Data collection is part of the fun

James Goff and his son, Wolfie, enjoy a day of fishing.

Now that most of the weekend tournaments have ended, it’s time to do some fishing, not for competition, but just for fun and maybe a meal of fresh fish. For many years I have tagged and released striped bass for the Littoral Society in Sandy Hook, N.J., and collected scales for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

The Littoral Society fish-tagging program began in 1965. Biologists learn about the movements of striped bass after spawning in the Chesapeake by the capture tags that are returned. The tagging program encourages fisherman to tag and release their fish, and the data collected is available to fisheries scientists. To become an Littoral Society member, you can write to the American Littoral Society, Tagging Program, Highlands, NJ 07732. You can enroll for a small fee, and they will send you tags and instruction. If you catch a tagged fish, you can remove the tag and send it in to whatever tagging program is printed on the tag.

The Sportfish Angler Data Collection Team (SADCT) studies the scales collected randomly from striped bass, black sea bass, fluke, and scup, kept or released from the waters anywhere in Massachusetts. These four species have a tremendous economic impact, recreationally and commercially.

Anglers, following simple procedures to collect random scale samples, record the date, total length of the fish, and general location of the catch. With this information, age data can be generated. The team can generate stock assessment models, and monitor the health and biomass of specific stock to facilitate proper management of that species.

At the end of the season they send each participant the data collected, with charts and graphs. They also send each angler a summary of the data collected from their personal catch. I get a record of all the fish I caught and released. Collecting scales and tagging fish make me feel like I am doing something for science while I am out enjoying life on the Vineyard.

A few years ago, Lisa Belcastro hired me as her shore guide. It was an exciting evening when she caught her very first striped bass ever. It was not a keeper, so I decided to tag it using her name. Hopefully, someday she will receive information that her first fish was caught and released by another angler somewhere on the East Coast. We became fishing buddies, and fish together every chance we get.

Island Cup on the move

On Friday, June 15, at 12 noon, the MV Surfcasters will leave on the fast ferry in Oak Bluffs and return home Sunday, June 17.

Scott Whitlock from Nantucket and Victor Colantonio from Chappaquiddick survived 9/11 at Ground Zero together. During their ordeal, they put their lives in each other’s hands, and learned that by working together toward a single goal, they could endure anything.

Eleven years ago, Scott and Victor came up with the idea to create a bridge between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island fishermen. The Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters and the Nantucket Anglers team up each June for an island-to-island tournament. The Island Cup is a way to foster new friendships and have fun while fishing. By having the alternating host island team provide lodging, we put an otherwise costly off-island fishing adventure within reach of all our members. This year we fish on Nantucket. Let’s bring the Cup home!

If you would like to become a member of the MV Surfcasters Association and want to take part in our events, please go to

James Goff moved to the Vineyard from the Cape in 2011. I met him when he first arrived. He was going through some big changes in his life, and was feeling confused and depressed. I know that when I’m feeling that way, it’s time to go fishing. I lent him a rod and a lure, and we went on a few fishing adventures. James took to fishing immediately. The next time I saw him he had found his life partner, Tania Chipperfield, and in 2014, Wolfgang Goff was born. In 2015 James and Tania opened their successful business, the Wolf Den Pizzeria. Now Wolfie, as they call him, and his dad James are fishing buddies. This June on Chappy, Wolfie helped his dad land a big bluefish. Now this father-son team are hooked. June 17 is Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day, James, and all the dads.

This weekend is a free weekend for saltwater fishing. On June 16 and 17, no license is needed for saltwater fishing in Massachusetts.

T shirt design

MV Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby is once again sponsoring the 2018 Kids Day Derby T shirt design contest. This successful program started in the mid 1990s to encourage elementary schoolkids to get more involved with the Derby. You don’t need to be a fisherman to enter your artwork, and there is no fee to enter.

Local businesses donate to help purchase the shirts and have them silkscreened. Binks Auto, the Skipper Party Boat, O’Brien Enterprises, LB Forms, and Mad Martha’s are on board so far. If you would like to donate, contact Bob Lane at

Prizes: $25 will be awarded to the winning entry from each Island school. One of those first-place winners’ artwork will be chosen to be printed on 250 shirts given free to every child at the 2018 Kids Day. This year the Kids Day Derby will be held Sunday, Sept. 16, from 6 am to 8:30 am.

Here are the contest rules:

  1. Contestants must be in the eighth grade or lower to be eligible.
    2. All artwork should fit on a 9 x 12 in. piece of paper.
    3. Entries should be clean black line art suitable for silkscreening, with a maximum of three colors.
    4. Design must include the phrases: “2018 Kids Day” and “Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby.” Any design not including those words will be ineligible.
    5. You must put the following information on the BACK of your entry: name; mailing address; home phone number; age; grade; and school you attend.
    6. Return all entries to the designated person on the list below, or mail to MV Derby Kids Day Artwork c/o Robert Lane, P.O. Box 672, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.
    7. Deadline for all entries will be 12 noon Friday, June 29, or the last day of school.
    8. Winners will be announced, and prizes awarded, at Kids Day tournament, Sept. 16.
    Give entries to Mariah MacGregor at Chilmark School; Lisa Magnarelli at West Tisbury School; Julie Brand at Tisbury School; Nichole Shank at Edgartown School; Jess Johns at Oak Bluffs School; Amy Size or Ken Vincent at Charter School.
    Get those entries in today.

What’s biting

Larry’s Tackle Bass and Blue Battle is in full swing. Mark Campos is the new leader in the boat division, with a 26.90-pound striped bass. Keep up with the results at

The fishing around the Vineyard has become more productive. Keeper striped bass and large bluefish have been reported caught from Chappy, the “Jaws” bridge, and Menemsha. I spent a few hours on Chappy at Wasque Point yesterday. It was a beautiful afternoon, and in between a few small bass and bluefish, I witnessed some of the fishermen landing large sea robins. That’s what I love about fishing; you never know what will take your offering.

Until next week, remember, don’t give up a minute before the miracle, Janet.

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. Her long-awaited book on fishing will be published by Pantheon Books in June 2019.