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A Primer for Eager Angling Vineyard Visitors 
This page contributed by author Nelson Sigelman
Where to get started. How to speak like a fisherman. Even if you don’t fish. ​​
​If you plan a Martha’s Vineyard visit, and you want to try your luck with one of the many sport fish that swim off our beautiful beaches, join us. You will be in good company. Islanders love to fish. It is part of our culture and history. ​
The beauty of fishing here is the variety of available species: striped bass, bluefish, fluke, sea bass, scup, bonito, false albacore, tuna, shark, and squid.  ​There is a fish (or mollusk) for every person and every skill level.  There are fishermen who pursue giant tuna, others who get excited catching scup, and still more who are pleased to rake up a few clams. No matter your skill ​level or equipment, you can have fun fishing.  Advice, equipment, and the latest fishing news is available at Island tackle shops where you will find knowledgeable people who practice what they preach. Tackle shop staff can arrange a shore fishing guide or a fishing or boat charter trip for visitors who want to flatten the
fishing learning curve. ​ Still, the easiest way to wet a line is to merely pick up a fishing rod and head to the beach. And while shore fishing access is problematic in many New England seaside communities, thanks to Island municipalities and public and private
agencies, Island visitors can enjoy casting a line in lots of great spots. 
The Trustees
, a statewide, private conservation nonprofit, offers foot and off-road vehicle beach access to most of Chappaquiddick, the Vineyard’s tiny, neighboring island to the east,  and to Norton Point Beach, which it manages for Dukes County. It is a wonderfully generous and environmentally devoted organization that works hard to balance state and federal shorebird protection with public access. In the early spring, the best spot to intercept a hungry bluefish is on Chappaquiddick, between East Beach and fabled Wasque Point. Both are reachable by off-road vehicle (with a TTOR sticker) or by foot from the Trustees’ parking lots. For more information go​.
The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, a public agency funded by a two percent real estate transfer fee, provides public fishing access around the Island from Cape Poge Gut on Chappy to Moshup Beach in Aquinnah, the Vineyard’s westernmost town. A list of all Land Bank properties may be found on the agency’s website at​. ​​


​The down-Island towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury impose no residency beach restrictions. Although the up-Island towns – West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah –  impose resident-only summer beach parking restrictions (in-town renters and inn guests may get a pass), there is limited public fishing access.
For example, Menemsha Beach in Chilmark is open to the public. The town allows fishermen to park at Squibnocket Beach after 5 pm in the summer months and during the day in the off season.
West Tisbury offers permits that allow fishermen to park in the Lambert’s Cove Beach parking lot at night in the summer. There is also day fishing access to Long Point Beach, owned and managed by The Trustees.

