Tags Posts tagged with "fishing"

fishing

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Will Wagner of Cambridge holds a 13.5 pound bluefish that he pulled out of the rocks while casting for bass near President Obama’s vacation house last week. Photo by Phil Cronin. — Photo by Phil Cronin

Fishermen like to complain when they are not catching fish. They complain about the fishing, the weather, the lack of bait, other fishermen, their spouses, their boss and global warming or global cooling.

Fishermen also practice the art of rationalization and they are nothing if not philosophical about their sport — in a bumper sticker sort of way: “A bad day of fishin’ beats a good day of working,” is a popular bit of fishing wisdom you will find affixed to rusting trucks and flashy SUVs.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it is not alway true. An Australian fisherman named Tran Van Lanh had a bad day of fishing and I bet he wishes he had stayed at work. You see, Tran got eaten by a croc. Honest.

On Martha’s Vineyard we don’t have to worry about crocs, or snakes or head hunters. We have it pretty good. Our biggest risk is hooking ourselves in front of our friends. A bad day of fishin’ on the Vineyard is no fish. Not so in Australia.

According to the Outdoor Hub news service, which provides me with a steady stream of news stories that make me happy to be on Lobsterville beach, the 57-year-old fishermen was killed last Monday after he was ambushed by a crocodile in Australia’s Adelaide River.

The partially albino croc, according to the Australian news service SBS, had a white head and was well known along the river as “Michael Jackson.” Guess the Australians didn’t get the memo, or maybe it is too far away for Al Sharpton to cause a fuss.

SBS reported, “The man was taken when he got into the water to unsnag his fishing line.”

Not a good idea to try and unsnag a line in a croc-infested river.

“Police and rangers scouring the crocodile-infested river by boat on Monday night shot and killed a 4.5 meter crocodile (that’s almost 15 feet) and the man’s body was recovered later that night.

“The Adelaide River is well known for its Jumping Croc tours, where boats travel the river and crocodiles jump for meat attached to hooks.

“Michael Jackson was one in a million, and unfortunately being an albino would have been picked on by all the others, it’s a big pecking order,” said Rob Marchand, owner of Wallaroo Tours, which runs Jumping Croc cruises across the river from where the man was taken, the news service reported.

I do not think Mr. Marchand is an objective expert. One-in-a-million? So the next 999,999,999 fishermen who jump in the river to unsnag lures should get out just fine?

Mr. Marchand said that the crocodile had been in that part of the river for several years, “and that the crocodiles had been fighting a lot recently, jockeying for position and preparing to breed.”

He added, “They [crocs] know how to do three major things: eat, reproduce and aggression … if you’re not going to look after yourself, you’ll find yourself being eaten.”

By the way, he rejected the suggestion that the Jumping Croc tours were encouraging predatory behaviour on the Adelaide River.

“I’m sure crocs knew how to eat people a long time before we come along,” he said.

So next time you’re complaining about a bad day fishin’, think of poor Tran and say a little prayer.

Striper hearings set

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a 15-member body responsible for managing fish species and implementing management plans along the East Coast, is beginning the process of revising the regulations that govern striped bass. In government speak, the ASMFC will take comment on Addendum IV to the Striped Bass Management Plan. “The Draft Addendum proposes new fishing mortality (F) reference points, as recommended by the 2013 benchmark stock assessment, and associated management measures to reduce F to a level at or below the proposed target within one or three years. It responds to results of the 2013 Atlantic striped bass benchmark assessment indicating F in 2012 was above the proposed F target, and female spawning stock biomass (SSB) has been steadily declining below the target since 2006.”

Of course, F is pretty much what recreational fishermen on Martha’s Vineyard have been saying for years as they’ve watched the quality of the bass fishing decline.

The Draft Addendum includes a suite of management options to reduce recreational and commercial harvest along the coast and in the Chesapeake Bay. Specific options to be considered include bag, size, slot and trophy size limits for the recreational fishery and quota reductions for the commercial fishery.

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) will hold a series of hearings on behalf of the ASMFC the first week in September but does not plan to make state specific recommendations and hold hearings on them until later this year. One thing is certain: new rules will be in place when the bass return to Massachusetts next spring.

DMF is not planning to hold an ASMFC hearing on the Vineyard but will hold a hearing on Nantucket on Sept. 2. That makes no sense to me. Nantucket has a small commercial fishery, a much smaller number of recreational fishermen and is in the middle of the ocean.

Other hearing sites include: Massachusetts Maritime Academy (Sept. 2); Gloucester (Sept 3); and Braintree (Sept. 4).

Now is the time to comment. Yapping in the tackle shop means nothing. Public comment will be accepted until 5 pm, September 30, and should be forwarded to Mike Waine, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703-842-0741 (FAX) or at mwaine@asmfc.org  (Subject line: Draft Addendum IV). For more information, contact Mike Waine, at mwaine@asmfc.org or 703-842-0740.

Derby approaches

The 69th Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby (mvderby.com) is only weeks away. The Derby begins on Sept. 14 and ends October 18. More later.

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Reeling against the drag and other hazards of boat fishing chronicled.

Michael Faber from Memphis, TN with a Vineyard bonito caught Monday out fishing with charter captain Phil Cronin. — Photo by Phil Cronin

There is a common misperception that charter captains “get paid to go fishing.”

That is not true. They get paid not to lose their minds, or in extreme cases, kill their clients.

I am not a charter captain. I have no plans to ever become one.

