Stripers steady, tuna getting ready

A weekly wrap-up of what’s biting and where on Martha’s Vineyard.


The fish of the week unquestionably goes to Everett Sawyer of Gloucester, who brought a 700-pound bluefin tuna into Menemsha Harbor. The fish was so big it broke the boom when they tried to lift it off the boat, the Katherine, out of Manchester. He said the fight only lasted an hour and 10 minutes, with help from hydraulics and 800-pound mono line. He used a “greenstick,” a 30-foot rod that, with the help of a 25-pound wooden “bird” on the end of the line, keeps several squid bouncing on the surface. It’s called a “greenstick” because the Japanese developed the technique decades ago with green bamboo.

Sawyer said 700 pounds was only an estimate of the fish, because there wasn’t a scale in Menemsha big enough to weigh it. He’s been tuna fishing since 1982, when he was 12, and he felt confident his estimate was in the ballpark. The wicked big tuna was eventually packed in ice, put on a ferry, and trucked to a seafood wholesaler in Boston.

Not surprisingly, Sawyer hopes to fish here often this summer — after he gets the boom fixed.

“There’s been a big increase in bluefin tuna in the past 10 years,” he said. ”Between 2002 and 2008 there was a big decline, because the midwater trawlers were taking all the bait away. Now that they’re more regulated, fish like mackerel are back, and the tuna are following them.”

Cooper Gilkes, owner of Coop’s Bait and Tackle, said tuna are definitely starting to show up, albeit in a different weight class.

“The tuna bite is looking good,” he said. “The bluefin and yellowfin are just showing up. We’re hearing up to 150 to 180 pounds. But it’s early, we’re just getting started.”

Closer to the Vineyard, charter boats report steady striper action and big bluefish. Capawock Charters Captain Phil Cronin said the North Shore was very productive. “Pink and white gurglers were effective with the fly rodders, the ever-effective ‘Arkansas Shiner’ (formerly called ‘Sand Eel’) was the go-to lure for light spin anglers,” he said in an email to The Times.

Lest we forget that we’re in one of the best fishing spots in the world: Last week Cronin had clients from Michigan, Florida, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Jeff Canha, captain of Done Deal charters, said he’s holding off on big-game hunting for a few more weeks, when the tuna will be greater in number and closer to the Island. He’s been getting steady action trolling in Vineyard and Nantucket Sound. “We’ve been getting some really big bluefish, alligators,” he said. “Sea bass fishing has also been excellent. It doesn’t take long to get your limit.” Canha also reported an unprecedented number of sea robins this summer — a common refrain from fishermen this summer.

Stripers have also been keeping surfcasters busy, especially the ones who have a limited social life, and are getting up at dawn or fishing the beach at night. “It’s been an outstanding year for stripers,” Coop said. “I was just at State Beach for a birthday party, and the stripers came in really thick at dusk. Topwater [plugs] are doing well at dawn and dusk; eels are working really well at night.”


Islanders rally for ‘Fluke for Luke’

The first annual “Fluke for Luke” fishing tournament has already become an Island tradition.

According to former MV Times editor Nelson Sigelman, who posted an account of last weekend’s event on his Facebook page, response from Islanders, and a robust contingent from New Bedford, far exceeded expectations. Organizers were hopeful they might get 200 entrants, and 401 people registered. Proceeds from the fluke/sea bass tournament and silent auction raised more than $25,000 for a college fund for Luke Gurney’s sons Sam and Jacob, now 12 and 14 years old. Luke, a popular fisherman on the Island, died in an accident last June while setting conch pots off Nantucket.

Mr. Sigelman’s account of that tragedy (June 22, 2016, “Martha’s Vineyard family, Island mourn lost fisherman”) garnered an award from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. His Facebook post about the “Fluke for Luke” tournament is one of those rare occasions when the sequel is as compelling as the first installment. It’s a masterful account about how Islanders, in particular the fishing community, look after their own, and it’s a must read.


He ain’t heavy

For years one of my favorite things in life was to fish Chappy with my dog Angus. I used to put him in my lap, put his paws on the steering wheel, where he would dutifully stay, and let the deep ruts in the sand guide the Jeep as we made our way to the Gut or to Wasque. I wish I’d taken pictures of the looks we got over the years from slack-jawed beachgoers.  

Angus is now a few weeks shy of 15 years old, missing an eye that had to be removed this spring, barely seeing shadows out of the other one, with wobbly legs that don’t get him very far. The 4-wheel-drive Jeep is long gone, but the nesting plovers made that academic.  

The only way to get to Wasque rip is to make a long trek from the parking lot, down down a steep staircase, and then across a long stretch of soft Chappy sand. Years ago, Angus would have been my sled dog. But now there’s no way he could make it on his own steam. With a rain umbrella in my backpack for his shade, and a baby sling over my shoulder, I carried my boy to our spot at Wasque on Sunday afternoon. He doesn’t like to be held in his old age, so I was very dubious about the sling working. But amazingly, he settled right in for the ride.

Conditions were dicey. The rising tide didn’t bode well, and I hooked salad on almost every cast — residue from Friday’s big storm.

Angus slept almost the entire afternoon, occasionally shuttling between the sun and the shade of the rain umbrella, held in place by my backpack.

It was the first time this year I got skunked at Wasque.

It was the best day of the summer.