Gone Fishin' : Derby fishing enters the home stretch
The long Columbus Day weekend creates anxiety among Derby fishermen. Each grand leader knows that a fleet of fishermen is anxiously out there trying to bump him or her off the top spot. And each Derby fisherman knows he has one week left to do it.
Although the daily and overall Derby standings appear in The Martha's Vineyard Times at the end of this column, I do not look at them. The results elicit in me a mix of curiosity (I wonder where he caught it), interest (I wonder when he caught it), and petty jealousy (I wish I had caught it).
If I do not look at the Derby results, I can fish ignorant of all yardsticks. It makes for more relaxed fishing. At this point in the Derby my goal is modest. I would like to catch a fish I can weigh in.
Monday evening I left work early and went fishing up-Island armed with several eels Peter and Jay Cox donated to my cause. The brothers, who were returning to Connecticut after a brief Vineyard fishing trip, had no more need of bait.
I like fishing with eels because eels are irresistible to big striped bass. But eels are not easy. They squirm and tangle up fishing line into a slimy mess of a knot, an understandable reaction, I suppose, to receiving a hook through the head.
Like all bait, eels have risen in cost and that drives up the cost of going fishing. It was not so long ago that a dozen eels could be had for less than $12. The same amount now runs closer to $24.
Along with my eels, I brought a big black needlefish. The lure remains a mainstay among bass fishermen and I wanted to be prepared should I stumble across a school of big fish.
My first cast as the sun set brought an immediate strike. It was a small striper, but I was encouraged. It was the last fish I would catch that evening.
I suppose I should be happy I was able to return home with my fishing pole. That was not the case for Winslow Crocker of Brewster, who has been fishing the Derby for the past three weeks. I ran into him at Coop's.
Winslow and his pal Ralph Peckham of Edgartown were bait fishing on East Beach. The men were standing on the beach when Winslow's new fishing rod bent sharply once and then again.
Photo by Louisa Gould
The tip of the rod, illuminated by a red glow light, made a sharp arc. The next thing both men saw was the rod being pulled across the beach and into the water.
Ralph made a bold attempt to grab his friend's rod, shipping water into his waders in the process. "I never saw a pole go that fast," said Winslow. "I watched the red eye go out to sea. That thing was cruising. It looked like something from out of space."
The new 11-foot spinning rod was equipped with a new Shimano 6500 reel loaded with braided line. Despite the loss, both men seemed to be in high fishing spirits. But it is in the nature of Derby fishermen to remain optimistic.
So what was responsible for taking the rod out to sea? Coop, who has direct experience in these matters, said he suspects it was a brown shark.
Ralph and Winslow will likely be among the many fishermen looking for a Derby winner before the tournament ends at 10 pm, Saturday, Oct. 18.
One fisherman who appears to have little trouble finding big fish is Lev Wlodyka of Chilmark. Last week Lev took over the boat bass Derby grand leader spot. This week he took over the boat bonito category.
Photo by Nelson Sigelman
In the 2002 Derby, Lev won the shore bass and boat bonito divisions.
Simply leading one category is a singular accomplishment. Two is exceptional and doing it more than once, well that is the stuff that Derby immortality is made of.
Yesterday I checked around to see what other people had to say about fishing around Martha's Vineyard.
I called Coop's. The fishing remains hit or miss, said Coop. "There are some nice fish being brought in," he said. "You just have to put your time in."
Coop said albies remain scarce and bonito are starting to show up in the usual locations. Cape Poge Gut, normally a hot spot, has been slow, he said, and boat fishing is hit or miss.
At Larry's, Julian Pepper said the fishing is "slow, slow." Julian said he had not heard of any albies caught since Friday. There had been a few random fish caught off Tashmoo and Chappy.
Julian said the bass fishing, good for a period, had dropped off. He did not expect the brightening moon to help. Boat fishing is also spotty, he said, but Steve Purcell, Larry's owner, had caught a bonito and blues off Nantucket.
At Dick's, Steve Morris laughed when I asked, how's the fishing? He said the cut at Katama is producing small bass and Chappy appears to be the source for most of the big blues.
There is nothing for a fisherman to do but keep plugging away.
On deer hunting
Many fishermen are also deer hunters. Because the 63rd Derby began later than usual and the hunting season begins earlier than it did last year the last week of the Derby coincides with the first week of bow season.
That presents a predicament, a sort of embarrassment of riches for those who appreciate the Vineyard's natural bounty. Fish or hunt, is the question.
So I interrupt this fishing column with a hunting story that I think is appropriate.
Most people are familiar with the saying, "A stitch in time saves nine." Well, the central truth of that saying also applies to tree stands.
In the same way that many fishermen wait until the day before the Derby begins to spool up new line many hunters wait until just before the hunting season to take a good look at their tree stands.
On Saturday I pulled my tree stands from the shed. The support cables on one of my older Gorilla model stands looked a bit worn and rusty where the cables connect to the frame and the platform - the platform I stand on when perched 15 or more feet up a tree.
At the time I thought to myself, "I wonder what happens when one of those cables snaps." No kidding, I really thought that and like most hunters ignored the voice coming from what neurologists and wives have determined is the smallest part of man's brain, what is referred to as the "sensible lobe."
On Sunday the rain finally stopped and I went to erect the stand I had wondered about the day before. I use climbing sticks over screw-in pegs because they are more convenient and I think safer. Once up the tree it took me a bit of time to get the stand well positioned.
I have learned that it is worth taking the time to position a stand you will be spending hours in sitting and standing. There is that old stitch in time business again.
I stood on the stand as I grasped the tree trunk and jumped once to be sure it was safe and securely seated against the tree. "Ping," a cable snapped.
I can report that the other cable continued to support my 160-pound frame. I can also report that a stitch in time would have saved me the trouble of taking the stand down and ordering a new set of cables.
My story is meant to be a cautionary tale for all the fishermen soon to be hunters. Check your stands and wear a safety strap.