“Gunkholing” is the act of exploring the heads of harbors and bays in a small boat, poking one’s bow into the nether regions of an estuary, following channels and streams through salt marshes and shallow water into the “gunk.”
Saturday was the perfect day for such explorations, so with Cousin Pete at the helm, my wife, son and I shot out from Cotuit over glassy waters across Vineyard Sound to Menemsha, a little fishing village on the southwestern corner of Martha’s Vineyard. We ran down the Tisbury coast, running along the glacial scree-strewn shoreline of sand cliffs and slight hills, dotted with cottages and summer homes that must enjoy one of the best views in all of New England.
At Menemsha we were greeted by a crowd of anglers standing on the breakwaters. The annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby opened last week and the competition brings out the maniacal side in all Vineyard fishermen. We motored inside, past the red-roofed Coast Guard station and over the bar into Menemsha Pond, crossing over Carribbean-clear water and fields of submerged eel grass. We gunkholed up inside of Nashaquitsa Pond until we ran out of water at the highway bridge.
Ashore we ate a lobster roll and stuffed quahog at Larson’s Fish Market, close by where Steven Spielberg built Quint’s boathouse for Jaws. The hulk of Quint’s boat, the Orca, allegedly lies rotting on the Lobsterville Beach shore.
After poking around the village we reboarded and headed back north along the Tisbury coast, stopping to explore Lake Tashmoo on the northshore of the Vineyard. At the very head of the Lake we found a beautiful abandoned factory overlooking a millpond and I’m still trying to figure out what it was for. We netted some bait (baby menhaden) and tried our luck for fluke (summer flounder) on the rips at Middle Ground, Hedge Fence, and finally, with success, at Succonnesset.
All in all a perfect day.