Authors Posts by Nelson Sigelman

Nelson Sigelman

Nelson Sigelman
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In a time honored ceremony, Senior Chief Robert Riemer took command of the small boat station on Martha’s Vineyard.

Following the Station Menemsha change of command ceremony Friday, new officer in charge, Senior Chief Robert Riemer (left) shook hands with his predecessor, Senior Chief Jason Olsen as Captain John T. Kondratowicz, Commander USCG Sector Southeastern New England looked on.

In a brief exchange rooted in the maritime traditions that form the core of Coast Guard service, command of Station Menemsha passed from one officer to another Friday morning under clear blue skies on a hill with a sweeping view of Vineyard Sound.

“I offer my relief,” Senior Chief Robert J. Riemer said.

“I stand relieved,” Senior Chief Jason L. Olsen replied as assembled guests, Coast Guard officials and approximately 21 crewmen and women assigned to the small boat station that protect mariners in the waters of the western end of Vineyard Sound and nearby Buzzards Bay looked on.

In a few hours, Senior Chief Olsen, a native of San Diego, would leave for South Portland, Maine, where he will be the Executive Petty Officer on the Marcus Hanna, a 175-foot buoy tender, his latest post in a Coast Guard career that began in October 1996.

Four years earlier, Mr. Olsen had just arrived at Station Menemsha to assume the responsibilities of Officer in Charge when a raging fire inJuly 2010destroyed the Coast Guard boathouse, now being rebuilt.

During his four-year tenure, Station Menemsha received the Sumner I. Kimball award plaque and pennant that “recognizes excellence in crew proficiency, boat and personal protective equipment condition and compliance with established training documentation requirements as essential readiness components.”

In his farewell remarks, Senior Chief Olsen, often choking up with emotion, thanked his crew, the community, the members of the Coast Guard command staff, and his wife for their support throughout his tenure.

“I can’t believe that today is here already; it sure did go by quickly,” he said with his wife and three children watching from the front row. “And even though the time started with a dramatic event, there was so much more that happened here and those are the things that I am going to remember.”

Turning to his crew, Senior Chief Olsen grew emotional and paused to regain his composure. “Without you guys, and like I told you guys last week, I pushed you hard, I expected a lot out of you, I know we had our challenges together, but we had a lot of success and that is what I am going to remember. I hope you guys learned some stuff from me. I’m telling you I learned a lot here, more than from my Coast Guard career combined.”

Describing his wife, Andrea, as the “rock and anchor” of his family, Mr. Olsen presented her with a bouquet of flowers and a kiss.

In his remarks, Captain John Kondratowicz, Sector Commander Southeastern New England, described the history of Station Menemsha, rooted in the early days of the U.S. Life Saving Service and Station Gay Head.

“Station Menemsha and her crew carry on the legacy of rescuers past and the mission of modern maritime safety,” he said. “Senior Chief Olsen and his crew are part of this long lasting story of Menemsha.”

Captain Kondratowicz highlighted the crew’s many accomplishments under Mr. Olsen’s leadership, which included search and rescue, law enforcement, and protection of marine resources. Just as important, he said, was crew interaction with the community, most recently dancing with the residents of Windemere nursing home.

“Their commitment to excellence does not come easy, or by accident,” he said, adding that it took a steady hand at the helm and Mr. Olsen was that steady hand. An Officer in Charge, he said, must lead from the front and set an example to the crew in operations or in professional development. He also must continually find ways to develop the competence of each member to perform assigned duties.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Captain Kondratowicz presented Senior Chief Olsen with a gold star citation commendation medal.

In his remarks to newly appointed Officer in Charge Senior Chief Riemer, Captain Kondratowicz said, “You have a great crew, a great unit, and a fantastic location. I am sure you will have many great days ahead.”

Strict rule book

Senior Chief Riemer, 41, is a native of Liberty, New York. In a conversation prior to the change of command ceremony, Mr. Riemer said Station Menemsha was at the top of his assignment request list.

“I wanted to go back to sea, but it was not in the cards,” he said. One of his goals is to command a Coast Guard ship.

Mr. Riemer is no stranger to Island waters. In the Coast Guard for 23 years, he previously served on a cutter based at Woods Hole. He and his wife, Kara, and two daughters have very pleasant memories of living on Cape Cod.

He was most recently Officer in Charge of CG Station Elizabeth City. Asked to describe some of the challenges of command, Mr. Riemer cited responsibility for personnel.

“In the private sector, you worry about your staff from 8 to 4, 9 to 5. In the Coast Guard, we are worried about our staff, our crew, 24/7. And that includes the care and welfare of their dependents. We’re concerned about their finances; we’re concerned about their health. We’re concerned about their family wellness and overall well-being.”

Mr. Riemer said those outside the Coast Guard often do not understand how much the military tries to look out for its people. “It can be one of our toughest challenges and can be one of our most rewarding experiences,” he said.

Mr. Riemer said he expects the changing tempo of the Island, from the busy summer season to the off season, to offer its own set of challenges – in particular, keeping some of the younger members of the crew “positively engaged.”

Despite the isolation and familiarity of the up-Island station, it remains a military installation. “It’s like running a household with a very strict rule book,” he said.

Senior Chief Riemer said for now he needs to become familiar with the station, his personnel and the Island.

Asked what he finds most rewarding about his job, he thought for a moment and said, “I really enjoy helping people be successful. I like seeing a member of my crew, my team, earn their captain’s license or take a college course or pick up a new Coast Guard certification. I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing my people do well.”

Mr. Riemer entered the Coast Guard in 1991. “I joined the Coast Guard because I wanted to help people,” he said.

One change he has seen over the past 20 years is a change in the mission. There is more emphasis on maritime security and law enforcement. The primary mission, search and rescue, has also changed, he said.

“We are not seeing as much of a need for search and rescue,” he said. Mr. Riemer attributes that to better boating education, equipment and technology. “The sea is an inherently dangerous environment and I think people are going out a little better prepared than they were 15, 20 years ago,” he said.

The First District is broken up into five sectors. Station Menemsha, designated a heavy weather station, is part of sector Southeastern New England, an area that includes the waters off Rhode Island and Cape Cod.

Mr. Riemer is responsible for a crew of approximately 24 men and women assigned to Station Menemsha. Their area of responsibility includes the waters west to the Rhode Island border, 50 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, Buzzard’s Bay, and Vineyard Sound.

Equipment at their disposal includes two 47-foot motor lifeboats (MLB) and one 25-foot response boat.

The workhorse of the life-saving fleet, the MLB has a top speed of 25 knots. What it lacks in speed it makes up for in rugged, all-weather durability. The 47 is designed to operate in up to 50-knot winds, towering 30-foot seas and 20-foot surf. The MLB is completely self-righting: if a wave knocks it completely upside down it will roll until it is upright.

