As we walked to the end of the creaky dock on Menemsha Harbor where Captain Tom Langman moors his no-frills Boston Whaler, I knew in my gut he was the man to take our family fishing. Weathered by years in the sun and covered with markings of boat grease and struggles with fish, I could see he’d spent a good portion of his life on the water. He greeted us warmly and held out his hand to help us aboard, and after quick introductions asked what we wanted from our afternoon. Our focus was definitely on a good catch, we said, but we also wanted a tour of the Vineyard and its surrounding waters from his perspective.
Sensing she was the most intrepid fisherman on the boat, he warmed to my daughter immediately. And what endeared me to him most was that he never – despite her slight stature and young age – questioned her capability. When the fishing rod belt was too big for her tiny waist, he didn’t balk at knotting it to fit her and letting her give it a go.
His instincts were dead on as she reeled in, with a bit of assistance, one of the biggest fish of the day.
Another thrill was my first catch of the day – a gorgeous, perfectly sized sea bass:
Maddeningly, a bluefish tore away its bottom half before I could get it in the boat! Needless to say, I didn’t feel guilty about this:
I hope he was the one who ruined my sea bass!
After reeling in more than we could possibly eat, Captain Tom cruised around the neighboring islands, docking on Cuttyhunk for a brief excursion.
He took us back by way of Buzzards Bay as we shared stories in the afternoon sun, dropping a line in the water from time to time.
Cruising into Menemsha Harbor, Tom suggested we offer our catch to one of the best restaurants up-island in exchange for dinner preparation for our family (we hauled in almost 30 pounds of fish, after all!).
In a truly unforgettable moment, we traipsed into the restaurant inn with windblown hair and salty sea skin, three giant fish in tow. Not only did the chef agree, he seemed genuinely pleased and excited. Grinning from ear to ear, we returned to our cottage for long showers and a rest.
From the oysters with creme fraiche:
to our bluefish stuffed with lemon and fennel, grilled and served family style with out of this world sides:
we delighted in not only the best meal of our trip but also the knowledge that the diners around us were being served the fish we caught.
This post is dedicated to my grandfather, Bob Fletcher, who would have been 97 years old today. He taught me everything I know about fishing and much of what I value in life.
all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante