SSA day-tripper creates quite an attraction
A large roughtail stingray cruised over the sand flat next to the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority terminal in Oak Bluffs last week. Photo by Jesse Husid
From time to time seemingly strange creatures swim in Vineyard waters. Some are fish.
On Thursday a large roughtail stingray was spotted swimming over the sand flat next to the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority terminal. The ray was quite an attraction for the folks waiting to board the ferry.
According to one of my reference books, this species of stingray averages about four feet in wingspan and can reach a length of ten feet and weigh hundreds of pounds.
It has a formidable tail. "The barbed spike is long," said my book. I find that to be reassuring.
Greg Skomal, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries biologist, said his pal Luke Guerney saw the fish and decided to take a swim. "He said it had to be the biggest stingray he's ever seen," said Greg.
The fish is not an unusual seasonal visitor but we do not know a lot about them, said Greg, because it is not particularly abundant in our waters.
Every now and then a shore fisherman fishing on East Beach for sharks will describe catching a fish that cannot be stopped. "These are the big stingrays that every now and then grab a bait off Cape Poge and just go away," he said.
Speaking of seasonal visitors, Greg said he was on the telephone the past few days fielding calls about shark sightings. I told him that a fellow stopped by our office to report that he saw a big shark he thought could be a great white while on a flight along South Beach.
Shark sightings are a regular summer occurrence. Greg said there are sharks in our waters, but as for a great white, well, that takes a positive identification.
There was a report of a shark feeding on a seal off Chatham. Greg is a bit more certain about that. "I think it was a classic text book white shark attack on a seal," he said.
A recent break in the humidity made beach fishing more tolerable. On Friday I checked out Philbin Beach and reports of striped bass feeding on krill.
When Tom Robinson and I arrived just before sunset gulls were lined up along the beach. I took it as a good sign.
I saw fish moving in the wash. A few times a bass appeared to chase my favored lure, a white Sluggo. But the only hit of the evening was a small bluefish.
Once the sun went down the fish that were there left. I feel confident that had we arrived earlier we might have had more luck.
I have heard more reports of fish feeding on krill at various up-Island spots. However, stripers can be pretty tough when they are feeding on the small shrimp-like critters.
I checked around to see what some of the local tackle shops had to report.
At Coop's in Edgartown, Coop said the krill move in and out and the bass follow. He said beach fishing is spotty right now.
As with most fishing, luck and timing have a lot to do with it. He said a couple stopped into his shop Tuesday and said that they did real well but swore him to secrecy regarding the location.
This time of year fishermen anticipate the arrival of bonito. Coop said the mini-tuna seem to be on increase but there has been no big surge. "I have my fingers crossed," said Coop.
He said despite the fog the charter boats are doing very well finding bass and bluefish. Bigger fish are found down south. Fishermen interested in tuna sashimi will need to travel more than 90 miles.
Larry's on Upper Main Street in Edgartown is a busy place in the summer. Manager Steve Purcell said the shop's guides are still doing well finding fish along the north shore.
He described large amounts of krill and sand eels in the water. Steve said he was off Dogfish Bar last week and the bait was so thick it looked like he could walk on it.
Steve said Sluggos and small eels retrieved slowly are effective. The fly guys are having luck casting a Clouser with a dark olive back and white bottom, he said.
In what is a hopeful sign, Steve said he was offshore south of the Vineyard before the wind came up and saw schools of false albacore. "There were tons and tons of them," he said.
False albacore are one of the most exciting game fish we see in these waters. Any report is welcome news.
At Dick's in Oak Bluffs, Matt Malowski was manning the shop. His report mirrored my observations. He said the shore bass fishing has been pretty tough and the bonito are very sparse. Still, people are catching fish.
The shop weighed in two stripers in the 40-pound range on Sunday. Fishermen are also finding smaller bass and blues at Lobsterville and West Chop.
The hot lure? You guessed it. The white six-inch Sluggo.
Matt said that charter captain Bob Weiss stopped in and said he found lots and lots of blues - an unwelcome distraction for fishermen looking for bonito at Hedge Fence.
Matt said the fishing is typical of August. I agree. That is why we have the Ag Fair.
More than one Ned
Last week I wrote about PFDs. In describing the cost of a piece of equipment called the AquiFix 406 GPS I/O personal locator beacon I wrote, "The unit sells for about $550. I can hear my buddy Ned say, "$550 bucks, what is he, dreaming?"
For some reason, my other friend Ned Casey thought I was talking about him. He is under the mistaken impression that he is the only Ned I know.
Ned, Casey that is, is an Irishman who thinks he is Italian. He combines the most volatile traits of each race (and is a great cook). Ned called last week and left me the following message: " I want a rebuttal in next week's paper, [insults deleted]. I've got more gadgets on my lifejacket than you do. I've got two light sticks, a whistle, a C-strobe and I've also got a set of tiny pocket rockets that I can shoot off. So what the hell do you have on yours, except a baloney sandwich? I want a rebuttal next week and a picture of me wearing my lifejacket."
Ned did not send me a photo. But I figure I have provided him with enough rope, I mean space, for his rebuttal.
All kidding aside, Ned, a former Coast Guardsman, is quite safety conscious. I recently lent him an extra copy I had of "Ten Hours Until Dawn, The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do" (St. Martin's Press) by Michael Tougias.
I met the author at a recent presentation he gave at the Vineyard Haven Library, I had the book sitting around but had not read it until last week.
I was inspired to shut off the TV because a few days after I gave the book to Ned he called and said that he had read about half the book in one sitting. He said he could not put it down. That is a pretty good recommendation.
Ned had more than a passing interest in the story. He was a young Coastie stationed in Boston in February 1978 when a nor'easter of historical intensity struck New England.
The tanker Global Hope floundered on the shoals in Salem Sound and called for help. The Coast Guard heard the mayday calls and immediately dispatched a 41-footer and a 44-foot motor lifeboat.
When the Coast Guardsmen got into trouble, Gloucester pilot boat captain Frank Quirk gathered a crew of four aboard his 49-foot steel boat, the Can Do, and notified the Coast Guard that he would attempt to help lead the Coast Guard boat back to safe harbor.
The book is a great summer read. It is also a dramatic reminder of the danger of the oceans and the men and women who are willing to risk those perils in order to save others.