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Jerry Vovcsko

First dunked a worm in Otsego Lake (upstate NY) some 68 years ago and began pursuing striped bass in Cape Cod waters 40 years ago. Pretty soon I should be able to get it right...maybe.

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October 19, 2016

Trick or Treat

by Jerry Vovcsko

Took a run up to Nantasket Beach yesterday and sat in the sun watching birds diving at baitfish that were being harassed by a fairly large school of stripers. Breaking fish during the summer is fairly routine in our waters but watching bass feed on bait a week before Halloween is another matter entirely. Especially when it's happening as far north as Hull. And the day before Plymouth Beach featured a blitz of its own with anglers nailing stripers ranging up to nearly twenty pounds while casting chunked pogies and Yozuri swimmers into breaking fish so close to shore they could probably have been dip-netted from the beach.

And the action continues in several locations in Vineyard Sound. The Elizabeths are still hot with some of those genuine Large chomping down on topwater plugs along the stretch of shoreline from Tarpaulin Cove right on down to Sow and Pigs reef with the emphasis on Quick's and Robinson's Holes and around the main channel leading into Cuttyhunk Harbor. Some of the locals like to set up near the rock reef in that channel and cast into the turbulence around those rocks; but, friends, as they say, don't try that at home…or if you don't know your way around that spot, because it's way too easy to get sucked into trouble.

On the west side of the big island, Martha's Vineyard, Devil's Bridge has been hot as it tends to be this time of year. Try jigs worked deep around there or take the opposite approach and slow-troll a tube and worm rig through any and all rips that form around there. If the weather says: It's Okay, duck around the corner and work the heck out of Wasque Rip. Right now a mix of jumbo bass and slab-sided blues populate the rip and it's as close to can't-miss as an angler is likely to see. Throw just about anything into Wasque when that rip is making up and good things will most assuredly come your way.

Further east in the Sound stripers have been active from Woods Hole to Hyannis and beyond. Popponnesset, which is the location of choice for early season anglers, comes alive again here in late fall as schools of bass cruise along the beaches. The surf crowd loves this area as access is easy, parking is a cinch now that the summer crowd has departed, and bass (with some remaining blues in the mix) cruise by frequently providing great late season action. For those who prefer to work from kayak or canoe there is no better place to fish than in and around Waquoit Bay. The jetty channel is a fish magnet all season long and when the weather cooperates anglers can fish the Sound, but then duck into the bay should it get breezy on the outside.

For those contemplating a foray to the backside beaches between Chatham and Provincetown, check with the bait shops about daily beach conditions. There have been some northeast winds lately and that means mung-clogged shoreline to contend with. Make that call before you set out and save yourself the frustration of trying to fish when you can't see the water for the weeds.

Keep an eye on the winds...things change fast.

October 07, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Stirs Things Up

by Jerry Vovcsko

In some ways it has been a strange season. Typically, around this time we are chasing albies and bonito all over the Sound but this year they seem to have skipped past and headed further north which makes me wonder if rather than being a one-year anomaly, that Ole Debbil, Global Warming, is causing temperatures to creep ever higher in the northern climes. If so, it will be a real treat to add some of those tropical fish such as mahi mahi, wahoo and barracuda to our regular catch list. The downside, however, is the effect higher temperatures will eventually have on the usual migratory species, especially striped bass. It's wait-and-see time, I guess.

Striped bass continue to bite at Billingsgate and bluefish are all over the place these days much to the delight of the backyard grill crowd.

Want a quick treat? Skin a few small bluefish fillets. Place them on a sheet of aluminum foil. Layer on a strip or two of bacon, slices of onion both red and yellow, slice of tomato, with maybe some red or yellow pepper slices. In a small bowl mix a paste of mayonnaise, yellow mustard and a tablespoon or two of blue cheese dressing and spread over the layers. Seal the foil into a pouch and place on the grill over medium heat. When the fillets are cooked through hand these out to your friends along with a bottle of cold beer. Stand by for compliments.

If you're considering making a run at the outside beaches check out the beach-mung situation before you head out. Weeds have clogged some locations while others have been relatively weed-free. Take it on a day by day basis and call the local bait shops to get an idea of where to go to get away from the nasty stuff. Depending on what Hurricane Matthew decides to do, beach-mung could soon be the least of our problems. Those are hundred-and-forty-mile-an-hour winds kicking up around the Bahamas and if they veer our direction on their northward journey we could be writing finish to the 2016 season real soon now. Latest predictions say the storm should be taking a hard right turn somewhere around the Carolinas and blow itself out to sea…here's hoping.

The Cape Cod Canal has seen a lot more striped bass caught lately than during the previous week or two. Business has been best in the deeper holes and right after turn of tide at the east end. Eels are the bait of choice during night time hours and sand eels have also been effective. Jig and plastic combos do the job as well so long as they are presented down deep where the bass are holed up. Of course, that means knowing where the holes are and reading the current so as to get the lures into the zone, but there's a lot of debris down there as well which means lost lures, expensive lures at that. And that, dear friends, is one example of why learning to fish the Canal is a lifetime thing.

But lordy, lordy…some mighty big fish come out of there when things go just right. And sometimes even when somebody who wouldn't know a parachute jig from a Boga Grip just happens to get lucky, which is why the banks along the canal are pretty much always populated with hopeful anglers.

Over Nantucket way, they're catching stripers – keeper size - at Great Point during the daylight hours and scoring a mix of bass and blues over on the south side. If Hurricane Mathew makes it this far north those south-facing beaches stand to get really pummeled. Look for continued action along the Elizabeth Islands but that's another spot that could get really hammered if the storm track takes a westward turn when and if it reaches our waters. In any event, look for residual high winds and intense surf even if the storm remnants pass eastward of our location. Not a happy recipe for small boat activity.

Multiple reports of tuna in the Bay this week, and some big ones at that. Kiss those goodbye if windy, old Matthew puffs a cap-of-wind our way. By the way, those fall-delivery trucks from the Mass Environmental folks have been depositing new reinforcements of trout in our freshwater ponds and lakes so even if the saltwater scene tanks, there will still be fishing to be had. The season is winding down towards the fall, which means New England foliage time will soon be upon us, which means if all else fails, those local freshwater ponds will be pretty spectacular settings in which to catch bass and trout. I tell you truly, the Cape is a wonderful place to go and do some fishing. In fact, I believe I'll take my own advice and head down there right now.

See ya.

PS: Tom Brady's back from his four game suspension and the Patriots take on the Cleveland Browns this Sunday...Tom's got a boulder-size chip on his shoulder thanks to Rodger the Dodger Goodell's nefarious machinations viz a viz, Deflategate. This could be the Year of the Patriots. Maybe even a Super Bowl's worth of success.

September 29, 2016

Mermaid Off the Port Bow

by Jerry Vovcsko

Back in the day, when hardy sailors went to sea under sail, the lookout stationed aloft kept a wary eye out for whales, reefs and other ships. But after a few hours spent scanning the empty horizon, a bored seaman's eye – and imagination - might wander a bit and it was then that legend had it a mermaid sighting might take place. Nobody mistook the creature that wandered into Cape waters last month for a mermaid even though manatees are rarely sighted this far north.

An animal rescue crew last week finally wrangled the elusive manatee that has been spotted around Cape Cod since August, plucking the animal from the cooling waters that had placed it in mortal danger as autumn set in. International Fund for Animal Welfare workers, who had spotted the roughly 1,000-pound male on Thursday morning, followed it into an East Falmouth estuary, corralled it with a net, and pulled it onto a beach.

There, the crew loaded it onto a boat and brought it to nearby Menauhant Yacht Club, where it will be placed on a trailer bound for Connecticut's Mystic Aquarium. Once it's deemed in good health, it will be taken back to Florida, possibly by airplane. This rescue actually saved two manatees as it was later determined that it was pregnant.

This time of year it's not a bad idea to seek out sheltered waters to find fish. One good tactic is to head for Cape Cod Bay and scout around some of the places that might not get as much attention as, say, Vineyard Sound or the Elizabeth Islands. Just east of the Town of Sandwich anglers can often find some action around the mouth of Scorton Creek. The creek flows under route 6A and there's a parking lot down near the creek mouth.

Catch a tide as it starts to flood, launch canoe or kayak and let the current take you up into the marsh. Make it a leisurely paddle or just drift along casting toward the banks on both sides. Suitable lures for this type fishing include pretty much anything in the small jig and plastic grouping, or maybe a three and a half inch swimming plug such as a Rebel or Rapala design. Light spinning gear is my choice for this type of fishing but lots of folks use the long wand and Clousers seem to be the fly of choice for them. Anyplace you spot even the tiniest rip is worth a look and deep pools near undercut embankments occasionally hold keeper sized striped bass.

One of the best things about fishing this location is getting a chance to see an amazing variety of wildlife around the marsh. Fox, deer, muskrat, mink owls, herons, hawks and the occasional coyote or eagle make time spent up in the backwaters of the creek a refreshing change from the daily grind of urban living. Stop and eat the sandwich you packed and when the tide turns let the current carry you back to where you parked. I consider the Scorton Creek estuary to be one of the all-around best fishing excursions available on the Cape, second only to the run down along the Elizabeth Islands.

Another similar location lies a few miles to the east in Brewster. Paine's Creek also empties into Cape Cod Bay and while it doesn't offer the same degree of tidal creek access to the marsh as Scorton's Creek, there's still lively action to be had at the mouth for spin, fly and bait fishermen alike. A nearby parking lot makes access convenient and a walk along the beach puts surfcasters in proximity with the Brewster Flats. Bluefish cruise these parts on a regular basis and it's not all that unusual to latch onto a ten-pound blue while fishing for stripers.

Between Sandwich and Brewster, Corporation Beach is home to an ample supply of tautog and the boulders and ledges that litter the bottom here make it very attractive to a resident lobster population. But keep a vigilant eye out for those white-with-red-stripe "Diver Down" flags that the Scuba crowd sets out when they're in the vicinity. For some reason these folks get a bit testy when an angler sets a 5/0 Siwash hook in a diver's thigh or arm.

And if by chance a fisherman launches his boat from the Sandwich marina, the entire shoreline from the Canal to Brewster to Wellfleet is prime territory for tube and worm fishing. Anyplace you can get your tube rig down in eight to twelve feet of water is likely to deliver good results. And if you head over toward Wellfleet Harbor don't forget to spend a little time around the mouth of the Herring River, especially if you find yourself on site around dusk or dawn.

As local waters cool, the best places to take stripers include the shoreline along the Elizabeth Islands, the flats around Monomoy Island, the rock ledges inside Woods Hole and, of course, the Cape Cod Canal. The funny fish continue to roam Nantucket Sound and the area out in front of Lackey's Bay is prime bonito territory right now.

The weather forecasts for this weekend are telling us it will be windy and wet with heavy surf and waves around the big islands in the five to seven-foot range. We're running out of time these days so grab any chance to wet a line when conditions allow; the fat lady will soon be singing farewell as the stripers head south and another striped bass season comes to a halt in Cape waters.

September 21, 2016

Big Papi Cruises In

by Jerry Vovcsko

There's great fishing all around the Cape lately. Plenty fish around to keep an ambitious angler hopping from Woods Hole to Orleans and all the way up to Race Point in Provincetown. Yessir, plenty of fish in local waters. Only trouble is, they happen to include goodly numbers of sea robins, skates, toadfish, and maybe the occasional flounder that wandered by as though in some sort of time-trip from the nineteen-eighties. Not very popular species, it's true, but, what the hey, it was only a mere three hundred and fifty years ago that the early settlers wanted nothing to do with lobsters, believing those creatures to be incarnations of evil put there by the devil, and look how that turned out. The week before Labor Day cooked lobster meat was going for a tidy forty-two dollars a pound at the local fish market.

Used to be that cod and haddock were so plentiful around here that vessels came back loaded to the scuppers with fish, and those boys weren't using sonar, GPS's or computers to put their boats on fish. Grizzled old captains fished their vessels based on decades of experience pursuing what seemed like an inexhaustible resource, an endless supply of fish that would forever provide a living for generations of fishermen. These days, with all that technology available to locate the fish, it turns out that most of the catch has been swept from these waters and the commercial boats have to settle for the few hundred pounds of cod allocated to them in an ever-shrinking season.

One of the few bright spots on the horizon, of course, is the turnaround that took place during the last couple of decades which rebuilt striped bass stocks that appeared to be in deep trouble as recently as the mid-nineties. The coastal states placed fishing restrictions and size limits that allowed depleted spawning populations to recover and now it seems the striped bass has made an impressive comeback. The two most important regulatory actions, to my mind, having been the increase from the sixteen-inch minimum of the nineteen seventies along with the restrictions placed on the Carolina seine boats that had decimated the fish stocks over the years while targeting the spawners coming up the Atlantic coast.

Remember when the cod stocks began to collapse and those affordable filets were no longer to be seen in the local fish markets? What species replaced them for a while? Yep, that's right: Pollock. And where have they gone lately? I can recall catching small Pollock on light gear from the rip rap along the Cape Cod Canal back in the mid-seventies. Then they just seemed to vanish. And how about the huge schools of mackerel that used to put in an annual appearance in Cape Cod Bay, bringing hungry tuna in after them? Haven't seen much of either this past season. The Canal boys deemed two thousand and fifteen one of the poorest mackerel years in memory. Hope that's not a harbinger of things to come.

I don't know what others have in mind but I'm going to do what I did as a kid; I'm going to head for the Green Pond Bridge with my rod, reel and a bucket of clam necks. I'll stand around with the other old geezers and swap lies about how the fishing used to be great and how we all used to fill our pails with enough flounder to see us through the winter, and how we could follow that up with all the mackerel we could eat just by wetting a line up there in the Bay and hauling them in three or four at a time, no problem. Yep, us old-timers will stand around and gam about the good-old-days and wonder what our grandchildren will be able to fish for in ensuing years.

We were lucky, I guess, to have experienced over the last four decades some of the best fishing the Cape had to offer. I just hope we haven't managed to do permanent damage to some of those species along the way. I'd like to think my grandsons will know the thrill of dropping bait and hook from the bridge and finding a fat, tasty flounder on the end of their line. And if the flatfish aren't biting that day, why, we'll settle for sea robin, skate or even one of those ugly old toadfish, won't we?

Bonito have swarmed into the waters around Martha's Vineyard recently and false albacore can be found throughout Nantucket Sound, albeit in fewer numbers than previous years. And the estuaries along the Cape's south side harbor plenty of sub-keeper bass along with the occasional snapper bluefish. The jumbo blues can be found in the rips south of Nantucket and around Wasque. The rips around Monomoy are pretty good places to look for stripers these days, as is the Middleground. The Elizabeths will produce striper catches until later in the season when the last of the migrating bass pull out. Tube and worm method works well at Billingsgate and plugs along the edge of the Brewster Flats is another productive approach. Football-size Bluefin tuna can be had from Stellwagen down to Chatham without going too far offshore.

Scientists tagged a fifteen-foot great white shark last week…and named it Big Papi in honor of the Red Sox great designated hitter whose numbers at the end of final season will almost surely guarantees his eventual entrance to the Hall of Fame. Nice to think the great white will continue to drop in year to year for a quick meal of Monomoy seal and a visit to local waters. And perhaps when the shark version of Big Papi returns next year, the real Big Papi will have led the Red Sox to another World Series championship…it's only fitting, don't you think?

September 15, 2016

Let the Games Begin

by Jerry Vovcsko

If you're looking for striped bass action these days, it's a good time to try the west end of the Canal and on down into Buzzards Bay. Jigging is probably your best bet right now but there are lots of ways to go about it. One of the more effective is to tie on metals slabs such as Hopkins, Kastmasters, Deadly Dick or Crippled Herrings and forego the traditional lead-head and bucktail type jigs.

For one thing, you can really sling the slabs out there for distance and there are days when distance makes all the difference, like when you spot early morning breaking fish just out of reach and no matter how hard you rear back and toss your usual needles and poppers you can't seem to reach out and touch them. The metal slabs will let you fire for effect and you can cheat a few extra yards by aiming your casts up-current from the fish and letting the hard running tide sweep your lure out a bit further as you free-spool for a bit.

That slab will be rolling and tumbling in the turbulence of the canal and the glinting metal is very likely to catch the eye of a feeding striper. By the way, one of the most impressive sights I can recall when I fished the canal with some regularity was an elderly gent working an eelskin that was tied on over a big reverse Atom plug. He, naturally, wasn't trying for any distance casting records but he put on a real striper clinic over near Portagee Hole and took more bass in a couple of hours than the half dozen or so nearby anglers combined.

I asked him about it and he said he used eelskins over plugs, slabs, jigs and pretty much anything in the tackle box. Said it had been a killer rig for decades and most folks just didn't want to be bothered or take the time to rig it properly. He mentioned that he switched his trebles for single hooks and it didn't seem to affect the balance of the plugs any. He worked the eelskin setup slowly and paid lots of attention when his retrieve brought the skin back in close to the rocks, swimming it around for some time before lifting it out.

"That's something I learned musky fishing," he said. "When you finish your retrieve and your plug is back close to the boat or shore you dip your rod tip and swim the plug around in a figure-eight pattern. Muskies will often smash it then even though you've had no action at all earlier on the retrieve."

I've since tried what that fella described to me and found that it works from time to time with stripers as well. I think a lot of fishermen don't give the bass a chance to hit in close to shore because they're lifting the lure clear of the water too soon. Once in a while I'll stop my retrieve and let the plug (if it's a floater) just sit on the surface for upwards of a minute, then give it a twitch. I tell you truly, you will never forget the strike you get when a big striped bass pounces on that plug practically at your feet.

Two or three days before a hurricane arrives is often fishing like you wouldn't believe. Must be the severe low pressure alerts the fish to eat now before things get stirred up so much the baitfish disappear into hiding. Watch your weather, but sneak out before the winds get too bad and you may just experience some of the best blitz fishing you've ever run into. It looked for a while like Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Hermine was going to give us a rerun of that pattern but then Hermine slipped away offshore without much of an impact at all on local anglers.

The usual mix of stripers and blues continues to show up in Buzzards Bay with one of the hot spots being around The Knob just outside Quisset Harbor. The mouth of the harbor has also been productive on falling tides for those anglers running drifts on the ebb. We're still waiting for sustained albie action but mostly it's been sporadic and unpredictable. Anglers casting for stripers along the Elizabeth Islands have seen pods of albies chasing bait from time to time but still haven't seen any of the large schools that show up around this time of the year.

There's been sporadic Bluefin action around the southeastern corner of Stellwagen Bank. And speaking of Stellwagen, President Obama has designated some 4900 acres just off Georges Bank as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. A protected area located approximately 130 miles off the southeast coast of the Cape, it will be off limits to commercial fishing as of 2023. Under terms of the designation, red crab and lobster fisheries will have a seven-year grace period before they have to exit the monument area, and other commercial fishing operators will have 60 days to leave.

Over the next few weeks the annual fall migration will slowly begin to ramp up and it won't be long before the striped bass that arrived in the spring from the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay will return from whence they came. Seems they just got here and soon it'll be time to say good bye…oh well, at least football season's here and pretty soon our New England Patriots will have Tom Brady back at the helm. Then let the games begin…for real.

September 07, 2016

A Taste of Fall?

by Jerry Vovcsko

Looks like one of those raw, rain-lashed dreary days today. Good time to stay home and get some of those honey-do inside jobs finally taken care of. Or maybe spend some time cleaning out my office...when was it I was last able to actually see the top of my desk for all the junk piled up on it? The garden tools could use some maintenance, and I really ought to sharpen the kitchen knives; my wife said she'd have better luck slicing tomatoes with a piece of broken glass than the dull blades nestled in the knife rack. Lots to choose from, which one to do? Heck with it, may as well go fishing.

No need to drive out to Nauset, Orleans or any of the back beaches right now. Lately they've been as dead as Cleopatra's cat. Maybe the offshore passing of Tropical Storm Hermine this week will stir up a little action. Chatham has been a bit more active but you pretty much need to be onboard a boat to do any serious business around there. Skip the Bathtub unless you're interested in small bluefish. The shallow waters in there are a mite warm for striper activity.

Provincetown is still pretty active up around Race Point especially. Sand eels are the order of the day and a few skiff trollers have been doing business with rubber-tipped jigs, although there's more to that technique than meets the eye. And I still urge folks to try the oldtimer's method of trolling a willow-leaf spinner rig, red beads and all, with two or three sandworms trailing from a 3/0 hook. Funny how such an effective method all but vanished from the scene. Maybe because trolling, for a lot of anglers, isn't nearly as much fun as chucking lures into the surf. But one thing I know, if you need a decent sized bass for the grill, there are two ways to pretty much guarantee success. One is, of course, the tube 'n worm. And the other, to my mind, is that willow leaf spinner rig. Pull that around real slow in close to any kind of bass structure - rocks, weed beds, a fast moving rip - and there's a real good chance you'll have bass for the grill.

There I go spinning off on fishy tangents again. The subject at hand, naturally, is: Where's a good place to find fish this time of year? Well, I'd say a good bet right now is the Cape Cod Canal. And the best way to go about it, especially for those folks not entirely familiar with the Canal, is jig and rubber. Specifically, depending on speed of the current going through there, a jig somewhere between an ounce and a half and four ounces. Hang a Sluggo on your jig - nine inch version, these are big fish that hang in the Canal - and try to get it down near the bottom by casting slightly upcurrent and retrieving just fast enough to keep from getting hung up on the rocks, lobster pots and other debris that litter the bottom. And bear in mind that if you aren't getting hung up and losing a jig or two, you probably aren't getting down deep enough. Lost jigs are simply the cost of doing business in the Canal.

If you don't have any favored Canal spots, try around the bridges, including the Railroad Bridge. There are some deep, current-scoured holes around there and the Large bass like to sit down there waiting for the tide to bring dinner along. Pick up a map of the Canal at one of the local bait shops - Red Top and Cape Cod Charlie's are two that come to mind. The map will show you where places like the Cribbin, Murderer's Row, One Hundred Steps, The Mussel Bed and others are located. Best time to hit it is just before or just after turn-of-tide when the slack water lets you get down deep and work your jig near the bottom. There's still fish to be had before the annual migration sends them south. Right now the Canal is a pretty good place to find them.

Recreational black seabass closed last week, unfortunately, but scup, tautog and flounder can still be found…Buzzards Bay continues as a prime source for groundfish. Albies and bonnies have taken up steady residence around Martha's Vineyard and the manatee cavorting around Harwich Harbor lends a surreal presence to this late season report. In case the idea of a manatee snuffling in the sea grass is not sufficiently weird, there was a report of a small barracuda taking a whack at a metal slab in Nantucket Harbor. I'm beginning to think we'll soon see tarpon and Goliath Grouper showing up if the ocean warming continues.

There's been good fluke fishing on the Middleground lately…some keepers to go with the little guys. Plenty of blues around and there are always a few keeper bass lurking in the holes along the western end of the reef; angler with a bit of patience and a stash of parachute jigs in their tackle boxes can score some major-league stripers by dropping a jig into those holes at the end of a well-aimed drift.

And Cape Cod Bay produced some keeper bass to boats working along Sandy Neck beach. A little further westerly is worth a look, especially around Scorton Ledge and even up inside Scorton Creek which happens to be one of the best locations in the Bay for a turn-of-tide kayak excursion. Ride the flood into the salt marsh and drift back out on the ebb; there are some seriously Large stripers hanging out up there where the water gets mighty skinny and a ‘yak is just the right conveyance to put an angler where the action is.

August 31, 2016

Weird Times in Cape Waters

by Jerry Vovcsko

When you get two weeks of air temperatures in the eighties and nineties it's only fair to expect local waters to warm up a bit. And right now Nantucket Sound registers 75-degrees at the NOAA buoy. So I suppose we can expect peculiar occurrences now and then. Like the manatee swimming around Chatham, and the great white shark looking for a meal about 4 feet from shore up at Race Point. Humpback whales foraging over near Stellwagen Bank? Sure, why not? Just another day in Cape Cod waters.

And it had been a slow day of tuna fishing for a group of friends bobbing in a boat 12 miles off the coast of Chatham this week. But then they witnessed a rare event — an apparent pod of killer whales swimming nearby as their vessel cut through the Cape Cod waters. Alex Wyckoff, 17, of Brewster, said he was on the "Fish Box," which launched from Nauset Marine East, in Orleans the other day when he and three friends spotted the orcas.

"We have seen white sharks, but since the whales are foreign to these waters for the most part, we were ecstatic," he told a Boston Globe reporter. "We didn't know they were orcas at first, because we only saw the spouts. But they ended up being very playful and swimming alongside the boat."

Some locals speculate that the orcas were drawn to the area because of the seal colonies that have taken up residence along the Cape's Atlantic-facing beaches. But marine scientists say the North Atlantic pods of killer whales are not the same as those on the Pacific coast and feed mainly on squid, fish and sea birds.

Well, today looks like one of those gray rain-lashed dreary days today. Good day to stay home and get some of those honey-do inside jobs finally taken care of. Or maybe spend some time cleaning out my office...when was it I was last able to actually see the top of my desk for all the junk piled up on it? The garden tools could use some maintenance, and I really ought to sharpen the kitchen knives; my wife said she'd have better luck slicing tomatoes with piece of broken glass than the dull blades nestled in the knife rack. Lots to choose from, which one to do? Heck with it, may as well go fishing.

No need to drive out to Nauset, Orleans or any of the back beaches right now. Lately they've been as dead as Cleopatra's cat. Chatham has been a bit more active but you pretty much need to be onboard a boat to do any serious business around there. Skip the Bathtub unless you're interested in small bluefish. The shallow waters in there are a mite warm for striper activity.

Great whites notwithstanding, Provincetown is still pretty active up around Race Point especially. Sand eels are the order of the day and a few skiff trollers have been doing business with rubber-tipped jigs, although there's more to that technique than meets the eye. And I still urge folks to try the old-timer's method of trolling a willow-leaf spinner rig, red beads and all, with two or three sandworms trailing from a 3/0 hook. Funny how such an effective method all but vanished from the scene. Maybe because trolling, for a lot of anglers, isn't nearly as much fun as chucking lures into the surf. But one thing I know, if you need a decent sized bass for the grill, there are two ways to pretty much guarantee success. One is, of course, the tube 'n worm. And the other, to my mind, is that willow leaf spinner rig. Pull that around real slow close to any kind of bass structure - rocks, weed beds, a fast moving rip - and there's a good chance you'll have bass for the grill.

There I go spinning off on fishy tangents again. The subject at hand, naturally, is: Where's a good place to find fish this time of year? Well, I'd say a good bet right now is the Cape Cod Canal. And the best way to go about it, especially for those folks not entirely familiar with the Canal, is jig and rubber. Specifically, depending on speed of the current going through there, a jig somewhere between an ounce and a half and four ounces. Hang a SlugGo on your jig - nine inch version - these are big fish that hang in the Canal - and try to get it down near the bottom by casting slightly up-current and retrieving just fast enough to keep from getting hung up on the rocks, lobster pots and other debris that litter the bottom. And bear in mind that if you aren't getting hung up and losing a jig or two, you probably aren't getting down deep enough. Lost jigs are simply the cost of doing business in the Canal.

If you don't have any favored Canal spots, try around the bridges, including the Railroad Bridge. There are some deep, current-scoured holes around there and the Large bass like to sit down there waiting for the tide to bring dinner along. Pick up a map of the Canal at one of the local bait shops. The map will show you where places like the Cribbin, Murderer's Row, One Hundred Steps, The Mussel Bed and others are located. Best time to hit it is just before or just after turn-of-tide when the slack water lets you get down deep and work your jig near the bottom.

Some bonito showing up in Nantucket Sound lately. Out a little ways from Lackey's Bay is worth a try. And they're catching them on the Vineyard from shore as well as from boats. The Elizabeth Islands continue to produce stripers; the islands are probably the best bet right now what with the high water temps in the Sound. Find moving water and work those rips for good results. So many bluefish around that there's no point in suggesting where-to-go spots; just cast in any direction and a bluefish is liable to show up and take a whack at your plug.

In Cape Cod Bay Billingsgate is probably your likliest shot at stripers. And I've preached tube and worm for so long that there's no point in my mentioning it again. But tube & worm is your best bet…there, I said it again.

I almost hate to bring it up, but we're about to turn the corner into September, which as everyone on the Cape knows, is pre-migration. When it happens, the fishing turns from pretty damn good to FANTASTIC. Unfortunately, what follows is the lead in to winter, the dreaded time when north winds blow, snow piles up and anything wet turns to ice. So get out there now while the getting's good. That's what I'm going to do as soon as I put this honey-do list back where it belongs: under the stack of bills I should probably do something about one of these days.

August 25, 2016

Eels? What Eels?

by Jerry Vovcsko

Got a phone call from my son Mark last night. He lives down in New Orleans and went with a buddy up one of the Ponchartrain estuaries chasing redfish. They did okay, taking five apiece. Mark said he was checking the stomach contents on a ten pounder and jumped about a foot when a half-dead, two-foot-long water snake spilled out on the cleaning table. I told him to try to get hold of some live eels for the next trip out.

He said, "Dad, they don't sell eels in any of the bait shops down here."

Go figure that one. I consider it blasphemy.

On the local scene, the action is heavy at the canal, especially during the west tides. Plastic baits, such as nine inch Sluggos are a good first choice. Jigs in the three-ounce size range come into play when the current picks up and big swimming plugs make a pretty good backup. Carry a few metal slabs with you as there are some bites where only those seem to work. Pip's Rip and the area around the former Joe's Fish Market are good starting points.

Lately big schools of bluefish along with pods of Large stripers have been showing up on-and-off up around Race Point and Newcomb Hollow. Too early to be forming up for the start of the migration. Later, as that begins, they'll be working their way south along the outside beaches all the way down from P'town to Monomoy. Night fishing along there is at its best this time of year and those fish are hungry as they cruise by.

Around Vineyard Sound over near Woods Hole and on into Buzzards Bay there have been sightings and a lonely few catches of Spanish mackerel. Albies are turning up here and there these days and school blues continue to turn up in school numbers. Blind casting gives an angler a fifty-fifty chance of turning up good results because there seem to be more bluefish around than typical for this time of year.

Tautog fishing around the traditional places - Cleveland Ledge, the Weepeckets and the northern end of Buzzards Bay - is spotty but flounder catches are picking up and seem to be improving daily.
There was a nice school of stripers up around Sandy Neck last weekend and they appeared to move westward toward Scorton Creek judging by the catches reported along the way. Monomoy right now is another good location for boat anglers but action along the Elizabeth Islands has slowed lately. The islands will turn on again, though, before the season is over as the southern end is traditionally a staging area for bass before they leave for the year.

Remember the good old days when we used to scoop up as much tinker mackerel as we needed and liveline the little guys for big bass? Where have all the mackerel gone? We're into that time now where the shores along the western part of Vineyard Sound, from West Chop to Devil's Bridge and from Woods Hole to Cuttyhunk, are alight with striper activity. Nearly any place along there that an angler chooses to wet a line is potentially likely to produce striped bass. But to nail down the possibilities to as close to a sure-thing event as striper fishing gets, try some live eels. At night.

Scout out a couple good possibilities during the day. Look for spots where rips show up when the current gets moving, and try to locate rocky, weedy or sand bar structure points. Find those combinations of conditions and you've found the places where the big bass lurks waiting to ambush whatever nature's buffet brings their way. Bass aren't stupid but they are lazy. So why chase something small when you can make a very fine meal out of a snake-size eel that swims past right in front of your nose?

Some say that female bass especially become enraged at the very sight of an eel because eels are predators that feed on striper young during spawning season. Dunno about that but some of the most explosive hits I've had came on a live eel swimming around in striper territory. Always seemed to me the fish had a little more fervor in their strikes than when I was livelining, say, a herring or scup. So maybe there's something to the eel-as-enemy story.

My own preference for location has always been along the shoreline between Robinson's and Quick's Holes down at the southern end of the Elizabeth islands. I don't know of another place on the planet that holds bigger concentrations of Large bass than this area during the summer season. The habitat is perfect for stripers, boulder-strewn with lots of bait swimming around and currents galore. An answer to a fisherman's wish-list if ever there was one.

A little further south, of course, is Cuttyhunk and that is, to my mind, the absolute Mecca of striped bass fishing. A place that every fisherman should visit at least once a year. Problem is, it's a little more open to the Atlantic and while Sow and Pigs reef has over the years offered up as many fifty-pound-plus stripers, it is also a potentially treacherous spot that can turn malevolent in an eye-blink. Which is why I suggest the Robinson's-Quick's shoreline. Sling an eel into the rocks along there just before or just after dusk and chances of a hook up with something Large are as good as anywhere around Cape Cod.

And when you visit the bait shop try to make sure a few of the eels you buy are snake-size. I know the argument continues as to whether or not size is important, but I'm definitely on the side of: When it comes to eels, yes it matters. The biggest bass I've caught up to came on the biggest eels I fished. Coincidence? Maybe, but I feel better when there are at least a couple eels in the bucket fourteen inches or more.

August 15, 2016

The Year Of the Shark-

by Jerry Vovcsko

It seems 2016 might well be viewed as the Year of the Shark. We've had the great whites dining on whales and seals off Chatham; town beaches closed from Duxbury to Nantasket; threshers and makos cavorting in Cape Cod Bay and anglers catching brown sharks in numbers off Martha's Vineyard. And now the news arrives that a female Greenland shark living in the icy cold waters of the Arctic was the Earth's oldest living animal with a backbone. They estimated that the gray shark, part of the species named after Greenland, was born in the icy waters roughly 400 years ago, and died only recently which puts that species right at the top of the longevity list. And here I'm feeling ancient at a puny 79 years old.

Wildlife closer to home showed up near the doorstep of some startled city folk last week. A Quincy family had a bit of a scare when they spotted a timber rattlesnake outside their home Thursday evening, police said. Around dusk, a resident of Grove Street called police about the snake, according to Quincy Police Captain John Dougan. Dougan said police called Massachusetts Environmental Police, who released the snake back into the Blue Hills Reservation, where the snakes can commonly be found. Dougan speculated that the snake may have been searching for water in the drought and ventured into the Quincy neighborhood.

Sharks and snakes: not very reassuring, I'd say. But how's the fishing here in mid-August? Let's have a look:

Anglers working the waters of the Cape Cod Canal have been doing alright with topwater lures in the morning hours. And local lads lobbing live eels at the west end near the Mass Maritime Academy managed to take a couple of thirty pound stripers as a result of their nocturnal efforts. And up around the Sandwich basin area at the east end of The Ditch occasional forays by mackerel have been providing excellent livelining opportunities for folks doing business between the jetty and the entrance to the harbor.

Plenty of school stripers in Buzzards Bay right now and there are lots of them congregated around The Knob outside Quissett Harbor. The sheltered nature of The Knob makes for quality fly fishing, especially around dusk when the prevailing southwest winds tend to lay down a bit.

Nantucket Sound is bluefish, bluefish, bluefish. Three and four-pound blues cruise around Nobska Point and larger blues – five pounds and up – can be found around the Martha's Vineyard shoreline. The Elizabeth Islands continue to offer up striped bass that may range from twenty-six inches to upwards of thirty pounds with the bigger bass generally taken down toward Quicks Hole and the Cuttyhunk area.

And speaking of the Elizabeth Islands. I have written extensively about that area. And with good reason as I consider it one of the most striper-productive areas in Cape Cod waters. But it does come with a caveat or two. The island chain runs from Woods Hole channel westerly to Sow and Pigs Reef at the far end of Cuttyhunk. It is strewn with rocks, boulders, ledges and all manner of excellent structure that returning striped bass are happy to call home. The trick for angling success is to cast into those rocks, boulder, etc., and get one's lure right up practically on the beach before starting the retrieve. The bass hang in there that close to shore.

Problem is, the stretch of shoreline is open to prevailing southwest winds and it's easy in the excitement of landing a fish to forget that somebody has to pay attention to keeping the boat off those rocks. Last week the Coast Guard was called out to rescue some fishermen who got a little careless and put their twenty-three foot center console onto the rocks along Nonamessett Island.

The Coasties sent a forty-five-foot response boat to the scene and considered sending a rescue swimmer in to shore to bring the stranded anglers out, one at a time. But brisk winds and choppy surf put the kibosh on that plan. Then an Aids to Navigation Team Woods Hole crew launched a 20-foot shallow-draft boat to assist. The rescue swimmer brought the four to a cove a half mile north where they were picked up by the shallow-draft boat crew. A commercial craft pulled their boat back off the rocks later.

Moral of the story is: Very often the best fishing can be found in locations that may be pretty sketchy for boats so Pay Attention!

August 09, 2016

Stripers, Funny Fish and a Whale Blubber Meal

by Jerry Vovcsko

Those of us who pursue the finny denizen that inhabit local waters are used to working hard to tempt those fish to take our baits or lures and thus be captured for sport or a rendezvous with the backyard grill. But last week Cape Cod anglers experienced a strange, new phenomenon: namely, fish leaping out of the water at their feet. Yessir, all along Nauset Beach hundreds of ten to fifteen-inch Atlantic Menhaden, frantic and desperate, flung themselves onto the beach in an attempt to escape a mix of hungry striped bass and bluefish that were herding the menhaden toward the shore.

New England Aquarium biologists say this kind of behavior is fairly common although we humans rarely get to witness it. Biologists said blues actually work together, trapping schools of menhaden against a shoreline, a possible scenario that occurred at the Orleans beach. Although it looks dire, the menhaden jump out of the water onto the shore in an effort to avoid attack

"What appears to be a suicidal act to people, actually might offer a slim but better chance at survival as an incoming tide, the next lapping wave and some flopping around might eventually get the fish back into the water after the predator has departed," the scientists say.

Menhaden or pogies are a foundation fish species on the marine food chain. In addition to blues and stripers, they are also eaten by sharks, tuna, whales, seals and seabirds during the summer in New England.

Speaking of sharks (which we seem to be doing with ever-increasing frequency these days), six great whites were seen chowing down on a Minke whale carcass this past week off Truro. The sharks had removed the tongue, internal organs, and most of the muscle," local officials said in a statement.

"The carcass was still floating, but was essentially little more than the spinal column and skull."¬

Three Truro beaches had been closed when the sharks were sighted but opened the next days. I guess the beach-master figured the great whites wouldn't need to eat any swimmers after guzzling down that much whale blubber.

The Canal looks to be cranking up the action now that mackerel and herring are around to serve as floating buffet lines for stripers and blues. Some of the bass caught topped the forty-inch mark and it's good to see the increased activity after a couple less-than-robust weeks of Canal fishing. Over around the big islands (The Vineyard and Nantucket) there's been an outbreak of brown shark action reported during the nocturnal hours and bluefish have been providing sport for locals and visitors as the warmer waters in the Sound lull striped bass into somnolence and ennui.

But that will change in another month as the stripers begin packing away extra calories in preparation for the return journey home. The Great Fall Migration offers some of the very best striper fishing on the east coast and it's not that far off. Right now it's the start of Funny-Fish hijinks in Nantucket Sound and there have already been bonito and Spanish Mackerel taken along with the reports of the first false albacore boated near Lackey's Bay.

There are bluefish in the rips out behind Nantucket Island with Old Man's Rip harboring some double-digit blues in the standing waves. Blues and bass are also coming out of Wasque lately although anglers have to work through bass in the 24 to 26-inch range in order to find a keeper or two. There have been some nice striped bass taken from the boulders around Penikese Island last weekend and once in a while a jumbo tautog will take an interest in a plug cast into those rocks providing a nice serendipity effect.

Bonito are arriving in numbers around Nomans Island and they'll be moving into the Sound along about mid-week. The Buzzards Bay side of the Elizabeth Islands have been flush with school-size stripers although some big guys were taken on live eels in Quicks Hole and on big swimming plugs around the southwest corner of Robinsons Hole.

The charter skippers occasionally pull forty-pound-plus stripers from the reef at Sow and Pigs but they actually do better when southwest winds churn things up around there. It's worth taking one of those charter trips just to see an old timer out of Mattapoisett back his bass boat into the boulders on a pitch-black night with the wind ripping thirty knots and rain pouring down.

They'll rig a big swimming plug on wire line and feed it out over the stern…when the line feels like it's "thrumming" just so, a strike usually comes soon after and bass up to fifty and sixty pounds have been known to get pulled out of there. Not for the amateur, perhaps, but those who know the reef score big when wind and tide combine on a night that ends up putting fish – big fish- in the boat.

July 31, 2016

Sharktivity App a Winner

by Jerry Vovcsko

To me July has always been an interesting month. For one thing my birthday falls on July 18th and the 2016 one marked seventy-nine eventful years on this earth. And it was 98 years ago, July 21, 1918 to be specific, when a German submarine attacked the tug Perth Amboy of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and her four barges three miles off Chatham on the southeastern elbow of Cape Cod. Locally, it's told that in their haste to take off to repel the U-boat, the flight crew from the Chatham Seaplane Base forgot to load any bombs aboard the planes, and ended up throwing their wrenches and other equipment at the escaping German submarines. More than most other Americans, folks on Cape Cod were aware that there was a war on. A French naval ship guarded the French Atlantic telegraph cables that had been laid in nearby Nauset Harbor, while U.S. Marines secured the cable company's property in Orleans.

And earlier this week Plymouth Long Beach and White Horse Beach opened again after they were closed following a confirmed Great White shark sighting off the coast, according to the Plymouth harbormaster. The 15-foot shark was spotted by a lobsterman about a half-mile off Manomet Point around 2 p.m. Saturday, the Plymouth harbormaster said Saturday evening. Harbormaster boats searched for the shark Saturday afternoon and evening, but didn't find it, said assistant harbormaster Mike Dawley.

Looks like that new Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's sharktivity app that just went into effect last week has already delivered results by warning a family group that a 14-foot great white was nearby as they boated just off Monomoy Island. Following the warning from the app a shark spotter plane buzzed overhead to let them know the great white was just a few feet away from their boat. It looks like this app may well end up keeping Cape visitors out of shark trouble and perhaps even saving a few lives along the way.

And how's the fishing these days? As things slow down during a week of ninety-degree air temperatures, the Canal sees little action other than the occasional bass taken usually at night. Best bet is to fish the tides running east to west when cooler water from Cape Cod Bay pushes into the Ditch. There seem to be more bluefish than bass turning up in the Canal and the same goes for Nantucket Sound and Buzzards Bay.

The west coast of Martha's Vineyard has seen some decent striper action with a few plus-thirty-pound bass taken on live eels at Devil's Bridge and double-digit bluefish caught on the south side of the island near Wasque. The Elizabeth Islands continue to have their moments in and around the rocky shoreline. Plugs at first light bring good results and ditto for live eels at night. Bonito are beginning to show in Nantucket Sound and over at Nantucket Island. The Middleground continues to produce fluke but patience is required in order to find keeper-size flatties. Blues are prevalent throughout the Sound as well as in Buzzards Bay.

