You’ve heard about it, read about it and thought about giving it a go, but didn’t know where to begin. If you’re looking to try your hand at fishing on the Vineyard, there’s no better way to drop a line in the water than with John Potter and Garreth Heath on-board the Skipper.

Located in Slip 74 at the Oak Bluffs Harbor, the wooden-hulled party fishing boat built in 1941 stands out among the luxury fishing yachts and decked-out center consoles that occupy the neighboring slips. Just a short walk from the Island Queen dock, the Skipper’s red, white and blue paint job, sprawling walk-around deck and charismatic captain beckon for a fun-filled trip out on the ocean reeling up some of the tastiest fish that Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds have to offer.

For $80 a person, the Skipper provides patrons with all the bait and tackle needed for an outing on the water. The price also includes expert guidance and assistance from first mate Garreth and may even be an opportunity for younger anglers to help captain John (aka John-O) steer the ship.

“Let’s go get some dinner,” John-O declared as the Skipper glided out of its slip on a recent June morning. And not 20 minutes later, dinner was on the deck. On the Skipper , the key to success is dropping a tasty, smelly, sticky, squid-lined hook to the ocean floor where a black sea bass, fluke or scup will gobble it up in one big bite.

Captain John Potter has been at the helm of his wooden boat for nearly 35 years. Aaron Wilson

You don’t have to go far to find the fish, and after nearly 35 years of captaining the Skipper, John-O knows where to go. The honey holes you will most likely venture to include Hedge Fence and an area known as the Deep Hole. Drifting the boat over deep water as the ocean floor starts to rise gives you the best shot to land a whopper sea bass. As you drift into the sandy, shallower waters, there’s also a chance to hook a flat fish like a delicious fluke.

When captain John-O cuts the engine and lets everyone know it’s time to drop the bait, Garreth will tell you that the most important part of the operation is keeping your thumb on the spool as your weight sinks to the bottom. Without pressure on the line as it comes unreeled, there’s a good chance you’ll wind up with a bird’s nest of fishing line that makes reeling up your catch particularly difficult.

“One constant speed will help you find the bottom,” Garreth said.

Once you’re on the bottom, you will feel the weight plunk onto the seabed all the way up your line and through your thumb. You close the drag lever and slowly move the rod up and down to bounce the weight on the bottom.

Powering out to the honey holes, the Skipper leaves Oak Bluffs harbor twice a day. Aaron Wilson

“Don’t even think about turning the reel until you have something on. You want to keep your bait on the bottom,” Garreth said. However, after a few minutes without a bite, you should probably reel ’er up and check your bait; a savvy fish may have stolen its lunch without the ride to the surface that comes with it.

When you hook a fish, it’s important to have the tip of the rod pointed up while you reel to keep pressure on the hook and the fish on the line. If what you catch meets the legal size limit (15 inches for black sea bass, 17 inches for fluke and 9 inches for scup), Garreth will clean it on the steam home and pack the fresh filets in a bag for your dinner.

Black sea bass can be cooked many ways and they’re all delicious. This meaty white fish makes excellent fish tacos with mango salsa, and it’s great in fish chowder. Or you could pan-fry them with garlic butter or grill with lemon pepper. You really can’t go wrong.

First mate Garreth Heath will help you reel them in — and filet your fish on the way in. Aaron Wilson

Garreth has been able to experiment with plenty of recipes over the course of his 18-year tenure on the Skipper . His two favorite ways to prepare sea bass are deep-fried with a Ruffles sour cream and onion chip crust or baked in a casserole dish with butter and crushed Ritz crackers on top. On the recent June outing, brother and sister Landon and Ivy Muzquiz from Milton, Mass., were on their first trip aboard the Skipper. The thrill of landing their first keeper was their favorite part of the trip.

“I loved it when you felt the bite and you know the fish is super strong, then you see the giant fish appear out of the water,” said Landon, a sixth grader.

“When you reel it up and see this huge fish, that was really cool,” said Ivy, a fourth grader.

Pack a snack, sunscreen and a water bottle. Wear a hat and sunglasses. And be sure your phone is fully charged to take photos and videos to share with family and friends on shore. Starting in late June, the Skipper makes two trips a day, every day. 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Private charters are also available. Visit or call 508-693-1238 to make reservations. Fish on!

Aaron Wilson is a supervisor at the Oak Bluffs harbor and covers sports for the Vineyard Gazette.