Twice last week, I had occasion to take people fishing in a boat. At the request of a friend, Saturday morning I took two of his visiting guests, a mother and her adult son, fishing on Vineyard Sound. I was not ambitious. My goal was to see them catch some fluke and sea bass.

The wind was stronger than predicted, as it almost always is, and the Sound was pretty choppy off Chilmark. We were drifting in about 90 feet of water. Another boat was perhaps 100 yards away. That was it.

Up the sound comes a guy full throttle in what appeared to be 32-foot cruiser. Did he make an arc around us? No. He went between us. And mom, a resident of Florida, yelled at him and made what we in the respectable writing trade refer to as “an obscene gesture.” Wow.

“Please don’t do that,” I said to her as calmly as I could. I learned long ago at Five Corners that you never know who you are shouting at.

She was justified, of course. But I knew she would go back to Florida, where I assume all boaters travel armed and an obscene gesture is considered a mild rebuke as opposed to opening fire, while I would be left to deal with the nitwit boater.

Inconsiderate boaters come with the territory. They power through a group of drifting fishermen — is there a big rush? They tie up the launch ramp or dock — why not load your boat before you are on the ramp or wash it down at home?

The fishing was slow, which surprised me. The big sea bass that seemed everywhere just a few weeks ago were scarce. With the seas getting rougher, I decided to call it a morning.

The next day, Sunday, I met my cousin’s son, his brother-in-law who was visiting from France, and his friend, at the Tisbury town dock at 7 am. I was still recovering from my previous outing, but I was determined to make good on an unfulfilled promise last summer to take the trio fishing.

They had driven from Worcester and hopped on the 6 am ferry from Woods Hole. They brought a cooler and expected to catch some fish. What they did not bring was the remotest idea of how to do it.

My Tashmoo-18 is adequate for three people but not four, so I borrowed my friend Tom’s boat. Given all the possibilities for disaster, I do not like to borrow boats. My immediate concern was not to sink Tom’s boat.

Off middle ground I rigged up three bottom rods and provided basic instruction — don’t lift the fish out of the water or it will shake out the hook (happened); lead the fish to the net with the rod (didn’t happen); lift the fish with the rod and don’t reel, reel, reel (didn’t happen, happen, happen).

My immediate concern was that one of the guys would hook a decent fish and lose his rod. We caught several fluke, one big enough to keep. I decided to liven up the action. I rigged up two spinning rods, one with a swimming plug and the other with a needle fish, and began to troll along the rip in search of bluefish. Within five minutes a blue hit the swimming plug. I reeled in the other rod and handed the rod to the Frenchman.

He immediately began to reel and reel for all he was worth. At the same time the fish pulled line off the reel. This is what is known in the business as reeling against the drag. Every crank of the handle puts another twist in the line. Enough twists and the line resembles a Slinky.

I tried coaching. “When the fish pulls stop reeling,” I said.

“Move the fish with the rod,” I said.

But the excitement had him in its grip: Crank, crank, crank. I could stand it no longer.

“Stop!” I yelled.

He froze. I could see slack in the line. “No, reel, keep reeling,” I shouted.

The bluefish was now close to the boat. I grabbed the net. The bluefish dove and surfaced again. Netting a fish requires a bit of choreography. The idea is to put pressure on the fish so it swims in the direction of the net.

My fisherman waved his rod tip and extended it over the side of the boat which kept the fish far enough from the side of the boat and my waiting net The fish went to and fro. My only chance was to grab the line and lead the fish to me. I had just taken hold of the line when the fish shook the hook. Gone.

“Did I do something wrong?” my Frenchman asked.

“Sometimes fish get away,” I said.

We would lose three more bluefish. Catch a few more fluke and sea bass. And on the way back to the dock one of the guys leaned over the side and puked. He claimed he was fine but he looked a little dazed.

I may have been frustrated, but my cousin said he and his friends had a great time. And that is what it is all about.

Kayakers unite

Martha’s Vineyard’s salt ponds and rocky indentations are tailor made for nosing around with a kayak. Matt Malowski of Oak Bluffs is the latest kayak convert. Matt wants to gauge how much interest there is in an informal M.V. kayak fishing club that would meet on a regular basis to talk fishing, share tips and get together for fishing trips. Interested fishermen should email Matt (matt@mvfishing.com). “I’ll create a list serve and begin coordinating an initial meeting to generate some ideas on how to proceed,” Matt said. “People will need to have their own kayaks and fishing gear. The hope is once we get a few people together we can start sharing ideas and knowledge, set dates and places to meet to go fishing together, and perhaps generate more interest for those who would like to learn more and get started in the adventure.”

For those who don’t want to share their email or don’t have one, Matt can be reached at 508-274-0320.

Fishing slobs

There is a small parking area off Beach Road that provides access to the culvert that connects Trapp’s Pond with Sengekontacket. I was there Sunday to look for blue crabs (pretty slim pickin’s). It appears people use the area to dump fish carcasses and shells. I also saw discarded bait that included eels, squid still in a plastic bag and other assorted trash. There is no excuse for dumping a baggie full of squid in the bushes. None.

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Catch a movie and maybe a fish on Menemsha Beach Tuesday.

A chart-topping 180-pound bigeye tuna brought it in late Saturday afternoon by the crew of Mulberry Canyon is hoisted up and weighed in. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated 3 pm, Friday with news of Cape Poge beach closure

By most accounts, The Oak Bluffs Bluewater Classic (OBBC) held last weekend went off without a hitch. No shark heads adorned boats, no protestors provided targets for beer cans and if there were arrests I did not hear about it. Pretty tame now after the Monster Shark tournament swam out of town.

