Authors Posts by Nelson Sigelman

Nelson Sigelman

Nelson Sigelman

Matt and Alicia Winter in Coop’s last week shopping for a third Mojo rod. — Nelson Sigelman

Fishermen believe in mojo. Tides, fresh bait, the hottest lure, the best fly mean nothing if a fisherman does not have mojo. Look no further than the annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby for evidence.

Experienced Derby fishermen go to such great pains every year to register under the same number that the tackle shop outlets keep lists of “reserved” buttons. There are lucky rods and lucky lures. But on any given day mojo is what makes the difference. That and a good fishing rod.

St. Croix makes some of the finest quality fishing rods around. The company’s Mojo Surf rod is light and tough and named to inspire confidence. But what happens when you start to believe in bad mojo?

I was standing in Coop’s when Matt and Alicia Winter, longtime West Tisbury seasonal visitors from Kent, Conn., walked in and began inspecting fishing rods. Alicia picked up an 8-foot Mojo. “I love this rod but I’m starting to think it’s bad luck,” Alicia said to Justin Pribanic, who was manning the store while Coop was off tuna fishing. What fishing columnist could resist that opening?

In this earlier photo, Alicia Winter holds a brace of bass she caught when her rod was intact.
In this earlier photo, Alicia Winter holds a brace of bass she caught when her rod was intact.

Alicia, Matt, and their son, Nathan, visit their family’s home every spring and fall to fish. Last October, they walked into Coop’s looking for a rod they could use for bass and other species. The 8-foot Mojo, matched with a Penn Battle 4,000 reel, was perfect. They each bought a new rod.

It was the last day of Columbus Day weekend. They had been fishing on the beach and were tired. “We leaned the rods against the truck, which we never do,” Matt said. “Neither one of us thought anything. We drove away and ran over them. It was awful.”

Two rods were destroyed, including Alicia’s new Mojo.

They returned to the Vineyard in May and again in June. Alicia had bought a new Mojo. They were excited to be on Island during the spring squid run along Bend-in-the-Road Beach in Edgartown.

They went to State Beach. Matt was with Nathan, 13, who was jigging for squid. Alicia threw out some frozen squid on a bottom rig and set her rod in a sand spike. “I walked over to talk to her for a minute, maybe half a minute,” Matt said. With their attention diverted they were not looking at the rod.

“The rod holder was just lying on the sand  and there was a groove in the sand leading to the water,” Matt said. “Alicia was really sad.”

Not only had she lost her new rod, but she had also very likely lost a very big striped bass. As Matt was retelling the story, Alicia was outside the shop testing the feel of another 8-foot Mojo. She admitted it was a very “cool” looking rod, but she could not shake the notion that in her hands it might just be bad luck.

Unwilling to succumb to bad mojo, Alicia bought the Mojo. Third time’s the charm!

Author talk

Author Michael J. Tougias seems to have found his niche in retelling the gripping details of disaster and rescue at sea. The common threads in the books I have read are weather, Coast Guard heroism, and decision-making, underpinned in some cases by personal courage and in others, characterized by miscalculations.

I met Michael several years ago when he spoke at the Vineyard Haven library about his most recently completed book, “Ten Hours Until Dawn.” The book tells the story of survival, heroism and disaster at sea story during the Blizzard of 1978 when the tanker Global Hope floundered on the shoals in Salem Sound off the Massachusetts coast. The Coast Guard heard the Mayday calls and immediately dispatched a patrol boat. Within an hour, the Coast Guard boat was in as much trouble as the tanker, having lost its radar, depth finder, and engine power in horrendous seas. Pilot boat Captain Frank Quirk was monitoring the Coast Guard’s efforts by radio, and when he heard that the patrol boat was in jeopardy, he and his crew of four went out in their 49-foot steel boat, the Can Do, to assist the Coast Guard.

Bounty Cover 2His latest book, which he co-authored with Douglas Campbell, is “Rescue of the Bounty, Disaster and Survival in Superstorm Sandy.”

The tall ship Bounty, featured in the Marlon Brando movie “Mutiny on the Bounty,” sank during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The captain and a crewmember died in the accident, but the Coast Guard performed harrowing helicopter rescues to save the other 14 sailors.

“The story begins on October 25, 2012 when Captain Robin Walbridge made the fateful decision to sail the HMS Bounty from New London, Connecticut, to St. Petersburg, Florida. Walbridge was well aware that a hurricane was forecast to come up the Eastern seaboard. He explained to his crew of 15 that the ship would fare better at sea than at port, and that he thought he could sail ‘around the hurricane.’ He told the crew that anyone who did not want to come on the voyage could leave the ship and there would be no hard feelings. No one took the captain up on his offer, and this decision would have fatal consequences.”

Michael will speak at the Vineyard Haven library at 7 pm on Tuesday about “Rescue of the Bounty.” He will speak at 6:30 pm on Thursday night at the Oak Bluffs library about “Ten Hours Until Dawn.”

Michael’s slide presentations and dramatic accounts make for a great night out for anyone with an interest in the sea and the heroism of those who risk their lives to save others. A book signing will follow the program, and the presentation is suitable for all ages.

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A perfect day for a bike ride in the State Forest.

