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An Introduction to Fishing on Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard is a world-class fishing destination. But how and where should you get started?

Martha’s Vineyard can be a rather intimidating place for visiting anglers. Almost 100 miles of fishable shoreline, plus countless spots to explore by boat make pinpointing where and when to fish quite challenging. This little introduction to some local hot spots will get you started.

 

UP ISLAND

The waters surrounding the west end of the Island are home to some of the most famous bass spots on the entire striper coast. Among these, the most notable are , , and . Although located within close proximity of one another, these places are fished in considerably different fashion. At Point, the southwestern tip of the Island, beach fishermen generally fish plugs after dark. If you venture out to the Point, be careful; the seemingly endless cobblestone beach that leads out to the Point is most treacherous, and the slippery boulders that cover the surf line are no better. Wearing Korkers (metal cleats) over you wading boots is highly recommended. Boat anglers who fish off the point employ a wide variety of tactics, ranging from live eels to trolling the classic "tube and worm" rig on wire line.

Below the Vineyard Sound meets the Atlantic. The deep, rocky rip at the Head is called Devil's Bridge, and is a favorite among striper fisherman, who will often run from as far as Rhode Island to Boston to fish these famed waters. Anglers fishing at "the Head" find success with artificial lures and bait. The beach and the boat can be equally productive at different times of the season. Devil's Bridge, as the name implies, can be an extremely dangerous spot, especially when the wind and tide are opposed. Be careful and pay close attention to the weather.

Among fly fisherman, there might be no more famous stretch of beach in the entire striper universe than . Fishing here usually peaks in June, with deceivers and Vineyard floating sandeels being favorite patterns with the fly crowd. Fishing pressure here can be heavy, but it’s a large park, and almost any place along the beach can yield fish at some time during the course of an evening. During the fall, anglers sometimes fish these same haunts for the elusive bonito and false albacore. If you do happen to visit during this time, be sure to join the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, one of the most famous fishing tournaments coast-wide.   

 

NORTH SHORE

The immaculate shoreline that stretches from to West Chop is referred to by fishermen as the "north shore." Hunting stripers along the north shore’s rugged, rocky beaches is not for the faint of heart. The terrain is brutal and the walks from public access points are lengthy. Live eels and plugs are the go-to methods. Some of the biggest fish taken on Island all year often fall here.

For boaters, Vineyard Sound is a virtual cornucopia of different fishing opportunities. The Sound is host to several shoals, including Lucas Shoal and Middleground. These offer consistent bottom fishing for fluke, sea bass and scup, and at different times of the year also produce bass, blues, bonito and false albacore.    

The rocks below the West Chop lighthouse are probably the most popular north shore hot spot. Here, in the deep and rocky confluence where Vineyard Sound meets Nantucket Sound, the tide pulls strong, attracting a variety of predator fish including bass, blues, albies and more throughout the season. Shore-bound fishers concentrate on the jetty and beaches, while the boat guys tend to gravitate toward the deep holes off the point and the shoal at Middleground, where feeding fish are often found under flocks of hungry seagulls and terns.   

 

EAST END

On the Vineyard’s east side lie Edgartown and , or "Chappy" as it’s known to the locals. Whereas the north and west sides of the Island are characterized by rocky shores, the eastern portion of the Island is predominantly low-lying and sandy.

There are many great places to wet a line in the Edgartown area. In Edgartown Harbor anglers find success bottom fishing with cut bait, usually squid, off the Memorial Wharf on Dock Street. Fishing here generally yields a mixed bag of scup, sea robin, sea bass and sometimes blackfish (a member of the Wrasse family). This type of fishing won’t give you the adrenaline rush of catching a big striper in the surf or hooking a false albacore on your fly rod, but it’s a relaxing way to spend an afternoon and a great activity for the kids.

Down the road from Memorial Wharf you’ll find . The lighthouse is a favorite spot among tourists and sightseers, but it’s also a well-known spot for fishermen who target bluefish, bonito, false albacore and scup from its soft, sandy shore. Offerings for bonito and albies usually come in the form of metal jigs, such as Maria’s or Deadly Dicks. Blues are mostly taken on some variety of surface poppers.

Arguably the most accessible area on the entire Island for fishing is Chappaquidick. Most of the east end of Chappy is state owned and overseen by a group called the . For those who have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and are willing to pay to play, you can get an oversand vehicle permit and explore the reservation in your SUV or truck. If this is not for you, there is parking at the Dyke Bridge and Point, where great fishing occurs regularly. The famous Rip, with its shallow shifting shoals and sandbars, is popular boat spot as well as a great place to fish from the beach. Boaters cast as well as troll for blues and stripers. A sunny spring afternoon coupled with a dropping tide is a sure bet for good beach action for most of the spring and early summer.           

 

SOUTH SIDE

Beach access on the south side of the Island is somewhat limited. Primary access points are Left and Right Fork in Katama and , for those with a parking sticker. There is a second property on the east end of the beach in Katama called Norton Point. The permit to access Norton is cheaper than the one for Chappy, although it grants access to a considerably smaller area. South-side fishing primarly entails bottom fishing with fresh cut bait like squid, bunker or mackerel. Be sure to keep a rod rigged with a plug, as you never know when the birds will congregate and the blitz will be on!   

 

SHOPS AND GUIDES

Certainly the best way to experience the Vineyard fishery is to hire one of the Island’s many talented guides/charter captains or visit one of the great local shops, , or Dick's for some info on where the bite has been. In all the fishing I’ve done around the world, I’ve found there to be no substitute for local knowledge.

 

Captain W. Brice Contessa is a fishing guide and writer living and working on Martha’s Vineyard. For more info visit his website at www.marthasvineyardoutfitters.com.

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