Provincetown had a slug of bass operating around Race Point but those fish seem to have moved on to cooler waters. The Brewster Flats hold stripers, especially on the falling tide when tube-and-worm anglers do some productive business albeit on mostly undersized bass. Still, the occasional twenty-pound-plus fish makes it worthwhile to spend some time there when the tide is right. Barnstable Harbor is pretty good right now with a mix of bass and blues and around dusk the stretch of coast between the Harbor and westward to Sandy Neck and Scorton Creek is worth a look.

East of Chatham the tuna action has begun cranking up with Bluefin moving into the area. Mostly on the small size at the moment but the big boys should be showing up before long.

Massachusetts Environmental Police were busy again this past week. They boarded boats in Cape Cod Bay looking for illegally caught striped bass and busted a half dozen poachers on commercial boats jump-starting the season and trying to hide the fish until the legal opening. At least a half-dozen boats were cited, fined a thousand bucks or more and their catches and equipment confiscated. Good to see the Environmental lads proactive with enforcement. Poaching fish is serious business and should be treated that way.

July 26, 2016

Doldrums On the Horizon

by Jerry Vovcsko

Well, next Monday is August first, and we all know that heralds the imminent arrival of the dreaded August Doldrums, that time of year when water temperatures soar and the striped bass, lazy to begin with, turn positively lethargic and head for deeper, cooler waters. So what to do? What's the best way to draw them into action when it seems the only thing they're interested in is a nice nap? Dunno about anyone else but that's when I reach for my box of jigs and a couple packs of sluggos in assorted sizes and colors.

You would think that live bait would be the most tempting but I think it takes a back seat because these bass, especially the Large, just don't feel like exerting themselves, and anything live is liable to run for it. So I like to flip a Sluggo out and twitch it a time or two and see what happens. What makes them especially effective, at least in my book, is that you can work them anywhere in the water column and control their speed by changing the weight of the jig you're using them on.

In other words, say you've got a five inch Sluggo that you want to work slowly but you also want to stay in maybe just few feet of depth. So you hang it on a light jig that's not going to dive-bomb toward the bottom, especially if there's a bit of a current running. You can work this as slowly as you please and still keep it running fairly shallow.

Conversely, you might be wanting to get small Sluggo (or a piece of one) down deep and that's no problem, either. You can hit bottom by snapping on a heavier jig without having to change the speed you're working the lure. If you want to change depth without changing jig size then you can control that by speeding up or slowing down the retrieve. Maybe you want to drop down a few feet just to see what's happening but don't want to be bothered with a lure change…if there's nothing doing, crank it back up and explore further up the water column.

Why Sluggos? Dunno…I've just had the most luck with them, I suppose. Yes, I use Fin-S and other plastic baits from time to time, especially when I want to try a new color, but Sluggos for some reason strike me as just the cat's nuts. Last year I started fooling around with the nine inch, trying it with the hook it came with in the package...a big, long bent shank number. But before long I reverted back to circles, which I use almost exclusively anymore. And, by the way, I know some folks have been critical of circle hooks tipped with plastic, but I've had no problems…or if I did, I never knew about them. I certainly didn't feel I was missing an excessive number of hookups or that my hookup-to-hits ratio had taken a downward turn.

I guess part of it is I just like the idea of bringing stripers in for release with a 6/0 circle tucked away in the corner of their mouths rather than down their gut or in a gill or elsewhere. And I have no doubt whatsoever that whatever the failings of circle hooks may be, they drastically reduce the number of gut hooked or bleeder fish. None of that, of course, is the result of scientific studies that I've been involved with. It's purely anecdotal and it's based solely on observations I've made since I've been using them regularly, which is about five years now. I've heard the arguments against but that hasn't been my experience so I guess I'll just stick with them.

Anyhow, here it is, August right around the corner, the water's heating up and the big fish have slipped away to slumberland. What to do? My advice is simple: Grab your gear, break out those jigs and plastic or rubber and head for the Cape Cod Canal. Bring some coffee and donuts and wait for slack tide…tie on that jig tipped with maybe a nine inch Sluggo and ease that baby through those riffles and semi-rips. Try that as darkness sets in or maybe a couple of hours before dawn...if the tides favor you that way. See if you can get there when the tide's about to start running east to west because the cooler waters from Cape Cod Bay will be pushing through there then and maybe that'll bring some of those Large out of hibernation.

At least, that's the method I favor to beat those August Doldrums. Tight lines.

July 15, 2016

Hey, Dad, I think I've Got a Big One!

by Jerry Vovcsko

Judging from the media coverage you might think Cape Cod waters are infested with great white sharks ever ready to gobble up any tourist bold enough stick a toe in the briny shallows. The reality is a bit less fearsome. The area most likely to receive visits from these apex predators is the stretch of beach fronting the Atlantic Ocean between, say, Wellfleet and Chatham. And to date local inhabitants and summer visitors alike possess enough digits to count the numbers of great whites dropping by for a visit.

That does raise the question, though, of just how many of these fearsome beasties can be found cruising nearby swimmers, surfers and paddle board aficionados on any given day. Well stand by to give a shout to those shark experts and local authorities who have taken another step towards better educating the public about the pelagic great whites. This week marks the debut of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's Sharktivity app. The app is a joint collaboration between the conservancy, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, the Cape Cod National Seashore and local officials.

A press release from the Division of Marine Fisheries tells us that users will be able to view confirmed shark sightings via the app's mapping technology. Shark sightings by researchers on the water or beach managers and lifeguards on the shore, will trigger notification beach alerts via the app. App users are encouraged to act as citizen scientists and submit their own sightings (subject to official verification). The app will also include detection data from receivers in the water from Chatham to Provincetown that ping when a tagged shark passes. Although only tagged sharks are detected by the receivers, the information help researchers develop a better understanding of the habits of white sharks in the area.

Since the receivers were deployed at the end of May and researchers hit the water on June 16, shark activity has been strong. Scratchy, a 13-foot male white shark was the first shark to ping a receiver off Chatham on June 11. On June 27, the state's head shark expert Dr. Greg Skomal tagged his second shark of the season, an 11-foot white shark off Monomoy. He tagged the first one, a 12-foot male, on June 24 off Nauset Beach and named him Luke. Luke was first identified during the first year of the MA Division of Marine Fisheries's 5-year population study in 2014.

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy is clear to point out that the app is not an early detection system. It cannot foresee shark activity or determine which beaches are safest. The Sharktivity app is yet another educational tool put in place this summer by researchers and local officials. Earlier this season, the Town of Orleans debuted "Be Shark Smart" full-color posters at Nauset Beach. A menacing white shark glides across the posters, which contain safety tips about where and when to swim.

Nauset also flies the purple dangerous marine life flag, seen at many beaches, but theirs bears a white shark to further alert swimmers to the potential danger in the water. The ocean side towns that see the greatest shark activity including Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown, as well as the Cape Cod National Seashore, all disseminate shark safety tips for swimmers. The app is currently only available for iPhone users at the iTunes Store. Although Android users will have to wait for their version, the data available through the iPhone app is also available on the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy website.

Those great whites may be fearsome critters in their watery domain but, by golly, we human beings have got digital technology on our side as we try to improve the odds of survival when we head out to spend a hot summer day at the beach. The sharks might have razor sharp teeth but we've got iPhones!

Six-year-old Blake White, who was fishing with his family off Rock Harbor in Cape Cod Bay over the weekend didn't have an iPhone but he had to ask his dad for some help reeling in what they figured would be a jumbo striped bass, but after an hour of being towed around the bay Blake's dad, Lars White, realized he was going to need-a-bigger-boat than his 22-foot center console. Because what appeared on the surface was no striper but a twelve-foot great white. Lars told his boys to go to the center of the boat and sit down.

The shark hadn't swallowed the bait, it swam into the hook and spent an hour and a half trying to free itself, according to White. When the shark finally surfaced, Lars' wife, Nicole, took some photographs of their only catch of the day and then they cut their line and the shark swam away. Blake had hooked into the shark, which his father estimated was 10-12 feet long, at about 1:15 p.m. about a mile from Rock Harbor on the Eastham side, Lars White said.

White sent photos of the shark to the Atlantic Great White Shark Conservancy, a non-profit that researches the sharks off Cape Cod. State shark scientist Gregory Skomal confirmed in an email that he was aware of the report and that the shark in the photograph provided by White was a great white. But there have been no reports of somebody hooking into a great white so deep into Cape Cod Bay. Blake says he wants to go fishing again next weekend, but told his father "maybe we can catch something a little bit smaller."

Aside from catching great whites, what's happening these days on the salt water scene? Well, striper action in the Cape Cod Canal appears to be picking up a bit. Impending full moon tides may have something to do with that. Catches in the mid-thirties have been reported at local bait shops.

Some jumbo bluefish have been showing up in the rips south of Nantucket as well as off the south side of Martha's Vineyard. The Middlegound has offered up a nice mix of fluke and stripers depending on what the current's doing and Lucas Shoal remains a promising groundfish location. Striper fishing between Race Point and Herring Cove continues to produce – best times are dusk into the night hours.

Live eels worked around Cuttyhunk and Pasque Island have delivered bass up to forty pounds and the Buzzards Bay side of the Elizabeths is flush with sub-keeper size bass. Casting plugs into the rocks back there will provide plenty of catch-and-release action.

Not a lot of Bluefin tuna catches recently but yellowfin results have been strong south of the Vineyard as well as up around Stellwagen Bank. Anglers trying the flats around Monomoy Island have found stripers to be a bit skittish lately but considering the numbers of seals and great whites in the area, it's no wonder. Billingsgate has been productive for folks working tube-and-worm offerings and bluefish have been showing up around Sandy Neck Beach late in the afternoons.

The American League prevailed in the All-Star Game so home field advantage goes to whichever team wins the pennant. Could be the Red Sox…if the pitching holds up.

July 07, 2016

Orcas, Bonnies and Big Papi

by Jerry Vovcsko

Ever since the seal population exploded at the eastern end of Cape Cod there's been a concurrent rise in the number of great white sharks showing up in the waters around Chatham and Monomoy Island. And why not? The great white is an apex predator with almost no marine enemies to speak of. There is, however, one creature a lot higher on the food chain that treats great whites as so much chum and is known to casually torment and kill the big sharks with ease. That would be the killer whale, aka, the orca.

Bruce Peters has seen a lot of things in his 40 years as a skipper navigating Cape Cod waters. But earlier this week, in an interview with a reporter for a Cape newspaper, he said he witnessed what experts consider to be a rare event — watching as an orca cut through the waves, its slick black dorsal fin glistening as it pierced the sea's surface near Chatham's coastline.

"I'm 60 years old, have been fishing my entire life, and I've only seen them twice in my life," said Peters, who owns Capeshores Charters. "I was surprised."

Peters spotted the orca, a species commonly referred to as killer whales, while on a trip fishing for tuna roughly 15-miles east of Chatham, he said. When the orca suddenly appeared, Peters reacted just as quickly.

"I picked up my camera and took a picture," he said. He later posted the images to Facebook, where they were shared more than 1,500 times.

Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium, said the sighting was "very rare."

LaCasse said the last sighting in New England waters that he could recall was in 2014, when officials from the US Coast Guard came across orcas roughly 150 miles southeast of Nantucket. This is the first time in his 15 years at the Aquarium that he's heard of someone seeing a Killer Whale swimming so close to the shore. "It's exceptionally rare this close," he said.

It probably seems a bit odd to be talking about bonito on the Cape when we're only coming up on the second week of July. But, you know, this has been a very strange year with everything happening sooner than usual, so why not talk bonito? Normally, the tiny tunoids wouldn't be putting in an appearance much before the last week of July and wouldn't really show up in any numbers until after we'd turned the corner on August, but I expect we'll be hearing reports of a few stray arrivals any day now. So let's review:

First of all, we know that when schools of albies and bonnies start buzzing around the Sound it brings out the beast in some of our fellow skippers. Guys who normally hold the door for the little old lady pushing a shopping cart at the Stop & Shop suddenly grow fangs and foam at the mouth when the tuna fishies appear. My favorite, I believe, is the fella who came roaring up in a twenty- foot Regulator a couple of seasons back as a small fleet of boats gathered off Lackey's Bay where a school of bonnies was herding bait in circles.

Anglers aboard one of the boats were casting to breaking fish when the cowboy in the Regulator zoomed up, cut it too close and rammed them broadside. Not satisfied with those antics, the regulator skipper grabbed his rod and cast across the boat he'd just smashed into. Too bizarre? Nah…chalk it up to Bonito Fever. Look sharp, me lads, they'll be here any day now.

Although striper action has cooled a bit on the Sound side of the Cape, things are still popping on the back beaches and over to the north around Cape Cod Bay. Eels at night, live eels that is, are beginning to take their place as the bait de jour now that the herring and squid have departed for parts unknown. Around Provincetown, Wellfleet and Truro, stripers and blues are gorging themselves on sand eels and if you can't lay hands on any of the real thing, try to emulate the little sand burrowing eels with Deadly Dicks, Swedish Pimples and small Hopkins lures. Shiny narrow metal works very well this time of the season, although there are those who swear by SlugGos and Fin-S baits and take their share of big fish.

If you had in mind to try Provincetown Harbor this year, now's the time. Trolling jigs tipped with plastic can fetch up anything from a twenty-pound bass to a big doormat fluke and one of the secrets that the locals rarely share with part time visitors is that drifting a seaworm in these waters at night can be as close to a sure thing as it's liable to get. Select one of the bigger ones from your flat of worms and hook it along the head so it trails lengthwise in the water…you don't want it bunched up. Leave the tip of the hook barely sticking out and flip it up-current, then let it drift. If you see any hesitation or stoppage in the line's movement through the water, set your hook (or reel in steadily if you're using circle hooks…which I hope you are).

There's was an old timer from the Falmouth area who used to stock his freezer with fillets from big stripers by slow trolling a couple of lines from his fourteen-foot skiff with willow leaf spinners attached and a seaworm trailing from each. He dragged these up and down just outside the harbor and took keeper-size stripers as casually as though he were ordering them up at the local fish market. Thirty or forty years ago it was a common thing to see slow-moving lapstrake Lyman Islanders idling along at about a knot and a half, burning maybe a cup of gas a day, with their grizzled, old skippers pulling in fish after fish and selling their catch at the back door of the local seafood emporium. The technique worked back then; it'll work just as well today.

Anyhow, these days - and nights - the cooler waters of the backside still beckon to those who would pursue stripers from boat or surf. Head out toward Nauset, Orleans, Truro and P'town. Bring seaworms…lots of them. And don't forget those eels. The fish are there. Come and get them.

Meanwhile the David Ortiz farewell tour continues around the American League as Big Papi goes about wearing out opposing pitchers on a nightly basis. If the Sox ever get their own starting pitchers on track they could well be headed for another World Series appearance come October. The fishing's good and the Red Sox are on the march…must be summer in New England. Carry on.

June 30, 2016

Nothing Sluggish About Sluggos

by Jerry Vovcsko

Let me say a few words on behalf of a soft plastic lure that has become one of my favorites, namely, the Sluggo. I fooled around with them when they first came out but became seriously interested after a few trips down along the Elizabeth Islands south of Woods Hole. At first I played around with the four-inch version, using them to tip small bucktail jigs for cast-and-retrieve purposes. And they worked just fine, albeit seeming to attract the smaller edition of Morone saxatilis (lordy, I miss the old Roccus lineatus designation), that is, lots of peanut sized bass in the 18 to 24-inch range. But hey, I'm not looking down my nose at fish that size…on light spin gear, a bout with a bunch of feisty schoolies can be lots of fun.

So I kept tossing the small sluggos into the rocks on my forays down-island until one mid-summer day, the kind where nothing's moving, little or no current, and you just feel like you've marooned yourself and crew in the middle of the Horse Latitudes. Definitely not a feels-fishy kind of day. So there I was drifting off Naushon Island, the crew (sons Jeremy and Mark) busily helping themselves to sandwiches and potato chips washed down with cans of cooler-cold soda. I was rummaging through my tackle box in a desultory sort of way pondering what I might possibly offer up to the fish gods when my eye lit on a package of nine-inch sluggos that I'd picked up at the local tackle shop. Hadn't fished them yet and even though the offset hook included with them looked more suitable for latching onto bluefin tuna or maybe a stray shark. I thought Heck, why not?….and rigged a rod with 17lb Stren tied directly to the hook, no additional terminal tackle needed.

Compared to the small jig-and-Sluggo rigs I'd been throwing previously, the big nine-inch version felt like the next thing to a live eel…in fact, I caught myself hurrying to get the tail in the water before it curled up my line. Two nice big boulders poked clear of the water close to shore and I dropped the Sluggo right in the middle and just past the two rocks. I started to swim the lure back through the slot and, Bang! This was no schoolie. Five minutes later, after a lively battle, I landed a nice, spry 30-inch bass.

By now we'd drifted a few hundred yards down current and with the boys still busily attacking their food I didn't bother to run back to where we'd been. But a quick scan of the shoreline revealed a tiny riffle where a rip was trying to make up and I flipped Mr. Sluggo just a tad up current. No more than two cranks on the reel handle and it felt like I'd hooked up with the twin brother of the first striper. This one turned out to be a long-line-release deal when I lost concentration for a second as we drifted in a little tight to a particularly ominous rock that appeared zeroed in on our hull. My attempt to start the motor, back out and keep the line taut, all at the same time, resulted in a thrown hook. Looking up momentarily from his sandwich, Jeremy, my youngest, inquired disinterestedly, "Need a hand, dad?" then proceeded to applaud as brother Mark snickered into his bag of Fritos.

Before the day was finished, I and my boys (who had furtively filched the two remaining sluggos while my back was turned) managed to hook up with six more stripers, the largest of which measured out at an impressive 37 inches. This, on a day where nothing else drew even a sniff from the bass population lazing around in the rocks. Not Rebels, YoZuris, jigs or poppers. Nothing but those slinky sluggos. So that's how they ended up incorporated in the go-to compartments of the old man's tackle box where have remained these many seasons later.

Black, white and clear are my current favorites and I pick up a couple packs of each when I see them in the tackle shops. If you haven't tried them, my advice is don't! You likely won't catch any fish. In fact, your best bet is to promptly send any that you have laying around directly to me. I'll dispose of them in suitable fashion, free of charge. No need to thank me…I do it as public service.

So what's happening in Cape Waters these days? Well, over around Stellwagen Bank the patriarchal humpback whale, Salt, had a calf recently and that's always good news for a depleted species. Salt picked up her name as a result of the white tip on her fin and her sometimes-partner is called Pepper for the black markings on hers.

And an untagged and never-seen-before great white shark showed up near the seal colony over at Chatham. Scientist Greg Skomal will no doubt be looking to tag this 14-foot shark during her visit to the Cape if he gets the opportunity. Chatham has become host to one of the planet's major gatherings of great whites thanks to the buildup of seal colonies down along the Monomoy shoreline.

The Canal was a little sluggish last week but there were reports of a couple of stripers in the high thirty-pound range so there are still fish to be had in the Ditch. Slack tide is a very good time to drop jigs into the boulder-strewn depths and it's also the best time to work a live eel down deep as well.

School bass abound along the eastern shoreline of Buzzards Bay all the way from the west end of the Canal down to Cuttyhunk Island. On the Vineyard Sound side, Quicks Hole has offered up some nice stripers to both tube-and-worm anglers as well as those fishing live eels. Throughout the day the etch from Tarpaulin Cove down to Robinsons Hole remains fertile territory for plug-tossing anglers.

Monomoy Island is flush with bass when seals and great whites aren't in residence and the Monomoy Flats in Nantucket Sound. Tuna has been spotted offshore east of Chatham but no solid catch reports so far.

On the Cape Cod Bay side anglers fishing the ebbing tides of the Brewster Flats are doing business with tube and worm rigs as well as trolling plugs along the drop-off. On the backside beaches there's been heavier striper action around Balston Beach and Head of the Meadow Beach. Scouting the sandbars and holes during the day at low tide pays off big time when flood tide begins to ebb especially if the time coincides with dusk and the early night hours. Clam bellies and mackerel chunks are favorite baits and some surf casters set up a sand spike with bait while they toss plugs into the wash.

Cleveland Ledge and the Weepecket Islands are popular destinations right now for folks seeking keeper-size tautog and Buzzards Bay holds as good a population of black sea bass as we've seen in years. Ever since the Environmental Police busted those guys poaching black sea bass earlier in the season it looks like everyone's cleaned up their acts. Tax dollars well spent, I'd say.

June 26, 2016

Herring, Stripers and Politics.

by Jerry Vovcsko

Back in the day, one of the surest ways to hook up with a big striper was to dip net a couple of nice, fat herring and live-line them in the Canal or maybe over at Billingsgate or around the reef at the Middleground – the destination being less important than having that tasty herring on a 5/0 hook at the end of your line. But those stocks became seriously depleted over time and the state eventually shut down the herring fishery to recreational anglers. Now the Federal fishing regulators are considering a slight cut to the catch limit for Atlantic herring, a fish that is important both to the fishing industry and the ocean's food web. Atlantic herring are small fish that gather in schools that can number in the millions. They are a critical food source for bigger fish, seals and whales, and are important to humans as food and bait.

The National Marines Fisheries Service might reduce the catch limit by about 3 percent to about 105,000 metric tons. The proposal's up for public comment until July 21. The herring fishery takes place in New England and the mid-Atlantic, but is principally based in Maine and Massachusetts. It was worth a little less than $30 million in 2014, when fishermen caught 92,000 metric tons.

Now that the weather has returned to normal, catch reports are coming in from the Cape Cod Canal and other places that were seeing limited activity the past few days. At the Canal, the prevailing size of striper taken seems to be 27-inches, which may leave hopeful anglers without fresh bass for the Fourth of July grill. Herring chunks, live mackerel (where available) and jig ‘n plastic baits have proven effective. Surface plugs and poppers have also taken some fish during early morning feeding activity.

With the water warming along the southern coast on the Cape, the striper activity appears to have diminished a tad. Instead of easy pickings, even schoolies are requiring hard prospecting if an angler is to be successful these days. But a few spots continue to deliver. For those boaters willing to get in tight around the rock ledges at Nobska the payoff has included some big fish. Live scup drifted through that area have recently produced fish up to twenty pounds. Of course, scup as live bait has long been one of those not-so-secret secrets of local charter skippers. When menhaden became unavailable to local anglers, those who turned to scup, along with small cunners taken on tiny hooks along the jetties, do very, very well.

This time of year, with the stripers not exactly jumping into an angler's boat, a tube and worm setup can be absolute dynamite. Surgical tubes about 18" long and trailing a 5/0 hook with a nice, juicy seaworm trailing behind become lethal enticements to bass of all sizes. The trick is to work as slowly as possible, as close in among the rocks as possible. If the shoreline is clear of weeds this technique is as close to a sure thing as there is in fishing. For an added attraction, try hanging the worm on a large willow leaf spinner, like the salt water version of a June Bug rig. In the old days, savvy local fishermen made hay with spinner and worm rigs on both sides of the Cape. It still works.

I've become more and more interested in a method that I began trying this year. That is, trolling a two-ounce popper such as an Atom or Striper Swiper in much the same way and in the same places as where I employ the tube and worm. It seems to be among the few things that work when the water is clear and the current isn't doing much. Again, it's important so throttle down as much as possible and work in tight to sure. Of course, in places such as along the Elizabeth Islands it's always a good idea to have an eye peeled forward for those nasty boulders that lie barely submerged along the shore. They're the main reason so many fish hang out there but they're always ready to eat your hull for lunch should your attention wander.

Another point. When you hook a striper in among the rocks, it's important to quickly swing the tiller (or wheel) out away from the shore. You want to entice the bass out into deeper water before they can take you down into the rocks and part your line on a handy barnacle. I don't use wire leaders – I just think they scare off the fish – but a 50 or 60 pound test mono leader is a good idea, especially if you're using braid. You want a little give somewhere along your line to absorb the shock of a hit from a big bass and help prevent the hook from tearing out. And it also helps keep your line intact should it make contact with a barnacle or sharp rock edge.

Great Point out on Nantucket has been a gathering place for blues lately. Not anything spectacular in terms of size, but lots of them and, as always, they are hungry. Lambert's Cove on the Vineyard has seen similar activity lately and the Middleground has been a bit spotty. Some fluke are hanging out there but the striper action has been sparse. This reef is another good place to liveline scup, and don't worry about using too big a bait: Fluke and striper both have wide maws and can easily handle most anything you drop down there. Anyhow, July is here, the weather should be improving and it's a good time to get in some fishing before the real August doldrums arrive. And hey, don't forget one other oft-forgotten technique that can really deliver the goods: drifting a seaworm. More about that in an upcoming blog.

East end of the Canal's been pretty active lately, with stripers going after mackerel whenever those little guys show up. Along the Islands, Quicks Hole, Robinsons Hole and the Buzzards Bay shores of Cuttyhunk have been delivering keeper size stripers on the morning tides to anglers tossing topwater plugs.

I mentioned the herring fishery at the start of this blog so I figure it's only right that I say a little bit about herring's long history in Massachusetts waters. After all, it was the profits from the combined mackeral and herring fisheries that in 1670 supported and maintained the first free public schools in Plymouth colony. And in 1774, just two years before the colonists signed off on the Declaration of Independence, the town of Sandwich coughed up some eighty pounds sterling from herring profits to help fund its militia.

And then there were the good folks of Falmouth who in the late 1700s actually established political parties based on one's support-for or opposition-to the notion of allowing herring to swim up the Coonamessett River in order to spawn. Feelings about the matter grew more and more intense until the Anti-herrings decided their cause could use a little boost and decided that a public demonstration might do the trick. So they dragged a cannon onto the Falmouth Common, pounded in a generous amount of black powder and topped that off with a bushel of herring.

Unfortunately, the gunner was a tad fervent in tamping down the powder. When he applied match to fuse, the gun exploded, scattering pieces of itself, the herring and the gunner across the village green. This untimely setback to the Anti-herring cause didn't dampen the party's political will, however. They remained as stubbornly opposed as ever and a few years later a proposal to divide the town failed primarily because the warring factions couldn't agree on who would get what share of the herring assets. And after watching the circus that the current Presidential campaign has devolved into, I think it's safe to say that politics hasn't changed very much after all these years.

June 15, 2016

High Heat and Good Fishing

by Jerry Vovcsko

Windy conditions lately have made Vineyard Sound a rough proposition for boat fishermen. Seems even when things are fairly calm in the early AM by afternoon that old sou'west wind begins to hum and navigating in a three to four-foot chop becomes a regular event. Still, discomfort notwithstanding, the fishing's been pretty good on the south side of the Cape.

Of course, it helps if you're fond of bluefish, either for cooking or for eating. Because Cape waters are seeing as many bluefish around these days as I can recall reaching all the way back to the mid-seventies. There are so many, in fact, that it scares me a little bit. Folks tend to forget that historically bluefish have appeared and disappeared on a cyclical basis. In fact, up until the thirties or forties they weren't to be found locally. The old timers of that era talked about the bluefish blitzes that they recalled around the turn of the century, but their stories were written off as the meanderings of feeble old minds. And then the blues returned.

And now we take for granted that they'll always be around, and in huge numbers to boot. Anybody who thinks along those lines would do well to read John Hersey's book, "Blues"…it's a great winter read, and it chronicles the vanishing bluefish phenomenon. What's scary about those disappearances is that typically they lasted for a couple of decades or longer until the fish returned. So keep that in mind when you're cursing over a lost plug or two that got consigned to the choppers of a ten pounder out there around Nobska, or because you lost half an eel down around Quick's Hole. From what Hersey writes, it seems that bluefish become much more appreciated a year or two after they've disappeared from local fishing grounds. Might be we'd do well to treat them with a little more respect while they're still around.

While the blues seem to own the top layer of the water column, striped bass appear to have taken up residence on the bottom, the bigger ones anyway. Tube and worm aficionados are doing business along the Middle Ground and in tight to the rocks along the Elizabeth Islands. Island fishing calls for very specific and detailed local knowledge. Doesn't do a lot of good to pull a worm through the water if you're a hundred yards out from shore, but you get in close along Naushon, Pasque and Cuttyhunk and you stand a very good chance of finding a damned big hull-eating rock with your boat. That's why local anglers regularly take big fish out of that spot while weekend skippers get shut out in the same area…a few feet in close to the rocks can make all the difference. If you don't know you're way around in there, try to find somebody who'll take you with them who knows it rock by rock. And when you get that chance start keeping track of where the rocks are located and where you can safely fish, and on what stage of the tide you can do that.

When we were teens we mostly hung out on the same street corners all the time. Why? Because that's where we knew the girls would be passing by. Same with the fish, except with them it's food, not females, they're after. And that's where you want to put your rubber tube with that juicy seaworm trailing from the hook…right in front of their noses. The old timer who taught me to fish the tube and worm showed me a trick that worked then and it will work today and seasons to come as long as stripers are around. You find the place where they hang out, troll past and slow your speed so the tube and worm sinks a few feet as it gets to where the fish are sitting, when you resume speed and the tube starts to come back up and head forward again, you'll get your hit just then…count on it.
In the meantime, while you're still figuring out where the rocks are and where your boat can safely go, why not break away for a bit of action when you see birds working over feeding bluefish? If you don't want to lose your expensive lures keep a spare rod loaded with some beater plug that you've rigged with a single hook. And to make it even easier to release a frantic blue, crimp the barb. Keep a couple for the grill and toss the rest back; it's fun and, besides, history tells us they won't always be around, so why not enjoy them while they're here.

Those of us who live and die following the fortunes of our local sports teams were particularly interested in the results of the recent baseball draft. The Red Sox, picking at number twelve in the first round, chose Jason Groome, a 17 year-old, 6'6" left hander fresh out of high school who throws a baseball 97mph (high heat) and loves to fish. In fact, he's part of the high school fishing club, said Dan McCoy, Groome's coach at Barnegat HS in New Jersey. Well, young Jason may have spent some time fishing for stripers and blues off the New Jersey coast but he'll have a chance to do some serious fishing here in the striped bass mecca of the northeast. Welcome to Red Sox Nation, Jason.

Bluefish action was at peak levels off Cotuit and around the Waquoit jetty in Vineyard Sound. Also, some jumbo blues were smacking metal slabs off South Beach, Poppy and Oregon Beach early in the week. Same thing around Nobska and over along the Woods Hole channel. These were smaller blues in general but perfect for the grill.

Striper action on the south side of the Cape seemed sporadic but a 39-pound bass was taken from the surf at Martha's Vineyard and weighed in at a local tackle shop. That's a nice fish by anybody's standards and one of the biggest I've heard about so far this season. The rips around the east side of the island have been productive this week and the Middleground shows signs of heating up as well. Much of the striper action on the west side of the island has been on schoolie bass.

Water temperatures in the Sound and Buzzards Bay have crept into the low sixties and that seems to have motivated bass and blues alike to be more aggressive these days. The Canal saw robust early morning topwater action mid-week delivered keeper-size bass to anglers fishing the night tides. As always in the Ditch, the key is to get jigs down deep on the slack tides keeping in mind the advice of savvy locals: If you ain't losing a few jigs to snags, you ain't fishing deep enough.

Over on the Cape Cod Bay side, Barnstable Harbor saw lots of striper action with schoolies for the most part and the Brewster Flats had some bigger bass taken on ebbing tides by anglers tossing plugs along the edge of the flats. This weekend should be just about perfect weather assuming the winds don't kick up too much. Game on, people…game on.

June 08, 2016

Summer Days On the Way

by Jerry Vovcsko

The official arrival of summer is only a couple weeks away and the weather has been cooperating for the most part. And to help jump-start the fishing season, the state of Massachusetts is hosting its free saltwater fishing days on June 18 and 19. No need for a saltwater fishing permit in state marine waters, out to 3 miles, until the weekend is over. That saltwater permit, by the way, is one of the all-time bargains at ten bucks for the license plus a buck sixty-eight online-purchase fee, but the weekend of June 18th/19th gives anglers a free pass, so make it a point to get out there and check out the saltwater action.

June 18 and 19 are the only days when saltwater anglers aged 16 years or older do not need a fishing permit (unless otherwise exempt). Anglers 60 years and older must register, but receive a free permit. Review the requirements and get your permit online. The purchase of a Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permit directly funds improvements to saltwater fishing access projects and other programs that support marine recreational fishing in the Commonwealth.

The state's largest illegal black sea bass bust of the season was made this weekend, thanks to an observant harbormaster. Sunday evening, while checking vessels at Tempest Knob Boat Ramp, Wareham Assistant Harbormaster Jamie McIntosh noticed a boat with what looked like an excessive black sea bass catch. McIntosh notified the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) who responded immediately. According to an MEP release, the officer boarded the boat and found 8 coolers. The boat operator told the officer the coolers contained black sea bass and scup. A full inspection revealed a catch of 209 black sea bass. Of the 209, 122 were undersized.

The operator is a commercial permit holder, but does not have a recreational saltwater fishing license, MEP said. There were five other passengers onboard including one minor. Only one adult had a recreational saltwater fishing permit. The passengers were issued civil citations for fishing without a saltwater recreational license, possession of over the limit sea bass and possession of undersized sea bass. The unidentified operator was issued a criminal summons. His bass, boat, trailer and fishing gear were all confiscated, according to the MEP release.

This is the largest seizure of illegal black sea bass so far this season, the harbormaster said. The illegally-caught sea bass were reportedly sold and profits will go through the civil process, the harbormaster said. The daily recreational take for black sea bass is 5 fish. The legal limit aboard this boat would have been 10 fish over 15". The black sea bass season officially opened on May 21.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has deployed a wave buoy on Cape Cod Bay. According the United States Coast Guard, USGS deployed the buoy in association with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS). Buoy 221 (NDBC Station 44090) is located approximately eight miles east of the east entrance to the Cape Cod Canal at latitude 41° 50.38'N, longitude 070° 19.74'W. The buoy will measure wave height, direction, period and sea surface temperature. During the night it will emit a yellow flashing light. Data from the buoy will be updated every half hour and is available on several websites including NERACOOS, the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) and the Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP). The data will be available on weather and boating websites in the future.

Blues and bass are keeping things hopping along the south side of Cape Cod from Nobska to Monomoy. Surf Drive in Falmouth checked in with catches of striped bass including one just a bit under the thirty-pound mark. Anglers working Bass River report good supply of blues as well as numerous stripers but the bass have mostly been below keeper size. Around Monomoy the night tides have produced a few keeper-sized bass but the action is mostly catch-and-release with shorts pretty much the order of the day. Larger size bluefish in Nantucket Sound appear to be showing up with reported catches just under sixteen pounds…not too shabby indeed.

The Canal continues to have its moments although the mackerel that have been spotted around the east end of the ditch recently have shifted into Cape Cod Bay taking some of the bigger bass with them. Tube-and-worm anglers working the edge of the Brewster Flats on ebbing tides have done well the past few days and more and more stripers are showing up in Cape Cod Bay. Billingsgate striper action has been stop-and-start lately – early morning activity trumps other times of day.

Fluke season opened May 22nd but that hasn't translated into a lot of catches just yet. The MIddleground typically offer excellent fluke action but not many fish have been taken meeting the sixteen-inch minimum size requirement. The Elizabeth Islands are well populated with stripers now and the chances of catching a keeper improve the further down toward Cuttyhunk anglers set up shop. The west side of Martha's Vineyard is beginning to develop a bit of success with some keeper-sized bass taken at Devil's Bridge.
There's not much going on along the outside beaches just yet but things should be heating up now that migrating stripers are beginning to spread out and head for locations along shore in New Hampshire and Maine. Stripers have been feeding on and eels between Race Pont and Herring Cove and there are reports of keeper-size bass taken at Ballston Beach in Truro on live eels.

It's worth keeping mind that fresh water ponds on the Cape continue to offer excellent trout fishing and Peters Pond in Sandwich has been one of the best. There's very little fishing pressure at these locations now as so many anglers have their sights set on the saltwater scene. Nothing quite like fresh-caught brookies or rainbows on the grill to make breakfast a real treat.

May 31, 2016

Action Explodes on the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

I ran across an interesting thread on one of the fishing forums that I visit in my frequent cyber travels. Now the conventional wisdom has it that metal slab lures such as Kastmaster, Hopkins and so forth, are meant to be fished during the day. Come the evening, like midnight for Cinderella's pumpkin, many anglers hold that they should be retired in favor of more suitable lures.

Well, it seems that some Cape Cod fishermen are disregarding conventional wisdom in favor of dunking those same metal slices in the dark of night. Not only that but they're hanging plastic tails, seaworms, squid strips and who-knows-what from the single hook on these lures. Of course, some of the metal lures come with trebles but that doesn't stand in the way of our intrepid anglers. A snip of the side-cutters and here comes a nice 5/0 circle hook as a replacement.

The modified metals have been big producers for a few savvy folks who've quietly fished them over the years. Striped bass upwards of thirty pounds gave it up as a result of the flash and glitter radiating from the chromed surfaces of a Kastmaster or its metal brethren. One of the killer techniques is to creep the lure slowly along sandy structure, jerking it once in a while to emulate the erratic path of some crippled bottom dweller. Hits are sudden and explosive when a striper decides it's seen enough and decides to pounce. Even more so when bluefish attack.

The waters around the Home of the Cod are in full swing now, with striped bass, bluefish and fluke at the top of everyone's menu. Well, there are some who delight in a bucket full of scup or a nice, big ready-for-chowder tautog. But in the main, it's the Big Three that's on everyone's mind.

The rips around the Vineyard are humming. The "large" are showing up along the Elizabeth Islands. Buzzard's Bay reports bass, blues and fluke all over the place, especially near the western end of the Canal and around the Mashnee Flats. Fly fishermen soak their Clousers and Deceivers these days all along the shore from Wing Neck down to The Knob near Quisset Harbor which teems with school bass, a fly fisherman's paradise. Ditto West Falmouth Harbor.

The rips around Chatham exploded into action recently with boats reporting keeper size bass on a number of trips. Bluefish have taken up residence all along the southern side of the Cape and bass fisherman working jigs on the west side of Martha's Vineyard will take the occasional jumbo blue up to 14 pounds. Virtually everyone at all comfortable with the stringent demands of wire line has tried their hand with parachute jigs and pork strips. Be assured that hairball and parachute jigs moved rapidly from tackle shop shelves when that report got around.

Hedge Fence shoal reports mixed bass and blues and that holds true for the sand flats around Poppy and Cotuit. The outer Cape picked up recently as well, and surf fishermen score with live eels now. Although some feel that eels aren't suitable for early season fishing, I've always felt that was nonsense. A hungry striped bass isn't any more likely to stop an eel and inquire why it's swimming around at this time of the season than a wino is to ask for the vintage of the bottle somebody hands him.

Water temperatures in Nantucket Sound and Buzzards Bay have climbed into the high fifties and Cape Cod Bay is only a few degrees behind. Sand eels turned the striper bite on big time from Provincetown down to Wellfleet recently and the first blues in the Bay showed up around Sandwich just in time for Memorial Day. Unfortunately, the vehicle traffic also showed up for the Holiday that launches vacation season on the Cape and both bridges were choked with cars, trucks, RVs, motorcycles and buses. Welcome to pre-summer on Cape Cod, version-2016.

May 26, 2016

The Band's Getting Together for a Hoot on the Cape This Weekend

by Jerry Vovcsko

Just about everyone's heading for the Cape this Memorial Day weekend and it should be a hoot.

The season opened for Black sea bass on May 21st which is probably why there's been a gaggle of boats anchored up over the remains of the former target ship, the James Longstreet. There are very few tastier species of fish than black sea bass and some good sized specimens can be found round wrecks like the Longstreet (as well as scup, tautog and even hake.)

Speaking of scup, the Hyannis fire department rescued a dozen men who were fishing for scup on a breakwater last weekend and became stranded as the tide rose. The men had walked out onto the breakwater — a rock structure that extends into the water — around 5 a.m. in order to fish for scup, said fire captain Greg Dardia.

Because of all the storms over the years, there are some breaks in it," he said. "At low tide, you can walk all the way out to the end, but at high tide, you can't get back."

As the rising tide cut off their path back to shore, the waves started getting higher and higher, crashing over the breakwater, said Dardia. It's always a good idea to check out the effects of tidal action beforehand; it's pretty unnerving to look behind and find you're cut off as the waves start pounding where you're standing.

In this case, one of the men was able to reach a young family member in town, who contacted the Hyannis fire department. Fire department personnel used a small Boston whaler skiff to shuttle the men off the rocks before transferring them to the larger fireboat nearby, which brought them, their equipment, and freshly caught fish to shore. None of the men were injured.

Newly arriving striped bass have been spreading out through Cape Cod waters over the past couple of weeks. One spot that has been delivering stripers in the 20 to 30-pound range is the Middleground, that reef that runs parallel to the northwest corner of Martha's Vineyard. Two effective methods of fishing there include drifting with live (or fresh dead) herring, scup, squid or what-have-you and jigging with hairballs and parachute jigs. Wireline folks do very well also but the relatively shallow waters make it more than possible to operate with mono or braids. Look for a west running tide and watch where the other boats drift if you've not been to this location previously.

Blues are an on-again, off-again proposition along the south facing beaches in the Sound and things have definitely opened up over on the Vineyard as well. With the fluky winds disrupting the sight-fishing that usually accompanies the presence of blues, a number of boats are locating fish by trolling a Rebel or YoZuri on one side and a metal slab on the other, then stopping and casting blind when there's a hit.

Although some consider it a bit early, the tube and worm technique is effective as ever so long as the boat is throttled down slow, slow, slow….and tucked in as tight to shore as possible. It's particularly good in those areas where sand bottom changes to weed with plenty of boulders sprinkled about. Watch for a hit anytime the tube passes near a boulder, and if it passes the rock and travels immediately across a patch of sandy bottom, that's as near to a sure-thing as you're likely to get. Be alert.

And, please folks, pretend that the limit on blues is no more than five per person, in fact, make that three. There's no reason to fling eight or ten in the bottom of the boat, then realize that nobody's going to want to clean that many, let alone eat them. Every so often you'll see a dozen or so bluefish floating near the Woods Hole boat ramp and you just know that somebody got caught up in the excitement dragging them aboard, then recovered their wits on the way in and simply pitched the dead blues overboard. Don't do it. Don't let greed overcome good sense. Sure, they're easy to catch when they're in feeding mode but bend those barbs down, clip all but a single hook off a popper and have a good time. Keep a couple for the grill and let the rest go for next time.
I swung by the Cape Cod Canal in Sandwich earlier this week to have a look around. A couple of locals were wetting lines…one gent working a rig with mackerel jigs and another fellow tossing a popper long distance and working it cross-current. Neither was successful while I was there but I hear schools of mackerel have appeared recently on and off in the Ditch and live macs are about as good a striper bait as we've got available. There have been a couple of plus-40 inch bass taken during the week but nothing spectacular just yet. Plenty of schoolies available in Buttermilk Bay nowadays and they're great fun on light spinning or fly rod gear.

