Catch and release was a measured success

Norma Sigelman hauls in a big calamari. — File photo by Nelson Sigelman

Fishing excitement and fun swims in all shapes and sizes. There is the big striped bass and then there is the squid.

Over the course of 20 years of marriage, my wife, Norma, has considered fishing to be a wonderful sport that she was happy to share with me at the dinner table. In her mind, fishing has been a sport that brings her many hours of enjoyment because when I go fishing she hasal the house all to herself.

On Monday night she did something she had not done since we dated — dating is similar to the stock market in that prior performance is no guarantee of future success or willingness — she went fishing with me.

Granted, the invitation I extended did not involve long hours of casting on a dark beach, or bobbing on the ocean under a hot sun.

“Want to go squidding,” I asked her Monday. “We’ll call Heather and Charles. If they’re back from Maine we can pack up some smoked venison sausage and wine for the beach.”

Norma thought that was a great idea. I called Heather and Charles Klinck of West Tisbury and Union Springs, Alabama. “Want to go on an adventure?” I asked. Not surprisingly, they were game.

The motivation for the invitation was the appearance of squid along State Beach. Generally, squid appear in the harbors and are caught jigging from docks where there is enough light to attract the tubular cephalopods.

But while fishing for striped bass not too successfully Saturday night in the Rod and Gun club’s fly rod catch and release tournament, my partner Tom Robinson and I found not bass, but squid. Other fishermen reported the same phenomenon.

So Monday night, our little party that included squid outfitter Cooper Gilkes arrived on State Beach. Many years ago, Cooper gave me some very good advice based on years of guiding. “A husband should never try to teach his wife how to fish,” Coop said.

Two minutes into trying to explain to Norma how to cast the rod, I recalled that sage advice. “Coop,” I said. “Remember what you once said about husbands teaching wives? Please help Norma.”

In about ten minutes Norma was hauling in squid. And she was having a ball doing it. Heather and Charles were having equal success.

For the uninitiated, squid jigs come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Think of an inverted umbrella without the fabric and sharp pointy tines. When the squid grabs the jig, which I assume looks tasty to a squid, the squidder gives a quick tug.

Interestingly, squid can be as picky and wary as trout or as aggressive as a bluefish. At one point in the evening, Charles was hauling in squid while the rest of us struggled. The difference was the jig.

On Tuesday Heather sent me an email. She wrote, “I have been cleaning squid for two hours. I got 30 cleaned … Where does all this ink come from???? They look so nice and clean in the sink and then wham, ink everywhere in your hands, in the sink, in the trash, all over the squid! Well, they weren’t too hard to clean, just messy … We had a great time last night, thanks for inviting us.”

Fun, it’s all a matter of attitude, not size or species.

Catch and Release was a measured success

Measured by the number of fish caught and the number of fishermen who participated, the 19th annual Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Striped Bass Catch and Release Tournament on Saturday night was a measured success.

A total of 124 fishermen fished the one-night contest that I help organize and host. That number was down from the 193 fishermen who joined last year. Why the decline?

From what we could gather, many of those who had attended past tournaments had conflicts that ran the gamut from scheduled home improvements to a tarpon fishing trip. Last year, the fishing was disappointing and that may have also contributed to the low turnout.

On Saturday afternoon, the weather forecasters warned of lightning, torrential rain and hail that evening. Based on earlier fishing results, the fishing forecasters said there were plenty of striped bass around.

In both cases the forecasts turned out to be wrong. The predicted bad weather slid north of the Vineyard and it was difficult to locate fish in any numbers.

But if we measured success by numbers of fish or weather, this tournament would have ended a long time ago. Most everyone had a very good time and many fishermen walked away with some nice prizes courtesy of very generous contributors.

Of special note, in addition to contributing a fly rod prize, the Norton Family presented a check for $500 to the club to benefit youth programs. Ralph Norton of Oak Bluffs made some touching remarks in which he spoke about how much his father, William “Billy” Norton, loved the tournament. He said the rod was really from his dad.

In addition to the fishing, a few other plans did not work out. The club had expected to host members of “Project Healing Waters,” an organization that assists active and retired military personnel with their physical and emotional recovery, by introducing or rebuilding fly fishing skills.

Unfortunately, about a month before the tournament we learned that for various reasons the Project had been unable to find vets capable of making the trip.

We were unwilling to give up and began thinking of some way we could take advantage of the generous offers and honor members of the military. We contacted the 1st Battalion 25th Marines Regiment, based at Fort Devens.

Three Marines planned to take advantage of our last minute offer of a Vineyard fishing trip. But the Marines are busy and one by one each man was forced to cancel.

As it turned out and unknown to us until the end of the awards ceremony, we hosted three militay men. Army Lt. Nicholas Blair, just back from Iraq, his brother Army Lt. Matthew Blair, both of Norton, and their cousin, retired Lt. Colonel Dean Blair, a former Marine and Army veteran, now specialist in an occupation he could not discuss, who was wounded in Iraq in August, 2007.

Asked why he did not say anything, Nick said he did not want to make a big deal. What a credit he and his family are to the country and the tournament.

The club’s current plan is to host a military group next year. All donations have been identified for that purpose, Club president Bob DeLisle said.

There is one more snafu to describe. There is no record of the winners in two categories.

We lost the catch reports fishermen turned in that were used to determine the winners of the Roberto Germani Trophy for the most striped bass caught and released by a team, and the Arnold Spofford Trophy for the most fish caught and released by a team using one fly.

That is what happens when two fishermen (Coop and me) try to keep track of catch records after fishing all night and hosting an awards ceremony.

We do know who won the Sonny and Joey Beaulieu Trophy for the largest striped bass caught and released. Andy Monte caught a bass 40 inches long and 19.5 inches around.

According to the catch reports we do have and the vague estimates of those on the registration desk, fishermen hooked and released approximately 100 bass. Even accounting for fishermen who did not turn in a catch report that was considerably less than last year’s total of 146 striped bass.

Each year a number of factors affect the choice of a tournament date. Generally, the goal is to avoid the full moon and high school graduation, and avoid the building summer crush. Perhaps it would be better to schedule the tournament later in June when the fishing is more consistent. I am interested in hearing what people think.

Lost fly box

A fisherman turned in a tan fly box that contains a very nice assortment. The box is at Coop’s.

Father’s Day stories wanted

Father’s Day is Sunday, June 20. Do you have a photo and favorite memory of fishing with dad? Please forward your photo with a short story and description of your dad to me at The Times.

I will publish a selection in the newspaper and all the stories on the web in the issue of June 17. Photos should be mailed, e-mailed (, or dropped off at The Times no later than Monday.