Fishing into fall 

Otto Osmers with a bonito. –Gavin Smith

The bonito have held in strong, finally moving into Menemsha in the same kind of numbers that they were appearing down-Island for weeks. I was fortunate enough to squeeze in a few mid day trips to the jetty to fish for this amazing species. 

By Saturday of last week the news was out, and by the time I was done running around for work the jetty was packed with a mix of local and visiting anglers. A group of young Islanders were hooking up consistently all afternoon, even amid the madness of people standing elbow to elbow and casting over each others heads (it’s a real sight for those who haven’t witnessed it). The bonito remained rather small, but still made for a fun fight.

The talk of the town shifted slightly from the large number of bonito around to the arrival of the false albacore. Though these fish are not often fished for their meat, albies are broadly considered to be one of the most enjoyable species to catch from both boat and shore. With the albies moving in, it is almost a sure bet that the smaller bonito will be moving out, but the chance at a larger bonito is becoming more and more realistic as we approach the Derby. Though albies have been caught in several places around the Island, bonito fishing has been fantastic. 

Registration is now open for the 74th Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. This annual fishing tournament brings anglers from all over the world to try their hand at a prized fish. The Derby supports a scholarship fund that awards several scholarships each year to graduating seniors from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. Last year we lost Derby president, and beloved Islander Ed Jerome who passed during the tournament. One of the scholarships is now given in his name.

Though Ed has left us, his impact on the Derby and on the Island will live on for generations to come. The tournament runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 19 with daily prizes given for striped bass, bluefish, and bonito. This year the grand prizes are a 19-foot Cape Codder fishing boat, and a Subaru Impreza. Though there are many prizes given out each year, the shared experiences are the focus of the Derby. Islanders and visitors alike all gather to head out on the water and fish. Every year I meet new people, learn more about fishing, and revel in the shared experience of enjoying the unparalleled beauty of this amazing Island. If you would like to register for the Derby, pins are available at Dick’s Bait and Tackle, both Larry’s Tackle Shop locations, Coop’s Bait and Tackle, Menemsha Texaco, Keep it Reel Kayak and Tackle, and the Derby Headquarters in Edgartown. Remember that registration in person requires cash or check, but you can pay with a credit card online. 

I spoke with the staff at Dick’s Bait and Tackle who confirmed that albies are being caught in Edgartown in the largest numbers, though they are showing in other places on the Island. The bonito have been sticking around for now, even though the false albacore have arrived. A rare Spanish mackerel was caught last week, adding to the mystery of fishing Vineyard waters. Striped bass have been getting larger as the fall season begins. Bluefish are still around and there have finally been some larger fish caught recently, however we are all hoping that some bigger blues arrive for the Derby this year.


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.