In the middle 1970s, trap fishing enjoyed a brief revival on the Vineyard on the site of an old Campbell and Flanders trap near Menemsha Bight. Chris Murphy of Chilmark set up exactly the same type of trap that the old-world Island fishermen were using in the 1930s, only he rigged his netting from floating 55-gallon barrels anchored to the bottom rather than using heavy wooden stakes.
Put plainly, most of the movie footage is not terribly good. Some of it is out of focus or overexposed. Some of it lingers too long on fish lying dead on the rocks. Some of it wasn’t even shot on the Vineyard, and it takes a judicious eye to determine which scenes show the Island and which show Nauset, Cotuit or the jetties at the northern end of the Cape Cod Canal.

If you had walked the shoreline of the Vineyard between roughly 1870 and the middle 1930s — especially the muscular, rocky north shore from Lambert’s Cove west to Gay Head — you would have seen something there’s absolutely no sign of today: row after row of wooden stakes stretching up to 100 feet outward from the beach into Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds.


The film is just 23 minutes, 14 seconds long. It’s silent, black and white and there are moments when the images jump around due to the choppiness of the sea — or of the editing. There’s a shot of a man with a long harpoon and dart leaning against the rail of a bowsprit. There’s a wooden keg bouncing over the wave tops toward the horizon.