Sigelman, Stackpole Books, 2019, 224 pages, $24.95

The subtitle of Nelson Sigelman’s new book Martha’s Vineyard Fish Tales stakes out its territory with a specificity that will either pull readers in or push them out: How to Catch Fish, Rake Clams, and Jig Squid, with Entertaining Tales About the Sometimes Crazy Pursuit of Fish.

Mr. Sigelman, a veteran writer on fishing and the outdoor life, is no carpetbagger when it comes to the benign insanity that is all-season fishing: in 2012 he was inducted into the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby Hall of Fame. Whether or not you’re an aficionado of fishing, such a credential speaks for itself.

As might be expected from an avid fisherman, he’s a fantastic storyteller. But even for all its brevity, this book offers much more than its promised fish tales. In sharp, concise sections, Mr. Sigelman explains the basics of the craft: what to fish for, what equipment to use, where to go for best results, even what to wear.

Although Mr. Sigelman believes “fishing is the great equalizer,” he also includes a section on rookie mistakes and how to avoid them: no crossing lines with the seasoned old pros who are trying to pretend you aren’t there, no losing your grip on your rod while casting, and no laying the rod and reel in the sand.

But for all its treasure-trove of practical advice, Martha’s Vineyard Fish Tales is at its most winning when the author is talking about the pastime in its general sense and what it means to him. Among fishermen, Mr. Sigelman writes, there tends to be a split between the ones who like to fish and the ones for whom fishing is an all-consuming passion. The former, he writes, make dinner plans and are likely to keep them, whereas the latter “will ignore any social obligation if the bass fishing is good.”

Mr. Sigelman is firmly in the latter category, and also the first to acknowledge that fishing is just a trifle on the irrational side.

“How does one explain what causes a person to spring from a warm bed in the early morning darkness to stand in the cold crashing surf for hours casting a lure?” he asks. “Why is it that an otherwise responsible person will drop everything and stand on a beach casting for hours at even the rumor of bonito?”

Since Izaak Walton back in 1676, innumerable books have been written attempting to answer these kinds of questions. They probably don’t have answers, but writers keep asking anyway, and Mr. Sigelman is at his most heartfelt when evoking the imponderables of the fishing life, from the first stirrings of white perch in March and April to the arrival of striped bass in late April, to the runs of herring and migrating baitfish.

“The arrival of baitfish,” he writes, “is also a signal for Island fishermen of the procrastinating kind — I am a member of that fraternity — to clean and oil the reels that were supposed to receive attention in December, untangle the Rubik’s cube of lures in the tackle box that were on the January project list, and change rusty hooks that ought to have been changed months ago.”

That sweet, off-kilter call of the season sounds gently through every page of Martha’s Vineyard Fish Tales.