The reel story

A weekly roundup of what’s biting and where on Martha’s Vineyard.

This year's Rod and Gun Club Catch and Release tournament will be held on Saturday, June 3. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Taking on this column is akin to being the first Patriots quarterback to step in after Saint Tom Brady retires.

It is not possible to fill the waders of our former editor Nelson Sigelman — a writer with innumerable awards, who has enough fishing knowledge to fill a hard drive.

But The Times is a news organization, and our mission is to inform our readers about the important developments on Martha’s Vineyard. For many, there are no more important developments than where the fish are and what they’re biting on.

From now until the click of a padlock concludes the 2017 Striped Bass Derby in October, we’ll tap into our network of sources for information that we hope will help our readers reel in the big one, catch dinner, or immortalize a moment on their iPhones. You can send photos of your catch, and any fish stories you’d like to share to I promise, I will never divulge your secret spot.

If you have a tasty recipe for scup, striped bass, steamers, or any animal that lives in our waters, I will definitely share that.

Schoolies a-poppin’, the blues are back

Bluefish always come back around Mother’s Day. This year they were a few days early. Greg Clark won the Larry’s Tackle Shop 2017 first bluefish contest on May 9. Jason Patterson called in the first shore bluefish on May 10. Blues continue to be spotty, but give them a week or two.

Schoolie stripers have been around since Easter, according to the grapevine.

Larry’s Tackle Shop co-owner Peter Sliwkowski said the bigger fish started arriving last week. “The south shore has been the most consistent, and they’ve been getting larger, up in the 30- to 36-inch range,” he told The Times on Wednesday. He said anglers have been having good results with SP minnows and other “swimmer” lures in the surf. In the ponds, stripers have been hitting surface lures — Jumpin’ Minnows and poppers. For those who want to venture off-Island, he said the Cape Cod Canal is “red-hot” with big stripers. “The squid have showed up in Edgartown Harbor; they’re not real thick, but they’re back,” he said. “When the squid are back, the scup aren’t far behind.”

Steve Morris at Dick’s Bait and Tackle has been getting reports of good striper action at Tashmoo and Lambert’s Cove. Anglers have reported good luck with soft baits, such as Storm Shad and Ronz lures.
Cooper “Coop” Gilkes at Coop’s Bait and Tackle — hereafter known in this column as Coop — reports small herring and sand eels are running, which means the big bass aren’t far behind. For now, Coop reports, one-ounce bucktail lures have been a favorite of the schoolies. “We should start seeing the bigger stripers showing up around Gay Head any day now,” he said.

On that note, veteran surfcaster Paul Schultz reported striper action heating up at Philbin Beach in Gay Head.

Know your regs

If you haven’t already, it’s time to get your recreational saltwater fishing license. It’s quick and easy to do online at the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game website. If you’re technology-challenged, your local tackle store can probably help you out. A license costs only $11.68, $1.68 if you’re 60 or older.

According to state regulations, there’s no minimum size for bluefish, and the daily catch limit is 10. Striped bass must be a minimum of 28 inches, and bag limit is one per day.

Two prized eating fish come into season this week. Fluke season starts Monday, May 22. The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has changed Massachusetts recreational fluke limits for 2017. The bag limit will be reduced from five fish to four fish, and the minimum size will be increased from 16 inches to 17 inches. The season will close on Sept. 23.

Black sea bass are open for business as of Saturday, May 20. Minimum size is 15 inches, and daily bag limit is five fish.

Annual Catch and Release tourney coming soon

The 26th annual Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club striped bass catch and release tournament — a day/night fly fishing contest — will be on Saturday, June 3.

Last year, more than 125 fly fishermen participated in the team event. Fishermen who aren’t on a team will be assigned to one.

The tournament headquarters and breakfast/awards ceremony will be located at the Edgartown School, 35 Robinson Road, Edgartown.

Procrastinators can sign up there on Saturday from noon to 3 pm.

One of the unique aspects of this event is that prizes are based on attendance, not catching fish. Everyone present at the awards ceremony, which begins at 9:30 am on Sunday, June 4, can win.

The official fishing period is 7 pm Saturday to 2 am Sunday.

Trophy plaques are awarded in two categories to each winning team member:

  • The Roberto Germani Trophy for the most striped bass caught and released by a team. Roberto Germani, an Island “character,” believed strongly in the philosophy of catch and release. For Roberto, watching a fish was often as enjoyable as catching it.
  • Arnold Spofford Trophy for the most fish caught and released by a team in which each member only uses one fly — no changing. Arnold Spofford, fly fisherman and gentleman, was a familiar face to many who fished the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard.
  • The Sonny and Joey Beaulieu Trophy is awarded for the largest striped bass caught and released. Sonny and Joey Beaulieu, father and son, died in a tragic boating accident along with Fred Loud and his son Adam. Sonny helped to begin this tournament.

Team finish is based on the number of fish caught, divided by the number of fishermen in the team. Largest fish is based on total inches in length and girth. All fish must be released.

The entry fee is $35. The money raised helps to fund the Rod and Gun Club’s annual Kid’s Trout Derby. It will also help send two youngsters to Conservation Camp, and pay for a day of fishing for Camp Jabberwocky campers.

The Rod and Gun Club gladly accepts prize donations. Contributions can shipped to Catch & Release Tournament, Coop’s Bait & Tackle, 147 West Tisbury Road, Edgartown, MA 02539, or dropped off at Coop’s, or at tournament headquarters on June 3.

For more info, call tournament committee member Cooper Gilkes at 508-627-3909, or email Nelson Sigelman at

Used tackle sale on May 27

The second annual Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association used tackle sale will be held on Saturday, May 27, at the MVRHS parking lot, beginning at 9 am. Proceeds from the sale will go to funding two scholarships for MVRHS students. The MV Surfcasters Association is still looking for donations of used or unwanted tackle, which they will pick up at your home. To donate, contact Donald Scarpone at 203-240-0730 or at

Tip of the week

When using lures with two sets of treble hooks, take off the middle treble hook. It’s extremely unlikely it will cost you a good fish; however, it’s very likely the middle hook will tear up the fish and possibly result in the untimely death of an undersize fish, or a fish you intend to release. Remember, most of the stripers out there are still schoolies.