Fishing in the age of social distancing

Ponds are stocked, stripers return to the Vineyard.

Plenty of trout to go around at Duarte’s Pond. — Lucas Thors

One great thing about fishing is that you can do it alone. In my opinion, fishing alone is one of the most therapeutic and emotionally healing activities anyone could do. The constant anticipation, the sometimes hours of utter silence apart from the whizz of my line and click of my bail — something about the whole process allows me to dig through my thoughts and really focus on what matters.

Thankfully, the fish are back on the Vineyard, and anglers are turning off their Netflix and heading down to Duarte’s Pond to pull up their share of tiger, brown, brook, and rainbow trout. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has stocked Duarte’s, Uncle Seth’s, Old Mill in West Tisbury, and Old Mill at the head of Lagoon Pond in Oak Bluffs with hundreds of trout of all sizes.

Edgartown board of health agent Matt Poole said he has no qualms with people fishing, whether it be freshwater, saltwater, or shellfishing, as long as people are safe and are adhering to distancing protocols.

So grab that Powerbait or go dig up a couple of worms after a rainy night, and head on down to Duarte’s (that’s my favorite spot). There’s plenty of space for social distancing at most of the Island’s more popular fishing spots.

There’s even better news for saltwater fans — the migrating striped bass are slowly arriving along Vineyard coastlines in search of swarming baitfish. Cooper “Coop” Gilkes of Coop’s Bait and Tackle said the stripers are here, and some people are catching more than just schoolies .

About a week and a half ago, Coop said there were striped bass seen swimming up the herring run and feeding on the anadromous fish that also recently arrived

Coop said it’s still much too early for bluefish, those will start to arrive in the end of May. 

Coop’s Bait and Tackle is taking call-in orders for all your bait and tackle needs, so don’t fret if you need some new line or a fresh setup. 

Joe El-Deiry, chairman of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby committee, said lots of people have been getting outdoors and pulling in the trout at some of the Island’s freshwater bodies, and anglers are being responsible when fishing in groups.

“I have definitely seen people social distancing. Lots of them are fishing alone, and it’s mostly family members that are fishing next to each other,” El-Deiry said. 

He also said most of the ponds are big enough for multiple people to be fishing at a time and still be hundreds of feet away from each other. 

He also said he has been seeing some luck with striped bass schoolies showing up. I have personally seen little stripers swimming around at Eastville Beach, and the smelt and alewives are going nuts just off of Big Bridge.

El-Deiry mentioned a video he saw recently where hundreds of gannets were diving for either mackerel, herring, or another migrating fish off of East Chop.

“It was probably more gannets diving around there than I have seen in recent years,” El-Deiry said. “When the bait show up, you know the striped bass won’t be far behind.”

El-Deiry wanted folks to know about the new limits for stripers and bluefish that were recently enacted. 

Stripers have a size limit of 28 inches to less than 35 inches, and a one-fish possession limit (per day). The new limits are essential to supporting the recovery of the striped bass as a species, after a continuous decline in recent years led to stripers being eliminated from the Derby.

For recreational bluefish, anglers are limited to three fish per day, although we won’t see them for a little while.

El-Deiry said fishing is a great way to get outdoors, and serves as a fun activity that can be done safely.

“You can do it by yourself, you can do it far away from other people. There are so many positives about fishing, it really is something that people look forward to all year,” El-Deiry said.