From the edition of May 22, 1987:
There’s a new and seasonal sort of traffic on the Beach Road in Vineyard Haven these days, as the sailboats of summer make their way down to the water for another season. Large sailboats emerge slowly from the lagoonside sheds of the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard, to the boat lift and into warming harbor waters.
Clean and shipshape after the winter’s hibernation, the sailboats are salt- christened again. Inside the shipyard sheds, a cathedral-like quiet prevails. Large boats and small stand like sentries, awaiting their turn to be removed from cradles, returned to harbor moorings.
The rigging shed has the feeling of an armory, with mast and booms stored and labeled like ancient weapons awaiting another season of battles with the wind. And there are mooring markers, waiting to be paired with boats for another summer. This seasonal ritual is going on now at all the Island’s shipyards, and soon the bright sails again will fill the Vineyard waters.
The bluefish have arrived in Vineyard waters this week. And amid blues schooling by the hundreds close to shore, fisherman lined Wasque Beach at the southeastern edge of the Island to welcome this favorite sporting fish.
Wasque, a favorite fishing spot for surf fisherman, is the first beach where the blues hit hard each spring.
On one afternoon this past weekend, 80 off-road vehicles lined a quarter mile of beach with as many fishermen standing by the shore, casting their lures out towards Nantucket. Thousands of pounds of fish have landed on that day. Some fish were kept. A great many were released.
Fisherman spoke this week of an excellent run this year — a blue blitz — plenty of bait and fish and white water. They spoke of tides and dawn and fishing at dusk.
Fisherman spoke of catching a fish at every cast and of arms tiring from the fight.
John Mayhew, a retired math teacher from West Tisbury, fished Wasque this week. In the hazy sun of Tuesday afternoon, he said, “I was here this morning at 6 o’clock. From what others told me, I was late. Still got a fish at every cast.”
Mr. Mayhew said: “I was out Friday. We did all right.” After battling a hundred or so pounds of angry bluefish, he had enough. “I kept some. I sold some and I gave away the rest to friends.”
Said Paul Choiniere, 56, a retired store manager from Sturbridge, “Everybody loves bluefishing.” he said. Pound for pound, he contended, no fish puts up such a fight.
He and his family of five arrived on the Vineyard in two four-wheel-drive vehicles at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and were fishing soon after. “We got enough for supper,” he said.
At times bluefish can be seen finning near the surface, hundreds of them at a time. But this day they were deeper. Mr. Herdman used a shiny metal Hopkins lure with a bucktail and a vicious-looking hook attached at the end. The barb on the hook was crimped. “That way it is easier to release the fish,” Mr. Herdman said.
Wrapped around Mr. Herman’s right index finger was a piece of frayed bandage tape. “It is standard equipment for a desk jockey,” he said.
A steady 15 m.p.h. northeast wind blew against the fishermens’ backs, keeping their collars up and jackets on.
“There is no sign on the surface that they are there,” Mr. Mayhew said. “But they are there, below. I’ve seen them chasing bunker.”
Tom McArdle of Newbury had been at the beach for only a few minutes when he caught his first fish. “We have a great beach at Newbury but I’m too busy up there with my woodworking shop to go fishing,” he said.
For every fisherman, wading in among the pounding surf, a bluefish lay on the beach kicking sand. Death comes slowly to a blue.
Ed Jerome, Edgartown school principal and an avid fisherman, said people like bluefish because they are easy to catch. “You don’t have to be skilled at it,” he said.
Mr. Jerome observed one beginning fisherman struggling to get his lure and line in the water. “This guy couldn’t catch a cold. He did everything wrong.” But even this fellow caught a blue.
Mid-May is a time of intensive blossoming in West Tisbury — the lilacs come into bloom, even as the pale petals from the apple trees go spinning down the perpetually east wind. The lilacs, both purple and white, and marvelously fragrant, are everywhere, from embryo bushes standing hopefully beside new houses, to great thickets of bloom marking old cellar holes.
Originally imported from England in colonial times, the lilacs have truly made the Island their own. They bloom simultaneously with a true Island native, the beach plum, in happy partnership, and with a host of more recent neighbors — azaleas, crabs, Scotch broom and dogwood, to make a flowering May basket of the whole town.
Compiled by Alison L. Mead