President Barack Obama and daughter Malia ride through the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest in what would be a rare public sighting. (Ivy Ashe for the Vineyard Gazette) — Ivy Ashe for the Vineyard Gazette

On another gorgeous Martha’s Vineyard summer day, President Obama, Michelle and daughter Malia behaved like any other vacationing family — the difference being a train of SUVs, reporters and Secret Service agents —  and went for a bike ride in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest.

President Barack Obama rides through the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest.
President Barack Obama rides through the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest.

President Obama departed his vacation home in Chilmark at 11:18 am for West Tisbury, according to pool press reports. The motorcade arrived at a bike path in West Tisbury at 11:38 am and the Obamas and their security contingent pedaled away.

The traveling press pool traveled by van a few miles to a scenic spot on the bike path and waited for a fleeting sighting of the bicycle-riding Obama family. Mr. Obama, the First Lady and Malia passed by, pedaling at a leisurely pace. “Hey guys, nice day, huh?” Mr. Obama said to the pool.

All three were decked out in athletic wear, with Michelle Obama in gray spandex capri pants and a short-sleeved top. Malia wore running shorts and a black T-shirt.

The president wore a black athletic shirt, dark gray pants, white socks and black Nikes. All donned bike helmets. A phalanx of Secret Service agents followed closely behind.

The press pool saw the president and family for only seconds as they continued to make their way down the path.

President Obama’s motorcade departed at 12:33 pm, a little less than an hour after arriving at the bike path.

First Lady Michelle Obama.
First Lady Michelle Obama.

Ten minutes later, the president arrived at Farm Neck Golf Club, his third trip since Saturday to the popular Oak Bluffs Course. Today’s golf partners, according to the White House are: Glenn Hutchins, Cyrus Walker and Robert Wolf.

The State Forest was created in 1908 in an effort to save a dwindling population population of heath hens. Only 45 remained on Earth at the time. The State Forest has since expanded to 5,343 acres and the heath hen is extinct.


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Chris Casey of Bristol, Vermont, soon to be a resident of Montana, caught a striped bass during an early morning fishing trip Friday with his brother, Ned Casey, of Edgartown. — By Ned Casey

I love to catch blue crabs. It is great fun. They are also delicious to eat, once you master the art of peeling open a crab to get at its sweet meat.

Several years ago, male crabs, known as jimmies, were easily found in many of the Island ponds. An afternoon of wading with a net was a sure way to harvest a limit of 25 crabs, more than enough for a feast. Last year and the year before that, it was tough to find big crabs.

Female crabs, identified by their red-tipped claws, were more plentiful. State regulations require that female egg-bearing crabs be thrown back. Common sense dictates that all females be released.

From what I hear from other crabbers, we are in for another difficult year. Edgartown and Tisbury Great Ponds do not appear to have many blue crabs. The scarcity may be related to our cold winter and an extended period of ice over of our ponds. Or it could be another indicator of declining water quality. There has been little study, as far as I know, of the blue claw in our ponds.

The Chesapeake Bay, the wellspring of blue crabs and the culture that surrounds these “Beautiful swimmers” is in trouble, according to Angus Phillips, who wrote an interesting opinion piece published July 25 in The Washington Post (“The Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab needs our help now, or never”).

Two years ago, a crab fisherman could pretty much bank on gathering a bushel within a few hours of leaving the dock, Mr. Phillips said.

“That was the norm, from June to September, as it had been for the decade or more since I took up crabbing and for a century before that,” he said. “Sometimes it was more than a bushel, sometimes less, but always there was a proper mess for supper if you took the trouble to go out.”

Last year, he said, the bottom fell out. Crabbers were not seeing small crabs or females and wondered what 2014 would bring.

“The answer is now in hand: Nothing. No crabs. The last signature species of the Chesapeake to withstand the pressures of overexploitation and declining habitat has all but disappeared from the waters around Annapolis, which locals still affectionately call Crabtown. Reports from elsewhere are no better. Like oysters, shad, herring, rockfish [striped bass] and yellow perch,crabs have vanished.”

Mr. Phillips argues that the time has come to shut down the crab fishery for a few years and give “the delectable crustaceans a chance to recover the way geese, yellow perch and rockfish did … The life cycle is short and their reproductive capacity so vigorous that we could have abundances back within a year or two, if we just leave them alone.”

Mr. Phillips called for immediate action.

“We have all watched critical Chesapeake resources dwindle to nothing, victims of declining habitat and ever more efficient methods of exploitation. At some point, these resources either go away or somebody puts up a hand and says: Stop! With blue crabs, that time is now — or never.”

The comments his opinion piece generated echo similar battles. Name your fishery. Not surprisingly, there is plenty of finger pointing. The commercial fishermen blame the recreational fishermen, the recreational fishermen blame the commercial fishermen, and both sides blame decreased water quality. Meanwhile, regulatory action lags.

A commentor identified as Southeast Creek said, “As a business person who has been in the crab business for 18+ years, I find your take on the situation ridiculously recreational. How about we place a ban on the hundreds of thousands of recreational crabbers who habitually catch more than their allotted 1 bushel limit? Happens over here on the Eastern Shore all the time.”

I saw one post under another report on the shortage of crabs in which the writer suggested the problem was an abundance of rockfish eating small crabs. He recommended an increase in the harvest of striped bass — now that is solid thinking.

I spoke by telephone last week with Chris Moore, Virginia senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a nonprofit group working to protect this vitally important natural system. I was curious why commercial crabbers are allowed to take females and I wondered if there was a link between the decline in the Chesapeake and the Vineyard.

