As part of Cheeky's ongoing "How To" series, Cheeky caught up with Nantucket guide, author and life-long resident Matt Reinemo to learn how to get the most out of a weekend trip to the island.
How to Spend a Weekend on Nantucket
By Matt Reinemo
I suspect for that for many of you reading this, if given forty-eight hours on the island, you would prefer to fish for about forty of them, grab a quick bite of jerky and a sip of lukewarm coffee during short breaks from casting, catch a couple winks on the boat or in the car, and catch up on eating, sleeping and other non-angling activities when you get back home. You may go home hungry, tired, with no further knowledge of Nantucket history, but you will not feel like you missed any angling opportunities, and it is this knowledge will help you sleep soundly back at home.
But it is likely some of you will be traveling to island with significant others who would take a very dim view of an intense fishing program. Perhaps some of you would enjoy a more well-rounded visit to the island, regardless of traveling companions. Nantucket has plenty beyond fishing to offer, and here are some suggestions for the best of it.
It is hard to beat sitting down with a loved one or with buddies to a really excellent dinner after a superb day on the water. My favorites are the Sea Grille and the Club Car. The Sea Grille allows you to skip any downtown congestion, relax in a casual setting, and enjoy creative and classic seafood (though if you have seen enough fish on the day, the steaks are excellent). The Club Car offers classic elegance right in the heart of downtown. The rack of lamb is out of this world, but there are also many seafood offerings if you want to take advantage of your proximity to the ocean.
It has been quite a while since I partook in any post-fishing libations, but if you are looking for a place to unwind with a few beers or cocktails, you will be able to find both and probably some good fish tales at the Slip 14 bar. It is in the heart of the marina and the owner is a skilled and devout bluefin guy, so while the conversations there probably lean more toward big game than fly fishing, it is your best bet to try and sniff out a bite. Other potential watering holes are Cisco Brewers and the Chicken Box. If you want to sample some local beers and liquors, head out to the wildly popular Cisco Brewery. If live music and celebration until the wee hours are what you are after, then certainly pay a visit to the “internationally infamous” Chicken Box.
A visit to Nantucket’s world class beaches may be a priority, and if your situation is anything like mine, your significant other wants to relax in the sun with a book and you want to get in more fishing. This combination is possible at any number of island beaches, but gets far easier if you have a 4x4 with the appropriate beach permits. For springtime fishing, my favorite would be the 40th Pole/Eel Point area. Drive on the beach and then drive as far west as vehicle access is allowed. Set up your beach chairs and cooler there, and when you have tired of relaxing, reading, swimming, and the superb view, take your rod for a walk along the beach further west. You will find productive sandy flats right up the beach, with fishy troughs and cuts, all the way to Eel Point. You can fish it all the way around into Madaket harbor, enjoying a few miles of productive, contiguous beach. If your visit is in the fall, go to Great Point. Albies are found up and down both sides of the point, the beaches on both sides are seldom crowded, and you can choose the less windy side of the point to set up on for a warmer more pleasant beach experience.
Other activities include the Whaling Museum, which is excellent. Whether you come to island with it already on your must see list, or are looking for an indoor activity due to uncooperative weather, it will not disappoint. Enjoy the great tales from the sea, learn about the island’s captivating history, and check out tons of great artifacts.
If you are looking to see a bit more of the island, the bike paths to Madaket and the ‘Sconset/Polpis loop are beautiful ride.
Finally, the fishing. When it comes to the fishing, the most important factor is when your forty-eight hours are going to take place. I highly recommend June or September. The best striped bass fishing of the year takes place in June, with fish on the flats, in the rips, and readily available from island beaches. The last several Septembers have offered excellent albie bites, with bonito still mixed in for much of the month. In addition to being the hottest fishing months, you will enjoy a less crowded Nantucket than would if you visit in July or August.
For fly fishermen, the Mojo 425 and an eight or nine weight should suit your tackle needs on the island. Make sure to carry a floating and an intermediate sinking line to cover your bases for both spring striped bass and fall speedsters.
The usual lineup of flies (deceivers, clousers, and surf candies) will serve you well all season. Sand eels
are the likely target of fish for a big chunk of the season on Nantucket so think slim when it comes to the profile of your baitfish imitations. If stripers are the target, make sure to have some crabs and some gurglers. Doyle’s Dazzler, a clouser minnow with chartreuse over white and liberal gold flash, named for a legendary pioneer of island flats fishing, is a great choice to get the attention of bass. In the fall go heavy on bontio bunnies, mushmouths and surf candies.
For spin fishermen, the outfits can vary depending on the season. During the spring, you will probably want to throw some unweighted soft plastics, so lean toward a long and light rod. Something that can handle walk-the-dog type plugs or a small jig as well as unweighted plastics will give you all the versatility you need. If you are coming out in the fall, you will need a heavier rod to throw the metals preferred by albies and bonito (and the extra distance to reach blitzing fish will likely be a factor). Pack a Cydro 4500 or 5500 with twenty pound braid, attach that to a 25lb fluorocarbon leader of about two or three feet, and you will be all set for spring or fall.
For more information on the tackle, the fish, and plenty of suggestions for spots, check out my book, Fishing Nantucket: A Guide for Island Anglers.Enjoy your 48 hours. Fish a little or lot and take in some of the other things Nantucket has to offer. I am guessing that you will leave happy, but desperate for your next 48 hours. No matter when you come, be in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org or (508) 221-4272, and we can set up some fishing based on your aspirations and what is biting. Whether your 48 hours on Nantucket includes two full days of guided fly fishing, one day of fishing coupled with plenty of advice for a do-it-yourself day the next day, or a single four-hour trip where the priority is family fun, I will help you maximize your fishing time on the island.