Go fishing when the fish sirens call
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Video footage of Cooper Gilkes fishing at the Norton Point breach by Nelson Sigelman.
I stopped in at a Memorial Day outdoor party Saturday. I do not like to commit to social engagements during fishing or hunting season, but the timing was right.
The party was scheduled between 3 and 6 pm. I arranged to arrive about 5 pm so I could stuff myself and then leave to meet Ally Moore and go striped bass fishing.
In between trips to the food table, I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman named Bob from Chilmark. Bob said he used to do a lot of fishing, mostly freshwater, but somehow had failed to find the time to fish in recent years.
I said he had some pretty good fishing within miles. Small bass were inside Menemsha Pond and likely along Menemsha Beach. What could be easier, I said, then to park in the town lot and take a short walk along the beach at sunset with a light rod.
I told him I had good luck with Sluggos and explained how I rigged the soft plastic baits. He seemed genuinely interested and said he might dig out some of his old tackle.
I figure my enthusiasm for the subject probably relit the fishing fire in Bob. Whether it would continue to glow is hard to say.
Captain David Hearn, Luke Gurney and Jim Creedon of West Tisbury, the man holding a very big striped bass, celebrate an impressive catch. Photo by Jeff Canha
Probably there would be family commitments, odd chores around the house and all of the other little things that life throws at all of us. Serious fishermen learn how to put those distractions aside and go fishing when the fish sirens call.
On a gorgeous sunny Monday afternoon, I was sitting in The Times office trying to get a jump on the week when Cooper Gilkes, owner of Coop's Bait and Tackle in Edgartown called. Coop said bluefish were blitzing along East Beach.
Despite the mountain of papers on my desk, the prospect was just too tempting. "Want to go?" I asked Coop, half hoping he would say no and help me avoid the consequences.
"Sure," said Coop, "c'mon over."
I was committed. I looked for another way out. "You can leave the shop?" I asked.
Jim and his massive fish after checking the weight on a basement deer scale to confirm it was a 60-pounder. It later tipped Dick's certified scale at 60.1 pounds. Photo by Steve Morris
"I own this place," said Coop. I heard his wife Lela laugh knowingly in the background.
It felt good to close my laptop computer and leave. Years ago, when I had less responsibility at The Times, I only needed a whiff of fish to drop everything and go.
Coop's truck was ready. Coop's truck is always ready, a virtual tackle shop and squid boat on wheels.
It was too late to make the falling tide on East Beach, so Coop suggested we go to Norton Point cut. I was interested in seeing what it looked like, since I had last visited weeks ago with Island officials and no fishing rod.
The Trustees of Reservations have done an impressive job managing the beach. There is an air station at the Katama end and signs advise visitors of the regulations, designed to protect the beach. The beach was also clean and relatively free of washed-up debris.
The new cut is an impressive sight. It is wide, and the water rushes through with considerable force in a number of conflicting directions. The current flowed swiftly into Katama Bay next to the edge of the beach and appeared to flow in the opposite direction closer to the Chappy side. Small rips and seams appeared the entire width, now more than 300 yards across.
I walked along the shore looking at how steeply the bank drops away in places. This is a dangerous spot to fish, particularly at night. Fishermen need to be extremely careful and watch any kids very, very carefully.
While I was pondering the cut, Coop was fishing. He hooked a small bluefish (See a video clip at www.mvtimes.com).
It was sunny and warm. I rigged a large Sluggo and tossed it into the churning current, letting it sink deep where I suspected a big bass might be holding.
"That's a good idea," shouted Coop. I did not hook a fish, but it felt very good to be fishing and not working.
The next day there was no getting around work. Early Tuesday evening, I left the office to buy a candy bar. I needed some sugar to keep typing. The wind was slight, and Vineyard Haven Harbor looked very inviting. I wished I could go fishing.
David Hearn, a house painter and charter captain, heard the siren's song. "It was one of those things when you drag yourself out," said David. "I just happened to catch Jim (Creedon) at the end of the afternoon, and I was like, 'what do you think Jim, you want to go fishing?' And he was, yeah, I'll go. And we sat there and we thought about it, and I came so close to not going fishing. And time and time again, those are the times that you wail the big ones."
David, his friend and mate Like Gurney of Oak Bluffs, and Jim headed out to a north shore spot.
Jeff Canha of Tisbury, a high school vocational arts teacher and charter captain (Done Deal charters), was already fishing for a while, when David showed up just as the sun was starting to sink into the horizon beyond the Elizabeths. He had been marking big fish for some time.
