Gone Fishin' : Great white shark sighted in Vineyard Sound
Menemsha charter captain Scott McDowell made his first trip of the season Sunday. Scott was at the helm of his new boat, a 35-foot Duffy he named the Lauren C in honor of his daughter.
A memorable line from "Jaws" came to my mind after I received a telephone call Tuesday from Scott. I remembered the part in the movie when the police chief played by Roy Scheider gets his first glimpse of the shark. He turns to Quint and says, "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
Scott said he was between Dogfish bar and Gay Head when a large shark came out of the water about 50 yards in front of his boat. "It was a large animal," said Scott, "surprisingly fat."
Scott speculated the shark has been feeding on striped bass. As far as I know no fly fishermen have been reported missing from Lobsterville Beach, so it is a fair guess.
Scott is a very experienced fisherman and charter captain. He said the fish came completely out of the water and twisted. He said he has seen three great whites in his life. "I have no doubt of what it was," he said. "It was quite astounding."
His customers were equally impressed. Scott said one of the guys said it was "just like TV." I wonder what he would have said if it came up and chomped on the stern.
This is not the first or the only sighting. About a month ago, Coop told me he and his son Danny were fishing for mackerel off Gay Head. Coop said they saw a fish breach and were sure it was a great white.
At one time, I might have discounted reports of great whites in Vineyard waters as fish tales. I turned from skeptic to true believer, after a great white spent several weeks hanging out in a Naushon cove a couple of years ago.
After speaking to Scott, I called Greg Skomal, Division of Marine Fisheries marine biologist and a national shark expert based on the Vineyard. Greg spent some time with the Naushon great white and is the guy Boston Herald reporters call on a slow news week whenever a shark is sighted in Massachusetts waters.
He shared the following email he received on his website Monday morning from a boater named David Pignolet.
"We were motoring from Oak Bluffs to Newport and fogged in. I was looking for a boat that I had seen on the radar to our port side when I noticed something in the water. About 20 feet to port cruising with us was a huge shark.
Photo by Amory Ross
"We estimated the length at almost half of my boat, which is 38 feet. I put [it at] 16 feet to be conservative ... After looking at many photos of tigers, mako and whites today, my fiance and I are both in agreement that it was a great white. The shape, size, and raggedness of the trailing edge were very consistent with the great white pics we looked at."
Greg said he usually expects to hear about great whites in late June or July. "That's not to say they can't be here," he said, "There's plenty of food around."
Sure. I know where there is a buffet, and it begins at the Lobsterville Beach parking lot.
Greg thinks it will be a good summer for great whites. The enthusiasm in his voice is a little bit unnerving. Perhaps mindful of past media-driven hysteria, he quickly added that people should not be alarmed.
Greg said he would like to hear about any sightings. And he asked me to tell readers "photos, photos, photos." Greg can be reached at 508-693-4372 www.masharks.com).
Until this week, I was quite looking forward to getting out for my first trip of the season in my 18-foot Tashmoo. Now, I think I'm going to need a bigger boat, something like the USS Enterprise.
I estimate that over the course of my life I have probably lost or misplaced enough fishing tackle to outfit a small third world tackle shop. I bring this up because of a recent conversation.
Cooper Gilkes called Monday morning to tell me about a great previous night of fishing ("I almost got spooled") and to alert me to a lost fishing rod. He said Harvey Dorman of Old Lyme, CT had lost a 10-weight St. Croix fly rod with an Orvis Battenkill reel.
Coop's call was not a futile gesture on behalf of a fisherman. Over the years, I have received many calls about lost equipment. It is a testament to the Vineyard that most such stories have a happy ending.
I called Harvey Dorman Monday to get the story firsthand. Harvey is a long-time Island visitor, and he was staying in one of the Edgartown Commons rental units, which is where I caught up to him.
Harvey said he arrived Sunday and caught an earlier boat then expected. It was too early to check in, so he decided to put his time to good use and took a drive to Lobsterville Beach.
Normally Lobsterville does not start to heat up with fishing activity until the early evening. However, the spring run of fresh fish means an unpredictability that can make any wandering fisherman feel like a lottery winner.
Harvey took a long walk on the beach. If he saw anything exciting, he did not share it with me so I tend to think he did not. Visitors share fishing information freely, Islanders clam up. I expect that.
