by Dr. Sarah T. Bois, Director of Research & Education for the Linda Loring Nature Foundation
Some may think of Captain Ahab and whaling when they think of Nantucket fishing tradition. However, there is a long history of fishing on Nantucket with many species available to catch (and eat!) today under the right circumstances. Here are six fish species worth your time if you’re out on Nantucket and the best times to go for them.
Bluefish may not be everyone’s cup of tea at the dinner table, but it’s one of my favorites on the line. These fighters can really get your heart racing. They’re a great resource to have; abundant, fun on the line, and aggressive, making for great action by boat or beach. Bluefish help carry us through the dog days of summer when the striper fishing can quiet down. Even if you think you don’t like bluefish fillets, try them on the day of catch with a slice of tomato thrown on top before grilling to perfection. The acid cuts through some of the bluefish oils for a delicious fresh catch. And if you know the right people, smoked blue fish paté is the way to go.
This is fish that everyone seems to want; delicious eating and fun on the line. Juvenile stripers, or schoolies, can be found early in the season and are generally fished for from the beach. They whet the appetite for the adults which won’t really come in until the water warms up in early summer. Still, you’ve got to know where to find them. Best by boat, there are always some caught every year off the beach especially around Great Point or along the south coast when the water is warm enough.
I think this fish is a little underappreciated. These bottom fish provide plenty of action when the water hasn’t gotten to the point of striped bass and they are definitely delicious. Many restaurants on-island serve black sea bass, but you can catch your own and wow them at your next dinner party.
Fluke (or flounder)
One of my favorite table fare, fluke are bottom feeders and often found along with the black seabass that are a few of the possibilities in early summer.
These fish kick in right when you’ve had enough of bluefish. Bonito is a mackerel-like fish whose beauty is matched by its speed and strength. It isn’t surprising that it’s a member of the tuna family. It’s a light tackle dream; a hard fighting, fast swimming sportfish. It can be prepared like tuna as well and is just as delicious on the grill.
This small sport fish is often a welcome return when it arrives to the Nantucket waters in late August and stick around into September. While not the best eating, Albies are one of the most fun fish on the line. Once boated, check out their cool, iridescent colors before returning them to the water. Albies, which look like mini-tuna, are lightning fast and a fun surface water cath. They may frustrate many a fisherman, but the fight and ultimate catch are worth any challenge.
By late summer, the fishing is on! It’s almost more difficult deciding what species to go for. What a great problem for any angler to have. Of course there are more species than these available in the waters around Nantucket. Start with these, but you never know what you might reel up on the other end.
Make sure you know the fishing regulations so you know what the size limits are for keepers and how many you can keep. If you hire a charter, have a talk with your captain before- hand about whether or not you want to keep any fish or just take photos. Then no fish will be wasted.
Editor’s Note: Fishing charters on Nantucket will take you where the fish are biting and provide the equipment and knowledge for a fun day on the water. Here are four that we recommend:
Albacore: Slip 1010 on Straight Wharf, 508-228-5074
Herbert T: Slip 14 on Straight Wharf, 508-228-6655
Just Do It Too: Slip 13 on Straight Wharf, 508-228-7448
Topspin Fishing Charter: Town Pier, 508-246-6210