Semper Paratus

The United States Coast Guard traces its history back to August 4, 1790, when the first Congress authorized the construction of 10 vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. The fleet was known variously through the 19th and early 20th centuries as the Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service.

A separate agency, the Life Saving Service, was created in 1878 to improve a largely volunteer network of rescue stations that assisted mariners in distress along the very busy coastlines.

The U.S. Life Saving Service built a station and boathouse, which later became Coast Guard Station Gay Head, in 1895. The station building was near Gay Head Light and the boathouse on the shore west of Dogfish Bar. The first keeper was Nehemiah C. Hayman, who was appointed October 4, 1895, according to a Coast Guard history of the station.

Keepers had to be “able bodied, of good character and habits, able to read and write and be under 45 years of age and a master at handling boats, especially in rough weather,” according to the history.

In 1915, an act of Congress merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the Life Saving Service, creating a single maritime service, the Coast Guard, dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation’s maritime laws.

In 1952, the Coast Guard moved the Cuttyhunk station building to Menemsha by barge. Commissioning of the new station took place on March 12, 1954. In January, 1974, the Coast Guard officially changed the name of the station from Gay Head to Menemsha to reflect its actual location.

In 1995, during a period of downsizing, the Coast Guard considered closing Station Menemsha and disposing of the property including the station house on the hill. Strong public and political pressure prevented a closure of the Island’s only search and rescue station, but not a downsizing.

Then came the events of September 11, 2001, after which the Coast Guard’s role in providing homeland security was greatly expanded.

In September 2004 Coast Guard Station Menemsha was officially designated a fully independent “station large.” As a result, the number of Coast Guardsmen increased and the station began to maintain its own radio watch.

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Nantucketers and Vineyarders squared off over the weekend in the Islanders Cup fishing tournament. Left to right: Dennis Dias (Nantucket Anglers Club), Peter Sliwkowski (MV Surfcasters), Lonell Rodgers (Nantucket).

Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket fishermen went wader to wader this past weekend in the annual Islanders Cup fishing tournament, a catch-and-release contest determined by weight.

The final tally was Nantucket Anglers Club, 72 pounds, 14 ounces, Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association (MVSA), 61 pounds. The critical difference was one striped bass.

Try as they might, the Vineyard surfmen could not hook a sizeable bass among many bluefish. Or perhaps they were just being gracious hosts.

Any way you look at it, a bad day of fishing beats a good day of watching soccer. Last week my wife was surprised to see me watching a World Cup soccer match. “What are you doing,” she asked, “I thought you didn’t like soccer.”

Assuming my serious journalist inflection, I explained that I was watching the game in an effort to try and understand why so many people around the world go bonkers (as in rip out stadium seats, riot and kill each other) over the game. “Maybe I’m wrong,” I said. But I digress.

Each season, members of the respective Island fishing organizations fish, eat and generally have a good time. Last year, the Nantucketers hosted the Vineyarders. This year, it was our turn. Organizer Victor Colantonio of Chappy provided me with a blow by blow of the action, or lack.

The inter-island Hy Line ferry arrived at 4 pm, Friday from Nantucket with 11 top anglers from the Nantucket Anglers’ Club. They were met on the dock by 11 stalwart Vineyarders. “After an hour at the Sand Bar restaurant meeting, greeting, snacking, and doling out tally sheets, the groups paired off, one-on-one,” Victor said in an email to me. “They dispersed into dark wet, cold, forbidding island haunts in a 40-hour competition to land the heaviest striped bass and bluefish.”

The prize was bragging rights and “the Island Cup, a sorry-looking pewter trophy that can’t hold a shine.”

Friday night, Victor and Scott Whitlock of Nantucket hammered bluefish on East Beach, north of the jetties “landing 27 fish and dropping nearly as many in 4 hours. Whitlock put a 9-pounder on his scorecard.”

Saturday was uneventful, with mostly small bluefish. “The score was essentially tied at 50 pounds per team,” Victor said. “The hardest working anglers working the best holes still had their needle stuck at nil. Both teams knew that the 2014 contest would hinge on who would land a bass. Pressure mounted and team MV sent its four ablest bodies to the north shore to work the rocks and pools of Makonikey, Menemsha Jetty, and Gay Head. The rest headed to Chappaquiddick to froth up the breach, Wasque, East Beach, and Cape Poge. Suspense was matching exhaustion in the 31st hour of the contest.”

Hmm, tie, lots of running around,no big score — sounds like soccer.

Early Sunday, at 12:40 am, Nantucket’s Lonell Rodger was fishing East Beach with his Island counterpart, Pete Sliwkowski. “First cast a bump, second cast a ‘blam’ and 10 minutes later Lonell has his 17-pound bass landed, weighed, off the scale and back in the water, none the worse for wear,” Victor said. “Big trouble is brewing for MV without a big fish.

“Sunday morning passed with the anglers in the doldrums, swarms of gnats and no fish.”

Hmmm, sounds like soccer in the rain forest.

At noon the fishing stopped. The trophy went to Nantucket and the fun and camaraderie, that was shared by all.

Jim Cornwell of Edgartown won the prize for the heaviest bluefish and Lonell Rodger’s bass took the largest (and only) keeper prize.

Fishing for the Vineyard were Victor Colantonio, Jim and Jonathan Cornwell, Jim Fraser, Jim Mullin, Peter Sliwkowski, John Piekos, Joel and Jason Graves, Matt Malowski, and Bob “Hawkeye” Jacobs.  For Nantucket: Scott Whitlock, Peter Krogh, George Williams, Harold Wiggin, Lonell Rodger, Dale Gary, Dave Dauphinee, Tre Wullschleger, Dennis Dias, Bob Bechold and Bob Virta.

Contest postscript

In a followup email, John Piekos said, “Of the 22 hardcore anglers in this year’s contest, three didn’t land a single fish, which is remarkable. More remarkable is that only one angler landed a striped bass over 28 inches.  Maybe it’s time to think of eliminating the commercial season for these wonderful table fish and increasing the recreational ‘keeper’ length to 32 inches.  All the contestants were abuzz that if 22 skilled fisherman, using the best equipment and deploying proven tactics can not land more than one bass in one of America’s best fisheries in a perfect season that maybe the species is in a lot bigger trouble than we think.”

The inter-Island tournament now stands at Nantucket 4 wins, MVSA 3 wins. The action shifts to Nantucket in 2015.

