Breakwater News : Hooked by Buddy Vanderhoop
My first surf fish came when I was standing in the shoreward reef of Canapitsit Channel on Cuttyhunk. My father shouted encouragement from the beach and waded in to help me land the striper, and a life of globetrotting angling adventures was born.
Over the ensuing half century, regardless of the when, where, or what, I have spent a great deal of energy getting myself into situations that with any luck would precipitate my being witness to or actually catching a fish. This has lent itself to my being in on some pretty spectacular fishing action over the years.
After ranging far and wide on the rivers and oceans of the planet in search of the next hook-up, it is the Sow and Pigs, Devil's Bridge, Squibnocket, Nomans Land, and the contiguous bodies of water that I feel are my home waters. In my recent return to Martha's Vineyard, I have also rediscovered a love of a place that I left behind many decades ago, and with that, the desire to reconnect to a childhood experience.
So, when I heard about the fishing derby, my interest was stirred not so much to participate, but to somehow engage in the process. The very nature of this fishing derby is to stimulate interest in all comers, professionals and amateurs, boat fishermen and surf-casters, first-timers and old timers in getting out there and catching fish. There are different categories with prizes for combined weights of different species and age groups to allow competition on an even basis.
I asked a long-time local friend who I should engage to get a feel for the derby. Without hesitation, he said, "Call Buddy Vanderhoop."
Buddy agreed to take me along on a charter the following Sunday, and we met at the dock where he keeps his boat, Tomahawk II.
I remember from years of fishing with my father out of Menemsha, the reputation of the notorious guide Buddy Vanderhoop, with his flair for the dramatic and a distain for the weak of heart, slashing through the reefs off Gay Head at high speeds, seemingly impervious to the perils. I remember his old boat the Tomahawk, a 25-foot Hunt Surf Hunter, always well rigged, and Buddy would always have fish. In my travels I would often run into people who had fished with Buddy.
I arrived at the dock early enough to meet with Buddy and his wife Lisa before the arrival of the clients. Lisa has her own Island persona as a photographer of animals and publishes a calendar of Island dogs. Once convinced that I was not anything other than an interested opportunist Buddy relaxed and started sharing the stories he is so famous for.
The boat was chartered by a father and son from Newton. The son, Giovanni, was a serious fisherman in his second yearly bid for honors in the youth derby. He had already weighed in with a 24-pound striper and a 10.5-pound bluefish. He was looking to catch a bonito and a false albacore to contend for the derby Grand Slam, which was a combined weight of the four categories of trophy fish.
As we headed around Gay Head, Buddy steered a course that I had seen from afar and always held in awe. We cut through the reefs at full speed, missing the rocks by feet. "It's not the rocks you can see, it's the ones you can't..." Buddy said, grinning.
As soon as we started trolling around a spot off Nomans we hooked into a small bluefish. Within minutes there were a half dozen other boats around us. There were no other fish taken and Buddy got on the radio to his cronies. Everyone agreed the fishing was slower than slow. There were no stripers being taken, a few blues and "bones" but little to encourage the aspirations of a young trophy hunter.
We moved off to fish the Devil's Bridge, trying all the techniques in a pro's arsenal but...as is the guide's credo, "That's why they call it fishing."
True to form, as the fishing became less productive, Buddy's stories became more animated. We were being treated to something we would not have gotten had we been up to our eyeballs in trophy fish.
As it was, I had an occasion to enjoy the palaver of one of the greats, and spend a bit of time with a real visionary. We talked of fish, and fishing. We talked of conservation and the future of our environment. We talked of immediate issues, and solutions that while not conjured under the auspices of understanding of mainstream biological theory, were the observations of a life at sea by a person who understands what he is looking at and sees the actual effects of nature as they are developing in a rapidly changing world. Perhaps it was not exactly what the young angler Giovanni was going for, but for me, it was a great fishing trip.