Harvey got back from his walk and set his fly rod down on some bushes while he opened his car. My guess is he stepped out of his waders and fussed with his tackle.
He got into his car and drove to his lodgings. As soon as he arrived, he realized he had forgotten to pick up his fly rod. Was it fishing fatigue, I asked?
"No, I'm 71 years old," said Harvey, "and I'm telling you when I do something like this, I stop and think, is this the beginning of Alzheimer's."
I reassured Harvey that either there are a lot of 20-something fishermen running around with early-stage Alzheimer's or forgetfulness is just a normal part of fishing.
Most of the lost fishing rods I have written about have fallen off vehicles. A fisherman returns to his or her car and lays a rod on the roof. Then drives off with the rod unsecured.
Lobsterville is conducive to forgetting a fishing rod. While the fishing is good, fishermen run on adrenalin. The walk back to the car begins a decent into fatigue that can cloud one's brain.
Harvey brought three rods, so he is not without equipment. If a fisherman finds his fly rod, I am confident it will be returned. Fishermen tend to understand what it is like to lose equipment.
"I've been coming to the Vineyard, it must've been since 1967," said Harvey, "and I haven't missed a year since. It's my second home."
Harvey leaves on Friday. He may be reached at the Edgartown Commons 508-627-4671 or at 1-800-434-9478.
Wilson Kerr seconded Coop's enthusiastic report about Lobsterville. I ran into Wilson literally as he jogged past me. I was fly fishing on Mink Meadows beach at sunset Monday, and Wilson was running.
He said the water was filled with small sand eels. Shad moved in first, followed by bass, some quite large in size. Wilson said the fish were picky in spurts.
A tiny black Deceiver worked well, then did not. He went to a squid fly with a gurgle head and started catching fish again. When he left the beach just after dead low, he could hear the fish still bursting.
The much-awaited recreational fluke season begins Tuesday. Due to the intricacies of fisheries management, Massachusetts fishermen will likely find an abundance of fluke but may only take five fish, a minimum of 17.5 inches in length.
Orvis Day at Coop's
Coop's will host an Orvis Day Friday afternoon from noon to 2 pm. Orvis reps will be on hand to show off the latest rods and reels, provide casting tips, and generally share advice.
Even if the only thing you know how to make fly is a hunk of squid, stop by and enjoy a hotdog and the usual Cooper-dome banter. There will be prize giveaways as well.
Coop's is on Edgartown-West Tisbury Road just outside of Edgartown next to Cottle's. Call 508-627-3909 for more information.
17th annual catch and release tournament Saturday
The 17th annual Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Fly Rod Striped Bass Catch and Release Tournament takes place Saturday.
Fishermen fish in teams and all catch tallies are strictly a matter of personal honesty. Everyone who fishes the tournament and is present at the awards ceremony has an opportunity to win a very nice prize. All entry forms go into a box and are pulled at random.
There are three prize categories: the Roberto Germani Trophy for the most striped bass caught and released by a team; the Sonny and Joey Beaulieu Trophy, for the largest striped bass caught and released; and the Arnold Spofford Trophy for the most fish caught and released by a team using one fly.
The entry fee is $35. Money raised by the tournament helps support a variety of youth programs.
The first cast cannot be made until 7 pm Saturday, and tournament fishing must stop at exactly 2 am Sunday morning [Rules and a registration form are available here].
Fishermen must register Saturday between noon and 3 pm at the high school cafeteria. On Sunday the culinary arts program provides breakfast. The awards ceremony begins at 9:30 am.
Father's Day fishing column contributions wanted
Do you have a photo and favorite memory of fishing with dad? Please forward your photo with a short fishing story and description of your dad (150 words or less) to me at The Times.
The photo does not need to be fishing related. It could just be of your dad mowing the lawn. But I do want a few paragraphs about being outdoors with your dad. Please identify all the people in the photo and provide a contact telephone number or e-mail address.
I will include a selection of photos and stories in my fishing column, and the entire selection will appear on the web site on June 12, in advance of Father's Day.
Photos should be mailed, e-mailed or dropped off at The Times, no later than Monday, June 9.
Mailing address: The Martha's Vineyard Times, 30 Beach Road, PO 518, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.