Fishing defies expectations as summer wanes
A break in the mid-summer heat and humidity last week inspired me to go bass fishing. I did not expect much.
The spring fishing had been slow and the beginning of August, a period that falls within the so-called summer doldrums, is not normally associated with productive shore fishing.
I met my friend Tom Robinson just before sunset. Our plan was to fish a rocky section of the north shore in the area of Cedar Tree Neck.
Tom Robinson of Vineyard Haven holds a striped bass that fell for a nine-inch Sluggo. Photo by Alice Robinson
A cold front had just swept the stifling humidity from the Island that had made it difficult to rise from my couch. The clear air from Canada added a touch of September to the evening.
Tom said he was just bringing a light spinning rod and leaving his fly rod behind. I did the same. It was a mistake.
We emerged from a path through thick woods. Vineyard Sound and the Elizabeth Islands sparkled in the clear air.
But my attention was quickly diverted to the striped bass feeding on krill within a short cast of shore. Fish broke the surface with loud "plops."
I regretted not having my fly rod. How simple it would have been I thought to have carried it with me. Live and learn, again and again.
Despite an abundance of feeding striped bass, hooking up was not that easy. The fish were selective and inclined to hit softly. Tom was having some success using a nine-inch Sluggo, a soft plastic artificial bait rigged with two hooks.
Although I was using a smaller Sluggo, the fish seemed less interested in my offering. Clearly, size mattered.
The next day I recounted the beauty of the evening to my wife, Norma, and explained my plan to return with Tom that evening. She suggested she and Tom's wife, Alice, go along. They could sit on the beach while we fished.
The fact that Norma would even come up with such an idea was a surprise. It had been many years since she had even entertained going anywhere with me while I fished, unless she had a clear exit strategy and her car.
Cooper Gilkes of Edgartown holds a "Hoo." Photo courtesy of Cooper Gilkes
She has good reason to be cautious. There was the time she found herself trapped on Chappy despite my assurances that I would not keep her out all evening. After many missed dinners, she has arrived at a simple solution. If I said I was going fishing, she simply assumed I could not be counted on to do anything I said I would do, whether it was to arrive home at an appointed time or get her home at a reasonable time. "You go fishing, honey," she would say with a knowing smile. "I'll stay here."
Although her suggestion this time had caught me off guard, I knew it presented me with certain opportunities for future spousal trips and earned good husband points while also allowing me to fish.
The key to success, I realized, would be comfort and beer. Our four-person safari walking along the path to the beach transported folding chairs, a blanket, sandwiches and chips, Tom's homemade potato salad, and beer.
The fish were there, but not as abundantly as the previous evening. Once again the nine-inch Sluggo proved effective. Early evening arrivals from the Perseid meteor shower provided punctuation to another beautiful evening on the beach - made all the better when shared.
Lively tuna trip
Cooper "Coop" Gilkes got a big surprise last week while on a tuna trip with Donny Benefit of Edgartown. "I caught a fish I hadn't caught before," said Coop when he called me Monday.
Coop caught a wahoo. The fish is not even listed in the state's saltwater fishing guide. According to one guide, "Sport Fish of the Atlantic," the wahoo is normally found in waters off Florida and Bermuda and has a northern range of New York.
The fish is known for dazzling speed. No surprise, since it is shaped like a rocket.
Coop said the fish hit one of the tuna lures and then shot straight out of the water.
The fish ran off hundreds of yards of line from the reel. "He just smoked it," said Coop. "He did a good 250 to 300 yards in that first run. It was awesome."
He thought at first he had caught a blue marlin. But instead of jumping, the fish was "zipping all over the place."
When they got the fish close to the boat, Steve Buckley, an experienced charter captain from Florida, shouted, "It's a hoo."
"I said, 'What the hell is a hoo?'" said Coop. "It's a wahoo," answered Steve.
Coop caught the wahoo approximately 60 miles south of the Cape. The men left at 1 in the morning and returned about 6 pm the next day.
He reported that they had five of six fish hit the lures and caught one yellowfin in addition to the "hoo."
On the subject
Speaking of tuna, the tuna fishery is highly regulated. Any fisherman who plans to target tuna must purchase a boat permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service (www.nmfspermits.com).
Currently the recreational school bluefin tuna fishery (fish from 27 inches to less than 47 inches) is closed. It will reopen on Aug. 25 and close on Sept. 14. However, recreational fishermen may keep two bluefin tuna 47 to less than 73 inches in length per vessel and one fish per vessel per year over 73 inches.
In addition to the necessary permits, fishermen are advised to carry all the required safety equipment. It is unfortunate that a fisherman will lavish money and attention on fishing gear needed to catch a fish but will skimp on the gear needed to save his life.
All boaters are required to have one personal floatation device for each person on board a vessel. Bosun's Mate Stuart Fletcher, Coast Guard station Menemsha, told me something that I did not know. If one of the required PFDs is an inflatable it must be worn at all times.
Of course, I think it is always a good idea to be wearing an inflatable no matter how many lifejackets are on board. Accidents happen in the blink of an eye.
I recently read an account of a fellow who fell off the stern of a boat. The weather was rough and his buddies, who were focused on the seas in front, did not immediately notice what had happened. Luckily the man managed to stay afloat long enough for his friends to realize what had happened and turn back.
Mr. Fletcher told me that one piece of equipment that is not mandatory for smaller recreational vessels but is still an excellent safety investment, particularly for tuna fishermen, is an EPIRB (Emergency position indicating radio beacon).
Oftentimes marine radios are out of range of shore stations. The EPIRB sends out a signal that can alert Coast Guard rescuers to your location. Small personal EPIRBs are available for less than $300.
"It will save you quicker than anything else," said Mr. Stuart.
It's the principle
Jamie Boyle is a charter captain, and fishing rods are the tools of his trade. On Monday evening Jamie parked his center console boat in his yard on Hitching Circle in Oak Bluffs and left his fishing rods in the boat, ready for another early departure. But when he went out to his boat the next morning, his two seven-foot bonito rods with Penn reels were gone. Stolen.
Jamie is more upset about the principle of the event than losing value of the rods. Someone went into his yard climbed into his boat and stole his tools, and that should not happen.
Anyone with any information can reach Jamie at 508-693-7454.
Got it wrong
For folks who relied on The Times tide chart last week to go clamming and ended up with the water over their belly buttons, I apologize. If the tide was going out when you thought it should have been coming in, I apologize. If the rip was running east to west and you thought it should be running west to east, I apologize.
The Times messed up and did not update the tide chart in the issue of August 10. Some sharp-eyed readers noticed the date, but I am sure others did not. It should not have happened.