Martha's Vineyard Fishing Article
Sortie Charters, Martha's Vineyard, MA
Fishing Article

Fishing on Martha's Vineyard
Where the Fish are the Reel Celebrities
By Nelson Sigelman

Martha's Vineyard is best known as a summertime home for celebrities and a tourist destination. However, the real attraction for an increasing number of saltwater fishermen is the opportunity to hook up with all of the northeast's premiere gamefish on some of the prettiest beaches and water anywhere in the United States.

The 'Aggravator' Bluefish, striped bass, bonito, false albacore and Spanish mackerel can all be caught in-season by anglers from beaches and jetties of the Vineyard. In addition, white marlin, yellow fin tuna, football-sized bluefins and shark are all within boat range.

From Cape Poge to Gay Head Light, the island's six towns, each with their distinctive character and varied topography, offer a variety of fishing conditions. There are the deep strong flowing inlets of Cape Poge gut, Tashmoo and Menemsha; the white sand beaches of Chilmark and Gay Head that face the Atlantic surf; the boulder-strewn ledges of Squibnocket Point, where 19th century anglers fished from the bass stands of their private clubs by hurling lobster on hand lines.

Winter leaves the island slowly as Vineyarders anxiously await the first signs of spring. Once the herring arrive with a panicked expression on their little bullet faces that says, "Man, just let me spawn one more time because I've got some hungry stripers and blues right behind me,"-the first strike of the season is not far off.

Small schoolies, stripers in the six- to ten-pound range, start showing up off south-facing beaches as early as April, however, the really consistent action doesn't start until early May. That's when substantial schools of bluefish and striped bass first start to arrive.

Lean and hungry from their northerly migration, the spring blues weigh anywhere from four to fourteen pounds, but average about seven. Pound for pound, they fight as hard as most fish you'll hook and attack with a fury that goes beyond hunger-these fish are mean!

After the initial excitement of spring blues, most island fishermen turn their attention to striped bass. Stripers!Their spring run may start in April but the best action is in June. That is when the bigger fish begin to prowl Island waters. The average fish is about ten pounds and from 18 to 25 inches, but larger "keepers," a fish a minimum of 28-inches long, are not unusual.

In July, warmer water heralds the arrival of bonito and, by the end of the summer, false albacore (albies). These turbo-charged fish create a madness all their own that can be dangerous to any fisherman with a family and job. Throughout August, and sometimes lingering into October, schools of bonito and albies careen from the water feeding on sand eels, silversides and tinker mackerel. The best fishing is at sunrise but either species can be found any time during the daylight hours wherever the bait holds.

The first cool winds and shortening days of September set the stage for the annual fall migration and the Vineyard's premier tournament-the annual Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby. This month long event that begins in September and ends in October celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1995 and annually attracts more than 2,000 entrants, men, women and children.

The albies are usually the first to go when the first cold autumn nor'easter blows. Depending on the weather the bonito will linger off Menemsha feeding on the heavy concentration of bait well into October. This time of the year can also offer the chance to battle blues in the teens.

Once again though, it is the striped bass that lure the fishermen. This is the time that the Vineyard's rips and currents present the opportunity for hooking 20- 50-pounders.  Trophy size fish are found off the picturesque cliffs of Gay Head and the rock strewn shore of Squibnocket point. It may not be easy, but the big fish are there. 

Nelson Sigelman is a reporter and fishing columnist for The Martha's Vineyard Times. If you have enjoyed this article and are looking for more great articles about fishing on the Vineyard, visit Nelson Sigelman's weekly column online at

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