“On a personal note,” John said, “I can think of no better way to spend a weekend than in the company of anglers, incredibly optimistic people, doing what they love to do in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. As for the fishing, 2014 was tough but we looked back over the team weights for the past seven years and remembered, with a shrug, one year MVSA managed only 24 pounds against Nantucket’s 55 pounds and in other years where a team didn’t break 60 pounds, total. Then of course there are the wonder years of single team scores of 167, 155 pounds and 136 pounds tallied. We’ve come to realize that the Island Cup is less about fish on the scale than friendship from the heart.”

Fluke tourney date

Start tieing your fluke rigs and drafting team members, the VFW Fluke Fishing Derby is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13. This is a fun Island tournament. More information will follow.

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Thursday’s ribbon cutting ceremony highlighted cooperation between agencies and recreational benefits.

State and local officials joined in the ribbon cutting. From left to right: Bob Whritenour, Rep. Tim Madden, Chuck Casella, selectman Greg Coogan, DFG commissioner Mary Griffin, fishing and boating access director Jack Sheppard, Undersecretary for Environment Martin Suuberg, DMF director Paul Diodati.

Fishermen do not generally mind a little rain. So it was not surprising that Thursday morning’s light rainfall did little to diminish the enthusiasm among those gathered for the official ribbon cutting ceremony to welcome the new Oak Bluffs fishing pier.

Greg Coogan, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, assisted on the umbrella by town administrator Bob Whritenour, said the pier was a benefit for the entire community. To his left is DMF director Paul Diodati and DFG commissioner Mary Griffin.

Greg Coogan, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, assisted on the umbrella by town administrator Bob Whritenour, said the pier was a benefit for the entire community. To his left is DMF director Paul Diodati and DFG commissioner Mary Griffin. — Photo by Michael Cummo

A parade of state and local officials stepped to the podium to describe the cooperation among multiple agencies and the town of Oak Bluffs, and the benefits the pier would provide, now and in the future. Division of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin did her best to thank all those involved in the decade long project.

Greg Coogan, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, thanked town leaders who had worked tirelessly over the years to support the project, and state and federal agencies that have invested heavily in the town’s coastal infrastructure.

“As a small town we don’t have the resources to address many of the challenges that face a coastal community, sometimes it’s all we can do to keep sand on the beach,” he said, drawing a laugh from those familiar with the town’s struggle to replenish the Inkwell beach.

“Through these partnerships we’ve accomplished great things. This fishing pier is a great addition to this community, and not just Oak Bluffs but the whole Island.”

Mr. Coogan said residents across the Island appreciate the many features that make Oak Bluffs accessible. He said the new pier will give “everyday citizens, young and old” direct access to a first class fishing resource, or just a spot to stroll.

Referencing future plans, Mr. Coogan said, “In an era where public access to the waterfront is often threatened, we’re expanding it. And this is only the beginning. By the fall, we expect to start construction on a new seawall, here to my right, and a pedestrian boardwalk that will protect us from storms and bring more and more people to this lovely place.”

Project construction was overseen by the Department of Fish and Game’s Office of Fishing and Boating Access with assistance from the Division of Marine Fisheries.

The new pier cost $1 million and is the largest recreational fishing pier in Massachusetts. About $188,000 of project funds came from Massachusetts recreational saltwater fishing permit sales. The $10 charge for individual permits, collected by DMF, along with donations and charter boat permit revenue accrued more than $1.2 million in Massachusetts in 2013 for fisheries research, conservation and public access projects, according to a press release.

Chuck Casella, a charter captain and chairman of the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Panel, a citizen advisory group established to provide oversight over the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Fund, spoke about the battle to create a saltwater fishing license.

“The saltwater license was created from the ground up and it one of only three dedicated funds in the state that is truly a user pay, user benefit fund,” he said.

Referencing the pier and fisheries programs, Mr. Casella said fishermen could be confident that all the monies collected for the license fee are well spent.

Speaking on behalf of local fishermen, Bob Lane of Oak Bluffs, former president of the Surfcasters Association, thanked those who conceived of the idea of a fishing pier and persisted, undaunted by the long permitting and funding hurdles. Mr. Lane singled out Walter Lisson and David Nash of Edgartown.

The Oak Bluffs Fishing Pier will complement improvements planned for the North Bluff sea wall and boardwalk, according to a press release. Energy and Environmental Affairs awarded the town of Oak Bluffs $3.6 million in January to repair the damaged North Bluff. That grant is part of a total of $8.5 million in outside funding for Oak Bluffs, a figure that includes $1.9 million in seaport improvement money from the state Seaport Advisory Council, and $2 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance.

To see a fine art slide show of the pier, by Island photographers Steve Myrick and Alison Shaw, among others, click here.

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The new fish pier is the perfect spot for an afternoon stroll.

Is it just me or has the fishing for striped bass been considerably off this season. If it is just me, I am having very poor luck. Last year, by the end of May, I had caught several keepers. I have yet to catch a sizeable fish.

But fishermen remain optimistic. The fisherman’s chant — one more cast — was not intended to be muttered by a pessimist. The prevailing theory is that a cold spring and successive east winds set us back several weeks. We will see. This time of the year is when we would typically be experiencing our best striped fishing along Lobsterville Beach, the breach, and East Beach on Chappy.

Regarding the last two fishing spots, I had a conversation with Chris Kennedy, Martha’s Vineyard superintendent for The Trustees of Reservations. Each fishing season Chris must balance the needs of competing constituencies, which include state and federally protected shorebirds, the state and federal biologists who enforce those regulations, fishermen, beach-goers, and the people who sign his check and would not be pleased if a bird were to be squished by a tire or some kid running for a Frisbee.

Each season, The Trustees are required to protect nesting shorebirds. Once their chicks hatch, the protection is ramped up to include no over-sand vehicle travel anywhere the birds may be feeding or traveling. That prohibition is extremely restrictive on narrow sections of barrier beach, for example the elbow leading to the gut, a popular fishing spot and currently not accessible from Cape Poge.

On Sunday, Chris met with several fishermen, members of the Surfcasters Association, who questioned what might be done to ease some of the closures. Chris said that in response to that meeting The Trustees moved fencing to open up several hundred yards. Not a lot but it helps.

“It was all predicated on the fact that this is where the chicks are now and if they move tomorrow we are going to have to move the fence line again,” Chris told me in a phone conversation Tuesday. “What we are trying to do is find some middle ground where the birds have adequate protection and as much beach as possible is opened up.”

Chris said several fishermen had questioned the number of chicks based on the lack of visible exclosures. The group took a ride. Chris pointed out some of the nesting sites, not all of which are marked by an exclosure.

What is an exclosure? Think of it as the crow, gull, and skunk version of a plover refrigerator. Well-meaning biologists erect wire mesh tents around plover nesting sites to keep predators out. Landowners are required to be earnest about protecting plovers or run the risk of being found liable by wildlife officials for a take — From Section 3(18) of the Federal Endangered Species Act: “The term ‘take’ means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.”