No better place to pursue stripers right now than along the Elizabeth Islands. Some bigger bass have been taken down around Quicks Hole and Cuttyhunk and some of those seriously-big striped bass have taken up residence in the rocky structure of Sow and Pigs Reef according to the charter skippers who make a living piloting their bass boats into the maelstrom that forms up around Sow and Pigs when the tide runs against southwest winds. Anglers determined to hook up with a forty-pound bass will have a very good chance of fulfilling that dream down here but on your life get yourself a good charter skipper who knows this area rock by rock. It's no place for on-the-job-training .

Folks looking to fill the freezer and keep the grill supplied with haddock and cod will do no better than by spending a bit of time just southeast of Stellwagen Bank. It's been productive whenever the winds have laid down enough to allow small boats to make it out and back safely. Check the NOAA weather forecast and stay alert to changing conditions. It's big water out there.

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the Cape Cod Tourist Highway Hootenanny every year and Cape traffic reaches epic proportions with backups at the bridges and short tempers among some of the newly arriving motorists. Be prepared to take evasive action when some urban cowboy in a monster-size Hummer decides to pass on the right and squeezes you over toward the median. And try not to retaliate…your family needs you to bring them back safely from this season-opening weekend on the Cape.

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone.

May 15, 2016

Birds, Bait, Bass and Blues

by Jerry Vovcsko

"The sea was angry that day my friend, like an old man sending back soup in a deli"
-George Costanza

Seinfeld! Nine seasons of hilarious entertainment in a show about well, nothing. But it gave us an opportunity to watch Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer contend with daily life in a way that offered a look at just about everything, including the classic episode in which the irrepressible Cosmo Kramer drives a golf ball into the blowhole of a whale allowing faux-marine biologist George Costanza to achieve momentary hero status by removing it. A little bit of everything, that's what the show offered us over the years. And that's what we've got right now in Cape waters.

Birds: Terns have been dive bombing around Nobska as pods of baitfish come under attack from newly arrived stripers and bluefish. These blues run in the three to four-pound range and they've arrived hungry so anything that swims, flashes or splashes nearby will draw a hit. Those old beater plugs in the bottom of the tackle box are perfect for a day's tussle with itinerant schools of bluefish especially once the barbs are flattened down. Great sport and a good way to stock up for tasty backyard barbecue activities.

Bait: The Canal is alive with bait these days, as are the rivers, bays and estuaries all along the south side of the Cape as well as the islands in Nantucket Sound. Some keeper-sized bass have gathered for a hoot near the herring run as those tasty herring emerge. Back in the day anglers stood shoulder to shoulder live-lining herring in The Ditch and it wasn't all that unusual to come away with a plus forty-pound fish. But the herring stocks became depleted to a point where the State stepped in and shut down access to the runs which made mackerel the bait of choice for many anglers, both live and chunk versions. Anyhow, there's plenty of baitfish available right now the newly arrive stripers have been chowing down since their arrival.

We spent the winter waiting for these guys to get here from their winter residences: the Hudson River, Chesapeake Bay and points south and here they are. The Elizabeth Island chain has been filling up with its perennial striper population and tossing plugs into the rocks and boulders from Nonamesset Island on down to Cuttyhunk has become striper-productive now that the water temperatures have climbed into the low to mid-fifties. Yozuris or Rapalas and Rebels tossed in close to shore – best time is right around first light – will find stripers in the 22 to 26-inch range from the Woods Hole channel down to Tarpaulin Cove and keeper-size fish down around Quicks and Robinsons Holes.

Migrating bass are swimming up around the outside beaches now heading for points north and they'll be taking up residence in Cape Cod Bay, Boston Harbor and on up to New Hampshire and eventually along the Maine coastal area. There's a resident striper population in Nova Scotia that contributes to the northern diaspora so it won't be long before the action turns on in those parts as well.

Blues: There used to be a lag time of a few weeks between the arrival of the first striper "scouts" in Cape waters and the subsequent appearance of bluefish but over the last decade it seems that line has blurred and bass and blues now show up almost simultaneously. Perhaps it's a function of the ocean warming that has seen lionfish creep into New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts waters along with Mahi Mahi, Spanish mackerel and even Red Drum. Whatever the reason, once the first stripers filter into the Sound you can almost certainly set up shop just off the Waquoit jetty, cast into a southeasterly "slot" and before long find yourself attached to the season's first bluefish.

"I got about fifty-feet out and then suddenly the great beast appeared before me. I tell ya he was ten stories high if he was a foot. As if sensing my presence he gave out a big bellow. I said, Easy big fella!"

And, of course, it was Kramer's Titleist lodged in the whale's blowhole that gave George momentary hero-status until he blew it by admitting he was only a pretend-marine biologist. But Seinfeld managed to entertain us for years as a weekly series before reprising the humor in reruns and we've got another year of birds, bait, bass and blues to keep us happy here in New England.

So take it from George Costanza who told us: "I don't know if it was divine intervention or the kinship of all living things, but I tell you Jerry, at that moment I was a marine biologist."

Just as we are anglers, the stripers are here and life is good once again. Enjoy it.

May 08, 2016

Memories Are Made of This

by Jerry Vovcsko

Come this July I'll be turning 79, just one year short of quadrennial status. I don't really need the calendar to tell me that…joint pains, thinning hair, multiple nocturnal trips to the loo…the years do take their toll. And I seem to spend a fair amount of time looking back over those years…ah, memories, they do linger.

I was driving through Falmouth the other day and visits there always trigger a flood of nostalgia. Passing the Maravista jetty brought back the days in the 70's when I fished the outgoing tides there with my fishing buddy, Junior. We were tossing metal slabs for bluefish on the west side of the jetty when a camo-clad dude marched out to the end of the eastern side of the jetty. He looked real spiffy in camo pants, multi-pocket jacket and a Robin Hood cap, sans feather. The burlap gunny sack hanging from his belt said here was a gent serious about his angling activities. Junior and I waited while camo-guy readied his first cast, and there it went…straight down into the rocks he was standing on…to be followed by two more just like it. We watched as he calculated the adjustments needed to get bait in contact with water. Whatever ballistic calculations he came up with led to over-compensation and bait and sinker rocketed skyward arching pretty close to straight-up. I stood watching openmouthed but Junior waved an arm skyward and shouted: "Infield fly rule."

It seemed the perfect comment for the moment.

The other Maravista jetty recollection that springs to mind took place across the street from the Nantucket Sound-side by the channel that empties into Great Pond when minimum keeper size was sixteen inches. It happened on a mid-day flood tide and I had lucked out with striped bass feeding on baitfish carried in with the current. I had a nice striper on the line when a sliver Mercedes pulled up by the bridge and a middle-aged gent hopped out, grabbed a rod from the trunk and sprinted down toward me. Now I wasn't used to seeing anglers in three-piece suits and wingtips racing along through the tidal puddles, wet seaweed and crushed quahog shells but here he came, assembling his two-piece spinning rod as he ran.

"Looks like they're hitting", he said, as he arrived and bending on a needle plug fired his first cast into the current. We took a few more stripers and then the current slowed, the stripers moved on and the action was over. Turned out my fishing companion was a lawyer and later he would handle the closing on the house I bought in Great Harbors. I figured I could trust a man who had his priorities straight and realized all else could wait when breaking fish were there to be had.

By the time I got to Woods Hole I was awash in time-travel and flashed back on the time Junior and I were catching bluefish in the harbor and had pulled dockside to boat a five-pound blue. What followed was my own fault as it never pays to get careless while de-hooking lure from blue. But I did and the fish thrashed energetically managing to flip the five and a quarter inch Rebel swimmer up against my forehead as I leaned over. Luckily the flying treble missed my eye but embedded one of the points past the barb just over the eye and I was now Siamese-twin with a frantic flapping bluefish as blood ran down my cheek and I seized the fish to keep it from doing any further hook-damage. One of the men in a boat docked next to us happened to be a professor who taught orthodontic surgery at Tufts medical school and he demonstrated real skill with his side-cutter pliers and the loop-of-mono, press-down-on-the-hook extraction technique. Junior – ever ready to offer minimal sympathy for what he regarded as googan-stupidity – picked up a can of WD-40, shot a stream of it onto the wound on my head to help staunch the bleeding and sneered "Suck it up, man, them blues are still hitting…let's go."

Yep, memories…there's nothing like them and even at my age they're still vivid.

So what's happening in the salt these days?

Well, the Canal has begun to heat up especially around the Herring Run. Keepers just starting to come out of there with increasing frequency now. And we are getting real close to the usual arrival date for stripers anyhow so it's not like we have to spend all our time chasing down wild rumors; the fish are due in about now anyway. Have to admit I haven't had much luck myself. A couple of school bass and that's about it. But, what the heck, I was checking back over my fishing logbooks from previous years and the fact is I don't seem to really get going until June arrives and I start hunting the Big Boys down along the Islands. So maybe these early season efforts are half-hearted attempts just to keep my hand in and ward off the boredom and early season frustrations.

A few macs are around now, it seems. They made a showing for a while along the west shore of the Vineyard down near Gay Head and provided great fun for a few local anglers while they lasted. Dunno what effect the recent winds will have but maybe the school will turn up again in that area. Smaller macs are hanging around the east end of the Canal and that population usually sticks around for a while. Of course, should the bluefish turn up in numbers anytime soon, say bye-bye to the mackerel.

Speaking of bluefish, a couple more under-five pounders were caught this past week but so far neither the big schools nor the jumbo blues have been sighted. Only a matter of time, though…they'll be arriving in about a week would be my guess. The surf boys have been doing okay tossing metal slabs at Poppy and along the shoals over there. For some reason, the fish do seem partial to metal early in the season. Worth a try, anyhow.

The tautog population in Buzzard's Bay appears healthy this year, if anybody could get out there in a small boat, that is, what with high winds, rain, trough seas and who-knows-what to battle against. But the rocky places from Cleveland Ledge on down to the Weepeckets at least, appear to be teeming with the bucktoothed critters. I heard one report of an over-nine pounder getting caught by a lady angler and the source is pretty reliable so it could well be.

If by some chance you're able to lay hands on some herring, and have a means to keep them alive, you may want to spend a little time drifting around the rock piles in Woods Hole, just to see if there's any big fellows lurking there yet. The Hole's a funny place and you never know until you try it. Scuba diving around there years ago I recall spotting genuine tropical species around the pier pilings. That's when I was young and stupid, of course, because later I was given to understand that you can also locate conger eels in impressive sizes around those pilings as well. And those things have about as nasty a disposition as any species around. What I was thinking poking into some of those places I'm not exactly clear about, but one thing is certain: I won't be doing that again anytime soon.

I know the calendar says it's May, but it sure doesn't feel like it. Brisk northeast winds, cold, pelting rains. The fish, however, seem to be far less bothered by the inclement weather than the fishermen. More keeper-sized stripers are being caught every day. Squid have moved into the Sound in fair numbers, and striper do savor these tasty guys. Striper action seems to have been delayed a bit this season but judging from previous years, I'd say it's about to bust wide open in Cape waters. Maybe this week coming up.

Fair is fair, so I have to acknowledge that my Red Sox marched into Yankee Stadium ready to rumble and the Yanks waxed them in the first two games of the season. So time to regroup and get back on the winning track. Play ball!

April 30, 2016

Get Ready to Fish

by Jerry Vovcsko

We've got plenty of stripers coming to town these days…the migration has been moving up from New York waters and the schoolies are arriving daily. And they're moving into places like Bass River, Waquoit Bay, South Cape Beach and many of the estuaries along the Cape's south shore. It's forty-nine degrees in Nantucket South and that's close enough for striped bass to take up residence.

Soft plastic baits are particularly effective in the early season and with all the school bass moving in, now's the time to break out the rubber eels, jig&plastic combos and the smaller versions of those jumbo plastic lures that will be producing jumbo bass in the Canal later on. That stretch of shoreline between Nobska and Menahaunt Beach in Falmouth will continue to see schoolies arriving daily and if a spot doesn't producer today, tomorrow may well show a totally different result.

The Vineyard is one of the first points of arrival for migrating stripers and there's plenty of action all around the big island right now. Those tidal ponds serve as protective havens for the smaller bass and they're currently getting a workout by fly rod folks working over these waters in the early morning and around dusk. Standard approach calls for bending down the barbs and enjoying the catch-and-release bonanza.

Further west along the Elizabeth Islands stripers are moving in daily and local opportunists are beginning to run down along the islands tossing plugs into the rocks along shore and taking stripers in the sixteen to twenty-four-inch category. Another week will likely break things wide open along the island chain. And on the Buzzards Bay side we're seeing tautog move in around the Weepecket Islands with a couple of keeper sized ‘tog taken last week on green crabs. Minimum keeper size on tautog is sixteen inches with a three-fish per person catch limit.

Commercial squid boats are prospecting in the Sound over near the Vineyard but those big squid swarms haven't showed up just yet. Once they begin, stripers…big ones…will follow close behind. There's mucho bait in the Cape Cod Canal right now. Soon as serious numbers of striped bass move into The Ditch blitz feeding will likely break out and provide angler with the first bout of Canal-fever…keep those needle plugs handy and brush up the long-cast chops needed to reach-out-and-touch breaking fish.

Freshwater action continues and one amazing report came in of a seven-year-old girl in a fishing contest down Harwich way catching a ten-pound largemouth bass. There are a whole lot of grownup anglers who have fished for decades without coming close to any largemouth near that size. Congrats to the young lady.

Stripers have arrived in the Wareham area and ponds near the Mass Maritime Academy…mostly schoolies but bigger fish will be moving in shortly. Speaking of "moving in", I'm guessing the first bluefish report will come in sometime this week or next. May arrives tomorrow and that just about makes it official – we're into the 2016 striper season and it only gets better now.

Did I mention that the Red Sox waxed the Yankees last night on a two run shot by Big Papi (David Ortiz) off Yank's closer Dellin Betances? Red Sox Nation rejoices…Yankees in the cellar and the Sox closing in on first place. Yes!

April 26, 2016

Heads Up, Tom Turkey

by Jerry Vovcsko

Lots of excitement locally as Cape anglers get ready for the arrival of striped bass migrating in from the Hudson River, Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere but hunters are equally excited at the opening of the annual spring turkey hunt at the Cape Cod National Seashore (CCNS) which began on Monday, April 25. This is the fifth season for the hunt, according to a CCNS release. The 2016 turkey hunt will run for through Saturday, May 21, and coincide with the state turkey hunting season, which continues for an additional week.

To take part in the CCNS spring turkey hunt, a CCNS turkey hunting permit as well as a Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game hunting license and a wild turkey hunting permit are required. The CCNS hunting permit is free and available through a lottery. A total of 150 weekly CCNS permits will be issued this season. A valid Massachusetts hunting license is required to complete the application. The regulations governing the seashore hunt are consistent with most of the state rules for turkey hunting, the release said.

Per state regulations, hunting is allowed Monday through Saturday only, one half hour before sunrise until 12 p.m. The same restrictions will be followed at the seashore. For information about the CCNS spring turkey hunt, call North District Ranger Craig Thatcher at 508-487-2100, ext. 0910 or visit the CCNS website here. The park's hunting brochure, which includes maps of hunting areas, is available here.

Information about state wild turkey hunting permits and s State hunting licenses and permits are available online here. The state hunting and fishing season schedule for 2016 is here. Harvested turkeys are checked online. According to the most recent Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game data, 76 harvested turkeys were taken in 2013, up 25 from 2012. There is an annual bag limit of two wild turkeys total and only one turkey may be harvested per day.
- See more at:

back to the imminent arrival of striper, there's plenty of bait in the Canal, mostly herring and schools of silversides. The Canal herring run changed from a trickle of arriving fish to a steady stream of fish and other herring runs around the Cape have been producing as well. The surf crowd has already begun launching casts around South Caper Beach and Popponesset as well. Mostly metal slabs along with jig and plastic combos, small swimming plugs and assorted bucktail rigs. A handful of school sized bass have been reported but that action should pick up in a week or so. Squid are due in Nantucket Sound and we'll soon see the commercial boats showing up to net the wiggly, tentacled creatures. This is a good time to heave squid jigs around the piers and pilings under the lights in Woods Hole…a couple of hours in the evening can provide enough striper bait to last a week or more.

The reports of striper activity around the backside of the Vineyard have been confirmed and those fish are beginning to filter in along the Elizabeth Islands and the eastern shores of Buzzards Bay. Pretty soon we'll be hearing first rumors and then confirmed reports of bluefish in the Cotuit/Waquoit area. We're on the cusp of the 2016 striper season and life is good, in Red Sox Nation, folks…very, very good. In fact, the Red Sox just poked their heads above the .500 mark and the pitching is looking better and better. It may be a bit early to start talking World Series-talk but, what the hey….

April 16, 2016

Stripers, Yes; Cobras, No!

by Jerry Vovcsko

The word is out; the stripers are in!

Thursday morning, a couple of island locals found a school of striped bass feeding on spearing in the Martha's Vineyard surf. They said birds were working over the fish, schools of herring moving through, and hungry stripers covered in sea lice. There have also been reports of fresh schoolies being caught in Buzzards Bay around Mattapoisett and Fall River…not too surprising as the first scouts showed up in Narragansett Bay a few days ago.

This is early arrival news as we don't usually see the first stripers showing up around the Vineyard for another two weeks. And it's not like water temperatures are all that tepid right now…it's 46-degrees at the NOAA buoy in Nantucket Sound and one degree warmer in Buzzards Bay. These are small fish but won't be long before mom, pop and big brother come cruising in from the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay. This early in season and with school sized fish it's a good idea to start with plastic and jig combos and maybe small swimming plugs. Question is, if the stripers are showing up this early, will we see be seeing bluefish coming in right behind them?

We should be seeing the commercial squid boats in the Sound pretty soon and that'll be good news for the surf fishing crowd over at Popponesset, Succonesset and South Cape beaches. It's warm and shallow around these beaches and newly arriving bass tend to congregate there. Looks like the 2016 striper season is about ready to break open so get ready, lads and lassies…here they come!
Largemouth bass fishing has been fair. Jeff at Forestdale said the smaller, mud-bottomed ponds have been producing best, but expects the bass fishing to turn at more venues when the water warms.

Trout fishing remains hot in the freshwater ponds, along with pickerel and largemouth bass. Going by the state's website, in 2015 environmental workers released around 500,000 trout in the spring and about 67,000 more in the fall. The hatcheries raise rainbow, brown, brook and tiger trout. When they reach survival size they are taken in aerated, water-filled trucks and distributed throughout the Commonwealth into rivers, streams, ponds and lakes.

Of those fish, 72 percent were over 12 inches and 55 percent were over 14 inches. There were 530 individual brown trout over 18 inches and over 80,000 browns that were at least nine inches long. These half - million or so fish are stocked, weather dependent, starting in March or whenever the ice (if any) melts and continues until Memorial Day. Then the trucks return in the fall for a pre-winter boost.

I'm always fascinated by odd facts and events involving wildlife and especially those incidents where contacts between humans and wild creatures. One of the oddest that I've encountered took place recently between an Indonesian singer known for performing with live snakes and a king cobra. There are any number of performers who seem to believe their show business act might be enhanced by draping a boa constrictor or python or even the more aggressive anaconda around their shoulders and arms in order to wow their audiences

Twenty-nine year old Irma Bule is not exactly a household name in the English-speaking world, but in Indonesia, she is known as a singer of dangdut, a pop fusion of folk, South Asian film music, and rock ‘n' roll that was popular in the 80s. Though once banned by the government, the style is now considered passe — so much so that Bule's penchant for performing with king cobras reticulated pythons, and boa constrictors is considered a bit of a gimmick.

Now I'm no herpetologist, but the idea of draping a king cobra around my neck – fangs and venom glands still intact – is not what I consider a recipe for a good outcome. And, as it turns out, it wasn't. Miss Bule was performing in a village in West Java when she was presented with a king cobra that was supposed to have been defanged. It wasn't. At some point in the act she stepped on the snake's tail and it sunk it's fangs into her thigh.

A bite from a king cobra is no joke. The snakes can grow up to 18 feet long and the king cobra's venom is also powerfully deadly. Their venom is not the most potent among venomous snakes, but the amount of neurotoxin they can deliver in a single bite — up to two-tenths of a fluid ounce — is enough to kill 20 people, or even an elephant, according to a National Geographic article. Though a snake handler with a venom antidote was on hand, Miss Bule apparently subscribed to the maxim, the show must go on. She continued to perform for 45 minutes before collapsing. Then she began vomiting, slipped into seizures and collapsed. She was transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Talk about odd...and tragic.

Life always seems better once we know the stripers have returned to Cape Cod waters. Now they're here and things only get better over the next few months. It's been a long – albeit mild – winter and now the fun starts. I'm down with that.

April 07, 2016

No Stripers Yet But Plenty of Action Around Town

by Jerry Vovcsko

It may be a bit early for striper action but that doesn't mean nothing's happening locally. For instance:

The annual Fisherman's Yard Sale is set for Saturday, April 16 at the Riverway Lobster House in South Yarmouth. There are roughly 30 booths with used gear for sale. All proceeds benefit Cape & Islands Veterans Outreach. Good stuff at a good price…can't beat that.

Plenty of rumor floating around of a 16 pound largemouth bass caught in a Cape Cod pond or a Plymouth pond (depending on who's telling it.) No pictures, though, and the story goes that the person who caught it, ate it…hmmmmm.

There's a new reef in Nantucket Sound, about three miles out from Saquatucket Harbor. Locals might recognize parts of it as the man-made reef is formed with busted-up pieces of the old Harwich High School. It's kind of nice to envision wetting a line and maybe hooking up with a big tautog or jumbo fluke drawn to the spot by a pile of cinder blocks that lined the old high school gym once up a time long ago.

Writer Jim Harrison dead at 78….he wrote novellas and short stories loosely based around his life growing up in the forests of Michigan. Outdoorsman, yes, but equally at home around the banquet table befitting a Paris gourmand. Harrison is perhaps most famous for "Legends Of the Fall" which he wrote after obtaining a trunk full of family journals. He was blinded in his left eye as a nine year-old when a girl he was playing with jabbed a broken bottle into his face. "Brown Dog" and "A Good Day to Die" are among the many books he wrote, but the thing about Harrison is that pretty much anything he wrote will grab hold and drag you right in to the tale. He was a master storyteller and we were lucky to have him for his seventy nine years on the planet.

And of course, there's the matter of the headless alligator whose remains were found dumped in the woods in the area of Briggs Road and Christopher Circle in the North End of the town of Westport. Detective Sgt. Antonio Cestodio, a spokesman for the Westport Police Department, said the remains were discovered laying in the leaves and under some briars by a passerby walking in the area about 9 a.m. on March 18. The head was not with the remains and police have not located it, he said.

Donna Lambert, the town's animal control officer, and a police officer responded and the animal control officer mentioned that the alligator showed "little to no decaying," according to Cestodio. The alligator appeared to be about 4 feet long when the head is included, he said.

It is illegal to possess either an alligator or a crocodile in Massachusetts and police do not know any of the circumstances concerning how the alligator came to be dumped so they are asking for the public's assistance. Anyone with information is asked to call the Westport Police Department at 508-636-1122, he said.

And, finally, the meeting between the Chatham Waterways Advisory Committee and another committee that oversees the town's Aunt Lydia's Cove - which was filmed and posted on the town's website - became heated after about a half hour as two men shouted curses and threw punches at each other.
David Davis, a member of the Waterways Committee, jumped out of his chair after calling Cove Committee Chairman Doug Feeney an expletive. The two then traded insults before Davis lunged at Feeney, knocking another committee member out of the way. Davis struck Feeney first, and Feeney returned the blow before the two were separated by other committee members.

The meeting had been called to discuss the Waterways Committee's position that docking fees on the Chatham Fish Pier should be raised from $300 to $1,000 for non-residents, plus extra fees associated with boat size. The proposition was controversial because many non-residents who would be affected may have grown up in Chatham and moved to neighboring towns, but have been part of the fishing community for most of their lives, according to Selectman Timothy Roper, who was at Thursday's meeting.

The two committees approved the increase two weeks earlier, but some members had been absent and requested a reconsideration of the vote. This request "provoked the Waterways guys into a certain testiness," Roper said on Saturday. No injuries were reported and no charges filed, he said. Roper pointed out that the two men involved in the fight have known each other within the fishing community for years, and that "it was more like a family fight than anything else."

Following the brawl, the meeting continued for another hour and a half in a "very civil" manner, according to Roper, who added that the "explosion helped clear the air and people got back to work." The discussion on docking fees will continue at a future meeting, Roper said.

So, yeah, the stripers haven't arrive yet, but there's plenty going on locally and that's not even mentioning the five inches of snow that landed earlier this week…or the four inches that's supposed to fall this coming weekend. They say it has something to do with El Nino but I think it's just another New England spring and it'll all sort itself out once the warm weather arrives. I mean, the Red Sox got snowed out in Cleveland on Opening Day so that should tell us that things are not exactly running on schedule just yet. Once that first striper comes over the gunwhales, all will be well once more and the 2016 striped bass season will be underway. So have a little patience…better days are coming.

March 31, 2016

April Fool's Day Coming to a Town Near You

by Jerry Vovcsko

Chances are plans are afoot among friends or family to spring some sort of April Fool prank on those of us who fish the briny deep. But we anglers are of steely character tempered by the plethora of wily tricks Mother Nature has played on us over the decades and we continue to persevere. With April arriving tomorrow and milder temperatures in view for the weeks ahead, it may not be such a bad idea to revisit a favorite location on the mainland side of the Cape Cod Canal: namely, Scusset Beach.

Now it's a well known saying among local old timers that "deer tracks and fish tales make mighty thin soup", and one of the Cape's longstanding fish rumors is that cod in the spring edge in close enough to the beach at Scusset that they can be plucked from the Bay by anglers dunking sea clams or, with a little luck, by determined plug tossers working with Danny-type swimming plugs in the shallows sloping out from the beach. I can't personally vouch for the presence of cod in tight around that area because the only early season fish I caught from shore there was actually a Pollock. But I have friends and long-time fishing buddies who swear by this location as worth a look in the early spring.

For those interested in taking a shot at holdover striped bass, however, I strongly recommend hiking down to the mouth of Old Sandwich Harbor and, if a kayak or canoe is in play, working up inside Old Harbor Creek. It's all mud-bank lined tidal creek waters up in there and these places tend to warm quickly when air temperatures moderate and the sun shines down for the better part of the day. Get up in there with plastic grubs, jigs or Sluggo-type baits and it's possible to find a surprising amount of early season action happening. Add a bit of sea clam or squid strip to those plastics and the odds become even more favorable.

We have another couple of weeks to go before striper speculation reaches full frenzy, though. That's about when local anglers start breaking out their gear in earnest and offering predictions about when the first migrating fish should be turning up in this place or that. Around Opening Day of the baseball season there will be a few old timers flinging Kastmasters and Hopkins slab lures over at South Cape and Popponesset Beaches in Mashpee on the south side of the Cape. Water temperatures will still be climbing slowly toward the magic fifty degree mark but these shallow, gently sloping beaches are also susceptible to the warming effects of the sun and stripers tend to gather in here early in the season to feed on bait. Usually, the first keeper bass of the year will be taken somewhere around these parts. The first bluefish of the season will show up around there shortly after.

It will be around the first week of May that bass begin to appear in numbers along the Elizabeth Islands, and that is when I have always considered the season as officially underway. These fish are migrating in from the Hudson River and they will spread out through Vineyard Sound, up the Cape Cod Canal and out along the backside beaches up to Provincetown. By then we will be hot and heavy into the 2016 fishing season here on Cape Cod and that will mark one more season on the salt for this grizzled old fish-seeker. For all the years I've wet my line in Cape Cod waters it is still new and exciting for me every spring while I await the first striper to hit my offering. Won't be long now.

March 26, 2016

Hi-Tech Hunting In the Far North

by Jerry Vovcsko

Over the decades technological advances have exploded in the fishing and hunting arena: electronic fish-finders that reveal what's happening below the surface allowing anglers to target big fish in ways that were unimaginable to old timers limited to reading structure and employing experience and savvy to find where the big ones hung out; bass-boats sporting every digital bell and whistle known to man and powered by mega-horsepower engines capable of pushing sea-going yachts and rod/reel combinations costing nearly five figures that do everything but land, fillet and freeze-pack an angler's fresh caught Bluefin tuna.

And on the hunting side, laser technology that identifies, reads the distance to target and zeroes in a hunter's shot; Wildlife cameras that reveal the presence of big game in an area; GPS devices that allow hunters to track into wilderness areas and retrace their steps without fear of getting lost as well as return to previously hunted locations with the accuracy of a sockeye salmon returning to its place of birth up some remote backwater stream.

And now it appears the inexorable march of hi-tech developments has taken to the skies thanks to a decision by the United States Supreme Court in a case centered on the use of drones during an Alaskan moose hunting incident. The U.S. Supreme Court handed an Alaska moose hunter a significant victory recently, overturning a lower-court decision that barred him from operating a hovercraft in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

In a Washington Post article the question of whether John Sturgeon can pull out his mothballed hovercraft before his next hunt may be a matter for the appeals court, to which the Supreme Court left several substantive questions. But in a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the nation's highest court ruled against the National Park Service and said the appeals court took a "topsy-turvy" approach to reading a key provision of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

The case stems from a 2007 incident when Sturgeon was approached by park employees while repairing the steering cable on his 10-foot hovercraft on a gravel bar in the Nation River in the eastern Interior. He was told then that the Park Service bars the use of hovercraft on federal park lands. Sturgeon and his supporters, however, argued that a provision in ANILCA sets the lands in Alaska apart, giving the state control over land management. Odds are this matter will resurface a time or two before the drone question is settled, but if I were betting I'd go with the likelihood that moose and other big game will need to keep an eye peeled toward the skies in order to enhance their prospects for survival.

It's almost time for Massachusetts anglers to cast an eye toward the soon-to-flourish salt water scene and it's important to know what the regulations concerning minimum sizes and catch totals look like. The table below provides Massachusetts' recreational regs for black sea bass, fluke (summer flounder), and scup for 2016. The fluke and scup regulations are unchanged from 2015; however, the regulations for black sea bass have been amended to achieve a mandatory 23% harvest reduction. The revisions for black sea bass are being implemented via emergency rule-making in order for them to take effect prior to the season's onset. A public hearing will be held later this year.

Black Sea Bass*

Private & For-Hire

May 21–August 31

5 fish



Private & For-Hire

May 22–September 23

5 fish




May 1–December 31

30 fish (up to 150 fish/ vessel with 5 or more anglers aboard)



May 1–June 30

45 fish


July 1–December 31

30 fish


* Black sea bass and scup may be filleted but not skinned while at-sea. No more than two fillets per allowed fish may be possessed.

Regarding black sea bass, each state from Massachusetts through New Jersey is required to implement the 23% harvest reduction because their existing regulations are estimated to produce harvest in excess of the 2016 recreational limit (2.82 million pounds coastwide). The interstate plan encourages the states to synchronize regulations where possible, but consistency is not required.

The Division held a scoping meeting and collected written input last month on possible options to achieve the mandatory reduction. Due to seasonal distribution and abundance patterns of black sea bass in Massachusetts waters and varied angler preferences for season length and timing versus possession limit cuts, the Division was challenged to find a set of regulations that would not have profound negative impacts on some segment of the fishery without also raising the minimum size limit.

As a consequence of raising the size limit from 14" to 15" and reducing the possession limit from eight fish to five fish, the Division is able to maintain season length, including the May 21 start date requested by a large segment of the for-hire fishery while still remaining open throughout most of the summer as favored by the majority of private anglers and other for-hire businesses that commented on the proposed options.

On the freshwater side Cape Cod ponds stocked recently include:
Barnstable Hamblin Pond, Hathaway Pond, Lovells Pond, Shubael Pond
Brewster Cliff Pond, Higgins Pond, Little Cliff Pond
Chatham Goose Pond
Dennis Scargo Lake
Falmouth Ashumet Pond
Mashpee Johns Pond
Orleans Baker Pond, Crystal Lake
Sandwich Peters Pond, Pimlico Pond, Spectacle Pond
Truro Great Pond
Wellfleet Gull Pond

That means fresh supplies of rainbow trout along with browns and brookies will have been added to Cape Cod ponds. Unfortunately the salmon that were introduced up until a couple years ago are no longer part of the State's fish-stocking program but ponds such as Peters in Sandwich and some of the Brewster ponds continue to harbor double digit salmon and once in a while some lucky angler ties into one of these lunkers. But it will require patience and skill because the ones still at large are wily and elusive.

Now that we appear to have eluded Old Man Winter's icy clutches, it's only a couple of weeks away from Opening Day for the Red Sox. Could it be another Last-to-First finish is in order for the Home Team?

March 17, 2016

Working the Ponds Until The Stripers Show Up

by Jerry Vovcsko

For anyone who missed this announcement back in January, Governor Charlie Baker has announced $50,000 in grants from the Department of Fish and Game's Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) for recreational saltwater fishing access projects in Dennis, Gloucester, Marshfield, Plymouth, and Rockport. Cape Cod anglers in Dennis will have better access to Nantucket Sound as a result.

"Uncle Freeman's Landing in Dennis offers people from every walk of life an opportunity to enjoy not just Bass River, but Nantucket Sound as well," said State Senator Dan Wolf (D-Hyannis). "This grant helps make that access real, and does so with funds that come directly from fishing license revenue. Many thanks to the Department of Fish & Game for administering such a smart, successful program."

DMF's Public Access Small Grant Program uses revenue from the sale of recreational saltwater fishing permits to improve angler opportunity in Massachusetts' marine waters. This is the third round of grant funding since the state saltwater fishing permit was established in 2011.

During the third round of grants, DMF awarded funds to five coastal municipalities. The approved projects are listed below.
•Dennis — The town was awarded $15,000 to replace a gangway and two tie-up floats at Uncle Freeman's Landing, a state boat ramp located on the Bass River off Uncle Freeman's Road.
•Gloucester — The city was awarded $15,000 to partner with the local high school shop department to rebuild the floating portion of the Magnolia Pier in Gloucester.
•Marshfield — The town was awarded $1,100 to install lighting at the state launching facility at Green Harbor, increasing the safety of launching and retrieving boats during low-light conditions.
•Plymouth — The town was awarded $6,000 to install a filet table at the state boat launching facility at Plymouth Harbor, enabling anglers to clean their catch before going home. The fish racks will also be collected as bait for local lobstermen. A web camera will also be installed to allow anglers to see the current harbor conditions before driving to the boat ramp.
•Rockport — the town was awarded $13,500 to maintain access paths and the main pathway along Atlantic Path. Rockport will hire a professional landscape architect who will clear pathways and utilize natural materials that will maintain the footpath along the shore. The path traverses 1.5 miles of rocky coastline that boasts some of the best shore fishing in the Commonwealth.
The projects are being funded from revenues in the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Fund, which was established in 2011 when the Massachusetts Legislature created a state recreational salt water fishing permit. Prompted by a federal mandate enacted to improve estimates of saltwater fishing effort and catch data, the permit program provides funds for marine recreational fishing programs including fisheries research, management, and public access for anglers.

DMF administers the fund with the assistance of the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Panel, a group of private stakeholders that advises DMF on recreational fishing projects and initiatives. Under the state law that established the recreational saltwater fishing permit, one-third of all license fees are dedicated to recreational saltwater fishing infrastructure projects in Massachusetts, ensuring better access to coastal fishing.

Right now water temperatures are creeping into the low forties which is good news for local striped bass anglers. When the thermometer registers fifty degrees sometime in April, the striper-watch will kick into high gear and the countdown begins for the start of the 2016 striper season. Those early arriving bass will spread out along the Elizabeth Islands then gradually make their way north toward New Hampshire and Maine. Before we know it, it'll be: Game on!, and the salt water scene will light up for another year's worth of striper action.

Right now, though, there's plenty of good freshwater fishing to be had. Upper Cape destinations such as Jenkins Pond in Falmouth offer yellow perch, chain pickerel, smallmouth bass and white perch as well as smallmouth bass and even the occasional catfish. Fishing pressure on Jenkins is light throughout the year.

Another productive location in Mashpee is Johns Pond which offers yellow perch, chain pickerel, rainbow, brook and brown trout. However, because of contamination concerns questions related to contaminated groundwater seeping in from the old Otis airbase, there is a state Fish Consumption Advisory that suggests limits of public consumption to two meals of fish from Johns Pond per month and recommends that pregnant women abstain completely from eating fish from this source.

Mashpee-Wakeby ponds on the Falmouth/Mashpee line used to be stocked with chinook salmon until 1948 and anglers say remnants of those stocks continue to inhabit this body of water. This is a deep water pond (actually two conjoined ponds) with the deepest parts near ninety feet. Largemouth bass thrive here and canoes, kayaks and small skiffs prevail. Gamefish display excellent growth rates as sea run alewives travel in via the Mashpee River from Nantucket Sound. Largemouth bass and chain pickerel in Mashpee-Wakeby run bigger than average and anglers have tied into six pounds-plus white catfish. Shiners and PowerBaits are the lure de jour in the spring and artificials come into play later in summer and into the fall.

The Brewster ponds offer some of the best freshwater action on the Cape. Long Pond is another relatively deepwater pond with a population of sea run alewives and the smallmouths are plentiful in the three to five pound range. Yellow perch tend to run bigger than usual as do chain pickerel. Long Pond was actually stocked by private parties with striped bass up until 1971 but there have been no recent reports of the presence of stripers currently.

Herring Pond in Eastham is stocked regularly with brook, brown and rainbow trout and the presence of alewives swimming in from Cape Cod Bay means bigger than average trout not to mention that the wash of tidal seawater alleviates some of the tendency to become acidic. Those alewives provide great forage for the resident brown trout which Cape anglers target for their size.

Yes, we all yearn for the striper action to kick in before long, but until it does the Cape's ponds can provide a heckuva good alternative while we're waiting. It won't be long now.

March 08, 2016

Fish Stocking Trucks Roll On the Cape and Teflon Parm, You Shed So Well

by Jerry Vovcsko

The action at many Cape ponds will be picking up shortly. Mass Wildlife trucks are delivering nearly a half-million trout in the southeast district and that means good times for anglers heading for such locations as Peters Pond in Sandwich; Cliff Pond, Flax Pond, Sheep Pond, Higgins Pond, Little Cliff Pond in Brewster; Ashumet Pond, Mares Pond, Grews Pond, Deep Pond in Falmouth; Johns Pond, Mashpee-Wakeby Pond, Ashumet Pond in Mashpee and many more across the Cape.

With close to 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout being stocked this spring from MassWildlife's five hatcheries, there will be a trout bonanza for those folks checking things out locally. And the news gets even better as air temperatures soar into the seventies by mid-week so it behooves all of us with a fishing jones to get the gear oiled, cleaned and ready to go because ¬good times are here again and it won't be long before the salt water scene lights up with the annual arrival of striped bass coming in from the Hudson River, Chesapeake Bay and points south.

Dunking a shiner under a float is a near guarantee of action but these early spring trout will also whack PowerBaits, Mepps lures, Al's Goldfish, small jigs and tiny Rapalas as well. For years I have opened the season by working a small orange and black Helin Flatfish around the drop-off line of Lawrence Pond in Sandwich and taking trout, pickerel and the occasional largemouth bass almost every time out. Old school lure, for sure, but the wobbling action appears irresistible to early season fish so what-the-hey.

Prosecutors had been working to keep Carlos Rafael, aka, "The Codfather", the owner of Carlos Seafood Inc., in custody pending his trial in federal court in Boston, calling him a flight risk. The New Bedford fish mogul had been locked up since his arrest Friday morning. But a US Magistrate agreed to release Rafael, 64, on the following conditions: He must post $1 million bond secured by his private property in Dartmouth and New Bedford; he cannot travel outside Massachusetts; he must abide by a curfew of 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Rafael must maintain his residence in North Dartmouth. He must also refrain from discussing the case with his employees.

Rafael is one of the Northeast's biggest commercial fishing entrepreneurs and has been accused of developing a lucrative scheme to cheat the federal fishing quotas that were enacted to protect the sustainability of certain fish species. Rafael allegedly told his boat captains to label fish they hauled in as a common species such as haddock that they were allowed to fish without violating a quota. In reality, his fishermen would bring in fish that were restricted by a quota, such as pollock. His company would then buy the fish at the lower price of haddock, but sell it for cash at its higher market price to a New York buyer. Rafael, who will be arraigned at a later date, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Every year we speculate about the arrival time of migrating striped bass in our local waters. We guess this date and that date, wonder if they'll be earlier than usual this time and wait hopefully for first reports of sea lice-covered "scouts" showing up in Cape waters. But in the end the first stripers are caught right around the first week of May and off we go for another season. This year just might be different.

Typically, water temperatures in Nantucket Sound and Buzzards Bay sit right around the low thirties this time of year. But at the moment the NOAA buoys in these places show temps creeping into the low-forties and that's awful early to be in spittin' distance of the "magic fifty" mark that heralds the possible arrival of striped bass for yet another season. I'm wondering if we might see those first scouts in late April this time around.

Now is a good time to begin hitting the upper reaches of the south facing estuaries on the Cape. From Great Pond in Teaticket to Waquoit Bay the sun-warmed mud shallows will be visited by holdover bass searching for food and a savvy angler will work carefully with small rubber worms, jig & plastic combos and slow-fished shiners to accommodate these hang-around, year-around fish. Back in the day, I knew a gent who specialized in catching these early stripers on a fly rod employing a small Clouser streamer. He sold those fish for a good price as nobody else was catching anything that early. Of course, that was back when 16-inch was the minimum length for legal stripers but he managed to make enough to pay for a season's worth of bait and tackle before mid-May strictly with fly rod in hand.

I see Peyton Manning retired so the Brady-Manning duels will be a thing of the past now. Funny how the same folks who leaped to condemn Tom Brady for "having a general knowledge" of tampering with football air pressures are willing to give Peyton a pass on accusations of HGH usage as well as the history of sexual abuse of a trainer back in college at Tennessee. Must be some sort of Teflon coating that lets Manning slide while Brady is convicted in the court of Public Opinion. Not real sure how that works, but there it is.

February 29, 2016

Cheating On the Count and New Sea Bass Regs

by Jerry Vovcsko

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is trying to come up with a plan to reduce the catch of black sea bass in the 2016 recreational fishery in order to meet a mandatory harvest reduction of twenty three percent from the 2015 harvest. Just as there are many ways to skin a cat, the Division has devised a plethora of options to achieve that reduction. To that end, the Department has issued the following notice:

There are multiple combinations of changes to the possession limit, size limit, and season that could achieve the required reduction. This Advisory aims to provide a range of possible options. The final regulations may differ from all presented options based on public input. Not all presented options have been approved for use by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which is required before state implementation. DMF's goal is to announce the 2016 regulations by mid-March.

