When my girlfriend offered me the chance to stay with her family for a few days on their annual vacation to Martha's Vineyard, I jumped at opportunity. This meant five days of sunshine, excellent swimming, and access to "fishy" water!
After listening to Brian McCarty's surf reports on the MFCC podcast, I was very excited to do some fishing while on-island.
I packed a few changes of clothes, a bathing suit, and my go-to setup, a 9' St. Croix Mojo Surf paired with a Van Staal VS200X from Goose Hummock. I was able to carry all of this onto the Hyline fast ferry. About an hour after boarding the vessel, I arrived in Oak Bluffs.
Striking a Balance
My girlfriend's family understands how much I love to fish, but I knew I had to be respectful and dial it back when appropriate. This presented an interesting challenge: gather all the information I could, and use it for one productive night of fishing.
I spent some time relaxing, and enjoying all that the island has to offer. If you have the opportunity to visit Martha's Vineyard, by all means do it! It's a unique place, with a different charm than the Lower Cape. Luckily the weather was pleasant, and we were able to enjoy the warm water and soft sand of the beaches. I was even at the island's South Beach when the water was cleared for a hammerhead shark sighting!
Soon enough into my stay, the fishing bug began to kick in. I couldn't help but wonder what else (besides hammerheads!) was lurking beneath the water's surface...
I re-listened to past MFCC podcasts that feature Brian McCarty, and soaked up the information he provided. Larry's Tackle Shop in Edgartown also has an interactive google map, revealing productive spots and tips on how to fish them. I found this to be quite helpful when choosing a spot to fish.
There was so much fishable coastline that it was tricky to figure out where to start. I have minimal experience fishing on Martha's Vineyard, and had never seriously targeted striped bass from shore on the island. Being a relatively new surfcaster, it was all it bit overwhelming.
I told Ryan Collins that I was out on the island for a few days, and looking to fish. Ryan replied that he had given my phone number to Brian McCarty, and that he might be of help. Brian contacted me soon after, and offered to fish with me that same evening! I was very thankful to be presented this opportunity. I agreed, and immediately my head was swirling with anticipation of things to come.
After the initial excitement faded, I realized that I needed to explain this to my girlfriend, and her family. I told them that I was meeting up with Brian, and that we would be fishing well into the night. It all made sense in my mind, but explaining that I was meeting up with someone I've never met to fish late into the night certainly came off as a bit strange (LOL). I promised them that in exchange for their permission to fish and their hospitality, I would bring back a striped bass if I caught one above the 28" mark.
They agreed to these terms, but insisted that I have one of their famed fajitas before I left. With my plugs, rod, and fajita in hand I left to meet Brian at the agreed location around 7:30PM.
Time to Fish!
I met up with Brian, and soon after introductions, we were off to the fishing grounds. On the ride there, Brian taught me a lot about what it's like living and fishing on Martha's Vineyard. The more he shared about how the fishing has been, the more my anticipation built. I was chomping at the bit, especially after a few days without so much as a cast!
Brian decided to check out a new spot before we reached our primary fishing location. We got out of his truck and readied our gear. This spot was on the north side of the island, and we started fishing at sunset.
We witnessed a beautiful sunset as we casted white and chicken scratch SP minnows over the boulders. Brian informed me he had some hits, but I had no action. Brian then switched to a bone Rebel Jumpin' Minnow and had some bumps, but wasn't able to get a secure hook set. Within 45 minutes we packed up and headed over to a channel where Brian said fish would be holding.
The Fish Bowl
On the ride over, Brian said that you can see bass in the 20 pound class cruising around under the illuminated docks. I almost couldn't believe what he said! Sure enough, Brian made another quick stop near the channel to show me this spot he referred to as "the fish bowl".
I couldn't believe what I was seeing! Underneath the glow of the dock lights dark shapes slowly cruised back and forth. Some of them had serious size! However, we didn't even bother to fish there, as the fish were extraordinarily finicky. We then drove across the harbor to our destination, the channel.
We bumped into one of Brian's good friends, Kevin. Kevin assured me that the fish would show up tonight. I told him that was quite the relief, considering I had to bring back a fish for my girlfriend's family! The pressure was on to catch a keeper!
We started fishing around slack tide. Brian informed me this would be the best time to throw swimming plugs. I began casting a 7" tsunami sand eel and experimenting with a variety of retrieves. The pier we were standing on was about 6 feet above the surface of the channel, also quite different from the sand beaches I'm accustomed to.