Damon Sacco of Bourne, owner and operator of Castafari Sport Fishing and organizer of the Hyannis Tuna Fest, was the organizer of the first Bluewater classic. Ted Rosbeck of Edgartown helped out.

Participants on the boat Mulberry Canyon pose next to their 180-pound Big Eye Tuna after it topped the charts on Saturday.
Participants on the boat Mulberry Canyon pose next to their 180-pound Big Eye Tuna after it topped the charts on Saturday.

A total of 25 boats entered the contest. In an email, Mr. Sacco said the 2014 Oak Bluffs Bluewater Classic raised over $14,000 for charity. Proceeds went to the Island Autism Group and the MGH Colon Cancer Research Fund in memory of Kevin Glynn, he said.

Sixteen billfish — four blue marlin and 12 white marlin — were released. One bigeye tuna was landed, as were “a ton of yellowfin and mahi-mahi.”

Captain Al Gagnon of Brennans Grin took first place. Second place went to Captain Ted Rosbeck of Bad Martha. Captain John Galvin of Mulberry Canyon was third.

The biggest tuna was an 180-pound bigeye landed by Mulberry Canyon. Most billfish points went to the crew of Brennans Grin with two blue marlin. Mr. Sacco said there were 46 yellowfin tuna caught up to 95 pounds.

Steve Morris, owner of Dick’s Bait and Tackle in Oak Bluffs, participated in the tournament. Steve told me, “It was definitely a lot calmer. Not a lot of yahoos. The guys were nice and it seemed like they were just here to fish.”

The banquet was held at Dreamland. Everybody seemed to be really happy with it, Steve said.

Steve said offshore fishing is an addiction and he admitted he is “totally hooked.”

The tournament weigh in attracted a crowd of spectators to Oak Bluffs harbor.
The tournament weigh in attracted a crowd of spectators to Oak Bluffs harbor.

He explained, “You never know what’s going to be out there, a white marlin or a bigeye tuna, there’s so much out there to catch. We spent the night out there, we turned the lights on and there were squid and bait all around the boat. You just never know what’s going to be out there.”

I suggested it might also be scary to be a little boat in a very big, dark ocean far from land. Steve laughed. “This is true, this is true, that’s why you go in a big boat.”

Steve said they put the lines out Friday night to try and catch a swordfish. Crewmembers took turns sleeping. “There’s usually someone up tending the rods,” Steve said.

“And looking out for a Korean oil tanker?” I asked.

“Well you stay out of their way, for sure,” Steve said.

But they were not alone. They were part of a small fleet all hooked on offshore fishing. That is part of the fun, he said.

First bass of the summer

Matthew Strem of Edgartown holds a 15 pound striped bass he caught Friday night on his new fishing rod.
Matthew Strem of Edgartown holds a 15 pound striped bass he caught Friday night on his new fishing rod.

While the big boys were fishing offshore, Matthew Strem, 10, of Edgartown was trying out his new bass rod on South Beach with his mom and dad. On Friday night Matthew caught his first striped bass of the summer. It was 34.5 inches long and weighed in at 15 pounds.

His mother Lynn provided the details: “We drove on to the beach and used squid on his new bass fishing pole, bottom fishing. Matthew was the first one that night to catch a bass. He was so excited he couldn’t wait for dad to get the tape measure to see if it was a keeper. And it was, 34 inches long and weighed 15 pounds. It was also about 11 pm that night. He caught his fish and reeled it in all by himself, but I wasn’t surprised because Matthew has been fishing for a long time, catching many different fish. Nothing compares to the look on his face when that fish came ashore and it was a huge bass.”

Matthew did very well to land a bass on the beach in the surf. It is no easy task. It takes timing to ride the fish up on a wave. Better yet, he caught a bass. Most reports describe tough fishing for stripers from the shore. Congratulations.

Movie night on Menemsha

All fishermen should be concerned with the state of our oceans. On Tuesday night, fishermen will have an opportunity to learn just how concerned they ought to be — and go fishing.

Documentary filmmaker Bob Nixon, a seasonal resident of Chilmark, and Fisher Stevens have produced a new documentary, MISSION BLUE, which describes the life of oceanographer Sylvia Earle. The filmmakers will show their film at 8:30 pm, Tuesday on Menemsha Beach in conjunction with the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. The event is free.

Bring popcorn for the film and a fishing rod for later.

Dennis Harvey offered this description in a review for Variety Magazine: “A compelling human-interest hook and spectacular underwater photography are the highlights of Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon’s documentary.”

Mr. Harvey said, “The majesty and imperiled status of the world’s aquatic life are vividly captured in “Mission Blue.” Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon’s documentary also serves as a biographical portrait of internationally renowned oceanographer and eco-activist Sylvia Earle, whose trailblazing career and inspiring ongoing efforts provide compelling human interest, while Bryce Groark’s spectacular underwater photography offers eye candy aplenty.”

Cape Poge beach closure

Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge is currently closed for over sand vehicle access from the Dike Bridge to the gut, Chris Kennedy, Trustees superintendent said Friday. “On Tuesday, two plover chicks moved from the outside beach, north of the Dike Bridge to the bayside trail to feed,” Chris said in an email Friday.  “The next day they moved back to the outside beach but now appear likely to continue moving back and forth between the narrows and East Beach. These chicks are due to fledge in two weeks but under state and federal law we will be required to keep all of Cape Poge closed until these chicks fledge. We encourage property users to call the 24 hour recorded beach hotline at 508-627-8390 for updated information. All of Leland Beach and Norton Point Beach are open for OSV access. Permits are required.”