Chris said that surveys have shown a significant drop in the crab population in Maryland and Virginia for the past three years. Coastwide the numbers are down as well, he said.

“And that’s not necessarily surprising,” he said. “There are good years for reproduction and poor years for reproduction. The crabs here in Chesapeake Bay, once they spawn go 50 miles out in the ocean and migrate back in. So there could be something going on with the ocean temperatures or currents the last three years that have lowered the success of spawning activity.”

Chris said there are known factors, including water quality and interrelated loss of eel grass. “We have eelgrass losses in Chesapeake Bay that are very prominent and that’s one of the best habitats for blue crabs. So as young blue crabs migrate back into Chesapeake Bay they don’t have that type of habitat to go hide in like they should.”

I noted that a similar loss of eelgrass in Martha’s Vineyard waters figures large in the health of the our once abundant bay scallop population.

Chris said he did not think the Chesapeake blue crab decline would necessarily impact the Vineyard. Crab populations are typically geographically localized, he said, and tied to estuary systems. They are not a species like striped bass, he said, that migrates long distances.

The males prefer less salinity. The females tend to congregate nearer the ocean.

It is entirely possible that we have a small but sustaining population.

Shellfish get most of the attention on the Vineyard. Blue crabs add another reason to work to sustain the health of our ponds.

Like to eat crab? Hold back on the fertilizer. Green grass is not even good for salad.

Striped bass revisions coming

Last week, I received a press release from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Guess what? The scientists have come to the conclusion that most Island fishermen have already reached. Striped bass stocks are declining. According to ASMFC assessments, overfishing is not occurring yet but could in the future. Gee, how about that.

The history of fisheries management is pretty much the history of closing the barn door after the horses are out. Let’s hope it is not too late

This is what the ASMFC said about its new proposal, known as Draft Addendum IV to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass: “The Draft Addendum responds to results of the 2013 Atlantic striped bass benchmark assessment indicating F (fishing mortality) in 2012 was above the proposed F target, and female spawning stock biomass (SSB) has been steadily declining below the target since 2006. This means even though the stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring, SSB is approaching its overfished threshold and stock projections show SSB will likely fall below the threshold in the coming years. In addition, a similar decline has been observed in total harvest.  In response to these factors, the Draft Addendum proposes management options to reduce fishing mortality to the target level.

“The Draft Addendum includes a suite of management options to reduce recreational and commercial harvest along the coast and in the Chesapeake Bay under three reduction timeframes. The timeframes include (1) reducing F to its target in one year with a 25 percent reduction in 2013 harvest in 2015 (2) reducing F to its target within three years with a 17 percent reduction in 2013 harvest in 2015, and (3) reducing F to its target within three years with a 7 percent sequential reduction in harvest for three consecutive years starting in 2015.  Specific options to be considered include bag, size, slot and trophy size limits for the recreational fishery and quota reductions for the commercial fishery.”

More later.

Reeling against the drag and other hazards of boat fishing chronicled.

Michael Faber from Memphis, TN with a Vineyard bonito caught Monday out fishing with charter captain Phil Cronin. — Photo by Phil Cronin

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.

Kayakers unite

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 ( “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.

Fishing slobs

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.

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Catch a movie and maybe a fish on Menemsha Beach Tuesday.

A chart-topping 180-pound bigeye tuna brought it in late Saturday afternoon by the crew of Mulberry Canyon is hoisted up and weighed in. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated 3 pm, Friday with news of Cape Poge beach closure

By most accounts, The Oak Bluffs Bluewater Classic (OBBC) held last weekend went off without a hitch. No shark heads adorned boats, no protestors provided targets for beer cans and if there were arrests I did not hear about it. Pretty tame now after the Monster Shark tournament swam out of town.

Damon Sacco of Bourne, owner and operator of Castafari Sport Fishing and organizer of the Hyannis Tuna Fest, was the organizer of the first Bluewater classic. Ted Rosbeck of Edgartown helped out.

Participants on the boat Mulberry Canyon pose next to their 180-pound Big Eye Tuna after it topped the charts on Saturday.
Participants on the boat Mulberry Canyon pose next to their 180-pound Big Eye Tuna after it topped the charts on Saturday.

A total of 25 boats entered the contest. In an email, Mr. Sacco said the 2014 Oak Bluffs Bluewater Classic raised over $14,000 for charity. Proceeds went to the Island Autism Group and the MGH Colon Cancer Research Fund in memory of Kevin Glynn, he said.

Sixteen billfish — four blue marlin and 12 white marlin — were released. One bigeye tuna was landed, as were “a ton of yellowfin and mahi-mahi.”

Captain Al Gagnon of Brennans Grin took first place. Second place went to Captain Ted Rosbeck of Bad Martha. Captain John Galvin of Mulberry Canyon was third.

The biggest tuna was an 180-pound bigeye landed by Mulberry Canyon. Most billfish points went to the crew of Brennans Grin with two blue marlin. Mr. Sacco said there were 46 yellowfin tuna caught up to 95 pounds.

Steve Morris, owner of Dick’s Bait and Tackle in Oak Bluffs, participated in the tournament. Steve told me, “It was definitely a lot calmer. Not a lot of yahoos. The guys were nice and it seemed like they were just here to fish.”

The banquet was held at Dreamland. Everybody seemed to be really happy with it, Steve said.

Steve said offshore fishing is an addiction and he admitted he is “totally hooked.”

