Striper fishing heats up, and the squid finally show up

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

Bill Lake of Aquinnah landed a nice striper at Lobsterville Beach this past week. — Courtesy William Lake

It’s official — it’s the best fishing in years on Martha’s Vineyard. Across the board, guides and tackle store owners are reporting tight lines and bouncing rods on boats and on shore.

“It’s insane,” Larry’s Tackle co-owner Melissa Sliwkowski told The Times. “The charter captains, the shore fishermen, they’re all getting into fish.”

Ms. Sliwkowski said boat fishermen are doing well with Yo-Zuri Deep Divers, Arkansas Shiner Sluggos, Storm Shad, and the ever-reliable Jumpin’ Minnow.

From the shore, poppers and needlefish are doing well in shallow waters; SP Minnows and Coltsnipers are getting mauled in deeper water.

Lobsterville Beach was hot all week, as Bill Lake from Aquinnah can attest. He caught his cow with a Tsunami Soft Swim Shad. Although he got the lure through L.L.Bean, it was not sporting a polo shirt with the collar turned up. Lake said fishing has been excellent in his neck of the woods, “after quite a dry spell.”

Kurt Freund, Fishsticks Charters captain, with 40 years of fishing experience, and over 10 years as a professional captain, under his belt, told The Times he’s having a banner year.

I’ve caught more this year than the past five years combined,” he said. Mr. Freund has been targeting striped bass with light tackle and fly rods. He said Middle Ground has been extremely productive. “When it’s weedy soft, plastics have worked well, when it’s not, top waters have been getting slammed.” Pink sluggos have been the color of choice for the soft plastics.

Although he’s excited about the bass bounty, Mr. Freund isn’t convinced the overall striper population has increased. “I think it’s more a shift in migration, it’s not just suddenly there’s more fish,” he said. “Some years the fish come by the Island, other years it seemed like a lot went into the Cape Cod Canal and were really scarce around here. But they’re definitely here this year.”

“It’s absolutely the best year in a long time,” Cooper Gilkes, owner of Coop’s Bait & Tackle said. “Guys in the charter business are all smiles. The surf’s doing really well, too. The blues are still at Wasque, and Up-Island has been great for bass.”

Coop said Storm Sand Eel soft baits have been getting a lot of bass. “We’ve seen a new run of sand eels; we haven’t seen this many in a while,” he said, adding a caveat. “I hope this doesn’t get people talking about loosening up the regulations. They should stay where they are, for another few years, at least.”


Squid return, sort of

Although we reported “the return of the squid” in late May, the parade quickly petered out. In sharp contrast to the epic numbers that showed up last year, this year they’ve been virtually nonexistent in harbors and traditional hotspots like Bend in the Road Beach.

Coop and other experienced fishermen, here and on Nantucket, have said it’s the skimpiest squid count they’ve ever seen, spiking the fears of commercial overfishing The Times spotlighted last September (Sept. 7, “Squid trawlers leave a wake of death south of Martha’s Vineyard”).

The situation took me deep into the research rabbit hole. I was ready to sound the squid alarm, uncover an environmental tragedy, perhaps become the Rachel Carson of squid, but the facts kept subverting my story.

Jason Didden, fishery management specialist at the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, said by all accounts the squid population is quite healthy. “The recently completed assessment found squid to be above its target biomass,” he said. “The stock appears to be in good shape.”

I told him the anecdotal evidence here was quite the opposite. He suggested our scarcity was probably due to the capricious nature of nature.

The #squid #fishing is happening!! #menemsha #cephalopod #torturetank #gopro

A post shared by menemshatexaco (@menemshatexaco) on

“Squid are by nature highly variable; there are no independent surveys that indicate we’re having overall population problems,” he said. “Both inshore and offshore, spring and fall surveys show squid appears to be at a high level. Our numbers show a robust population.”

Ironically, checking from his office in Delaware, Didden was the first person to tell me the squid had indeed arrived at inshore waters on the Vineyard, in Menemsha Harbor.

A call to Menemsha Texaco owner Marshall Carroll confirmed the report.

“They came in hard last week,” he said. “Friday, Saturday, and Sunday it was like a war zone; there was ink everywhere. Kids were filling up buckets in no time.”

Carroll said the squid gradually increased in size; some were 18 inches and over, but now the fishing has slowed, especially during the day.

Fortunately, I won’t be writing “Silent Squid” after all.


Big Game Hunters come to Oak Bluffs

The Oak Bluffs Bluewater Classic will be held July 19 through 22. The kinder, gentler replacement for the Monster Shark tournament is a combination of catch and release for billfish and limited take for species like yellowfin, bigeye tuna and wahoo. Thirty-five boats participated last year.

All vessels will be allowed to fish two out of the three tournament fish days. Overnight fishing is allowed. Vessels opting not to fish overnight and return to port will be allowed to weigh fish on one or both days.

The tournament has raised and donated more than $20,000 directly to the Island Autism Group of Martha’s Vineyard, and $14,000 to the MGH Colon Cancer Research Fund in memory of Kevin Glynn. Ten percent of the tournament proceeds will go to the Island Autism Group in 2017.

Fishermen can register online at


‘Fluke for Luke’

The first annual “Fluke for Luke” fishing tournament will be held on Saturday, July 8, through Sunday, July 9.

The tournament is held in honor of Luke Gurney, a popular Island fisherman who died in a tragic accident last June while fishing for conch on his boat, No Regrets.

The event is a team competition. Teams can have two to four people. Team entry fee is $50. Individuals must also enter separately.

Registration is $30 for adults, $10 for fishermen 12 years old and under. You can register at Dick’s Bait and Tackle in Oak Bluffs and Coop’s Bait & Tackle in Edgartown.

Proceeds will go to a college fund for Luke’s two sons, Jacob and Sam. Prizes will be awarded for the three heaviest fluke and three heaviest sea bass. In the team competition, the winner will get 50 percent of the team entry fees.

Fish will be weighed in on both days at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs, on Saturday from 4 to 6 pm, and on Sunday from 2 to 4 pm.

The awards ceremony, cookout, and silent auction will begin at 5 pm Sunday at the P.A. Club.