Crows are pretty smart. Smarter than a feral cat.

When God created plovers he designed their natural coloring to blend in perfectly with their beach environment. Even a crow or gull might have trouble spotting a plover chick against a sand and pebble background. Big wire exclosure? No problem. Caw. Caw.

Chris said that increasingly predators sit on an exclosure and wait for the adult or the chick to emerge from the exclosure. “As they [predators] get smarter you have to change your tactics,” he said.

The Trustees are now erecting exclosures around the more vulnerable nests, Chris said, those that are out in more exposed areas. Those that are near beach grass are left to survive on their own, and they are having some success.

Currently, the stretch of beach from the windmill house to the gut is closed. “We have five plover chicks running around out there,” Chris said.

A portion of beach is closed between Arruda’s Point and the bathing beach and between Wasque and the bathing beach, however the back trail is open to Wasque. One mile of the eastern end of Norton Point is closed to protect terns. The breach is accessible from the Chappy side.

Chris said the fishing for blues was hot on Chappy for several weeks but has slowed down. “Most of the guys now are just waiting for the bass to pick up,” Chris said.

Me too.

Thanks for the fish pier

pier-sign.jpgI am looking forward to walking with an order of fish tacos from the Lookout restaurant down to the new fish pier to sit on one of the six wooden benches and watch some little kid pull up a scup, or a big kid hook an albie. Both are possibilities.

Last week, I walked to the end of the pier. A visiting couple, Wayne and Wendy Sedgwick from New Haven, Conn., were sitting on a bench reading “Poseidon’s Arrow” (him) and “Betting the Rainbow” (her). There wasn’t a fishing rod in sight, but that will change and the pier will take on some of the ambience of Memorial Wharf in Edgartown. It is all good.

The height of the pier is of some concern. Jack Sheppard, director of the Office of Fishing and Boating Access, said the new pier is the biggest one his department has built and reflects 25 to 30 years of engineering experience, including mistakes over the years.

Low piers are more vulnerable to storm damage. The height is a necessary compromise.

Fishermen down south commonly use pier nets, basically a round hoop net attached to a line,  to land fish. The Surfcasters Association or Derby committee might consider stocking the pier with a few nets. There would be some paperwork involved, but it is a possibility.

Jack told me the department has to okay any additions. That is a result of a bad experience with fishermen placing rod holders on a pier and attempting to “reserve” a spot. Now the department has a rule that nothing may be attached without department approval.

reading-pier.jpgHopefully, fishermen will take care of the new pier that their tax dollars financed. The benches are not for cutting bait.

A word about Jack. He is a fisherman and hunter who enjoys the outdoors. When he joined the department in 1986 there were 42 public access sites. That includes boat ramps, canoe slides, piers, and fishing access spots. Now there are 287 sites. Not bad for a nine-person department that in real dollar terms has seen its budget shrink over the past 10 years.

The official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new pier is 11 am this Thursday, June 19.

Striped bass season opens

The commercial striped bass season opens Monday, June 25. In past years, the commercial season opened in July and closed in early August once the state’s quota had been reached, usually in early August. In 2012 and 2013, the season closed after only 16 days, in part due to a large congregation of fish off Chatham.

This spring the Division of Marine Fisheries announced that the 2014 season will open on June 23 and remain open until the 2014 quota, approximately 1.15 million pounds, is reached.

The change is expected to meet market demand for bass over the July Fourth holiday and give Island fishermen an opportunity to capitalize on local fish.

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Two-year-old Bowie waved his flag as the Navy Band Northeast of out Newport, Rhode Island, marched along Main Street Saturday morning.

A Saturday morning overcast melted away to the patriotic strains of the Navy Band Northeast, much to the delight of onlookers, which included a soaring osprey, at a rededication ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Veterans Memorial Park in Vineyard Haven on Flag Day.

The ceremony began with a parade led by Island veterans and color guards from the Dukes County Sheriff’s office and Coast Guard Station Menemsha, that marched from St. Augustine’s Catholic Church on Franklin Street and proceeded down along Main Street and on to Veterans Memorial Park. Spectators on the sidewalk applauded as the Navy Band passed by in perfect step and tune.

At the field, purchased and constructed over 50 years ago by “members and friends of Gen. Geo. W. Goethals Post 257, American Legion, Vineyard Haven,” Navy Band leader Lt. Commander Carl J. Gerhard handed his baton to Legionnaire organizer, and trumpeter for all occasions, Edson Rodgers for the playing of the national anthem.

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Boy Scout Troop 91 out of Tisbury joined the Flag Day parade on Saturday morning. — Photo by Michael Cummo

As local boy scouts raised the Stars and Stripes, an osprey circled its nearby nest atop a light pole and sang out.

Dukes County Veterans Agent Jo Ann Murphy described the efforts of the men who built the park. “It’s fitting that on this day we remember what they accomplished,” she said.

The ceremony also honored Legionnaire Fred Thifault, the only remaining member of the park’s original building committee. “I’m blessed that I’m able to be here 50 years later,” he told the crowd who applauded in appreciation.

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Eric Gustafson and his daughter Ensley watch the Flag Day parade pass by. — Photo by Michael Cummo

At the conclusion of the ceremonies, Ms. Murphy thanked “everyone who chipped in today, and 50 years ago to make today possible.”

And with that, the band struck up a lively march, whetting the appetites of onlookers, many of whom looked forward to a free Navy Band concert at 7 pm, Saturday night at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs.

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Martha’s Vineyard is antipasti for visiting Italian fishermen.

Paolo Balsamini and his fish.

A famous Roman general once wrote, “Veni, vidi, vici,” Latin for: I came, I saw, I conquered. There is no way to know if Julius Caesar liked to fish. His Italian countrymen sure do.

This week and last, a group of Italian fishermen from the Milan area, members of the Milano Fly Angling Club, enjoyed fishing for striped bass from Lobsterville Beach, fine food — hey, they’re Italians, they travel with a chef, and the natural beauty served up plentifully by Martha’s Vineyard.

Arturo-Kenney-first-light.JPGThe story begins with a basketball. Art Kenney of New York City played three years in the early 1970s for Olimpia Milano. The team honored him last year when it retired his number 18, the first such retirement in the very successful club’s history.

On one of his return visits to Milan, Art gave a presentation on fly fishing for the Milano Fly Angling Club, the oldest fly fishing club in Italy. The rest, as they say in Rome, is history.

Art, a New Yorker, is chief tour guide and travel secretary. This is the club’s fifth fishing trip to the Island. The men, eight Italians and Art, are staying in a rented house just off Lobsterville Beach in Aquinnah.

Art said the men fish mostly at night — all night. “We’re looking for big fish,” he said.

The fishing has been slow this trip, but no matter. “We have so much fun,” Art said. “It’s like Animal House without any of the craziness. It’s a real fraternity of fishermen.”

Art said the men love the Island. “It’s just such a beautiful place to fish and all the people we meet are so nice,” he said.

Arturo_Paolo-Balsamini.JPGWhen they are awake in the daytime the men make periodic shopping trips down Island. Their favorite stop is Coop’s in Edgartown. “Coop is the Island’s best goodwill ambassador,” Art said in a phone conversation as he relaxed in the house. “He is extremely helpful.”

Coop also endeared himself to the Italians with gifts of fresh squid, clams, and flies that worked.

“Coop doesn’t know it but he’s an international phenomenon, at least in Milano,” Art added.

Paolo Balsamini came on the line. He said he likes everything about the Vineyard.

“I like the fish, I like the beach, I like the environment. Lots of wildlife. As a fisherman I like to fish, so I like to catch a lot of striper, especially the big one,” he said with a laugh.

Paolo, 50, said the fishing was a lot better last year, but like fishermen around the world, he takes a philosophical approach. “But, ah, it’s the sea, you know,” he said. “If they are not, they are not. There are schoolies, but in the mix, you know, there are big ones but it is a matter of luck.”

Asked about what he fishes for in Italy, Paolo laughed. “I fish in the sea, but I catch one sea bass every five, six outings,” he said. He catches trout with more frequency.

Roberto Pecorelli.

Roberto Pecorelli. — Photo courtesy of Arturo Kenney

His favorite fly for the Vineyard? “Floating sand eel in black in various sizes,” he said.

Paolo was a commercial pharmacist until he lost his job two years ago. Now he drives a taxi. He also travels to Denmark in late spring to fish for sea trout. “Very fun,” he said. “There’s a lot of fish and some big ones.”

I asked Paolo what he thought about our ticks. My question was lost in translation. He thought I asked for tips. “Fish as long as you can,” he said. “All night long. This is my tip because if you have your fly in the water you can fish the big one. And fish when the water is moving.”

He also had a message for the people of Martha’s Vineyard: “Thank you for the whole Island …preserve your Island.”

Coop's welcome mat.

Coop’s welcome mat. — Photo courtesy of Arturo Kenney

Club president Roberto Pecorelli spoke to me. “This fishing is very, very important for me, for my mind,” he said with a laugh. “I love to fish on the beach at night with my friends. To catch fish is not very important. I am very happy when I caught only one fish. Very, very fine for me.”

It is a sentiment any fisherman could understand in any language.

What not to do

Last week, Tom Dunlop wrote a striper love story for the Gazette about a guy who caught a bass, threw it up on the beach where he let it lie and declined to cut the gills and bleed the fish because he does not like to do that while a fish is still alive. He drove home with the fish in a plastic bag, but after it twitched in his kitchen, he had a pang of conscience and ran it down to the water where he spent more than one hour reviving it.

Tom’s a good writer and in his hands the tale sounded swell. Hats off to the kind-hearted fisherman. But the story attracted plenty of criticism from fishermen and with good reason.

I do not doubt the fisherman was well intentioned. But once the decision is made to keep a fish for the table it is not humane or practical to let a fish lie gasping on the beach building up heat and toxins. Cut the gill with a sharp knife. The blood will drain and the fish will die.

Do not carry a fish in a plastic bag. It does not allow the fish to cool. Bring a cooler with ice, or in a pinch throw a wet towel over the fish. The end result will be fresh, high quality fillets.

Pier ribbon cutting Thursday

On Thursday, June 19, at 11 am, state environmental and wildlife officials will join Oak Bluffs town leaders in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new fishing pier.

The pier looks great. Strollers and families with kids who like to fish for scup will be the chief beneficiaries. I have no doubt it will produce a few albies.

The idea for a fishing pier began with the rebuilding of the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority terminal. The original idea was to incorporate a fishing platform into the pier. That plan disappeared after 9/11, due to security concerns, but not the idea.

The state office of Fishing and Boating Access funded the project. State saltwater license fees and taxes on fishing and boating equipment paid for it. If you have the time, stop by and celebrate the first pier on Martha’s Vineyard built for fishing.

1

Measured by what matters, the 23rd Catch and Release tournament was a great success.

Peter Sliwkowski managed to escape a stiff northeast wind Saturday night on the Chappy side of Katama Bay.

The northeast wind blew at more than 20 miles per hour and the temperature made it feel like the first day of March rather than the last day of May, making for less than ideal conditions for the 124 fishermen casting about in the 23rd Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Striped Bass Catch and Release Tournament last Saturday night.

Army Captain Matthew Blair, an Apache helicopter pilot assigned to the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, presented a flag he carried on a combat mission in Afghanistan to Rod and Gun club president Bob Delisle (left) and treasurer Cliff Meehan.

Army Captain Matthew Blair, an Apache helicopter pilot assigned to the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, presented a flag he carried on a combat mission in Afghanistan to Rod and Gun club president Bob Delisle (left) and treasurer Cliff Meehan. — Photo by John Piekos

The fishing reflected the conditions — miserable by Island standards. About 184 bass, mostly small, were caught and released by fishermen who struggled from 7 pm until 2 am Sunday morning to find any spot facing the water out of the battering wind.

But a bad day of fishing in the catch and release beats a good day in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. One year ago, Army Captain Matthew Blair was in the hospital receiving treatment for the foot he fractured while on his third deployment to Afghanistan.

At the awards ceremony Sunday morning, Captain Blair, an Apache helicopter pilot assigned to the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was happy to have the opportunity to fish on Martha’s Vineyard with his father, Jim Blair of Norton, his cousin Dean Blair and friends. And the more than 100 fishermen and guests sitting in the regional high school cafeteria were very happy to welcome him back.

For those who thought they were seeing double, they were. Matthew, 35, and his twin brother Army Captain Nicholas Blair, 25th Engineers stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, where he is part of the Global Response Force, are a catch and release tag team pair. In the past seven years their schedules have only allowed the brothers to fish the tournament together once.

Last year, Nicholas fished the catch and release undeterred by a cast on the foot he broke during a training exercise one month earlier. Here is one of those twin psychic connection anecdotes. Nicholas broke his foot on May 2, 2013. One week later, Matthew sustained a series of fractures in his foot while on a mission (which he completed despite his injuries).

In conversation, both brothers are humble about their military service. Quiet, competent, and professional in demeanor, they represent their service well.

The highlight of the awards ceremony held Sunday morning came when Captain Blair presented an American flag he carried with him in his Apache helicopter during a combat mission in Afghanistan near the Khyber Pass to rod and gun club president Bob Delisle and treasurer Cliff Meehan. It was a way to say thanks, he said, for an organization and event that has meant so much to him and his family.

Mattered a lot

The tournament presented Captain Matthew Blair with an inlaid wooden Martha's Vineyard fishing flag donated by Brian Oneil of Rustic Marlin Designs.

The tournament presented Captain Matthew Blair with an inlaid wooden Martha’s Vineyard fishing flag donated by Brian Oneil of Rustic Marlin Designs. — Photo by John Piekos

I spoke to Matthew by phone Monday as he returned to the 10th Mountain Division base at Fort Drum, New York, after three days on the Vineyard. Matthew said that but for the tournament he would not have taken up fly fishing.

He said he values the tournament for the opportunity it provides to spend time with his father, to fish and enjoy the Island. “Just some good old American reset time,” he said.

Military service is a Blair family tradition. A sister, Kristen (Blair) Mayer, is an Air Force captain who for a time was stationed at a hospital in Kabul.

“This last deployment Kristen and I worked together,” Matthew said. “She was running a hospital in Kabul and I was outside Fenty by the Khyber Pass and she came up one day and I put her in the helicopter and I showed her around. That was a rare family experience meeting in a war zone.”

Matthew is married with two children, a four-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. Between his military and family responsibilities, free time to go fishing is rare.

Last year, knowing Matthew was in the hospital, the fishermen signed a catch and release tee-shirt to wish him well. For most of us, war is a distant rumble of thunder, a snippet of news. I suspect few of us realized that the smallest gesture of thanks can often be quite meaningful for those who serve.

In one of the more emotional moments of the ceremony Sunday, Matthew thanked those in the room for thinking of him. I asked him about that moment.

Matthew said that the routine of deployment in a war zone pushes home to the background. “When you get injured and sent to Walter Reed or any of the military hospitals, it’s very antiseptic and you are separated from anybody you are used to working with, and you are separated from your family, so it is like a deployment unto itself.”

Professional military men and women share a strong sense of duty. Matthew said that sitting in the hospital for three months far from the battle was difficult.

“I had been working 12 hours a day,” he said, “flying my absolute maximums every day and night and then when I got hurt I felt like I had let the team down. Like I was failing the Army by getting hurt.”

The tee-shirt and the card he received from the rod and gun club reminded him that his service was appreciated. “It mattered a lot,” he said, “because it kept me from reinforcing my own apprehension that I was letting people down.”

The flag now in a case at the rod and gun club was carried during a night assault on two towns in conjunction with the 101st Airborne in an effort to capture Taliban supporters. “It was two big raids. There were a lot of moving pieces. Lots of helicopters landing at night. Lots of troops moving around at night.”

Matthew served three tours in Afghanistan for a total of 24 months, beginning in 2007. The changing tempo of the war and the push to shift responsibility to the Afghan forces has created new challenges for those trained to bring the fight to the enemy, he said.

The Apache helicopter is a lethal piece of military equipment packed with high tech weapons systems and capable of flying 171 miles per hour. It carries a pilot and a co-pilot gunner.

Asked if it is fun to fly, without adding the qualification of people shooting at him, Matthew said, “It’s true. It’s a lot of work to be a pilot, but when you get to do the real yanking and banking at high speeds at low altitude it’s the greatest fun in the world.”

He said the austere Afghanistan environment was challenging but did not deter from the thrill. “Flying in the mountains at those speeds is really great, I love doing it.”

The first time Matthew fished the tournament he had just returned from Afghanistan. Upon each subsequent return he fished the tournament. “My father would always be looking at the clock saying, remember, if you’re going to be home in May get June off for the tournament.”

Following a revolving cycle of deployments, for the first time in a decade, Captain Blair and his unit are not home preparing to leave. World politics could intercede, but for now he is enjoying spending time at home with his family.

It is a short hop by helicopter from Fort Drum to the Vineyard. I told Matthew that his unit would be welcome and with no scheduled deployment he could begin preparing for the 24th catch and release.

“I’m already looking at the calendar for next year,” Matthew said.

Results

Tournament co-chairman Cooper Gilkes (right) presenåted an Orvis Helios fly rod to awards ceremony host Nelson Sigelman in appreciation of 23 years of nonstop kidding around.

Tournament co-chairman Cooper Gilkes (right) presenåted an Orvis Helios fly rod to awards ceremony host Nelson Sigelman in appreciation of 23 years of nonstop kidding around. — Photo by John Piekos

Roberto Germani Trophy for the most striped bass caught and released by a team: 1. John Kollett, Sandra Demel (11 fish average); 2. Dave Thompson, Tom Carroway (Team Sprintless, 8.5 avg.); 3. Cooper Gilkes, Jackie Jordan, Pete Kutzer, Jess McGlothlan, Todd Cascone, Aaron Cascone, Tom Zemianek, Donald O’Shaughnessy, Jr. (Team High Stickers, 6 avg.)

Sonny and Joey Beaulieu Trophy for the largest striped bass caught and released: Dean Blair, 72 inches (44 inches in length, 28 inches in girth).

Arnold Spofford Trophy for the most fish caught and released by a team using one fly: 1. Seth Woods, Mac Haskell, Charlie Finnerty (Team Caddyshack, 2.3 avg.); 2. Jeffrey Stevens, Scott MacCaferri, Ed Tatro (Team Last Cast, 2 fish avg.); 3. James J. Jackson, Mark G. Wrabel (Team Bassholes, .5 fish avg.)

Larry’s Bass Blast

There is shore and boat competition striper action in this month-long tournament that ends June 30. Winners split the kitty. For more information, call the tackle shop at 508-627-5088.

Current tide charts are here.

19

Fishermen were surprised to find new signs barring passage to the informal path they have used for years to gain access to the popular fishing spot.

A sign warns people to stay off the well used trail that once provided informal access to Dogfish bar.

Fisherman are protective of fishing spots. It is a trait imprinted in their DNA since the first time a caveman decided it was more fun to catch a trout in a stream with his hands than hit it with a club.

More than 20 years ago, fishermen in the know could travel down a dirt road in Gay Head — now known as Aquinnah but still called Gay Head by those in the know — to a small parking lot. A path led to a beach at Dogfish Bar. Property owner Dr. Jason Lew was fine with fishermen using his lot. On a good night the striped bass fishing could be legendary. But the arrangement, one similar to past conveniences that once provided fishing access around the Island, was too good to last under the onslaught of more visitors and GPS.

Last fall, Bob “Hawkeye” Jacobs asked me to look into new signs that had sprouted up barring access to the path to the beach. Stone boulders had also been placed around the parking area, acquired years ago by the state Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

Last Saturday, I drove to Aquinnah to look into the fuss. Then I started making phone calls.

A sign planted directly on the path to the beach states: Private, no trespassing, protected sensitive “Ecosystem,” violators subject to arrest.

It is a pretty ominous warning for a fisherman who just wants to catch a bass and mind his or her own business. I took a short walk and discovered pretty quickly that the ecosystem is dominated by ticks.

What I discovered in my research is that Beverly Wright and her husband Robert Macdiarmid own the lot to the west of the state lot. A portion of the property where people parked and the path was on their property, not the state’s. Beverly told me that frustration over abuse of their property — mostly by beach-goers, not fishermen — led them to assert their property rights and bar anyone from parking on their property or using the path.

Beverly said she placed the boulders only on her property line. She said she does not know who placed boulders in the state lot to constrict parking. No one seems to know.

Doug Cameron, Office of Fishing and Boating Access (FBA) assistant director and deputy chief engineer for the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, told me in a telephone conversation Wednesday that FBA recently received permission from the Aquinnah conservation commission and planning board to create a new path on DFG property. The one sticking point, he said, is that after the fact, the planning board said the parking lot must be limited to four vehicles. Doug does not agree. I am sure fishermen will be on his side.

I also learned that William Waterway, once known as William Marks, was behind the “ecosystem” signs. Mr. Waterway is the president of a private beach association that maintains a parking area about 100 yards up the road where the cost of admission, a key to the gate lock, is more than $70,000. William also owns a lot just adjacent to the association lot. He just sold a share solely for parking and beach access for $72,500.

Mr. Waterway appears to be the self-appointed environmental steward of the beach. His ecosystem signs are everywhere. I could not reach him by phone but this is what he has to say about himself on his website: William Waterway is an award-winning water author, poet, artist, philosopher, and Native American flute artist who was raised on an organic farm.

William is interested in man’s connection to water. “Mysterious water helps us to survive each second,” he writes in the introduction to his website. “Without a stream of healthy water flowing through our bodies – we become ill and cease to exist. The same goes for the body of any region or country.”

Dog ticks appear to be the principal inhabitants of the protected "ecosystem."

Dog ticks appear to be the principal inhabitants of the protected “ecosystem.” — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

I suppose the tug of war is between tick ecosystems, reverence for water, and fishing access. Fisherman have a champion in Jack Sheppard, longtime director of the Fishing and Boating Access Board. Jack is responsible for helping fishermen and boaters gain access across the state. A little history is in order.

Years ago, as I said, Dr. Lew allowed fishermen to use his lot. When his property went on the market, in 1996 the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank stepped in with an offer to buy the entire parcel that stretched from Lighthouse Road to the beach and create a boardwalk path. Unfortunately, Gay Headers objected to the potential public incursion and the local Land Bank advisory board nixed the deal, citing fears of heavy use, traffic, impact on the environment, and community opinion in making its decision.

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner John Phillips had fished Dogfish and recognized the value of public access to a unique fishing spot. John asked Jack Sheppard and the public access board to step in. The state purchased a 2.4-acre property at Dogfish Bar in 1996 for $160,000.

John and others in the state agency pledged that care would be taken to preserve the ecology and protect residents’ interests. He asked the Island office of the Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) to handle local management details. And the Orvis Company, out of Manchester, Vermont, known for its commitment to the environment, pledged to contribute $40,000 towards management costs. Orvis regularly devotes a percentage of its profits to projects, causes, and activities that benefit the environment.

Under the theory that no good deed goes unpunished, Gay Headers saw a conspiracy. Orvis wanted to run a fly fishing school, some said. It was untrue. Their interest did not extend beyond preserving access for the public. The Trustees just wanted to be helpful.

In one report at the time, Mr. Waterway, then Marks, charged that some fishermen are “pretty damned lazy” if they cannot walk from public parking on Lobsterville Road to Dogfish Bar, a distance of approximately one mile.

Mr. Marks said that he opposed the purchase because he believed the Spur Road and the surrounding environment is “burdened enough as it is.”

Orvis decided not to spend money where they were not wanted. The Trustees wanted no part of the controversy.

After much gnashing of teeth, and a tussle between state wildlife officials and Gay Head leaders, a period of detente settled over the area. The state did not improve the parking lot and everyone looked the other way.

So here we are again. The well used path is off limits. Walk on it and it is a trespass. Fishermen may walk through the grass until the state creates a new path, Doug Cameron said. My advice is to check for ticks.

Catch and Release

The Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club will host its 23nd annual Fly Rod Striped Bass Catch and Release Tournament this Saturday.

There are three prize categories: the Roberto Germani Trophy, for the most striped bass caught and released by a team; the Sonny and Joey Beaulieu Trophy, for the largest striped bass caught and released; and the Arnold Spofford Trophy, for the most fish caught and released by a team using one fly per team member.

The contest rules are simple. There is no fishing from boats. Fishermen may only fish from beaches that are accessible. The first cast cannot be made until 7 pm Saturday, and fishing must stop at exactly 2 am, Sunday.

The club hosts a breakfast in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School cafeteria Sunday morning followed by an awards ceremony at 9:30 am.

The entry fee is $35. Money raised by the tournament helps support a variety of youth programs. For tournament information or to contribute, contact Cooper Gilkes at 508-627-3909. Sign up early or Saturday afternoon at the high school.

Coop’s will host an Orvis Day this Friday. Stop by to win a new fly outfit and feast on hot dogs and burgers.

1

New rod and reel in hand I went looking for some fish and found them.

Matthew Passalacqua, executive chef at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Katama, displays a bluefish he caught Tuesday afternoon.

I was not invited to the Cannes Film Festival which began last Wednesday in Cannes, France. I commented on that fact to my wife Norma as we watched starlets stride and pause for photos on the red carpet like so many show horses in front of a horde of gawkers and photographers on one of the many evening programs that report on that sort of senseless news.

My point to Norma was that had I been invited to Cannes I would have been unable to throw a fishing rod on my truck Saturday afternoon and go looking for bluefish. I knew there were fish on Chappy, but I wanted to explore. The wind was out of the southwest and conditions were perfect for bluefish.

I had a nine-foot, medium weight St. Croix Wild River outfitted with a Penn Battle 4000 reel. It is a relatively light outfit that is able to handle decent size fish. My lure of choice was a lime green Spofford’s needle fish with all the treble hooks removed and one single tail hook. It casts well and bluefish love it.

I decided to try the flats up the beach to the north of Edgartown Light. I started walking and casting. Just off Eel Pond I had my first hit, a slashing strike that sent a splash of water into the bright sunlight. I never get tired of watching bluefish hit surface lures, and the first hit of the season always gets the adrenaline pumping.

