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Martha's Vineyard Fishing Season Capawock Charters Fishing Dates The Targeted Fish

 

Martha's Vineyard Inshore Fishing Season

 

"When the leaves are on the trees, the fish are in the seas. When the leaves are on the ground, the fish are not around." Phil Cronin

The fishing season on Martha's Vineyard normally starts during the middle of April when the first migrating striped bass "schoolies" appear along Vineyard beaches. As the water warms and May flowers start to bloom, the numbers of stripers and bluefish increase in both quantity and quality. By the time the middle of May arrives, Vineyard shore and boat fishing is in full swing with decent sized bass and blues becoming readily available to the angler. The excitement of fishing the Vineyard worm hatch or traveling out to Vineyard Sound's middle ground in pursuit of squid feeding "linesiders" attracts fishermen from up and down the east coast. The month of June and the first couple of weeks in July bring some of the year's best striped bass and bluefish fishing when catching a fish of a lifetime on fly or spinning gear is not uncommon. As the inshore waters really heat up in mid July, Vineyard fishermen start to watch for the first arrival of the highly sought after Atlantic Bonito. Bonito fishing reaches it's height during the end of August and by the time the first weeks of September are on us, it's "albie" time. September False Albacore become the preferred species for fly rod and light tackle anglers as they replace the bonito around inshore areas. September and October become prime time fishing for all four inshore species and the start of the month long Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby around the middle of September creates a frenzy among anglers young and old.

  

Vineyard Inshore Fishing Season        
               
  April May June July Aug Sept. Oct.
               
Striped Bass 2 4 5 3 3 4 4
               
Bluefish   4 5 4 3 4 4
               
Atlantic Bonito       2 5 4 3
               
False Albacore         3 5 4
               
      2 = fair, 3 = good, 4 = great, 5 = best  

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Capawock Charters Fishing Dates

Captain Cronin books fishing trips starting the beginning of May. Prime time fishing is from the middle of May through the month of June and then again starting the second week of September through the end of October.  For the best dates be sure to book as early as possible.

Month            
             
May Booking Trips May 20 through May 31  
             
June Booking Trips June 1st through June 30th  
             
July Booking Trips July 1 through July 31    
             
August Booking Trips  August 1 through August 31    
             
September Booking Trips September 1 through September 30th
             
October Booking Trips October 1st through October 15
             
Note: Contact Captain Cronin at (617) 448-2030 or Captain.Cronin@capawock.com to reserve dates.

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A Word About Our Targeted Species

Source: Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries

 

Striped Bass

Marone saxatilis

The striped bass, or "striper," one of the most avidly pursued of all coastal sport fish, is native to most of the East Coast, ranging from the lower St. Lawrence River in Canada to Northern Florida, and along portions of the Gulf of Mexico. The striped bass has been prized in Massachusetts since colonial times. In 1670, Plymouth Colony established a free school with income from coastal striped bass fisheries. Thus, one of the first public schools in America was supported by this highly valued resource. The unique angling qualities of this trophy species and its adaptability to fresh water environments have led to a major North American range expansion within the last 100 years. A valuable fishery has been created on the West Coast and inland fisheries have been developed in 31 states by stocking the striped bass into lakes and reservoirs.

Striped bass can live up to 40 years and can reach weights greater than 100 pounds, although individuals larger than 50 pounds are rare. The all-tackle angling record fish, taken in New Jersey in 1972, weighed 78 pounds and measured 72 inches long. The Massachusetts record of 73 pounds has been equaled on three occasions, the most recent of which was at Nauset Beach in 1981. The following table lists average lengths and weights of striped bass at selected ages; the fish were collected in the Chesapeake Bay and Albermarle Sound (North Carolina) regions.

Striped bass are rarely found more than several miles from the shoreline. Anglers usually catch stripers in river mouths, in small, shallow bays and estuaries, and along rocky shorelines and sandy beaches. The striped bass is a schooling species, moving about in small groups during the first two years of life, and thereafter feeding and migrating in large schools. Only females exceeding 30 pounds show any tendency to be solitary.

Stripers are strictly spring to fall transients in Massachusetts. Only a few fish inhabiting coastal Massachusetts waters in the summer have been known to overwinter in the mouths of southern New England streams. Some stripers frequenting coastal Massachusetts in the summer will overwinter in the mouth of the Hudson River, while many spend winter along the New Jersey coast in the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays.

Striped bass eat a variety of foods, including fish such as alewives, flounder, sea herring, menhaden, mummichogs, sand lance, silver hake, tomcod, smelt, silversides, and eels, as well as lobsters, crabs, soft clams, small mussels, annelids (sea worms), and squid. They feed most actively at dusk to dawn, although some feeding occurs throughout the day. During midsummer they tend to become more nocturnal. Stripers are particularly active with tidal and current flows and in the wash of breaking waves along the shore, where, fish, crabs, and clams become easy prey as they are tossed about in turbulent water.

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Bluefish

Pomatomus saltatrix

The bluefish, a trophy species hotly pursued by anglers due to it's reputation as a champion battler and voracious predator, is native to both the American and European-African coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. Along the western Atlantic it is abundant from Argentina to Cape Cod, and it occasionally occurs as far north as Nova Scotia.