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The ground pounders fought the tide and sea bass in the VFW fluke derby.

The VFW Fluke Derby was a boatload of fun for the kids. Left to right: Elizabeth O'Brien, Katherine O'Brien, David Packer, Nathan Packer, Jack Simpson, Jake Mundell, Molly Menton, and Charlotte Packer. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

I fished a four-aspirin, two-Aleve weekend. After two days of bouncing lead weight in 80 plus feet of water in Vineyard Sound for two days in the VFW Fluke Derby held Saturday and Sunday my body felt like Poseidon had gone over every muscle in my back and arms with a hammer.

The key to catching fluke is to stay in contact with the bottom where fluke lie in wait for prey. That takes weight. How much depends on current and water depth.

Kid champs. From left, Kendall Nerney, Corbin Buchwald, Tate Buchwald, Darien Kral, and Joseph Medeiros.
Kid champs. From left, Kendall Nerney, Corbin Buchwald, Tate Buchwald, Darien Kral, and Joseph Medeiros.

On Saturday, the wind was calm and the fishing was relatively easy. Most of the competitors worked hard to pick up a fluke amid the carpet of sea bass. Sunday, conditions changed. A strong southwest wind coupled with the fast flowing easterly tide made it tough to hold bottom.

Many of the boats worked the deep water holes off Seven Gates, between Cape Higgon and Cedar Tree Neck, where the water depths range between 80 and 108 feet and the big fish always seem to lie. By about 11 am, Sunday it took an engine block to hold bottom.

Saturday, my teammates, Barry Stringfellow and Nathaniel Horwitz, met me at 5 am at Tashmoo landing. I wanted to get an early start so I could take full advantage of the morning rising tide. On Sunday, my major concern was not getting caught on Vineyard Sound about noon when the tide would begin to drop against the wind. Sea conditions change rapidly once the tide turns and the ride back would have been quite uncomfortable and wet in my 18-foot Tashmoo.

Team MV Times held the lead Saturday night. But I knew it was tenuous and that a big fish on Sunday would determine the winner. With teams led by Cooper Gilkes of Edgartown and Bill Dreyer of West Tisbury on the water we were hanging on to the lead with a frayed piece of braid.

On Sunday, Billy caught an 11.39-pound fluke that earned him the fluke king crown and lifted his team Breakaway (Roger Kubiak and Joe Altavilla) into the winner’s circle. It was a sweet victory for Billy, Roger and Joe, who have lost in the past by just ounces.

VFW fluke tournament impresario Peter Herrmann with his grandchildren (Darien, Dylan and Emily Kral) and new eagle.
VFW fluke tournament impresario Peter Herrmann with his grandchildren (Darien, Dylan and Emily Kral) and new eagle.

A cable news pundit Friday reporting on President Obama’s planned two week family vacation in August on Martha’s Vineyard described the Island as “ritzy and glamorous.” I suppose that impression would be accurate if one’s world only encompassed kiss-kiss cocktail parties and swank dinners in summer echo chambers. It sure does not describe the VFW Fluke Derby, and for that I am very grateful.

For the past ten years Roger and Joe have come up to fish the fluke derby with Bill. Joe is from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and Roger is from some town in New Jersey he kept, as near as I could tell, saying was “Metouchem.” I could not get the spelling straight in the noisy dining room and since it is New Jersey I did not really care.

I asked the two winning team members why they like fishing the fluke derby other than the fact that Billy takes them out and shows them a great time.

“They do a great job for the kids,” Joe said.

“Basically for the kids,” Roger said.

I had to ask, “Have you guys ever run for elected public office?” They looked at me quizzically. I explained that whenever someone starts telling me they’re doing it for the kids I figure he or she is running for office.

“These guys come up here,” Billy said, “They have a great time fishing. they fill their cooler full of sea bass and fluke, mostly fluke, and then they go home and look like heroes. They feed the town.”

Daughters, sons, cousins and family members they never knew they had text and call to ask about fresh fish. “It’s a good excuse to get together and fish for a long, long weekend,” Bill said.

Big kid champs, winners of the team competition. From left, Roger Kubiak, Bill Dreyer, and Joe Altavilla.
Big kid champs, winners of the team competition. From left, Roger Kubiak, Bill Dreyer, and Joe Altavilla.

John and Janet Packer of Vineyard Haven loaded up a boatful of kids Friday night. The kids sleep on the boat so that the only one who has to get up early is dad. The family has been a part of the tournament every year. Same for Bill and Kris O’Brien of Oak Bluffs and their two daughters. This year the family could only fish one day, but Bill said, “If I can only fish a day I’m goin’.”

The highlight of the awards ceremony is always the auction. Think of it as the anti-matter of every swank, high-priced Vineyard fundraiser. No celebrities. Just fun and spirited bidding.

Tournament organizer Peter Herrmann began the bidding for a set of wine glasses with the derby fluke logo at $30. $40 — $55 — $65 said winning bidder Janet Packer, who was determined not to be outdone.

A large stuffed bald eagle doll generated a bidding battle between Mark Morris and Jarda Kral. The three Kral kids urged dad to stay in the mix. But when the price hit $80 he stepped off the pedal. Mark peeled off $80 and then turned to the Krals. “You guys can have it,” he said.

The VFW Fluke Derby is that kind of tournament.

Largest fluke: 1. Bill Dreyer (11.39); 2. Cooper Gilkes (7.05); 3. Peter Cox (6.68).

