First tug of the season brings relief

Brian McCarthy with his schoolie bass.
Fishing columnist Janet Messineo. — Gabrielle Mannino

Everything is happening late this year, including the run of herring. The shadbush bloom has come and gone. The tiny white flowers that appear along most of the back roads are typically the first sign that the river herring are back.

The herring run up the herring ladders to spawn in the freshwater ponds. Usually, migrating striped bass are not far behind. Last Friday, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) posted that the herring have returned to the Gay Head run. They’re here in full force. The taking of any spring herring is still banned, but knowing that they are here lets us know that the larger bass are not far behind. You can watch the herring swimming in the run on the tribe’s Facebook page.

Each spring, Vineyard anglers compete to catch the first migrating striped bass. The difference between striped bass that migrate from the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay and the holdovers from one of our great ponds is that migrating fish have sea lice attached to their flanks.

On May 16, Brian McCarty and I took an over-the-sand ride to Wasque Point on Chappaquiddick. It was my second ride out to Chappy this spring. When he landed the first one, soon after we arrived, I thought, “OK, here we go.” It was evident that it was a migrating fish because of the sea lice visible along its sides. Brian landed a couple of schoolie bass that day, but after three hours, I got zip.

After 42 years of fishing the Vineyard, I thought I was becoming more mature. I didn’t feel the need to be the first to catch a migrating bass. I was aware of reports of a few landings around the Island, but after my eighth time out, and not hooking one, I started to feel like I had the “spring curse.”

Finally, I can exhale. On May 18, the long cold New England winter officially ended for me. I landed my first schoolie bass of the season. There is nothing like that first tug on the end of my line. Reminds me that I am alive and well.

A few firsts

Ron Domurat was the only one fishing Wasque Point when Brian and I arrived. He left the Rip shortly after we started fishing. He told us he was searching for a bluefish. A couple of hours later he drove by us, thumbs up, saying, “Bluefish!” Lo and behold, he found one. It’s unusual to catch a bluefish before the stripers have barely made a presence. He was the first on the Vineyard to catch a bluefish and, as a result, he won the gift certificate that Larry’s Tackle offers for the first of the year. Good work, Ron!

Congratulations to Tony Jackson for landing a 16-inch white perch. Nice one, Tony.
Four-wheel drivers have been concerned that they would not be able to use the beach this spring. The harsh winter storms eroded the driving trails and did damage that left the beach undrivable for most of the winter months.

Luckily, the trails are now safe enough to maneuver. Most of the trails from Norton Point to East Beach on Chappy are good. I haven’t driven any further than to Leland’s, but I was told the trails are open to Cape Poge. At the entrance to Norton Point, the trail around the gatehouse is soft. Be sure to let your tire pressure down to 15 psi, and drive slowly and cautiously.

Before you head out, you can get an update on the condition of the beach by calling The Trustees of Reservations Norton Point hotline at 508-627-8390.

Squid are here

I heard the squid have arrived, but not yet in full force. I’ve yet to get my squid jigs out myself.
Large scup and sea robins have been plentiful in Menemsha and Edgartown this week. If you’re looking for scup, the fishing pier in Oak Bluffs is a perfect spot to target these pan fish. Scup need to be nine inches, and don’t forget the required recreational fishing permit. Go to

Dick’s Bait & Tackle will again host the Memorial Day “Hawkeye” Tournament. It begins May 25 at 12:01 am, and ends on May 28 at 4 pm. Sign-up is at Dick’s at 108 New York Ave. in Oak Bluffs, or call 508-693-7669.

On May 26 from 8 am until 1 pm, the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association (MVSA) will host a used Fishing Tackle Sale at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. The proceeds will be added to the club’s scholarship fund. Last year they raised $2,000.
Captain Porky’s Bait & Tackle Shop, 13 Dock St. in Edgartown, will open for the season this weekend; 508-627-7117

Mark your calendar: Coop’s Bait and Tackle in Edgartown reports that the 27th annual Rod and Gun Club Fly-Rod Catch & Release Tournament will begin at 7 pm on June 2, ending at 2 am on June 3. Call 508-627-3909 for details.

I was asked to join the team of writers for The MV Times, and I’m thrilled. I hope you get out there and wet a line, and until next week, remember, don’t give up a minute before the miracle.

Janet Messineo fishes the coastline of Martha’s Vineyard, where she’s lived since 1966. She is a retired surfcasting guide and taxidermist, former president of the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association, and both a Derby committee member and participant. She is a frequent source and contributor to newspapers and magazines.