Reeling against the drag and other hazards of boat fishing chronicled.
There is a common misperception that charter captains “get paid to go fishing.”
That is not true. They get paid not to lose their minds, or in extreme cases, kill their clients.
I am not a charter captain. I have no plans to ever become one.
Twice last week, I had occasion to take people fishing in a boat. At the request of a friend, Saturday morning I took two of his visiting guests, a mother and her adult son, fishing on Vineyard Sound. I was not ambitious. My goal was to see them catch some fluke and sea bass.
The wind was stronger than predicted, as it almost always is, and the Sound was pretty choppy off Chilmark. We were drifting in about 90 feet of water. Another boat was perhaps 100 yards away. That was it.
Up the sound comes a guy full throttle in what appeared to be 32-foot cruiser. Did he make an arc around us? No. He went between us. And mom, a resident of Florida, yelled at him and made what we in the respectable writing trade refer to as “an obscene gesture.” Wow.
“Please don’t do that,” I said to her as calmly as I could. I learned long ago at Five Corners that you never know who you are shouting at.
She was justified, of course. But I knew she would go back to Florida, where I assume all boaters travel armed and an obscene gesture is considered a mild rebuke as opposed to opening fire, while I would be left to deal with the nitwit boater.
Inconsiderate boaters come with the territory. They power through a group of drifting fishermen — is there a big rush? They tie up the launch ramp or dock — why not load your boat before you are on the ramp or wash it down at home?
The fishing was slow, which surprised me. The big sea bass that seemed everywhere just a few weeks ago were scarce. With the seas getting rougher, I decided to call it a morning.
The next day, Sunday, I met my cousin’s son, his brother-in-law who was visiting from France, and his friend, at the Tisbury town dock at 7 am. I was still recovering from my previous outing, but I was determined to make good on an unfulfilled promise last summer to take the trio fishing.
They had driven from Worcester and hopped on the 6 am ferry from Woods Hole. They brought a cooler and expected to catch some fish. What they did not bring was the remotest idea of how to do it.
My Tashmoo-18 is adequate for three people but not four, so I borrowed my friend Tom’s boat. Given all the possibilities for disaster, I do not like to borrow boats. My immediate concern was not to sink Tom’s boat.
Off middle ground I rigged up three bottom rods and provided basic instruction — don’t lift the fish out of the water or it will shake out the hook (happened); lead the fish to the net with the rod (didn’t happen); lift the fish with the rod and don’t reel, reel, reel (didn’t happen, happen, happen).
My immediate concern was that one of the guys would hook a decent fish and lose his rod. We caught several fluke, one big enough to keep. I decided to liven up the action. I rigged up two spinning rods, one with a swimming plug and the other with a needle fish, and began to troll along the rip in search of bluefish. Within five minutes a blue hit the swimming plug. I reeled in the other rod and handed the rod to the Frenchman.
He immediately began to reel and reel for all he was worth. At the same time the fish pulled line off the reel. This is what is known in the business as reeling against the drag. Every crank of the handle puts another twist in the line. Enough twists and the line resembles a Slinky.
I tried coaching. “When the fish pulls stop reeling,” I said.
“Move the fish with the rod,” I said.
But the excitement had him in its grip: Crank, crank, crank. I could stand it no longer.
“Stop!” I yelled.
He froze. I could see slack in the line. “No, reel, keep reeling,” I shouted.
The bluefish was now close to the boat. I grabbed the net. The bluefish dove and surfaced again. Netting a fish requires a bit of choreography. The idea is to put pressure on the fish so it swims in the direction of the net.
My fisherman waved his rod tip and extended it over the side of the boat which kept the fish far enough from the side of the boat and my waiting net The fish went to and fro. My only chance was to grab the line and lead the fish to me. I had just taken hold of the line when the fish shook the hook. Gone.
“Did I do something wrong?” my Frenchman asked.
“Sometimes fish get away,” I said.
We would lose three more bluefish. Catch a few more fluke and sea bass. And on the way back to the dock one of the guys leaned over the side and puked. He claimed he was fine but he looked a little dazed.
I may have been frustrated, but my cousin said he and his friends had a great time. And that is what it is all about.
Martha’s Vineyard’s salt ponds and rocky indentations are tailor made for nosing around with a kayak. Matt Malowski of Oak Bluffs is the latest kayak convert. Matt wants to gauge how much interest there is in an informal M.V. kayak fishing club that would meet on a regular basis to talk fishing, share tips and get together for fishing trips. Interested fishermen should email Matt (email@example.com). “I’ll create a list serve and begin coordinating an initial meeting to generate some ideas on how to proceed,” Matt said. “People will need to have their own kayaks and fishing gear. The hope is once we get a few people together we can start sharing ideas and knowledge, set dates and places to meet to go fishing together, and perhaps generate more interest for those who would like to learn more and get started in the adventure.”
For those who don’t want to share their email or don’t have one, Matt can be reached at 508-274-0320.
There is a small parking area off Beach Road that provides access to the culvert that connects Trapp’s Pond with Sengekontacket. I was there Sunday to look for blue crabs (pretty slim pickin’s). It appears people use the area to dump fish carcasses and shells. I also saw discarded bait that included eels, squid still in a plastic bag and other assorted trash. There is no excuse for dumping a baggie full of squid in the bushes. None.