Martha’s Vineyard VFW fluke tourney provides reason to fry

The sign on this boat trailer reads, "To be towed." — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post 9261 annual fluke derby is Saturday and Sunday. This is the 12th annual event.

Organizing any fishing tournament is no easy job. VFW member and fluke impressario Peter Hermann is responsible for providing Islanders and seasonal fishermen in the know with a fun time.

The fluke tournament is a non-glamor affair. Men, women and kids pound the bottom with lead weights and strips of squid with the hope that a big fluke, also known as summer flounder, will strike.

What is a big fluke? Well, if I were just killing time drifting up Vineyard Sound looking for dinner I would consider any fish over 22 inches, or one that weighed more than five pounds a very nice catch.

My guess is that it will take a fish over 11 pounds to win fluke glory this weekend. The big fish are out there but not in abundance, judging by recent reports.

For those new to fluke fishing it is important to remember to keep the bait on the bottom. If you cannot feel your weight bouncing on the bottom you will lessen your chances of catching a nice fish.

One other important tip is to use Panko bread crumbs when frying up fluke. It is the only way to treat a fluke fillet.

The tournament also awards a prize for the heaviest sea bass. In my opinion, sea bass are a tough little fish and provide better table fare than their more glamorous cousins, the striped bass.

Fluke tournament weigh-in is from 4 to 6 pm each day. 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.

Speaking of fluke

Richard Rooney of West Tisbury had visitors the last week in June so he did what any good host would do and took his brother Bob and nephew Ethan, 15, of Rockland fishing.

Ethan had never been fishing in saltwater. He is off to a good start. His first fish was an approximately 10 pound fluke that measured 24 inches long.

The trio followed the recommendation of Steve Maxner and fished a deep spot off East Chop in Oak Bluffs. This is interesting news because many people looking for big fluke tend to target Vineyard Sound.

Oak Bluffs should not be overlooked. A number of years ago the winning fluke in the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Saltwater Derby came from East Chop.

The state tournament runs from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30. Most sport fish are eligible. Fish must be measured, photographed and weighed at an official weigh station (an Island tackle shop). There is a new catch and release category. The awards ceremony is held at the Worcester outdoor show in February.

Launch ramp etiquette

Boating is supposed to be a pleasure. That is why it is called pleasure boating. So it sure is aggravating to haul the boat and trailer over to the Lagoon launch ramp in Vineyard Haven and find empty trailers taking up valuable and limited parking space.

Over a span of at least two weeks this June three empty trailers sat in the Lagoon ramp parking lot. Knowing that space would be at a premium over the long Fourth of July weekend, Environmental Police Sergeant Matt Bass posted signs on the three trailers alerting the owners that the trailers would be towed if they were not moved.

Sergeant Bass deserves a lot of credit for taking action. It is a small violation but it is the sort of “quality of life” violation that really grates on people who follow the rules because it springs from total inconsideration of others.

The ramp and dock were built with public funds. It is not a private parking lot, private dock, storage area, or boat showroom. The posted rules allow only for boats and trailers. Obviously, the authorities allow some leeway.

So on a busy day people need to cooperate and be considerate. One suggestion is that boat owners ask their passengers who are arriving in multiple vehicles to park behind each other to free up a parking space.

It can also get pretty hectic when people are launching and pulling boats. Considerate boaters pull their boats up to the dock.

Not everyone is comfortable with the maneuvers and it can be aggravating to wait, but we were all in that spot once. Some boat owners need to take a deep breath, lay off the Red Bull, and relax.

Nantucket gaffs Vineyard

Victor Colantonio provided me with a report on the 4th Annual Island Cup Fishing Contest between the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association (MVSA) and the Nantucket Anglers Club held June 24 to 26 on Nantucket. The island fishermen alternate hosting each other.

“Nantucket kicked MVSA’s bass,” Victor wrote. “We lost, but so much of this is bragging rights and kidding around.” The team tally for the combined heaviest keeper striped bass and bluefish score was Nantucket 114 pounds 12 ounces to 79 pounds 15 ounces for Martha’s Vineyard.

Victor lives on Chappaquiddick (an island unto itself) and is co-founder of the event. Each team is supposed to field 15 fishermen of all ages and skill levels.

“We had hardcore fishers like Jim Fraser, Bob Lane, Janet Massineo, Bob ‘Hawkeye’ Jacobs, Jon Cornwell (who unfortunately was a scratch on the morning of the tournament), Peter Sliwkowski and John Piekos as well as more of the soft-core, matinee, anglers like myself, Mike Stimola, Steve Terell, Jim Corridon, Roland Miller, Jim Cornwell, and Ed Wessel (who also couldn’t make the trip this year due to a broken foot).”

Victor said that Nantucket co-founder Stewart “Scott” Whitlock employed a cunning match-up strategy by pairing the Vineyard’s “most aggressive die-hard anglers with Nantucket’s most lovable, gracious, good-natured anglers.”

As for the fishing he wrote, “On Saturday night a dozen contestants found their way to Miacomet Beach, one of the few plover-less beaches still open to over-sand-vehicles. On one wave, within 10 feet of the beach at 10:15 pm in a thick fog, a school of 12- to 15-pound bass ran the wash nearly sideways into our feet chasing sand eels.”

Nantucketer Bob Virta landed the heaviest bass of the night and the contest, a 24-pound, 6-ounce fish. A fish he also wanted to keep to enter in the Nantucket Anglers Club Tournament. But how to keep it cold?

“In a flash of genius,” Victo said, “Virta talked a teammate out of his neoprene waders, filled them with ice collected from beer coolers and slid the fish into one of the wader legs. Safe, sound, and cold, on Sunday morning when the NAC scales opened, Bobby Virta delivered his fish and handily took first place for largest surf bass caught on Nantucket so far in 2011. His fish also won the Island Cup pool for the largest bass.”

Jim Cornwell, as it happened, landed the largest bluefish weighing in at 12-pounds 9-ounces.

One of the highlights of the weekend was George and Mary Williams of Sconset hosting an incredibly delicious and bountiful buffet dinner for all the anglers, spouses, friends, and neighbors at their home, Victor said. “Mary was very kind yet obviously naive to take on a group like ours but she did it, earning an evening of gastronomic accolades and a number of standing ovations.”

Derby hall of fameKnow someone you think belongs in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby hall of fame? The committee invites nominations for the 2011 Derby. Established in 1999 to honor individuals who deserve special recognition for their accomplishments or contributions to the Derby, the Hall of Fame is not meant to recognize a singular achievement, such as catching a record fish.

Those interested in nominating an individual are asked to contact Maryanne Jerome at 508-627-8510. The deadline to submit nominations is Friday, August 5.