Offshore anglers captivated by marvels of the deep blue
John Schillinger of Edgartown poses with a very large tuna he caught while fishing with David Kadison, who had blue marlin on his mind. Photo by David Kadison
Sunday, I launched my 18-foot Tashmoo for the first time this season. I had no particular goal in mind beyond getting the hull wet and catching a few fish of any species.
I am not much of a pleasure boater. I do not get much pleasure from the whole process of gathering all the necessary stuff to spend a day on the water and hoping I manage to launch when some hopeless individual is not on the ramp.
I decided to fish for fluke off Seven Gates in about 90 feet of water. I was not having much luck and between the hot sun, gentle rocking and sheer boredom I began to get sleepy.
I lay down on the bench and jigged halfheartedly until it occurred to me I could easily doze off. The prospect of sleeping while I drifted past Cuttyhunk stood me right up.
I was still feeling the effects of a fishing trip on late Saturday with Cooper Gilkes and Rick Harvey.
Based on good information that striped bass were feeding on krill along the south shore, we headed to Aquinnah. It was late afternoon and the setting sun backlighted dozens of striped bass holding in the waves.
It was quite a sight to peer into a trough and see a dozen or so fish suspended in the green curl of water as it rose to the shore. As they often are when feeding on krill, the fish were picky.
I caught one fish on a white fly. Coop, as he so often does, had considerably better luck fishing a white squid fly and a Sluggo.
The next day, still bobbing around in Vineyard Sound and with no action in sight, I contemplated my energy level and decided to head back to the Lagoon launch ramp. However there are others who do not share my lack of boating enthusiasm.
On Monday John Schillinger of Edgartown stopped in to show me a photo of a tuna estimated to weigh more than 200 pounds. He had joined David Kadison on David's quest to catch a blue marlin.
Both John and David's names will be familiar to anyone familiar with the annual bass and bluefish derby as both are wining fishermen. Over the course of two days the fishermen traveled 150 miles southeast of Nantucket in search of a marlin without any luck.
The tuna hit a rigged ballyhoo daisy chain and took some time to get in. Interestingly, identifying the tuna was not that easy.
Yellowfin, bluefin, and big eye tuna can look remarkably similar. The only way to positively distinguish the three is to examine the liver and gill rakers.
I spoke with Greg Skomal, Division of Marine Fisheries biologist, who said that based on the appearance and where the fish was caught he fairly certain it was a big eye. John gave me a couple of fillets. I can say with certainty that the fish was delicious.
Whale of a tail
Whales feed near a fishing boat. Photo by Jim Fraser
I heard from several fishermen who have returned from tuna fishing trips off Chatham about the spectacular show put on by whales feeding in the same area as tuna.
Donny Benefit, an Edgartown commercial fisherman, described whales herding bait and breaching all around his boat. He happened to have a video camera on board he had found on the dock and filmed the action. The footage he showed me was exciting.
Donny said he was able to locate the owners, a couple from California. He said he is sending the camera to them with the footage, which should provide quite an ending to their wedding scenes.
I also received some wonderful photos and an e-mail from Jim Fraser of Oak Bluffs. Jim was fishing off Chatham with his brother-in-law Dave Basile of Wilton, Conn., just east of Crab Ledge about 12 to 15 miles off Chatham, looking for tuna in about 200-feet of water.
He said it is about a 45 mile run from Oak Bluffs to the grounds. The pair departed from Vineyard Haven Harbor in a 27-foot Boston Whaler Outrage at about 5:15 am Sunday.
Fog off Monomoy Island slowed them down a bit, and they arrived about 7 am just about the time the fishing slowed. They had plenty of company. He said there were approximately 50 other boats working a large area for tuna that feed in that vicinity.
A whale breaches in the waters off Chatham. Photo by Jim Fraser
He wrote, "The tuna bite seemed to end around 7 am, which is about the same time we arrived on the grounds and got our lines in. On the radio it was clear that several nice fish had been caught between 5 am and 7 am, and some boats were already heading back to port by 7:30 am with their two-fish-per-boat limit.
"However, the whales put on an all day show, and that alone was worth the cost of admission. The few photos I took can't begin to capture some of the things you suddenly see. I believe they were humpback whales feeding on small baitfish, but I am not a whale expert. Some of them "bubble feed." They release a large mass of bubbles from down deep to disorient the bait above that they are feeding on. The water on the surface then suddenly turns this lime green color from the mass of tiny bubbles they emitted, in about 20-30 seconds they come up to the surface in the middle of the green bubble patch with their mouths wide open. It is quite a sight, particularly when it occurs 75 feet from the boat. The water pouring from its mouth looked like it would fill a swimming pool.
"This is a big creature to have direct eye contact with. I also witnessed several full breaches - where the whale comes almost completely out of the water, rolls over, spreads his large fins, and slams down on the water surface like someone dropped a house in the ocean from 50-feet. The spray and waves it creates is an awesome sight. So, while we didn't catch our target species that trip, it was still a great day on the water."
Derby Hall of Fame ceremonies
The Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby will officially induct two people into the Derby hall of fame during a public ceremony at 5:30 pm at the Harbor View Hotel on Wednesday.
Established in 1999, the Hall of Fame was created to recognize individuals and organizations that have made a "significant and positive impact on the sport fishing community of Martha's Vineyard and on the operation and goals" of the Derby.
This year's inductees are Roy Langley of Edgartown, long-time Derby weigh master, and Martha Smith, the bedrock of the Derby weigh station.
In addition to acting as weigh master for the past 14 years, Roy also organizes and facilitates the distribution of fresh fish fillets to Island senior centers.
Martha brings order and stability to the weigh station. For 19 or 20 years - no one is quite sure how long - Martha has helped to keep the weigh station operation running smoothly through all sorts of challenges.
The Derby committee will present Roy and Martha with engraved bowls on Wednesday evening.
With one month to go before the start of the 61st Derby, the prizes continue to roll in said John Custer, Derby chairman. John said that many new companies have signed up to contribute prizes to the tournament; many are unsolicited but want to be associated with the prestigious event.
The Derby begins on Sunday, September 10, and ends on Saturday, October 14, with an awards ceremony scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 15, at Outerland.