Largest sea bass: Kendall Nerney (5.4)

Kids (12 and under): 1. Joseph Medeiros (5.5); 2. Tate Buchwald (4.18); 3. Darien Kral (4.04); 4. Corbin Buchwald (3.8); 5. Radio Goulart (2.42).

Teens (13-16): 1. Brendon Morris (3.91); 2. Richard Gibson (3.75); 3. Nathaniel Packer (2.80).

Teams: 1. Breakaway (Bill Dreyer, Roger Kubiak, Joe Altavilla) 39.28; 2. Sole Men (Cooper Gilkes, Rick Harvey) 33.85; 3. Austin O (Keith Olsen, Walter Tomkins, Galvin Tomkins, Michael Tomkins) 31.86; 4. MV Times (Nelson Sigelman, Barry Stringfellow, Nathaniel Horwitz) 29.84.

Derby Book launch

Hold a five-week fishing tournament on an Island with lots of crazy fishermen for more than six decades and what do you get? Lots of fishing stories.

Add the skills 25 years ago of a talented Edgartown artist who was devoted to the nonprofit organization and agreed to create a print each year to be sold to help fund the tournament and what are you left with? A series of images by Ray Ellis that captured the excitement, mood and beauty of fishing on Martha’s Vineyard.

Ed Jerome, longtime Derby president, has collected 27 Derby stories, many previously published, and put them together with Ray Ellis Derby prints into an anthology titled, “An Amazing Story of the Vineyard’s Derby, Twenty-five years of Paintings, History and Fishing.”

There will be a reception and book signing to celebrate the publication of the book from 5 to 7 pm, Friday, July 18 at Edgartown Books on Main Street in Edgartown. Many of the contributors will be present to sign books. For more information, call 508-627-8463 or go to Edgartownbooks.com.

Speaking of

Speaking of the Derby and books, Ron Domurat of Edgartown has published a collection of Derby stories in a self-published paperback titled, “Three Decades of The Derby, A collection of Stories from Thirty Years of Participation in Martha’s Vineyard Fall Fishing Classic.”

I always knew Ron was a skillful fisherman. Now add writer to his portfolio. For anyone familiar with the Derby the stories will evoke memories of great fishermen and good times with men that include Don Mohr, Abe Williams, Gordon Ditchfield, Al “Angie” Angelone, Marsh Bryan, and Walter Lison.

Last chapter

Henry “Hank” A. Schauer died on Friday, July 4, 2014, at the Arnold Walter Nursing Home in Hazlet, New Jersey. He was 85. His obituary said, “He lived to fish.”

A memorial service will be held at 11 am on Saturday, July 19, at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Navesink. Interment will be private. Memorial donations may be made to the

Alzheimer’s Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter, 400 Morris Ave., Suite 251, Denville NJ 07934. Please visit Hank’s memorial website atwww.johnedayfuneralhome.com.

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Measured by what matters, the 23rd Catch and Release tournament was a great success.

Peter Sliwkowski managed to escape a stiff northeast wind Saturday night on the Chappy side of Katama Bay. — Photo by John Piekos

The northeast wind blew at more than 20 miles per hour and the temperature made it feel like the first day of March rather than the last day of May, making for less than ideal conditions for the 124 fishermen casting about in the 23rd Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Striped Bass Catch and Release Tournament last Saturday night.

Army Captain Matthew Blair, an Apache helicopter pilot assigned to the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, presented a flag he carried on a combat mission in Afghanistan to Rod and Gun club president Bob Delisle (left) and treasurer Cliff Meehan.
Army Captain Matthew Blair, an Apache helicopter pilot assigned to the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, presented a flag he carried on a combat mission in Afghanistan to Rod and Gun club president Bob Delisle (left) and treasurer Cliff Meehan.

The fishing reflected the conditions — miserable by Island standards. About 184 bass, mostly small, were caught and released by fishermen who struggled from 7 pm until 2 am Sunday morning to find any spot facing the water out of the battering wind.

But a bad day of fishing in the catch and release beats a good day in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. One year ago, Army Captain Matthew Blair was in the hospital receiving treatment for the foot he fractured while on his third deployment to Afghanistan.

At the awards ceremony Sunday morning, Captain Blair, an Apache helicopter pilot assigned to the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was happy to have the opportunity to fish on Martha’s Vineyard with his father, Jim Blair of Norton, his cousin Dean Blair and friends. And the more than 100 fishermen and guests sitting in the regional high school cafeteria were very happy to welcome him back.

For those who thought they were seeing double, they were. Matthew, 35, and his twin brother Army Captain Nicholas Blair, 25th Engineers stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, where he is part of the Global Response Force, are a catch and release tag team pair. In the past seven years their schedules have only allowed the brothers to fish the tournament together once.

Last year, Nicholas fished the catch and release undeterred by a cast on the foot he broke during a training exercise one month earlier. Here is one of those twin psychic connection anecdotes. Nicholas broke his foot on May 2, 2013. One week later, Matthew sustained a series of fractures in his foot while on a mission (which he completed despite his injuries).

In conversation, both brothers are humble about their military service. Quiet, competent, and professional in demeanor, they represent their service well.

The highlight of the awards ceremony held Sunday morning came when Captain Blair presented an American flag he carried with him in his Apache helicopter during a combat mission in Afghanistan near the Khyber Pass to rod and gun club president Bob Delisle and treasurer Cliff Meehan. It was a way to say thanks, he said, for an organization and event that has meant so much to him and his family.

