Some fisherfolks say that June is the premier month on the Vineyard, in part because the migrating fish have just arrived in full force and they’re hungry from the long trip, and also because the commercial boats haven’t yet pounded Vineyard waters.
If the results from last week’s Hawkeye Jacobs Weekend Derby are an indication of the season ahead, we’re in for a slamming June. Doug Asselin from Dick’s Bait & Tackle, sponsor of the event, said the winning fish were beefier than they have been in recent years.
“The bluefish were up some, but the stripers were better than I’ve seen in four or five years,” he said. “It’s shaping up to be a banner year.”
Henry Juricek hauled in the biggest boat bass, 42.1 pounds. Craig Munsell landed the biggest striper from shore, 34.4 pounds. The second- and third-place shore bass were 30 and 29 pounds respectively.
Tyler Gibson landed the biggest boat bluefish, 11.5 pounds. Kenny Sylvia muscled in a 12.3-pound bluefish to win the shore category. Wally Tomkins won the sea bass category with a 4.3-pounder.
“Last year, the winning striper was 26 pounds,” Mr. Asselin said. “It’s a good sign when the top three are that much bigger than the winning fish from last year.” Tourney participants reported eels and squid were working well for bait, and swimmers, plugs, and Sluggos were productive lures.
Jeff Canha, captain of Done Deal charters, said waters off the North Shore were productive. His first charter of the year landed a number of keeper stripers with eels. “I saw bass in holes where I haven’t seen them in years; their numbers are definitely up,” he said.
Middle Ground off Tisbury was also a honey hole for stripers. Rafael Louback of West Tisbury landed a 48-inch, 28-pound beauty with a large scup.
Back on shore, Peter Sliwkowski, co-owner of Larry’s Tackle, also reported an uptick in stripers over last year. “Bass have been great on the south side; Katama has been hot. East Beach on Chappy was fantastic over the weekend,” he said. “I’m still tired.”
Mr. Sliwkowski said a regular customer, “Jay-Bird,” weighed in a personal-best 38-pound striper, caught from the shore. “He wouldn’t say what he was using,” Mr. Sliwkowski said, adding that his lure of choice these days is a large Yo-Zuri Mag Darter. “East Beach is good on the rising tide, Wasque on the falling tide,” he said.
Reports of big bass in Lambert’s Cove and Makonikey have also been coming in.
Behold the bluefish
Many people will remember this past Saturday as the one day this spring when the sun actually shone.
Fishermen who made it to Wasque will also remember Saturday for the outstanding bluefish action. It wasn’t a “water boiling, birds diving” bluefish blitz — just steady action on the falling tide.
When I started around 2 pm, I had the beach to myself. After an hour of no action on my Roberts Ranger plug, I saw a newcomer pull in a nice bluefish after 10 minutes. After another fruitless stretch of casting, I swallowed my pride and made the trek down the beach, and he kindly told me he was throwing a Castmaster.
I changed up, and in no time had my first bluefish of the year.
Word got out. Pretty soon there was a line of bent rods on the beach. “Hogy” herring jigs did exceptionally well. The longer casts appeared to pay higher dividends.
Typically, I keep one fish for dinner, which means gambling that I’ll catch something after I release that first fish. This has made for more than a few nights of leftover chicken. It was clear my first bluefish of the year wasn’t going to survive.
But the sun was out and the blues were running, and after a long winter of dreaming about these conditions, there was no way I was stopping.
I decided I needed another fish for my dog, Angus. He’s devoured bluefish since he was a puppy.
Then I realized I needed one more for my kindly landlord, Olga. Landing her year-round rental was better than winning the Derby.
Two hours after my first strike, the action hadn’t slowed down. I thought surely my dentist, mechanic, and veterinarian would like some bluefish. But knowing I had a long walk back to the Wasque parking lot, I stopped at four.
Give bluefish a chance
It’s time to give bluefish its due.
Fishermen prize it because pound for pound, it’s one of the strongest fighters in Vineyard waters. But when it comes to its culinary worth, it’s often overlooked. It’s one of the few fish that has white meat and dark meat. The meat has a unique character, and requires minimal spice.
Fresh bluefish, grilled with olive oil and sea salt, is as good as it gets, especially if it’s so fresh it’s never seen the inside of a refrigerator.
Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain wrote, “I’ve been hoping for decades that bluefish catches on as ‘the next big thing.’ And I’ve been disappointed. If bought fresh — and cooked very soon after — it’s really one of the great fish experiences.”
Whether you catch it or buy it, there’s no place to get fresher bluefish than Martha’s Vineyard.
Annual Catch and Release tourney this weekend
The 26th annual Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club striped bass catch and release tournament — a day/night fly-fishing contest — will be this Saturday, June 3. The official fishing period is 7 pm Saturday to 2 am Sunday.
Last year, more than 125 fly-fishermen participated in the team event. 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, or at Coop’s in Edgartown prior to the 7 pm start of fishing.
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.
For more information call Coop, 508-627-3909, or go to mvrodandgunclub.com.
Tip of the week
If you’re going to keep your catch, the most humane thing to do is to slit the gills. Rather than die slowly from suffocation, the fish will get to the big ocean in the sky much faster.
For tide information, click on mvtimes.com/community/useful-information/tide-charts.
Correction: In last week’s column, Steve Morris was incorrectly identified as the owner of Larry’s Tackle. He’s the owner of Dick’s Bait & Tackle. Peter and Melissa Sliwkowski own Larry’s Tackle. A bonehead mistake, given I began frequenting both fine establishments in the previous millennium.