Public input can be provided by either attending a February 26 Scoping Meeting or submitting written comments by March 3 (Midnight). Details are below.

Scoping Meeting

February 26, 2016

1:00 PM

Hyannis Doubletree Hotel

287 Iyannough Road

Hyannis, MA

Written Comment (March 3 Deadline)
Address to: David Pierce, DMF Director

251 Causeway Street, 4th Floor

Boston, MA 02114


Fax: (617) 626-1509

Enacting regulations that are projected to reduce harvest is relatively straightforward but accommodating all the various stakeholders is not. Black sea bass are not evenly distributed in time and space within Massachusetts, so amending the open season or possession limit can have uneven impacts on user groups. In addition, catch rates in recent years have been substantially higher in May and June than the later summer and fall months. Consequently, shortening the season from the front end is projected to achieve more reduction in harvest than cutting the same number of days from the tail end of the season.

Moreover, the desires of the various fishery participants are wide-ranging. Regulatory preferences are often based on fishing mode (shore, private vessel, charter and party boats) and geographic location. For example, testimony from past public hearings has revealed several trends, including:

- Many anglers that fish from shore or a private vessel favor a longer season at a lower bag limit to a shorter season at a higher bag limit.

- Certain charter and party vessel operators on the South Shore and Cape Cod place priority on having a spring fishery (opening mid-May) at the highest bag limit possible, at the expense of season length, in order to meet the demands of their clients. They indicate that an early season closure for black sea bass is acceptable because other fish are available and targeted in summer and fall.

- Some charter and party vessel operators (e.g., from Nantucket) would forgo a spring fishery in order to have a season throughout summer and early fall, because black sea bass don't tend to arrive locally until the summer months. The tourists that comprise their clientele show a similar seasonality and are satisfied with a low possession limit.


With an understanding of the traditional views of the various user groups and angler types, DMF has devised the following array of options to reduce recreational black sea bass harvest in Massachusetts by the required rate in 2016. Note that proposals only include amendments to season and possession limit. An increase in the minimum size limit is not on the table due to concerns about effectiveness in reducing harvest and non-compliance. For reference, Massachusetts' 2015 regulations are listed first.

Fishing Mode

Open Season

Possession Limit

Minimum Size

2015 Regulations

All private anglers and for-hire patrons

May 23–August 27

(97 days)

8 fish



Options A–D apply a single set of regulations to all anglers, whether fishing from shore, private vessel, or hired vessel (charter or party boat). A uniform possession limit applies throughout the open season.

Fishing Mode

Open Season

Possession Limit

Minimum Size

Option A

All private anglers and for-hire patrons

May 21–July 1

(42 days)

8 fish


This option provides the same opening date (third Saturday of May) and bag limit as 2015. Because of high angler effort and black sea bass catchability in May and June, this option requires closing the fishery 55 days earlier than in 2015.

Option B

All private anglers and for-hire patrons

May 28–July 29

(63 days)

8 fish


This option demonstrates how, compared to Option A, delaying the opening date by one week adds 28 days to the end of the season, for a net gain of 21 days. A season beginning on May 28 includes the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend (May 28–30).

Option C

All private anglers and for-hire patrons

May 21–September 5

(108 days)

3 fish


This option provides the same opening date (third Saturday of May) as 2015 at a reduced possession limit in order to extend the season through the Labor Day Holiday Weekend (September 3–5). If the opening date were May 28 instead, the season could extend through September 13.

Option D

All private anglers and for-hire patrons

May 28–August 20

(85 days)

5 fish


This option takes two weeks off the season compared to 2015, one at the beginning and one at the end, which allows a possession limit of 5 fish.


Options E–G apply a single set of regulations to all anglers, whether fishing from shore, private vessel, or hired vessel (charter or party boat). The possession limit is split into two sub-periods, starting at a higher limit when black sea bass are generally most available in Massachusetts, then decreasing to a lower limit in order to maintain a longer season. Because recreational fishing data are collected in two-month periods (January/February, March/April, etc.), the split occurs after June 30.

Fishing Mode

Open Season

Possession Limit

Minimum Size

Option E

All private anglers and for-hire patrons

May 21–June 30

6 fish


July 1–July 24

2 fish

With the same opening date (third Saturday of May) as 2015, this option provides a 65-day season, with 41 days at 6-fish and then 24 days at 2-fish.

Option F

All private anglers and for-hire patrons

May 28–June 30

6 fish


July 1–September 2

2 fish

This option provides 33 more days than Option E by delaying the opening date by one week. Total season length is 98 days (similar to 2015), with 34 days at 6-fish and 64 days at 2-fish. The last open day would be the Friday before the Labor Day Holiday Weekend (September 3–5).

Option G

All private anglers and for-hire patrons

May 28–June 30

5 fish


July 1–September 6

2 fish

Compared to Option F, this option includes the Labor Day Holiday Weekend by setting the initial possession limit at 5 fish instead of 6 fish. Total season length is 102 days (34 days at 5-fish and 68 days at 2-fish).

Options H and I provide different regulations for private anglers and for-hire vessel patrons. Any of Options H1-H4 can be combined with any of Options I1-I4. These options were developed in response to various for-hire permit holders' requests to have separate regulations applicable to patrons aboard their vessels to accommodate consumer demand and business needs.

Fishing Mode

Open Season

Possession Limit

Minimum Size

Option H


Private anglers only

May 21–August 14

(86 days)

4 fish



Private anglers only

May 21–September 3

(106 days)

3 fish



Private anglers only

May 28–September 2

(98 days)

4 fish



Private anglers only

May 28–September 10

(106 days)

3 fish


These options for anglers fishing from shore or private vessel compare the possible seasons at 3-fish and 4-fish possession limits, beginning either the same day as 2015 (third Saturday of May) or a one-week delay.

Option I


For-hire patrons only

May 21–June 24

(35 days)

8 fish



For-hire patrons only

May 21–June 30

4 fish


July 1–September 4

2 fish


For-hire patrons only

May 28–June 30

4 fish


July 1–October 10

2 fish


For-hire patrons only

May 28–June 30

6 fish


July 1–September 8

2 fish


These options for anglers fishing aboard for-hire vessels compare possible seasons at a single possession limit (8 fish, same as 2015) and several dual possession limits. At a 4-fish and then 2-fish possession limit, Options I2 and I3 demonstrate how delaying the opening date by one week affects season length (107 days vs. 136 days). Option I4 provides a higher starting bag limit than Options I2 and I3 and a total season length of 104 days, from the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend to just after the Labor Day Holiday Weekend.

The Division recognizes that all options require a sacrifice from one or more user groups. We join all stakeholders in hoping that the 2016 Benchmark Stock Assessment for black sea bass will reflect the true stock abundance of this species and result in a more realistic Recreational Harvest Limit for 2017, allowing for more liberal regulations at that time.

Meanwhile, on the commercial side,in a Boston Globe story: federal agents detected some nefarious doings by one of the Northeast's biggest commercial fishing entrepreneurs. Carlos Rafael, 64, the owner of Carlos Seafood Inc., was arrested by federal agents last week, charged with falsifying federal documents. If the fish inspectors weren't watching when his boats came into the docks in New Bedford, according to authorities, fish mogul Carlos Rafael labeled every species of fish he caught as the cheaper, more common haddock — while secretly trading hundreds of pounds of more coveted species for bags of cash. He called all the fish haddock, even if they weren't: The dabs. The gray sole. The goal: evade the federal quota on the more lucrative fish.

"When the [inspector] disappears, that's when we got a chance to make the fish disappear," Rafael allegedly told an undercover federal agent, posing as a Russian gangster who wanted to buy his business.

Authorities said that Rafael, who owns more than 40 fishing vessels ported in New Bedford and Gloucester, developed a lucrative scheme to cheat the federal fishing quotas that were enacted — to the dismay of fishermen from New Bedford to Maine — to protect the sustainability of certain fish species.

Rafael allegedly told his boat captains to label fish they hauled in as a common species such as haddock that they were allowed to fish without violating the quota. In reality, his fishermen would be bringing in fish that would have been restricted by a quota, such as pollock. His company would then buy the fish at the lower price of haddock, but sell it at its higher market price to a New York buyer.

Apparently, sleaze is not limited to just the political scene. Here's hoping the courts will take a very dim view of Mr. Rafael's machinations and come down hard with fines and possibly jail time. Pretty clear there was nothing accidental about his illegal activities and it should garner more than a slap on the wrist.

Here we are at the end of February and it looks and feels more like April which could mean a very early spring here in New England. Water temperatures in Nantucket Sound and Buzzards Bay hover close to forty degrees and it looks like we'll be soon be meandering down to the beach to toss bait and lure in hopes of persuading wandering stripers to take a bite.

The first place to give it a try has traditionally been at such beaches as Succonesset, South Cape, Popponesset and the stretch of sandy seaside from there to Waquoit Bay. What makes it such a productive early season location is the gentle slope into shallow waters that heat up quickly on sunny days. The crowd that gathers along here favors anything from chunks of herring to sea clams and squid strips as well as soft plastic jig combos and shiny metal slabs. Sure, it's a little early just yet, but this has been a strange winter with air temperatures all over the place and who knows what impact it will have on striped bass populations.

The freshwater scene is lighting up day by day right now. As water temps creep up, fishy activity in local ponds increases and such species as trout, bass and pickerel become energized and hungry. PowerBait remains attractive to trout and Peters Pond in Sandwich sees increasing numbers of anglers on the weekends these days. A few folks specialize in slow-swimming crankbaits with good results. In fact, the mantra for early season should be: slow, slooow, slooooooower. Let the big hungry critters catch up without expending much energy in the chase. As always, if all else fails, dangle a shiner in the usual places and good things are liable to happen.

February 24, 2016

Of Elvers, Pike and A Deep Bullpen

by Jerry Vovcsko

What can you say about a Saturday that features windchill temperatures down to -34 only to be followed by 55-above temps the following Tuesday? After extensive pondering, ruminating and consultation with the Ouija board, my considered analysis leads me to conclude: I have no idea what the hell's going on.

What I do know is it's dammed difficult to figure out whether to bring a bunch of tip-ups to the pond in hopes of finding solid ice thanks to those minus-temps, or haul the kayak and my freshwater spinning gear along with me trusting those fifty-degree days to provide enough open-water to take a shot at local trout, bass and pickerel populations. Schizophrenic weather conditions don't make it easy to plan.

They'll be stocking the ponds and lakes locally before long and the trucks will be rolling to such destinations as Peters Pond in Sandwich; Sheeps, Long and Cliff ponds in Brewster; Barnstable's Wequaquet Lake and a host of other locations in southeastern Massachusetts.

In the past, such species as trout, salmon…even tiger muskies were fed into the ponds but the Wildlife folk haven't been including salmon for a while now and angler have had to chase after the more wily critters that have survived in the wild for a few years. On the plus side, some of those fish have reached impressive size and make worthwhile trophies when coaxed to swallow bait or lure.

Of the more accessible Cape destinations, Peters Pond, Mashpee-Wakeby, Lake Wequaquet and some of the larger bodies of water are worth a look right now. For one thing, all hold pickerel populations and even when nothing else is biting those toothy guys can make for an exciting day on the water. Additionally, Wequaquet holds some mighty fine double-digit size pike. A strike from one of those is an experience not to be forgotten.

Speaking of pike, off-Cape Snipatuit Pond in Rochester offers major league pike grown fat over the years on a plentiful supply of panfish, frogs, small animals and the occasional Big Mac remnant tossed in by boaters unable - - or unwilling – to consume anymore fast food delight. And out toward Central Mass there's the Connecticut River below Northampton where some genuine lunker northerns cruise the river in search of prey. The section of the river known as The Oxbow used to be the destination of choice for pike anglers but the river meandered off in search of a different path leaving the Oxbow more lake-like and marshy. Still, the river is home to pike well upwards of twenty pounds and remains a good source of these toothy fish.

Meanwhile, it appears lawmakers in the state of Maine are looking to change the restrictions on the baby elver fishery to give fishermen a better chance to catch their entire quota. A legislative committee recently approved a plan to extend the season by a week and allow weekend fishing, as opposed to the current limitation to five days per week. The baby eels are sometimes worth more than $2,000 per pound at the dock but fishermen must abide by a strict quota system that limits the state fishery to 9,688 pounds per year, and they caught only 5,242 pounds of elvers last year.

Fishermen attributed the slow season to a cold spring, which state regulators said slowed the migration of elvers in the rivers and streams where they are caught. The baby eels, called elvers, are sold to Asian aquaculture companies who raise them to maturity for use as food, and they frequently end up in sushi and sashimi. Elver fishermen have spoken in favor of the changes, which they said will allow them to make the most of the brief elver season, which is scheduled to begin March 22 and end May 31. The proposed changes now go to the full legislature, which could vote on it by the end of the month. The proposal also provides more flexibility in the type of gear fishermen can use to catch elvers.

We're about two months out now on the arrival of striped bass in our waters to begin the 2016 striper season. Water temperatures sit down in the mid-thirties right now in Nantucket Sound and we won't begin to see any real action until those temperatures hit fifty degrees and higher. Meanwhile, as the sun lingers longer and air temps climb into the fifties and sixties on a regular basis we'll be able to target some of the holdover stripers that emerge in early spring in the shallow creeks, rivers and estuaries around the Cape.

Such places as Scorton Creek, Bass River, Waquoit River and others provide early season action and kayakers have a good chance to score on stripers just shaking off their winter lethargy. Look for shallow, mud bottomed, fast warming places and work baits or lures slow, slow, slooooowly in order to give the fish a chance to grab a meal without expending too many calories in the chase.

Baseball season is just around the corner. The Red Sox appear to have a deep pitching staff for a change and if lefty David Price is as good as they say he is, Red Sox Nation won't have to suffer through another last place finish. Play ball!

February 16, 2016

Ice Fishing With the Bard

by Jerry Vovcsko

"Fish not, with this melancholy bait,
For this fool-gudgeon, this opinion."
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

The bard apparently had strong opinions on how to bait a hook in pursuit of the elusive gamefish. But that was back in the day and right now a group of Cambridge thespians are in rehearsals for an American Repertory Theater production of the play, "Nice Fish". In "Nice Fish," three-time Tony winner Mark Rylance plays one of two ice fishermen at the center of the show, but that's not his only role with the piece. Directed by Claire van Kampen, his wife, "Nice Fish" is adapted by Rylance and the Minnesota poet Louis Jenkins from Jenkins's prose poems.

According to a Boston Globe article much of the task for Rylance as adapter has been figuring out how to link the poetry together to tell a story set on a Minnesota lake on the last day of ice-fishing season. It was 20-some degrees outside, but Rylance prefers cold to heat: a relic, maybe, of the childhood years he logged in suburban Milwaukee.

"I miss the strength of the seasons," he says "I miss the explosiveness of spring in Wisconsin and the depth and kind of mortal peril of the winter."

So this is the sort of person who finds himself on a frozen lake at 4 a.m., learning how to catch a fish. Rylance was in Minneapolis, starring in Robert Bly's adaptation of Ibsen's "Peer Gynt," the first time he went ice fishing, eight frigid Minnesota winters ago. He looked around, saw an unfamiliar culture — who brings a television and furniture and Christmas lights out onto the ice? — and got the seed of an idea for "Nice Fish."

"One of the things I hadn't brought into the play was the perspective of an old man," Rylance said.

And when the actor they'd cast in the old-man role dropped out, Rylance asked Jenkins to step in.

"He's the kind of man you'd find outdoors…he's got a wildness about him. He's got very beautiful eyes, and he has a kind of a — what's the word? — a soulfulness, a patina that he's acquired."

It's not quite Jenkins's first acting gig. He's been on "A Prairie Home Companion," where he took part in a sketch, and he has a role in an upcoming movie that the actors Rene Auberjonois and Kate Nowlin, friends of his, shot in Minnesota. But it is his first in the theater.

And in "Nice Fish," he plays a character whose lines are words he's written. At one point, the troupe went into the middle of the lake, set up a tent, and ice fished for about four hours. They rehearsed the scenes and the odd thing is, every time Mark or Jim said a poem, they caught a fish.

So maybe there's a lesson to be learned here. Perhaps those of us obsessed with acquiring all manner of gear, the latest lures and the trappings of angler-bling…just perhaps we might profit instead by standing tall and intoning poetic lines by Emerson, Whitman or Frost. Consider it the road not taken…

The Freshwater Sportfishing Award winners were announced this week and three of the top catch & keep fish were caught on Cape Cod. The folks at Massachusetts Wildlife week announced the 2015 Freshwater Sportfishing Award winners. Twenty-three gold pins were awarded in twenty-two catch and keep sportfishing categories (adult) for the largest fish caught. Twenty-three gold pins were awarded in twenty-two catch and keep sportfishing categories (youth) for the largest fish caught. Five of the winning fish were caught on Cape Cod. For the catch and release (adult and youth) category, twenty-two gold pins were awarded in twenty-two categories for largest fish. Only one fish in this category was caught on Cape Cod.

Adult and youth anglers are encouraged to submit their catches each year. As part of the catch and keep category, fish must meet a minimum weight (by species). Fish must be weighed on a certified scale and an affidavit and photo must be submitted to MassWildlife. All anglers who meet the criteria receive a bronze pin. The angler who catches the largest fish by species also receives a gold pin. In the catch and release category, fish must meet a minimum length (by species).

For 2015, the Adult Catch and Keep Angler of the Year Award went to Mark Mohan Jr. of Pembroke. Mohan caught 16 species. The Youth Catch and Keep Angler of the Year Award went to Tauri Adamczyk of Taunton, who caught 15 species. The Catch and Release Angler of the Year Award went to Michael Nee of Northborough, who caught 15 species.

Winning Cape Cod fish were caught in Brewster, Yarmouth, Sandwich, Eastham, Falmouth and Mashpee.

2015 Freshwater Sportfishing Adult Catch and Keep Gold Pin caught on Cape
•Michael Siemasko of North Grafton caught a 4 lb., 8 oz. brook trout (2 lb. minimum) in Cliff Pond in Brewster (tied with another angler)
•Todd Matera of Palmer caught a 6 lb., 5 oz. chain pickerel (4 lb., 8 oz. minimum) in Long Pond in Yarmouth
•David Souza of Berkley caught a 6 lb., 7 oz. white catfish (4 lb. minimum) in Mashpee-Wakeby Pond in Mashpee

2015 Freshwater Sportfishing Youth Catch and Keep Gold Pin caught on Cape
•Riley Rabesa of Teaticket caught a 3 lb., 13 oz. brook trout (1 lb. minimum) in Peters Pond in Sandwich
•Jake Calogero of Middleboro caught a 2 lb., 2 oz. bullhead (1 lb. minimum) in Mashpee-Wakeby Pond in Mashpee
•Stephen Kalinick of Brewster caught a 8 lb., 9 oz. largemouth bass (4 lb. minimum) in Great Pond in Eastham
•Nathan Ryan of Cotuit caught a 1 lb., 15 oz., yellow perch (1 lb. minimum) in Santuit Pond in Mashpee

2015 Freshwater Sportfishing Catch and Release Gold Pin caught on Cape
•Peter Brundrett of Walpole caught a 16.5" yellow perch (14" minimum) in Coonamessett Pond in Falmouth

Congratulations to all who received an award for meeting the category requirements. It's especially rewarding to see all those young folk participating. The next generation of anglers is at hand. Job well done, kids!

February 07, 2016

In thje Deep Freeze and More Snow On the Way

by Jerry Vovcsko

Just as it appeared we might see some breakout from ice on local ponds here comes another cold snap with temperatures shoved even further into the deep-freeze by strong winds boring down from the northwest. Like today, for example, where the thermometer reads a manageable 31 degrees but breezes blowing in from the Canadian high plains produce a wind-chill reading of 23. Not conducive to a leisurely afternoon spent pond-side.

However, those who ventured out recently and could locate access to open water continue to do well for themselves along with the hardy souls who create their own access to watery depths via ice augur or hatchet. On the Upper Cape, Peters Pond in Sandwich continues to produce trout, perch and bass (both large and smallmouth) as well as salmon occasionally reaching double-digit weights.

In addition to producing good catch prospects, Peters Pond has an interesting historical context. Back around the turn of the 20th Century when "gentlemen" were prone to wield cane fly rod while decked out in three-piece suit and bowler hat, Peters had long been a favored fishing locale of President Grover Cleveland who was a frequent visitor to the Falmouth area.

A 1911 survey reported the pond was in its youth "and a few bass present but do not bite" which makes one wonder about the skills (or lack thereof) that the old timers brought to the table. The pond was later stocked (between 1933 and 1948) with brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, Chinook salmon, Sebago salmon, white perch and yellow perch.

When considering historical context, though, it's well to keep in mind that times were very different back in the old days, especially where weather conditions are concerned. Anglers setting out for an afternoon session on the ice might well have to shovel away a couple of feet of snow cover before getting down to the ice surface. After all, back in the 1800s it was not all that rare an event for Vineyard Sound to freeze over completely from Falmouth to Vineyard Haven.

Locals whose livelihood revolved around delivering four-foot blocks of ice to homes and businesses in need of refrigeration would cut the ice in the Sound and load it onto horse-drawn wagons. When fully loaded those wagons might weigh upwards of a thousand pounds which gives some idea of how thick the ice cover formed back in the good-old-days, even the saltwater of Vineyard Sound..

Right now, though, the smaller Falmouth ponds such as Mares, Grews, Coonamesset and Deep ponds have re-grown their ice cover and offer plenty of perch, pickerel, bass and assorted panfish to those anglers willing to brave the chill. Shiners are the bait de jour although some folks like to jig with small-bladed, shiny, fluttering lures tipped with mini-marshmallows, pink being the favored color choice locally.

Another few weeks and we should be bidding farewell to the ice so there will be more opportunities to access open water via kayak, canoe or skiff. As the waters warm fish become a bit livelier and more aggressive in their feeding habits so savvy anglers ratchet up a couple notches from the smaller-and-slower methods they employed during earlier cold water excursions.

Next week the buses leave from Fenway Park carrying the Red Sox baseball equipment down south for the start of spring training. Right now it's hard to picture the Boys of Summer working out under blue skies and temperatures of seventy-degrees and upward while we struggle to clear the seven inches of snow that fell the other day. But we have to make room for fresh snowfall from the next storm the weather folk tell us is moving up the coast and heading our way. Of course, I don't really need to rely on weather forecasts from the TV people. My achy knees tell me what's what and these days the word is: Cold temperatures and lots of moisture in the air so I keep a snow shovel handy and plenty of firewood close at hand.

It's Super Bowl Sunday as I write this, so I'll watch the Denver Broncos tangle with the Carolina Panthers later today but it won't be the same without the New England Patriots taking the field. But there's always next year and we Pats fans have probably become spoiled with the success Brady/Belichick and Co. have brought our way over the years. So this time around it'll be Cam Newton jousting with Peyton Manning. I'm taking Carolina in this one.

January 30, 2016

Mass Division of Marine Fisheries Report on 2016 Rec Fishing Regs For Fluke, Scup and Black Sea Bass

by Jerry Vovcsko

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries just posted an extensive report on its expectations for 2016 recreational fluke, scup and black sea bass management. It is as follows:

The recreational management of fluke (summer flounder), scup, and black sea bass is subject to a joint federal/interstate process that relies on annual harvest estimates to establish the following year's regulations. For example, the coastwide recreational harvest estimate for 2015 is compared to the 2016 coastwide harvest limit—as established through the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council—to determine if any increase or decrease in harvest is warranted for 2016; the states then develop and implement regulations to achieve the increase or decrease in harvest, subject to Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approval. Because full-year recreational harvest estimates from the federal recreational fishing survey are not available until mid-February of the following year, the states are unable to model possession limit, season, and size limit regulations for these three species until that time. Implementing any regulatory revisions is then subject to each state's rule-making process; in Massachusetts, this may take three or more months.

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MarineFisheries) recognizes that this delayed management process can impact business and travel plans being made by for-hire fishing businesses and private anglers. The Division's goal is to finalize the regulations as far in advance of the seasons' opening as possible. In the meantime, this Advisory is intended to provide a forecast for recreational fluke, scup and black sea bass management for 2016. Note that these expectations are based on preliminary and projected data and are thus subject to change. Additional notices will be issued for updates.

The coastwide recreational harvest limit (RHL) for fluke has been set at 5.42 million pounds for 2016. While this represents a 27% decrease from 2015, we do not expect to have to reduce harvest in 2016. This is because coastwide recreational harvest in 2015 is projected to be below the 2016 RHL. Next week, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will establish the management regions under which the states will determine regulations. Under all options, Massachusetts is expected to remain its own region and be allowed to maintain its current fluke measures: 5-fish daily limit, 16-inch minimum size, and May 22–September 23 open season.

The coastwide recreational harvest limit (RHL) for scup has been set at 6.09 million pounds for 2016. While this represents a 10% decrease from 2015, we do not expect to have to reduce harvest in 2016. This is because coastwide recreational harvest in 2015 is projected to be below the 2016 RHL. Next week, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is expected to approve the states' 2016 recreational scup regulations. The northern region states (MA-NY) have not proposed any revisions to their 2015 regulations. Consequently, Massachusetts' scup regulations are expected to be: 30-fish daily limit, 10-inch minimum size, and May 1–December 31 open season, except that the possession limit aboard for-hire fishing vessels during May 1–June 30 is 45 fish.

The coastwide recreational harvest limit (RHL) for black sea bass has been set at 2.82 million pounds for 2016. While this represents a 21% increase from 2015, we do expect to have to reduce harvest in 2016. This is because coastwide recreational harvest in 2015 is projected to be above the 2016 RHL. Currently, the mandatory reduction in harvest stands at 23% (based on landings through October 2015). Next week, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will determine whether the fishery will be managed under coastwide measures or regional measures. Assuming a continuation of regional management, the states of Massachusetts through New Jersey will comprise a region that must adopt state-specific regulations that collectively achieve the mandatory reduction.

Following next week's Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting and the release of November/December 2015 harvest estimates, MarineFisheries will be able to develop specific regulatory options to achieve the required harvest reduction for black sea bass. These options will be released in a mid-February Advisory, and will include potential changes to the opening date, closing date, and possession limit. MarineFisheries will accept written comment and hold a public meeting on the options. This public scoping process will be concluded in advance of the March 10, 2016 Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission Meeting, where the Director of MarineFisheries will make his recommendation. Important details, including the date and location of this public meeting, will be available in the mid-February Advisory.

(When the mid-February black sea bass Advisory is released, I'll post it in that week's blog…JV)

January 25, 2016

Thin Ice, Noreasters and Good Times on Snake Island

by Jerry Vovcsko

Old Man Winter gets us in his icy clutch and fishing activity takes a sharp decline. Sure, there's ice fishing – tip ups and rustic shacks built on sled runners – but for the most part there's just fewer folks out there in pursuit of our finned denizen.

However, that doesn't mean that nothing's going on in our local water & woods environment. Nossir. Take, for instance, the afternoon ice fishing trip to Harold Parker State Forest in Andover that nearly turned tragic Saturday for three men from Lowell who fell through thin ice into frigid Field Pond. One pulled himself out of the water, while the other two were rescued by Andover firefighters about 150 yards from shore. Andover police and fire departments received several calls at about 1:15 p.m. from people reporting the incident, said Deputy Fire Chief Albert Deldotto.

The two men were "in obvious distress," Deldotto said. Two firefighters, outfitted with cold water rescue gear, pulled the men from the water. "They saved a couple lives."

Deldotto estimated the water temperature was in the high 30s. The men, ages 26, 29, and 32, were taken to Lawrence General Hospital and Holy Family Hospital in Methuen and treated for hypothermia, he said. Field Pond is a popular spot for ice fishing and dog-walking. The men had put a hut up on the ice and had walked several hundred feet away, before falling through the ice.

"It hasn't been cold enough to get the ice thickness needed to make it safe [for walking]," said Deldotto. "It looks safe, but where they walked, it obviously wasn't thick enough."

A scary experience, for sure but this time it had a good outcome.

The town of Dennis got some good news last week. They were one of five towns to get a share of a $50,000 state grant intended to improve facilities for saltwater fishermen. The town was awarded $15,000 to replace a gangway and two tie-up floats at Uncle Freeman's Landing, a state boat ramp on Bass River off Uncle Freeman's Road.

The money was awarded through the state Department of Fish and Game's Division of Marine Fisheries for saltwater fishing projects. The division's Public Access Small Grant Program uses revenue from the sale of recreational saltwater fishing permits. Gloucester, Marshfield, Plymouth and Rockport also received awards during this grant round.

And then there's the state's plan to revive a native endangered species on a remote island located in the middle of the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts. The state Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, where the plan was hatched , has in mind to breed and raise 150 venomous timber rattlesnakes until they're good and strong, then turn them loose on protected land in the middle of the Quabbin Reservoir.

What could go wrong, you ask?

For one thing, snakes can swim. And although they may start out confined to the small island in the middle of the reservoir, there's nothing that guarantees they'll stay there. And if a few itinerant rattlers make their way to shore and end up around the neighboring hiking trails and homes, the go-wrong potential quickly spikes into serious uh-oh levels where hikers, homeowners and pets are concerned.

The lads and ladies at Fish and Game's headquarters offer assurances that the small island full of rattlesnakes will pose no threat. Any that escape the island will die during the following winter, unable to make it back to their nest, says Tom French, assistant director of the department. And in reality, rattlesnakes are shy creatures who bite people only when threatened, he added.

Not all local residents are reassured. In an interview with the Boston Globe, J.R. Greene, a local historian and author, and the chairman of Friends of the Quabbin, said some local residents fear the rattlesnake island plan could lead to the closure of the popular recreation area around the reservoir — "another example of Boston lording it over this part of the state."

Timber rattlesnakes once populated the forests and feasted on mice and chipmunks all over Massachusetts. But deforestation over the last two centuries left little habitat that allowed for deep underground nests in winter. Today, only a few isolated populations remain in the Blue Hills, the Connecticut River valley, and Berkshire County. Of course I seem to recall that one of those Blue Hills timber rattlers slithered down off the mountain and showed up outside Town Hall in Braintree last fall…a four footer if I remember correctly. Probably looking for an absentee ballot or some such. The Animal Control Officer scooped it up and took it back home to Blue Hills state park.

Since the two species' earliest encounters, it seems humans have done their best to eradicate rattlesnakes and continue to do so at every opportunity. Environmental officials say the whole point of putting them on an island is to protect the snakes from people, not the other way around. Rattlesnake bites are exceedingly rare in Massachusetts, and haven't been fatal since Colonial times. Venomous snake bites these days almost always involve someone doing something exceptionally foolish: attacking or trying to grab a snake, or keeping one as a pet. Environmental officials recall that the only bite that occurred in the wild in recent times was suffered by a researcher who was trying to photograph one rattlesnake and accidentally backed into another.

It's illegal in Massachusetts to keep a venomous snake as a pet, but people do it: there was the time officials got a phone call from a police officer who was trying to find out how much trouble he'd get into if he kept a pair of rattlesnakes. A year or so later, one bit him, and as the officer was driving to the hospital he crashed into a telephone pole. He survived. Someone on Cape Cod was bitten by his pet cobra. He lived, too.

I remember reading about the Cape Cod snake keeper. He housed his pet cobra in a glass terrarium in the basement and when it began to shed its skin he decided that he ought to reach in and help it wriggle out of the skin. Next thing he knew, he was on a helicopter headed for a New York City hospital where cobra anti-venom was on hand. He survived, thereby putting another crimp in Darwin's survival-of-the-fittest theory.

The weekend's nor'easter dropped a foot and a half of wet, heavy snow in the Falmouth area; six to ten inches around Sandwich and varying amounts heading eastward with Provincetown escaping with an inch or so. Air temperatures are due to hit the mid-forties later this week so it's unlikely there will be appreciable ice build-up on Cape ponds. That snowfall will make pond access difficult, though, so finding reachable open water won't be easy. Best bet for those who find accessible water would probably be a matter of letting shiners swim around and hope for the best.

As sports fans know by now, the New England Patriots season came to a close out there in Denver last Sunday. The Broncos put a lot of pressure on Tom Brady and the Pats came up two points short at the end. Disappointing, for sure, but we'll be back next season and in the hunt once again. The Patriots gave us a year's worth of excitement, lots of highs and lows and I have no complaints. We savored the good times…we'll handle the tough times. Go Pats.

January 16, 2016

A Fish Named Wanda or A Turtle Named Newfie

by Jerry Vovcsko

Why is it we as a culture seem compelled to anthropomorphize the creatures that we encounter along the way? I'm not talking about the Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and my own personal favorite, Senator Foghorn Leghorn. No, I mean the real life critters that turn up during our regular day-to-day activities. Take, for instance, the great white shark now known as "Jameson" who first turned up in the news last summer when he stranded on a Cape Cod beach and an impromptu team of volunteers managed to drag him back into deeper waters.

Given all that Jameson had been through, experts were skeptical at first that he would survive. But researchers from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy say that the great white shark that washed up on a Chatham beach during the summer, and was tagged and named "Jameson," may have pulled through after his harrowing ordeal.

According to an article in the Boston Globe, Cynthia Wigren, president of the conservancy, a non-profit group that conducts shark research on the Bay State waters with state biologists, said data downloaded last week from a special buoy off Plymouth picked up a ping from the tag that researchers had attached to the shark's fin in July. The ping was detected from Jameson in October. The buoys can track any tagged sharks swimming within a 200-yard radius, and record the date, time, and the shark's tag number.

Wigren said the general rule of thumb for scientists is not to count single pings like the one picked up on Jameson, but the conservancy is hopeful that the data collected by the buoy wasn't just a fluke.

In a video captured by a bystander in July of Jameson washed up on Chatham's South Beach, the shark can be see flopping back and forth, struggling to breathe. Several people poured buckets of water on the young shark's body to keep him alive until help arrived. When experts pulled up to the scene, they immediately went to work, and towed the shark back into the water, about a mile out. They tagged him and set him free, but were unconvinced the shark would make it.

Experts had previously picked up pings from Jameson's acoustic tag from buoys set up in Orleans and Provincetown, in July and August, respectively. But then nothing. The latest data from his detection off Plymouth, while still murky, was yet another hopeful sign of Jameson's long-term survival.

And then you have the saga of Veda, a 2-year-old giant Newfoundland, who found a stranded loggerhead turtle while taking a walk with her owners on the beach near Ellisville Harbor State Park in Plymouth Monday morning. The beach, littered with seaweed and other ocean debris from a weekend storm, made the cold-stunned turtle tough to see, but Veda noticed it. She trotted ahead of her owners and lay down next to the 40-pound turtle.

Veda's owners contacted the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. A volunteer soon arrived to retrieve the turtle and transport it to the aquarium's Animal Care Center in Quincy. Due to the low temperature and intense wind chill, the loggerhead would have only survived a few more hours if not found, according to New England Aquarium spokesman Tony LeCasse. After four days of slow re-warming at the Animal Care Center, the sea turtle is "bright and alert," the aquarium said.

Naturally, the turtle has been named Newfie, after Veda's breed. Should a humpback whale show up blowing and spouting in Cape Cod Bay, odds are somebody will pin a name on it…and what else but, Trump?

With a planned trip up to Portland, Maine for a couple of days last week, I figured I could check out the ice fishing action up north and report back. Left Massachusetts with the thermometer reading 34 degrees…arrived in Maine and it was a balmy 46 degrees. Zero ice fishing to be seen. Here in Nantucket Sound it's 43.5 degrees at the NOAA buoy; last year this time it was already in the thirties. I checked back in my logbook and last year we got hit with the first genuine blizzard on January 28th so I suppose we shouldn't get too sanguine about eluding Jack Frost's wintry claws just yet.

We seem to be locked into a weather pattern of sunny days, temperatures in the low-thirties to mid-forties and overnight temps a few degrees below the freezing mark. Which is just fine with me. It's trending down toward where it will eventually be cold enough to form ice thick enough to make hard-water fishing reasonably safe but not the bone chilling cold that makes it a challenge to spend time out on the local ponds while feet and fingers turn to popsicles.

There's nothing but open water from one end of the Cape to the other just now, keeping fishing available for those who prefer to move around and do a little casting rather than man the tip-up rigs. One good feature of this kind of weather at this time of year is that around mid-afternoon the sun has warmed shallow water areas enough to bring out those holdover striper populations. Places like Scorton Creek, parts of Bass River, Coonamesset and Pamet Rivers warm up considerably, especially in the shallow, muddy places.

And by three or so in the afternoon Popponesset and South Cape beaches may see visits from anglers who normally fish the beaches in spring and early summer. And a few of those locals will manage to hook up now and then, much to the dismay of traditionalists who are certain that all Cape stripers migrated south by late November. Those lads happily catching stripers along the beach are generally using some combination of jig and plastic and the most successful folks have modulated down to freshwater-sized rigs. Two to four inch tails on a 1/0 or smaller hook is prevalent…and those who have any sort of access to worms often trail one behind and do very well.
Another spot that draws the occasional fish prospector is the good old Cape Cod Canal.

The main thing about the Canal is that fish are constantly in movement through there, even off-season. And there's no telling what may turn up if one happens to be standing there rod in hand when a finned visitor swims through. That can be anything from a giant bluefin tuna to a wandering codfish, or from a stray ocean sunfish to a humpback whale.

At any given time tautog are in residence, along with mackerel, dogfish, skate and even a bait-hungry lobster or two. When I first moved to the Cape in the early seventies I hauled in a two-pound lobster that had greedily consumed my clam belly bait (and 2/0 hook). Not familiar at the time with marine regulations I cooked and ate my prize – later I was informed that I should have tossed the crawly bug back in. Sorry about that.

The hobbling MASH unit known as the New England Patriots takes to the field at Gillette Stadium later today and what began the year as The Patriots Scorched Earth Tour has devolved into a "Let's Just Try and Survive " operation. But we fans remain optimistic and, much to Roger Goodell's chagrin, may yet hoist another Lombardi Trophy skyward come Super Bowl Sunday in February.

January 05, 2016

Break Out the Irish Coffee, Edna, It's Getting a Mite Chilly

by Jerry Vovcsko

Happy 2016 to everyone…hope this turns out to be the best year yet, although it hasn't been too comforting to the sea turtle population in Cape Cod waters. More than 500 stranded, cold-stunned sea turtles have been rescued from Cape Cod beaches since November, the second-most stranded per year on record, the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary said.

Though the season for rescuing turtles usually ends by Christmas, according to a statement from the sanctuary, as many as 21 turtles have already been rescued in 2016. Only four of them were alive. Around 1,200 turtles were stranded last season, the highest on record. Since November, 520 have been stranded.

Turtles feed in Cape Cod Bay during the summer. They become stunned by the cold when winter arrives and they are prevented by the curve of the Cape from traveling south to warmer waters. According to the sanctuary, many become hypothermic and wash ashore.

You can't say enough about fishing. Though the sport of kings it's also what the deadbeat ordered.
-Tom McGuane-

After a lifetime of reading the work of one outdoor writer or another, I think Tom McGuane may just be my favorite, although Frank Woolner and Phil Schwind (both no longer with us) rate pretty high on my favorites' list. It's just that McGuane often leaves a reader laughing aloud after coming out of deep left field with some totally unexpected comment on fishing and fishermen. But then, what could we expect from a gent who numbered both Jimmy Buffet and Hunter S. Thompson among his friends?

We'll soon be entering the time where we're waiting for solid ice to form on our lakes and ponds. No doubt there'll be news stories capturing some of the weird behavior that sportsman seem impelled to display this time of year. Like the West Barnstable duck hunter who had to be rescued a while back after he became stuck in waist-deep, ice-encrusted water. The man was in the water at the end of Navigation Road in West Barnstable and was exhausted from trying to wade through the waist-deep, muddy water and ice. After the rescue the hunter was taken to Cape Cod Hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Good thing he didn't stumble into one of those deep holes that the tides scour out along the bottom of tidal streams around there. Immersion in thirty-nine degree water rapidly shifts from a humorous mishap to life-threatening misjudgment. Something to keep in mind when we strap on our crampons and head out onto the hard water.

Massachusetts anglers can renew their sporting licenses online these days and one of the few things I found advantageous about turning seventy a few years ago was that instead of a forty-five dollar hit on my wallet I was apparently considered an official Old Fart and eligible to get my license for free.

That was welcome news after more than a half-century shelling out for license fees that seemed somehow to disappear into the avaricious maw of something called "the General Fund". So I went online to renew and noticed that the Department of Wildlife folks had slapped a three dollar service fee on the online renewal process and I had to dig out my debit card after all. I don't really mind as it's still a pretty good deal for us Old Timers, but I sure hope that money ends up doing something useful for the fishery instead of getting diverted into the pockets of some local legislator who has decided to retire at thirty-five.

Pretty slim pickings on the salt water scene these days. Water temperatures have been spiraling down into the low forties and the current air temps sit placidly in the teens so that downward trend is certain to continue. There are still schools of mackerel circulating in the Cape Cod Canal and tautog linger in the usual spots. Flounder can be had but finding keeper-size fish is another matter entirely. When I first moved to the Cape in the early seventies you could easily fill a gunny sack full of decent size flatties in a morning's fishing, but those days are long gone.

In the fresh water ponds bass – both large and smallmouth- remain on the bite but have moved to deeper water now. Shiners will produce and jig & plastic combos can also be effective if worked slowly and carefully around good structure. Those trout that were stocked last fall in local ponds are still around although those that made it to now may be a little more wily than when they were first dropped from the trucks.

I'm heading up toward Portland, Maine for a couple of days this week so I'll keep an eye out for any ice activity up that way and report back in the next column. The Patriots are dinged up right now and Tom Brady's limping around after getting suplexed by 300 pound Miami nose tackle, Ndamakong Suh. But they've got a first round bye, some of the walking wounded are coming back and they'll be ready to go when the time comes. Super Bowl, here we come.

December 30, 2015

Happy Humpback, Happy New Year!

by Jerry Vovcsko

come We are too soon old, and too late smart. (Anonymous)

Water temperatures in Nantucket Sound at the NOAA buoy…49 degrees. Pretty warm for this time of year. Usually we'd be seeing numbers around the low forties or even the high thirties by now. So I don't know if it's just another El Nino anomaly or if we're beginning to see global warming having an impact on our local climate.

Either way, it seems one juvenile humpback whale decided to celebrate the mild temps with a lively frolic in Narragansett Bay this week punctuated by midair acrobatics. The display of gymnastic leaps took place about two miles north of the Jamestown and Newport bridges. The whale was likely in pursuit of food and decide to have a little fun along the way to the delight of onlookers along shore.

Humpbacks rarely show up in Narragansett Bay and scientists speculated that the whale was a youngster that remained in New England waters for weeks after its elders left to breed in the Caribbean. The Latin name for the species — Megaptera novaeangliae — can be loosely translated as "big-winged New Englander," so maybe it's just a case of the teen-aged chickens home to roost, if whales can be construed as some sort of giant waterfowl that is.