Mattered a lot

The tournament presented Captain Matthew Blair with an inlaid wooden Martha's Vineyard fishing flag donated by Brian Oneil of Rustic Marlin Designs.
The tournament presented Captain Matthew Blair with an inlaid wooden Martha’s Vineyard fishing flag donated by Brian Oneil of Rustic Marlin Designs.

I spoke to Matthew by phone Monday as he returned to the 10th Mountain Division base at Fort Drum, New York, after three days on the Vineyard. Matthew said that but for the tournament he would not have taken up fly fishing.

He said he values the tournament for the opportunity it provides to spend time with his father, to fish and enjoy the Island. “Just some good old American reset time,” he said.

Military service is a Blair family tradition. A sister, Kristen (Blair) Mayer, is an Air Force captain who for a time was stationed at a hospital in Kabul.

“This last deployment Kristen and I worked together,” Matthew said. “She was running a hospital in Kabul and I was outside Fenty by the Khyber Pass and she came up one day and I put her in the helicopter and I showed her around. That was a rare family experience meeting in a war zone.”

Matthew is married with two children, a four-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. Between his military and family responsibilities, free time to go fishing is rare.

Last year, knowing Matthew was in the hospital, the fishermen signed a catch and release tee-shirt to wish him well. For most of us, war is a distant rumble of thunder, a snippet of news. I suspect few of us realized that the smallest gesture of thanks can often be quite meaningful for those who serve.

In one of the more emotional moments of the ceremony Sunday, Matthew thanked those in the room for thinking of him. I asked him about that moment.

Matthew said that the routine of deployment in a war zone pushes home to the background. “When you get injured and sent to Walter Reed or any of the military hospitals, it’s very antiseptic and you are separated from anybody you are used to working with, and you are separated from your family, so it is like a deployment unto itself.”

Professional military men and women share a strong sense of duty. Matthew said that sitting in the hospital for three months far from the battle was difficult.

“I had been working 12 hours a day,” he said, “flying my absolute maximums every day and night and then when I got hurt I felt like I had let the team down. Like I was failing the Army by getting hurt.”

The tee-shirt and the card he received from the rod and gun club reminded him that his service was appreciated. “It mattered a lot,” he said, “because it kept me from reinforcing my own apprehension that I was letting people down.”

The flag now in a case at the rod and gun club was carried during a night assault on two towns in conjunction with the 101st Airborne in an effort to capture Taliban supporters. “It was two big raids. There were a lot of moving pieces. Lots of helicopters landing at night. Lots of troops moving around at night.”

Matthew served three tours in Afghanistan for a total of 24 months, beginning in 2007. The changing tempo of the war and the push to shift responsibility to the Afghan forces has created new challenges for those trained to bring the fight to the enemy, he said.

The Apache helicopter is a lethal piece of military equipment packed with high tech weapons systems and capable of flying 171 miles per hour. It carries a pilot and a co-pilot gunner.

Asked if it is fun to fly, without adding the qualification of people shooting at him, Matthew said, “It’s true. It’s a lot of work to be a pilot, but when you get to do the real yanking and banking at high speeds at low altitude it’s the greatest fun in the world.”

He said the austere Afghanistan environment was challenging but did not deter from the thrill. “Flying in the mountains at those speeds is really great, I love doing it.”

The first time Matthew fished the tournament he had just returned from Afghanistan. Upon each subsequent return he fished the tournament. “My father would always be looking at the clock saying, remember, if you’re going to be home in May get June off for the tournament.”

Following a revolving cycle of deployments, for the first time in a decade, Captain Blair and his unit are not home preparing to leave. World politics could intercede, but for now he is enjoying spending time at home with his family.

It is a short hop by helicopter from Fort Drum to the Vineyard. I told Matthew that his unit would be welcome and with no scheduled deployment he could begin preparing for the 24th catch and release.

“I’m already looking at the calendar for next year,” Matthew said.

Results

Tournament co-chairman Cooper Gilkes (right) presenåted an Orvis Helios fly rod to awards ceremony host Nelson Sigelman in appreciation of 23 years of nonstop kidding around.
Tournament co-chairman Cooper Gilkes (right) presenåted an Orvis Helios fly rod to awards ceremony host Nelson Sigelman in appreciation of 23 years of nonstop kidding around.

Roberto Germani Trophy for the most striped bass caught and released by a team: 1. John Kollett, Sandra Demel (11 fish average); 2. Dave Thompson, Tom Carroway (Team Sprintless, 8.5 avg.); 3. Cooper Gilkes, Jackie Jordan, Pete Kutzer, Jess McGlothlan, Todd Cascone, Aaron Cascone, Tom Zemianek, Donald O’Shaughnessy, Jr. (Team High Stickers, 6 avg.)

Sonny and Joey Beaulieu Trophy for the largest striped bass caught and released: Dean Blair, 72 inches (44 inches in length, 28 inches in girth).

Arnold Spofford Trophy for the most fish caught and released by a team using one fly: 1. Seth Woods, Mac Haskell, Charlie Finnerty (Team Caddyshack, 2.3 avg.); 2. Jeffrey Stevens, Scott MacCaferri, Ed Tatro (Team Last Cast, 2 fish avg.); 3. James J. Jackson, Mark G. Wrabel (Team Bassholes, .5 fish avg.)

Larry’s Bass Blast

There is shore and boat competition striper action in this month-long tournament that ends June 30. Winners split the kitty. For more information, call the tackle shop at 508-627-5088.

Current tide charts are here.

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Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin announced on Tuesday that fishermen may now use mobile devices such as iPhone and Android smartphones to purchase and display recreational fishing licenses and permits through the MassFishHunt licensing system.

