Fishing Report: Keep the faith in the fish

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Fishing at sunset in Aquinnah. —Gavin Smith

We have all heard the comments — “There are no fish,” “Where are the fish?” It’s no lie that pickings have been slim recently, especially from shore. But I for one am not giving up. There are still fish out there to be caught, it just takes a little more patience and a lot more persistence to hook up these days. Plus if you’re lucky enough to catch something, it makes the reward that much sweeter. Remember, it takes just one fish to reignite that fiery drive to stay out until just after sunrise.

Rest assured, Luke at Dick’s Bait & Tackle confirms that the fish are still here, even if they are seemingly scarce. According to Luke, there have been reports of a few sizable striped bass caught at Squibby after dark, along with a larger number of smaller-size bass in the Menemsha channel, and on the North Shore. Bluefish are still being caught from shore all over Chappy. And if you’re fortunate enough to get out on a boat, the bonito are showing up in stronger numbers at Horseshoe Shoal, and off Aquinnah.

It is August, after all, the heaviest crowds and popular beach days are upon us, and many of us who live here are busier than ever, leaving less time for fishing anyway. Is it selfish that it’s comforting, somehow? That I’m not missing too much while I’m working so much? I digress … Meanwhile, visitors from all over are arriving with their fishing poles, and heading to the beach. While your chances of catching anything in the middle of the day on a crowded beach are next to nothing, we can all agree there is something simply therapeutic about wetting a line. The old saying goes, “You can’t catch fish if your line is not in the water,” and we all know “You gotta play to win.”

During the few times I have been able to make it to the beach in the past few weeks, I have seen countless hopeful anglers casting again and again, but producing nothing. In there lies part of the beauty of fishing. Sure, it is discouraging to get skunked day in and day out, but you are still out there. You are still enjoying the beauty of the Island, indulging in this incredible stretch of weather, and leaving with the satisfaction of knowing you tried.

That being said, this is a perfect time to move away from your favorite honey hole and search the diverse shores of this Island for some new spots to hook up. Nobody is going to give up their secret spots, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out there and find some of your own. August flies by here on Martha’s Vineyard, and before long the fall run will be upon us, and the Derby will be heating up. This is a perfect time to walk a little farther, explore some uncharted ground, and get comfortable in another spot that you might find yourself seeking out later, in some questionable weather or when trying to avoid the crowds. Let’s face it, once the Derby starts, all sanity and rationale go out the window. Anglers entered in the Derby are notorious for heading out regardless of the weather conditions, lack of sleep, or prior obligations. We all know work on the Island slows down as more and more people prioritize fishing over just about everything else, and after surviving summer here, we’re entitled to that. So why not spend some time familiarizing yourself with some new territory while you can? Remember to be respectful of private property, other fishermen, beachgoers, and those who are unaware of the unwritten code we all try to follow.

And if you’re looking to venture out and add a new discipline to your fishing portfolio, consider spearfishing. Striped bass are the only fish in Massachusetts you cannot harvest with a spear gun. Diving down to the rocky bottom can reveal a whole new world of scup, bluefish, tautog, and fluke that you might not catch with a rod and reel, plus it seems like a pretty cool experience all together. I have recently been invited to try my hand at spearfishing, and am excited about the prospect. Stay tuned for tales from that adventure, and keep the faith in the fish.

Gavin Smith began fishing when he moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 2014. He is a self-admitted novice, but a truly avid one, eager to learn and share as much as he can. Gavin is a private chef and passionate foodie who appreciates the bounty that Vineyard waters provide, and likes nothing more than sharing his passion with his clients. He is a regular contributor to the Fishing Report.