There was a humpback spotted in New Bedford Harbor a couple of weeks ago; could be it's an itinerant adolescent roaming about looking for adventure in New England waters. Many juvenile humpbacks congregate for the winter on their mid-Atlantic grounds, off Virginia and the Carolinas, but with water temps milder than usual in Massachusetts and Rhode Island this one probably saw no reason to rush off.

In the Gulf of Maine, a favorite summer ground for the humpbacks, the mean surface temperature rose 4 degrees between 2004 and 2013. Cape Cod Bay, for example, has been stuck at 49 degrees for more than a week although readings there are normally in the low 40s at this time. As a result of the higher temperatures, many stranded turtles on Cape Cod that in other years might perish are being rescued alive.

There are still mackerel being caught in the East End of the Canal and rumors abound of random schools of macs roaming around Cape Cod Bay We also heard of a big school of mackerel off Chatham but Old Timers like to remind us that rumors and fish tales make mighty thin soup…so there is that.

It's looking like it may be a very long time before Cape Cod sees enough ice for anglers to venture onto the hard water but there's plenty of freshwater action still at hand. A bucket of shiners will bring plenty of fun when dropped around the weed beds where hungry pickerel hang out in local ponds. Peters Pond, Mashpee-Wakeby, Grews and Lawrence ponds on the Upper Cape are prime targets of choice and Cliff, Sheep, Long and Nickerson ponds down Brewster way regularly serve up pickerel, bass and trout.

The Patriots stirred up plenty of controversy by electing to kick to the Jets after winning the coin toss. That didn't work out so well for them but a win in Miami this Sunday will give the Pats home field advantage all the way throughout the playoffs. Some say that Commissioner Goodell is busy these days thinking up excuses so as not to have to be the one to hand Tom Brady the Lombardi Trophy should they win the Super Bowl. New England fans on the other hand are storing up a massive reservoir of Schadenfreude which they will be more than pleased to serve Commissioner Goodell on a gilded platter.

In any event, I want to wish readers a wonderful 2016…hope the year brings nothing but happiness and good things. For me, hip replacement surgery is on the schedule for next spring. I'm thinking it will be nice to actually walk around without looking like Peg Leg Pete or Chester from Gunsmoke.

Happy New Year everyone!

December 26, 2015

Post Christmas Ponderings

by Jerry Vovcsko

Sitting here in the midst of a debris field consisting of scattered swatches of torn Christmas wrapping paper, gift tags and beribboned empty LL Bean boxes, it occurs to me that Santa has come and gone and the most illustrious holiday of the year is slowly receding in the rear view mirror. Hope everyone got what they asked for and also enjoyed the chance to gather with family and toast the memories of those missing from their place around the hearth.

Sipping a cup of coffee and reviewing the events of the preceding season, a few random thoughts come to mind. Chatham entertained visits from a number of great white sharks again and scientists tagged a fresh crop of those visitors hoping to study their behavior patterns. Already they've determined that these streamline creature travel vast distances in our planet's oceans.

And once again a plethora of sea turtles found themselves caught by falling water temperatures in local waters and in need of help from volunteers, scientists and experts from the New England Aquarium. Many survived and were released back into the wild. Some did not make it.

Octogenarian Shirl Russo fishing out of Green Harbor caught a bluefin tuna earlier this year that weighed in a bit over 275 pounds. Here's a photo of his fish.

Local ocean waters continue to warm and species that were formerly subtropical regularly appear nowadays. Whoever would have expected to see lionfish in Woods Hole Harbor or mahi mahi down along the Elizabeth Islands?

The Boston Globe ran a story recently on the status of commercial fishing in our waters, and the prospects for the future. Not exactly inspirational material.

speaking of the Globe, there was a piece that caught my eye about one of our smaller animal inhabitants of the New England region that caught my eye and I thought I'd pass it along. Lots of interesting facts and general information on the nature of this tiny ball of energy and smarts, the weasel. But what really impressed me was the writing. First rate stuff by this woman who shared her deep admiration for a creature rarely mentioned in favorable terms. An excellent read for a winter's day.

frequently reminded that this business of ageing is simply not much fun. Aches and pains and general discomfort brought on by excess mileage on the body's odometer. Lately, I've had my share including a stint under the cardiac surgeons scalpel to have an aortic valve replaced with a fresh one provided by some anonymous bovine contributor.

The latest addition to the litany of old-guy's infirmities showed up when I went in to see about a new pair of eyeglasses and got the word that testing showed glaucoma had taken up residence in my left eye. My ophthalmologist, Dr. Lawrence Weene, in Brockton prescribed some drops and they seemed to help by reducing pressure in the eyeball.

During my last visit to the doc I noticed a brook trout on a wood plaque he had on the wall in his waiting room. I asked him about it and he said he'd caught the fish while vacationing with his family and had the mount done to mark the event.

"It's funny you brought up the subject of fishing," he said. "I just had a patient in this morning who had a fish story he told me about six schoolteachers who chartered a trip in Cape Cod Bay this summer. They each had caught a keeper-sized striped bass and were headed back in when one of them had their rod go over from another strike. Eventually he landed a massive striper that probably ran close to thirty-five pounds. He said they thought about keeping it and throwing one of the others back but decided not to and released the Big One."

It was nice to hear they'd had the ethics to do it the right way. It would have been tempting to a many of us to keep that big guy and slip one of the smaller ones back even if its survival prospects were nil, but the hope is that in the end a sportsman would do the right thing as these folks did.

The Patriots have nailed down the conference win that assures them a spot in the playoffs. But they've got their sights on a number-one seed with home field advantage throughout the playoffs so Sunday's game against the Jets is a big deal. The Next-Man-Up philosophy has gotten a real workout because there's been about a dozen injuries over the past few weeks and the roster has a cluster of new names including Steven Jackson and Leonard Hankerson. The goal, of course, is to win the Super Bowl where Commissioner Roger Goodell has to hand the Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots…yes, that would be sweet indeed.

Crank up the Duckboats, boys, I think it may be time for another victory parade!

December 10, 2015

2016 Mass Fishing Permits

by Jerry Vovcsko

And then there's this from the folks at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries:

December 2015

2016 Recreational Saltwater Fishing and Lobster Permits are now available!

A 2016 recreational saltwater fishing permit makes the perfect gift for your favorite angler! 2016 permits are available for purchase online, at our offices, and at permit vendors. Please note, when buying a permit online, that the convenience charge has changed. Instead of a single fee of $1.85, the Active Outdoors charges are now the administrative handling charge ($1.34) and a 3% convenience fee ($0.34).

To get your 2016 permit online:

you can call to purchase over the phone: 1-866-703-1925. Available Monday through Sunday, 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please have credit card information ready!

Here we are, stewing in our juices about the 2015 striped bass season fading into distant memory and all it takes to get revved up again is the mention of salt water licenses on sale for the 2016 season. Yep, we'll soon be guessing about the imminent return of Old Linesides to our waters. But then again, I suppose that's why so many of us buy lottery tickets...

December 08, 2015

The Fat Lady Ain't Sung Just Yet

by Jerry Vovcsko

"With me, fishing has always been an excuse to drink in the daytime."
Jimmy Cannon
American sportswriter

I knew there was some reason I drag myself out in the cold and rain to throw garish bits of wood, plastic and metal into the ocean hoping something good will happen. Thanks for clearing that up for me, Jimmy.

For years we've heard dire warnings about high concentrations of mercury in swordfish, tuna and other pelagic fish. That's not news. But now we're told that the striped bass we catch in state marine waters may contain high levels of toxins that make eating too much harmful to one's health, especially for pregnant women and children.

Striped bass, folks! The fish we breathlessly await every spring so we can resume our quest for a thirty, forty or even fifty pound specimen. Now we hear our beloved stripers may be laden with all manner of toxic contamination. Massachusetts, of course, is the only state on the East Coast that does not specifically mention striped bass in its fish consumption advisories. While some states issue broad blanket advisories, especially for pregnant women and children, others offer

Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire all recommend that children as well as women who are nursing, pregnant, or may become pregnant not eat striped bass at all. Some states in New England warn the general population not to eat more than a maximum of between four and 12 meals per year of striped bass caught in state waters. Rhode Island has the most stringent advisory, urging striped bass not be eaten at all.

Now, Massachusetts activists are pushing for a bill that would create a statewide consumption advisory to warn the public about high levels of mercury and PCBs, a likely carcinogen that may be in striped bass. They say fish in Massachusetts have the same risk of toxins as striped bass in other states where there are advisories for the fish.

"Folks cannot make informed health choices if they are not being told of the dangers of consuming what they otherwise are being misled to believe is safe to eat," said Dean Clark, Massachusetts co-chairman of the conservation organization Stripers Forever, while speaking at a state Joint Committee on Public Health hearing on the bill in September.

"This labeling bill corrects a public awareness oversight in immediate need of fixing."

No federal warning specific to striped bass exists. Instead, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends consumers look to their states for advice on eating fish caught in local waters. While all adults are at risk of mercury poisoning, children, infants and fetuses exposed to high amounts of methylmercury — the form mercury takes once it filters into waterways and is absorbed by aquatic organisms — may be at risk of impaired neurological development, warns the Environmental Protection Agency's website.

While striped bass are not specifically mentioned in Massachusetts' consumption advisory for fresh and saltwater fish, the advisory does include a recommendation that at-risk populations limit consumption to 12 ounces, or about two meals, per week of fish or shellfish not covered by its guidelines.

The bill, pending before the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives, also calls for the state advisory to inform consumers concerning toxin levels in other ocean fish, such as tuna, mackerel, swordfish, grouper and bluefish. Massachusetts advises at-risk populations against eating bluefish, swordfish, king mackerel, tuna steak, and more than 12 ounces of canned tuna per week but provides no consumption advice for the general public.

Water temperatures hover right around the fifty-degree mark. Still, there are bass to be found in local waters, tautog continue hanging around in deeper water and mackerel in numbers cavort at the east end of the CC Canal. The macs are fairly small with most barely registering twelve inches on the tape measure, but there are some bigger guys mixed in as well.

There's lively action happening in local freshwater ponds, though. Peters Pond in Sandwich has been delivering ample catches of rainbow trout to anglers employing shiners and PowerBaits. Peters has been stocked over the years with salmon until the fisheries folks decided to stop stocking them. However, there are still plenty of salmon in residence and they've gotten larger every year, so it's worth taking a run at these broodstock Atlantics as they're not paying attention to fisheries department policies.

The ponds in the Brewster area have also produced robust catches of trout and will continue to do so right up until the January freeze puts the kibosh on open water fishing efforts. And Wequaquet Lake in Barnstable serves as a particularly popular destination these days because in addition to bass, trout and panfish, the lake holds a thriving population of pike, some of which tip the scales in double figures and upwards. The fat lady hasn't sung just yet and good fishing continues around these parts.

And now, after watching the past two Sundays worth of NFL football, I'm afraid the New England Patriots Scorched Earth Tour has fizzled out. The loss of such titans as Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Donta Hightower and Dion Lewis to injuries has brought low the once mighty Pats and until Coach Belichick and his cohorts can get things turned around, the team will continue to struggle. But hear this, sports fans: The Pats will rise again and they have a deep and abiding familiarity with the road to the Super Bowl. Don't count them out just yet.

November 30, 2015

The Turkey Or the Eel?

by Jerry Vovcsko

Well, the Thanksgiving Holiday is in the rearview mirror now and Christmas looms on the horizon. And what was on your dinner table? Turkey, or maybe a ham? Mashed potatoes? Stuffing? Or perhaps some mussels, lobsters and eels?

Eels you say? Carving the holiday eel may not a tradition in most households, but chances are it was on the menu for the first Thanksgiving.

According to the Smithsonian, the following items were most likely served instead of turkey and mashed potatoes:

Ducks, geese and passenger pigeons, venison, lobster, clams and other shellfish, pumpkins and squash (but not pumpkin pie), flint corn and beans, chestnuts, walnuts and beechnuts.

History also tells us that Squanto taught Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony to fish for eel, and that the fatty, nutritious fish may well have saved them from starvation over the winter. These days eels caught commercially are likely destined for export to Europe or headed for bait shops where striper anglers will put them to good used in the surf.

Oh, and it was 50 years ago, Thanksgiving in 1965, when an 18-year-old folkie with a guitar drove up from Queens, N.Y., to Great Barrington to visit a friend named Alice Brock. While he was there, he did Alice and her husband, Ray, a favor. He took out their garbage. It would change Arlo Guthrie's life. Guthrie and his buddy threw the garbage down a ditch where others often did the same thing.

But the next day, the pair was arrested for littering, and that misdemeanor is what kept him from being drafted into the Vietnam War because he had an arrest record. It also became the narrative for a little ditty he wrote two years later that he called "Alice's Restaurant Massacree." Part song, part storytelling, it became Guthrie's signature and this fall he's taking off on a national tour to celebrate the 50 years since the event.

Arlo played in Boston at the Berklee Performance Center back in October and his final New England stop is at the Guthrie Center in the Berkshires in May, 2016. I always liked "Alice's Restaurant" but who can forget the classic lines: "Flyin' into Los Angeles…bringin' in a couple of keys"?

And anglers who have spent many hours becoming familiar with the bottom contours of the Cape Cod Canal will soon have to revise their virtual charts. Yep, the United States Army Corps of Engineers announced this week that they have awarded the Cape Cod Canal dredging project to an out-of-state company. The $5,899,400 project has been awarded to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, LLC of Oak Brook, Illinois.

Under the terms of the contract, Great Lakes will perform all maintenance dredging and advance maintenance on the canal. Work on the expansive project is scheduled to begin in January 2016 and take between two and three months to complete.

According to USACE New England District Project Manager Bill Kavanaugh, approximately 182,000 cubic yards of clean sand and gravel will be removed from six authorized areas. The authorized areas are in the 32-foot deep, 500-foot-wide main shipping channel and the 25-foot deep East Mooring Basin.

"Shoaling in the main ship channel consists of large wave formations," Kavanaugh said. "These formations cause draft restrictions, tidal delays and hazardous conditions for deep-draft commercial vessels transiting the Canal."

The Corps has also entered into talks with the Town of Sandwich about acquiring the clean sand from the dredge--and who would pay for it. The Corp said the sand would be re-used on as beach-fill on the 2,500-foot eroded section of Sandwich's Town Neck Beach.

It's a little quiet on the saltwater scene these days. Not that all the stripers have left town. School bass can still found in the estuaries along the Sound-facing side of the Cape. But bait is probably the best chance of hooking up right now and folks using artificials will want to slow-fish plugs or plastics. As the water gets chilly, bass become a bit lethargic and reluctant to expend calories chasing a potential meal.

On the Cape Cod Bay side such places as Scorton Creek and Barnstable Harbor are best bets as the season comes to a close. Scorton is likeliest to hold a few large bass and protection from high winds makes it doubly attractive as a late season destination.

Local ponds continue to produce perch, pickerel, trout and bass (large and smallmouth.) Look for bass in the deeper places and hit the edges of weed beds with metal spoons for pickerel which, by the way, are very delicious grilled with veggies in aluminum foil pouches.

Up until the Monday night game this week, the two biggest questions in the minds of many were: Will the Patriots go 16-0 and is Jon Snow really dead? The Scorched Earth Tour derailed momentarily in Denver but will probably re-commence when the Eagles come to town next Sunday.

As to the apparent demise of the youthful 998th Commander of The Night Watch…we may want to hold off on funeral arrangements for now. The Pats will rise again and I have a feeling we haven't seen the last of Jon Snow. Better days are coming, it says on my fortune cookie. We shall see.

November 24, 2015

Waving From the Overpass

by Jerry Vovcsko

A Cape Cod tradition sees locals standing on the overpasses along Route 6 waving "goodbye" to the departing tourists. My own personal version of that tradition is to stand by the Cape Cod Canal near the Maritime Academy and watch as the west bound current carries away the last of the current striped bass season. And that's where I'll be this weekend because water temperatures at NOAA buoy 44020 in Nantucket Sound dipped under 50-degrees for the first time since late last April. So Sayonara, this year's striper season…I'll be looking for you next May.

November 18th marked 164 years since the Great American Novel "Moby-Dick" was published. Herman Melville's classic tale of Ahab's obsession with the white whale of the novel's title is based on the sinking of the Essex, a Nantucket whaling ship rammed and sunk by a whale in the Pacific in 1820, and Melville's own experiences on the whaling vessel Acushnet out of New Bedford in 1841.

And on that same day in 1905 five lepers arrived on Penikese Island in Buzzard's Bay, the site of the first and only leprosarium in Massachusetts. A year earlier the state of Massachusetts had bought the island for $25,000 to use as a leprosy hospital to isolate and treat all Massachusetts residents with the disease.

Over the next 16 years, 36 victims of leprosy, or Hansen's disease, lived on the isolated island, along with a handful of caregivers. Dr. Frank Parker and his wife, Marion, went to great lengths to make the patients comfortable, providing good food, fresh air, exercise, entertainment, and nursing, but it was nearly impossible to overcome the stigma and social ostracism associated with leprosy.

Later the island situated just north of Cuttyhunk became home to a private school for troubled youth. It was founded by Woods Hole resident and ex-Marine, George Cadwallader, and provided safe haven for the young people trying to turn their lives around. I wonder if those kids knew they were living smack in the middle of some of the finest striped bass waters in North America?

And for the first time, Americans will be able to dine on a genetically altered animal, after federal regulators last week approved a Massachusetts biotechnology company's bid to modify salmon for human consumption. After years of testing the company's modified fish, regulators said there are no "biologically relevant differences" between the so-called AquAdvantage salmon and other farm-raised Atlantic salmon.

That decision was a big win for AquaBounty, which began seeking approval in the 1990s for its technique of inserting growth hormone genes from Chinook salmon and an eel-like creature called ocean pout into the DNA of Atlantic salmon. The faster the fish grow, the more the company can produce and sell, potentially reducing overfishing of the oceans and developing a new source of food for a growing global population.

Agency officials said their environmental assessment found that the altered salmon would not have a significant environmental impact, because of the multiple and redundant measures being taken to contain the fish and prevent their escape. The agency's approval, however, still bars the company from raising the fish in the United States. The company will be allowed to raise the salmon only in specially designed land-based tanks in Canada and Panama. The results of enabling salmon to grow more quickly, they said, could mean less need to fish depleted wild salmon stocks.

Back in the nineties I wrote for a national commercial fishing magazine when a Scandinavian company tried farming salmon in net pens based near Vancouver Island in British Columbia. That project ended disastrously with escaped famed fish mingling and reputedly breeding with wild salmon, seals being shot by farm workers and antibiotic-laced fish food carried by powerful currents to later be consumed by wild stocks. Disease was rampant in the pens and when a net pen full of farmed salmon died off, divers were called in to vacuum out the dead fish. One diver said hat in his forty years of commercial diving, cleaning out the net pen was the filthiest job he'd ever had to do.

On paper, plans to augment one fishery or another all sound bright and promising but inevitably seem to overlook the Law of Unintended Consequences. I recall a TV commercial some years back for…I think it was butter…that said something like: "It doesn't pay to mess with Mother Nature."

I suppose I'm just Old School enough to think there's a lot of truth in that old homily. Time will tell.

It's not just sea turtles who end up stranded on the Cape's beaches as cold water traps them in Cape Cod Bay. Rescuers raced against the clock Monday afternoon as they tried to reach a minke whale stuck on a mud flat off the shore of Kingston before the sun went down.

The whale, which was identified based on a distinctive white patch on the front pectoral fin, washed up in a remote area of Gray's Beach Park, said New England Aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse. As adults, minke whales can reach 25 to 30 feet long but rescuers said this whale was smaller than average, indicating it could be a younger animal. However, LaCasse said, they didn't know whether they'd be able to reach the whale to help it back into deeper waters.

"Given the fact that we have an hour-and-a-half of daylight and an incoming high tide and an animal in an inaccessible area, we're not going to put anyone at risk," he said. "We're going to do our best."

And the whale swam free just after 4:30 p.m. when high tide rolled in and allowed it to reach open water.

Just in case there's anyone who didn't hear about it, the New England Patriots' Scorched Earth Tour continued to roll with a Monday Night Football victory over Rex Ryan's Buffalo Bills. But two more Patriots went down with injuries and the pass receiving corps is beginning to resemble the setting of Doctor Feelgood's Infirmary and Patent Medicine Show. Before long, Tom Brady may have to throw a pass, then run out and catch it himself if his receivers continue dropping like flies. And yet, the Pats keep winning. Have another heaping helping of Schadenfreude, Commissioner Goodell.

November 14, 2015

November On the Cape: Turkey Day

by Jerry Vovcsko

A necropsy is sometimes performed on a marine animal to reveal the cause of the animal's death. This week, according to a story on a Cape Cod website, New England Aquarium marine biologists performed a necropsy on a 400-pound leatherback sea turtle and identified three hazards that contributed to its death.

According to a New England Aquarium release, the leatherback was first spotted by the crew of a University of Rhode Island research vessel last week on Cape Cod Bay. On Sunday, its bloated body washed ashore at Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable. Its body was retrieved and transported to the aquarium's sea turtle hospital in Quincy.

Dr. Charles Innes, the aquarium's head veterinarian, and a team of biologists began the necropsy early in the week. They first discovered telltale signs of entanglement--heavy abrasions and and lacerations on the sea turtle's front flippers. Entanglements, typically caused by vertical ropes from fixed fishing gear or lobster pots, often lead to drowning.

Additionally, researchers noted a major deformity on the young male turtle's shell. X-rays revealed extensive fractures to the shell and vertebrae. Dr. Innis believes the turtle was likely struck by a boat in the early summer and managed to not only survive, but thrive, according to the release.

Finally, while examining the organs for evidence of disease, Dr. Innes and his team found three pieces of plastic in the sea turtle's stomach, a 3' x 1' piece of plastic sheeting, a sandwich baggie and a candy wrapper. Although the turtle might have eventually passed the two smaller items, it is likely the sheeting would have remained in its system. As trash on the open water, plastics of this type can resemble undulating sea jellies, a favorite food of leatherback sea turtles.

In the end, the entanglement was determined to be the cause of death. The team that performed the necropsy on the sea turtle had never seen signs of all three human-related hazards in one sea turtle. The ever growing extent of ocean pollution does not bode well for the future of marine animals.

Well, it looks like the few balmy days we've experienced recently have nudged water temperatures upward in Vineyard Sound a tick or two. In fact the numbers sit currently in the low to mid-fifties and climbing again. That could keep stripers around well past Thanksgiving if the trend continues and make T-day real special: roast turkey at mid-day; college and pro football for the afternoon and a trip to the salt water around dusk to dunk a few baits or maybe toss jig-and-plastic combos into the suds. Yessir, it could be a real special day. Or it could snow; we'll see.

For the time being, though, plenty of locals have forsaken the diminished pickings out in the salty environment for better results at one local pond or another. And the action is perking up these days on the freshwater scene. Everything from perch, white and yellow…bass, large and smallmouth…to trout, salmon and pickerel are tearing it up around the Cape. The Brewster ponds have been stocked recently and local anglers continue to target rainbow trout and salmon as they look to fill the freezer before the upcoming winter arrives.

But others are reluctant to quit on the striper population just yet. The Elizabeth Island chain still holds bass in residence, especially down at the western end of the islands around Robinsons Hole, Cuttyhunk and Quicks Hole with live eels taking keeper sized fish and darters and swimming plugs still doing good business among the close-to-shore boulders and rock structure that line the islands from end to end.

The stretch of shoreline south of French Watering Place on down to Robinsons Hole has been particularly productive in the early morning hours and on into the afternoon. Biggest problem has been finding opportunities when the winds lie down enough to make it safe to take a small boat down that way. This time of year it can get frighteningly rough in a real hurry so anybody venturing down the islands wants to be prepared to run for it if a northerly starts to blow.

Over in Buzzards Bay most of the folks I see out there appear to be focused on groundfish with tautog the target of choice for many. Woods Hole, the Weepecket Islands and up around Cleveland Ledge are the consistently productive areas and some of the biggest ‘tog are taken from these locations. Green crab is the preferred bait but don't overlook seaworms…the blackfish treat them as very desirable desserts and two or three seaworms streamed from a 3/0 hook can deliver impressive results. An old fishing buddy of mine employs a chrome-plated jig festooned with a cluster of seaworms and catches consistently large ‘tog on a regular basis.

We're midway into November right now and there's still striped bass hanging around; Thanksgiving's just a couple weeks away and the Patriots are in first place in the AFC and take on the Giants as next step in the 2015 Scorched Earth Tour. Things feel pretty good for New England sports fans at the moment and maybe the new President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowsk, can get the Red Sox back on track for 2015. Yesterday's trade for ace reliever Craig Kimbrel looks to be a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, don't put those rods away just yet. Tight lines, everyone.

November 07, 2015

Picking Up the Litter As the Season Winds Down

by Jerry Vovcsko

Apropos of nothing in particular…a recurring phrase keeps running through my mind:
"Man has an inexhaustible capacity to beshit his environment…with politicians well in the lead."

Can't recall where I ran across it…but I've been reading a couple of Jim Harrison's books lately, so maybe that's the source. Sure sounds like him.

Anyhow, it started running around in my head shortly after a visit to the Cape Cod Canal to see if anybody was catching anything. Not much action but plenty of Dunkin Donuts coffee cups, McDonald's French fries packets, a busted up shopping cart, yards and yards of nylon rope, old fish netting, used condoms, pages from last Sunday's newspaper… the usual mess. Wonder if we'll ever learn.

And on a further down note…we're hearing that the rapid warming of the waters off New England has contributed to the historic collapse of the region's cod population and has hampered its ability to rebound. That's according to a new study that for the first time links climate change to the cod's plummeting numbers. The researchers also suggest that federal officials have used faulty models to determine the number of cod in the Gulf of Maine, which the researchers estimate has fallen to as little as 3 percent of what would sustain a healthy population. Those faulty models, they said, led the officials to allow overfishing, enough that the region's cod catch has fallen 90 percent over the past three decades.

"Managers [of the fishery] kept reducing quotas, but the cod population kept declining," said Andrew Pershing, the study's lead author and chief scientific officer of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland. "It turns out that warming waters were making the Gulf of Maine less hospitable for cod, and the management response was too slow to keep up with the changes."

Between 2004 and 2013, the mean surface temperature of the Gulf of Maine – which extends from Cape Cod to Cape Sable in Nova Scotia – rose 4 degrees, a faster rate of warming than 99 percent of the world's other large bodies of saltwater, according to the study. The authors of the study, which was released Thursday by the journal Science, link the rapid warming to a northward shift in the Gulf Stream and changes to other major currents in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

A number of commercial fishermen sit on the management council and many of them have resisted additional closures and cuts to their cod quotas, which have been fished for centuries in the region, so much so that the massive catch helped lure settlers to North America and financed the American Revolution. Many of them also dispute NOAA's assessment methodology, arguing that the agency is undercounting the population. In fact, many fishermen say they have seen a resurgence of cod in recent years.

This is all eerily similar to the argument that raged between Newfoundland's commercial fishermen and Canadian fishery officials back in the 90s…right up until the cod stocks imploded and that entire fishery was shut down putting boats, nets and fishermen on the beach. Let's hope that we don't see a repeat of that debacle in our waters.

As to the local salt water recreational fishing scene, it's winding down now but there are still plenty of fish around. Seeing, as they say, is believing and customers at Red Top tackle shop in Buzzards Bay got a chance to verify that when Jacob - one of the store employees – landed a 47 pound striper from the Canal. Anglers working jigs down deep during the nocturnal hours continue to pull stripers from The Ditch and will likely continue to do so right into December.

Water temperatures hover in the mid-fifties in Nantucket Sound so anglers will likely continue to see striped bass hanging around for a while yet and may even pick up the odd bluefish or two. Tautog make bottom fishing worthwhile and they won't depart for deeper waters offshore until it gets really, really cold.

Then too, there's always the freshwater scene to turn toward and the action there is buzzing right along these days, especially in those ponds stocked by the environmental folks whose trucks have been busy with late-season pond-stocking efforts. We've been experiencing a run of late season mild weather and that's brought lots of folks out in pursuit of trout, bass and panfish. We're moving into that transitional time between the salt water and freshwater activity, but opportunity awaits in both categories; it's a great time to get out and wet a line before Old Man Winter shuts us down until next spring.

I have to admit it's been fun taunting the Bills, Jets, Dolphins and them about the Patriot's Scorched Earth Revenge Tour, but it's the Washington Redskins' turn to face the New England juggernaut and my heart's not really in it. I mean, those guys have to contend with whack-a-doo owner Dan Snyder's shenanigans on a daily basis and I guess I just don't feel like adding to their misery. Belichick and the lads are saying nice things about the Redskins so let's leave it at that and figure it'll be the Patriots at 8-0 when the weekend's over.

October 28, 2015

Memories of Woodland Days

by Jerry Vovcsko

2015 Surplus Antlerless Deer Permits: (Permits will remain available until sold out in each Wildlife Management Zone)
•Zone 11 permits ARE SOLD OUT
•Zone 10 permits ARE SOLD OUT
•Zone 13 and 14 permits went on sale October 8th.

Well, so here we stand on the cusp between the gradually fading 2015 striped bass action and the impending hunting season in Massachusetts. Folks who hunt bear and wangle a permit will have at it come November 1st and on the 30th of November procuring a deer by shotgun becomes okay and later, in mid-December, the blackpowder folks get another crack at venison for the freezer.

All this used to mean a lot more to me before old football injuries put the kibosh on my knees' well-being and curtailed my hiking-in-the-woods days. I still manage to hobble around the local jetties and on occasion haul my aching bones into a sixteen foot skiff in order to dabble around the rocks and ledges at Nobska Point or Woods Hole Harbor in pursuit of the wily striped bass. But unless my son wants to plant his Old Man in a tree blind in the event some careless buck wanders by, my hunting days may be drawing to a close.

That realization comes with a sort of bittersweet tinge but all in all I have no complaints. Growing up as a youngster in upstate New York I had more than my share of hunting adventures and roamed the woods with a lever action, single shot, twenty-five caliber Stevens rifle – perfect for a young lad with limited funds. You hunt squirrels and partridge with a single-shot anything and you quickly learn the art of concentrating on a good sight picture…or you go home empty handed. By the time I turned ten years old I had learned to control my breathing, center the post in the V-notch of the rear sight and gently squeeeeze the trigger until the shot "surprised" me.

Later, during boot camp at Parris Island those forays into the woods with my old Stevens turned out to be good preparation in qualifying for a Sharpshooter's badge with a 214 score. I always felt I could have picked up the extra six points I needed to fire expert if I hadn't been such a reed-thin kid trying to hold steady in the offhand position with that 9.6lb M-1 Garand we were issued. I'd dial in the windage data the range officer provided but wished I could figure a way to keep my skinny arms still.

When I turned fourteen I graduated from the single-shot Stevens to my dad's bolt-action .22 Savage with a five round clip and the mortality rate of the local rabbit and squirrel population took a significant jump. But I was never profligate with ammunition – lessons of conserving ammo learned early stuck with me across the years and I generally expected to get a season or two out of a fifty-count box of .22 long rifle cartridges.

I may have gotten a tad overconfident around that time because I headed out one fall afternoon in search of the quail and pheasants that worked over the corn shocks in our neighbor's field and figured my dad's old double-barreled twelve gauge would suit me just fine for nailing a game bird or two. The Old Man had tried to tell me a little about the difference between the non-existent recoil of a twenty-two and what the 12-gauge held in store. But as I was sixteen now I had no need of such counsel, waved him off and strode confidently out across the fields.

My confidence lasted until a beautifully plumaged male ringneck came boiling out of a small stand of dried cornstalks a few feet ahead of me. Startled and a little off balance, I aimed in his general direction and yanked the trigger. I suppose it was the off-balance part that contributed to finding myself on the ground, on my ass, watching the bird flying off towards the tree line. That or maybe my having yanked both triggers simultaneously. My dad didn't say much when I got back home but a few days later I filled him in on the details and he nodded and allowed that a shotgun might take a little getting used to for a young feller just getting his feet wet bird hunting. He had the good grace to refrain from any I-told-you-so comments but the twinkle in his eye spoke volumes.

So it is that when I look back over the years I feel like I've had my share of hunting memories, and good ones they are. A few Christmases ago my son Rick presented me with an M-1 in pristine condition he'd bought through one of those government programs. There was a message on the card saying: "Because every Marine should have his M-1 around." Well, it sure means a lot to me and I take it out and clean it and re-live the days when fall meant a trip to the woods and, with a little luck, a supply of venison for the winter tucked away in the basement freezer.

But now it looks like hip replacement surgery is on the calendar for next spring and maybe I'll let the doc have go at my knees if the hip deal goes down smoothly.

The Miami Dolphins show up at Gillette Stadium Thursday night to assume their role in the 2015 Scorched Earth Tour that has so far produced a 6-0 record for the New England Patriots. And Roger Goodell takes his 0-6 record back into the courts hoping for the appeals court to change Judge Berman's ruling on DeflateGate. The wise-guys in Vegas give the Dolphins a bit of a chance but roll their eyes at Roger the Dodger's continued ineptness. And the beat goes on…literally.

October 17, 2015

Reach Out and Touch Someone, Mr. Shark

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's a bit of a paradox that in the midst of a weekend coldsnap – which will likely bring the first frost of the season- we should be hearing about additional signs of global warming. And that those signs happen to be originating in Alaska. Biologists say unusual fish are appearing near Alaska's shores, likely because of warmer ocean temperatures caused by El Nino and the patch of warm water known as "The Blob."

State fishery biologists based in Homer are amassing photos from people with bizarre sightings. Those include a 900-pound ocean sunfish near Juneau and warm-water thresher sharks around the coast of Yakutat, reported a local TV station. Other strange sightings include Pacific bonito near Ketchikan, albacore tuna around Prince of Wales Island and yellow tail near Sitka – all warmer clime species.
The peak of this year's particularly strong El Nino is coming up, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It's one of the strongest El Nino events on record. And NOAA says The Blob has also raised temperatures in the North Pacific to record highs.

Sunfish tend to prefer warmer waters than those usually found in Alaska, but there have been many sightings of the species this summer, according to state fisheries biologists who said two of them swam into researchers' gear while they conducted juvenile salmon surveys in the southeast this summer. The sunfish have probably been drawn to Alaska not only by warm currents but also a huge mass of jellyfish that has filled waters around Cordova.

The strange-ish sightings are interesting but might be a cause of serious concern because it's not at all clear how big-money fish like salmon will be affected if ocean temperatures rise. State records show that fewer pink salmon than expected were caught this year. If the salmon runs are affected adversely, it could have a serious economic impact on the state.

Commercial fishing is rated in the top five by insurance companies when compiling lists of the most dangerous occupations, which is one of the reasons that eighteen fishermen from around New England took to the seas of Hyannis Inner Harbor this past Friday for free training put on by a nonprofit group called Fishing Partnership Support Services.

The fishermen donned inflatable immersion suits, put out fires, plugged leaks, and lit flares, supervised and coached by Coast Guard-certified instructors from various companies and organizations involved in fishing safety and equipment.

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and Massachusetts State Police also volunteered at the training. The Coast Guard brought a trailer, specifically designed for damage control training, which sprung leaks as the fishermen in teams of two took turns using various materials to stop the leaks. An occasional sharp change in pressure sent spurts up in the air, soaking the crowd of onlookers.

In the harbor, fishermen wearing inflatable immersion suits took turns stepping into the water and floating, as they practiced maneuvering in the suits and climbing into a life raft. Two state police divers hovered in the water nearby, which serves as both training for them and a comfort to the fishermen, who are not always experienced swimmers despite making a career out of being on the water.

Later in the daylong training came a life raft workshop and a firefighting lesson. The fishermen donned inflatable immersion suits, put out fires, plugged leaks, and lit flares, supervised and coached by Coast Guard-certified instructors from various companies and organizations involved in fishing safety and equipment.

The nonprofit started doing trainings in 2005 and now offers about 10 a year across New England. It has trained 2,700 fishermen in that time, said Vice President Andra Athos. In addition to the trainings, the group's other main effort is providing health insurance to commercial fishermen, only 10 percent of whom are insured, through the Affordable Care Act.

"A lot of these guys have lost friends or family members in accidents, and they're very committed to teaching this stuff and avoiding those kinds of tragedies," said one volunteer.

So how's the fishing these days?

Lively action was the order of the day at the Cape Cod Canal last week and some Large stripers were pulled from the water near the ice skating arena as well as around the "hundred steps" on the mainland side. Morning hours supplied plenty of top water action with school size bass and the jig&plastic crowd scored down deep with a couple of thirty pound "cows" taken later in the day.

Bluefish continue to linger in Nantucket Sound waters and the action picked up again around the Waquoit Jetty and along the beaches at Popponesset and South Cape. Further east, around the mouth of Bass River albies could still be seen chasing baitfish but these mini-tunas are pretty dodgy about hitting artificials and will soon be departing our waters.

This time of year I like to work the jetties along the south side of the Cape. Falmouth in particular has great access to the Sound from Menahaunt Beach all the way westward to Nobska Point. Along toward evening the odds of hooking up with a keeper size bass start to climb and ebbing tides at those jetties that bracket an outflow stream can occasionally scare up something seriously Large by drifting chunk or whole baits out with the current which, by the way, is a pretty effective sharking technique.

Back in the day, Falmouth locals would smack an eel against the rocks to stun it, then float it out on an outgoing tide aboard a shingle or small plank around dusk or dark. When it achieved sufficient distance, a quick jerk of the line would yank the eel off its sea-going platform into the water, reviving it and sometimes attracting sharks.

A few of the jokey-boys from town liked to load a dead five or six foot shark into the bed of a pickup truck and deliver it to a nearby phone booth. When the taverns emptied in the late night hours inebriated folks looking to call for a cab would find their phone booth occupied by strange denizen, indeed. Those were the days, eh?

And the New England Patriots Scorched Earth Tour pulls into Indianapolis this Sunday. There are those who feel Indy provided the impetus for the "Deflategate" hoo-hah that cost the Patriots a million bucks in fines plus the loss of draft choices – including a first rounder. So Pats fans hope the Colts get stomped into the turf as did Jerry Jones's Cowboys last week in Dallas. Payback, as they say, is a bitch and Jim Irsay's crew may be next in line for heaping helpings of Patriot served schadenfreude.

October 09, 2015

Eels In the Rivers and Stripers In the Canal

by Jerry Vovcsko

Anglers such as myself often view eels as cantankerous, obstinate critters that will knot themselves into an immovable mess and leak slime all over boat, gear and pretty much anything they come in contact with. Still, when it comes to catching big stripers, they are lighting in a bottle when livelined around where the jumbo bass dwell.

We sometimes complain about about how much they cost in the bait shop and daydream about setting an eel trap to work in some seagoing river and giving ourselves a never-ending source of bait for free. Well, pipedreams are fun but it seems some folks are actually catching the young eels and making themselves fistfuls of money in the process.

According to a recent Boston Globe article, Maine baby eels were worth more than $2,100 per pound in 2015, up from less than $100 per pound in 2009. The baby eels, called elvers, are sold to Asian aquaculture companies that raise them to maturity and use them as food. And those eel-trappers are particularly pleased that American eels will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided, a victory for fishermen who catch the increasingly valuable species.

The wildlife service rejected a petition from the California-based Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability to list the eels — prized in Asian cuisine — as threatened. The petitioners had argued that the eels have lost more than 80 percent of their habitat and that the stock is jeopardized by commercial fishing. But the wildlife service issued a report saying that "there have been large declines in abundance from historical times," but the species "currently appears to be stable."

The wildlife service acknowledges that habitat loss and fishing have cut back eel populations in some areas, but say the fish's challenges do not rise to the level of listing under the Endangered Species Act. The eels' population is much lower than it was in the 1970s and '80s after a decline in the '90s and 2000s, but it appears to have stabilized, the service said.

And locally the Otis Fish & Game Club has been given a week's reprieve while the Massachusetts National Guard considers the future of the outdoors club at Joint Base Cape Cod. Club officials had been given until this past Thursday to vacate the club's building, a relic from the base's role as a World War II training ground. But state Rep. David Vieira, R-Falmouth, organized a meeting of Guard and club officials. Talks between the groups are continuing, Kenneth Teixeira, Otis Fish & Game president, said last week.

The club has a permit with the state Division of Fisheries & Wildlife and helps screen hunters who use the base, but officials have not had official permission to use the building since the 1980s. The Guard has said it wants to use the space for a morale, well-being and recreation center for soldiers, airmen and Coast Guardsmen at Joint Base Cape Cod. Sure would be nice if the Club and the military could work something out to permit usage for both parties.

There's tautog to be caught in the Cape Cod Canal and striper sitting in schools around the mouth of the Ditch up at the east end. That situation is probably a function of the impending fall migration and, chances are, lots of those fish will be moving through the canal before long.

Water temperatures in Nantucket Sound hover in the high fifties these days and that's down sufficiently from mid-summer highs of seventy degrees and upwards to remind the stripers that it'll soon be time for them to return home to the Hudson River or Chesapeake Bay.

Meanwhile, they're still hanging around; they appear to enjoy snacking on the myriad baitfish stacking up in inshore waters and it won't be long before they're heading south down the marine highway leaving us to count our summer successes and fantasize about next year.

The ‘tog are voracious eaters of green crabs and can be found down toward the Maritime Academy and, of course, a little further out in Buzzards Bay around Cleveland Ledge and the Weepeckett Islands. Tautog is a prime ingredient in a bouillabaisse and their white meat fillets really add flavor to the delicious fish concoction.
They're still catching stripers down along the Elizabeth Islands and the west side of Martha's Vineyard has been productive on the night tides. There were reports of an over-forty pound striper taken in the annual fishing Derby. Devil's Bridge is among the usual suspects delivering prime bass to anglers working jigs down along the bottom. Action has slowed at the Middleground lately but I always like to try a drift or two just in case some doormat fluke might be hanging around.

And they're still catching funny fish in the Sound between Woods Hole and as far east as Monomoy. Right now is probably the Last Hurrah for albies, though…they, along with bluefish, will be moving out soon. Of course, the real problem has been the weather. Warnings of hurricane possibilities and the 12-foot swells we saw along the Truro to Nauset beaches kept the small boat fleets tied to the docks and they'll be getting back into action now that it looks like better forecasts are shaping up.

Those south facing estuaries are still good places to visit as they remain sheltered from high winds, hold plenty of baitfish and offer good pickings to some of the smaller bass and blues still lingering in our waters. Great Pond and Eel Pond are a couple of likely places to wet a line.

But come four o' clock on Sunday I can be found parked in front of the old flat-screen getting ready for the day's game. The New England Patriots' Scorched Earth Tour swings into Dallas this weekend and I doubt Belichick/Brady and Company will forget Jerry Jones' role in urging the NFL to punish the Pats for whatever "DeflateGate" was supposed to be all about. Fantasy football players will likely want to add Brady and Gronkowski to their rosters for this one. Dallas fans' cries of "running up the score" will be sweet music to New Englanders' ears. And, say, what's that cackling sound, Jerry? Could it be the Deflategate chickens coming home to roost?