“This promises to be a great convenience for Massachusetts recreational anglers, who can now purchase and display their fishing license using their smartphone instead of carrying a hard copy,” Commissioner Griffin said in a press release. “Outdoor sporting may be a timeless hobby, but these modern updates offer convenience and ease for every angler.”

The initial phase of the mobile device optimization project gives MassFishHunt customers the ability to easily use smartphones to purchase and display recreational saltwater fishing permits, freshwater fishing licenses, and trapping licenses. Hunting and sporting licenses are not available for purchase using mobile devices at this time, but will be later in 2014.

For questions or for help using MassFishHunt, please contact the Active Outdoors Help Desk at 1-888-773-8450 or email mahfwebmaster@als-xtn.com.

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New rod and reel in hand I went looking for some fish and found them.

Matthew Passalacqua, executive chef at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Katama, displays a bluefish he caught Tuesday afternoon. — Photo courtesy of Matthew Passalacqua

I was not invited to the Cannes Film Festival which began last Wednesday in Cannes, France. I commented on that fact to my wife Norma as we watched starlets stride and pause for photos on the red carpet like so many show horses in front of a horde of gawkers and photographers on one of the many evening programs that report on that sort of senseless news.

My point to Norma was that had I been invited to Cannes I would have been unable to throw a fishing rod on my truck Saturday afternoon and go looking for bluefish. I knew there were fish on Chappy, but I wanted to explore. The wind was out of the southwest and conditions were perfect for bluefish.

I had a nine-foot, medium weight St. Croix Wild River outfitted with a Penn Battle 4000 reel. It is a relatively light outfit that is able to handle decent size fish. My lure of choice was a lime green Spofford’s needle fish with all the treble hooks removed and one single tail hook. It casts well and bluefish love it.

I decided to try the flats up the beach to the north of Edgartown Light. I started walking and casting. Just off Eel Pond I had my first hit, a slashing strike that sent a splash of water into the bright sunlight. I never get tired of watching bluefish hit surface lures, and the first hit of the season always gets the adrenaline pumping.

Another hundred yards up the beach and I was into the fish thick. Almost every cast brought a strike. I landed a fish I estimated to weigh about 5 pounds destined for the grill and quickly slit the gills to bleed it. Then I dug a small ditch on the beach and placed the fish in it to keep it cool in the afternoon sun.

The poor reputation bluefish has as table fare is undeserved. It may never be a substitute for halibut, but when treated well it is excellent on the grill. And it is one of our plentiful local fish.

For entertainment I began reeling as fast as I could. Groups of bluefish pursued the lure, toothy mouths wide open and snapping. It was quite a sight and I was all alone. Beats Cannes any day.

And the winner is

Several weeks ago, Times reporter Barry Stringfellow recommended that we host a contest for the first bluefish caught on the Island. I saw through his motives immediately — he wanted to know where the fish were as soon as they arrived — and I agreed it was a good idea.

LeRoux in Vineyard Haven, which stocks all manner of high quality kitchen goods that any chef would need to prepare a fresh caught fish, provided a $50 gift certificate as a prize. On Thursday, May 15, Ron Domurat of Edgartown sent a photo of a bluefish he caught on Chappy to The Times. Ron did not know anything about the contest he had just won.

Barry sent Ron an email congratulating him on his prize. And that is when Ron really showed the stuff that champs are made of.

“Hi Barry, thanks but I may not have been the first one,” he wrote in an email. “Mike Carotta travels all the way from Nebraska to fish here every spring. He’s been doing it for 40 years. We were on the same ferry to Chappy and he preceded me out to the beach. He went directly to Wasque and I went to Lelands Point where I caught a BF on my first cast with a 3 oz. Kasmaster. I had fish in the 7-10 range on my first eight casts and ended up with a total of 15 for the day. There were a lot of fish and I was seeing them moving through in the tops of the waves. The first fish was caught around 3:30 pm. When I caught up with Mike at Wasque around 4:30, he had six BF on the beach and said they were there when he arrived. Any chance of splitting the prize? It could have been a tie!”

When Mike learned about Ron’s gesture he told Ron to keep the prize. His only request? “How ‘bout we share the recognition,” Mike said in an email. “My kids would get a kick out of the mention.”

And the judge’s decision? Next season Ron invite Mike to a barbecue and use the gear he bought at LeRoux to cook the fish.

Dick’s hosts tournament

Dick’s Bait & Tackle in Oak Bluffs will host its 22nd Annual Memorial Day Weekend Derby. The contest begins at 12:01 am, Friday morning and ends at noon Monday.

The fishermen who catch the heaviest bluefish or bass from the shore or a boat will earn some nice prizes. Last year, the winning bass were all under 20 pounds and the bluefish were under 8 pounds.

The cost to enter is $30 and all the entry money goes right into the prizes, Doug Asselin, who was watching the shop when I called, told me. Remember, bass must be at least 32 inches long to weigh in.

Doug said the fishing for bluefish has been excellant. On Chappy Monday he caught 15 fish. Nothing huge but lots of fun, he said.

One good sign is the presence of huge schools of squid in Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds. Lots of squid attract lots of fish, so the ingredients are coming together for some good fishing in the weeks ahead.

Call 508-693-7669 for more information or go to dicksbait@comcast.net.

Catch and release and have fun

The 23rd annual Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Fly Rod Striped Bass Catch and Release tournament takes place next Saturday night, May 31.

