When the fishing is good I am creative. I think about what lures I might use to catch a striped bass, I consider the best tides and I explore different spots. When the fishing is slow I think strange thoughts.
For example, I thought that the cast of Swamp People, a reality show about Cajun alligator hunters, should be brought to the Island to live with the cast of the “The Vineyard,” a new docu-soap about young people living and working on-Island built around around the premise that wearing a Black Dog tee-shirt will cut off the flow of blood to the brain. Now that would be worth watching.
Last season, Cajun gator hunters Liz Cavalier and her daughter Jessica bagged a 13-foot, 900-pound gator in the swamp. Imagine how Liz would react to The Vineyard eye-roll — like, I mean, like, are you really going to wear those camo boots, like to the beach — Barbie gumbo!
Speaking of poor taste, a few weeks ago Steve Maxner of West Tisbury dropped off a letter addressed to me. Steve is a strong opponent of the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark tournament.
He and I disagree. It is cordial. I am no fan of shark fishing, I prefer other species, but as long as the fishermen follow state and federal regulations, I think they should be free to pursue sharks.
The main threats to shark populations come from long-liners and finners, not sport fishermen. The save-the-shark folks would be more effective if they enlisted fishermen in the effort to eliminate the killing of sharks solely for their fins, rather than fighting with men and women just out for a day of fun.
But Steve is a thoughtful guy. “It seems to me,” he wrote, “that beyond the pros and cons of continuing the tournament there is a larger, far more important issue at stake, namely, what message do we send to our children about stewardship of the ocean and respect for its inhabitants.”
Steve was referring to fishermen who displayed shark heads on the dock. One shark head was adorned with sunglasses and had a beer can in its mouth. Another, had a manikin arm in its mouth.
Steve thought it was offensive and in bad taste. A desecration, he called it. No question about it. Sportsmen respect their catch.
Fishermen come in all stripes. More than 80 boats participated in the tournament. That’s probably more than 300 fishermen. Can we expect shark fishermen to adopt the Marquis of Queensberry rules. Nope. Were they all guilty of boorish behavior? I doubt it. No more than some of the folks who attend a winter hockey game. Unfortunately, a lack of class cuts across all sports.
The best thing to do is try to set a good example and teach your kids well.
We have entered the so-called dog days of August. The fishing is slow from the shore and mildly better from the boat. But getting to the beach or to the boat through August traffic can be a chore. Still, a bad day of fishing beats a good day if you get your head lopped off.
Last week, an Alabama fisherman was tearing along the the Tennessee River in a bass boat at 70 mph when he hit a low hanging power line.
The accident nearly decapitated the 65-year-old Limestone County man, whose name wasn’t immediately released, according to news reports.
The Decatur Daily reported that the power line runs to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant at Athens. In an example of understatement, a TVA statement described the accident as “unusual and unfortunate.”
Authorities stopped boat traffic after the fatality to move the line. Too bad they did not think of that sooner.
And a good day of fishing is not worth getting dragged over the side of your boat when far from shore.
That is what happened to 54-year-old Anthony Wichman while he was fishing 14 miles off the shore of Kauai in the Hawaiian archipelago.
Tony hooked a 230-pound ahi tuna. After an hour-long fight he attempted to bring the tuna on board, it suddenly dived and overturned his 14-foot boat, according to a report I read in the Outdoor Hub newsletter.
I pause for a moment to question what anyone would be doing 14 miles offshore in a 14-foot boat, but maybe Hawaiians equate safe distance with boat length.
“The incident happened when Wichman gaffed the tuna in the eye, causing it to convulsively dive straight down,” reporter daniel Xu wrote. “When it did, a line attached to the struggling fish hooked around Wichman’s ankle and took him along. While underwater, the angler was able to free himself and cling to the side of the boat. Thankfully, Wichman had brought along a waterproof phone and was able to call his daughter, who in turn notified the Coast Guard.”
A rescue helicopter hoisted Tony up to safety. When his friends arrived to tow his boat they also found the tuna still on the line.
Bob Lane told me in an email that The Trustees of Reservations will, under some conditions, provide night fishing beach access to Long Point in West Tisbury.
Access is through the locked winter gate at the end of Deep Bottom Road. Fishermen who want the key must contact Matt Sudarsky at 508-693-2117, 508-693-9961, or 774-226-3276 and leave a message for Long Point supervisor Dave at 508-693-3678 that you will be on the property. Matt can fill you in on the other details.
What is going on around the Island? I checked with the guys who ought to know.
At Coop’s, in Edgartown, Cooper Gilkes said blues have been in and out off Chappy and on the shoals. The big fish provide exciting top water action, Coop said. Shore fishing is slow but fishermen willing to put in their time are finding bass.
I spoke to Steve Purcell, owner of Larry’s in Edgartown. He described a mixed bag. Inshore, scup provide plenty of fun with some jumbos up-Island that are attracting the New Bedford fleet. Bass are in search of colder water. Late night up-Island fishermen are finding stripers, he said. Steve said if the “trillions” of sand eels now out at the Hooter off the southeast corner of the Vineyard move in closer to shore, watch out.
At Dick’s in Oak Bluffs, Doug Asselin said that the warm water temperatures have slowed the fishing down near shore but fishermen who are able to get out to the Hooter are finding bonito, striped bass, and bluefish. “It’s nice if you have a boat that can handle it,” Doug said of the trip out to the southeast corner of the Vineyard.
The operative notion is “can handle it.” Sea conditions can change quickly with the tide and wind. The Hooter is no place to be caught in a small boat.