The tournament weigh in attracted a crowd of spectators to Oak Bluffs harbor.
The tournament weigh in attracted a crowd of spectators to Oak Bluffs harbor.

He explained, “You never know what’s going to be out there, a white marlin or a bigeye tuna, there’s so much out there to catch. We spent the night out there, we turned the lights on and there were squid and bait all around the boat. You just never know what’s going to be out there.”

I suggested it might also be scary to be a little boat in a very big, dark ocean far from land. Steve laughed. “This is true, this is true, that’s why you go in a big boat.”

Steve said they put the lines out Friday night to try and catch a swordfish. Crewmembers took turns sleeping. “There’s usually someone up tending the rods,” Steve said.

“And looking out for a Korean oil tanker?” I asked.

“Well you stay out of their way, for sure,” Steve said.

But they were not alone. They were part of a small fleet all hooked on offshore fishing. That is part of the fun, he said.

First bass of the summer

Matthew Strem of Edgartown holds a 15 pound striped bass he caught Friday night on his new fishing rod.
Matthew Strem of Edgartown holds a 15 pound striped bass he caught Friday night on his new fishing rod.

While the big boys were fishing offshore, Matthew Strem, 10, of Edgartown was trying out his new bass rod on South Beach with his mom and dad. On Friday night Matthew caught his first striped bass of the summer. It was 34.5 inches long and weighed in at 15 pounds.

His mother Lynn provided the details: “We drove on to the beach and used squid on his new bass fishing pole, bottom fishing. Matthew was the first one that night to catch a bass. He was so excited he couldn’t wait for dad to get the tape measure to see if it was a keeper. And it was, 34 inches long and weighed 15 pounds. It was also about 11 pm that night. He caught his fish and reeled it in all by himself, but I wasn’t surprised because Matthew has been fishing for a long time, catching many different fish. Nothing compares to the look on his face when that fish came ashore and it was a huge bass.”

Matthew did very well to land a bass on the beach in the surf. It is no easy task. It takes timing to ride the fish up on a wave. Better yet, he caught a bass. Most reports describe tough fishing for stripers from the shore. Congratulations.

Movie night on Menemsha

All fishermen should be concerned with the state of our oceans. On Tuesday night, fishermen will have an opportunity to learn just how concerned they ought to be — and go fishing.

Documentary filmmaker Bob Nixon, a seasonal resident of Chilmark, and Fisher Stevens have produced a new documentary, MISSION BLUE, which describes the life of oceanographer Sylvia Earle. The filmmakers will show their film at 8:30 pm, Tuesday on Menemsha Beach in conjunction with the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. The event is free.

Bring popcorn for the film and a fishing rod for later.

Dennis Harvey offered this description in a review for Variety Magazine: “A compelling human-interest hook and spectacular underwater photography are the highlights of Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon’s documentary.”

Mr. Harvey said, “The majesty and imperiled status of the world’s aquatic life are vividly captured in “Mission Blue.” Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon’s documentary also serves as a biographical portrait of internationally renowned oceanographer and eco-activist Sylvia Earle, whose trailblazing career and inspiring ongoing efforts provide compelling human interest, while Bryce Groark’s spectacular underwater photography offers eye candy aplenty.”

Cape Poge beach closure

Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge is currently closed for over sand vehicle access from the Dike Bridge to the gut, Chris Kennedy, Trustees superintendent said Friday. “On Tuesday, two plover chicks moved from the outside beach, north of the Dike Bridge to the bayside trail to feed,” Chris said in an email Friday.  “The next day they moved back to the outside beach but now appear likely to continue moving back and forth between the narrows and East Beach. These chicks are due to fledge in two weeks but under state and federal law we will be required to keep all of Cape Poge closed until these chicks fledge. We encourage property users to call the 24 hour recorded beach hotline at 508-627-8390 for updated information. All of Leland Beach and Norton Point Beach are open for OSV access. Permits are required.”

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Cape Cod Five announced plans Monday to open a full service branch office in Vineyard Haven.

Richard Leonard. — Courtesy Richard Leonard

Well known Island banker Richard Leonard did not stay retired long. The Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank announced Monday that it had hired Mr. Leonard to serve as its regional president for Martha’s Vineyard.

The announcement dovetails with the Cape bank’s effort to establish a stronger physical presence on the Island.

Also Monday, the bank announced that it had purchased 412 State Road, the former Coca Cola bottling plant and most recently the proposed site of the new Tisbury Farm Market, where it intends to open a full service banking center.

Mr. Leonard will lead the bank’s cross-functional team from its office located on Beach Street Extension in Vineyard Haven,” according to a press release.

“We are delighted to welcome Richard to our senior officer team,” said Dorothy A. Savarese, President and CEO of The Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank in prepared remarks. “He shares the values that are so important to us at Cape Cod Five. Richard is a dedicated and active participant in important community nonprofit agencies, and he has a proven track record of providing locally-tailored, customer-focused community banking on Martha’s Vineyard.”

Mr. Leonard, 54, an Oak Bluffs native, has spent most of his life on the Island and his entire career in banking. He started in banking at the age of 15 at Edgartown National. When he was 25, after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he moved to the Martha’s Vineyard Co-Operative Bank, eventually serving as president until it merged with the Dukes County Savings Bank.

In June 2007, citing a shared culture of personal service and community values and the evolving nature of the banking business, Martha’s Vineyard Co-operative Bank and Dukes County Savings Bank became Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank.

