Coming home with friends, but no fish

Still searching for the best spot to land a Derby winner.

Joey Huang fishes the jetty. — Gavin Smith

Somehow it seems that September came and went faster than the rest of the summer. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and between working and fishing the Derby, it was a mix of exciting days spent just the way I like them (minus some prizewinning fish, of course). The recent weather could’ve been more conducive to fishing. In fact the wet, windy weather led to some Derby shenanigans, including a Goldfish cracker being weighed in at Derby headquarters on a slow day. The strong north winds last week created some weedy places on the north shore, but the fishing has been good if you are willing to brave the weather, or just wait for that sunny day.

There is an interesting phenomenon that happens when we fish the Derby. Everyone is searching for helpful information, and while most are willing to stop and have a chat with you, nobody is willing to give up real tips to people they don’t know — it’s a competition, after all.

I personally have a spot that I like to spend my evenings bass fishing. I walk the same stretch of beach to get there several times a week. The past few weeks I have run into the same guy every time I walk out there. It started with simple pleasantries, and has evolved into a useful exchange of information, and always at night. The first time he told me what he had seen before I arrived, and I thought to myself, “That’s nice, I don’t even really know the guy.” I thanked him and continued on to my spot to get set up. As I began to cast, I realized that through our friendly beach chats, I knew quite a bit about this person. I would not know his face by the light of day, but I know where he lives, what his wife does for work, where he grew up, and even began watching the daily weigh-ins for his name. These sort of relationships only exist on the water. It’s not uncommon to head out into the night alone, and come home with a new friend.

I have been trying to get out of my comfort zone and fish in places I normally don’t spend much time. This has proven to be an effective exercise; however, there is a learning curve in every new fishing spot you try. I have found it tremendously helpful to head out to new places with friends who already know the area. Though there is always an element of pure luck involved with fishing, it is absolutely possible to put yourself at an advantage to catch fish, and like anything, preparedness will up your chances at success. By understanding the bait that is working, the tides, the movement of the water in certain places, where the structure lies beneath the water, and what kind of wind conditions are at work, you can best evaluate the spot. If you don’t have time to go to a new place and study, chances are someone has already done the homework. The only way I have found to get this information is to make friends and spend a lot of time doing my own homework. Fortunately, I am not alone in this pursuit. My friends are also looking for information that I might have, and people are are generally pretty friendly and talkative. Currently the best fish I have caught was on the shoulders of my own hard work, but as I better understand new places and continue to make new friends, I am hoping to catch some great fish in new locations.

According to Stephen at Dick’s Bait and Tackle, the “albies still seem to be the ticket” from shore. He says Menemsha has been hot for several days with lots of albies, and the occasional bonito mixed in. Striped bass from shore have been weighed in daily in the 12- to 16-pound range, mostly coming from the south shore. And though Vineyard Haven Harbor is absolutely stacked with bluefish, they are all relatively small. Fishing from boats has been a bit easier, with consistently larger fish being weighed in at larger numbers.

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.