Last week a good friend of ours, Henrik Olsson, came to visit the Island from Key West. Henrik is the kind of friend who is always up for an adventure. He had never visited the Island before, and was intrigued by its diversity and infectious energy. Henrik spends a lot of his time out on the waters of Key West, and he’s constantly sharing photos of himself posed beside some pretty impressive fish. We began trading fishing stories, and made a plan to wet a line together before he left.
The evening he visited, I was the guest chef at the Beach Plum Inn. As he and my wife sat enjoying dinner on the restaurant’s patio, enjoying another epic Menemsha sunset, I could tell he was falling more and more in love with the place (after all, the Beach Plum is a slice of heaven on earth). I finished up my dinner duties, and the three of us filed into the car with two intentions: Get in the water and get a fish. Little did we know we were in for another epic show from Mother Nature.
As soon as we reached the car, the stars were as good as they get. With no moon, the Milky Way Galaxy was in full view. We went out with no regard to the tide, or time, or even location. We just headed to the closest north shore beach, our eyes fixed on the stars. It was a calm night, and the tide was low and slack. I walked out into the shallows a ways, and noticed something incredible. On this perfect night, there were bioluminescent phytoplankton in the water. This tiny algae has a built-in defense mechanism which causes a chemical reaction that glows when agitated. With every step in the water, an explosion of light resembling underwater fireworks appeared and disappeared as quickly as it came. My wife exclaimed, “I feel like Beyoncé!” with childlike delight. We were all completely consumed by the phenomenon, when the sound of a feeding bass broke the calm in the water. Henrik and I began frantically casting in the direction of the ripples in the water, but to no avail.
We started to head home, when the sound continued to follow us down the beach. As a hopeful and patient fisherman, I’m always up for staying a while longer to increase my chances. This night I ran down the beach following the cracking sound of bass, and the occasional burst of bioluminescence led me right to where the biomass was. I hooked up in seconds, satisfying my hunger for the catch, and leaving my friend further impressed by our special Island. All in all, it was a perfect night, and any other way we would have chosen to spend it could not have rivaled what we experienced together on the water.
The evening was just another reminder of the magic you can witness when you venture out with a fishing pole and some positive vibes on Martha’s Vineyard.
What’s biting where
Stephen at Dick’s Bait & Tackle said the bluefish have been all over East Chop, West Chop, and State Beach. Striped bass are still around, with tons of bait fish like peanut bunker showing up all over the Island. Scup are also all over the Island, and though they have a lot of bones, they are an excellent eating fish, and an abundant resource. Stephen also confirmed the rumors I had heard about bonito being caught from shore as well as from boats. On Friday I had some time in the morning, and decided to head for bonito country and see if I couldn’t find one of my own. Only on Martha’s Vineyard do the kindness and generosity of friends of friends translate into a day out on the water in a beautiful boat. I called my good friend Oraibi Voumard, who had access to his neighbor’s boat. Though I only caught a small black bass, Oraibi hooked up with his fishing rod on a 23-inch bonito that nearly got away. After months of shore fishing for striper and bluefish, this fast and beautiful fish was a welcome reminder of the bonito and albies that are sure to arrive any day.
I had also heard rumors of some squid lurking in the vicinity of Edgartown, but with all the fish about, they are not hanging around. “It’s a good problem to have,” said Doug at Dick’s Bait & Tackle.
With all these fish around, it is important to know what you are catching and to understand the regulations for harvesting any fish. In an ideal world we would all commit this information to memory, but in the 21st century, there is of course an app for that. One useful app is Fish Rules. This app uses your location to display all of the fish that you might catch, including descriptions, bag limit, size, and season. It will work even if you are offline, as we often find ourselves in places with poor cell reception.
Gavin Smith began fishing when he moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 2014. He is a self-admitted novice, but a truly avid one, eager to learn and share as much as he can. Gavin is a private chef and passionate foodie who appreciates the bounty that Vineyard waters provide, and likes nothing more than sharing his passion with his clients. He is a regular contributor to the Fishing Report.