Been fishin’ yet? It is a common question on the Vineyard, if people suspect you are a member of the Island’s large fishing fraternity.
One of the Island’s favorite activities, fishing brings together year-round and seasonal residents and visitors. And, it’s one of the best ways to experience Martha’s Vineyard.
July is a good time to fish for striped bass, bluefish, and fluke. Bonito may also make an early appearance.
Many visitors assume that the best chance to catch a big bass, the Island’s premier gamefish, is from the deck of a boat. But shore fishermen also do quite well. Sometimes, all you need is a Sluggo, a soft plastic eel-like lure, and the right attitude.
I know that is true because one night in May, Lucas Mercier landed a 46-inch bass that weighed 37.5-pounds. Shortly after, his sister Holly landed a 42-inch bass that weighed 30.75-pounds. For each, it was their largest shore fish.
“Every time we’ve caught our biggest fish we’ve been together, I think that’s really cool,” Holly told me in a telephone call not long after her impressive catch.
“I’m in the 30-pounder club and I’m happy,” Holly, the self-described Sluggo queen, said. “I’ve been chasing that fish for a long time. Now it’s a 40-pounder. Luke told me I can’t keep anything less than a 30-pounder.”
I wanted to speak to Holly, not about her bass, which was impressive, of course, but about the more impressive fact that she and her brother are fishing pals, which I found more impressive. These days we are more likely to hear about siblings suing each other.
Holly at 38 is the oldest in a family of five of Kathy and Randy Mercier of Edgartown.
Luke is six years younger than Holly. About 10 years ago he set out to see the world off-Island. His travels took him to the Virgin Islands, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Hawaii, with periodic trips home to fish the spring and the fall Derby.
“I kind of bounced around — no kids, no bills,” Luke said.
Being so far away made him cherish his Island home. Now married and with a five-year-old boy and seven-month-old girl, he also has appreciation for the family bonds that link him to the Vineyard. “You can always count on family, and that is something I’ve learned from having kids,” Luke said.
He and Holly began fishing hard together during Luke’s annual fishing migration home about four years ago. This spring Luke decided to return to the Vineyard with his family.
That each finds the other good company is obvious. They can wander the beach for hours and find something amusing. Getting each to talk about the other elicits no touchy-feely observations.
What makes Holly a good fishing partner? I asked Luke.
“She keeps her mouth shut,” Luke said with a laugh.
“We get along pretty well,” Holly said. “We are both there for each other.”
There are people who like to fish, and there are striper fishermen. There are few easy ways to consistently catch big bass from the shore, and the people who know what it takes respect those who are willing to walk the beach, often late at night.
The footing can be difficult even for someone in perfect health. Luke keeps a close watch on his sister. “I have MS, and he’s always making sure I’m okay,” Holly said.
Luke said he does not mind frequent stops. “Who cares if you have to stop every 10 minutes? We sit down and talk for ten minutes, and when she’s ready we get up and go,” Luke said. “Or if it ever came down to it. I’d throw her on my back and carry her.”
The night Holly caught her big fish she required no help of any kind to land it or make her way about a half-mile back to the truck.
“Do you want me to carry it?” Luke asked her.
“Nope,” Holly said.
“Good girl,” her brother said.