Another hundred yards up the beach and I was into the fish thick. Almost every cast brought a strike. I landed a fish I estimated to weigh about 5 pounds destined for the grill and quickly slit the gills to bleed it. Then I dug a small ditch on the beach and placed the fish in it to keep it cool in the afternoon sun.

The poor reputation bluefish has as table fare is undeserved. It may never be a substitute for halibut, but when treated well it is excellent on the grill. And it is one of our plentiful local fish.

For entertainment I began reeling as fast as I could. Groups of bluefish pursued the lure, toothy mouths wide open and snapping. It was quite a sight and I was all alone. Beats Cannes any day.

And the winner is

Several weeks ago, Times reporter Barry Stringfellow recommended that we host a contest for the first bluefish caught on the Island. I saw through his motives immediately — he wanted to know where the fish were as soon as they arrived — and I agreed it was a good idea.

LeRoux in Vineyard Haven, which stocks all manner of high quality kitchen goods that any chef would need to prepare a fresh caught fish, provided a $50 gift certificate as a prize. On Thursday, May 15, Ron Domurat of Edgartown sent a photo of a bluefish he caught on Chappy to The Times. Ron did not know anything about the contest he had just won.

Barry sent Ron an email congratulating him on his prize. And that is when Ron really showed the stuff that champs are made of.

“Hi Barry, thanks but I may not have been the first one,” he wrote in an email. “Mike Carotta travels all the way from Nebraska to fish here every spring. He’s been doing it for 40 years. We were on the same ferry to Chappy and he preceded me out to the beach. He went directly to Wasque and I went to Lelands Point where I caught a BF on my first cast with a 3 oz. Kasmaster. I had fish in the 7-10 range on my first eight casts and ended up with a total of 15 for the day. There were a lot of fish and I was seeing them moving through in the tops of the waves. The first fish was caught around 3:30 pm. When I caught up with Mike at Wasque around 4:30, he had six BF on the beach and said they were there when he arrived. Any chance of splitting the prize? It could have been a tie!”

When Mike learned about Ron’s gesture he told Ron to keep the prize. His only request? “How ‘bout we share the recognition,” Mike said in an email. “My kids would get a kick out of the mention.”

And the judge’s decision? Next season Ron invite Mike to a barbecue and use the gear he bought at LeRoux to cook the fish.

Dick’s hosts tournament

Dick’s Bait & Tackle in Oak Bluffs will host its 22nd Annual Memorial Day Weekend Derby. The contest begins at 12:01 am, Friday morning and ends at noon Monday.

The fishermen who catch the heaviest bluefish or bass from the shore or a boat will earn some nice prizes. Last year, the winning bass were all under 20 pounds and the bluefish were under 8 pounds.

The cost to enter is $30 and all the entry money goes right into the prizes, Doug Asselin, who was watching the shop when I called, told me. Remember, bass must be at least 32 inches long to weigh in.

Doug said the fishing for bluefish has been excellant. On Chappy Monday he caught 15 fish. Nothing huge but lots of fun, he said.

One good sign is the presence of huge schools of squid in Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds. Lots of squid attract lots of fish, so the ingredients are coming together for some good fishing in the weeks ahead.

Call 508-693-7669 for more information or go to dicksbait@comcast.net.

Catch and release and have fun

The 23rd annual Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Fly Rod Striped Bass Catch and Release tournament takes place next Saturday night, May 31.

Hopefully, the fish will cooperate. Irrespective, I expect to have a great time. Those who have participated in past tournaments know this is more a state of mind than a fishing tournament. Last year’s contest, which generated a $1,200 donation to the Wounded Warrior’s Project, certainly demonstrated the generosity of spirit and camaraderie that has become a highlight of the Sunday morning breakfast and awards ceremony.

Each winter, tournament co-chairman Cooper Gilkes and I select a date for the contest. We have tried late in June, early in June, and late in May. We have a pretty good record of generating high winds, torrential rains or both. This year’s date was selected to take advantage of a dark moon, good tides, and, hopefully, the arrival of plenty of striped bass.

There are three prize categories: the Roberto Germani Trophy, for the most striped bass caught and released by a team; the Sonny and Joey Beaulieu Trophy, for the largest striped bass caught and released; and the Arnold Spofford Trophy, for the most fish caught and released by a team using one fly per team member. The club will host a breakfast in the high school cafeteria Sunday morning, June 1, followed by an awards ceremony at 9:30 am.

Prizes are not awarded based on catch totals. The winners get simple plaques. We draw registration blanks to hand out the prizes that include custom collections of saltwater flies, very expensive fly rods and reels, and assorted gear, almost all of it donated by the participants.

The entry fee is $35. For tournament information or to contribute prizes, contact Cooper Gilkes at 508-627-3909.

12
Pat Gregory's hiking companion provided the description from which police created this sketch.

Updated 10 am, Thursday, May 22 to reflect increased award amount.

The Tehama County (California) Sheriff’’s Office has released the composite sketch above of a suspect in the robbery and shooting of F. Patrick Gregory. Police stressed that the artist rendition depicted here is an 80% likeness to the suspect.

Pat Gregory at a West Tisbury town meeting.

Pat Gregory at a West Tisbury town meeting. — File photo of Ralph Stewart

Late Friday morning, Mr. Gregory, 69, and his hiking companion, a 76-year-old male friend from the small nearby town of Manton were not far from a trailhead just off heavily traveled Highway 36E, north of the county seat of Red Bluff in Tehama County, when they encountered a man who robbed and then shot them. The men did not resist, police confirmed.

Mr. Gregory died. His companion was seriously wounded but was able to provide police with a description of the suspect, from which the sketch was created.

Red Bluffs, (top center, with star), is north of Sacramento.

Red Bluff, (top center, with star), is north of Sacramento. — courtesy Google Maps

Tehama County Sheriff Dave Hencratt confirmed Tuesday that detectives are looking at tire prints in the parking lot. Sheriff Hencratt told reporter Rich Greene of the Red Bluff Daily News that a large part of the investigation right now is reaching out to those who frequent the area to determine if they saw anything unusual in the area in recent days, with a focus on vehicles.

Police have been unwilling to confirm any details of what transpired during the robbery.

Sheriff Hencratt responded to emails from some Vineyard residents asking if Tehama County is too small to handle the investigation.

Sheriff Hencratt said his department had handled these types of investigations in the past. “I would put our guys up against anybody’s,” Mr. Hencratt said. He said he would not hesitate to ask for help if he thinks it is needed.

The sheriff said he had no idea why the reward amount was set at $1,500. He said that while he is not opposed to Islanders adding to the reward, the amount set was not tied to a budgetary issue. He added that he could not reveal everything that the investigation has turned up.

Wednesday evening the Tehama Sheriff’s office raised the reward to $5,000.

“We expect to catch him,” Sheriff Hencratt said.