A Night of Ecstasy at Lobsterville

Lobsterville Beach after dark in summer months is particularly alluring to Vineyard fishermen. And to young children, the adventure of fishing Lobsterville at night is about as good as it gets. We were introduced to Lobsterville by my friend Bob, who was a master of the tides at Lobsterville.

An expert he was – but more at developing the sense of adventure and excitement in the minds of his children and mine than of actually fishing. He mesmerized them as he talked about the mystery of the dark beach lit by starlight, the campfires for marshmallows, and the sounds of the stripers jumping and flapping and running up to the beach, so close you could catch them with your hands. Over the course of three evenings of preparation, he brought the children to a state of anticipation I have not seen since.

My son Joseph was the oldest of all the children, and at nine, an experienced fisherman (in his own mind) who liked to explain to the younger children how the pros fished for the bass. The pros fish to catch, not to keep: “The excitement is in the fishing itself.”

That day, we spent hours checking our gear. Do we have the right rods and line? Do we have the right lures and bait? Have we packed enough peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Boots, sweaters, hats, flashlights, and most importantly, marshmallows? The preparations themselves were exciting and foretold the adventure we would have.

We arrived at Lobsterville about 10:00 p.m. and spent the next hour unloading the van of five children, four adults, rods, reels, gear, blankets, coolers, and other necessities for an evening along the shore. By then the adults were exhausted, but the children were at fever pitch. The night was amazing. The starlight was magnificent. Every hundred yards or so was a campfire with aromas to die for. The other camps were quiet, with some low chatter, so that they would not scare off the bass. Our camp, on the other hand, was more like a carnival, with screams and noises of delighted children. The chaos of kids banging into each other, taking someone else’s rod or sandwich, throwing sand, and pushing each other into the water was not what the neighboring fishermen expected on this tranquil night.

And then the moment of ecstasy hit: the bass had arrived. You could hear them breaking the surface. The children thrashed the water with their rods, each crying out, “I have one!” “I have a bite!” This went on for a half-hour, but no one landed a striper. Our successes were limited to baitfish, but who cared. The excitement waned and we relaxed, toasted marshmallows, and ate our peanut butter and jelly. Bob explained what to do when the bass returned, surely within the next half-hour.

At just about the predicted time, we heard that glorious sound again. Joseph explained that the baitfish were generally in front of the schools of bass. Sharing his experiences with his siblings and friends was as important to him, and them, as the fishing. The children had great success, again all baitfish. But to children, baitfish are as large as any bass and fight as hard. When they recount that night, they all caught big ones.

With the warm Vineyard winds, the starlight, and the joy and excitement of our children, this evening was all a parent could imagine. For the children, they remember that night as the best of Vineyard fishing. As we collected our gear, I asked Joseph what he thought of the evening and whether he was disappointed at catching only baitfish. His response told it all: “Dad, it’s the fishing that counts.” I wish we all could live our lives as children do on Lobsterville Beach under the stars.