By MARK ALAN LOVEWELL
Island waters are filled with bluefish, especially now. Striped bass fishing is sketchy and the bonito are only now arriving, but for Vineyard and Nantucket commercial and recreational anglers, there is one certainty: the bluefish are here.
Capt. Tom Mleczko of Nantucket reports bluefishing is good this summer for him, as good as it was last year. He fishes in a 29-foot Hawk called Priscilla J.
“On the back side [of Nantucket] the average size of the fish is 8 pounds and some run as big as 15 pounds,” the captain said.
Given the rising price of marine fuel — it is $6.07 where he gets his diesel — it is nice to be able and go out in a boat and be assured there are fish waiting.
Vineyard waters are better for catching bluefish than last year, according to tackle shop owner Cooper A. Gilkes 3rd of Edgartown.
“We had a nice big run early in the spring and now we are seeing medium-size fish,” Mr. Gilkes said. “I have a lot of hopes for blues in the fall derby.”
Ed Lepore of the Vineyard fishes in a 17-foot Key West, a boat called Claminjan.
“It is pretty good fishing,” Mr. Lepore said of the bluefish. “The blues are small but they are out there. I live in the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Ground. I like to take people out in my boat who have never caught a bluefish. It is fun for them and fun for me.”
Bluefish are feisty and, fortunately, small. If a bluefish were the size of a shark, no one would go in the water. Pound for pound bluefish are more dangerous than a shark. They’ve got sharp teeth, are vicious whenever confined and will bite anything. Bluefish have a deep-ocean predator attitude most landlubbers associate with giant killers.
If movie producers wanted to put together a movie scarier than Jaws, they would do a bluefish version of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 movie The Birds. It wouldn’t take much imagination to cook up a believable tale of schools of bluefish terrorizing swimmers.
More Vineyarders are bitten by bluefish than any other fish in the sea. Shark bites border on fictional; bluefish bite stories are real.
Some Islanders will remember respected angler Roberto Germani and his love for shore fishing. He also had a playful love for fun. This columnist remembers Mr. Germano explaining how one day for adventure, he cast all kinds of toys into the water at Wasque just to see what the blues would attack. He didn’t use any hooks, it wasn’t about catching a fish. He explained he just wanted to know what they would hit. He attached children’s toys to a line and cast them out in the water. The fish hit everything he presented.
If blues are hungry and in a school, he discovered he could guarantee that for a short time he could reel in a fish pretty close to shore before it let go. The bites often destroyed the toys.
Mr. Germano’s exploits demonstrated when bluefish are in a frenzy, you can catch them with anything as long as it is has a hook.
Last year Bruce McIntosh of Edgartown was a top winner of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby for a 14.62-pound bluefish he caught from a boat.
“Bluefish is not my favorite fish,” Mr. McIntosh said. “I eat bluefish a couple of times a year and that is it.”
His favorite fish is striped bass. His second favorite fish is fluke.
But there is one thought about bluefish that Mr. McIntosh shares with many who want to catch something when they are out there on the water.
“At least it prevents you from being skunked,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I do like to catch bluefish in the derby. Striped bass is best in June. July is for catching bluefish and fluke.”
“When the rod bends over and it is a bluefish, you can feel it bouncing around. Bluefish will fight like tuna. They are feisty.
“When a striped bass hits, it is a different feel. For me it is more exciting, simply because I know it is a striped bass,” Mr. McIntosh said.
Mr. Lepore tries to go fishing at least three times a week. He usually goes fishing at Middle Ground and at Hedge Fence shoal. Middle Ground is off West Chop. Hedge Fence shoal is east of Oak Bluffs. While at this time of year he is looking for bonito, a bluefish catch is fine.
While the two spots are popular for boat anglers, at this time of the season they aren’t too crowded.
But Mr. Lepore said: “It’ll be like Five Corners, when the bonito show up.”
The bonito have made an appearance at Wasque.
Capt. Tom Rapone of Edgartown was out with a charter on Tuesday morning and his customer caught two.
They left the dock at 6 a.m. in his 23-foot Parker, a boat called Tunahelper, with a 225-horsepower outboard. They caught the fish at about 7 a.m.
“We were catching bluefish on pencil poppers in the Wasque area,” Mr. Rapone said.
Pencil poppers are a floating lure that when reeled in looks like a troubled fish. “The bones (bonitos) were mixed in with the blues,” Mr. Rapone said.
The fish were 7-pounders and looked like twins.
“It was a little rough out there,” Mr. Rapone said. The high seas were the result of the passing tropical storm Cristobal.
While this may be the first bonito reported in this column this summer, Mr. Rapone said he is certain he is not the first to catch one this season.
Matt Malowski, of Dick’s Bait and Tackle Shop in Edgartown, said there has been a rumor floating around for more than a week that one was caught at Menemsha.
Captain Mleczko of Nantucket said: “There have been a few. One was brought to the dock two days ago. I have not caught any myself.”
Cooper Gilkes runs Coop’s fish tackle shop in Edgartown. His store is a hotbed for tips and news of where fish are being seen and caught.
Mr. Gilkes said the bonito to the south have been prevented from coming into these waters in greater abundance because of a wall of colder water south of Wasque. He said the thin stretch of cold water is 69 degrees while the water farther south is a lot warmer.
The line, Mr. Gilkes said “runs between here and The Hooter.” The Hooter is a popular fishing spot, a buoy in the southern end of Muskeget Channel, between the Vineyard and Nantucket.
“The water temperature out beyond is 74 degrees. I think that as soon as the storms mix it up, some of those bonito will be here,” Mr. Gilkes said.
The state Department of Public Health is warning consumers to stay away from that green ingredient within cooked lobsters called tomalley. The element, which is rarely eaten even by the most spirited of gourmet seafood lovers, is now a health concern.
According to the state advisory, “The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is reminding consumers not to eat lobster tomalley, the soft green substance found in the body cavity of lobsters, because this part of the lobster can build up high levels of toxins and other pollutants.”
Lobster meat is fine and safe to eat, the advisory continues.
Additional interest arose to advise the public about the green substance as the state continues to monitor the impact of red tide in the Gulf of Maine and the waters off Cape Cod. Paralytic shellfish poisoning toxin can accumulate in the tomalley. Tomalley can accumulate polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs) and other toxins.
Without being specific, the report indicated the Maine Department of Marine Resources recently found the presence of the red tide algae toxin in some tomalley from lobsters in that state.
Lobsters in Vineyard markets and restaurants can come from a lot of different places beyond Island waters: Canada, Maine, New Hampshire and across coastal Massachusetts.