An uninvited guest named Bill was the talk of the waterfront on Wednesday afternoon.
No, this was not former President Bill Clinton, for he is welcome.
The concern was Hurricane Bill, spinning in the Atlantic as a category four hurricane, more than a thousand miles away. While forecasters appear confident the storm will stay safely at sea through the coming weekend, the storm’s significant size and power still are of concern to local mariners with big or little boats.
Local anglers have had an amazing season. While the season started slow, water temperatures were low; this week is right on schedule for water temperatures. So wouldn’t it be right in line for this unusual summer weather, to have a big hurricane stir up the waters east of the Island?
Last weekend was a great time to be offshore. The waters were calm and the clarity of the water was perfect for fish and fisherman. (It is not likely to be so this weekend.)
We heard reports of bluefin tuna in the 50-pound range being caught last weekend south of the Island. We’ve heard of white marlin sightings and yellowfin tuna in abundance south of the Vineyard on the edge of the continental shelf.
Joe Re of Shark’s Landing reports his charter partner Capt. Tom Norbury of the Oak Bluffs fishing boat The Smokin’ Eel, got into bluefin tuna about 12 miles south of Noman’s Land last weekend.
Rob Morrison of Coop’s Bait and Tackle Shop had his share of reports. Mr. Morrison said that Cooper A. Gilkes and his son Danny were in their boat Clean Sweep, out of Edgartown. They saw white marlin 20 miles south of Wasque. “They caught some yellowfin tuna in the 20 to 30-pound range. They caught mahi and saw bluefin tunas in the 50-pound range,” Mr. Morrison said. The all-day trip started early Sunday and didn’t finish until they got back to the dock late that evening. A good seafood dinner was had by all who participated.
With Hurricane Bill churning the seas, it is hard to predict how fishing will be when the storm is gone and the blue skies return.
“I was young when Hurricane Bob came,” Mr. Morrison said. “I have asked a lot of people about what a hurricane does to fishing.”
He heard that the fish don’t go anywhere when a big storm comes, but the waters get stirred up and visibility drops for fish looking for bait.
“I was told it doesn’t hurt the fish,” said Mr. Morrison. It is not like they can take shelter from the storm. “As long as they don’t get blown up on the beach it is okay,” Mr. Morrison said.
Even if the center of the storm passes 200 to 500 miles east of Nantucket, the offshore waters south of Martha’s Vineyard will not be a place for a sane boater to venture for a few days.
Mr. Morrison said he has spent a lot of time this month out at the Hooter, that buoy that marks Muskeget Channel and is halfway between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. It is a premiere fishing spot for the angler who has tired of inshore fishing but doesn’t want to go to the trouble of going way offshore for fish. Anglers report large bluefish and schools of bonito out there. This has been a summer of great bluefishing. “They saw a free jumping mako there the other day,” said Mr. Morrison.
Mr. Morrison said Capt. Everett (Porky) Francis caught a 13-pound bluefish Wednesday morning out there.
“The albies are a-waiting,” said Mr. Morrison, referring to the late summer arrival of false albacore. The only sport fish that hasn’t shown up yet this summer are false albacore. “I won’t expect to see them until after Labor Day,” Mr. Morrison said. Once they’ve arrived, the fishing season is complete and ready for another big event in the month ahead.
Hard to imagine that the 64th annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby is but three weeks away. The month-long fishing contest begins on Sunday, Sept. 13. Derby buttons and paraphernalia are available at local tackle shops now.
There will be a public hearing in Tisbury on Monday for a proposal to change the blue crab possession limit in Massachusetts from 50 to 25 crabs per day, plus raise the minimum size from 4 1/8 inches to 5 inches. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is hosting the hearing at the Tisbury Senior Center, 34 Pine Tree Road, at 4 p.m. They are also having hearings next week in Kingston and at Gloucester.
The blue crab fishery on Martha’s Vineyard is a low-key fishery. Tisbury Great Pond and Edgartown Great Pond from year to year are the scene of a crab fishery. But it isn’t big.
Some of the local crab fishermen are extremely shy about sharing information about their season. (This columnist was once blindfolded and taken to a favorite spot by the late Howard Andrews.)
It is a rare moment when the state hosts a fisheries hearing on the Vineyard, yet this one is tied to a subject that concerns Islanders.
The hearing also will look at new management strategies to address the collapsed winter flounder fishery in the waters of the Gulf of Maine. Winter flounder are in severe trouble in these waters.
There are new gear changes for lobstermen. The state plans to relax the trawl length for lobster pots, from 2,000 feet to 2,500 feet. Lobster trawls are controversial in these waters. Cuttyhunk lobstering prohibits the use of trawls.
The state is proposing a prohibition on the commercial harvesting of smelt, and new limits on the fishing for coastal sharks.
Tom Osmers, West Tisbury shellfish constable and member of the board of directors of the Dukes County/Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Association, said he is pleased that the state has decided to hold a hearing on the Vineyard, a rare opportunity for local fishermen to speak to officials on matters that concern their fishing. “We need these public hearings here, especially in the future on issues like striped bass. A lot of the fishery happens here in our waters,” Mr. Osmers said.
Mr. Osmers said he thinks the state is ducking the issues tied to the loss of forage fish from Vineyard waters. “We have a lot of herring runs down here. We have a concern about the management of forage fish here,” he said, especially the use of midwater trawlers not far from the Vineyard shoreline.
The Dukes County/Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Association was formed in the last year. Mr. Osmers is one of five members of the board of directors. Others include Buddy Vanderhoop, Jonathan Mayhew, Warren Doty and Stephen F. Norberg.
George Moffett Sailboat Race
The deadline is approaching for sailors interested in participating in the 32nd annual George Moffett Race, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 12. Applications must be mailed, and they must be in hand by Sept. 4. There will be no late entries. Registration is $40 and all sailors must wear lifejackets.
Information and forms on the upcoming contest are available at the host Holmes Hole Sailing Association’s Web site, holmeshole.org.