Nantucket: Fishing, Craft Beer, and Good Times
By James Hamilton | Friday, May 22
A Featured Guide Q&A with Sankaty Head Charters' Captain, Cisco Brewers' beer guy, and our friend, Sam Herrick.
Captain Sam Herrick may just be Nantucket's renaissance man. Along with his father, Capt. Hal Herrick, Sam guides light tackle and fly fishing on the waters surrounding the island - but that's not all. When Sam's not putting clients on schools of Stripers, Bluefish, and False Albies he can be found pouring beers at the Cisco brewery, selling real estate, or playing the guitar while singing a tune about his days playing professional basketball in Europe. I have had the good pleasure of hanging out with Sam a lot over the past few weeks, and GuideHire is extremely lucky to have Sankaty Head as an early adopter. Last week, Sam and I took the opportunity to sit down over a few Whale's Tale Pale Ales and talk a bit about growing up, working, and fishing around Nantucket - Enjoy!
GH: What's your first fishing memory?
SH:My first fishing memory would have to be up in Cape Vincent New York fishing on the St. Lawrence River. My grandparents had a house where we would visit for weeks at a time during the summer. I remember baiting small eagle claw hooks with live worms, and catching large numbers of Yellow Perch, Rock Bass, and Smallmouth Bass.
GH: So, what’s the history of Sankaty Head Charters?
SH: My father, Hal Herrick, started Sankaty Head Charters in the summer of 1996. He had been fishing on the island since the late 70’s, and was a commercial scalloper for almost 20 years on Nantucket. With the ever-growing tourist population migrating to Nantucket annually, he decided it would be a good business opportunity to utilize his knowledge of the surrounding waters by starting a guiding business. The name Sankaty Head comes from the lighthouse on the eastern most part of Nantucket. My childhood family home was located 2 doors down from the lighthouse, on the 5th green of the Sankaty Head golf course.
GH: Favorite species to catch on the fly around Nantucket?
SH: I have developed a huge passion for Fly Fishing. It has been in my family for generations! As far as my favorite fish to catch on fly around Nantucket: It has to be a toss up between sight casting striped bass on the flats around Tuckernuck and Muskeget, or the adrenaline rush and incredible fight you get when throwing a fly and hooking a fish amongst a feeding frenzy of False Albacore.
GH: As a born & raised Islander of Nantucket I'm sure you've seen some big changes over the years - what's your favorite development/positive change that you've seen?
SH: As a born and raised islander, I have witnessed many changes to the island, both positive and negative. I could talk forever about how the gray seal population has become a serious concern to our fishery, but thats another topic for another day! Nantucket offers some of the best world-class fishing the northeast has to offer. From bottom fishing for Black sea bass, Fluke, Tautog, and scup, to casting on Striped Bass, Bluefish, Atlantic Bonito and False albacore, Nantucket’s inshore fishing has much to offer. Just 30 miles east of the island is a great Bluefin Tuna fishery, and about 50-100 miles east of that you’ll end up in the Canyons with Mahi Mahi, Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna, Marlin, Swordfish and many other big game species in large numbers. My favorite change I have seen over the years is the large number of False Albacore that have emerged in the late summer/fall months. Although it is a not a sought after dinner fish, it is a fly fishermans dream being able to hook a fish in a topwater feeding frenzy and watch your line scream to the backing in what seems like an instant.
GH: Tell us a bit about working at the Brewery with your brother Tyler. When did you guys start working there? Funniest thing you've witnessed while bar tending on a Saturday afternoon?
SH: Although I wish I could say I fish for a living, the tourism season brings such a huge economic boost to Nantucket, that seasonal workers usually wear many different hats in order to take advantage of the vast amount of wealth that coincides with the large number of vacationers. For me, I bartend at one of the most popular destinations for locals and visitors alike: The Cisco Brewery. Cisco has been a summer job for me since I was about 19 years old. My older brother Tyler had been working there for a few years and put in the good word, like any older brother would do! For many summers to come, I found myself on the bottling line, hand labeling cases of 888 vodka, beer, and wine, and even delivering the goods to local bars and restaurants. Soon after college I was offered my first bartending gig at Cisco, and found myself tending bar with the likes of some fantastic people, including working alongside my brother! From celebrities to professional athletes, we have served the likes of many different people. We have also had an insurmountable amount of hilarious experiences. One could say these experiences go hand in hand with the “over sampling” of our product! One that comes to mind happened in the summer of 2010. it was a crazy busy day and I was bar backing. Amidst all the chaos, I was running all over the place making sure empty kegs were changed out, and all bars were stocked properly. I was returning to the distillery with two big buckets of ice, when out of nowhere I hear a loud pop and a fluffy white object whacks me in the side of the face. I look to see who the culprit was, only to find a giggling Kevin Spacey brandishing a “Marshmallow gun.”
GH: While we're at it, funniest/oddest thing to happen on a charter?
SH: You meet all sorts of people on charters. However the strangest and oddest thing that ever happened was actually with my then future sister-in-law Aly. We took her out when she and my brother Tyler had just started dating. She had no problem casting or reeling, and was even getting competitive: I thought, “Where did my brother find this girl!?” We were throwing an assortment of bombers into some rips off the south shore when Aly’s rod bends hard! She puts the hammer down and cranks in two bluefish- one hooked to the top treble, and the other to the bottom! 1 cast, 2 fish - a feat even I have never accomplished in 27 years! If that’s not enough, the second time she came out with us about 1 year later, she ends up throwing a bomber on the same rip, and hooks a striped bass on the bottom hook, and a SKATE (in the stingray family) on the top! At that very moment I looked at Tyler and said, “If you mess this one up, she’s in, and you’re out!"
So there you have it. Now you know those two awesome bartenders at Cisco aren't both tall by coincidence - they're brothers. You know that Sankaty Head Charters has been helping people catch fish since '96, and the Herrick family has been around the island a few more decades than that. You also know to look out for Kevin Spacey & his "marshmellow gun". And don't forget - if you visit Nantucket this weekend for Figawi, be on the lookout for our friend Sam - he's about 7 feet tall and always rocking a huge smile, pretty hard to miss.
To learn more and book a guided fishing trip with Sankaty Head Charters click here.