Permit fee is small price to pay for fishing


When the state of Massachusetts first started to talk about recreational fishing permits, I was unhappy with the idea. I thought, “Can’t anything be spontaneous?” My friend, single mother Terry Lapierre, came to mind. I watched Terry with her four small children fishing from the local docks. I pictured her getting her tribe of children ready to go fishing, and wondered if she would bring them fishing if she had to take that one more step, getting a permit.

On Jan. 1, 2011, the permit requirement was put into place. If you are between the ages

of 16 and 60 and do any fishing in saltwater, you need to have a permit. Fortunately, the price is an unbelievably low fee of $10, and it is reciprocal in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. You can get in online at

The money from the permit fees is only to be used for implementing projects that will enhance recreational fishing in Massachusetts. The state wants to improve public access and develop and implement educational programs.

In 2014 the State Department of Fish and Game, Division of Marine Fisheries, kept their word and built a fishing pier off Oak Bluffs. That convinced me that the small fee from every fisherman to support recreational fishing is a wonderful program. The pier was paid for by funds raised from the saltwater permits. With the access to fishing spots from the shore getting limited by locked gates and beach closures, this fishing pier is the best thing to happen to help us introduce children and newcomers to recreational fishing. This is the first fishing pier for the Vineyard. Memorial Wharf on Edgartown Harbor is a popular recreational fishing spot, but boats have priority, and anglers cannot interfere with any boats needing to tie up. So, if the Pied Piper comes in from Falmouth, everyone reels in their bait and stops fishing. If the beautiful sailboat the Magic Carpet docks to load or unload, everyone stops fishing, or if any boat stops to pump out, everyone stops fishing.

Now we have a “fishing pier” built and intended for fishing only. I admit I have not spent very much time there yet. The few times I fished from the pier I caught some 13-inch scup and a black sea bass. I’ve witnessed a keeper striped bass landed. During the Derby I tried casting to the schools of bonito or false albacore as they came splashing by, chasing bait. It is also handicapped-accessible so anyone in a wheelchair or who has difficulty walking in soft sand can have an opportunity to catch a fish from the shore.

Competing for the cup

The Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association was founded in 1989. One of the annual events is the Island Cup, which was started 11 years ago by MVSA member Victor Colantonio with Scott Whitlock from the Nantucket Anglers Club. It was our turn to travel to Nantucket this year. To date, it was the largest participation in the tournament. Thirty-two anglers teamed up to make 16 teams. It is catch and release, one opponent weighing the other’s fish. With the generous donation of Robert’s Lures from Peter Johnson, we held a spontaneous raffle and raised $150 to donate in the opposing teams’ names to both club’s scholarship funds.

I was hosted by Cheri Dauphinee and her husband David. The weather was sunny and beautiful, the fishing grueling. During the first two days, the entire group found only sporadic three- and four-pound striped bass, with the exception of our Peter Johnson’s 10-pounder and Jim Mullen’s 9.2. Late on Saturday, Kurt Wiggins, NAC, weighed a 14.14-pound bass, and his opponent Steph Pond, MVSA, got a 13-pound bass and a 7.15 blue. They were the largest fish weighed in for our team. Nantucket is known for its large bluefish, but only a few were weighed in after two days of fishing by 32 anglers. Cheri and I fished day and night with a few hours of sleep in between. The last morning, after a midnight nap, and being up since 3 am, we were cooking in the bright sun on the beach, so we decided to end our fishing at 9 am. The rule was lines out at 11:45 am on Sunday morning.  

Of course, once I started packing my gear to come home, the fish showed up at 10:15 am with an hour and half to go in the contest. I should have followed my own advice: “Never give up a minute before the miracle.”

Bluefish up to 10 pounds blitzed on Low Beach in Sconset that last hour of the tournament, with herds of seals watching close by. Nantucket is surrounded by thousands of seals, and the NAC could write a book on “how to land a fish without it getting taken by a seal.” The Vineyard was leading with 122.22 pounds of fish to NAC’s 112.64, until in that last hour when NAC caught 46.70 pounds of bluefish and the MVSC got zip. Joey Haung, MVSA, almost landed a huge bluefish, but he got “sealed.” Peter Sliwkowski from Larry’s Tackle also had a few almosts, and Bob Lane is still happy that he had a “bump.” Steph Pond was our high hook with a 7.15-pound bluefish and a 13.0-pound striped bass. His teammate was Kurt Wiggins, who caught the largest fish for NAC.

The final results for the bass and bluefish combined were NAC 159 pounds, 34 ounces, MVSA 123 pounds, 22 ounces. The largest bass was caught by Kurt Wiggin, NAC, 14.14 pounds, and the largest blue was a 10.68-pounder caught by Bob Berthold.

The Surfcasters have many events throughout the year. If you would like to become a member go to or email president Don Scarpone at

Fishing picks up

Doug Assalin at Dick’s Tackle in Oak Bluffs reports that the fishing all around the Vineyard has picked up. Schoolies are plentiful, with an occasional keeper striped bass at the bridges. The boats are doing well on Middle Ground and also in the rips off the south shore, with larger fish feeding on squid. The squid are also in all the harbors from Edgartown to Menemsha.

As of this writing, access to the driving beach on Chappy has once again been opened from the Dike Bridge to Cape Poge. Please go to the Trustees Facebook page at to check, as this can change daily.

Coming events: Get ready for the Fluke for Luke tournament, to benefit the family of Luke Gurney. This year’s event is July 7 and 8. You can follow it on Facebook.


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.


  1. The Pier was not paid for with license funds, at least not exclusively. The initial funding was from bonded funds but a minor redesign was funded by fees. In the end only about $188,000 of the total cost which was in excess of $1,000,000 came from fees. The fee program does not generate the kind of revenue to pay for such a large project.

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