Dutcher Dock in Menemsha Harbor was flooded with visitors Thursday evening for an opportunity to catch a glimpse inside the Island’s commercial fishing industry in the fifth annual Meet the Fleet event.

Well-weathered commercial fishing boats often seen along the horizon off the north shore gathered together on Dutcher Dock while Island fishermen demonstrated their trade.

Fishdog! — Ray Ewing

Organized by the Fishermen’s Preservation Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the Island’s fishing fleet, the event is aimed at raising awareness for the local commercial fishing industry. Funds raised are directed towards the Fishermen’s Trust permit bank, which helps give young fishermen a foothold in the industry through subsidizing diverse permit leases.

“For those who enjoy eating wild caught, locally-sourced seafood, this is where it is caught. . . and these are the people who catch it,” said Sam Hopkins, owner of the 49-foot vessel Endurance and holder of the only commercial sea scallop permit on the Island ­— a permit he obtained partially through a subsidy from the Fishermen’s Trust.

And enjoy they did.

Near the fish markets, people slurped down oysters harvested earlier that morning in Edgartown and tasted fresh sashimi brought in from off the north shore. Kids raced crabs in a friendly but competitive spirit and were able to scuttle down the cabin themselves to observe the engine room of the Roann, a retired eastern-rig dragger that was built in 1947 and spent 15 years fishing for cod in local waters.

For the sixth year in a row Roann made the six-hour voyage from Mystic Seaport in Connecticut where she was rebuilt, restored and now remains as a museum piece. She was stationed alongside working fishing boats, such as the Little Lady which now holds the title for Menemsha’s current eastern-rig dragger.

Lobster time at Meet the Fleet. — Ray Ewing

The smell of fish hung heavy in the air, mingling with music by Brother’s Rye and an atmosphere of appreciation.

But festivities came to a halt as the Coast Guard’s MH-60 Jay Hawk approached the harbor to demonstrate a rescue operation. Hovering just above the fleet, the “helo” stirred a chop into the usually calm waters and provided everyone with a refreshing cool down of sea-spray.

Before the net-mending and oyster-shucking competition took place, a few members of the Fishermen’s Trust spoke about the fishing industry.

“This is one of the last working waterfronts that is not dominated by a corporate structure,” said Menemsha fishermen and trust member Wes Brighton. “It’s still hard for family fishermen to have the right to go out and catch fish in the water we grew up in.”

He continued: “But the fish are coming back sustainably. . . and the regulations have been put in place to rebuild the stocks.”

One sign that was posted to a piling reminded fishermen of the swordfish fishery, which was decimated in the late 1990s. After regulations were put in place, the stock is now considered abundant and the fishery is thriving.

Patrick Jenkinson, who captains the Wyknott, was working instead of enjoying the event. He quietly hauled 203 pounds of freshly-caught striped bass and a handful of black sea bass to the Menemsha Fish House. Fish House manager Pete Lambos said that 807 pounds of striped bass and 2,289 pounds of black sea bass were brought in while the festivities took place.

“The Fishermen’s Preservation Trust is one of the best things that happened to Menemsha in a long time,” said harbormaster Ryan Rossi. He looked out over the harbor as the sun began to set over the fleet. “This is what Menemsha is all about.”

More pictures.