In April of 2013, Mr. Leonard announced his retirement. “It was simply time to move on,” he said at the time.

One year ago Mr. Leonard said he was looking forward to the future and new professional opportunities, but not immediately. “Right now I’m looking forward to working in the yard, biking, golfing, and shellfishing,” he said.

In a telephone conversation with The Times on Monday, Mr. Leonard said he retired from the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, and had “not necessarily retired from work.” After one year of catching up on chores it was time to get back to work, he said.

“I took a year off to think about what it is that I really love to do and what I really love to do is help people and be active in the community. And working with a good strong community bank has always been an approach that I enjoy and I am happy to have the opportunity to enjoy it again,” he said.

Mr. Leonard said Cape Cod Five has been serving the Island’s commercial and residential customers and has been looking to expand its services and bring its brand of community banking to the Vineyard for some time.

Mr. Leonard said the State Road site is a wonderful location. “We’re looking forward to working with the local boards and authorities to develop our plan,” he said

Mr. Leonard serves as President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Island Housing Trust, Inc., President of Greenough House, and President of You’ve Got a Friend, Inc.

He lives in West Tisbury with his wife, Pia, and daughters Tonya and Brielle.

The Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank is an independent state-chartered savings bank with over $2.5 billion in assets, according to a press release.

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Bob Jacobs holds the bounty of a July nighttime fishing trip to Chappy, a 10 pound bluefish. — Photo by John Piekos

Typically, fishermen refer to this time of the season as the summer doldrums. The heat and humidity makes the fish, or is it the fishermen, lethargic and lazy. But reports from around the Island describe a mixed bag.

At Coop’s, the report varied by species. Cooper “Coop” Gilkes had fished Norton Point beach one night earlier and reported bluefish mixed with a few striped bass. But what really got his attention, he said, were the more than 30 commercial draggers visible just offshore.

Coop did not know what the boats were targeting but the sheer number has him worried. He said in addition to the boats he saw off Wasque he could see lights from more boats stretching to the west. “There’s not going to be a fish left,” he said.

I am told the Division of Marine Fisheries allows the boats to squid fish small mesh 24/7 up to the shoreline south of the islands from Nomans east to Nantucket’s southeast corner.

Bluefish are hit or miss on Chappy. Lobsterville, a favorite of striper fishermen, is slow but there are fish in Menemsha channel, he said.

Coop said he has had some reports of bonito. The tasty mini-tuna have been caught at the hooter off Wasque, off Gay Head, and off Menemsha by a kayaker. What these multiple sightings portend for the months ahead is unclear. It could be a brief foray or a sign that bonito are about to take up residence around the Island.

In recent years, inshore fishing for bonito has been pretty hit or miss, and shore fishing has been almost nonexistent. Coop said there has been no pattern. “Nothing really solid,” he said.

At Larry’s, owner Steve Purcell described a very mixed bag. He said the boat bass fishing had slowed but the shore guys were doing well up Island. On Chappy, he said, blues come in and then go away for a day. The exciting news was a bonito caught off Cape Poge gut from shore.

And the solid news he said continues to be the strong bottom fishing for fluke and scup. a favorite activity for kids. Offshore, he said football-sized tuna are within striking distance.

At Dick’s, Steve Morris said the new Oak Bluffs fishing pier is getting good use. He said scup fishermen are doing best in the morning and evening. It is a good season for scup with some monsters being caught. “Definitely, scup are in,” Steve said.

Offshore, small tuna are at the Owl and inside the Fingers. Steve plans to fish in the Oak Bluffs Bluewater Classic, a big game fishing tournament that will make its inaugural run this week, from Wednesday, July 24, through Saturday, July 26.
Check out the weigh in from 5 pm to 8 pm, Thursday through Saturday, at the dock adjacent to Our Market. For more information, go to

Norton Point reopened, with caution

Chris Kennedy, The Trustees of Reservations Island superintendent, said that all of Norton Point beach has been opened for vehicle access. The barrier beach, which stretches out from Chappaquiddick and Katama, is a prime fishing spot.

“The last four plover chicks disappeared and we assume they were predated,” Chris said in an email. “We did fledge several hundred least tern chicks over the past few weeks and the last of those chicks have started flying.”

Chris said there is a large area cordoned off on the bayside where several hundred terns, plovers, and other shorebirds are fattening up on the Katama Bay flats in preparation for their flight south over the next few weeks.

“We would like to remind folks that while they can now access the breach from Norton Point, there is no swimming in the breach,” Chris said.

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The Sheriff's Meadow Foundation 2014 summer benefit was held on the Vose family property overlooking Edgartown Harbor and the Vose boathouse. — Photo by Sara Piazza

Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation welcomed its supporters Tuesday night to its annual summer fundraiser held under a spacious tent set up on top of Tower Hill in Edgartown that provided spectacular views of Edgartown Harbor, courtesy of the Vose family trust, which lent its grounds for the occasion.

In his welcoming remarks to the sold-out dinner crowd, Adam Moore, Sheriff’s Meadow executive director, provided an equally pleasing view of the the land conservation organization’s financial health and programs, which include a new educational initiative to introduce Island school children to the natural world through field trips to Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary in West Tisbury.

Sheriff's Meadow Foundation executive director Adam Moore said the conservation organization is strong and healthy.
Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation executive director Adam Moore said the conservation organization is strong and healthy.