Twenty minutes later, a fish slammed my sand eel right at the base of the pier. I wrestled the fish out of the pilings, and once it tired Brian instructed me to walk back to the start of the pier with the fish in tow. I gently pulled the fish through the water until we reached solid land, where we climbed down the bank to get the fish.
A 26" bass to get the night started! Personally, I felt a great sense of accomplishment catching fish in a body of water I'd never fished before. I quickly returned the fish to the water after a quick picture. Hopefully bigger fish would roll in soon!
As the current picked up with the passing of slack tide, I didn't feel as though I was fishing effectively with my tsunami sand eel. Brian then introduced me to a technique he called "ticking". This involved making a cast up-current (in the 10 o'clock direction) and letting a weighted paddle tail sink to the bottom. Brian then instructed me to reel just fast enough to maintain contact with the lure, and feel it "tick" along the bottom. I retrieved the lure at a quick pace once it drifted past approximately the 1 o'clock position.
Bouncing a shad body off the bottom was a totally new technique for me. I switched my tsunami sand eel for a heavier white paddle tail that would make contact with the bottom as the current swept through. Thankfully, Brian had one to spare! Thanks Brian!
Brian and I then walked across a gangway onto a boat we had permission to fish from. This provided a nice platform to cast from, and made it much easier to get hooked fish out of the water!
Suddenly, Kevin appeared out of the darkness holding a fish. It taped out to 29"! He knew that I needed a fish to take home to my girlfriend's family, and was kind enough to give me his! I thanked him very much for this fish, as it would make a lot of people very happy.
Soon after this, Brian and I both landed fish in the 28"-30" range.
I used my handle to measure that my fish was definitely above 28 inches, so now I had accomplished my goal of catching a keeper for my girlfriend's family. However, this was more of symbolic gesture, as I already had the fish Kevin gave me. I released my fish, and watched as she swam into the depths of the channel.
Once Brian and I felt like we had fished this stretch of the channel sufficiently, we relocated back to the pier.
Under the faint light of surrounding buildings and boats, we could see dozens of bass feeding viciously under the surface. We were tossing our paddle tails based on where we could see the fish, at about 12AM!
Brian quickly landed a fish and as he released it, I hooked up as well. It was difficult to land the fish seeing as we had to haul them from the water 6 feet below.
Both of our fish were approximately 28". To me this was a solid night of fishing, but Brian described it as slow for this spot! We stopped and chatted with Kevin for a bit, and I thanked him again for the fish before heading out.
Brian and I made one last stop at the "fish bowl" to see if we could coax one of the fish cruising under the lights into biting. We dangled some Slug-Go style lures into the illuminated water before calling it a night. Brian had a bump, but neither of us managed to hook up. It was very unique experience to see the stripers cruising underneath the surface at night.
Brian dropped me off, and helped me unload my gear. We shook hands and parted ways, agreeing that it had been a fun evening of fishing. I crept inside the house at 1:30AM, and was greeted by my girlfriend and her brother. They were both in shock as I walked in with a fish ready to fillet! Her family was very happy I supplied them with fresh fish. Thanks Brian and Kevin!
Before the night began, Brian informed me that white and chicken scratch colors have been most productive on the north side of Martha's Vineyard. This certainly was consistent with the action we encountered this trip. In addition, Brian and I encountered loads of squid! He mentioned that was unusual for the this time of year, but they were numerous nonetheless.
In general, I have been experiencing consistent surf fishing this season. A lot of my favorite late spring/early summer spots are still holding fish as we approach mid-august. Bass have consistently been close to shore, well within casting range. In addition, bunker schools have been coming close to shore on the backside beaches with regularity. If you encounter this in the daytime, it's almost a sure bet for some bluefish action.
I'm very grateful for my opportunity to fish with an angler such as Brian. It was apparent that he loves both fishing, and the island of Martha's Vineyard. It was very kind of him to show me some of the island and put me on some fish! I look forward to fishing with him in the future. In the meantime I will look for any excuse to get out to the Vineyard LOL. Thanks again Brian!
Andrew Burke just graduated with a bachelors degree in marketing from UMASS Amherst. Andrew is a Content Creator for My Fishing Cape Cod, and is also available for hire as a freelance videographer. He can be reached at Andrew@myfishingcapecod.com