Sixth grader Zak Potter was fishing for bass and bonito off Hedge Fence on the last day of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby last fall when he made a very special (and unexpected) catch.
He and his father, John Potter, owner of the charter fishing boat the Skipper, were trolling on their smaller boat when Zak hooked a fish that would turn out to be one for the record books.
After a fairly intense fight, Zak expected the fish was big, but he didn’t know how big or what type of fish it was.
After netting the fish and getting it onto the boat, the question still remained: It wasn’t a bass, a bluefish, or a bonito, so what was it?
Zak and John decided to get in touch with Steve Morris of Dick’s Bait & Tackle (an old friend of the family’s and fishing wizard) to see what type of fish it was.
Morris said that the fish was a king mackerel, a subtropical migratory species native to the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Morris did some digging, and found out that the state standing record for king mackerel was held by Tim Broderick of Menemsha, who caught an 8.6-pound king at Lucas Shoal in Vineyard Sound in 2008.
Zak and his dad put the freshly caught fish on the scale and looked in bewilderment at the number that read 9.14 pounds — Zak had set a new state record for king mackerel without even knowing it at first.
“It feels really good to break the record,” Zak told The Times in an interview. “It was pretty crazy, because we weren’t even fishing for mackerel, and I had never caught one before.”
Zak was honored at the Boston Boat Show in February for his impressive catch; over 100 people attended the ceremony.
King mackerel are tasty fish and, according to Zak, are very fun to catch. “I could tell by the pull that it was a big fish, but I wasn’t sure how big it was until we got it into the boat,” Zak said.
Fishermen who target mackerel often do so for the fast-paced and exciting run, which is one of the elements Zak said is his favorite part about fishing. “I love the fight after I hook a fish, even if it’s not a big fish. It’s just a lot of action, which is really fun,” Zak said.
Zak said he never takes the beauty and uniqueness of his home for granted, and appreciates the process of fishing just as much as the occasional reward. “It’s all about keeping your lines in the water,” Zak said. “You have to put a lot of time into it, but I really like fishing so it’s not hard.”
Zak said he enjoys the incredible scenery around Martha’s Vineyard in the areas where he fishes. “It’s just really nice to be out there with my dad; one time we even saw two whales while we were fishing, which was pretty cool,” Zak said.
And that’s not the only marine animal Zak has come across on his fishing journeys: sunfish, sharks, and even mahi-mahi are just a few of the incredible creatures he has seen.
John Potter said he is happy his kids can appreciate the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard. “We really respect this place for its beauty. It is a really special place to live, and we are truly blessed,” John said.
Although fishing is a big part of Zak’s life (he’s been fishing since he was 3 years old), he also enjoys many other passions, such as sailing, basketball, and volleyball. He plays basketball and volleyball at the Oak Bluffs School, and sails with the East Chop Yacht Club on weekdays during the summer.
Looking ahead to the next Derby, Zak said he is excited to get out on the water and break some more records.