By MARK ALAN LOVEWELL
The commercial striped bass season began this week with a whimper. The fishermen are out hunting for this highly prized fish, but their landings are off.
Striped bass are local and one of the few species that are plentiful and available at fish markets and restaurants to sell. Bluefish comes a close second as a local fish and are landed daily.
The commercial season for striped bass opened on Sunday. Until Sunday, the only way one could eat striped bass was to either catch it or have a friend catch one and give it as a gift.
Rod and reel anglers are limited to a minimum size of 34 inches and a bag limit of 30 fish per day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays. They are restricted to a bag limit of five fish per day on Sundays.
Recreational fishermen have it easier. Their minimum size is 28 inches and they can land and keep two fish per day. There is no opening and closing dates on the recreational fishery.
The commercial season ends for striped bass when the state quota of 1,107,828 pounds is met.
At the Home Port restaurant in Menemsha, where seafood is the first word when it comes to main items on the menu, striped bass will be the “catch of the day” if it isn’t already.
Will Holtham, owner of the Home Port, said he is looking forward to offering striped bass, though he had yet to seen any by Tuesday. He said bluefish have been coming in regularly. This is a good year for consistent bluefish landings.
“Striped bass are like the [agricultural] fair. It is another piece of the summer season,” Mr. Holtham said. “When people want something local, it is striped bass.”
Steve Morris at Dick’s Bait and Tackle Shop said his anglers are moaning about the slow start.
“The water is warm. I think the guys are having a hard time,” Mr. Morris said.
As of Tuesday, T.J. Giegler at the Edgartown Seafood fish market said he had only seen four fish so far.
Louis S. Larsen of the Net Result fish market in Vineyard Haven had his own theory why the commercial striped fishing season started out slow: “They aren’t yo-yoing.”
Mr. Larsen said he had to give a local angler some advice on how to catch striped bass with legally sized scup. He said he shared an easy technique.
In years past, anglers caught striped bass using small scup on a treble hook. These days the state has set a minimum size of 10.5 inches for recreational, and a 10-fish minimum, so the small scup for bait option is over. Commercial anglers are limited to a 9-inch scup.
Mr. Larsen said he told the angler to cut the scup into small pieces and use that as bait.
The practice of yo-yoing — placing a lead weight in a bait fish and jigging that fish up and down off the bottom to attract and catch a fish — continues.
Albert Fischer of Aquinnah and his daughter Molly were out fishing in Menemsha Pond on Tuesday morning when they found a 20-pound striped bass filled with a pound of lead.
Vineyarders will remember Molly, then 12, as the 2005 winner of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby with a 49.22-pound striped bass she caught from a boat.
“The pond was very calm. We saw this striped bass floundering on its side. We turned around and tried to gaff it. But we scared it away. We tried snagging it with a plug. The boat spooked it and it swam away,” Mr. Fischer said.
Within a few minutes the fish was back floating on the surface.
“After playing a cat-and-mouse game with the fish, Molly finally snagged it with a treble hook off a popping plug,” Mr. Fischer said. Once aboard, there was more to discover about this troubled fish.
“There was something obviously wrong with it. It wasn’t bulky at all. I cut its stomach open and the only thing in it were five weights, weighing just over a pound,” Mr. Fischer said.
Mr. Fischer said he captured the whole process in video. He shared the story with his fishermen friends and they all agreed.
“It is wrong,” Mr. Fischer said. “If there are any experts out there, anyone wants proof, this whole thing is all documented.”
Fluke Tournament Results
A total of 179 fishermen competed in last weekend’s ninth annual fluke derby, held by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9261. Though participation was down from last year’s record attendance of 224 fishermen, team fishing increased this year over last.
Peter Herrmann, organizer of the event, said 21 teams competed in the event, almost twice last year’s 12 teams.
When teams compete in the derby, the bragging grows exponentially. This year’s winning team won with 51.8 pounds, total weight, and the members were Cooper A. Gilkes 3rd, Rick Harvey, Ralph Case and Cooper Fersen.
The winners are as follows: Men, 1, Tim Duys, 11.2; 2, Rick Harvey, 10.2; 3, Mark Morris, 9.5. Ladies: 1, Annette Cingle, 8.5; 2, Bev Bergeron, 7.3; 3, Donna Bishop, 6.7.
Fishermen age 12 and under: 1, Ben Peters, 7.8; 2, Cooper Fersen, 6.5; 3, Brian Fraser, 6.4; 4, Chris Perry, 5.5; 5, Katherine O’Brien, 5.5.
Fishermen aged 13 to 16: 1, Doug Andrade, 9.6; 2, Doug Fraser, 5.9; 3, Chris Morris, 5.4.
The largest black sea bass was caught by Heather Maciel and weighed 6.1 pounds.
Mr. Herrmann said that a lot of fish were weighed in on Saturday and few weighed in on Sunday. Mr. Herrmann said that anglers are quick to bring in their biggest fish on Saturday to find out if they have a winner and can get on the board. Sunday is a day to break the landings on the earlier day. Mr. Herrmann said the weather was favorable: “Sunday was a little breezy and Saturday was better.”
A cookout was held along with an awards ceremony on Sunday afternoon at the Towanicut avenue at the post.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has closed the federal waters south and east of the Vineyard to the harvesting of whole sea scallops, following concerns that red tide (phytoplankton Alexandrium) might be ingested by shellfish. The closure has absolutely no impact on the Vineyard as no local fisherman is harvesting and landing sea scallops here.
The state waters in Cape Cod Bay and portions of eastern Nantucket Sound also remain closed, though the state has taken steps to reopen areas as the algae bloom runs its course and abates.