The evening also provided an opportunity for newly elected Foundation president, Chris Alley of Oak Bluffs, an engineer with Schofield, Barbini and Hoehn, to display his wit and thank the many people who support the Island’s home-grown conservation organization. Mr. Moore provided the nuts and bolts. Mr. Alley pointed out that the organization’s newest acquisition, Bittersweet Hill on Chappaquiddick, was visible across the harbor. The property is open to the public and provides stunning views of Cape Poge and beyond, he said.

“We are a nonprofit, charitable organization whose mission is to conserve the natural, beautiful, rural landscape and character of Martha’s Vineyard for present and future generations,” Mr. Moore, a graduate of the Yale School of Forestry, told the dinner guests. “We own 2,003 acres of land across the Island, and protect an additional 853 acres with conservation restrictions.”

As guests chatted and munched on a delicate salad of Island greens in the comfort of a light, cool sea breeze, Mr. Moore described the accomplishments and goals of the nonprofit.

“We purchased Bittersweet Hill from Mrs. Virginia Mattern for the bargain price of $100,000,” he said. “We still have about $80,000 left to go to raise back the money we spent and help fund our next purchase. At Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary, we have just $36,000 left to go to meet our goal of raising half a million dollars. And for the repair and restoration of the Mayhew-Hancock-Mitchell House at Quansoo Farm, I am pleased to report that a generous, anonymous donor has offered to match, dollar for dollar, all gifts for the house, made in memory of Donnie Mitchell, up to $100,000.”

From left to right: Kerry Alley, Pat Alley, Sheriff's Meadow president Chris Alley and wife Kate Feiffer.
From left to right: Kerry Alley, Pat Alley, Sheriff’s Meadow president Chris Alley and wife Kate Feiffer.

Mr. Moore also spoke of the foundation organization’s responsibility to maintain and defend its properties. He acknowledged criticism of a lack of stewardship in the past. “I want you to know that we take our role as stewards very, very seriously, and we have been doing our level best to improve and increase our stewardship,” he said. “Over the past four years, we have quadrupled the amount of field time that we devote to maintenance.”

And he added, “We pledge to you that we will look after these lands. We will care for the rare plants and the endangered wildlife. We will deal with the forest fire risks. We will mark the bounds. We will support our farms. We will blaze trails and tend paths. We will offer peaceful natural places for study and research and observation and reflection and mourning and reverence. And when these lands are threatened — and at some point, they will all be threatened — when these lands are threatened, Sheriff’s Meadow will defend them.”

Mr. Moore said that Monday’s event raised about $300,000, a record and far ahead of past benefits

For more information about Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, go to


The ground pounders fought the tide and sea bass in the VFW fluke derby.

The VFW Fluke Derby was a boatload of fun for the kids. Left to right: Elizabeth O'Brien, Katherine O'Brien, David Packer, Nathan Packer, Jack Simpson, Jake Mundell, Molly Menton, and Charlotte Packer. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

I fished a four-aspirin, two-Aleve weekend. After two days of bouncing lead weight in 80 plus feet of water in Vineyard Sound for two days in the VFW Fluke Derby held Saturday and Sunday my body felt like Poseidon had gone over every muscle in my back and arms with a hammer.

The key to catching fluke is to stay in contact with the bottom where fluke lie in wait for prey. That takes weight. How much depends on current and water depth.

Kid champs. From left, Kendall Nerney, Corbin Buchwald, Tate Buchwald, Darien Kral, and Joseph Medeiros.
Kid champs. From left, Kendall Nerney, Corbin Buchwald, Tate Buchwald, Darien Kral, and Joseph Medeiros.

On Saturday, the wind was calm and the fishing was relatively easy. Most of the competitors worked hard to pick up a fluke amid the carpet of sea bass. Sunday, conditions changed. A strong southwest wind coupled with the fast flowing easterly tide made it tough to hold bottom.

Many of the boats worked the deep water holes off Seven Gates, between Cape Higgon and Cedar Tree Neck, where the water depths range between 80 and 108 feet and the big fish always seem to lie. By about 11 am, Sunday it took an engine block to hold bottom.

Saturday, my teammates, Barry Stringfellow and Nathaniel Horwitz, met me at 5 am at Tashmoo landing. I wanted to get an early start so I could take full advantage of the morning rising tide. On Sunday, my major concern was not getting caught on Vineyard Sound about noon when the tide would begin to drop against the wind. Sea conditions change rapidly once the tide turns and the ride back would have been quite uncomfortable and wet in my 18-foot Tashmoo.

Team MV Times held the lead Saturday night. But I knew it was tenuous and that a big fish on Sunday would determine the winner. With teams led by Cooper Gilkes of Edgartown and Bill Dreyer of West Tisbury on the water we were hanging on to the lead with a frayed piece of braid.

On Sunday, Billy caught an 11.39-pound fluke that earned him the fluke king crown and lifted his team Breakaway (Roger Kubiak and Joe Altavilla) into the winner’s circle. It was a sweet victory for Billy, Roger and Joe, who have lost in the past by just ounces.

VFW fluke tournament impresario Peter Herrmann with his grandchildren (Darien, Dylan and Emily Kral) and new eagle.
VFW fluke tournament impresario Peter Herrmann with his grandchildren (Darien, Dylan and Emily Kral) and new eagle.