Aquinnah offers limited parking for non-resident fishermen along Lobsterville Beach, popular with saltwater fly rodders, and at West Basin. A small Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries parking lot hosts fishing access to Dogfish Bar.
​Discussing beach access, much is often made of the colonial ordinances that were enacted between 1641 and 1647 by the Great and General Court, the formal name for the state legislature. The colonial government retained the rights for the public along the ​tidelands to "fishing, fowling, and navigating" between the mean low and high water marks. ​
But the colonial ordinance does not allow someone to trespass on privately owned land to revel in those rights. For example, a fisherman may walk between the low and high water mark to fish, but he or she may not cross private property to get to the shoreline. The key is to be considerate and respectful of private property.
Mid-May is the unofficial start of the Island’s fishing season. The first bluefish and striped bass arrive then, with more, and in some cases larger, fish to follow. Soon fluke (summer flounder) and black sea bass show up, and by the end of the summer bonito and false albacore ratchet up the excitement of fishing in near-shore Vineyard waters.
The fishing season unofficially ends in mid-October with the end of the venerable Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby​, a five-week fishing contest that annually attracts more than 3,000 registrants.The Derby was created in 1946 to use the Island’s great fall fishing to attract visitors during the shoulder season. From 1951 to 1986, when it was incorporated as a nonprofit, the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce ran the Derby.
By tradition and lore, the striper is the king of sportfish on the Island. Bass range in size from schoolies, fish about twenty inches in length, to “cows” in excess of twenty-five pounds.
With its broad tail and powerful head the striper is built to prowl the rips, surf, and lurking boulders that surround the Island. Landing a big fish from the surf is a notable achievement. Bluefish provide plenty of excitement when they arrive along Island beaches. Blues most often feed in schools, but large, solitary fish also prowl the shoreline. Bluefish have very sharp teeth and a malevolent attitude. They are mean. You can see it in their eyes. Blues stare at you. A hooked blue will follow your movements and project an attitude. "Go ahead, make my day."
Scup (porgies) are scrappy little fish and great fun on light tackle. They are also tasty. Scup may be found off jetties and piers from shore, off rock piles and while fishing for other bottom species. Scup are mostly small but it is not unusual to catch one the size of a dinner plate.
Irrespective of fishing success, the ability to speak authoritatively about fishing is what will help you to carry on a conversation with other fishermen in a tackle shop or on the beach. The following phrases provide a starting point for general conversation Vineyard style. ​
The major Island point of reference for any shore fisherman in the early spring is the southeast corner of Chappaquiddick, called Wasque, the site of a strong rip current on a falling tide and one of the annually earliest spots for catching fish. It is not even necessary to have ever visited this spot, only that you include it in a sentence, to demonstrate your fishing bonafides.
“Been out to Wasque yet?” is a good conversation starter. This does two things: it demonstrates familiarity with a notorious fishing destination, and it allows the person you are speaking with to fill you in on what they have been doing.
A variation on the same theme might be, “Man, I’ve got to get out to Wasque.” This implies that you know something is going on out there.
Now, there are two schools of thought about how to pronounce Wasque. There is the “waskey” school, and the “weighskwee” school. Choose either one, but be prepared for a well-known fisherman, who shall remain nameless, never to pronounce it the way you do.  Asked how he pronounces it, this veteran told me, “Well, it depends on how the person I’m talking to says it. If he says waskey, I say weighskwee, I do it just to confuse them.”
Another fishing conversation anchor is the matter of bait — the absence or abundance does not matter — only that you refer to it, specifically either sand eels or squid. For example, “Squid are a little late this season,” or “Seen any sand eels?” Of course, useful combinations may be created by matching squid, Wasque, and bluefish: “I caught a blue at Wasque, and it was full of squid.”
Other handy phrases include references to a falling or rising tide, and a rock, any rock, as long as you refer to it with an air of authority so that the other person, unwilling to appear a novice, is too timid to ask which rock.
The best way to discuss how wind, tide, or an absence or abundance of bait will affect the fishing is to speak sparingly and convincingly. No elaboration or explanation is needed.  “I like this wind,” sounds good. But for basic conversation, on Martha’s Vineyard, “How’s the fishing?” is best.
Ready to get started? Check out Boat Rentals, Fishing ChartersTackle Shops as well as Boat Charters, Boat Excursions &  Marinas.
Nelson Sigelman is the author of ​“Martha's Vineyard Fish Tales: How to Catch Fish, Rake Clams, and Jig Squid, with Entertaining Tales About the Sometimes Crazy Pursuit of Fish”​ (​Stackpole Books​,  $24.95), available at local bookstores and major book retailers.
This informative and fun read answers the questions asked in local tackle shops, including the best spots to catch a striped bass on a fly rod—Lobsterville Beach—and rigging tackle for blues, fluke, black sea bass, false albacore, and bonito. Spin fishing, bottom fishing, and fly fishing are all covered.

For more on-Island sporting culture pick up,  ​“Martha’s Vineyard Outdoors, Fishing, Hunting and Avoiding Divorce on a Small Island” (​Tashmoo Publishing​, $19.99), available at local bookstores and major book retailers. 
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