October 04, 2015

Hurricane Joaquin Passing Through

by Jerry Vovcsko

With Hurricane Joaquin barreling up the coast bringing coastal flooding and hundred-mile-an-hour winds to the region there's no telling what fall fishing in Cape Cod waters will look like once Joaquin passes. Typically, fish feed like crazy during the few days before a hurricane arrives and then seem to disappear once it passes.

One of the best descriptions of hurricane conditions and the aftermath can be found in the late Phil Schwind's book "Cape Cod Fisherman" when he got caught out in one. Schwind made a living skippering a small charter boat back in the thirties, forties and fifties and describes what it was like before NOAA, the Coast Guard and a plethora of computer assisted weather forecaster tracked storms every step of the way.

At the moment it looks like Joaquin will track past us well offshore so the Cape will probably only register buckets of rain, high wind gusts and minor flooding during the high tides. But there's a chance. Question is: what effect will it have on the fall migration? We'll know by mid-week when it's due to have passed through the area.

As if things weren't dismal enough on the commercial fishing scene, a Boston Globe article says one of the two critical areas where New England fishermen search for cod may be in even worse shape than suspected. Fishing managers already knew cod stocks in Georges Bank were thin, but new data from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center says research boats caught less of the fish this past spring than in all but one spring season dating back to 1968.

A report from the center, says that the boats caught about 3.3 pounds of cod each time the net went in and out of the water last spring, compared to more than three times that amount two years earlier. Those numbers were routinely more than 20 pounds per trip in the late 1980s. Regulators and marine scientists have said overfishing hit the stock hard and warming oceans could be making it worse.

Meanwhile, the fishing's been pretty good locally and the Cape Cod Canal has been the marine version of Times Square, aka, the Crossroads-of-the-World. In the fishy environment of the Cape, it seems the word got out on the Coconut Telegraph that all manner of baitfish were holed up in The Ditch and every kind of predator showed up for the seven-mile buffet.

Stripers, blues, albies, dogfish and who-knows-what came calling last week and anglers had a heyday casting into breaking fish from the east end on down to the Maritime Academy at varying times. Needle plugs, jig and plastic combos, metal slabs…just about anything that could reach the sporadic blitz action took fish. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, this kind of spectacular action reminds anglers why it is they put up with lousy weather, long hikes to the too-crowded good spots, and newbies casting over their lines.

The passing storm will probably affect the outer beaches the most. Race Point, Head of the Meadow, Balston and Nauset beaches will almost certainly get churned up by the surf. I drove over to Coast Guard Beach Saturday to check out the ocean and fifteen-foot battered the shoreline with the beach area to the south a mass of raging froth. It was so wild not even one surfer was in sight. Signs along the parking lot warned would-be swimmers that "Great White Sharks visit these waters". Looked to me like even the Great Whites would have found those surf condition challenging.

Best bet right now is to hit the bays and estuaries in Nantucket Sound that offer some protection from the high winds and heavy surf. Great Pond in Falmouth and the Waquoit area will likely be harboring bass and blues and cruising these places in skiff or kayak should bring good results. But pay attention to the weather because we won't be out of the woods until Hurricane Joaquin puts us in the rear view mirror and falls apart up there in those chilly Canadian waters.

It's the bye-week for the Patriots and I think I'll put in some heavy couch time watching other teams beat up on each other while our guys get a chance to heal those nicks and bruises from the first three weeks of the season. The Jets and Dolphins go at it over in London, England and whichever one loses falls another game behind the Pats in the race to the Playoffs. Life is good.

With Hurricane Joaquin barreling up the coast bringing coastal flooding and hundred-mile-an-hour winds to the region there's no telling what fall fishing in Cape Cod waters will look like once Joaquin passes. Typically, fish feed like crazy during the few days before a hurricane arrives and then seem to disappear once it passes.

One of the best descriptions of hurricane conditions and the aftermath can be found in the late Phil Schwind's book "Cape Cod Fisherman" when he got caught out in one. Schwind made a living skippering a small charter boat back in the thirties, forties and fifties and describes what it was like before NOAA, the Coast Guard and a plethora of computer assisted weather forecaster tracked storms every step of the way.

At the moment it looks like Joaquin will track past us well offshore so the Cape will probably only register buckets of rain, high wind gusts and minor flooding during the high tides. But there's a chance. Question is: what effect will it have on the fall migration? We'll know by mid-week when it's due to have passed through the area.

As if things weren't dismal enough on the commercial fishing scene, a Boston Globe article says one of the two critical areas where New England fishermen search for cod may be in even worse shape than suspected. Fishing managers already knew cod stocks in Georges Bank were thin, but new data from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center says research boats caught less of the fish this past spring than in all but one spring season dating back to 1968.

A report from the center, says that the boats caught about 3.3 pounds of cod each time the net went in and out of the water last spring, compared to more than three times that amount two years earlier. Those numbers were routinely more than 20 pounds per trip in the late 1980s. Regulators and marine scientists have said overfishing hit the stock hard and warming oceans could be making it worse.

Meanwhile, the fishing's been pretty good locally and the Cape Cod Canal has been the marine version of Times Square, aka, the Crossroads-of-the-World. In the fishy environment of the Cape, it seems the word got out on the Coconut Telegraph that all manner of baitfish were holed up in The Ditch and every kind of predator showed up for the seven-mile buffet.

Stripers, blues, albies, dogfish and who-knows-what came calling last week and anglers had a heyday casting into breaking fish from the east end on down to the Maritime Academy at varying times. Needle plugs, jig and plastic combos, metal slabs…just about anything that could reach the sporadic blitz action took fish. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, this kind of spectacular action reminds anglers why it is they put up with lousy weather, long hikes to the too-crowded good spots, and newbies casting over their lines.

The passing storm will probably affect the outer beaches the most. Race Point, Head of the Meadow, Balston and Nauset beaches will almost certainly get churned up by the surf. I drove over to Coast Guard Beach Saturday to check out the ocean and fifteen-foot battered the shoreline with the beach area to the south a mass of raging froth. It was so wild not even one surfer was in sight. Signs along the parking lot warned would-be swimmers that "Great White Sharks visit these waters". Looked to me like even the Great Whites would have found those surf condition challenging.

Best bet right now is to hit the bays and estuaries in Nantucket Sound that offer some protection from the high winds and heavy surf. Great Pond in Falmouth and the Waquoit area will likely be harboring bass and blues and cruising these places in skiff or kayak should bring good results. But pay attention to the weather because we won't be out of the woods until Hurricane Joaquin puts us in the rear view mirror and falls apart up there in those chilly Canadian waters.

It's the bye-week for the Patriots and I think I'll put in some heavy couch time watching other teams beat up on each other while our guys get a chance to heal those nicks and bruises from the first three weeks of the season. The Jets and Dolphins go at it over in London, England and whichever one loses falls another game behind the Pats in the race to the Playoffs. Life is good.


With Hurricane Joaquin barreling up the coast bringing coastal flooding and hundred-mile-an-hour winds to the region there's no telling what fall fishing in Cape Cod waters will look like once Joaquin passes. Typically, fish feed like crazy during the few days before a hurricane arrives and then seem to disappear once it passes.

One of the best descriptions of hurricane conditions and the aftermath can be found in the late Phil Schwind's book "Cape Cod Fisherman" when he got caught out in one. Schwind made a living skippering a small charter boat back in the thirties, forties and fifties and describes what it was like before NOAA, the Coast Guard and a plethora of computer assisted weather forecaster tracked storms every step of the way.

At the moment it looks like Joaquin will track past us well offshore so the Cape will probably only register buckets of rain, high wind gusts and minor flooding during the high tides. But there's a chance. Question is: what effect will it have on the fall migration? We'll know by mid-week when it's due to have passed through the area.

As if things weren't dismal enough on the commercial fishing scene, a Boston Globe article says one of the two critical areas where New England fishermen search for cod may be in even worse shape than suspected. Fishing managers already knew cod stocks in Georges Bank were thin, but new data from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center says research boats caught less of the fish this past spring than in all but one spring season dating back to 1968.

A report from the center, says that the boats caught about 3.3 pounds of cod each time the net went in and out of the water last spring, compared to more than three times that amount two years earlier. Those numbers were routinely more than 20 pounds per trip in the late 1980s. Regulators and marine scientists have said overfishing hit the stock hard and warming oceans could be making it worse.

Meanwhile, the fishing's been pretty good locally and the Cape Cod Canal has been the marine version of Times Square, aka, the Crossroads-of-the-World. In the fishy environment of the Cape, it seems the word got out on the Coconut Telegraph that all manner of baitfish were holed up in The Ditch and every kind of predator showed up for the seven-mile buffet.

Stripers, blues, albies, dogfish and who-knows-what came calling last week and anglers had a heyday casting into breaking fish from the east end on down to the Maritime Academy at varying times. Needle plugs, jig and plastic combos, metal slabs…just about anything that could reach the sporadic blitz action took fish. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, this kind of spectacular action reminds anglers why it is they put up with lousy weather, long hikes to the too-crowded good spots, and newbies casting over their lines.

The passing storm will probably affect the outer beaches the most. Race Point, Head of the Meadow, Balston and Nauset beaches will almost certainly get churned up by the surf. I drove over to Coast Guard Beach Saturday to check out the ocean and fifteen-foot battered the shoreline with the beach area to the south a mass of raging froth. It was so wild not even one surfer was in sight. Signs along the parking lot warned would-be swimmers that "Great White Sharks visit these waters". Looked to me like even the Great Whites would have found those surf condition challenging.

Best bet right now is to hit the bays and estuaries in Nantucket Sound that offer some protection from the high winds and heavy surf. Great Pond in Falmouth and the Waquoit area will likely be harboring bass and blues and cruising these places in skiff or kayak should bring good results. But pay attention to the weather because we won't be out of the woods until Hurricane Joaquin puts us in the rear view mirror and falls apart up there in those chilly Canadian waters.

It's the bye-week for the Patriots and I think I'll put in some heavy couch time watching other teams beat up on each other while our guys get a chance to heal those nicks and bruises from the first three weeks of the season. The Jets and Dolphins go at it over in London, England and whichever one loses falls another game behind the Pats in the race to the Playoffs. Life is good.


September 28, 2015

Lazy Fall Days And the Scorched Earth Tour Marches On

by Jerry Vovcsko

September on Cape Cod…always an interesting time of year. And this year is no exception. Just to mention a few for-instances:

Right now thousands of birds of prey of 15 different species are busy flying over our heads. The annual fall migration of day-flying raptors — hawks, eagles, peregrine falcons, kestrels, kites — is one of New England's great wildlife spectacles and one that most people never notice. The migrating eagles and hawks may cover more than 200 miles a day on their autumn journey to central and South America.

Meanwhile, in our watery environs, a dead 12-foot white shark was found ashore at Pleasant Road Beach in Harwich this past weekend. According to the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC), the shark was transported to the Harwich Transfer Station Sunday morning. Dr. Greg Skomal, the state Division of Marine Fisheries shark expert, performed a necropsy on the animal at the transfer station. But the procedure did not reveal a cause of the death, according to AWSC.

A gent name of Darren Saletta who owns Monomoy Sportfishing out of Chatham and fishes commercially has an idea that bears some consideration. He wants to put together a plan to bring Alaskan salmon - Bristol Bay sockeye salmon to be precise – here for local folks to enjoy at reasonable prices.

"You'd be supporting small boat commercial fishermen," he told local Cape Cod Times columnist Rob Conery. " It's basically a community supported fishery model for other sustainable fisheries within our borders."

Prices are a little over $200 for 20 pounds of wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon. I went online to to put in my order and I'll be able to pick it up October 3rd. I lived in Washington State for eight years and can tell you that wild caught sockeye is nothing like the artificially colored stuff you see in the supermarkets. The fish are bled at sea and slipped immediately into a cold salt water slurry that keeps the fillets firm. Then they get bagged and flash frozen, ready to ship. I'll be ready to fire up the grill when they get here.

Took my wife up to Provincetown Sunday as she wanted to see the P'town Dahlia Festival. Later we parked over at Herring Cove Beach and I watched an angler working his open console boat in and around a small rip that had formed about thirty feet out from the shore. He pulled in a couple of stripers that looked keeper-size. I think he was drifting mackerel chunks in the current. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the mid-sixties, the kind of day where even if you don't catch anything it still feels great to be out on the water.

One of the guys casting plugs from the beach said the bluefish action around Race Point had been hot lately and stripers have been succumbing to live eels down along the outside beaches especially after dusk. These are probably bass coming down from northern waters getting ready to head south as part of the fall migration.

Things are quiet in Nantucket Sound although albies continue to cruise and bluefish will likely be with us until October chills things down. It looks like the Elizabeth Islands continue to hold their striper population and the rips out behind Nantucket Island are alive with a mix of bass and blues and will be for a while yet. These blues tend to run close to the ten pound range and a few stripers upwards of twenty pounds will be pulled from those rips over the next couple of weeks.

In addition to scoping out the fishing activity in Provincetown waters, I tuned in the game between the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars. Tom Brady broke a record as he joined the exclusive 400-touchdown club along with three other Hall of Fame bound quarterbacks. Stephen Gostkowski broke an NFL record with his 423rd consecutive extra point kick without a miss. And the Patriots dismantled the Jags as they continued the 2015 Scorched Earth Tour with a bye week waiting right around the corner.

I want to thank Roger Goodell and the rest of the NFL Clown Patrol that set out to sabotage the Pats per Roger the Dodger's instructions and, instead, have managed to loose the Kraken. With the weapons the Patriots have, it's questionable that anybody can stop their march to a fifth Super Bowl…and won't that be something to see if Roger Goodell has to hand over the Lombardi trophy to Bob Kraft?

Oh, and speaking of records, how about the young guy who spotted his first ocean sunfish near Boston Harbor and unleashed about fifty F-bombs in less than two minutes? That's got to be some kind of a record, doesn't it?

September 15, 2015

Strange Turtles Showing Up and Funny Fish Fever In Cape Waters

by Jerry Vovcsko

The never-ending saga of Joe's Lobster Mart added yet another chapter as the Sandwich Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved a special permit last week that could pave the way for the Lobster Mart to pick up where it left off near the Sandwich Marina.

The special permit had been sought by G-Four LLC, members of the Gallo family who own the property. Their attorney, Jonathan Fitch, said the Gallos plan to lease the lot at 0 Gallo Road to Joseph Vaudo for a wholesale and retail seafood market similar to the one he had operated for decades. Vaudo had his licenses to sell fish revoked by the state Department of Public Health after he pleaded guilty to receiving stolen oysters in Barnstable District Court. It remains to be seen if Vaudo will be able to get licenses to operate the new location.

Vaudo, of course, was bounced from the original fish market after being caught buying stolen shellfish, fined for that offense and kicked out of day-to-day operations of the seafood business. The new market still needs a permit from the Old King's Highway Historic District Committee. That committee is scheduled to take up the project Sept. 23.

Vaudo was subleasing the Cape Cod Canal location to a longtime colleague before it closed Aug. 31. He is also seeking a demolition permit from Old King's Highway so he can comply with his federal lease to remove the building on property belonging to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Who says crime doesn't pay?

It looks as if yet another invasive species has its sights set on New England waters. Biologists say Chinese soft-shell turtles found on Wollaston Beach in Quincy last week pose a potential threat as an invasive species to the state.

Onlookers spotted the turtle, a species native to the waters of eastern Asia, digging in the sand at Wollaston on Labor Day. Members of the New England Aquarium's Marine Animal Rescue Team came to collect it the following day. A second turtle, believed to be of the same species, was spotted on the beach later in the week but its whereabouts now are unknown.

Scientists are worried that if the species gets a foothold, like it has in the Philippines, it could consume a lot of small fish, insects and mollusks and cause a serious problem in the ecosystem. The turtles also eat snails, shellfish, crabs, fish detritus, and some plants and could compete with other native turtles as well as carry disease to other native species.

Nantucket Sound is awash in peanut bunker and other baitfish and that's ratcheted up the false albacore action end to end as well as around the Big Islands. Local bait shops report funny fish cruising along the beaches and chasing bait every which way. Great Point on Nantucket has been seeing dawn to dusk action all week long and the continuing presence of bluefish in the Sound only adds to the fun.

Striped bass are another matter, though, and it takes persistence and savvy to score with resident linesides. Not to worry, though…won't be too long before the annual fall migration comes into view and that's when pretty much anybody who can wet a line can expect to catch striped bass.

Bottom fishing has slowed considerably since black sea bass season closed. Fluke still abound over on the Middleground and around Cleveland Ledge and tautog can be found in numbers over at the Weepecket Islands, but anglers will have to wait until next year to pursue those tasty black sea bass for the freezer.

Some striper action has picked up recently around Barnstable Harbor although most of that action involves school-size bass. A few keepers have been nailed by folks employing the tried and true tube and worm method. Bluefish continue to hang around in Nantucket Sound as well as over in Cape Cod Bay and boaters working along the edge of the Brewster Flats on an ebbing tide have experienced lively mid-day action tossing plugs and jigs.

The Cape Cod Canal is hit-or-miss although local "canal rats" working jigs down deep during the night tides have taken some large bass including a twenty-five pound striper last week. At the east end, anglers drifting mackerel chunks have also had some success. When the fall migration kicks off, the Ditch becomes a super highway of south-bound stripers and the rip rap will be lined with hopeful anglers.

Next Sunday will see the New England Patriots heading for Upstate New York as the Pats take on Rex Ryan's Buffalo Bills. It'll be interesting to see what Bill Belichick has planned for the Bills' new starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor. Taylor played well against the Indy Colts but hasn't had much game experience and Belichick lights up at the sight of young QBs – should be an interesting game. I know where I'll be come 1 PM on Sunday.

September 08, 2015

Strange Days of Labor Day Weekend

by Jerry Vovcsko

It may have been sunspots, holes in the ozone layer or a disturbance in The Force. Whatever the reason, it seemed like this past Labor Day weekend on the Cape was one of the kookiest ever.

To start with, bathers enjoying the sun at White Crest Beach in Wellfleet were startled to find a fourteen foot great white shark stranded on the sandy shore.

A crowd of about thirty people gathered on the beach to watch and more looked on from the dunes with binoculars, said Suzanne Grout Thomas, beach administrator for Wellfleet. Bystander formed two lines and along with two rangers from the Cape Cod National Seashore and researches from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy helped get the shark back into the ocean. The conservancy used one of its tagging boats to tow the shark into the water assisted by the willing beach folk.

Unfortunately, the shark was bleeding from serious internal injuries and the return to the water was in vain. Scientists will be trying to determine what caused the shark's death.

While New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady straps on his helmet in preparation for up for the team's opening game Thursday after a judge lifted his four-game suspension, he might be pleased to know that a great white shark named in his honor will be swimming somewhere off the coast of Cape Cod.

Brady, the 13-foot male great white, was tagged off Nauset Beach in Orleans last week. He was the 15th shark to be tagged this season by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, an Orleans-based nonprofit agency dedicated to shark research. Sixteen sharks have been tagged so far this summer, according to Conservancy officials.

Disgruntled Patriots fans are probably hoping that Brady the Shark bumps into NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell swimming at one of the Cape's beaches and decides to take a nip out of Roger the Dodger's rancid carcass. He's not a lawyer so there's no likelihood of "professional courtesy" forgiveness.

And, of course, what would Labor Day on Cape Cod be without traffic issues? Which is why the smart guys decided to get a jump on their holiday departure by leaving early...which is also why Route 6 turned into a packed-full-parking-lot - thirteen miles long – by mid-afternoon.

But to get a true picture of the Labor Day weekend's wonkiness, here's a sample of the police report from the Bourne PD.

•Two children's bikes (and helmets) stolen
•Man walking dog tells driver to slow down, driver and passenger get out to argue with man
•Woman calls for help in shutting off car, running for hours in garage, FD responses to ventilate
•Dog triggered lock, locking himself in vehicle
•Party reports someone sleeping in her backyard
•Man in beige shirt and shorts jumping in front of cars on Sagamore Bridge (lost his wallet driving over the Sagamore and was trying to retrieve it)
•Report of someone walking down the road in a bathrobe and slippers at 4:30 p.m.
•Employee alleged to have stolen scratch tickets from employer
•Report of watermelon being thrown at cars
•Unwanted tweets on Twitter
•Anonymous "you are a bad person" texts received
•Suspicious male in a unicorn mask
•Caller reported seeing an ice cream truck driver drinking and driving
•Driver called to report seeing a bakery truck with the back door rolled up and baked goods falling into the road
•Propane tank thrown through window
•Angry customer punches, shatters window
•Person in Speedo walking in traffic on the Sagamore Bridge

Seems to me having a car running "for hours" in their garage might create a waking-up problem for anybody sleeping in the house. And I wonder if whomever was throwing the watermelon at passing cars might want to get together later with the guy driving the ice cream truck and the bakery truck dude for an impromptu picnic under the stars.

The gent walking in a Speedo probably got home a lot faster than the folks sitting in that 13-mile backup at the Sagamore Bridge. And I have no doubt the fellow in the unicorn mask was Roger Goodell trying to sneak over the bridge before Patriot fan spotted him. All in all, it was Labor Day on Cape Cod and another summer vacation slips away into the mist of history. Must be getting near time for that annual fall migration to put in an appearance…can winter be far behind?

Oh yeah, and what's happening with the fishing hereabouts?

Striper action has been slow although the Elizabeth Islands continue to deliver bass to early morning anglers and a couple of plus-thirty-pound fish were caught in Robinsons Hole by locals employing live eels in the rips around the northeast corner.

Albies and bonito ruled the action in Nantucket Sound especially in the stretch of water between Lackey's Bay and Woods Hole Harbor. The Middleground saw swarms of boats working the reef on westerly running tides in pursuit of fluke and the occasional jumbo bluefish.

Speaking of bluefish, they are all over the Sound right now and it's a challenge to dunk bait without having these voracious eating machines severing an angler's line.

The big schools of stripers that hovered around Race Point for a good share of the summer have broken up and dispersed – they'll be shoving off before long headed back to southerly waters…but not just yet.

Aside from the great whites that have been terrorizing the seal colony around Chatham, other shark species inhabit Cape Cod Bay and both thresher and mako sharks have been targeted this summer. The area between Race Point and the southeast corner of Stellwagen Bank has been productive with makos as well as Bluefin tuna this year.

Now is an ideal time to hit the surf along the outside beaches for striped bass. Head of the Meadow and Ballston beaches in Truro are active. And Nauset is worth a look particularly around Coast Guard Beach at dusk and into the night. Live eels are killer baits around the sandbars and holes.

Two points I feel the need to make: the Patriots, Deflategate notwithstanding, are looking very solid this year and chances are Belichick/Brady have a burr under their saddles. If I were the Indy Colts I might be a tad nervous going up against the Pats later this season. Bill B. may not say much but he's got a long memory and isn't averse to running up the score to make a point.

And keep an eye on the Red Sox next year. All those talented young outfielders (Betts, Bradley and Castillo) have the defensive ability to make a pitching staff look really good. And Jackie Bradley, Jr, is beginning to look like the reincarnation of Ted Williams these last few weeks of the season. New England fans have a lot to look forward to and there's always that fifth Super Bowl as a motivating force. Buckle up, sports fans, for what promises to be a helluva ride.

August 30, 2015

Lobsters On the March and You're Fired!

by Jerry Vovcsko

The Boston Globe ran a lengthy article a few days ago describing the crash of lobster stocks in southern New England while at the same time the lobster population has simply exploded in the cold waters off Maine and further north. What's the answer? Well, to some scientists, the geographic shift points to the warming of the ocean.

Whatever the reason, the result is the driving of lobstermen in Connecticut and Rhode Island out of business, ending a centuries-old way of life for them.

‘‘It's a shame,'' said Jason McNamee, chief of marine resource management for Rhode Island's Division of Fish and Wildlife. ‘‘It's such a traditional, historical fishery.''

In 2013, the number of adult lobsters in New England south of Cape Cod slid to about 10 million, just one-fifth the total in the late 1990s, according to a report issued by regulators in July. The lobster catch in the region sank to about 3.3 million pounds in 2013, from a peak of about 22 million in 1997.

The declines are ‘‘largely in response to adverse environmental conditions, including increasing water temperatures over the last 15 years,'' along with continued fishing, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission said in a summary of the report.

But in northern New England, meanwhile, the bad news for southern New England lobstermen signals a bonanza for Maine fishermen who have landed more than 100 million pounds of lobster for four years in a row, by far the highest four-year haul in the state's history.

‘‘It very much looks like what you would expect from a species that is responding to a warming ocean: It's going to move toward the poles,'' said Andy Pershing, chief scientific officer for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute of Portland, Maine.

‘‘The wheelhouse of the lobster fishery has shifted north,'' said Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and chairman of the Atlantic States commission's lobster management board.

Maybe the lobster stocks are in decline in Cape waters, but there's no shortage of sharks…and once again bathers at Coast Guard Beach were ordered out of the water for about an hour last week after a lifeguard observed a pool of blood near a group of seals. Swimmers were allowed back in the water about an hour later.

Some may wonder if the bluefish are starting to sense the start of the fall migration coming in view. I mention it because there's been an awful lot of action in Nantucket Sound featuring blues driving bait every which way recently. Blues in the Sound and stripers schooling up in Cape Cod Bay…sure sounds like pre-migration activity. Maybe the big southward runs will be starting a tad early this year.

Once again, working live eels at night is a good way to tie into some of those cow bass that will be feeding heavily in anticipation of the journey back to whence they came from last spring. The Cape Cod Canal continues to feature pre-dawn topwater action but live eels and deep-down jigging come into their own during nocturnal visits to The Ditch.

School bass are around in massive numbers the length of Buzzards Bay. From the western shores of the Elizabeth Islands on up to the lower end of the Canal, non-keeper size stripers are everywhere in numbers. Makes local anglers optimistic about the future of the striper stocks to see all those little guys milling around.

Lots of bait fish around in Nantucket Sound as well as throughout Cape Cod Bay. On the ocean-facing beaches folks pitching live eels have been doing very well from dusk into the night time hours. Swimming a big snake around and into the holes and sandbars on a flood tide is very likely to produce a rod-bending strike from bait-guzzling stripers up to and including the occasional forty pound version.

Meanwhile, end-to-end in Nantucket Sound, the funny fish have taken up residence and are at peak activity levels right now. Bonito and allbies abound, especially in that stretch of the Sound between Waquoit Bay and Woods Hole. Pitching a lure into one of their lightning-fast, bait-driving swarms can bring exciting, line-sizzling runs from those torpedo shaped speedsters.

And with a little luck, hooking up with one of the five-pounds-and-up critters can produce a reel screamer of breathtaking proportions. Folks who tangle with one of these guys for the first time – even experienced anglers – have been known to become paralyzed by the speed of the initial run and freeze while line melts off the reel like butter in the noonday sun. Yep, the funny fish are here and they won't be around for long so get them while the getting's good.

And finally, a word about DeflateGate…the more transcripts and documents that emerge from the hearings in Judge Berman's court, the clearer it becomes that Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL are on a mission to get-the-Patriots. As that fact becomes embarrassingly clear, it might be that Rodger the Artful Dodger will soon have lots of time to spend getting after those north-bound stripers himself because his handling of the Peterson-Rice-Brady situations may well end up in the immortal words of one D. Trump: "You're fired!"

August 27, 2015

2015 Mass Commercial Striped Bass Fishery Closed

by Jerry Vovcsko

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) announced last week that the 2015 commercial striped bass fishery is closed for the season. The closure went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday the 21st. At that time DMF anticipated that the season quota of 869,813 pounds will have been taken.

Now through the opening of the 2016 commercial striped bass fishery, fishermen are prohibited from possessing more than one striped bass at least 28 inches in length, a DMF release said. Fishermen are also prohibited from selling or attempting to sell any striped bass in Massachusetts.

In addition to the ban on the taking of striped bass, seafood dealers in Massachusetts are also prohibited from purchasing or receiving striped bass from fishermen until the 2016 season opens. During this period, dealers may possess and sell imported striped bass, according to the release. Imported bass must have been legally caught in another state and be tagged with the state of origin. If resold whole, the tag must remain attached to the fish, DMF said. If the fish is processed after it is imported, fillet containers must bear appropriate tags and the original tag from the whole fish must be kept by the dealer.

Through Tuesday, August 25, all striped bass in the possession of dealers, caught locally or otherwise, must be a minimum of 34 inches in length. Beginning Wednesday, August 26, dealers may import "sub-legal" sized fish as approved by the state of origin.

The two other commercial fisheries that are currently closed are scup (Winter I) and tautog. All other fisheries, including black sea bass, bluefish and dogfish remain open.
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August 17, 2015

The Old Tacklebox

by Jerry Vovcsko

I was cleaning out my ancient, wood tackle box the other day and as each fresh-water lure emerged I felt like I was taking a time-trip all the way back to kid-hood. First out of the box was that old faithful Jitterbug, the green and white one that took my first largemouth bass, a three pound beauty that to my nine-year old eyes looked like a world record candidate…or a state record at least.

That fish hit the J-Bug as it churned along the eastern edge of Sunken Island in Otsego Lake wobbling like a demented minnow, its concave metal lip spraying water left and right as it burbled along. I worried that the reel would seize, the line would snap or some other catastrophe would happen. But it didn't and I landed my (up to that time) biggest-ever-fish.

A battered red-and-white Dardevle followed the Jitterbug out of the box and recalled my first pickerel, an event that made me feel the way big game hunters must feel when they bag their first rhino. The pickerel came rocketing out of the weed bed like a piscatorial torpedo, all tooth and attitude, but the classic old spoon stood up to the strike and before long that toothy fish took its place on the stringer and, later, on the family dinner plate, bones and all.

A Rapala minnow appeared next, roughly chewed up as though Dracula himself had sharpened his incisors on its back and sides. Somewhere among the myriad teeth marks were those left by my first pike…a fish that I viewed as a pickerel on steroids. It exploded on the Rapala on a quiet lake situated near the Adirondacks in upstate New York one evening around sunset. No camera was handy but no matter, I have that image burned irrevocably in my memory banks as vividly as if it were on Kodak color film.

Yep, that old tacklebox holds a lot of memories…feather-light cork poppers that annoyed a few smallmouth bass into ill-considered strikes that landed them in my old, black, cast iron skillet, nicely coated in corn meal and bacon fat. My first bucktail jig…a lure that every angler insisted should be the top choice if only one lure was available. It took me a more than a few decades to learn how to work it…and then it became my go-to lure forever after.

As a carpenter loves his tools, I admire the form and function of these old standbys. Every so often I get them out and handle them just to be carried back in time to when I was a youngster falling under the spell of what would be an activity to last me a lifetime. I started at seven years old on a lake that James Fenimore Cooper wrote about in his Leatherstocking Tales novels…seventy years later that old tackle box stands as an archive of the memories of an Old Timer looking back fondly at his days spent fishing.

But that was then, this is now and what's happening in and around Cape Cod waters these days?

For one thing, sharks are on everyone's mind once again. According to a release from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC), researchers spotted almost twenty sharks off Chatham last week. And tourists were mightily entertained by one of those Great Whites demolishing a seal just off Coast Guard Beach. Summertime beach goers seem to have adapted to the presence of sharks sharing the ocean with them. Let's hope the Great Whites continue to demonstrate their menu preference for seals and leave the visiting bathers alone.

Once again stripers set up shop in the middle of the Cape Cod Canal and teased shore-bound anglers by staying just out of reach of all but the most talented distance casters. Double-digit bass worked over baitfish on the early morning hours but reaching out and touching one of the jumbos takes real skill. Pencil poppers and metal slabs are best bets for this type of canal fishing.

The funny fish are arriving in numbers now and the back sides of the big islands are heating up for both albies and bonito. Fluke on the Middleground continue to provide action along with scup and the occasional black sea bass.

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth experienced a federally mandated shutdown this past weekend as they are mandated to shut the plant down if water temperatures climb higher than 75 degrees. The shutdown was only the second in 43 years. No wonder the striped bass have been lethargic and hard to find. Whatever one's opinion about global warming, these kinds of water temperatures are not good news. The action for stripers was a little more positive in the cooler waters of Cape Cod Bay and the tube and worm crowd working out on Billingsgate Shoal did about as well as anywhere around the Cape.

The Elisabeth Islands saw slow going for stripers but more bluefish turned up mixed in with the occasional bass. Keeper-sized fish have been few and mainly down around Quicks and Robinsons holes as well as during the night tides on Sow and Pigs reef. Unfortunately, Sow and Pigs is no place for on the job training during the nocturnal hours.

Hire-a-guide is my best advice about this destination. A southwest breeze against a westerly tide can turn the place into a real churning cauldron and hidden boulders have put many a sea-going vessel on the rocks over the centuries. Forty pound bass aren't uncommon on the reef but, once again just to be clear, if you're thinking about fishing Sow and Pigs at night, be smart and hire a guide.

Looks to me like the DeflateGate saga is headed for trial in Judge Berman's court and most probably later on in Federal Appeals Court. Today's toddlers may be pre-teens before this thing sees final resolution. Just imagine how motivated Bill and Tom are to garner that fifth Super Bowl ring now.

August 08, 2015

The Chilly Outside Waters Heat Up

by Jerry Vovcsko

Hard to believe summer is half over…seems we‘d been waiting for it ever since the last snowstorm buried us. But here we are with water temperatures in Nantucket Sound clocking in at a tepid seventy-five degrees. And Buzzard Bay's just about the same. It's maybe a few degrees cooler in Cape Cod Bay but not very much.

Striped bass are less than pleased when the waters heat up and they tend to seek out the deeper, cooler haunts. Best bet now for topwater action is right around first light, which is the order of the day in such spots as along the Elizabeth Island chain; in the Cape Cod Canal; over around Monomoy Island and the big islands, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

The first visitors from the funny-fish contingent have begun straggling in…false albacore catches, although sparse, have been reported along the south side of the Vineyard, around Nomans Island and in the rips south of Nantucket. Pretty soon we'll see pods of the little tunoids turning up around Woods Hole and Lackey's Bay. Bonito should follow close behind and may well already have a few scouts in the area.

Bluefish pretty much take over the action in Nantucket Sound nowadays and there'll be some jumbo blues turning up as the season moves along. It's hard to accept t6hat the days – hot and sunny now – are getting shorter, but the clocks don't lie. Before long the kids will be heading back to school and anglers will begin turning their attention to that mega-event, The Great Fall Migration! But there's still time to get in some fishing before that happens and one of the areas that typically lights up now is along the outside beaches.

The stretch from Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro on down to Chatham sees the action heating up. Sand eels and mackerel baits work wonders along with live eels and sandworms. This is also a time when big plugs tossed into the surf produce keeper-and-above sized bass. Those holes and sandbars come into play for anglers who take the time to scout along the beaches during low tide.

Nauset and Chatham turn on for striped bass and the occasional jumbo bluefish, seals and great white sharks notwithstanding. It's no coincidence that highliner surf casters ply their trade starting at dusk and morphing into the night shift. That's when the stripers are active and feeding

Over on the Cape Cod Bay side Barnstable Harbor offers plenty of action for school bass and bluefish. Bottom fishing remains excellent around wreck structure with scup, flatfish and black sea bass in numbers where the Coast Guard sunk the remains of the James Longstreet, former bombing target for pilots-in-training. Occasionally hake, Pollock and dogfish will swallow a bait in this location.

On the Sound side, Handkerchief Shoals and the stretch along South Cape Beach have been bluefish magnets lately and some jumbo blues have been trolled up on hoochies and Christmas tree rigs. Jigging around the Waquoit jetty area continues to deliver bluefish almost at will and flattening the barbs makes release less of a headache when a bluefish with a mouthful of sharp teeth is thrashing around in the boat.

There's a nice combination of tuna and bluefish action around the Hooter and the strong currents in deep water make Muskegat Channel a productive striper producer when the tide is right. Those rips behind Nantucket _ Old Man's Rip in particular – hold an active population of bass and blues right now. Just keep a weather eye peeled as the winds do make up in a hurry and they can turn mighty fierce this time of year.

The northern reaches of Buzzards Bay with all the harbors and inlets that stretch from Old Silver Beach down to Quisset Harbor offer plenty of wind-protected fishing for fly rod aficionados. And speaking of the long-wand crowd, I saw an elderly gent working out on stripers on the Brewster Flats last week. He ambled out with the ebb tide and came back in on the flood. Took a heckuva lot of small stripers along the way and released them all. But, kids, if you try this method, pay attention to the water behind you…the Flats have an unsettling knack of filling tidal channels that cut you off from shore if you aren't watching-your-six. That can be lethal to folks hoofing it while clad in waders.

I'm guessing that we hear this week about a deal between the Tom Brady camp and Roger Goodell's forces-of-darkness. And if my speculation is correct, here will be no suspensions for TB. I doubt the League wants this hag-ridden suit to stagger into a real court because the more information that emerges, the more it looks like the whole thing was concocted by Goodell and his minions to sock it to the Patriots. But I could be wrong…I remember one time when I was…I think it was back in '83.

July 31, 2015

A Quick Dip In the Canal

by Jerry Vovcsko

For those wanting exercise, there's nothing quite as refreshing as an early morning swim. But it's always important, of course, to pick the right spot to take a dip. Not like the 23 year old gent who was staying at Bourne Scenic Park last week and decided to dive into the Cape Cod Canal for his morning workout. The six-knot currents of the Canal swept him away as other campground visitors called for help.

By the time Bourne firefighters could get a dive team and rescue boat to the scene, the man was able to pull himself out of the water about a quarter mile downstream. Rescue personnel transported him to the hospital for an evaluation. Bourne police forwarded a report of the incident to the Army Corps of Engineers. Kids, don't try this at home.

Also a little further north in Cape Cod Bay, the carcass of a very rarely seen whale with a long, slender, toothed snout washed up on Jones Beach in Plymouth Friday. The female whale — 17 feet long and weighing almost a ton — is thought to be a Sowerby's beaked whale, according to the New England Aquarium.

These are deep water creatures and are almost never seen especially washed ashore in a relatively shallow bay. It appeared to be fresh, in good condition, and "did not have any obvious entanglement gear or scars or obvious trauma from a vessel strike," according to the aquarium statement. The whale's weight and inconvenient location meant they needed to wait until about 5 p.m. for high tide to remove the carcass. The harbormaster's office towed it to the pier and lifted it by crane onto an aquarium trailer.

Aquarium biologists were performing a necropsy on the whale Saturday afternoon, assisted by staff from the Cape Cod-based International Fund for Animal Welfare. The results were not immediately available.

Beaked whales are "so rarely seen that New England Aquarium biologists have been conferring to determine the exact species," aquarium officials said in a statement. The whales are usually found on the continental shelf, hundreds of miles out to sea in the deep ocean, officials said.

Little is known about the Sowerby's beaked whale, which are most often seen by commercial fishermen who catch them alongside other sea creatures. New England is believed to be the southern end of the mammal's range, which extends north into the sub-Arctic. Staff at the aquarium last handled a beaked whale in 2006 in Duxbury, the statement said.

While that young gent who dived into the Canal was thrashing around in the fierce current, it's too bad he didn't have a rod and reel with him as The Ditch has been serving up some hot topwater action lately. One local bait and tackle shop weighed in a near-thirty pound striper last week and breaking fish have been the rule-du-jour in the early morning hours.

Metal slabs offer excellent results in terms of casting distance as well as fish-attracting capability. Which is why I'm never without a couple of Kastmasters stashed in the tackle box. In the Canal the ones with bucktail attached have always been a favorite of mine.

Over on Martha's Vineyard anglers dipping parachute jigs around Devil's Bridge have been doing okay for themselves while across the Sound at Quicks Hole the action has been hot and heavy at first light. The Middleground continues to produce the occasional keeper size fluke but the stripers haven't been cooperating lately.

With the month of August lurking right around the corner we can expect a dropoff in surface action before long. The bluefish will stick around for the most part but heavyweight bass will head for the deeper, cooler waters. This is when the tube-and-worm lad and lassies come into their own. The cooler waters of Cape Cod Bay make it a more attractive proposition than the south side of the Cape

Large quantities of water in movement make such locations as the edge of the Brewster tidal flats a very attractive proposition for boat anglers. Some heavy-weight bass hang out along the drop-off and ambush baitfish during tidal changes. A little time spent studying an area chart can pay off big-time for anglers working the flats.

It often gets lost in the salt water frenzy during striper season, but never forget that the freshwater environment on the Cape remains robust all year long. This is the peak of largemouth bass activity in Cape waters and a visit to one of the local ponds can be a real treat…especially when the winds blow strong out on the ocean.

The Red Sox are sinking like a stone; the Patriots opened training camp; Deflate Gate rages on around the Pats…another typical year in New England sports gets underway. Rejoice, sports fans, rejoice! It just doesn't get much better than this.

July 24, 2015

Doldrums On the Horizon

by Jerry Vovcsko

I won't be all that surprised if reports start coming in about Narwhales being harpooned in Cape Cod Bay. We're already hearing about cobia and sailfish – sailfish, for God's sake! – being caught in Cape waters. I don't know if it's because of global warming or just some meandering eddies of the Gulf Stream that's responsible, but we are definitely seeing species that were previously only found south of the Carolinas showing up these days around Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Sound.

The sailfish was caught in the Northeast Canyons off Cape Cod and the cobia was boated at Horseshoe Shoal (the site where a group called Cape Wind wants to build a giant windmill farm smack-dab in the middle of Nantucket Sound.) Add them in to the lionfish, wahoo and red drum that New England anglers have taken recently and it's clear things ain't like they usta wuz in Cape Cod waters.

In the meantime, some of the more mundane species have been doing their thing from Provincetown to Cuttyhunk. Those stripers that were just hammering mackerel (and anglers' baits) up around Race Point have faded away to some extent. There are still bass around the tip of the Cape but the frenzied feeding that's been going on since the first of June has dissipated and things are more back to normal – still some action but more muted and irregular.

Those massive schools of twenty and thirty pound fish have dwindled to individual bass taking up residence in the usual places and these stripers are more likely to be right around the cusp of keeper-size.

Some of that Provincetown action seems to have gravitated over toward the Cape Cod Canal (the last place, by the way, where a sailfish was caught on hook and line around here – that was back in 2013.) As is standard for this time of year, the best Canal action often comes around break-of-day when topwater lures become very effective and the ability to reach a long way out on the Canal is paramount. Don't expect great results if you're using a seven foot rod that might be just the thing for working live eels but falls a long way short of reaching out and touching breaking fish.

Some say the action along the Elizabeth Islands has been somewhat slow this season. But I've heard that story in the past and come to find out it's not a lack of fish, it's a case of anglers sitting way out away from shore and casting far short of the rocks sitting tight against the beach. For the umpteenth time I'll say it: Get in as close to those rocks the draft on your skiff will permit and land those casts up on the beach if need be and work back into the salt. THAT'S where the stripers can be found.