A cable news pundit Friday reporting on President Obama’s planned two week family vacation in August on Martha’s Vineyard described the Island as “ritzy and glamorous.” I suppose that impression would be accurate if one’s world only encompassed kiss-kiss cocktail parties and swank dinners in summer echo chambers. It sure does not describe the VFW Fluke Derby, and for that I am very grateful.

For the past ten years Roger and Joe have come up to fish the fluke derby with Bill. Joe is from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and Roger is from some town in New Jersey he kept, as near as I could tell, saying was “Metouchem.” I could not get the spelling straight in the noisy dining room and since it is New Jersey I did not really care.

I asked the two winning team members why they like fishing the fluke derby other than the fact that Billy takes them out and shows them a great time.

“They do a great job for the kids,” Joe said.

“Basically for the kids,” Roger said.

I had to ask, “Have you guys ever run for elected public office?” They looked at me quizzically. I explained that whenever someone starts telling me they’re doing it for the kids I figure he or she is running for office.

“These guys come up here,” Billy said, “They have a great time fishing. they fill their cooler full of sea bass and fluke, mostly fluke, and then they go home and look like heroes. They feed the town.”

Daughters, sons, cousins and family members they never knew they had text and call to ask about fresh fish. “It’s a good excuse to get together and fish for a long, long weekend,” Bill said.

Big kid champs, winners of the team competition. From left, Roger Kubiak, Bill Dreyer, and Joe Altavilla.
Big kid champs, winners of the team competition. From left, Roger Kubiak, Bill Dreyer, and Joe Altavilla.

John and Janet Packer of Vineyard Haven loaded up a boatful of kids Friday night. The kids sleep on the boat so that the only one who has to get up early is dad. The family has been a part of the tournament every year. Same for Bill and Kris O’Brien of Oak Bluffs and their two daughters. This year the family could only fish one day, but Bill said, “If I can only fish a day I’m goin’.”

The highlight of the awards ceremony is always the auction. Think of it as the anti-matter of every swank, high-priced Vineyard fundraiser. No celebrities. Just fun and spirited bidding.

Tournament organizer Peter Herrmann began the bidding for a set of wine glasses with the derby fluke logo at $30. $40 — $55 — $65 said winning bidder Janet Packer, who was determined not to be outdone.

A large stuffed bald eagle doll generated a bidding battle between Mark Morris and Jarda Kral. The three Kral kids urged dad to stay in the mix. But when the price hit $80 he stepped off the pedal. Mark peeled off $80 and then turned to the Krals. “You guys can have it,” he said.

The VFW Fluke Derby is that kind of tournament.

Largest fluke: 1. Bill Dreyer (11.39); 2. Cooper Gilkes (7.05); 3. Peter Cox (6.68).

Largest sea bass: Kendall Nerney (5.4)

Kids (12 and under): 1. Joseph Medeiros (5.5); 2. Tate Buchwald (4.18); 3. Darien Kral (4.04); 4. Corbin Buchwald (3.8); 5. Radio Goulart (2.42).

Teens (13-16): 1. Brendon Morris (3.91); 2. Richard Gibson (3.75); 3. Nathaniel Packer (2.80).

Teams: 1. Breakaway (Bill Dreyer, Roger Kubiak, Joe Altavilla) 39.28; 2. Sole Men (Cooper Gilkes, Rick Harvey) 33.85; 3. Austin O (Keith Olsen, Walter Tomkins, Galvin Tomkins, Michael Tomkins) 31.86; 4. MV Times (Nelson Sigelman, Barry Stringfellow, Nathaniel Horwitz) 29.84.

Derby Book launch

Hold a five-week fishing tournament on an Island with lots of crazy fishermen for more than six decades and what do you get? Lots of fishing stories.

Add the skills 25 years ago of a talented Edgartown artist who was devoted to the nonprofit organization and agreed to create a print each year to be sold to help fund the tournament and what are you left with? A series of images by Ray Ellis that captured the excitement, mood and beauty of fishing on Martha’s Vineyard.

Ed Jerome, longtime Derby president, has collected 27 Derby stories, many previously published, and put them together with Ray Ellis Derby prints into an anthology titled, “An Amazing Story of the Vineyard’s Derby, Twenty-five years of Paintings, History and Fishing.”

There will be a reception and book signing to celebrate the publication of the book from 5 to 7 pm, Friday, July 18 at Edgartown Books on Main Street in Edgartown. Many of the contributors will be present to sign books. For more information, call 508-627-8463 or go to

Speaking of

Speaking of the Derby and books, Ron Domurat of Edgartown has published a collection of Derby stories in a self-published paperback titled, “Three Decades of The Derby, A collection of Stories from Thirty Years of Participation in Martha’s Vineyard Fall Fishing Classic.”

I always knew Ron was a skillful fisherman. Now add writer to his portfolio. For anyone familiar with the Derby the stories will evoke memories of great fishermen and good times with men that include Don Mohr, Abe Williams, Gordon Ditchfield, Al “Angie” Angelone, Marsh Bryan, and Walter Lison.

Last chapter

Henry “Hank” A. Schauer died on Friday, July 4, 2014, at the Arnold Walter Nursing Home in Hazlet, New Jersey. He was 85. His obituary said, “He lived to fish.”

A memorial service will be held at 11 am on Saturday, July 19, at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Navesink. Interment will be private. Memorial donations may be made to the

Alzheimer’s Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter, 400 Morris Ave., Suite 251, Denville NJ 07934. Please visit Hank’s memorial website

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The case, now in federal court, could determine if the Wampanoag Tribe may build a casino in Aquinnah.

