Not every cast produces a fish. So I stand on the beach thinking. I think about a lot of things. One night I thought about gluten.
What is gluten, I thought. It was on my mind because one of my fishing pit stops is the Scottish Bakehouse. Every fisherman needs a network of places where he or she can find human bait in the form of big sugary treats.
I am fond of the apple turnovers, lemon bars, and anything with a big glop of buttercream frosting. I would buy a piece of cardboard if it was frosted with buttercream.
In the not-so-old days, when Mrs. White owned the place and I suspect never gave a passing thought to gluten, you could buy an apple pie in a rich shortbread crust. It was my favorite.
I can say that the Bakehouse makes a delicious cinnamon bun, but it often disappears quickly from the shelf. It is a staple of my ride home after taking a morning stand during deer hunting season.
On my way to fish off Menemsha beach one June night I stopped for a treat. The cupboard was somewhat bare because as it was near closing, but I still found fuel for several hours of casting.
Several signs proclaimed the absence of gluten in various bakery products. For several years I have been noticing an increase in information about gluten but have pretty much not looked into the details. So I stood on the beach thinking about gluten, and waited for a strike.
I asked Tom Robinson, fishing nearby, if there might be a business opportunity. Perhaps a local tackle shop could advertise gluten-free eels or squid. Or maybe, given the trajectory of signs and increasing regulatory action, one day we might be able to sell products based on the availability of gluten — whatever gluten is.
Tom kept fishing and ignored me.
Fishermen have plenty of reasons to keep fishing this month even as the water warms and the bass go deep.
My favorite summer targets when fishing from a boat are sea bass and fluke, also known as summer flounder. Sea bass are scrappy for their size, generally plentiful and delicious fried or grilled whole over charcoal.
On July 13, 14, Saturday and Sunday the VFW will host its annual fluke derby. It is very much an Islanders’ tournament. No glitz, no likelihood that Lady Gaga will show up at the awards barbecue.
Victory brings fluke glory and bragging rights in the Island’s local coffee and tackle shops. I like the fluke tournament and the awards barbecue held at the VFW on Sunday, a place completely lacking in the sort of pretension associated with Martha’s Vineyard that begins to get tiring amid the summer hype.
For information or to register for the contest, visit a local tackle shop.
Fluke fishing is not difficult to master. But there are some fundamentals you should know: have a big net ready and keep your hook on the bottom.
Fluke lay flat on the bottom waiting to ambush prey. The best technique to catch a fluke is to drop a weighted fluke rig down to the bottom until you feel the lead hit bottom, then begin to bounce it as the boat drifts. If you lose contact with the bottom you will need to add more weight. When the tide is running with the wind in Vineyard Sound it is not unusual to need 10 ounces of weight to stay in contact with the bottom when fishing in very deep water.
Using braided rather than monofilament line will help provide better contact with the bottom. The braid is thinner and has little stretch. The larger fish will be in deep holes and the ability to quickly set the hook when you feel a bite is essential.
Most large fluke are lost on the surface when an excited fishermen attempts to net a fish too soon. Fluke are very powerful. If you want to land a big fish do not bring a dinky net to a fluke fight.
Slowly lead the fish up the water column and keep constant tension so the fish cannot shake the hook. If you pull the fish up too quickly and it breaks the surface, one shake of its head is usually all it takes to send the hook flying.
I find that the best technique is for the person on the net to put the net in the water and let the fisherman lead the fish towards the net. The net man scoops up the fish. Timing is critical.
The best part about catching fluke is eating fluke. I fillet my fish in quarters. Dust the quarters in flour seasoned with Old Bay, dip into an egg wash, then dip into Panko bread crumbs. The Panko-style bread crumbs are the key to crispy fillets.
Deep-fried and drizzled with lemon, sea bass or fluke is the kind of meal that makes winter seem like a distant memory. Or simply broil for gluten free.
Keep in mind if you are a visitor, it is possible to book shore and boat trips at local tackle shops and experience Vineyard fishing with a knowledgable guide.
However, with few exceptions you must have a Massachusetts saltwater fishing license.