Bluefish rarely exceed 20 lbs. and 40 inches in length. The North American record bluefish, caught in North Carolina, weighed 31 lbs 12 ounces. The Massachusetts record fish, landed at Graves Light in 1982, weighed 27 pounds 4 ounces. The larger fish caught during a given year generally run between 10-15 pounds.

Bluefish inhabit both inshore and offshore areas of coastal regions, with young of the year fish (those in the first year of life), called "snappers", often frequenting estuaries and river mouths.

This species normally travels in large schools, which may contain up to several thousand individuals. One unusually large school sighted in Narragansett Bay in 1901 was estimated to be spread over a 4-5 mile distance.

Bluefish display an annual migration pattern that is keyed to the seasonal warming and cooling of coastal waters. They begin arriving along the southern New England coast during April and May. The earliest catches in southern Massachusetts waters occur in mid-May, but substantial numbers of fish typically do not arrive before Memorial Day. Two to 4 pound fish generally arrive first in Massachusetts waters, moving into harbors and estuaries in great numbers. Larger fish arrive somewhat later in the spring, initially inhabiting deeper waters but moving progressively shoreward into shallow areas as the summer progresses. Adult bluefish largely disappear from coastal waters of southern New England during October as water temperatures cool to 60 degrees F. Adults may occasionally stray far southward during the winter; one bluefish tagged off the coast of New York was recaptured in January three years later off the coast of Cuba. Although many adult fish migrate southward in the fall, their major migratory movement appears to be offshore toward the warmer, deep waters of the continental shelf.

Snappers eat a variety of small-bodied animals such as copepods, shrimp, small lobsters and crabs, larval fish and larval mollusks. Adult bluefish are opportunistic feeders, commonly focusing upon schooling species such as menhaden, squid, sand eels, herring, mackerel, and alewives, as well as scup, butterfish, and cunners.

Bluefish generally feed in schools, actively pursuing prey in tidal rips or inshore shallows where food is easier to catch. The feeding behavior of this species is legendary. Bluefish are reputed to dash wildly about within schools of prey species, biting crippling, and killing numerous small fish that do not get eaten. They frequently drive schools of prey species into the shallow inshore areas where it becomes easier to cripple or catch fish that are trying to escape. Occasionally, during particularly frenzied feeding activity, schooling fish such as menhaden will literally be driven to shore, leaving a number of fish beached along the wave line. Although this occurs relatively infrequently, an occasional beach littered with dead fish has given rise to the bluefish's exaggerated reputation as a vicious predator.

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Atlantic Bonito

Sarda sarda

Atlantic Bonito are identified by their color, the conspicuously wavy lateral line, 16 to 22 gill rakers on the first arch, and the three lateral keels on the caudal peduncle. The species has a steel-blue back and upper sides punctuated by 5 to 11 dark, slightly oblique stripes that run forward and downward. The lower sides are silver. The skipjack tuna, Euthynnus pelamis, is also striped, but the markings are along the lower sides and belly.

As soon as the young bonito are able to feed, they waste no time in searching for prey. The species has been described as an insatiable predator that feeds throughout the day, but probably most frequently at dawn and dusk. Larvae feed on other fish larvae, but prefer copepods; juveniles also consume larvae. Adults eat larger fish such as mackerels, anchovies, alewives, menhaden, and silversides as well as squids and shrimps.

Bonito are commonly caught by trolling anglers who are looking for a bigger catch. In that scenario (heavy tackle) they do not put up much of a fight. However they are a favorite target fish among light and medium-tackle anglers. Anyone targeting Atlantic bonito should try trolling feather lures pulled close to the boat. Bonito prefer a lively bait, so consider trolling a little faster for this species.

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Little Tunny / False Albacore

Euthynnus alletteratus

The tunny's coloration is metallic overall, being steel-bluish above and silver below. Wavy stripes along the posterior portion of the back, several scattered dark spots below the pectoral fin, and small finlets behind the second dorsal and anal fins are identifying characteristics. Even with these features, the little tunny is one of the fish most frequently misidentified by marine recreational fishermen.

The little tunny, as well as bluefish and king and spanish mackerels, is a schooling species that migrates northward through coastal waters in the spring and southward in fall and winter. Large, elliptical schools cover up to 2 miles on the long axis. It is often found in in inshore waters as well.

Little tunny feed almost exclusively on small crustaceans, round herring, spanish sardine, round scad and squids.

The presence of flocks of diving birds over coastal waters often indicates schools of little tunny feeding nearby. Fishermen in charter boats and smaller outboards respond to seasonal visitations by trolling baits, casting lures and drift fishing with live bait such as bluefish, pinfish or spot. For trolling, fishermen usually select small lures with mullet or ballyhoo, or use colored feathers that are lures until fish are located. They will stop to cast in the school with light spinning tackle and 6- to 10-pound test monofilament line. In these situations, Hopkins lures or jigs are presented with a fast, jerky retrieval. Some anglers have taken to fly fishing for these fish as well.

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