Martha’s Vineyard fluke derby means fun and good eats


Fluke are flounder on steroids with a disposition and set of teeth that makes them seem more like bluefish. The fish are often referred to as doormats.

The monster fluke John Schillinger holds in the photo nearby makes it clear how fluke came by that name. That is a big fluke.

Phil Cronin, who was nice enough to email the photo to me, said the fish measured 33-inches by 15-inches. John caught it while exploring new holes for future fluke trips.

It is likely John was scouting in preparation for the 11th annual Martha’s Vineyard Fluke Fishing Derby sponsored by VFW Post 9261 on Towanticut Avenue in Oak Bluffs.

The VFW fluke derby is very much an Islanders’ tournament. No glitz, no mention on the pages of the Herald’s “Inside Track” or the Globe’s “Names” section — no likelihood that Lady Gaga will show up at the awards barbecue (Who is Lady Gaga, and why do I keep hearing her name mentioned?).

Victory brings fluke glory and bragging rights in the Island’s local coffee and tackle shops. I like the fluke tournament and the awards barbecue held in the VFW on Sunday, a place completely lacking in the sort of pretension associated with Martha’s Vineyard that begins to get tiring amid the summer hype.

Fluke fishing is not difficult to master. But there are some fundamentals you should know: have a big net ready and keep your hook on the bottom.

Fluke lay flat on the bottom waiting to ambush prey. The best technique to catch a fluke is to drop a weighted fluke rig down to the bottom until you feel the lead hit bottom, then begin to bounce it as the boat drifts. If you lose contact with the bottom you will need to add more weight. When the tide is running with the wind in Vineyard Sound it is not unusual to need 10-ounces of weight to stay in contact with the bottom when fishing in very deep water.

Using braided rather than monofilament line will help provide better contact with the bottom. The braid is thinner and has little stretch. The larger fish will be in deep holes and the ability to quickly set the hook when you feel a bite is essential.

Most large fluke are lost on the surface when an excited fishermen attempts to net a fish too soon. Fluke are very powerful. If you want to land a big fish do not bring a dinky net to a fluke fight.

Slowly lead the fish up the water column and keep constant tension so the fish cannot shake the hook. If you pull the fish up too quickly and it breaks the surface, one shake of the its head is usually all it takes to send the hook flying.

I find that the best technique is for the person on the net to put the net in the water and let the fisherman lead the fish towards the net. The net man scoops up the fish. Timing is critical.

The best part about catching fluke is eating fluke. I fillet my fish in quarters. Dust the quarters in flour seasoned with Old Bays, dip into an egg wash then dip into Panko bread crumbs. The Panko-style bread crumbs are the key to crispy fillets. Add a slice of lemon and you are set

The Fluke Derby is Saturday and Sunday. Weigh-in is from 4 to 6 pm. The Sunday cookout begins about 5:30 pm.

The entry fee is $20 for adults, and $10 for seniors over 65 and teens between 13 and 17. Kids 12 and under are free.

In addition to the individual contest, there is a team competition based on the four heaviest fish weighed in each day.

For more information, to donate prizes, or in the event of weather cancellations call derby director Peter Hermann at 774-563-0293.

Sail MV offers bang-up time

The lineup for the annual Sail Martha’s Vineyard auction on Saturday includes an item of particular interest to bird hunters and fishermen looking for a unique adventure.

Charles and Heather Klinck, West Tisbury seasonal residents, have arranged to donate a stay at Shenandoah Plantation in Bullock County, Alabama.

The auction item includes two morning quail hunts over trained pointers with overnight accommodations and all meals included for two people. Shenandoah is a lovely 500-acre spread (think of Disney World for hunters and fishermen) that includes a 40-acre trophy bass lake, a skeet range, archery range, rifle range, tennis, hiking trails, and lodge with all the amenities of a fine country club.

Union Springs is known as the “Field Trial Capitol of the World.” Cooper Gilkes and I visited the Klincks at their home in Union Springs in January. I can attest to the fine Southern hospitality and beauty you will find at Shenandoah.

We had a ball. For a detailed account and photos go to: and search for my Feb. 11 story titled “Island hunters find fun, friends in Alabama.”

For more information on the trip give Charles a call at 508-696-6715. Charles also said he will bid in place of people who cannot be present at the auction.

Sail MV is a nonprofit sailing program for young people. The auction will be held at the Tisbury Wharf. For more information on the auction call 508-686-7644 or go to

For more information on Shenandoah Plantation, visit

Commercial striper season

The Massachusetts commercial striped bass season opens Tuesday, July 13 and will continue until the quota is filled. I hear mixed reports. The fishing appears to be slow with some standout days.

Fishermen who hold a commercial license may only keep five fish on Sunday and 30 fish on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Unlike the recreational limit of 28-inches, stripers for sale must be a minimum of 32-inches in length and may be sold only to licensed dealers.

The bass regulations are available on the DMF website.

The Division of Marine Fisheries regulatory intent is to avoid a market glut and maintain a strong market price; supply local fish to the markets and restaurants for the weekend; and spread the season out.

The 2010 state quota is 1,128,577 pounds. That is a lot of striped bass. If you figure the average fish sold weighs about 20-pounds that would be about 56,000 stripers pulled from state waters with a commercial value of millions of dollars.