Hopefully, the fish will cooperate. Irrespective, I expect to have a great time. Those who have participated in past tournaments know this is more a state of mind than a fishing tournament. Last year’s contest, which generated a $1,200 donation to the Wounded Warrior’s Project, certainly demonstrated the generosity of spirit and camaraderie that has become a highlight of the Sunday morning breakfast and awards ceremony.

Each winter, tournament co-chairman Cooper Gilkes and I select a date for the contest. We have tried late in June, early in June, and late in May. We have a pretty good record of generating high winds, torrential rains or both. This year’s date was selected to take advantage of a dark moon, good tides, and, hopefully, the arrival of plenty of striped bass.

There are three prize categories: the Roberto Germani Trophy, for the most striped bass caught and released by a team; the Sonny and Joey Beaulieu Trophy, for the largest striped bass caught and released; and the Arnold Spofford Trophy, for the most fish caught and released by a team using one fly per team member. The club will host a breakfast in the high school cafeteria Sunday morning, June 1, followed by an awards ceremony at 9:30 am.

Prizes are not awarded based on catch totals. The winners get simple plaques. We draw registration blanks to hand out the prizes that include custom collections of saltwater flies, very expensive fly rods and reels, and assorted gear, almost all of it donated by the participants.

The entry fee is $35. For tournament information or to contribute prizes, contact Cooper Gilkes at 508-627-3909.

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Ernest Hemingway, who once displayed a prized Scup next to a Marlin, will not be visiting Oak Bluffs this summer. — Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Monster Scup tourney to come to OB.

Just when you thought the bloody mayhem was over in Oak Bluffs, a group of investors announced today that a Monster Scup Tournament will be held this July 21-14.

Not-so-Monster Scup, detail.
Not-so-Monster Scup, detail.

“The tournament serves two purposes,” said Oak Bluffs mayor Chris Alley. “The monster scup problem is out of hand. They’re decimating the food chain in our waters. They’re even scaring the monster sharks away. We have to kill as many as we can,” he said with an urgent tone.

“On the plus side, they’re a lot bloodier than sharks when you slice them open, and you never know what you’ll find, like that jet skier last year.”

“I’m all for it,” said Peter Martell, owner of the Wesley Hotel. “Between the fishermen, their families, and all the national guard, it’s going to bring a lot of business to Oak Bluffs.”

(April Fools).

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DFW worker Aaron Best used a net to stock Duarte's Pond in March 2013. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

A Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) tank truck is scheduled to arrive on Martha’s Vineyard Tuesday, April 1, with the first shipment of much awaited trout. No fooling.

The truck will deliver a mix of brook, brown, rainbow, and tiger trout to four Island ponds — about 1,000 trout in all carried over from the Sandwich State Fish Hatchery.

The truck’s route will include Duarte’s Pond, Uncle Seth’s Pond and Old Mill Pond in West Tisbury and Upper Lagoon Pond in Oak Bluffs.

State law prohibits the use of any lead fishing sinkers and lead jigs that weigh less than 1 ounce in fresh water. Fishermen are allowed a limit of three trout per day from ponds. Fishermen 15 years of age and older must have a Massachusetts freshwater fishing license. Licenses are available from town clerks in Chilmark and West Tisbury, from the county and online.

Fishing and sporting license buyers pay for the stocked trout. MassWildlife, the umbrella agency, is supported by license buyers and federal taxes on fishing equipment (Wallop-Breaux) and hunting equipment (Pittman-Robertson).

The popular annual Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun club kids trout derby at Duarte’s Pond is scheduled on Saturday, May 3. In addition to state-provided trout, the club pays for an additional stocking of trout to introduce youngsters to the fun of fishing.

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At the Eastern Fishing & Outdoor Exposition in Worcester on February 8, Department of Fish and Game officials presented plaques to several young Island saltwater fishing derby winners. Left to right (rear): Division of Marine Fisheries director Paul Diodati; Fish and Game commissioner Mary B. Griffin; DMF assistant director Mike Armstrong. Left to right (front): Elizabeth O’Brien won in the bluefish and bonito categories; Molly Menton largest fluke; Landon Cormie of Vineyard Haven, largest Spanish mackerel. — Photo courtesy Kris O' Brien

Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) honored more than 80 top freshwater and saltwater anglers at the Eastern Fishing & Outdoor Exposition in Worcester on Saturday, February 8. The recipients included seven Martha’s Vineyard fishermen.

Three Vineyard junior fishermen traveled to Worcester to receive their plaques in the Massachusetts Saltwater Derby, an annual event open to all fishermen.

Elizabeth O’Brien of Oak Bluffs won in two junior categories, bluefish (12 pounds, 9 ounces) and bonito (9 pounds, 1 ounce). Her mom, Kristine O’Brien, came in first in the women’s division, also with a 9-pound, 1-ounce bonito.

Junior Molly Menton of Vineyard Haven received a plaque for her winning 9-pound, 6-ounce fluke.

Landon Cormie of Vineyard Haven caught a 4-pound, 14-ounce Spanish mackerel, a tasty southern visitor not seen in great abundance here, and won a prize.

Seasonal Island resident Brian Nunes-Vais of Vineyard Haven and New Jersey caught a 6-pound, 11-ounce Spanish mackerel to take the men’s division prize.

Robert Clay of Chappaquiddick was honored for his 11-pound, 8-ounce bonito. It was the same fish that won him a boat grand leader spot in the 2013 Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.

Boat bluefish Derby grand leader, Daniel Hiemer of Diemelsee-Adorf, Germany, was visiting in-laws in Edgartown when he caught his winning 19-pound, 11-ounce bluefish.

For a list of winners and information on the state fishing derby go to mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dmf/.