Gone fishin’: Friends don’t let friends fish for albies

The 70th Bass and Bluefish Derby begins Sunday. Try to be nice.

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Shore and boat fishermen cast to elusive false albacore in Edgartown Harbor Sunday. — Photo by Michael Cummo

I am planning to make an independent film, and I need financial backers. Auditions for lead roles and supporting cast members begin Sunday, the start of the 70th Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. The title of the film is “Dr. Jekyll and Albie Fisherman Mr. Hyde.”

It will be a remake of the Oscar-winning classic 1931 horror film directed by Rouben Mamoulian that starred Fredric March. The film was remade in 1941, and starred Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Lana Turner — what a cast.

IMDb, an online movie database, provides this description of the film: “Dr. Jekyll faces horrible consequences when he lets his dark side run wild with a potion that changes him into the animalistic Mr. Hyde.”

In my modern retelling of the classic tale, Dr. Henry Jekyll, a kindly family practitioner and medical marijuana dispensary director living on Martha’s Vineyard, lets his dark side run wild when he begins pursuing false albacore, a fixation that changes him into the rude, inconsiderate, foul-mouthed, bullying, deranged albie fisherman Edward Hyde.

The movie begins with a close-up shot of a composed Dr. Jekyll relaxing in his 18-foot tin boat on a picture-perfect Vineyard fall day. He is smoking a pipe and chatting with his fiancée Muriel about what a special place Martha’s Vineyard is, and how much he is looking forward to their upcoming wedding.

Suddenly, a pod of albies breaks off the bow. He casts into the fish and hooks up. The albie takes off on a blistering run. He plays the fish, giggling excitedly as perspiration beads up on his brow.

All the while he is playing the fish, his face is undergoing a transformation. After a 10-minute battle, he begins shouting at Muriel to get the net. She stabs the net into the water, but misses the fish and breaks the line. Dr. Jekyll begins shouting at Muriel, then catches himself, realizing a darker side of his personality is emerging.

What is happening to him? As the movie progresses, his behavior becomes worse and worse, and Muriel will no longer fish with him. His clothes are rumpled and filthy. He is Mr. Hyde — Derby badge No. 666.

We next see Mr. Hyde on the Menemsha jetty. A fisherman casts over his line. Mr. Hyde cuts the man’s line. There is a fistfight. Police are called, but Mr. Hyde runs off, shrieking about his lost albie.

One of the scariest scenes is when Mr. Hyde, bug-eyed and veins popping out in his neck, stands in the bow of his boat screaming at another fisherman, a dad with a boatload of children. “You cut me off, you cut me off — I’ll kill you!” Mr. Hyde screeches.

Here is the climactic scene. Forty boats, all at full throttle, race for one pod of breaking fish in Edgartown Harbor. Mr. Hyde, in his new 24-foot center console outfitted with twin Evinrude 250s, is leading the pack. Mr. Hyde, racing to be the first to cast at the breaking school of albies, goes clear over another boat.

That scene will be a recreation of a similar incident I wrote about off Lackey’s Bay, in which one boat did crash into another. In fact, the whole movie will carry one of those standard movie disclaimers: The following is based on a series of true stories. No albies were killed in the filming of this movie, but several fishermen did experience divorces.

Just this week I heard several stories about normally courteous fishermen losing control when the albies appear. In one case, a youngster hooked up to an albie in Edgartown Harbor from the Chappy shore. In comes a fisherman in a boat, oblivious to the kid playing his fish. He later apologized, I am told.

There is no question that hooking an albie, a small tuna, is very exciting from shore or boat. The excitement is addictive. The fish we see in our waters weigh between 6 and 12 pounds, and when hooked take off on line-melting runs.

Albies have keen eyesight, they are incredibly picky about what they will hit, and they move rapidly through the water as they feed, all of which accounts for the frustration they generate among fishermen in pursuit of the adrenaline rush that comes with hooking one fish.

A fisherman may make multiple casts right into the middle of breaking, splashing fish, and still come up empty. The trick is to be where the fish are in order to increase the odds. Some boat fishermen choose the “run and gun” technique of racing over to breaking fish. Other, more patient fishermen cast to unseen fish on the correct theory that the schools are circulating beneath the surface of the water and come up only sporadically.

The problem with run and gun is that it can lead to conflicts when boaters are not considerate or exercise poor judgement. A breaking, splashing school of albies can cause even the calmest fisherman to lose his composure.

Soon after the albies arrived, I received an email from one of the most considerate fishermen I know, a guy I first met at the end of the Tashmoo jetty, who was always happy to share his spot, his techniques, and his flies.

“The albie wars have begun,” he said. “I fell prey to the ravages of ‘albie frustration’ recently, and had words with another angler. Sometimes anger gets in the way of reason, as you may know. After I decompressed and gave it more thoughtful consideration, I came to the realization that we were both at fault in some way. By then it was too late; a family feud had begun.”

His advice? “Remember that we fish for these speedsters for the fun and excitement of it, and should keep that in the forefront of our minds.”

And he added, borrowing a quote from “Seinfeld’s” Frank Costanza: “Serenity now.”

With the Derby about to start, I have put together a short list of albie rules of etiquette. I invite more suggestions.

When in a boat, stay out of casting distance of shore fishermen on the beach or on a jetty.

Do not cut off another boat from a breaking school of fish. Circle around the fish.

When a school comes up near another boat, give them their chance at the fish.

If a fisherman hooks up from the shore or jetty, let him or her play the fish without worrying about your cast going over his line.

Do not swear or shout at other boaters, particularly if kids are in the boat.

Do not carry weapons in your boat.

Do not run your boat into another boat.

Stay away from Mr. Hyde.