A short time after David pulled up, Jeff heard a lot of excited yelling and screaming as he turned his boat to make another drift. "I thought, those guys don't get excited for nothing." He was correct.
The fish came up about 75 yards from the boat after a long fight. David, a charter captain (Martha's Vineyard Charter Company), said that is characteristic of big fish, and from the wake he knew it was a big one. Jim wanted to lip the fish, but David wanted a surer bet and reached for the gaff. He carefully aimed for the lower jaw because Jim wanted to release it.
Once the fish was in the boat, the men knew it was a possible state record. Jeff came over for a look and figured it was close to 60.
David said it is the biggest bass he has ever put in his boat. His assessment is that the spring fishing far outweighs the fall run.
The men brought the fish back and weighed it on a scale normally used to weigh deer. Jim called Jeff and said the fish hit 60 pounds.
Not wanting to rely on that scale, Jeff told Jim that they needed to get the fish weighed on a certified scale quickly before it lost weight. He called Steve Morris at Dick's Bait and Tackle in Oak Bluffs.
The telephone rang just before 11 pm. Cathy, Steve's wife, asked who it was but was not surprised or angry. It goes with the territory. She said, "Oh my God, a 60-pounder this time of the year."
"Sounds like it," answered Steve.
The fish weighed in at 60.1 pounds. Steve said it was
the third time he has been called out of bed to weigh in a fish. I asked if the fish needs to be over 50. "It would be nice," said Steve.
Steve was happy. "It couldn't happen to a better guy," said Steve. "That's the first 60-pounder I've ever touched. And Jim is such a great guy and a hard fisherman, so good for him."
Most fishermen know what it is like to have a big fish pulled out in front of them. Jeff has been around long enough to know that it is all part of fishing. "I was happy to see him catch it," said Jeff. "That's just the way it goes. I've got more important things to worry about."
Jeff thinks there appear to be bigger fish arriving sooner. He thinks there are bigger fish out there. He would not be surprised to see a world-record striper caught within the next six years.
"If you've got a 60-pounder now, 78 pounds is not far off," said Jeff. The fish sirens are calling.
Father's Day fishing column contributions wanted
With the approach of Father's Day, I am preparing a column to honor dads like my own who introduced a son or daughter to the joys of fishing.
Do you have a photo and favorite memory of fishing with dad? Please forward your photo with a short fishing story and description of your dad (150 words or less) to me at The Times. Please identify all the people in the photo and provide a contact telephone number or e-mail address.
I will include a selection of photos and stories in my fishing column and the entire selection will appear on the web site on June 14 in advance of Father's Day.
Photos should be mailed, e-mailed or dropped off at The Times no later than Monday, June 11.
Mailing address: The Martha's Vineyard Times, 30 Beach Road, PO 518, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.
Dick's tournament results
The weather and fish cooperated over Memorial Day weekend for Dick's Bait and Tackle's big tournament. Owner Steve Morris reported there were 87 entries with first, second, and third prizes of $300, $200 and $150, respectively.
The size of the bass and bluefish indicates that the big fish have arrived. Steve provided the following results.
Boat bass: Mike Canha, 33.6 pounds; Steve Purcell, 31.3 lbs; Ben Smith, 30.9 lbs.
Shore bass: Mark Campos, 22.3 lbs; John Hoy, 20.2 lbs; Chet Loiselle, 17.7 lbs.
Boat bluefish: Jacob Lewis, 9.3 lbs; Francis Fisher, 8.6 lbs; Keith Olsen, 8.5 lbs.
Shore bluefish: Jonathan Cornwell, 8.8 lbs; Jim Fraser, 8.3 lbs; Jim Cornwell 8.3 lbs.
Bill Bishop of Edgartown keeps his old Penn Yan boat on a mooring near Edgartown Light. He told me he uses it to go fishing with his kids.
Sometime over the weekend someone used Bill's boat for target practice and smashed the windshield with rocks. "It's just foolishness," said Bill. "As far as I know I don't have an enemy on the Island. It's a tough way to start the season."
Likely some senseless jerks, who never stopped to think that a hard-working Island guy would have to work a little bit harder, decided it would be fun to throw rocks at a boat.
Bill reported the crime to Harbor Master Charlie Blair. Anyone with information is asked to do the same. The jerks should fess up and give Bill a call to apologize.