It should be bonito season. The water is warm, well into the 70s. There are plenty of sand eels swimming near the shoreline and there are plenty of terns overhead feeding. The bonito should be here. But they mostly aren’t.
Edgartown charter captains are catching some around Muskeget Channel. Rob Morrison, who works at Coop’s Bait and Tackle Shop, said they are also catching bonito at Hedge Fence.
Charlie Ashmun of the Edgartown charter fishing boat CayLee, a 26-foot Fortier, said he has had a few good days of bonito fishing. But he agreed it has been a bit spotty.
“I think it is a late showing and they aren’t always there,” Mr. Ashmun said.
Matt Malowski, who works as a clerk at Dick’s Bait and Tackle Shop, recently went down to State Beach in the early morning, hoping to see some action. State Beach is a good place to find lots of bait fish bait along the two mile stretch.
Mr. Malowski said he saw plenty of schools of bait and birds flying above. But there were no bonito.
“I know of some guys who have been waiting off the wharf [Steamship Authority wharf in Oak Bluffs],” Mr. Malowski said.
Bonito is a small tuna. The fish is fast under water, among the fastest swimmers in the waters around the Island. Once hooked, they can shoot in any direction, in front of a boat, behind and under a boat.
Eight pounds is a big bonito. They are usually caught from late summer until early fall.
Fly-fishermen love to catch them. The fish have keen vision and fishermen believe they can be spooked away by the sight of line. The most common lure used is something that resembles a fast-moving sand eel.
Bonito may not be big, but they are powerful and prized as a sport fish.
In other fishing news, Captain Ashmun reports that Skiff’s Island southeast of Wasque has seen a dramatic drop in the seal population in recent weeks. “A month ago the little island was covered with 80 plus seals. Three weeks ago, I went by and they were gone. Now, when I go by I may see five seals and they are in the water,” he said, speculating that the small patch of sand may have become too hot.
Paul Schultz of Edgartown is back on the beach, giving counsel to fishermen and other beachgoers. Mr. Schultz, the assistant superintendent for the Trustees of Reservations, had surgery that kept him home for most of the summer. He said on Wednesday he is glad to be back.
Mr. Schultz is a respected striped bass fisherman and was featured in the book Reading the Water, written by the late Robert Post. During the fall derby Mr. Schultz, who is often called Schultzie, is the go-to guy for fishing tips on Chappy. He has his favorite spots and has taught many in the skills of shore fishing.
Early this week, a huge school of menhaden died and washed up on beaches in New Bedford and Fairhaven.
The massive fish kill was noted on Monday and reported in the local papers.
Catherine Williams, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Energy and the Environment, said the cause of the kill was depleted oxygen in the water.
The menhaden washed up on Fairhaven’s West Island. According to one report there were dozens of fish on the beach but it is believed that the kill involved many more, perhaps thousands of fish.
A similar die-off of peanut bunker, small menhaden, was reported on Wednesday in the Delaware Bay in Cape May County. State authorities are investigating the cause of the kill.
Menhaden, also called pogies or bunker, are filter feeders. They swim in tight schools and used to be common from Nova Scotia to Florida. But their numbers have dwindled due to overfishing.
Ms. Williams said the kill is not unusual if the fish became trapped in a harbor where the water is overly warm.
Menhaden are prized on the Vineyard where they are used as bait for striped bass and bluefish. They were once caught commonly in Island harbors.