I almost hate to mention it as we seem to have waited just about forever to get the striper season underway this year (that massive snow/debris pile in Boston only officially melted out on July 14th), but we're very close to entering that dreaded interval known as The Doldrums. Yes, folks, it won't be long now and we'll be asking ourselves what happened to all those striped bass that used to swarm around the Cape.

The answer, of course, is, they're still around but probably headed off to find cooler waters. So savvy anglers will insure that parachute jigs, deep running plugs and metal slabs occupy a prominent spot in the old tackle box. And, of course, for those who aren't phobic about employing bait, there's always live eels…about the closest thing to a sure-thing as it gets in the late season. The water temperatures continue to creep toward the seventy-degree mark and once they get there it'll get increasingly hard to nail a striper in the usual places.

Fortunately, the bluefish will remain comfortable with higher temperature waters and they'll continue to hit pretty much anything thrown their way. The stretch of beach between Nobska Point and Falmouth Harbor as well as the stretch between Menahaunt Beach and Popponesset will feature pods of bluefish cruising along well within casting range, especially in the late afternoon, early evening hours. Crush those barbs down and have fun casting these feisty blues. They'll give you a good run for your money and nothing beats them fresh off the grill when it comes to taste.

Pre-season practice kicks off very soon for NFL teams and Patriot Nation enters Day 31 waiting for Roger Goodell to decide how he's going to extricate himself from the mess he's made of the Tom Brady "Deflategate". It's hard to believe the owners pay that man forty-four million dollars a year but as P. T. Barnum opined, there's a sucker born every minute and it looks like the NFL managed to collect thirty two of them for the ownership designation.

July 15, 2015

And Then it Got Kind of Strange

by Jerry Vovcsko

Strange days indeed around New England, it seems. A visitor to the Gloucester shore this week stumbled upon a torpedo ray — a rare find for beachgoers because the animal usually dwells far below the surface - because torpedo rays are bottom feeders, most can only be found in 30 feet of water or deeper. Torpedo rays are electric, meaning they can shock or stun their prey with a jolt of up to 200 volts and they can grow to 5 or 6 feet long, and up to 200 pounds – best not step on one of these prickly denizen.

Speaking of electricity, a bald eagle was apparently electrocuted when a lamprey eel it had captured came in contact with power lines in Milbridge, Maine. Wildlife warden Scott Osgood said it was one of the more unusual bald eagle deaths he has ever investigated. The banded raptor was found dead in April, with the 2½-foot eel by its side. Osgood told The Lewiston Sun Journal that he suspects the eagle caught the eel in a nearby bay and was flying over power lines with the eel dangling from its talons and when the eel came in contact with the power line predator and prey were killed.

And in Connecticut, a bite from what was believed to be a copperhead snake sent a teenager to the hospital. Wildlife officials said the 14-year-old was on a field trip to Devil's Den Preserve in Weston when he was bitten by the snake earlier this week. He was treated at Norwalk Hospital and was expected to recover. The snake was not captured. One of two venomous snakes found in Connecticut, copperheads can be two to three feet long and are generally found in edges of swamps, rocky hillsides, and open woods, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said.

But snakes aren't the only ones doing the biting around these parts. The Provincetown-based Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) Saturday saved a humpback from yet another danger. According to a CCS release, the organization's Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team was alerted to an entangled whale five miles north of Provincetown by a CCS research team.

When rescuers arrived, they found a hogtied humpback whale anchored in place. According to the release, they also found a white shark circling the trapped whale. The humpback had rope running through its mouth and twisted to its tail. The great white took a good sized chunk out of the whale while it was hobbled.

With the 15-foot white shark still in the area, rescuers worked to free the whale from the 35' response vessel IBIS. Although rescuers usually employ smaller vessels in such situations, the IBIS was chosen to keep rescuers safe from the circling shark.

From the IBIS, the team was able to cut the rope from the whale's mouth. Once the shark left, the team shifted to a small, inflatable boat, giving it better access to the entangled whale. Aboard the inflatable, rescuers were able to cut the rope from the whale's tail and it swam away.

The next day, the tables would be turned as a juvenile male shark about seven feet long stranded on a Chatham beach. Rescuers towed the shark into deeper water and it swam off seemingly none the worse for its stranding. When last seen a scientists was splashing water on it attempting to keep its gills wet.

There's nothing strange about the fishing scene around Cape Cod, though. Striper action continues going great-guns up around Race Point, Herring Cove and Long Point. In fact, the ongoing action has generated a veritable flotilla of boats working over the bass drawn to the location by large schools of mackerel. As the water continues to warm, however, the macs may be heading for cooler climes and when that happens the striper bonanza will likely be finito.

Mackerel have also been providing plenty of action for anglers in Barnstable Harbor. Livelining macs for stripers is one of the more successful approaches available and skiffs and kayaks abound in the harbor and along Sandy Neck beach.

Over in the slot at Billingsgate the usual suspects continue to score on bass up to thirty pounds by tube and worming across the shoal. Bluefish are showing up in the bay now and folks tossing metal slabs or plastic bait tails from jetties between Sandwich and Brewster are taking their share of the sharp-choppered blues as well as schoolie sized bass that cruise the shoreline. There's a contingent of regulars who work the edges of the Brewster Flats either trolling, working tube and worm rigs or casting plugs on falling tides.

On the Nantucket Sound side Monomoy has come into play now and produces ample striper catches during the early morning hours. The rips that form during the daylight hours hold keeper sized bass along with the occasional jumbo blue. On the ocean side things get a little tricky around Chatham thanks to the presence of a large colony of seals along with the transient great white sharks that dine on the blubbery critter. With stripers available in good numbers Cape-wide, it's probably just as well to avoid the shark/seal gathering and pursue the bass elsewhere.

The Cape Cod Canal continues to be one of those choice "elsewhere" locations. It's not as blitzy in there as it was a couple weeks back but there's been a fair amount of topwater action in the early morning hours lately. That style of fishing calls for the ability to reach out and touch those fish that show up near mid-Canal so adequate long-cast gear is a must. Few things are as frustrating as trying to reach breaking fish in mid-Canal and coming up twenty feet short while local "Canal-Rats" wielding eleven and twelve foot sticks lob darters and pencil poppers into the melee and haul in fat twenty pound bass, The Canal is not light-gear territory.

Things have picked up lately along shore in West and North Falmouth in Buzzards Bay. Lots of shorts in residence at the moment (which can be great fun on fly rod and freshwater spinning rigs) but there are some keepers being taken between Quissett Harbor all the way up to Old Silver Beach.

Cleveland Ledge continues to reward bottom fishing efforts with limit catches of tautog, black sea bass and fluke. Tossing plugs near the Maritime Academy on westerly running tides has been productive for anglers as well as for those working live eels around the mouth of the Canal.

The Elizabeth Islands continue to deliver up striped bass to those anglers unafraid to work in among the rocks and boulders that line the island shores. It can be a bit daunting in there when the swells roll in from the east, but it's where the fish can be found and eventually folks who spend some time fishing the islands become adept at reading and locating the site of the real hull-eating boulders.

Although the Red Sox lost their series with the dreaded Yankees just before the All-Star game break and Clay Bucholtz went down with an elbow problem in the first game, the Sox are still coming on strong and the second half of the season could be a real crapshoot. Wither goest, Danny Cater?

July 07, 2015

Plenty of Action Around the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

A sixty-three year old gent from Massachusetts headed on down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a bit of vacation a couple weeks ago. He was swimming not far off the beach when a shark attacked him and administered several severe bites. His take on the attack?

"It's like trying to fight off a several-hundred-pound chainsaw with a bad attitude."

With the growing seal population around Chatham beaches on Cape Cod and the increasing number of Great White shark visits the seals attract, it may not be too long before some random tourist has the opportunity to experience the chainsaw-with-bad-attitude analogy in person. Seems like it's only a matter of time.

The Fourth of July weekend just passed was a traffic nightmare as Cape residents have become used to, but things have settled back to normal now and the fishing continues to be productive, especially in such places as Race Point, the Cape Cod Canal, Monomoy and the Elizabeth Islands.

A surprise catch of an early season bonito has been reported and confirmed this past week but that's got to be an outlier as it's likely to be August before we see the funny-fish arriving in any numbers.

The striper action around Race Pointy continues hot and heavy bolstered by the presence of large numbers of mackerel in the area. Anglers live-lining macs have had great success and there's been an armada of open consoles, kayaks, skiffs and virtually anything that floats congregating up at the tip of the Cape.

Striper action around Monomoy has picked up recently and there's no shortage of school bass in that location. A number of anglers have been employing live eels along the backside beaches at night and some bass in the thirty pound range have been caught around Balston and Head of the Meadow beaches.

The Vineyard is the scene of heavy bluefish action with Menemsha and Wasque delivering double-digit blues. Devil's Bridge has been productive from dusk into the night hours for anglers pursuing striped bass. And the Elizabeth Island chain is alive with stripers now. Pre-dawn is the best bet to tangle with bass on the bite and live eels have produced some Large bass in Quicks Hole on west running tides.

Pretty much anywhere between Tarpaulin Cove and Cuttyhunk is worth tossing plugs right now. Stripers swarm among the rocks and boulders that line the shore and the trick is to get in tight to the beach with lures…dropping a cast on the beach itself and starting the retrieve from there is an effective method in these parts.

Large bass have moved into the Canal during the past week and the Herring Run was the scene of a couple of forty pound stripers caught from the rip rap. Taking advantage of slack tide to work jigs down deep is effective as well as getting live eels down into the deep holes along the bottom. Be advised that this is likely to result in lost gear from snags on the bottom but the local motto is if you ain't snagging bottom, you ain't fishing right. Local anglers consider terminal tackle losses the cost of doing business in the Canal.

The west side of the Elizabeths has also been productive for striper enthusiasts. Keeper size bass are to be found down along Naushon Island while more school bass hang out up around Woods Hole and the Weepecket Islands. The Weepeckets harbor plenty of tautog and large scup along its rocky bottom so even if the stripers aren't hitting, anglers can fill their coolers with good-eating fish.

Bluefish continue to cruise Nantucket Sound and Nobska Point has its share of the toothy critters in residence. These blues tend to run in the three to four pond range and they'll hit just about anything thrown their way. It's not a bad idea to bend the barbs down on a couple of old, beater plugs and enjoy the action with these lively blues.

And finally, it looks like Red Sox Nation is seeing a resurgence in the Home Team as the Sox are only six games back with a three game series on tap with the front-running Yankees coming up this week. Prospects for the season looked bleak a while back but the pitching's solidified lately and the lads of summer have started to hit. Could it be another World Series run coming up?

July 01, 2015

Rattlers in the City and Stripers Up the Creek

by Jerry Vovcsko

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has some good news for folks who might enjoy wetting a line over the 4Th of July holidays:
Free Saltwater Fishing Days: July 4 & 5
Celebrate Independence Day by fishing with family and friends! This year, Massachusetts's Free Saltwater Fishing Days will be Saturday, July 4 and Sunday, July 5. On these two days, no permit is required to fish recreationally in our marine waters, out to 3 miles.

If you're looking for a spot to drop a line from shore or a boat ramp to put in your kayak, canoe, or larger vessel, check out the Office of Fishing & Boating Access' directory of access points.

All other days of the year, saltwater anglers over the age of 15 are required to possess a Massachusetts Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permit, unless fishing under the authority of a recreational license from New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Connecticut, or unless otherwise exempt. Your purchase of a Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permit directly funds improvements to saltwater fishing access projects and other programs that support marine recreational fishing in the state.

For more information on fishing in saltwater, contact Matt Ayer (Division of Marine Fisheries) at 978-282- 0308 x107 or

And the state Environmental Police took time out from catching miscreants poaching black sea bass to catch and relocate a five-foot long rattlesnake that was slithering in the brush near a Quincy office building.

In a video posted to their Twitter and Facebook accounts, officers from the agency can be seen capturing the rare timber rattlesnake and placing it into a cooler, slamming the lid shut. They said the snake was taken farther into the woods of the Blue Hills Reservation, away from the building's entrance.

The snakes, which have enlarged fangs that can produce venom, are listed as endangered in Massachusetts due to their declining population, he said.

The state is extremely protective of the species, and anyone caught killing or handling the snakes could face significant fines or jail time under state law. Officials are currently dealing with two ongoing cases in regards to people illegally killing timber rattlesnakes.

"These animals belong here, they are beautiful critters and they serve a purpose," Amati said.

According to the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, timber rattlesnakes are large, heavy snakes that belong to the viper family.

The endangered snakes, which have a triangular-shaped head and a noisy tail that lets off a rattling sound, have been documented in Berkshire County, the Connecticut River Valley, and the Boston area.

Adult timber rattlesnakes are typically jet black or sulfur yellow, and don't possess stripes on their heads like those found on other types of rattlesnakes. The snakes can also regulate the amount of venom that they release when attacking prey.

Massachusetts only has two types of venomous reptiles — northern copperheads and the timber rattlesnakes, he said.

After all those recent reports of bathers at North Carolina beaches being bitten by sharks (including youngsters who lost limbs in the attacks), Cape Codders might be excused for displaying acute anxiety over the arrival of the season's first Great White sharks near the seal colony at Chatham. Actually, these toothy visitors have been a catalyst for the robust summer Cape economy. At one point it seemed like everybody who had something to sell – be it T-shirts, souvenir mugs, inflatable toys or shark-watching trips – capitalized on the visage of the great white for promotional purposes.

But new state restrictions may change all that. On June 4 the Division of Marine Fisheries announced sweeping regulatory changes on shark tours. Specifically banned are" "Cage diving, shark chumming, baiting and feeding, towing decoys, applying research devices on sharks, or attracting sharks to conduct these activities." End quote.

Maybe that doesn't necessarily put anyone out of business but now they'll have to attract sharks without using bait, chum or seal decoys, and they won't be allowed to put cages in the water. Which is probably a good thing as sooner or later one of those naïve "cage divers" would likely find to their dismay just how much power an adult great white can generate.

Meanwhile, the action continues around the Cape.
The ledges around Woods Hole hold plenty of school bass with the occasional bluefish taking up residence. Just keep in mind that the six-knot currents pouring through there are not conducive to good health if attention should wander. Fish or no fish, pay attention to boat traffic and tide conditions. Stay safe.

Lots of school bass in Nantucket Sound these days and pods of small blues (2 to 4 pound range) cruising around the Nobska Point/Lackey's Bay area. Later this month we may see the first of the funny-fish when false albacore show up around here.

Pretty good fluke action around Lucas Shoal and the Middleground. Some keeper sized flatties have been reported on the wreck site of the James Longstreet target ship in Cape Cod Bay and black sea bass are always in attendance there as well as large scup. Many angler mourned the demise of the Longstreet when the Coast Guard sunk it, but it has become a favorite site of bottom fishermen ever since.

Things are still lively up around Race Point and around toward Herring Cove for bass and blues both but that real striper frenzy that had a plethora of skiffs, kayaks, open consoles and fishing boats of every sort stacked up off the Race has diminished some. The bass are still around but anglers have to do a little more work to score.

The tube and worm folks continue to ring up keeper sized striped bass at Billingsgate Shoal and the Brewster Flats have been producing on a falling tide. Speaking of falling tides, a few savvy kayakers have done very well for themselves by working jig and plastic combos well up into the marsh at Scorton Creek and then riding the ebb tide back down to the Bay. These are local dudes who've made their reputations right there between the marsh and the Bay. More of that "local knowledge" we talked about in previous blogs – you can't beat it.

June 24, 2015

GPS and Other Whangdoodles

by Jerry Vovcsko

A trip to the local Cabela's or Bass Pro will display an array of whiz-bangs and whangdoodles sure to fulfill any angler's heart's desire. But today's fisherman will have to go some to match the kind of savvy the old timers carried with them after decades spent in pursuit of the many wily marine inhabitants that made Cape Cod legendary in the minds of those who worked the oceans in pursuit of their piscatorial inhabitants. We think it wonderful that a modern electronic wonder like the GPS can lead us back to the same spot where we caught fish the last time out; but what those old time fishermen could accomplish without the assistance of any electronic wizardry puts all to shame.

Take, for example, old Caleb Hackett, the crotchety skipper of a Nantucket sailing schooner and crew that worked the waters around Georges Bank for months at a time catching and salting cod until the ship's hold was crammed full nearly to the scuppers. The old gent searched out the best spots using a sounding lead with a hollowed out end filled with tallow and tossed overboard, then retrieved for the captain's perusal. He'd eye the bits of rock, soil and sand stuck to the tallow from the bottom and know exactly where he was even though Georges Bank was several square miles in size and no land in sight to use for reference points.

Seems the old fellow had become near legendary with the accuracy of his navigation and one day his crew decided to play a bit of a prank on him and smuggled a bit of soil from the Captain's backyard garden aboard and "salted" the sounding lead with it upon retrieval. The old gent eyed it, took a sniff and tasted a little then slammed his cap down on the deck and shouted: "Boys, Nantucket's done sunk and by God here we are right over Ma Hackett's vegetable garden!"

Local knowledge, folks…you just can't beat it.

In between the line of thunderstorms that sailed through Massachusetts mid-week, along with a genuine tornado warning, some folks managed to toss a line into the Cape Cod Canal but results were nothing to crow about. Earlier last week a 47 pound beauty was caught (and released.) In general, the Ditch has been hit-or-miss lately.

In the Sound, the action had been good before the storms and will probably resume now as the weather forecasts look stable for the upcoming week. Plenty of bluefish around and surfcasters have had good luck all along the south-facing beaches from Waquoit to Woods Hole. This is a time when metal slabs really draw bluefish activity and mylar-infused bucktail jigs score handsomely as well.
The Middleground has been a fishy supermarket lately with stripers, bluefish, fluke and big scup providing the action. The deep holes at the western end of the reef harbor large bass and a westerly running tide is best for anglers drifting the current with squid or fluke belly strips for doormat flatties.

Striper action continues red hot around Race Point – or it did up until the storms went barreling through. Tube and worm angler had also been taking keeper size bass around Billingsgate Shoal and stripers have been hanging along the western edge of the Brewster Flats – best bet there trolling the edge is on an ebbing tide.

Striper action on the outside beaches has been iffy for a while now with seaweed and mung buildup complicating things. Further south, Monomoy has been delivering bass in the 26 to 28 inch range to plug casters around Chatham Light and the Bathtub harbors a swarm of schoolie bass, good news for the fly rod folks.

Local scientists tell us the first of the 2015 season's Great White shark visitors has been spotted just offshore from Orleans. Freckles, a 16 foot female, was spotted over the weekend cruising around 100 to 200 yards out from the shoreline. I know I'm sure pleased to know there's a creature weighing over 3000 pounds and sporting a mouthful of razor sharp teeth sharing the waters with us. But I believe I'll just stick to my morning shower for a wet-down experience and I think I'll leave the "nice dip in the ocean" to the tourists flocking in across the bridges.

Speaking of sharks, there sure was a crowd of high-powered lawyers gathered in NYC for Tom Brady's DeflateGate hearing with Roger Goodell. Be assured Patriot Nation will be awaiting Goodell's decision with intense interest. Odds are, this ain't over, folks.

June 15, 2015

Plenty of Action Around the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

One of the intriguing aspects of fishing Cape Cod waters is the not-knowing what's tugging on your line until you reel it in. Sure, we can expect maybe striped bass, bluefish, fluke, sea bass, scup, bonito or false albacore. But anglers have occasionally been startled to find Spanish mackerel, mahi-mahi, wahoo and even lionfish stealing their baits.

And picture angler Chris Cavanaugh's surprise when the Norton, Massachusetts angler pulled a trophy-sized red drum – a southern species more commonly associated with Florida and the Gulf States – from the chilly waters of Buzzards Bay.

He was fishing from shore near his vacation rental, catching small scup on cut squid, when he ran out of bait and switched to a Berkley Gulp Shrimp. The red drum picked up the Gulp Shrimp and after a tough battle, Cavanaugh measured and released the 45-inch fish, not exactly sure what he had just caught.

Red drum are ordinarily a rare catch north of New Jersey, but at least two have been reported in New England waters in past 5 years. Some fishery scientists think that warming ocean waters may be one reason that red drum are venturing farther north.

Nantucket Sound has been alive with bluefish lately and the stretch of shoreline from Waquoit on over to Bass River continues to produce for anglers tossing plugs or metal slabs from the beach. South Cape Beach and Popponesset are hot spots lately and boaters working plugs around the Waquoit jetty have also been scoring throughout the daylight hours.

After seeing the Environmental Enforcement officers bust poachers who had racked up in excess of 300 black sea bass in recent weeks, it's a wonder there's any of those fish still around but reports of anglers limiting out on both sea bass and tautog continue to trickle in from area bait shops. Looks like Buzzards Bay stocks of bottom fish appear in good health to date.

The Cape Cod Canal has produced striper catches up to and including a few forty-inch fish. But the weather may play havoc with the Ditch as a number of fronts pass through the region this week. Where Sunday saw bright sun and temperatures in the 80s, we woke up Monday to steady rain and the thermometer reading sixty…good old New England, huh?

There's been a large pod of striped bass providing plenty of entertainment for anglers working lures around Race Point. The usual surf crowd competes these days with kayakers who have been scoring with hairball jigs and jig-and-plastic combos. Provincetown Harbor is alive with sand eels and that adds up to very productive fluke action. It must be a daunting proposition to be a bait fish surrounded by voracious striped bass, bluefish and fluke. Might be a challenge to find a safe place anywhere in the water column.

The Canal continues to produce – if you can stand the mosquitoes…that's why there are so many cigar smokers fishing there. Soak herring chunks if you've got any, or swing a three ounce jig along the bottom hoping it'll drop into one of the holes where the Big Boys lurk. Where are those holes? That's the part the locals won't tell a newcomer. You'll have to put in your time and pay some dues to find that out. But when you do…Shazam!

The outside beaches from Truro on south have been somewhat problematic as the winds push mung onto the shoreline and clog up the shallows. But those weather fronts may break up the weed accumulations and give anglers a shot at some of the keeper size bass that cruise through there. Right now is when it can be most rewarding to dunk a live eel into the wash anywhere from Head of the Meadow beach on down to Nauset Inlet. But if the shoreline is weeded in it becomes mostly an exercise in frustration as the wily eel will bury itself in the mung every time.

Perhaps the hottest spot for striped bass action at the moment is down along the Elizabeth Island chain on the Nantucket Sound side. Some of the biggest bass have been taken around Quicks and Robinsons holes. There's nothing clandestine about these spots…anybody running a small boat down that way knows where the fish are.

The technique is simple: bring the boat in as close to shore as possible; cast right up tight to the beach (or even up on shore); retrieve moderately fast and stand by for the strike. I've fished down there for thirty-five years and needed nothing trickier than that; it's as close to a sure-fire, striper-catching situation as it gets.

June fishing in Cape Cod waters is just about as good as it gets this side of the fall migration. Yessir, we're in the tall grass now, pardner…time to get out there and wet a line. See ya somewhere around Cuttyhunk…booyah!

June 06, 2015

Patched Up Ticker

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's nice to be up and writing again after a rendezvous with my heart surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston last month. Dr. Kaneko replaced my wonky aortic valve with a nice, new cow tissue version and, for good measure, had the pacemaker specialists install one of those nifty monitoring gadgets to boot.

During the valve replacement my heart was stopped for about an hour and a half and a machine took over for it - now there's an hour and a half in the Twilight Zone, don't you think? The marvels of modern medicine, eh? Oh, and thanks to all the Noreast folk who sent good wishes and reassuring words my way – I appreciate it.

So I'll be weighing in again with what's happening around the Cape fishing scene in subsequent reports as I rehab these old bones with frequent visits to the local surf along the Outer Cape as well as Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod Bay. In the meantime I'll glean updates from the collection of liars, misfits, ne'er-do-wells and blithe spirits who keep me posted on who's-catching-what-and-where-they're-catching-it.

I see the officers from Environmental enforcement were busy recently in Buzzards Bay as they nailed bad guys illegally catching black sea bass. Massachusetts Environmental Police pulled over a boater in Buzzards Bay on Monday and discovered that the man had 122 black sea bass stored in coolers -- when the legal limit is only eight.

In addition, authorities believe the boat's driver, Muoi V. Huynh, 51, of Brockton, was intoxicated, Environmental Police Captain Patrick Moran said. Huynh was charged with operating under the influence, fishing over the legal limit, operating an unregistered boat, and fishing without a valid license, police said.

According to the state Division of Marines Fisheries, the limit on black sea bass for this time of year is eight. Police donated the fish to charity.

Then again on Wednesday Massachusetts Environmental Police arrested two Worcester men on charges of poaching hundreds of black sea bass in Buzzards Bay — the latest in a series of such arrests in the last month, officials said. Police found 214 black sea bass aboard the men's recreational fishing boat, said Environmental Police Captain Patrick Moran .

There's no excuse for this kind of irresponsible, greed-driven theft of the resource so here's hoping the judges who hear these cases come down hard on the perpetrators.

May 12, 2015

C'mon, Have a Heart!

by Jerry Vovcsko

Looks like I'll have to put the striper fishing on the back-burner for now. While I was at the hospital to get pre-op testing for a planned hip replacement, the cardiologist decided that my EKG results weren't up to par. A subsequent heart-catherization procedure determined that the aortic valve wasn't operating as it ought to and the upshot of all that medical folderol is that tomorrow (May 13th) I have a date with a talented young cardiac surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston to have open heart surgery to replace the wonky valve.

They plan to substitute a replacement made from cow's tissue for the malfunctioning one and it looks like if all goes well it'll be a couple of weeks before I'm back behind the keyboard again. They tell me these things are pretty routine procedures nowadays. I dunno…I'm sure those folks know what they're doing but as I understand it, the operation will take about five hours and they'll have some sort of infernal-machine taking over for my heart while they fix the valve. So I may be a little delayed with my next blog post, but what a great excuse:
"Sorry, teacher…I turned my report in late because I was officially dead for an hour or so!"

Ya gotta love it, huh? I'll let you know how it all turns out when I'm back up and running again. Oh, and by the way, I know some of you Jets fans won't agree, but I think the NFL really screwed Brady and the Patriots this time…as they say, this ain't over!

May 09, 2015

The 2015 Striper Season is Upon Us

by Jerry Vovcsko

Finally, we can allow that winter is in the rearview mirror and the 2015 striped bass season is under way in Cape Cod waters. The fishy migrants are showing up in numbers in such places as the herring run at the Cape Cod Canal, along the south facing beaches in Nantucket Sound and even in select places in Cape Cod Bay. Yep, the stripers are among us and season's under way.

Most of the bass getting caught at the herring run have been in schoolie size but there have been some keepers mixed in. The water temperatures in both Nantucket Sound and Buzzards Bay finally crept up into the low to mid-fifties and that means it won't be long before we'll be tying into newly arriving bluefish. This is maybe the best time of the year so far as fishing is concerned.

Problem is anglers have been getting stiff competition from the ever-increasing seal population that's taken up permanent residence in Cape waters. In the Chatham area seals are ubiquitous to the point that they've established the waters around Chatham as a fast-food stop for great white sharks. These days Nantucket Sound is home to a fleet of commercial squid boats and the tasty calamari critters can be found swarming around docks and piers. The pilings under the docks in Woods Hole are squid magnets and night fishing there is fine sport for folks casting squid "plugs" into the shadowy places under the lights.

South Cape Beach, Popponesset an Succonesset beaches feature squadrons of surf casters firing metal lures into the Sound hoping for a keeper bass to grab their lure before a schoolie picks it up. This accumulation of surf anglers is a regular feature of early spring striper season and the warm shallow areas produce good results for those with the patience to keep firing Kastmasters, Hopkins and Deadly Dick metals seaward.

Right now stripers are establishing residency all along the Elizabeth Islands. These early visitors will vigorously smack swimming plugs as well as jig and plastic combos with enthusiasm and I have always had good success over the years with an old-school five and a quarter inch black-back sinking Rebel. The trick is to get close enough in to reach the edge of the shoreline with a cast. Bouncing the plug on the rocks and dragging it into the water is a particularly effective technique along the islands odd as that might seem. Try it, it works.

And here's an announcement from the folks at Division of Marine Fisheries regarding new haddock regulations. For some reason when I first read through the announcement I was reminded of my first look at a calculus textbook back in high school. Say what?

On Friday, May 1, new federal recreational rules for Gulf of Maine (GOM) haddock took effect which differ from Massachusetts recreational rules for GOM haddock. The Division of Marine Fisheries is undertaking rule-making to mirror the federal possession and size limits, but in the meantime there will be a discrepancy. This notice serves to clarify how the combination of state and federal recreational rules will be enforced in Massachusetts.

Gulf of Maine Haddock Recreational Rules Federal Rules
Effective May 1, 2015 Massachusetts Rules
Until Further Notice
3 fish (per person per day)
17" minimum size
Open May 1–Aug. 31, Nov. 1–Feb. 28/29
Unlimited possession
21" minimum size
Open year-round

(Outside the GOM, state and haddock rules are the same: 18", unlimited possession, open year-round.)

How these rules apply depends on both the type of permit held and area of fishing:
A private recreational angler fishing in state waters only and landing in Massachusetts is bound by the state rules.
A private recreational angler fishing entirely or in part in federal waters and landing in Massachusetts is bound by a combination of the most restrictive rules: 3 fish and 21" minimum size. The angler cannot catch or possess GOM haddock from federal waters during March, April, September, and October.
A state-permitted for-hire vessel fishing only in state waters and landing in Massachusetts is bound by the state rules.
A dual-permitted (state and federal) for-hire vessel fishing in state or federal waters and landing in Massachusetts is bound by a combination of the most restrictive rules: 3 fish and 21" minimum size. The vessel cannot catch or possess GOM haddock from state or federal waters during March, April, September, and October.
The Division is currently accepting public comment and will be holding a public hearing on Thursday, May 28 on changing the state GOM haddock recreational rules. For more information on how to submit comment or the timing of the public hearing, refer to our previous Advisory.

And here's wishing a Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. Enjoy your Day and here's hoping you have yourselves a well-earned rest!

April 30, 2015

There's Stripers in Them Thar Waters...Just Not Quite Yet

by Jerry Vovcsko

We're in that hazy part of the season where rumors abound, fish are scarce and anglers strain at the bit, anxious to wet a line and tangle with newly arrived striped bass. But that ain't happening just yet, Bubba, not with water temperatures still hovering in the mid to high forties. Soon, though…once the water temperatures touch fifty, they'll be showing up around here.

That's not to say there aren't any stripers to be had in Cape waters. Waquoit Bay typically sprouts a population of holdover striped bass and some of the south facing estuaries are worth a look, especially where shallow, mud-bottomed areas warm rapidly on sunny days. The Coonemessett River in Great Pond is one of those and Waller's Island marsh area inside the Green Pond estuary in East Falmouth is another. Easing around those spots in kayak, canoe or skiff and flipping a soft jig-and-plastic rig toward those shallows can be surprisingly productive even during these early season days.

The likeliest spot for newly arriving spring stripers is the stretch of south-facing beach running between Bass River in the east and the Waquoit jetty at the western end. That includes South Cape Beach, Succonesset and Poponnesset beaches and curves in a gentle bowl-shaped arc that slopes away from the beach and warms up quicker than about anywhere else between Woods Hole and Chatham. A little later in the season a similar beach configuration down Chatham way and known locally as "The Bathtub" offers local anglers a hefty population of short-sized stripers. The long-wand crowd delights in catch-and-release activity from early May until water temperatures climb into the mid-to-high sixties. These are all fine ways to get a jump on the season before the main body of migrants show up from points south.

For years I have inaugurated bass-fishing efforts by working the Poponnesset stretch of beach for stripers and then along about mid-May planting myself out a little ways from the Waquoit jetty and then casting a blackback Rebel in a "slot" out toward the can buoy a couple hundred yards southeasterly from the eastern tip of the jetty. After about a dozen casts I begin to think "any time now" and damned if I don't usually come up with my first-of-the-season bluefish right there in just that spot. Now why that is, I have no idea…but after some thirty years of that same silly ritual, I don't question it. I just do it. I figure fishermen don't necessarily have to be the brightest bulbs, just the most tenacious.

Somebody once said: "Don't get old, you'll live to regret it." Well, looks like I've got a date with the surgeon coming up pretty soon. I'll tell you about it in the next column. Maybe I'll ask the fella if he can show me how to tie a "surgeon's knot"…you'd think he ought to be pretty slick with such things, wouldn't you?

April 22, 2015

Spring Has Sprung

by Jerry Vovcsko

Spring has sprung and bass are feistier than ever in Cape Cod ponds. Striped bass are just a couple weeks away from beginning to trickle back to the Cape from points south, a trickle that will soon become a torrent of fish swarming into Cape waters and onward to northerly destinations...New Hampshire, Maine, Nova Scotia, et al. After what has felt like a never-ending winter, it is just about TIME TO GO FISHING!

The state's Environmental Department trucks have been rolling and the ponds in southeastern Massachusetts received their annual resupply of trout so there's plenty of options available right now. Add to that the bass - both large and smallmouth version - that will soon be on the spawning beds and the next couple of weeks should provide a good warmup for local anglers as a prelude to the commencement of early season saltwater action.

Those ponds that feature water depths less than twenty feet for the most part are good choices right now and will remain so until it gets a bit warmer. Work the shallow areas for best results and keep in mind that slower-is-better when working artificial lures. Lawrence Pond in Sandwich has produced some nice largemouth catches recently with fish in the five pound range taking stickbaits along shore in the north western end. In late afternoon the sun casts a heavy shadow from the pine trees lining the shoreline and working the edge of the sun/shadow line with swimming plugs can be rewarding.

Triangle and Spectacle ponds, also in Sandwich, are trout havens with rainbows and brookies on hand. All three of these Sandwich destinations are flush with perch and folks out for a day's fun with children will see plenty of action from this tasty species. Plus they're perfect to introduce kids to the notion of cleaning, cooking and eating their catch. There are both white and yellow perch to be had but to my mind, the yellow variety is best tasting in the fry pan.

Lots of herring in the runs these days. Raises the question of when and if the state will consider lifting the ban on these wonderful bait fish. When that eventually happens let's hope the resource is monitored and protected better than it was back in the day when a laissez faire regulatory attitude put those stocks in danger of being wiped out. Streamside poaching as well as the activities of commercial herring boats should get plenty of regulatory enforcement efforts; we already saw how quickly herring stocks could get nearly wiped out when that was lacking.

Although it will still be a week or two before striper activity blooms in our waters via the arrival of migrating fish, now is not a bad time to check out the presence of holdover fish. Such places as Scorton Creek in West Barnstable, the Pamet River near Wellfleet and the Coonamesset in Falmouth are certainly worth a try. Clam bellies, shiners, sea worms, green crabs…whatever is available can coax a hit from striper that have been mostly dormant during the winter chill but are rousing themselves now and ready to eat.

Kayaking up into the salt marsh backwaters of these rivers can lead to surprisingly large striper catches. There's long been debates about whether these striped bass are indeed holdovers, or possibly a resident stock that travels between saltwater and freshwater here on the Cape. It'll be a while before the fish scientists confirm that one way or the other, but what we do know is that striped bass have even been taken around Christmas and into January and February in the past. It's definitely worth a try.

And here's some more news from the Division of Marine Fisheries about cod stocks and changes in regulations aimed at reducing the harvest:
The Division of Marine Fisheries (MarineFisheries) has taken emergency action to immediately reduce the commercial and recreational harvest of Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod (322 CMR 6.03): •Recreational Rule Changes
Until further notice, recreational fishermen (both private and aboard for-hire vessels) may not retain or land any cod taken from the Gulf of Maine Management Area, which includes all state-waters within Cape Cod Bay and Massachusetts Bay north to the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. Recreational vessels may transit the GOM Management Area with cod legally harvested from outside the GOM Management Area provided all fish and gear are properly stowed and fishing activity is not occurring.
•Commercial Rule Changes
Additionally, MarineFisheries has reduced the commercial trip limit for Gulf of Maine cod from 800 to 200 pounds. This trip limit applies to all state-waters commercial groundfish permit endorsement holders, as well as any federal groundfish permit holder fishing in state-waters.

The most recent stock assessment for Gulf of Maine cod has demonstrated that the stock was overfished with over fishing occurring. Spawning stock biomass was determined to be at 3-4% of the target. Due to these severe stock conditions, the National Marine Fisheries Service promulgated emergency regulations in the early winter of 2014 and is set to promulgate additional rules during the spring of 2015 to reduce fishing mortality and protect spawning aggregations. MarineFisheries has taken the above described actions to complement these federal rules for the 2015 fishing year (FY) that runs from May 1, 2015 thru April 30, 2016.

DMF will take these emergency regulations to public hearing later this spring. In addition, MarineFisheries will also take comment on final rules to adjust recreational GOM haddock fishing limits and commercial GOM groundfish closures to complement anticipated federal rule changes for FY2015. A formal announcement of this public hearing is forth coming.

April 13, 2015

Massachusetts Striped Bass Regs

by Jerry Vovcsko

Here's a message from the folks at the Division of Marine Fisheries that will certainly affect recreational striper fishing this season:

April 2015

The Division of Marine Fisheries (MarineFisheries) has adopted a 1-fish recreational bag limit for Atlantic striped bass in 2015; the recreational minimum size limit remains the same at 28". This bag limit reduction (from 2 fish) was undertaken to reduce recreational harvest in Massachusetts by at least 25%, as required by the interstate management plan. Massachusetts' commercial quota has also been reduced by 25%. Read on for further details.

This past October, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved Addendum IV to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Striped Bass. The Addendum responds to results of the 2013 benchmark stock assessment, which found that fishing mortality in 2012 was above target, and female spawning stock biomass has been steadily declining below the target level since 2006.

Addendum IV adopts a 25% harvest reduction from 2013 levels for coastal fisheries, and 20.5% harvest reduction from 2012 levels for the Chesapeake Bay fisheries (this lower reduction is due to the Bay jurisdictions taking a 14% cut in 2013 based on their management program). For the coastal fisheries, the Addendum reduces the commercial quotas by 25% and decreases the recreational bag limit to 1 fish. Under Amendment 6, states may implement alternative state-specific recreational measures if they can demonstrate that the measures will have the same conservation value.

MarineFisheries collected public comment on several options to comply with Addendum IV this past winter. At the request of some representatives and participants in the for-hire fishery, we entertained two alternatives to the 1 fish at 28" FMP standard that included 2 fish at more conservative size limits; these alternatives would have applied only to the for-hire fishing mode.

After careful consideration, MarineFisheries and the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission selected the FMP standard of 1 fish at 28" minimum for all modes (private and for-hire). This change has the best chance of achieving a 25% harvest reduction, is easiest to understand, encourages compliance, and simplifies enforcement. In addition, public support for the 2-fish alternatives was limited.

Harvest projections for mode-specific regulations are less certain than for fishery-wide regulations. Confidence in the effectiveness of mode-specific regulations is further reduced if compliance erodes. Introducing a separate striped bass measure to regulate the for-hire mode from all other recreational fishermen (and commercial fishermen) would reduce compliance and complicate enforcement. Enforcement of alternative rules across the entire population of our for-hire permit holders (numbering 900), particularly when for-hire permit holders are fishing without patrons aboard, would have proven troublesome. A universal rule also removes any negative perceptions about benefits from a "dual-standard" allowed to for-hire patrons. Anglers in Massachusetts will operate under the same rules as those in our neighboring states in 2015, as New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have also adopted 1 fish at 28" minimum rules. For more information, refer to

April 08, 2015

Here Comes the Sun

by Jerry Vovcsko

We are now into serious melt-out-time when it comes to the Cape's ponds and lakes. Open water access has improved by leaps and bounds since we started seeing air temperatures soaring into the fifties and sixties over the past couple of weeks. Even those small kettle ponds hiding in the shadows of thick, pine forests have begun to lose the ice covering that served as home to upwards of four-feet of drifting snow and conspired with Mother Nature to create nightmare conditions for those anglers hardy enough to venture out during one of the more brutal winters Massachusetts has endured in the last hundred years or so. Yessir, spring is definitely here.

Unfortunately, the thick ice and snow that covered those ponds and lakes for the better part of the winter has left behind an unpleasant reminder of its presence, a reminder that may linger even after the ice has receded into just-a-memory status. We shall know it by its stench. Officials from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife warned Mass. residents this week that the season's winter "fish kill," where marine life trapped under the thick ice and snow die off due to low dissolved oxygen levels, resulting in them washing ashore come spring, could be worse than years past.

"As the water starts to creep up to the shore as the ice melts, people will start to notice the abundance of fish—very bleached and decayed fish, and freshly dead fish," said a state fisheries biologist who coordinates fish kill reports with local municipalities. Fish kills happen annually, he said, but a winter "as hard as the one we had" turns the ice especially opaque, and blocks the sunlight needed for plant photosynthesis from penetrating the water column. Add to that the blankets of record snowfall layered on top of the ice, which can restrict access to oxygen from the atmosphere, and bodies of water quickly become "dark as a tomb."

As the temperatures begin to rise this weekend, and the winter's leftovers fade away, those dead fish will resurface, creating a hideous mess that will likely keep all but the most anglers from going anywhere near local ponds. Local DPW crews will get stuck with the cleanup chores, an unenviable task at best, and their telephone lines should be lighting up soon as calls come inform local residents about the aroma wafting in from the ponds. Along with the town work crews the division of fisheries will investigate as those calls come in, to figure out if it's a naturally occurring fish kill, or if the deaths are due to pollution and toxic materials that have leaked into the lake or pond.

The news gets a little better on the salt water scene these days. Where water temperatures had clung stubbornly to a chilly mid-thirties level(in Nantucket Sound, now we're seeing numbers inching into a milder forty-degree range. And next week the weather folk tell us a warm front is heading our way with a hint of summer arriving on a possible seventy-degree reading toward the end of next week. So maybe we'll become as bit more optimistic about the striped bass arriving on time in these parts – around the first week of May is my guess. More specifically, I'm going with May ninth as the day I catch my first one of the 2015 season.

For the moment, though, it's still a freshwater angler's world and seeing as how the environmental department's trucks have been busy on the Cape, it's a perfect time to do a little trout fishing. The Brewster ponds have begun to receive their allotment of rainbows and brookies. PowerBait and live shiners are the best bet but it's not a bad time to toss small metal offerings (Al's Goldfish, junebug spinner rigs, tiny Kastmasters, et al) tipped with a bit of natural or plastic worm. Bucktails with a touch of mylar are worth a try, especially early mornings when they catch and reflect the sun's rays.

Bass and pickerel add to the day's catch as well and both can be found hanging around near-shore weed beds. The action really ratchets up when largemouths go into spawning mode. Look for them hovering over and around sandy patches in sheltered bays and shallow, weather-protected waters. That's when buzzbaits and propeller equipped plugs come into their own. Strikes are more savage than usual and the fish are feistier than later on when the water becomes tepid.

