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Charter Fishing On Nantucket

by Donna Fee

Fishing on Nantucket is as much a part of the Island as are the beaches and the historical downtown. Our centuries-old cobblestone streets would not be here if whaling boats had not used the stones as ballast. Before Nantucket came onto the national scene with its whaling success in the 1800s, the Wampanoag Native Americans fished peacefully from the shores and waters surrounding Nantucket. Without fishing, Nantucket would be just another spit of sand. Fish have fed us and brought us income for hundreds of years. Cape Cod is, after all, named after a fish.

Today the adventure of being out in the open water angling for fish is a vacation destination for many, and still a way of life for a few hearty souls who continue to make fishing their livelihood. You can experience the adventure and excitement of open water fishing by booking your own charter fishing trip. It’s more fun and affordable than you may have dreamed.

Nantucket’s heritage and livelihood has for many years centered on fishing. In the beginning, the Island’s economy thrived on whaling, before modern technology eliminated the need for whale oil products

Imagine this: It’s a clear day with gentle breezes blowing in from the southwest. Ocean water laps against the sleek hull of the 27-footer on which you’ve found yourself. The air is clean and salty, and you are thinking about nothing except what might be swimming toward the lure you have in the brisk Atlantic, just a mile off-shore from Great Point. The sun warms your face and you smile because you know for sure that this time a beautiful bass will soon be challenging you. It makes no difference to you that you’ve never fished before. The kids are making bets on who is going to get the biggest fish. Kids on a charter fishing trip? Absolutely! Nantucket sportfishing captains welcome families.

The beauty of fishing on Nantucket, aside from the breathtaking essence of our shores and the deep dark blue of our waters, is that there is no shortage of capable, responsible, highly professional fishing experts to assist you and your family on your quest for fish. No matter your level of expertise, captains and mates await to take you offshore where the water is cool and the fish are biting. Another song by Taj Mahal plays in your head, “Any fish bite if you got good bait. I’m a going fishin’ and my baby’s going fishin’ too.”

Trolling is a sit-back-and-let-it-happen kind of fishing. It’s relaxing sitting on the back of a boat on a sunny day, letting your line troll the water while the boat slowly moves. You can handle the reels yourself or ask one of the mates to help. Once you feel that tug on the end of your line, be ready to bring in a bass, bluefish, or perhaps, a bonito.

Many charter boats offer two types of trips: private or per person with a two person minimum. Rates vary, so contact your captain for price information. Different boats also go to different parts of the Island. Some head out toward Great Point where the riptide turns up bait and often traps the very fish that you want to catch.

One effective way to outsmart the fish is to hire a charter that utilizes a depth sounder with a fish finder. These devices are on most boats and allow the captain to virtually see underwater. Little blips appear on a screen when sounds are sent into the water. These little blips represent dinner. The fish finder tells no lies, unlike many a fish story.

So what happens to all the fish you catch? You have basically two options. You can eat it or throw it back. If people want to keep fish to eat, most boat captains will clean them up on the dock at the end of the trip. Most captains will also encourage people to keep just what they will eat and release the rest of the fish they catch.

Many folks who are fishing on Nantucket are staying in B and B’s and don’t have the facilities to cook the fruits of their fishing expedition. However, most restaurants will cook your fish right there for you. Should you be lucky enough to have both a kitchen and a freshly caught and filleted bluefish, then the world is indeed your oyster. By the way, if your fish cleaning skills are rusty, the mates will be happy to clean the fish for you.

Action can be the focus of your charter fishing trip if relaxing on the back of the boat is too calm an experience for you. Sportfishing is indeed a sport and can take all your strength and concentration. It taps into our most basic human need of hunting for food. Years of shopping in grocery stores and ordering cooked food in restaurants have not destroyed the hunting spirit in us. One trip for a fish will convince you of that.

Want to try some fly rod fishing? Don’t worry if you don’t own a fly reel or even know the difference between tackle and tickle. A charter fishing trip can supply you with everything you need. Just walk along the docks or simply call up a captain on the phone. They do love to chat and just as importantly, they love to fish. Once you’ve tasted fish this fresh, your palate will be spoiled forever by fish that had to ride in ice on the back of someone’s truck. Fresh is best and even better when you catch it yourself. Fishing brings you to beautiful places and you meet wonderful people. Nantucket certainly proves this rule. It’s not only fun fishing for our many species, but you’ll also experience the beauty of the waters around Nantucket.

There are a few practical things to take note of. You’ll need to wear the proper shoes. The deck of the boat can and most likely will get wet, so dress for success on the water. On a more delicate matter, bathroom facilities do exist on the boat, however, many are little porta potties that just cover the necessities. Be sure to bring sun block, a cover-up and a hat.

If you really, really want to eat fresh fish, then join the ranks of the avid fishing population. Don’t be intimidated by all that equipment or vocabulary you don’t know. Like any teacher, the captains are eager to introduce new students to a world of excitement and adventure. If you’re new to the art of fishing, it may be time for some beginner lessons. Even if you’re in elementary school, there is a fishing boat for you. In fact, many charter fishing captains love to teach kids to fish. Once you’re out there, you’ll see how hard the crew works and how versatile they are. They are teachers, lifesavers, fishing professionals, waiters, tour guides, history buffs, maritime scholars, and your new buddy on Nantucket. Besides your charter cost, please tip the captain accordingly!

The Island’s people turned to fishing of codfish and other species, and thus the village of ‘Sconset was created. All through the evolution of Nantucket’s history, one theme is predominant – the sea and fishing

Nantucket Fishtales and Recipes
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