Sharks slamming in the surf

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

Peter Sliwkowski, co-owner of Larry’s Tackle, reels in a beefy brown shark Monday night. — Courtesy Peter Sliwkowski

Usually, when a fisherman lands a nice bluefish in the surf, it’s dinner. But for some fishermen on the Vineyard, it’s bait. For sharks. Big sharks.

Fishermen are reporting stellar nighttime shark action on the shores of Chappy. Reports of brown sharks landed in the 180-pound range have been lighting up the grapevine.

This week, Cooper Gilkes, owner of Coop’s Bait & Tackle and renowned guide, brought in a 180-pound shark, using a live bluefish. “It’s been a lot of fun; it’s really exciting fishing,” he said. “The action has been spectacular. The kids at the shop and I pulled in 25 to 30 of them two weeks ago.”

Coop said he uses 500 yards of 65-pound test line, with a wire leader and circle hooks, for easier release. “I saw the bottom of the spool last night,” he said. “I’ve been spooled four times.” Coop said he has begun tagging the sharks before releasing them.

How do you get the hook out of the gnashing mouth of a 180-pound shark? “Very carefully,” Coop said. “We have a 38-inch rod, a dehooker, that gets the circle hooks out pretty easily. But you have to be really careful. They really thrash around, and they have some serious teeth.”

In addition to live bluefish, Coop said chunks of bluefish, “the bigger the better,” and mackerel also work well. “You put it on a hook and toss it out,” he said.

Fishing for brown sharks on Chappy has been so good, I had to get into the action,” Larry’s Tackle Shop co-owner Peter Sliwkowski said. He recommends a 10- or 11-foot rod “with lots of backbone,” 65- or 80-pound braided line, and a six-ounce weight to help heave out bluefish, mackerel heads, or eels.

Donald Scarpone, president of Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association said sharks are being caught all over the Island. His preferred bait: “Smelly bluefish.” “If people only knew how close they are to shore, they wouldn’t go in the water,” he joked.

All the shark fishermen that weighed in with The Times said they are practicing catch-and-release with the big beasts.

Mr. Scarpone also reported recently catching some potential Derby-winning stripers off the North Shore. “Two weeks ago we caught two over 40 pounds, and one over 50 pounds,” he said. “We released them as soon as possible, so the pictures weren’t very good.” The biggest stripers, or “cows,” are almost always females. If released, they will spawn future generations of stripers that will thrill future generations of fishermen.

Doug Asselin, from Dick’s Bait and Tackle, said the daytime bite has predictably slowed, but not as much as anticipated. “There’s still bluefish during the day on Chappy; topwaters are working well, and shiny metal tends to work better as dusk sets in,” he said. “For the best fishing, you have to get up a little earlier and work a little harder. Dawn and dusk are still the best times. The guys getting the big stripers are the people who pound the beach at night. We’re seeing a lot of good-size fish brought in by people who don’t mind fishing at 3 am.” Asselin reports the big bass are hitting on Needlefish, Yo-Zuri Mag Darters  and 12-inch Sluggos.

Josh Meyer holds up a bluefish, caught on Fishsticks Charters, captained by Kurt Freund. — Courtesy Kurt Freund

Fishsticks Charters Captain Kurt Freund reports trips to Horseshoe and other shoals in Nantucket Sound have been productive for big bluefish and beefy black sea bass. “We’ve gotten quite a few bluefish in the 9- to 12-pound range,” he wrote in an email. “They aren’t hitting through the whole tide and they aren’t everywhere, so it takes some persistence or some good luck to find the right place and be there at the right time.” Freund reports the black sea bass have been hitting soft plastics rigged on jigheads, and have been particularly plentiful off Nomans.


Breaking bonito news …

Nathan Larsen, with the first reported shore bonito of 2017.

The bonito are late this year. Boats are reporting only spotty action around the Hooter, a bonito hotspot.

As reported last week, reports of bonito caught from shore in recent years have been as rare as confirmed yeti sightings.

But on Tuesday, The Times learned that rumors of a shore bonito being caught are true. Stanley Larsen, owner of Menemsha Fish Market, confirmed that his son Nathan did indeed catch a bonito from shore, off Lobsterville Beach. He posted the evidence on his Facebook page.


For information on the tides, go here.