|Carlos Bartolomeu poses with his 49-pound striped bass. Photo by Steve Morris
Season begins with plenty of fishing action
The fishing season appears to have gotten off to a good start. Fishermen are catching striped bass from one end of the Island to the other and bluefish in between.
As the fishing seasons flow by I realize that I am not as ambitious as I once was. The prospect of big fish is often not enough to make me walk or drive any distance if I think I can spend a relaxing evening catching fish away from people or closer to home.
(There is a country western song by Toby Keith with a similar refrain, "I ain't as good as I once was, my how the years have flown ..." that touches on a similar subject - come to think of it there is a country western song about practically every life situation but my country epiphany is a subject for another column.)
There were reports of good striped bass fishing along East Beach over the weekend. Tom Robinson and I headed up to Lobsterville Beach.
When we arrived just before sunset, Ken Berkov, a seasonal Vineyard Haven resident, and Billy Norton of Oak Bluffs, were preparing their gear for an evening of fishing. Billy, a plumber, has had a rough health stretch of late but is not the sort of guy who would let that keep him from the water's edge.
Billy is a wonderful gentleman. It is always a pleasure to meet up with him on a beach. The start of each fishing season provides many opportunities to renew friendships on the beach.
Tom and I headed up to Dogfish Bar where there were more familiar faces casting along the beach. I suspect that Chip Leonardi never actually leaves Dogfish.
The new moon tide, still an hour from full, coupled with a good swell pushing water up the beach, made fishing conditions difficult. The unusually high tide was carrying weed and debris along the shore and the fish were uninterested in our offerings.
Had we been willing to wait for the tide to start dropping, the fishing might have improved but there was no reason to dawdle when the fish were just as likely to be elsewhere. Tom and I headed back to Lobsterville to see if the water would be cleaner.
Tom and I were both using light rods rigged with six-inch Sluggos. The water was free of weeds and we both immediately began to get short strikes from shad - small, energetic fish that resemble herring.
I decided to have some fun and got my fly rod. Tom stuck with the Sluggo, a good choice, because he hooked a nice 29-inch bass.
He asked me if I thought he should release it. "Of course you should release it," I said.
Two minutes after he released it I asked. "Why did you let that fish go."
"What do you mean," Tom asked me, "I thought you said I should release it."
"Sure," I told him with a laugh, "but I never thought you'd listen to me. Besides, I was hoping you would let it go and I would catch one so I could keep it."
The fishing slowed so we decided to try Menemsha Beach on the by now falling tide. We walked up the beach and made several casts. I stopped and Tom continued on up the beach.
I guessed he was not catching fish. Not wanting to walk any farther and thinking Tom would soon make his way back to he car I went over to see what a group of fishermen standing on the Menemsha gas dock were doing. Mostly they were unsuccessfully casting to bass popping in the harbor.
After a good bit of time Tom still had not returned, so I went looking for him. We met about half way up the beach. He wanted to know where I had been. He told me he had come back looking for me and put a bass in the back of my truck that would fit nicely into his holiday plans.
One look in the back of my vehicle told me I should have been a bit more ambitious.
|A minke whale washed up at Wasque Point. Photo by Louisa Gould
A dead Minke whale came to rest on Wasque Point, blocking beach access to one of the Island's premier fishing spots and adding significantly to the aroma.
Dave Belcher, Trustees Chappaquiddick superintendent, said it was more like a summer weekend on the beaches.
"We were real busy," said Dave. "It was like a day in July. There was a crowd on both beaches."
Dave and his crew have also been busy pulling folks out of the sand. While writing this column Tuesday evening, I heard a call over the police scanner reporting a driver stuck in the sand at Dyke Bridge. How annoying for the rangers to have to go pull someone out who ignored the clearly posted instructions to deflate tires.
A posting under fishing on the MV Times Reader Forum (http://mvtimes.com/ reader_forum/viewforum.php?f=16)
described a successful Sunday evening fishing trip. MV observer wrote, "We took the truck over to East Beach/Wasque. The trip was worthwhile as I landed a couple blues and a small bass.
"On the way over the Dyke Bridge we saw our first glimpse of the summer season. A guy with NJ plates was getting towed out of the sand back toward the bridge. I guess he thought the V8 in his Dodge Magnum could compensate for the lack of 4-wheel drive!"
I plan to speak with Dave about my idea for a Jersey reef project, a plan to create an artificial reef off East Beach by pushing Jersey vehicles into the water.
Now, just so all those super sensitive types from New Jersey do not get mad at me, let me explain why I did not suggest Island vehicles get added to the reef.
Most are already in such an advanced state of rust that the practical effect would be limited.
Really big winner
Steve Morris, owner of Dick's, said the largest striped bass, a whopping 48.1-pound fish caught by seasonal Oak Bluffs resident Carlos Bartolomeu of New Bedford, came as quite a surprise.
"Oh, it was a beautiful fish too," said Steve. "Nice and healthy with a big girth."
The fish was the largest striped bass he has weighed in over the years the shop has held a Memorial Day weekend contest. Steve said the fish eclipsed the 41-pounder caught by Pat Jenkinson of West Tisbury several years ago.
Proving once again that big lures (and live baits) catch big fish, Steve said Carlos used a live 12-inch scup.
In the past, fishermen favored small scup as a premier bass bait. The large bait was necessitated by the fact that the state increased the minimum scup length from 9 inches to 10.5 inches.
That size scup might seem like quite a mouthful even for a big bass, but stripers have quite an appetite. I have often had a small bass hit a plug that was half its size. I suspect that scup seemed like an appetizer for a fish nearing 50 pounds.
Where did Carlos catch his big fish?
I asked the question. I always ask the question.
Do I expect an answer? Do you expect an answer?
Prying fishermen need to be realistic and discreet. I was not discreet, in that I asked the question flat out, so I was realistic regarding the sort of information I could expect. I did not think that an experienced fisherman like Carlos would walk into a tackle shop and share the details of his fishing spot and even if he did confide in Steve, I would not expect Steve to pass the information along.
A tackle shop shares some of the qualities of a church confessional. Tackle shop owners are bound not to say too much.
Steve said his guess, based on knowing the habits of the fishermen who frequent his shop, is that Carlos caught his fish along the north shore. Unlike the bass, the blues apparently decided to take the weekend off.
Steve said 96 fishermen entered the tournament. He weighed in 20 bass, 7 bluefish and 14.3-pound weakfish, a fish once abundant in our waters that has been caught with increasing regularity the last few years.
The tournament results are as follows:
Boat bass: 1. Carlos Bartolomeu, 48.1-pounds; 2. Mark Kokoszka, 37.3 lbs; 3. Mike Canha, 33.2 lbs. Shore bass: 1. Janet Messineo, 24.9 lbs; 2. Danielle Williams, 21.2 lbs; Chuck Sylvia, 21 lbs.
Boat bluefish: 1. Keith Searle, 7.3 lbs; 2. Ned Casey, 6.3 lbs. Shore bluefish: 1. Tim France, 7.8 lbs; 2. Chuck Hodgkinson, 6.8 lbs; Chris Morgan, 6.2 lbs.