“Wind’s from the North,” my friend Phil admonished, as we got in the boat to go fishing Saturday. “Don’t expect much. Fish don’t like that North wind.”
I was expecting nothing — based on years of failed attempts as a kid — but I thought: Who cares? Day like this on the water? Heaven with or without fish for dinner.
Now Phil is a pretty accomplished fisherman, and in certain circles he is downright notorious. Others stalk him with binoculars and generally scratch their heads about how he manages to catch mo’ bigger better than anyone else. He seems to know where the fish live. Call it a hunch, a sixth sense or just the Gladwell-ian 10,000 hours, but it’s fair to say fish should tremble when “Betty’s Boys” heads out past the drawbridge.
First stop was the currents of Woods Hole itself and there were others there already. Phil looked at one group with disdain, casting along shore near Mink Point: “Won’t get anything in there today,” he chuckled as he dropped his lure and started trolling. Now he swore me to secrecy so I can not tell you the direction we trolled, what that incredible lure looked like, or which patch of rocks we skirted but in the first FIVE MINUTES, I had a striped bass on the line which, with guidance, I reeled into the boat. A keeper!
Within a half hour, my son Charlie had hauled in an even bigger one, north of 20 lbs. Then Phil threw his hands up — “We’re outta here” — and whisked us west on Vineyard Sound to another one of his secret spots, “between the grey tote and the stairs to nowhere.” Along the way we passed about 30 other boats casting for false albacore (it’s derby time on Martha’s Vineyard as well); one of them spotted us and followed.
Coming in close to land, Phil cut the engine, his friend Lisa tossed an anchor. Then he broke out the live eels. Yes, I said eels, squirming and wiggling all over the place. Phil deftly hooked several through the head and and started casting. Genius. My son Sam landed another bass within a half hour, too small to keep but the fight was worth it and we got a nice picture.
Back in Woods Hole, we hauled our catch across town to weigh in for the Calcutta Fishing Derby sponsored by the Woods Hole Business Association. We will surely attend the October 14th award ceremony (at the Landfall) to see if we won and claim our free appetizer for entering. But it’s safe to say we are already winners with our fridge full and our deepening friendship with Phil.
Now this might sound like a great fish tale, but here are a few photos to prove it really happened. Thanks to Phil Stanton.
Meet Phil Stanton, a friend of mine and local fisherman extraordinaire. Phil has won more fishing derbies than most people have collected parking tickets, is renowned for having re-located a raft of eider ducks from Maine to Penikese Island (not to mention being a world-expert on the species), and is a dedicated participant in all elements of the Woods Hole community from auctioneer to fishing guide to horse wrangler to deer hunter to welcome wagon. It’s not an exaggeration to say Phil is the ultimate renaissance man, Woods Hole style.
Phil took my son fishing last summer and showed him a secret spot where the squid gather in the Woods Hole current at certain tides. “Cast right in there,” he said, pointing to a swirl near the rocks about 10 feet in diameter. Ten minutes and several large Stripers later, the fishing trip was over and my twelve-year-old came home with a huge catch and a huger smile on his face. Phil’s generosity and knowledge inculcated another young convert to the secret joy of fishing.
Last winter, Phil offered to build a stone bench to honor his mother on the side of the Community Hall. There has been much hoopla in town about the new Rachel Carson statue, and tongues wagging about a new MBL whale-tail sculpture that is possibly dangerous for climbing children. But to date I have seen no notice of this wonderful bench Phil financed which might be the best addition to town in decades, perched as it is on the edge of the channel into Eel Pond at just the right spot to catch both the view and the breeze. (Of course, Phil would know that!)
With a stunning view out toward Nonamesset Island, this bench is the perfect place to watch the drawbridge go up and down, with boats large and small flowing in and out of our protected harbor. You will enjoy the view, the constant southwesterly breeze… and if you are patient, you will see Phil heading out in his boat, as he goes fishing most everyday.