Colder water is on the way

While the Derby competition heats up.


The second week of the Derby is over, and things are heating up. Bait fish continue to surround the Island, and the leaderboard has been shaken up several times. With continued north wind, colder water temperatures should be on their way, and we all have our fingers crossed for bigger, hungrier fish.

Doug at Dick’s Bait and Tackle mentioned that large bluefish have been very hard to come by from shore. With daily first prizes being awarded to fish under four pounds, I have run into several people who are just trying to get a weighable bluefish to secure their grand slam instead of looking for the big prize bluefish that might just get them on the leaderboard.

Stripers from shore have required a tremendous amount of patience and dedication, with very few coming in over 20 pounds so far. The water is still pretty warm, and it is less likely to see trophy fish before that temperature drops. Of course, a good friend told me about a fish over 30 pounds that was caught by a friend of his who is not enrolled in the Derby.

The albies are literally everywhere. It’s been impossible in the last week to drive the Island’s coasts without seeing huge schools of bait fish being attacked by hungry albies. The bonito are mixed in with the false albacore, and are hitting on both incoming and outgoing tides. Albies are notorious for being picky, and early on we have not been seeing many albies large enough to weigh in. Each angler is limited to three false albacore for the entire Derby, so most people are biding their time in hopes that bigger fish will arrive before Oct. 13. But with the large numbers around, we are sure to see some more being weighed in soon. If last year is an indicator, there should still be a long run for albies ahead of us. Windy weather has slowed down many anglers early this week, but the bait is still running, and though harder to spot, the fish are still all over.

There is a kindness and comradery among most anglers that is at its finest during the Derby. People you have seen around the Island, or folks from afar, are all working their hardest toward the same goal. Halfway through the Derby, people are noticing the holes in their grand slam, and beginning to strategize for the next two weeks. People are not sharing the locations of their most productive fishing holes, but information is often traded among strangers if you just ask. This morning was windy, rough, and the weeds were floating in large mats all over the Island. There were fewer people out, but the intrepid anglers were still at it. Even in the middle of the day, I was running into anglers from far and wide looking for any sign of bait, birds, and breaking fish. I even had a very nice conversation with an angler whose bumper stickers told me we don’t have much in common aside from our love of fishing.

I had to take a couple of days off to attend a wedding over the weekend. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I spent quite a bit of time planning out my strategy for this week, studying the tides, moon, and weather. I have returned focused and ready to make the next few days of fishing count. But as we all know too well, there are no guarantees when fishing. Monday night there was a perfect incoming tide at sunset. I headed out to one of my favorite spots to fish. I took a long walk from my car, and arrived to find that the weeds were not piling up. Just as I was getting settled in, I received a text from a friend who was across the Island, telling me he was in a “sea of big fish.” I spent the next several hours hooking up on small bluefish, and the occasional dogfish, before heading home empty-handed, wishing I had been in my friend’s spot instead of my own. There is still plenty of time, and regardless of the competition, I am grateful for the opportunity to fish the beautiful shores of this Island!

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.