Bluefish keep Vineyard rods bouncing

Bill Fieles, from Kennett Square, PA, reels in one of many bluefish caught at Wasque on Sunday.

Bluefish kept anglers busy last week, both on and offshore. Striper action slowed down, and squid, which have showed up in big numbers in recent years, are mysteriously absent.

Peter Sliwkowski, co-owner of Larry’s Tackle, said the bigger shore stripers were landed up-Island last week. “Stripers in the 20- to 30-pound range were caught in the rocks on the North Shore; people are mostly slinging eels,” he said. He’s had reports that Gay Head and Squibnocket have been productive at dusk, with needlefish, swimmers, and darters the lures of choice. “It’s good to catch Squibnocket midway through the rising tide,” he said. “I think things are going to pick up with the moon changing up.”

Boats have been reporting good striper fishing at Middle Ground and the Wasque Rip. Boats have reported “herds” of bluefish between Tom’s Shoals and Cape Poge.

East Beach on Chappy has been good for shore blues. “Topwater plugs like [Robert’s] Rangers and Ballistic Missiles are doing the job. White has been the hotter color lately,” he said.

Kids and adults with very short attention spans will find good scup action in Edgartown Harbor.

Steve Morris, owner of Dick’s Bait and Tackle and three-time Derby winner, said he got into one of those herds of bluefish off Wasque from his boat. “They were everywhere; it was pretty impressive,” he said. “The southwest wind also helps bring in the bluefish. The striper fishing has slowed down, but I think the full moon had a lot to do with it.” For stripers, he recommends the soft baits, pink and white Sluggos and Storm Shad.

Jeff Canha, captain of Done Deal charters, said the offshore striper action slowed down last week. “I think we’re between the migration of the Hudson River stripers and the Chesapeake stripers,” he said. “The Hudson River stripers have unbroken lines, the Chesapeake have broken lines.”

Captain Canha may be onto something. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has reported that the stripers were unusually slow to leave the spawning rivers and re-enter the Chesapeake this year.

Coop, owner of Coop’s Bait & Tackle, also reported a lot of blues and a slowdown in stripers. “I’m guessing it’s due to the full moon,” he said. “We had our first fluke reported, and the sea bass fishing has been good. Scup is going great. I have a feeling we’re going to hear about the first tuna of the year real soon.”

Silent spring for squid

Prior to this year, squid were arriving in big numbers. The word “epic” is often used to describe the squid fishing last year. If you went to Bend in the Road, Edgartown Harbor, or Menemsha Harbor, you could fill up a five-gallon bucket before your coffee got cold or your beer got warm.

A few weeks ago, we reported that the squid were back, assuming their arrival was the harbinger of another epic year.

But it wasn’t. By some reports, this year has been epically bad for squid.

“I’m scared to death; I think we’ve done it this time,” Coop said. “I’ve never seen the harbors so void of squid. It’s like they’re gone. Are we going to hear from powers that be that it’s just a down cycle? I’ve been fishing all my life, and I’ve never seen it this bad. If this is an indication and we’re the first ones to see it, it’s only going to get worse. I’m hoping they’re late, but I’m getting a gut feeling they’re gone.”

“I’ve only had one bucket of fresh squid,” Peter Sliwkowski said. “There’s none in Menemsha or at Bend in the Road. We’re finding a lot of sand eels in the bluefish. Maybe they’ll come in after them. Maybe warmer weather will help.”

“I’ve only caught two squid in Vineyard Haven harbor this year,” Jeff Canha said. “Last year I was catching buckets of them.”

Steve Morris is more sanguine about the squid situation. “It was booming the past three years. I think it just goes in cycles,” he said. “Last year guys were filling five-gallon buckets and putting it their freezer and then throwing them out. It would help if people only take what they need when they are around.”

June tourney

There’s still time to enter the Larry’s Tackle Blue and Bass Battle, a month-long bluefish and striped bass tournament. Ashton Hannah currently leads the shore striper category with a 24.45-pound fish, caught on Monday. Entry fee is $35, and the money raised goes to the top three people in each of the four categories. Last year, 75 people entered, and the first-place winners raked in $325. That’s a lot of eels. Details and current leaders are available at

School’s out

Graduation day may have come and gone, but the bluefish were still in school at Wasque. For the second Sunday in a row, the weather was spectacular and the fierce fighting fish showed up in big numbers. For a frenzied hour, just after high tide, Wasque was a line of fishermen with parabolic rods. I always start with a Roberts Ranger plug because the explosion of a fish slamming a surface lure is a thrill that never gets old. I hooked up on my third cast. But after 15 fruitless minutes watching people around me hook up on every cast, I switched to a metal Castmaster. It didn’t take long to hook into a heavyweight that had my drag singing.

I figured the action would hold up for a while, since the tide had just begun to fall. So being the dutiful MV Times reporter I am, after I caught enough for dinner, I put down my rod and began taking pictures and talking to happy fishermen.

But before I could get back to fishing, the seals showed up. Cute as they may be, the bastards are a fishing buzzkill. Over the next two hours, only a few truant bluefish were caught. At least I had dinner for me and my dog Angus — he’s devoured bluefish since he was a puppy. In his younger days, he would sometimes drag my catch and bury it in the sand under my Jeep. How he knew to do that, I have no idea.

It’s clear there are more seals around than there used to be. Good news for great white sharks, but not so good for fishermen. I spoke with Erin Burke, protected species specialist at the state Division of Marine Fisheries, to get an idea of how many more seals there are in these parts. “At the Marine Mammal Commission meeting in April, the National Marine Fisheries Service said that in 2005, there were roughly 11,000 in Massachusetts waters. Now estimates run between 25,000 to 50,000,” she said. Ms. Burke said that Sable Island, off the coast of Canada, is “maxed out,” with 425,000 seals, so they’ve begun migrating south — so we can expect more of them in Vineyard waters.

Where’s Jaws when you need him?

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This article by Barry Stringfellow originally appeared on