Holy mackerel!


Spring has finally arrived. I realize that spring officially began on March 19, and like many, I have enjoyed the blooming of snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, and forsythia. I have deep appreciation for all flora and fauna, I really do, but my spring begins when the fish show up. 

I have a friend who told me he watches his pear tree. When it blooms, he starts fishing for tautog. I love that so much. 

My Mother’s Day was just about perfect. After breakfast, church, flowers, and lots of love, one of the young men at my home asked if we could go fishing. I mean, how perfect are those words? “Let’s go!” I replied, smiling at how blessed I am.

I still haven’t put my rod rack into the truck. I’m working in my yard, mulching and planting, and I need the truck to be a gardening vehicle for a few more weeks, instead of its true purpose: fish mobile. 

It’s mildly painful when I see friends all rigged out for the fishing season, but I do love gardening. Not as much as fishing, not even close, but I can spend hours working in my yard, weeding and planting, thoroughly enjoying myself, and then go fishing when I’m done. It’s the best of both worlds, and when the garden is producing, I harvest from the land and sea, enjoying the freshest foods possible for months and months.

On Mother’s Day, with a fishing companion as eager to fish as I was, I put on a sweatshirt and boots, grabbed two rods, gently put them in the bed of the truck, then went to the shed for a two-gallon bucket, Ziploc bags, my pliers, and a lure bag.

I heard that mackerel were in Edgartown Harbor, and I was hoping to catch some and put them in the cooler for the Derby. If I end up bottom-fishing, and I always do, it would be fabulous to have fresh-caught mackerel frozen in my freezer. 

As we drove to Edgartown, Eliud and I were smiling. There is something so pure, so special, so childlike about going fishing. It brings back memories of my Grandpa George and summer weekends at the cottage on Plum Island, or walking a couple of miles to Long Lake with my little rod and tackle box. Every time I set out to go fishing, I feel the same anticipation I felt as a child. Never gets old. 

I pulled into Coop’s Bait and Tackle to buy a few sabikis. Coop Gilkes showed me the two that were working best now, and I bought two of each. I love Coop. I may have mentioned this a time or two — LOL. Truth is, Coop is not only incredibly knowledgeable, but he’s generous with his knowledge. Every time I go into Coop’s I expect to learn something. My eyes and ears are always open, my mind always eager to learn from the master.

As I was checking out, Coop said, “When you get that first hit, don’t reel in. Wait a minute. Give a few others a chance to hook up.”

I thanked Coop, and we headed to Memorial Wharf. It was chilly, partly cloudy, a little windier than I wanted, and it was almost high tide. I set up our lines, putting the Feather White & Flash Yarn Sabiki on Eliud’s rod, and the Holographic Sheet & White Flasher Sabiki on my rod. I added a green No. 2 Deadly Dick to Eliud’s sabiki, and a pink No. 2 Deadly Dick to my rod.

I have a thing for pink. And I’m a huge fan of pink Deadly Dicks. In 2018, when bass were still in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, I scored a Grand Slam. I caught my bonito, albie, and bluefish, in that order, on a No. 2 pink Deadly Dick. I caught my bass slinging a live eel. But a couple days before I caught that Derby bass on the eel, I left work and was driving from Edgartown to Vineyard Haven along the water. I saw a lot of birds working. I immediately pulled over. Yes, in my work clothes, though I took my shoes off and went barefoot.

I snatched my albie rod from the back of the truck, and headed to the shore, thinking it was a school of albies, maybe bones. I checked my drag, and cast. Bam! Fish on. Twenty-four-inch bass. Ten inches too short for a Derby weighable. I released him back into the water and cast again. 

After catching a few more short bass, I text my teammate Dave a picture of a 29-inch striper. Still not a Derby fish, but the fish were getting bigger, and there wasn’t another fisherman in sight. I landed nine stripers over the course of an hour. Biggest one was 31 inches. And guess what? All of them were caught on a pink Deadly Dick. 

At any given time, I own at least six pink Deadly Dicks. Just in case — if you know, you know.

Eliud and I walked over to the wharf, and found two spots among the other four people fishing. The water was moving from the wind, but I couldn’t see any fishy activity. The couple to our right said they’d caught a couple of mackerel about 20 minutes before we arrived, but they hadn’t had anything since. We lowered our lines and jigged. Nothing was happening to anyone’s line.

Over by the swimming dock, on the Chappy side, birds were working. Hmm. I certainly couldn’t cast that far, but I could hope the school would move back toward the dock. 

Now, casting a sabiki isn’t ideal. Casting a sabiki from Memorial Wharf with the roof far too close was even less ideal. But I could SEE the fish jumping. I reeled up, flipped the bail, put some faith in the weight of my trusty No. 2 pink Deadly Dick, and cast. The line didn’t go as far as I hoped. I reeled in, fishless, and cast again, and again, and again.

My sixth or seventh cast landed beautifully close to the school that was inching toward the wharf. I jigged the line sideways and reeled, jigged, and reeled. I felt the first hit, heard Coop’s voice in my head, and gave the rod a slight jig, but didn’t reel an inch. Pop. Pop. Pop! I felt the line get heavier, and started to reel in. 

I pulled up six mackerel, and one of them was on my pink lure. Eliud cast and had a hit. He reeled in three while I was still taking my six off and putting them in the bucket. 

We fished for another half an hour. We caught a lot of mackerel, releasing the smaller ones. In less than an hour, Eliud and I had a ton of fun. I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you that the pink line caught twice as many fish as the green one. We were home in time for dinner and the sunset. Truly a wonderful Mother’s Day. 

I need to attend the Aquinnah town meeting tonight for work. You know I’ll be out bass fishing after. I mean, if I’m driving all the way up there from Vineyard Haven, how can I not go fishing? I’m packing my waders, and a sweatshirt and jacket to pull on over my work clothes. Honestly, I think I could attend the meeting in my waders and no one would blink, but I’ll pretend to be fully focused on the meeting while I’m sitting there, imaging a keeper bass on my line.

On Thursday I have a meeting in Chilmark, which should end by 5 pm. The big question will be where to fish after. Migrating bass are all over the Island, from Chappy to Edgartown to Oak Bluffs to Menemsha to Aquinnah. Keepers are being caught in all locations. 

It finally feels like spring. My ‘Kwanzan’ cherry tree is blooming, and the mackerel are thick in the harbor. My lilacs are beginning to bloom, and the bigger bass are arriving. I’m planting beans and squash in the garden, and the bluefish are headed this way. It is a great time to enjoy the beauty and the bounty of the Island.

I hope to see you on the beach.