Gone fishin’: The fishing is easy, it’s the getting there that is hard

Our columnist narrowly escapes holiday mayhem in pursuit of fluke and sea bass.

From left, the Virginians: Vlad Wojcik, Grayson McNeely and dad Grady McNeely with a nice fluke caught drifting off Chilmark Sunday. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

So I’m casually driving along Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road minding my own business, at a fair clip. I mean, I’m not one of those Island drivers who likes to punish unbelievers by driving the speed limit or below. Five miles over — that seems fair to me, and, I assume, the police.

A snappy Toyota with New York plates comes up behind me; right behind me. The driver, a young girl, is looking at her cell phone. Next I see, she is applying makeup to her cheeks. I’m starting to get irritated.

She backs off a bit. I don’t know if it is because she is so close to my bumper that she can read my expression in my own rearview mirror, or because she is looking up a phone number.

Up she comes again. I watch in amazement as she dons a white blouse over her undershirt. Let me point out that this requires two hands which are not on her steering wheel while this fashion change takes place.

I consider stopping my truck and administering a lecture, but it would probably get me arrested, so I drive on, and thankfully leave her behind at the roundabout.

Sunday morning I left Menemsha Harbor with Vlad Wojcik of Virginia, who was visiting his mother Helen Parker of Chilmark, and Vlad’s friend Grady McNeely and Grady’s 8-year-old son Grayson. We were looking for fluke and sea bass.

Sea bass had been plentiful, fluke a little scarce. On Sunday we found both fish in about 80 feet of water off Chilmark between the brickyard and Cedar Tree Neck.

The combination of the wind blowing hard out of the west and a rising tide pushed us along at a good clip. A drift sock, essentially a water parachute, helped slow our speed so we could hold bottom, the key to hooking fluke.

Grayson was a quick learner, and swiftly picked up how to drop his fluke rig to the bottom and keep it there. When I asked him what he liked most about the fishing trip, he said, “Reeling in fish.”

That day we had plenty of action. It provided a good warm-up for the annual VFW Post 9261 Martha’s Vineyard Fluke Fishing Derby Saturday and Sunday, July 11 and 12.

The team competition provides lots of laughs. It also supports a good cause. The awards ceremony and barbecue follow the final weigh-in Sunday at the VFW on Towanticut Avenue in Oak Bluffs. There are prizes for the biggest fluke and sea bass. Kids 12 and under enter free, but must register. Adult registration is $20; teens and seniors are $10. Weigh-in is 4 to 6 pm at the VFW. There is also a team competition. For more information, call organizer Peter Hermann at 774-563-0293. Register at local tackle shops.

The battle is over

Larry’s Tackle Shop’s “Blue and Bass Battle” concluded last week after one month of hard fishing in June. The results follow.

Shore Bass: 1. Ashton Hannah, 23.65 lbs; 2. Sam Bell, 21.85 lbs; 3. J-Bird, 20.70 lbs.

Boat Bass: 1. Josh Flanders, 35.30 lbs; 2. David Flanders, 33.90 lbs; 3. Tony Canha, 33.35 lbs.

Shore Bluefish: 1. Zach Pinerio, 12.25 lbs; 2. Steph Pond, 10.05 lbs; 3. Chad Cunningham, 9.80 lbs.

Boat Bluefish: 1. Mike Capen, 10.50 lbs; 2. Tony Canha, 9.55 lbs; 3. Don Mac, 9.55 lbs.

Striped bass regs explained

The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) implemented new regulations last year affecting the commercial sale of striped bass caught during for-hire trips. The new rules get tricky when recreational fishermen are in the picture.

DMF said any vessel carrying for-hire patrons must abide by all recreational regulations. For-hire patrons cannot be designated as the vessel’s “crew” in order to claim the vessel is conducting a commercial trip. DMF attempted to clarify the regulations.

“For example,” DMF said, “under the current recreational and commercial rules, if a for-hire captain and his mate take out six patrons on a for-hire trip, the maximum amount of striped bass that may be harvested during the trip is eight fish, at 28” or more. If the maximum is harvested and each of the six patrons takes home one fish, the for-hire captain may sell the remaining two fish if they meet the commercial requirements (e.g., 34” or more, open commercial fishing day). Alternatively, if only three of the patrons took home one fish, the for-hire captain could sell the remaining five fish if they meet the commercial requirements. Regardless of the number of trips taken in a day, no more than 15 fish could be sold under the authority of the vessel’s commercial striped bass endorsement in a day. Note that the 15-fish limit applies to striped bass endorsements of Commercial Boat Permits (or Commercial Lobster Permits); Individual and Rod & Reel Permit holders with a striped bass endorsement are limited to two fish per open day.”