Most evenings, I am not an ambitious fisherman. I do not set out to catch a 50-pound striper. More often than not — Derby excluded — I will settle for a schoolie; some evenings I am happy to catch squid.
On Father’s Day, I announced to my wife Norma that I was going squidding. I figured it would give me time to think about her birthday gift three days later. My wife is a woman of modest tastes.
“Just mow the lawn, honey,” she said when I asked her what she wanted for the big day. “That’s all I want. That will be my gift.”
It is not as though it is a big chore to mow our lawn. If I discount the area now taken up by her garden, a small patio, and areas no longer accessible due to stuff, our actual lawn — that would be weeds of a green tint — is about 400 square feet.
I do not now own a lawn mower. I once did, a yard sale relic that expired a few years ago. Luckily, my neighbors own lawn mowers, and they are not always around.
So you can see, I had a lot to think about. The hot spot for squid has been Bend-in-the-Road Beach in Edgartown. Not wanting to drive that far, I took my bucket and went to a small public dinghy dock capable of accommodating two or three serious squidders to try my luck under the lights in Vineyard Haven.
I tossed my jig into the green water, and felt an immediate tug, a good sign. My next cast I pulled up a squid. It was not very large, about five inches in length, tentacles and all, but a perfect size for a fluke hook.
The action at Bend-in-the-Road has on some nights been fast. On Sunday I hooked squid with enough regularity to keep me entertained. Not long after I arrived, I was joined by Tom Neadow and Tom Neadow, father and son.
The younger Tom said he had taken his father out fishing for Father’s Day in the hope of catching a striped bass. They had gone to a spot on the north shore where Tom said he had had some success, but not that night. So they had fallen back on squidding.
Tom and I swapped fishing stories and Derby tales. It is one of the pleasures of Island fishing that whoever you meet, the Derby provides a common bond. But that is true of fishing in general. It is a common denominator that everyone who has ever cast a line shares.
Tom and Tom were not sure if they would continue their quest for bass that night. Tom the son wanted his dad to catch a fish. There was some talk of trying the seawall in Oak Bluffs.
I left them contemplating their plans. I don’t know if they hooked a fish that night, but I don’t think that was important on Father’s Day.
Vineyard bests Nantucket
I received the following report from Victor Colantonio of Chappaquiddick, who, following in the tradition of Homer, provided an account of a group of warriors — Island fishermen in this case — who set out on the ocean in search of adventure, and to best their Nantucket rivals in the fishing competition known as the Island Cup.
“While our weary world darkens with news of IS’s momentum, diminished Mideast peacemaking, Russian expansion, Greece’s debt crisis, and slaughter in our places of worship, Island men and women stepped out of ground-swelling negativism to board the 1:25 pm HyLine Ferry to Nantucket last Friday,” Victor said in an email. “These men and women stepped out of chore-filled workaday lives to pursue the most optimistic of all human endeavors: going fishing. Fishing is the best activity to combat the world’s blues; it should be bottled and poured freely over the well of human misery. What other activity holds hope that the 100th cast will have a different outcome from the 99th, or that the 500th will land fish after 499 failed to do so? It defies logic that anglers can think that the next, and the next, and the next try will result in success when dozens of like-minded brethren have formed a human picket fence on the beach, reeling in lines with empty hooks hour after hour.
“The anglers on the HyLine and their counterparts on Nantucket might well hold a key to a practical definition of optimism, that so well sets out the spirit of the Island Cup catch-and-release team fishing competition between Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association and the Nantucket Anglers’ Club.
“The good news is that MV won the competition, and evened the series at four-all. There were lots of fish caught if one happened to be in the right place on the right tide. The margin of MV’s victory was a whopping 1 pound, 11 ounces, attributed to a catch by team sage Jim Cornwell, who landed a bluefish with just 15 minutes left in the 40-hour contest.”
The Vineyard roster was: captain and contest founder Victor Colantonio, Jim Mullen, Peter Swilkowski, Jim Fraser, Dr. Denise Fraser, Pat West, Jim Cornwell, Joel Graves, Jason Graves, Bob “Hawkeye” Jacobs, and Matt Malowski. Victor won the shore bass prize with a 12-pound fish, and Jason Graves landed the largest bluefish at 10.2 pounds.
Victor said the backstory was the weather: “As expected, early Sunday morning the front moved through, delivering torrential rain, wind gusts in the 30s, thunder, and some very dangerous bolt lightning. All Island Cup competitors wisely packed up their gear and headed off the beaches for hot showers. About 11:45 am, 15 minutes before the ‘line-out horn,’ the storm subsided and the sky brightened, as did Jim Cornwell’s hope to end his 40-hour skunking to that point. Fishing partner Peter Krogh relented and afforded Cornwell just a few more casts, then, ‘Just one more, Jim,’ on probably his 5,501st cast of the weekend — bang — Jim hooked and landed a small bluefish. Not normally worth weighing, it erased Jim’s zero pounds from the tally sheet to post 2 pounds, 1.6 ounces, registered from Krogh’s digital scale. And with that, Jim Cornwell of Edgartown provides a fitting moral to this fishing report: the classic lesson of what happens when optimism and perseverance collide.
“The total weights of the 2015 contest are Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association: 64 pounds, 7 ounces; Nantucket: 62 pounds, 12 ounces, just a 1-pound, 11-ounce margin — one measly little last-minute bluefish, caught after everyone else had quit, made all the difference.”