Gone Fishin' : Life imitates art, but what is the title of the movie?
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, it becomes unsafe to go into the woods. Perhaps the solution is to feed those nasty up-Island turkeys to the great white shark and save on ammo.
A number of people have called me recently to report shark sightings. I also received a call from a nervous mother who wanted to know if I had heard anything more of the great white. She was concerned about her teenage surfer son.
I said I continued to hear about sharks but there was no way of knowing if a great white still lurked. I said that if her son's surfboard did not resemble a seal he was probably at more risk as he drove to the surfing beach.
She wondered how I knew he had recently totaled his car. Sometimes writing a fishing column is an instinctive business.
The great white sighting was the talk of the town until a Chilmark police officer used his Glock to turn a mean bird into turkey tettrazini. Armed or unarmed, I would rather be face-to-beak with an irate tom than a great white.
By way of full disclosure I have shot a few turkeys. Only in my case the turkeys were minding their own business. I was a predator and the turkeys were prey. It works like that in the fishing world too. Catch and release or fishing for dinner, it is still a game of hunter and hunted.
So is there still a great white out there ready to snack on a hapless resident of Amity as though he or she were a Humphrey's Gobbler? It is hard to know what to think.
Early in the spring Coop and his son Danny Gilkes were out mackerel fishing off Gay Head. Coop told me they saw what they thought was a great white.
On his first charter trip of the season on June 1 Menemsha captain Scott McDowell said he was between Dogfish bar and Gay Head when a large shark came out of the water. Scott, a very experienced fisherman, said he has seen three great whites in his life, and he had no doubt of what it was.
Coincidently, the next day Greg Skomal, Division of Marine Fisheries marine biologist and a national shark expert based on the Vineyard, received an email from a boater who said that while motoring from Oak Bluffs to Newport he and his fiancé saw a shark they said was a great white approximately 16 feet in length.
Aquinnah charter captain William "Buddy" Vanderhoop soon reported a great white sighting to the Cape Cod Times.
Well, talk of Martha's Vineyard charter captains and great whites creates a chum slick the media is sure to follow. Soon enough a reporter from Boston-based Fox News provided a report from Scott's boat.
In the run up to the report the TV announcer intoned: "Possible Great White sightings instill fear off Martha's Vineyard. Two boat captains reported seeing the shark in two different areas around the Vineyard. Now, officials want to know if it really was a great white or another kind of shark. But the captains seem pretty sure. FOX25's Diana Rocco has more from Woods Hole."
Geez. Trying to get through Five Corners on a Friday afternoon, sending mail through the Edgartown post office, trying to go off on standby, the cost of a bag of groceries at Cronig's or bringing a project to the Martha's Vineyard Commission - those things instill fear on Martha's Vineyard, not reports of great whites from Scott or Buddy.
About a week after I heard from Scott, I received a call from Tim Lowe. He and two other guys and a youngster were off Gay Head when they saw a large fish come right out of the water and twist about 200 yards off the stern of their boat. They did not see the fish again.
It is worth noting that all the talk about sharks spurred Edgartown to take action. The town recently had signs printed up that say something along the lines of "Shark Sighted, No Swimming."
Greg Skomal has wisely walked the line. While not discounting the possibility of a great white in Island waters Greg has highlighted the fact that the appearance of large basking sharks in the waters off Menemsha is not unusual. Basking sharks eat plankton and are also known for coming out of the water.
It is possible to tell the difference, but the examination may be too close for most people's comfort. John Chisholm, a marine fisheries biologist with the Massachusetts Shark Research Program, provided a collection of slides. The basking shark's dorsal fin appears less pronounced and the gills are very pronounced.
Of course the best confirmation that a great white is in our waters would be a photo. Big game hunters often use a tethered goat to lure a leopard or tiger into view. My preference would be cats on a float, but I suppose turkeys would do.
I told Emily Bramhall I thought it would be exciting if the great white were to eat someone. Emily, a woman of refined sensibilities, was appalled by the thought.
Of course I was only joking I said. But then I asked, "Emily, you mean to tell me that there are not some people on Martha's Vineyard you would not mind seeing eaten by a great white?" She had to admit there might be a few.
Maybe the Polynesians had it right. But instead of tossing people into a volcano we could chuck them to the shark. Or the turkeys.
More on sharks
In the meantime more shark reports have surfaced. In an email received June 20 Jeffrey Otten said he saw a 15-foot shark cruising on the surface at the extreme west end of Middle Ground the previous week. He said the shark was brown on top, not gray and not as large as the basking sharks he had seen in the sound the same week. Of more interest to me was the following: "One more note, on 6/16 in the morning there was a striper blitz off the jetty at West Chop like I haven't seen in 15 years of fishing here. I was spooled on a fish of at least 40 pounds and brought in a fish of 30. We caught about 30 fish in two hours on sluggos and Ronz before the current exhausted."
Most people will remember the scene in Jaws when the great white swims under big bridge (so called because it is bigger than little bridge) that spans one of two channels that connect Sengekontacket Pond to Nantucket Sound between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.
It is a popular place to fish and, despite rules prohibiting it, for kids to jump into the water. Maybe town officials have been putting up the wrong kind of signs.
On Sunday I received an email from Jonas Plaut of West Tisbury about a fishing trip he and his dad had made a few days earlier to big bridge at dusk. He wrote, "We kept eyeing this big fish under the bridge and because a person next to us had just caught a striper, we thought a bass was playing with us. So my dad and I cast to the spot where the striper was caught, and waited, then snagged the big one. After ten minutes, we pulled in a five-foot 40-pound tiger shark, brought it onto the rocky bank, and then the shark snapped our line and flipped back in to the water. Not a striper, but a good tale."
I questioned Jonas about why he thought it was a tiger. Adopting a my-mom's-smarter-than-your-mom tone, he replied, "According to my mom it was a sand tiger shark. My mom has a degree in zoology."
I did a little research. Sand tigers are fairly abundant in the summer, grow to about six feet and should be considered dangerous.
However they do not compare to the tiger shark, a species considered more dangerous to humans than the great white. The tiger grows to 21 feet and can swallow a person in one bite.
Lost fly wallet
The act of tying flies is a very personal exercise that embodies the tier's creativity and fishing strategy. A tier might decide that just a little more tinsel strategically placed will be the key to success. Or maybe he or she takes a familiar pattern and changes the color.
Losing a whole wallet of flies is devastating beyond the material loss.
Early Sunday morning Ben Scott placed his Finsport wallet containing about 150 flies on the roof of his car and drove off. The Wallet is black and contains a pair of Orvis forceps on a lanyard, Orvis tippet material, and some leaders in a zip-lock bag.
"It is a devastating loss to me as those flies were the culmination of endless hours at the tying bench this past fall, winter and spring," wrote Ben.
He thinks it dropped off somewhere along his route from his house on Chappaquonsett Road in Vineyard Haven, heading along the lower end of Lambert's Cove Road to State Road then on to Indian Hill Rd and Obed Dagget to Cedar Tree Neck. Ben can be reached at 508-498-8418.
Check those sizes
Environmental Police Sergeant Pat Grady told me he has stepped up enforcement of scup and fluke size limits. Striped bass fishermen who take short scup for bait run the risk of a citation or more significant penalties.
Sergeant Grady said Massachusetts's recreational and commercial quotas and size limits are based on annual harvest numbers. "We want to make sure honest fishermen are not penalized," he said.
Fluke tourney set
The ninth annual VFW Fluke tournament is set for the weekend of July 12 and13. More information later.