Erected by Air Force reservists in 2004, the unfinished community center will be converted into a class II gaming facility, if the tribe's current plan is executed. — File photo by Nelson Sigelman

The town of Aquinnah and the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association Inc. (AGHCA) filed court documents last Thursday, July 10, in U.S. Federal District Court in Boston in which they asked to intervene in a lawsuit Governor Deval Patrick filed to block the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) from building what the tribe has described as boutique casino on tribal lands.

Governor Patrick first filed suit in December in state court. The Wampanoag tribe argued that the case rightly belonged in federal court. Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV agreed, noting the body of federal law supersedes state law with respect to gaming on Indian lands.

In a statement issued in response to the ruling by Judge Saylor, Cheryl Andrews Maltais, Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corporation chairman, (AWGC) said, “The U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission have each provided formal legal opinions in support of our rights. We now have all of the federal approvals required to proceed with gaming on our existing trust lands, and we are confident, in light of this decision, that the federal court will confirm Aquinnah’s sovereign and federal statutory rights to do so.”

The central issue and major hurdle in the tribe’s long-running battle to build a casino, in southeastern Massachusetts or on tribal lands on Martha’s Vineyard, is the Settlement Agreement that led to federal recognition for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head.

The Settlement Agreement was signed by tribal leadership in 1983 and was ratified by the state Legislature in 1985 and by Congress in 1987. That agreement stipulated that the tribe was subject to local and state laws and zoning regulations in effect at the time. In November, the tribe said a legal analysis from the National Indian Gaming Commission underpinned its view that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) supersedes the Settlement Agreement.

The town of Aquinnah takes the view, outlined by town counsel Ron Rappaport in a seven-page opinion dated April 27, 2012, that the Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head Inc. cannot operate a gaming casino in Aquinnah because the 400 acres described in the Settlement Act are subject to the zoning regulations in effect at that time.

The state’s 2011 expanded gaming law authorized up to three licenses for resort casinos in Massachusetts, with a directive for the Patrick administration to negotiate gaming compacts with federally recognized Native American tribes.

Mr. Patrick negotiated a compact with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which is seeking to build a casino in Taunton, but refused to negotiate with the Aquinnah Wampanoag.

The Patrick administration contended that the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe was free to compete for a commercial gaming license under the strictures of the casino law, but forfeited its rights to tribal gaming when it signed the land settlement.

In turn, the Wampanoag tribal membership narrowly voted to turn its unfinished community center in Aquinnah into a Class II gaming facility. The building, erected by two teams of Air Force reservists in 2004 and 2005 has sat unfinished for more than nine years while the tribe engaged in a multimillion dollar casino effort. The vote split the tribal membership, with many Island residents opposed to any casino on tribal lands, and mainland members in favor.

Class II gaming encompasses high stakes bingo, poker, pull-tab cards and associated electronic games that do not require coin slots. Unlike class III gaming, which encompasses all types of gaming and requires a tribe-state agreement, tribes may regulate Class II gaming on their own lands without state authority, as long as the state in which the tribe is located permits that type of gaming.

James Newman, chairman of the three-member Aquinnah board of selectmen, which includes two tribal members, said the motion to intervene is necessary to protect the town

“It was the right thing and the natural thing to do to protect ourselves from the casino,” Mr. Newman said Tuesday.

Town counsel Ron Rappaport said the town believes it is appropriate to be a party to the state lawsuit for several reasons. “First, we are a party to the settlement agreement; second, and most importantly, we are the party that enforces zoning, and zoning does not permit commercial gaming. So we stand uniquely suited to advocate through the courts that our local rights need to be preserved.”

The town will not stand alone. The Gay Head community association, which has carried the fight to defend the settlement agreement in the past, will do so again.

In an email to The Times on Tuesday, retired lawyer and longtime AGHCA president Larry Hohlt said, “As noted in AGHCA’s filings, the tribe’s recent gaming-related actions directly implicate the meaning and enforceability of the 1983 Settlement Agreement and the implementing Federal and Commonwealth Acts by flaunting numerous agreements, restrictions, and general provisions set forth in those documents. At the core of this case is the question of whether the agreement struck among the town, the Tribal Council, the Commonwealth, and AGHCA’s predecessor (the Gay Head Taxpayers Association) in 1983 is going to be enforced.

“Each of the parties to the 1983 agreement derived great benefits from it, and made significant compromises to obtain those benefits. We strongly disagree with the Tribe’s position on the interaction of IGRA (the Indian Gaming Reform Act) with the 1983 Settlement Agreement and implementing acts, and with the legal opinions from the Interior Department and the NIGC (National Indian Gaming Commission). We have therefore moved to intervene in the present action in order to take the steps necessary to ensure that the Settlement Agreement is properly interpreted and applied, and that the parties to the agreement receive the full panoply of benefits for which they bargained — just as we have done in the past, and will continue to do in the future.”

In a prepared statement emailed to The Times Wednesday, Ms. Andrews Maltais, AWGC chairman said, “We fully anticipated the town and taxpayers would try to intervene. However, as the court stated, this is a matter of federal law. So in my opinion, the Commonwealth is fully capable of representing any interests they may feel they have; since I believe all of their interests or rights are derived from the Commonwealth.”