December 8, 2005

Another Vineyard Derby Trip In the Books

One of these days, I will hopefully relive my glory year of 1997 at the Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby and win at least a daily price (2nd place daily bluefish), but 2005 proved very similar to the last few years as very few fish were landed in my foursome.

Mike, Don, Andy and I have all made the pilgrimage to the Vineyard for several years for the annual fishing event. The event is about fishing primarily, but certainly about camaraderie and goofing around with friends as well.

We arrived on the Vineyard via the MV Katama, which is a freight ship in the Steamship Authority's fleet. We happened to be on a 4pm boat, which was during a good blow left over from Hurricane Rita. We had a pretty rough forty minute ride over from Woods Hole and all of us were excited to get fishing. I'm talking waves over the bow and onto the cars on the deck "pretty rough" here.

Our first stop was at Dick's Bait and Tackle on New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs to register for the derby. We usually register at Coops Bait and Tackle, but wanted to fish Tashmoo that evening, so we decided not to ride all the way over to Edgartown.

After settling in at the Nashua House, which has been our flop house of choice for the last few years, we headed to Tashmoo for some plugging to work the kinks out. Unfortunately it was the last day of the quarter for me and I was trying to work out a last minute deal, but that didn't stop my friends from working the jetty with danny plugs, needle fish and perhaps a mr. wiggly.

We were all tired and decided to head back towards Oak Bluffs and perhaps a few night caps. It used to be that October in Oak Bluffs was quiet, but it sure felt like July as we turned up Circuit Avenue.

There was plenty of automobile and pedestrian traffic milling around the streets of Oak Bluffs as we made our way back to the hotel. A few Grey Goose's later and we hit the sack in hopes of rising early and finding False Albacore off East Beach on Chappaquiddick.

We were on the street loading the car by 4:45 AM on Friday morning. Good thing ol' Dippin' Donuts opens early!! We motored onto the sand at Norton Point and made our way to Chappaquiddick. With the beach erosion being what it is these days, over-sand vehicles are routed back onto the island and over the Dyke Bridge (Teddy K's Bridge), where you can either head to Cape Poge and the infamous Edgartown Gut or out onto East Beach and Wasque Point.

We spilled our 40 year-old bodies out of the truck and began rigging up our rods in the pre-dawn light. As the sun rose out of Nantucket Sound, we began to see distant splashes breaking the calm surface of the water, and we all knew there were Albies (False Albacore) in the area.

Now, being in the area and actually catching fish are two completely different things and the distant splashes stayed out of casting range for most of the morning. Andy did land a small striper just before dawn on Friday morning and also a 3-pound bluefish, but out of 30 or so fishermen on the beach that morning, we saw 3 Albies landed in four hours.

At 11 AM, after a breakfast of Barley and Hops, we headed down towards Cape Poge, hugging the shoreline in search of the tell-tale splashes that Albies make. Several times we stopped to cast to pods of fish, but had no luck. Luckily it was not raining like it has done in the past, and getting skunked in the sun certainly beats getting shut out in the rain!

After heading back to Oak Bluffs for some downtime and dinner, we once again headed out in the Vineyard darkness. This time decided to give it a go off the South Beach / Norton Point area, specifically a location known as Metcalf's Hole. We spent a solid three hours making assorted offerings of eels, squid and butterfish, and only had a few bluefish and a small striper to show for it. For the record, I did not catch anything and left that to Don, Andy and Mike!

We arrived back at the hotel for another round of Goose and hit the hay after a long day of casting. Once again Andy awoke us at around 4:30 AM and we were once again headed to Dippin' Donuts and then onto the beach, only this time on a Saturday morning. The beach on Chappy was more crowded--even at 5:15AM--since it was a Saturday, but unfortunately the fishing was much the same as the day before.

We were scheduled on a Noon ferry and considering the conditions, we figured we'd have no problems tearing ourselves away from the beach, but our lack of fish was certainly not from lack of effort. We did see a few more Albies landed on Saturday morning--maybe five--however they still seemed to stay mostly our of casting range. It's a maddening fish to chase, but the excitement of one on the line makes the frustration that comes with fishing for them worth it.

The lack of fish certainly did not temper our enthusiasm to head back to the Vineyard again next year. While landing a few more fish and getting some fish to the weigh station would be nice, the trip is certainly more about the good time had with good friends!

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