Gone fishin’: Bluefish lead the charge into the fishing season

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.