The Blair Fish Project

Wolfie Blair had one of those ah-ha moments: What if kids could actually access the solid basics of saltwater fishing and some tricks of the cast from the get-go? Sure, there are plenty of old salts happy to offer the what-to’s and what-for’s, whether you want it or not. But what about a whiteboard, hands-on approach from someone who has sorted out the best of “I told ya so’s” and put it into an actual lesson plan?

Well, that would be the MV School of Fish, and its headmaster, founder, and rod wrangler would be Wolfie Blair. And let’s say we launch this gem around Fourth of July weekend and see where it goes? Well, off it went and immediately. Blair had a pair of nine year olds and one ten year old excited to learn the score off Memorial Wharf and the public beaches, all within walking distance of downtown Edgartown and all within parental sightlines, if so desired.

The professor’s stock is solid. Father Charlie, who let his twenty-nine-year-old son rummage through the basement for rods and gear to launch MV School of Fish, is the Edgartown harbormaster and a much sought-after charter fisherman.

“I have friends picking up a fishing rod for the first time and they’re going through the exact same thing these kids are,” says Blair. “The difference is the kids can laugh at these things. They lose a fish and it’s like, ‘Okay, we’ll get another one.’ I feel like time is more precious for adults and they want to go out and come back with a fish. But with a kid? We can do it all day.”

Ray Ewing

Blair’s day job is at the Great Harbor Boatyard in Edgartown, where he’s a marine mechanic and general all-things-boat, whether motor or sail. It’s a great year-round gig with three full-time employees working with the owner to maintain, launch, and winterize about 150 boats.

Speaking of launching, MV School of Fish’s inaugural season focused mainly on summer kids, but Blair hopes to see it catch on and connect with Island kids, too. The perfect time to snare those Islanders? The fall Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby, when, as Blair notes, there are actually fish around to bait and catch by shore or boat.

“It’s my favorite time of the year. Every year is better than the last, because every year you learn something, and every year you say to yourself, ‘Next year, I’m on it.’ And then when you’re not on the stage at the end of the Derby, you’re like, ‘Next year it will happen.’ I love it.”

In the meantime, Blair is dreaming big. Maybe one day MV School of Fish can become a global nonprofit and teach kids in impoverished countries how to fish, and in doing so create a sustainable food source and give them a future as a fishing tour guide or in eco tourism. As he says, think fishing rods instead of soccer balls and you can begin to see the potential impact.

“But that’s miles down the road,” he concedes. “Right now, we’re catching scup off Memorial Wharf.”