Bluefish are blowing in the wind
A school of bluefish weathervane. Photo courtesy of Anthony Holand
More than 100 years ago, striped bass clubs organized by some of America's most prominent men dotted the New England coast. They were places of rural comfort where the affairs of the country were discussed on an equal footing with the size of that day's catch.
The Squibnocket Club, formed in 1869, sat on Squibnocket Point, still a favored location for catching big Derby striped bass. According to the notes of the late Dr. John Cunningham of Boston, the clubhouse was a substantial building on a high cliff with a large living room, many bedrooms and a large porch where members could sit and watch the fishing action on the eight different bass stands including one conveniently connected directly to the porch.
During the later part of the 19th century the 22-mile trip from the ferry port of Vineyard Haven to the clubhouse took half a day by carriage. It is likely that the first thing an anxious fisherman saw was the impressive five-foot, copper striped bass weather-vane atop the Squibnocket Club.
The bass club has long since disappeared. But the striped bass that attracted fishermen to the Island remain and impressive weather vanes still punctuate the horizon.
Anthony Holand in his Vineyard Haven studio. Photo by Ralph Stewart
A school of bluefish moves in the breeze atop a house in Edgartown. It is the latest creation by Anthony Holand, owner of Tuck Holand metal sculptors gallery, creators of the Travis Tuck weathervanes.
Like many year-round Islanders who work for a living, Anthony Holand wishes he could do more fishing. But the 30-year-old metal sculptor and artist spends much of his time in his State Road studio creating custom weather vanes that reflect the tastes and hobbies of a diverse group of clients.
The studio began in 1974 when Travis Tuck created a weathervane as a prop for the movie Jaws. In 1996 Tony Holand joined Travis in his studio and in 2002 the collaboration resulted in the creation of Tuck & Holand.
Although Travis died in 2002, following a bout with cancer, his creations live on, as does the studio. But not content to rest on past designs, Tony has expanded the studio's classic designs and followed his own artistic instincts.
He said it is hard to avoid the influence of fish and fishing when living on the Vineyard. His latest fish weathervane designs reflect a fisherman's understanding of dynamic movement and an artist's sense of grace in motion.
A school of seven bluefish, three in one row and four in another are joined to create a complete work. In addition to the entire piece, the last fish in each row also moves independently in the wind. "Been nice to add that sense of motion to it," he said.
A striped bass weathervane. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Tony imagines doing a project with 400 or 500 fish for an institution like a museum or aquarium. "That would be a really nice project," he said
A similar weather vane of striped bass is next, he said. The articulating weather vanes sell for $10,000 each.
Tony is also creating a limited edition of 50 striped bass weathervanes. There is also a bluefish limited edition. The striped bass measures 28 inches in length and has a curved design that gives it a sense of strength and movement. The limited editions sell for $5,500 each.
The weather vanes, including the articulating school of fish, are gilded with palladium, a metal more expensive than silver that does not rust. Tony recently won first place for his gilding skills in a national competition.
One of his current custom projects was commissioned by the parents of fly fishing guide Ken Schwam of Oak Bluffs and Wyncote, Pennsylvania, who drowned after he stepped off a sandbar into deep water off Eel Pond in Edgartown in June 2002.
A paper sketch sits on a cluttered workbench. It shows the silhouette of a fly fisherman casting against a setting sun. Pieces of work are in various states. The completed weather vane will be placed on top of the Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club during a ceremony later this fall.
For more information, go to www.TuckandHoland.com.
Vineyard fishermen score big
As Derby fishermen look forward to the end of the 61st Derby, a group of Vineyard fishermen were among the top place finishers in "The Striper Cup," a season-long fishing tournament sponsored by On the Water Magazine, a monthly New England region fishing magazine based in Falmouth.
Years ago, regional fishing tournaments provided an opportunity for fishermen, singly and fishing as a team, to compete against their peers from along the Eastern coast. Vineyard fishermen earned reputations as tough competitors.
The Striper Cup runs from May to September and is based on a point system. At the Striper Cup awards ceremony in Boston on Oct. 1 Vineyard fishermen and fishing teams earned top honors. Not surprisingly, there were some familiar Derby names.
Lev Wlodyka of Chilmark, a former grand leader many times over, has a well-earned reputation as one of the Vineyard's best striper fishermen. Lev won the "striper of the year" trophy for a 57.6-pound bass he caught on July 31.
Patrick Toomey of Edgartown was named "shore angler of the year" for catching the highest cumulative weight of five fish.
The Striper Cup was awarded to the team that weighed in the heaviest ten fish. Linesider Bass and Brew (461.94) narrowly edged Team Dick's (459.7 points) out of first place in the last week.
Team Dick's fish total: 31-Jul Lev Wlodyka 57.6 lbs.;?25-Jul Lev Wlodyka 49.5 lbs.;?04-Aug Nick Warburton 46.6 lbs.;?03-Aug Morgan Child 44.6 lbs.;?07-Aug Alec Gale 44.2 lbs.;?06-Aug Nick Warburton 44.2 lbs.;?27-Jul Greg Tayntor 43.5 lbs.;?18-Jul Nick Warburton 43.4 lbs.;?06-Aug Morgan Child 43.3 lbs.;?18-Aug Morgan Child 42.8 lbs.
Out of more than 33 teams competing The Martha's Vineyard Surfcasters team finished in tenth place with 304.15 pts made up of: 04-Jun Patrick Toomey 38.2 lbs.;?26-Jun Patrick Toomey 35.45 lbs.;?21-Jun Patrick Toomey 33.25lbs.;?12-Jun Phil Horton 32 lbs.;??11-Jun Patrick Toomey 31.1 lbs.;?10-Jul Ron Domurat 30.5 lbs.;?08-Jul Keith Mcart 30.2 lbs.;?29-Aug Ron Domurat 24.95 lbs.;?26-May Janet Messineo 24.9 lbs.;?04-Jul Bob Jacobs 24.6 lbs.
For more information, go to www.onthewater.com.
The 61st Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby officially ends at 10 pm Saturday. I think it ended for me on Monday evening.
I fished the rising tide for three hours at Cedar Tree Neck and caught nothing. Not a schoolie bass, small bluefish, sand shark, skate or crab.
The Derby's more productive fishermen will be able to claim their prizes at the award's ceremony Sunday. The festivities begin at 1 pm at the Outerland Club, formerly the Hot Tin Roof, located at the Martha's Vineyard Airport.