The Red Sox won their season opener 9-0 against the Phillies…could the Beantown lads be looking at a 162-0 season? Go Sox!

March 31, 2015

Pond Stocking Trucks Roll Soon

by Jerry Vovcsko

The Boston Globe published an interesting article last week on overfishing by nations around the world. Here's the link:

the back-and-forth between commercial and recreational fishermen over dwindling stocks we sometimes forget just how dangerous an occupation the commercial fisherman is engaged in. There was another reminder this week when the Coast Guard located the body of a 54-year-old man who went overboard from a scalloping vessel off Nantucket this past weekend.

A helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod spotted the body in the water at 1 a.m. yesterday about 37 miles southeast of Nantucket, Coast Guard Petty Officer Myeonghi Clegg said. The man had been on the 85-foot vessel Hear No Evil out of New Bedford when he was reported missing and believed to have fallen over board at 8:30 p.m.

The crew from Hear No Evil was able to recover the body and make a positive identification before the body was transferred to the Coast Guard cutter Hammerhead and brought ashore. Weather conditions were good at the time of the man's disappearance, with clear skies and seas of two feet, Clegg said.

Speaking of rescue efforts, the Coast Guard rescued nine men from a Canadian tall ship off the coast of Gloucester after the vessel became disabled in rough waters Monday morning. Crew members on Liana's Ransom reported the ship's engines were out of commission and its sails were wrapped around the mast about 60 miles east of Gloucester around 12:35 a.m. Monday, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

As weather conditions worsened and seas reached nearly 10 feet, the Coast Guard sent two motor lifeboats to tow the ship into Gloucester. While the ship was able to connect to the tow lines, rough sea conditions broke them. Crew members were forced to jump from the ship to the lifeboats instead with one man injuring his head in the process. He was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital by a Coast Guard helicopter. No question but that these young guardsmen and women take seriously their motto: Semper paratus (Always ready.)

Mass Environmental Dep't has this to say about its spring 2015 pond stocking activities:
Close to 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout will be stocked this spring from MassWildlife's five hatcheries located in Sandwich, Palmer, Belchertown, Sunderland, and Montague. It has been a challenging year for the hatcheries this year given the extremely cold, icy, and snowy conditions that have prevailed this winter. Nevertheless, the close to 500,000 fish being stocked this spring, coupled with the more than 67,000 12+ inch trout stocked last fall should provide some excellent fishing in the coming months. Due to the heavy snow and thick ice that remains on lakes and ponds across the state, trout stocking likely will not begin until the last week of March or the first week in April, beginning with the eastern region of the state moving westward as the ice and snow melts.

Those efforts will likely start sometime this week when the trucks roll out of those hatcheries heading for the southeastern sector which, of course, includes the Cape. To date most of the freshwater fishing activity has been targeting bass and pickerel when it was even possible to access the usual locations. But the sun's been shining recently, air temperatures are due to reach sixty by the end of this week and once those trout are spilled into local ponds, anglers will be heading for open water areas.

Those ponds that receive plenty of sun will quickly lose their ice cover as melt-out accelerates. Sheeps and Long ponds in Brewster will see plenty of action once the trucks arrive, as will Peters Pond in Sandwich, Mashpee-Wakeby on the Falmouth/Mashpee line along with Long Pond in Plymouth on the mainland. Trout fishing becomes a bonanza until the newly stocked trout turn wily in their wild environment and local anglers will be out in force to capitalize.

Still not much happening on the salt water scene as water temperatures remain well on the chilly side. I noticed the other day that water temps in Nantucket Sound have been running at a steady thirty-six degrees for the past couple of weeks. Typically at this time of year the water temp is creeping up on the low forties and I'm wondering if the arrival of the first stripers is going to be set back this season. It's something to keep an eye on.


March 24, 2015

Cape Pond-stocking Update

by Jerry Vovcsko

Trout Stocking Schedule - Southeast District.

Due to the heavy snow and thick ice that remains on lakes and ponds across the state, trout stocking likely will not begin until the last week of March or the first week in April, beginning with the eastern region of the state moving westward as the ice and snow melts.

Trout Stocked Waters - Southeast District.


Acushnet River


Bungay River


Hathaway Pond, Shubael Pond, Lovell's Pond, Hamblin Pond


Cliff Pond, Flax Pond, Sheep Pond, Higgins Pond, Little Cliff Pond

Sturtevants Mill Pond, Skeeter Mill Pond

Goose Pond, Schoolhouse Pond

Shingle Island River

Scargo Lake

Segregansett River

Herring Pond

Beaver Brook

Ashumet Pond, Coonamesset River, Mares Pond, Grews Pond, Deep Pond

Rattlesnake Brook, Ledge Pond

Third Herring Brook, Indian Head River

Shumatuscacant River, Indian Head River

Plymouth River, Weir River

Jones River, Soules Pond (Furnace Brook)

Wading River, Canoe River

South River

Johns Pond, Mashpee-Wakeby Pond, Ashumet Pond

Mattapoisett River

Falls Pond (Southern Basin), Whiting Pond

Second Herring Brook

Herring Brook, Indian Head River

Beaver Dam Brook, Long Pond, Town Brook, Little Pond, Eel River, Fearings Pond, Russell Pond, Sawmill Pond, Big Sandy Pond, Fresh Pond, Lout Pond

Winnetuxet River

Upper Lagoon Pond

Crystal Lake, Baker Pond

Johnson Pond

Palmer River

Doggetts Brook, Mary's Pond

Spectacle Pond, Peters Pond, Scorton Creek, Hoxie Pond, Pimlico Pond, Mashpee-Wakeby Pond

Bound Brook, Tack Factory Pond

Burrs Pond, Old Grist Mill Pond

Coles Brook, Lewin Brook Pond (Swansea Dam)

Segregansett River

Great Pond, Pamet River

Agawam River

Gull Pond

Old Mill Pond, Seth's Pond, Duarte Pond

Long Pond

March 15, 2015

Ice Floe Skiing and Weird-Creature Fossils

by Jerry Vovcsko

"IUU (Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated) fishing is a worldwide problem. It occurs when fishers break the rules, when they do not report their catches accurately, or when they undermine international measures that are in place to conserve our shared fisheries resources. Law-abiding fishers lose billions of dollars each year due to these activities."

That's an excerpt from a pretty good article in the Boston Globe about illegal fishing worldwide.

Here's the link:

temperatures of forty to upwards of fifty degrees have begun breaking up some of that salt water ice we've seen accumulate this year from Cape Cod Bay to Nantucket Sound. Some of those chunks of ice are massive in size and they're clogging the Cape Cod Canal, riding the currents in Vineyard Sound and bashing into each other in Wellfleet Harbor.

But not everyone views their presence as a negative.
Brian Grubb, 34-year-old professional wakeskater — an extreme sport likened to skateboarding on water - found a way to do more than just stare at the ice chunks floating around Wellfleet Harbor. He decided to ride them, proceeding to gear up and employ the large pieces of ice floating in Cape Cod bay as makeshift ramps, hitting them at high speeds as he was pulled along by a boat, performing tricks.

"It was super fun," he said. "It was a bit of a last-minute type of trip, but it was killer, and there was good weather."

Grubb said he has never seen anything like the five-foot-tall ice wedges that have attracted people from all over the state to Wellfleet's inner beaches. Drawing a pretty good crowd along the beach, he spent nearly five hours riding around, flying off car-sized ice slabs that launched him into the air. Managing to safely maneuver through a graveyard of frozen water, Grubb called the once-in-a-lifetime experience a success. But I couldn't help wondering just who was driving that boat and zooming along at high speed among those ice chunks - how do you suppose that felt?

Salt water ice can be really tricky stuff and tidal currents compound its basic instability. It's not unusual for police and firemen to be called out to rescue people and pets who have fallen through into icy waters. But Wareham firefighters recently m ended up having to employ a hovercraft and other specialized equipment to rescue ten deer that had fallen through the ice at Long Beach Point last weekend.

Firefighters donned survival suits and rode hovercraft from the Onset and Middleboro Fire Departments to rescue several of the animals with most of the deer pulled from the water appearing to be alive. Massachusetts Environmental Police and Wareham police officers also responded to the scene Sunday afternoon.

There are some truly strange-looking creatures inhabiting our oceans, some of which we've never even seen as they inhabit the deep in such places as the near-seven mile depths of the Mariannas Trench. But bizarre as today's marine creatures may seem, they don't hold a candle compared to what used to swim, glide or slither beneath the oceans of our evolving planet. Like, for instance, a giant sea creature with flaps instead of fins, a segmented body like a lobster, a helmet-like head, and a bizarre set of spiny front appendages that make it the newest addition to the weird pantheon of animals that once prowled prehistoric oceans.

According to a piece in the science journal Nature, the new species, discovered in Morocco by a team of Yale University paleontologists, looks more like an alien than an ancestor to life as we know it -- almost as if a child put a jigsaw puzzle together incorrectly. But it is a new species of anomalocaridid (literally, "weird shrimp") and sits on a quirky ancestral side branch of the family tree of arthropods -- the animal group with the most living species on earth today, consisting of crabs, butterflies, scorpions, and ants.

"The number of complete anomalocaridids can be counted on less than two hands even though people spend thousands of hours in the field or millions of hours in the field," said Jakob Vinther, a lecturer on macroevolution at the University of Bristol who was not involved in the research. "They are extremely unique fossils and really, really fascinating."

According to the article, the new fossil find supports a growing body of evidence that is transforming thinking about anomalocaridids, creatures previously thought of as the T. Rex of their time -- lethal killers that chomped on smaller arthropods called trilobites. The newly discovered species was twice as big as any anomalocaridid previously unearthed, but it was a gentle giant, not an apex predator. It strained out plankton instead of hunting prey, similar to some very large present-day whales, sharks, and rays.

It also was unearthed at a shale deposit in the Sahara Desert that dates back to around 480 million years ago, showing that these bizarre creatures stuck around far longer than initially thought. They are among a group of animals first discovered in a much older Canadian shale deposit that the late Harvard biologist Stephen J. Gould called a source of "weird wonders."

"It's actively swimming through the water, and as it swims, it sieves this plankton out of the water and feeds upon it," said Peter Van Roy, a Yale paleontologist who led the research. "It is a very big animal. One of the biggest arthropods to live, bigger than any arthropod living today."

In 2002, Van Roy began working in the Fezouata Biota in Morocco. It preserved a snapshot of the Earth that would have looked quite different. The land was largely clumped together in the southern hemisphere, in a "supercontinent" called Gondwana back when the oceans would have been interconnected. The new species is the biggest known animal. Van Roy said the species, Aegirocassis benmoulae, is named for its appearance and its discoverer. Aegir is a giant and a Norse god of the sea, while cassis is the Latin word for helmet -- a reference to the three-part shield structure around the animal's head. The second part of the name is for Mohamed Ben Moula, a collector who discovered the fossil.

The anomalocaridid looks distinctly unearthly. It would have had a hard exoskeleton and its head carapace was made up of a three-part shield. It had two appendages in front of its mouth that have spines that extend downward, creating a kind of net to catch plankton and sweep the food into its circular mouth. Its body is segmented like other arthropods, and each segment is outfitted with a pair of upper and lower flaps. The lower flaps would have been a twist on legs, used for swimming. The upper flaps would have been used in respiration, the researchers believe.

"We didn't know these animals had two sets of flaps because all the fossils we had were all so flattened," Greg Edgecombe, a researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, wrote in an e-mail. Now, the scientists can see that the primitive arthropods had two flaps. Their eyes resemble the compound eyes of a fly, scientists say and the flaps would have fused together to give rise to the leg of a centipede. They would have stayed separate to produce the gills and leg of a crab.

Scientists may be feeling euphoric as they proceed to assemble new theories about who and what swam in the prehistoric oceans that encircled the planet, but us lay persons gaze at a creature like this and figure it must have been assembled by a drunken creator who shoved all the leftover parts into a gunnysack and shook it until something weird fell out, got up and swam away. At least that's my take on it.

And finally there's a chance to do a little fishing locally. Some of the Cape Cod ponds are becoming accessible now from shore. The fishy inhabitants will have experienced little or no fishing pressure since late January and are going to be pretty hungry these days. PowerBaits, shiner, worms, shiny spinner baits and plastic combos should do yeoman work on bass, pickerel, trout and the occasional salmon. Peters Pond, the Brewster ponds, Mashpee-Wakeby on the Falmouth/Mashpee line are prime early season locations. Once the ice chunks have cleared out of the CC Canal, the Ditch will be worth an early season visit. No telling what's likely to be happening in the salt as this brutal winter has pretty much scrambled existing patterns and local anglers will have to figure out fishing conditions on a day-to-day basis.

March 08, 2015

Turtle Rescues, Calico Lobster and Digital Condoms

by Jerry Vovcsko

High winds; low temperatures, not much action to speak of. Sounds a little like Dean Smith's 4-corner offense that the Tarheels used to kill time and frustrate opponents. And there's plenty of frustration to be had around these parts because there's darned little fishing activity available and Cape anglers are pretty much stuck with killing time until these Alaskan-style snow accumulations melt away and make room for the arrival of spring.

While cold winds and massive snow drifts hinder efforts to wet a line locally, those arctic-like temperatures stood a good chance of killing a number of Kemp's Ridley turtles when the creatures got trapped in Cape Cod Bay by plunging water temperatures. Volunteers saved a fair number of stranded animals, marine biologists from local aquariums helped rehabilitate them and this past week seventeen Kemp's Ridley turtles departed New England's deep-freeze conditions in a heated van from the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay heading for a beach in Florida from where they would be released.. After four months of rehabilitation, these sea turtles were ready to return to the ocean.

"They are so ready," said marine life center volunteer Jane Fernandes, who drove for more than 24 hours in the van with staffer Margo Madden and three other volunteers. A record number of sea turtles - over 1,200 - washed ashore on Cape Cod Bay beaches from Barnstable to Provincetown between November and the end of December. The vast majority were Kemp's Ridleys, one of the most endangered sea turtle species in the world.

Plunging water temperatures in the fall shut down their metabolism and left them floating at sea, at the mercy of the winter wind that blew them onto the beach where they were rescued by volunteer turtle patrols. After four months of being fed herring and squid, along with medicine and vitamins, the turtles were ready to head for warmer climes and traveled south in the van which had to be kept at 70 to 75 degrees.

Surprise was the order of the day when a rare calico lobster showed up at the Wellfleet Shellfish Company facility in Eastham earlier this week.
"It's a pretty exquisite lobster," said David Lancaster, the company's general manager.

Only one in 30 million lobsters is a calico, according to researchers. Several have shown up on the Cape in recent years, including at the Lobster Trap in Bourne in 2014. This one, a roughly 2-pound female, was caught offshore by the fishing boat Cowboy based out of New Bedford. Lancaster said he has contacted a few aquariums to see if they have a home for the calico and declared that this is one lobster who is not destined for the pot anytime soon.

And then there are the folks at the Durex Corporation. Their story might well be called: The Future of Sex and the Smart Phone. In a story that their public relations department is pitching, Durex, a maker of condoms, says that the future of sex will be brought to us by the company's "digital technology division". Digital condoms? Now there's a mental image for you.

The company released a statement announcing that Durex is taking its "first significant step into the digital marketplace, with the division's manifesto being to embrace changing social behaviors and the paradigm of intimacy and mobile technology." The company will imminently announce what it describes as its first "game-changing product". This product is described as a technological breakthrough that will actually help users achieve an orgasm.

The news release quotes Richard Arnold, Head of Research and Development Durex: "With our deep understanding of arousal and the impulses involved, it was only natural for us to look at how we could combine this with digital technology."

You've probably seen articles about people who use electronic devices at times when their use might seem a bit…umm…inappropriate? Well, Durex has noticed the trend.

"We took inspiration from modern habits and our ever growing reliance on portable technology for virtually everything in day to day life and our market research has identified a genuine desire for this technology in our sex lives."

Local anglers, bored with the never ending snowstorms, might want to take notice that Durex is looking for beta testers who want to be "the first to experience this new breakthrough."

If you're interested, connect with Durex Labs. That's, folks…and I'm thinking about shooting an email over to those people and offering my services to test whatever it is they're talking about. I mean, why not jump on the digital-orgasm-train before it leaves the station? I wonder if George Orwell is rolling over in his grave?

Oh, and it looks like the salary cap is breaking up that Old Gang of mine…the New England Patriots, that is. The Pats will not be picking up Vince Wilfork's option and the big man will be plying his trade at nose tackle elsewhere unless the number crunchers at Patriot headquarters can find a way coax big Vince to sign on again for less money.

Well, the Pats have the Lombardi Trophy safely ensconced in its display case and maybe the numbers boys will find a way to keep both Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty in the fold. If so, there's a good chance Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will nail down their fifth Super Bowl and ride off into the sunset as the best ever. But, lordy, I wish the snow was gone, spring was here and we could start guessing the arrival date on the first stripers returning to Cape waters. Put me down for May 7th.

February 28, 2015

Ice Breaking In Vineyard Sound and Giant Catfish In the River Po

by Jerry Vovcsko

Quicks Hole down at the western end of the Elizabeth Islands has long been a hot-spot for anglers pursuing jumbo striped bass. Over the years I've made dozens of trips to Quicks and taken my share of keeper bass. Most of those trips were made aboard boats in the 18-21 foot size range which requires the skipper to keep a sharp eye out for hazards that could end a trip abruptly and unpleasantly. Hull-eating rock ledges, swirling five-knot currents, heavy swells rolling in from the open Atlantic…that's just to name a few of the things that can put a small boat in jeopardy at Quicks.

But in all the years I've navigated Vineyard Sound I never ran into anything like the conditions that stopped cold the 69-foot commercial fishing vessel Misty Blue in the middle of Quicks Passage last week. It was mid-morning last Friday when the Coast Guard got a call saying a boat was trapped in ice and needed assistance. A Coast Guard aids-to-navigation team from Woods Hole launched a 49-foot Stern Loading Buoy Boat to break the vessel and its three-person crew free. By noon they had broken the Misty Blue out of the ice and escorted them out to Buzzards Bay where they continued their voyage.

The Coast Guard says its domestic icebreaking operations are intended to facilitate navigation within reasonable demands of commerce and minimize waterways closures during the winter, while enabling commercial vessels to transit through ice-covered critical channels. But I wonder if the gents aboard the Misty Blue considered chopping a hole in the ice while they were waiting for the ice breaker and dropping a baited line down below. After all, Quicks has been known to surrender good sized tautog and you never know…

On the other side of the Atlantic, Italian fisherman Dino Ferrari hooked up with something that definitely wasn't making it easy for him to land. After a bruising forty-minute fight, Ferrari landed a 280-pound, 8-foot-9-inch catfish last Thursday on Italy's Po which is believed to be one of the largest ever caught with a rod and reel. After Ferrari outlasted the monster fish, he took a few photos and released it back into the river. Looking at those photos tells me that few if any anglers would want to take a shot at one these giant catfish via the southern method known as "noodling". That's where an angler (likely one who has fortified his nerves with an ample supply of home-brew) reaches into holes and caves in the banks of river or creek and jams his hand and arm into the maw of resident catfish and drags the fish out and onto dry land.

Nossir, that's not an acceptable approach with any fish that's taller and heavier than I am. As far as that goes, it's probably a good idea to keep cats, dogs and small children away from places where these giant fish may reside. Takes a lot of calories to damp down hunger pangs of creatures like this.

The Boston area has broken the hundred-inch ceiling already this winter and would-be anglers have had to contend with such obstacles as a non-functioning MBTA public transit system, barely passable roads, twelve foot snow drifts at dome of the best fishing destinations, arctic-like wind chill numbers…and all that's before there's even a chance to get a hole chopped in the ice and a baited line in the water. But even so, a few local hardies have managed to take some nice rainbow trout from such places as Sheeps Pond in Brewster and Peter's Pond over Sandwich way. (Speaking of Sandwich, wait until visiting surf casters get a look at those north-facing beaches on Cape Cod Bay…winter storms devastated that whole area and the topography has definitely been modified.)

Anyhow, it won't be long before the Environmental folks put their trucks on the road and start stocking Cape Cod ponds with trout, salmon and tiger muskies. Around that time we'll begin looking toward the kickoff of the 2015 season for the National Pastime with the perennial mantra issuing forth from some leather-lunged umpire: Play Ball! Watch out for the Red Sox this year, sports fans. That's a strong pitching staff they've put together, starters and bullpen. And their pattern of last to first to last tells us that another "first" is not out of the question. A Super Bowl win by the Patriots, along with a World Series triumph by the Sox…all we'd need then would be another Celtics championship banner to make a lovely New England Trifecta. Stranger things have happened.

February 21, 2015

High Times in the Alternate Universe

by Jerry Vovcsko

Sometimes all it takes is seeing a need and filling it – and, voila!, an idea becomes a useful product. That's pretty much the way it happened for Adam Gibbs and Nick Bongi who both live in Westborough, Massachusetts and the idea was born out of their shared passion for fishing. The two 18-year-old friends have taken an annual trip to the Gibbs family's vacation home on Sanibel Island in Florida since they were kids and fishing was always a part of the trip.

They were down there one night on a dock and noticed that everyone was fumbling around with flashlights, or using their iPhone's light. Flashlights fell into the water from time to time and everyone struggled to tie knots, unhook fish, and grab gear in the darkness.

So Gibbs and Bongi decided to put a light into the tacklebox itself, and – well the idea just seemed to grow from there, said Gibbs, who is a business student at Northeastern University. The experience has turned into a two-year venture for the boys which has led to the FISHinc. ProGlo+ tacklebox, equipped with a detachable, waterproof, tubular LED light that can also charge a smartphone. The boys are exploring marketing possibilities these days and it looks like they and their lighted tackle box are looking at bright futures indeed.

Scientists may not be aware of it, but there is an alternate universe where the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl and that universe exists in any number of countries. (usually in Africa) In that universe around 100,000 T-shirts and hats, which normally would fetch more than $2 million in sales, get turned into aid packages. This year, the NFL partnered with an organization called Good360 to distribute those "back-to-back champs" T-shirts — the ones Seahawks fans were aching to wear — to communities in need.

The organization reported that they received around 120,000 items after last year's Super Bowl. Approximately 75 percent were T-shirts, 15 percent were baseball caps, and 10 percent were hoodies. While a small percentage of the merchandise came from the NFL itself, the rest came from licensed retailers. The items went to El Salvador, Lesotho, Swaziland, Uganda, and Zambia. And all because an undrafted New England Patriots corner back named Malcolm Butler from a Division 2 Florida college stepped in front of a Seahawks receiver and broke the hearts of Seattle fans with his Super Bowl winning interception.

And also in the news last week was the Coast Guard's rescue of two Australian men who probably won't receive invitations to the MENSA organization anytime soon. After searching for a sailboat to buy for nearly two years, and spending the last six weeks in Rhode Island repairing the one they blindly purchased on eBay, the father and son team set sail on what they thought would be a journey of a lifetime.

But that 8,600-nautical-mile adventure back to Australia quickly turned into a life-threatening nightmare when their 43-foot-yacht, the Sedona, had a series of unexpected mechanical problems and left them stranded off the coast of Nantucket, where they were later rescued from 43-degree waters by a team of Coast Guardsmen.

Why the two thought that buying a sailboat on eBay and sailing it 8600 miles to Australia for a shakedown cruise was a good idea is anybody's guess. Especially since neither man had any real experience sailing. And starting that voyage with a full scale blizzard moving up the coast toward them doesn't in hindsight seem like the smartest strategy.

The result of those decisions, not too surprisingly, turned out to be a disabled boat floundering around in 30-foot waves with 65mph windgusts some 140 miles offshore in the midst of a full scale blizzard. Using a satellite phone, the pair made contact with people in Australia, who alerted the local Coast Guard on Cape Cod.

For four hours, they hung tight on the powerless boat until the Coast Guard crew arrived at 8:48 a.m. with a MH-60 helicopter. The Coast Guard put a rescue swimmer in the water, then quickly lowered the rescue basket and the two would-be sailors were safely pulled aboard and flown to the base where they were evaluated and spent the night. The boat, however, could not be rescued, and as far as anyone knows, is still floating around somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Guess they just do things differently in the Land Down Under.

As to what's-happening-locally-with-fishing, the reports all say: Not much. Between the massive snow drifts covering ice surfaces, sub-zero temperatures the past few days and roofs collapsing all over New England from the snow loads, not too many die-hard anglers are out there doing any fishing. But daylight savings time is less than a month away, spring will most certainly find us and sooner or later we'll put winter in the rearview mirror and turn our attention to rumors of cod in the surf, the arrival of the first migrating striped bass and Opening Day for the Red Sox. As Sox broadcaster Joe Castiglione would say: "Can you believe it?"

February 15, 2015

Fishing With John

by Jerry Vovcsko

The eighty-some inches of snow we've got laying on the ground here in southeastern Massachusetts doesn't make for easy access to Cape Cod ponds, lakes or even shopping malls. But as Governor Charley Baker put it in one of his recent press conferences in Boston, "Mother Nature makes the rules." And where ice fishermen are concerned, high on Mother Nature's list of rules is most definitely: Bring a shovel!

Anglers need not be too concerned about finding ponds with enough weight-bearing ice cover – this weekend's thirty mile an hour winds produced wind chill temperatures down to minus-fifteen…and that'll put a few more inches of surface ice in place and forecasts for the upcoming week will keep those temperatures hovering around zero so we won't be lacking for ice. No…the trick right now is locating pond or lake where it's possible to move enough snow to get down to the surface.

I thought about wrapping myself in a dozen layers of Polartec and dragging my gear down to nearby Robbins Pond to have a go at some largemouth bass. But as I poured myself another cup of coffee and gazed out the kitchen window, the combination of howling wind and four-foot-long icicles hanging from the eaves changed my mind for me and instead I headed for the front room with my coffee and a favorite DVD: "Fishing with John".

If you're not familiar with the film, it features John Lurie as the laconic host who knows nothing whatsoever about fishing but accompanies such blithe spirits as Tom Waits, Dennis Hopper, Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe and other entertainment luminaries on fishing expeditions to such diverse locations as the South China Sea, a river in Costa Rica and a frozen lake deep in the woods of northern Maine.

The Lurie/Dafoe segment is a cult classic with the two hapless anglers out on a lake in the middle of nowhere deciding to build a shelter to protect themselves from wind and cold. Naturally, with no tools or building materials this construction project appears somewhat daunting. Dafoe solves the dilemma by instructing Lurie to set out into the miles and miles of pine and hemlock wilderness to find a Home Depot and buy sheets of plywood and nails to erect a cabin.

If you liked the Jim Jarmusch classic film "Coffee and Cigarettes" which featured the likes of Iggy Pop, Bill Murray, RZA, CZA, Method Man of the Wu Tang Clan and others, you'll love Fishing with John. If not, well, give it a shot anyway – it beats huddling in the wind and cold trying to dig down far enough to locate the surface of the ice, chop a hole through and – with a little luck – maybe catch a couple of yellow perch and a bullhead.

For those seriously optimistic types who see nothing strange about trekking out in zero-degree temperatures to do a spot of fishing, well this might be the time to try Wequaquet Lake in Barnstable. What the hell, there are northern pike and tiger muskies in there and if you're going to fish in sub-arctic conditions in the first place, may as well go where the potential rewards are commensurate. Me, I'm planning on another cup of coffee – maybe two – and a couple more logs in the fireplace while I revisit John Lurie and Dennis Hopper on their river excursion in quest of peacock bass and some quality herbal refreshment. Doesn't get too much better than that.

I read that a bait and tackle shop employee reporting on another web site said he'd heard rumors of "cod holding on some of the high spots past Noman's Island" and that fishermen leaving from the Cape have been getting into codfish. Well, I don't know about that but when I tuned to the NOAA weather station this AM, they were talking about wind gusts at Nantucket hitting sixty miles per hour and waves offshore building to twenty feet and more.

So I don't care if swordfish and giant Bluefin tuna are leaping from the water into anglers' boats. Cro-Magnon man will stroll out from the woods at the National Seashore and lead the Fourth of July parade down Commercial Street in Provincetown before you'll catch me taking a boat down around Nomans Island in the kind of weather we've been seeing this winter. In fact, just the thought makes me shiver…I better add a dollop of rum to my coffee and pull the chair a little closer to the fire while I watch to see if Dennis and John toke up before venturing out onto the river.

February 07, 2015

The Butler Did It!

by Jerry Vovcsko

I would feel remiss if I didn't say a word or two about the New England Patriots' Super Bowl victory. After all the brouhaha about deflated footballs and assorted accusations that "they cheated", the Pats accomplished what very few have managed to achieve in this modern era: they won their fourth Super Bowl under the Belichick/Brady regime. And unlike some recent championship contests – the Seattle Seahawks' blowout of the Denver Broncos the previous year for instance – this year's edition of the Super Bowl was a doozy.

After being down ten points in the second half, Tom Brady gathered the troops, called for a "championship drive" that culminated with a pass to Julian Edelman in the end zone, and the Pats were on top by four with two minutes to go in the game. But shades of previous Super Bowl contests against the Giants, the Seahawks roared back and when Russell Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse on a twisting, falling, juggling, miracle completion at the Pats' five yard line it felt like the ghost of David Tyree had dropped in to once again hex the Patriots in their own backyard.

A handoff to Marshawn Lynch running in "beast mode" took the Hawks to the one yard line and things looked very, very bleak indeed for the home team. And that was when an undrafted rookie from a Division 2 college in the Florida backwoods pulled off the play that will forever guarantee that Malcolm Butler need never have to pay for a beer in Boston during his lifetime. Because when Russell Wilson launched a pass toward Ricardo Lockette running a slant route, young Mr. Butler intruded himself into the play and snatched the ball out of the receiver's grasp for a game-saving interception. Yessir, folks, it was a clear cut case of "The Butler Did It" and it will live forever in New England sports' lore and Super Bowl history - definitely one for the ages!

The 49th edition of the Super Bowl certainly exceeded expectations but the weather in New England has put a real damper on fishing activity and this weekend looks like more of the same. The three day forecast calls for snow, snow and more snow…up to perhaps another couple feet of the white stuff. So along with tip-ups, ice augers and bait, anglers will need to bring along snow shovels just to get at the surface of the ice.

The good news, however, is that we're only a week or so away from the time when the big 18-wheeler pulls out from Fenway Park with the Red Sox baseball equipment heading for Florida and the start of spring training. Yep - baseball season is almost upon us. Pretty soon we'll hear the heart-lifting cry of "Play Ball" and that means the arrival of the 2015 striped bass season won't be far behind.

So bring on the snow! I don't care…it's almost time to break out the rods and reels and get the gear in shape for another year of pursuing the mighty stripers that will soon be streaming in from the Hudson River and points south. I tell you truly, it's Morning in New England and it looks like a mighty fine day ahead.

January 31, 2015

The Blizzard of 2015 Visits New England

by Jerry Vovcsko

Well, the Blizzard of 2015 turned out to match all the forecasts from the weather folk…and then some. At least that's the way it shaped up here in New England. Sixty mile per hour wind gusts combined with some 28 inches of snow made for brutal conditions and it didn't take Governor Baker long to declare a state of emergency and slap a driving ban on everything except snow plows and emergency vehicles.

The one upside to the storm was the low number of power outages in Southeastern Massachusetts and I for one was very pleased to not have to resort to candles and flashlights for light and the front room, fireplace for heat. However, electricity on Nantucket was pretty much non-existent a few hours into the storm and the power company dispatched forty emergency crews to get island residents' power turned back on.

Along with the snow pretty much burying most of the state, the Blizzard brought in some frigid temperatures. Wind chills dipping into sub-zero numbers made things even more challenging and it looks like those uber-chilly conditions will stick around for at least the upcoming week. That's good news for the ice fishing crowd as there will be no shortage of ice forming on local ponds and lakes. On the other hand the hardy souls who trek out onto the hardwater had better make certain to wrap up with plenty of wool, fur and PolarTec lest exposed body parts succumb to frostbite – as Momma would say, dress warm!

Down on the Lower Cape flooding concerns became reality as the Atlantic Ocean poured through a breach at Ballston Beach and into the Pamet River in Truro about an hour before high tide at the height of the Blizzard. Folks have long joked about Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown "seceding" from the Upper Cape but it appears Mother Nature may have stepped in to accomplish just that.

The combination of storm-driven high tides with twenty-foot waves ginned up by the Noreaster wreaked havoc along the coast from Plum Island down to Cape Cod. Several beach homes in Scituate, Plum Island, Sandwich and Plymouth were condemned by town inspectors including a half dozen actually lifted from their foundations by the storm surge.

For all the catastrophic damage inflicted by the Blizzard of 2015…still, I have this strange notion that sometime, somewhere, somehow during the height of the storm, some lonely angler gazed at the wild surf and thought "Hmmm…I wonder if there's anything swimming around in that stuff?"…and then proceeded to take his just-in-case rod and reel (rigged with a 2-ounce bucktail jig) from the bed of his pickup truck and whip a few casts into the swirling froth. Because anglers are hard-wired to think that way and regardless of weather conditions, you just never know…

Ah well, come tomorrow we'll all be glued to our 60-inch flat screen TVs watching the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks tangle out there in the Arizona desert for NFL bragging rights and the opportunity to hoist the Lombardi Trophy one more time. So Go-Pats, and may it be a great game for fans and players both.

January 25, 2015

Blizzard Headed Our Way

by Jerry Vovcsko

Hardwater anglers on the Cape had just gotten used to having sufficient ice surface to work with and here we go again with temperatures spiking all over the place, a week's worth of rain melting that ice away and now a blizzard supposedly heading our way early next week. Anybody know what to do with the two feet of new snow we're supposed to get?

Sad news this past week with the death of Bill Bauknecht, former long-time owner of Green Pond Tackle Shop in East Falmouth. Below are a few excerpts from his obituary published in several local newspapers:

William E. "Bill" Bauknecht, 77, of East Falmouth, passed away at home on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015 after a 19-year battle with multiple myeloma. He was the beloved husband of 56 years to Mary Sue (Johnson) Bauknecht.

Born in Cincinnati, OH, the son of the late Joseph E. and Esther (Wagner) Bauknecht, he was raised with his sister, Jo Ann, on a farm in Milford OH. He graduated from Milford High School in 1955. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on Aug. 10, 1955 and was accepted into the security service, where he acquired the highest security clearance. He spent two years with a mobile unit in Alaska. He earned a good conduct medal and was honorably discharged in 1961.

Bill married his high school sweetheart, Mary Sue, in 1958 in Alaska. They moved to Cape Cod in 1963 to help his father run the small business he had purchased from the Costas in 1959 on Green Pond. He managed Green Pond Shellfish until 1967 when he took over the business from his father. He moved his family into the adjacent house on the property in 1971. He changed the name to Green Pond Tackle, Inc., though most people called it "Bauknechts." Through the years, he expanded the business by doubling the marina capacity, adding marine products and services, and wholesaling the famous Green Pond stuffed quahogs to many local restaurants, manufacturing as many as 200,000 a year. During this time, he served as Falmouth's Assistant Harbormaster, as well as Harbormaster of Green Pond. He served as director and vice president of the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce and was the director of Falmouth Youth Hockey.

He was an avid fisherman, boater and golfer, however, martial arts was his biggest interest. He began his Karate training in 1974 as one of Arthur Rabesa's first students at the Falmouth Uechi-Ryu Karate School. He performed at such a high caliber that after a few years, he was placed in the New England test for his black belt promotion, which he achieved. He continued his training over the next 40 years, being promoted to higher ranks. He often taught many of the adult and children's classes at the dojo. He achieved the master rank of 8th degree in 2012. He was well-known in the martial arts world for his dedication and loyalty to Uechi-Ryu Karate and credited his training for helping him battle multiple myeloma, an incurable blood and bone cancer he was diagnosed with in 1996.

Initially facing the possibility of having only 9 to 18 months to live, Bill underwent an experimental stem cell transplant and was given a life expectancy of three years. He survived for almost 19. During this time, he established a website for those diagnosed with multiple myeloma that offered advice and counsel. His doctors also provided his contact information to newly diagnosed patients. He received emails and phone calls from all over the world and provided hope and guidance to complete strangers. He was featured in a multiple myeloma survivors calendar and is one of the longest known survivors of this disease.

Bill was a heckuva good fisherman and his dad built me a fiberglass rod back in the 70s that I still use to this day. Rest in peace, Bill…you touched the lives of a lot of local anglers.

One of the attractions of fishing in the salt water is the unknown nature of what eventually comes out of the water anytime an angler hooks up. Like the fishermen in Victoria, Australia, who didn't know what to think when they reeled in a prehistoric-looking creature from the water. They noticed its head and body looked like it belonged to an eel, but the tail looked like a shark's. They had caught a very rare frilled shark, sometimes referred to as the "living fossil." The creature's ancestry goes back roughly 80 million years and is rarely sighted.

The creature was described as looking prehistoric, like something from another time that just happens to have 300 teeth over 25 rows, so that once you're in that mouth, you're not coming out.

The New England Patriots are headed to Arizona for the Super Bowl but all fans seem to be talking about is "DeflateGate", the name the media slapped on the matter of the less-than-official air pressure the footballs supplied by the Patriots turned out to contain after a complaint by the Indianapolis Colts to NFL officials. Patriots' fans for the most part dismiss the allegations of cheating – fans of other teams are somewhat less charitable. Come Feb 1st, aka, Super Bowl Sunday, we'll see how it all plays out as the NFL will be supervising the handling of the game balls. Now if somebody can just figure out a way to keep Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch's hands off the post-touchdown balls, all will be well in Arizona.

January 15, 2015

Cut That Meat!

by Jerry Vovcsko

Near zero temperatures have put a nice skim of ice on many of the Cape Ponds but it's still a little early to have too much confidence in the strength of that ice. Definitely try a couple of test holes before setting up shop with heavy gear. And watch out for feeder streams or springs – either will cause ice to lose weight-carrying strength and the water's a little too chilly for an impromptu swim.

Not all the ponds are fully ice coated and I saw a couple of kayakers doing business on a popular Brewster pond. Those folks aren't limiting their efforts to just trout; they're still out looking for bass and the largemouths have been most obliging on both shiners and jerkbaits. Perch and pickerel add to the possibilities and trout, of course, remain hungry and ready to pounce on shiner or PowerBait.

We'll soon be coming up on spring in these parts, even though it's hard to imagine when windchills drop us into the ten-below-zero range. (We already had one session of frozen water pipes in our house but that was just a matter of not leaving the cabinet doors open under the kitchen sink.) Still, spring will eventually show up and when it does my thoughts inevitably turn to flounder. So I thought I might just pass along a few ideas on preparing, cooking, and eating the tasty flatfish. Handled properly flounder fillets are one of the finest specimens of great-to-eat seafood to come out of the ocean. Of course, it's also possible to ruin flounder, rendering it virtually inedible. Oddly enough both outcomes are possible for much the same reasons.

To start with, flatfish need to be iced down when caught…the sooner the better. They're an easy fit in even the smallest of coolers, so bedding them down in a layer of ice cubes is both easy to do and a very good idea. Should you be dealing with a catch of summer fluke, it's a must….you leave them sitting on a hot boat deck in the noonday sun and you may as well be eating shoe leather.

Filleting flounder or fluke is a cinch. You'll get four fillets from each fish and you want to use a real flexible fillet knife, flexible and sharp. That's key. Lay the fish on its back, insert the knifepoint and cut around the fillet letting the knife slide along the ribs. Lift the fillet by an edge and slide the knife under to sever it. You should be holding an oval fillet, long and thin, all meat. Repeat on the other side. Then flip the fish over and do the same for the two belly fillets. To skin, let the knife slide between skin and meat with the edge tilted toward the skin. You can pin one end to the filleting board to make it easier. I use a board with a 6# finishing nail driven in at the top, then clipped off and sharpened with a file so I can pin the fillet in place…I find it makes the skinning process faster and easier.

Well you've got your fillets. Now what? How about Broiled Flounder with Puffy Cheese Topping? Here's a recipe my wife, the Fabulous Donna, got from another Donna, one of her friends down on the Cape. You'll need about a pound and a half of fillets; salt and pepper; half a cup of mayonnaise; half a cup of shredded cheese and one egg white.

Line a broiler rack with tinfoil and place the fillets on top. You can butter the tinfoil if you're worried about having the fish stick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil about four inches from the heat for about ten minutes (I start looking after seven minutes if the fillets are thin). Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients – beat the egg white until stiff (or ask your wife how to do it if you're not sure about it…actually you might want to have her separate the white for you as well, although it's a neat trick and once you see it you'll have no trouble doing it yourself), then fold into the mixture of mayonnaise and cheese. (You guys, fold means don't slam the egg white into the bowl and stir furiously…gently, says the Fabulous Donna…it keeps the air in the white so it holds its fluffiness). Spread the mixture over the fillets and broil until puffed up and lightly browned. Serve immediately…guys, that doesn't mean scarf these down before you get them out to the dining room table. At least use a plate. Both Donnas say this is a recipe meant to serve four people…ain't women funny?

And it looks like the Patriots are Super Bowl-bound once again if they can get past the Indianapolis Colts. If they do, it'll be Green Bay or Seattle waiting for them. This could be the year where Tom Brady picks up that fourth ring and joins Joe Montana under the rubric of best-QB-ever. Cut THAT meat, Peyton Manning!

January 07, 2015

Back In the Deep Freeze Again

by Jerry Vovcsko

The Cape these days looks like the inside of granny's deep freeze. Cold, cold and more cold. The ponds are frozen, the bays and estuaries sport a thin crust of salt water ice in those places where the currents run slowly or not at all. It's as though the entire Cape fell into hibernation for the winter. But there are still fish to be found for the hardier types who don't mind the bone chilling winds sweeping down from Newfoundland and the Canadian Arctic.

A few hardies are taking salmon from ponds around Falmouth, the main hot spot being Peters Pond. At other locations, such as John's Pond and, over around Hatchville, Coonamesset Pond, perch, pickerel and bass offer targets of opportunity. Shiners score with the big fish, while small metal jigs will fill your bucket with perch before you can say fish fry!

Down Cape, around Harwich and Chatham, the ponds are crusting over again, albeit not quite solidly just yet. You don't want to get out on them until there's a good four to six inches of hard water over he surface. It was only a few years back that a couple of young locals decided that their pickup truck could function in submarine mode and plunged through as they drove across the ice on a Harwich pond. They were rescued by the local fire department, however, no reports were filed on their fish catching efforts.

A whole lot of very little happening in the salt these days, but there are these persistent rumors about cod taken from the beach, either being caught clandestinely by a couple of local boys who aren't talking, or about schools of scrod sized fish waiting for the weather to break a tad so they can start feeding close in to shore and perhaps take us back to those golden days of yesteryear when they could be caught from the beach mid-winter or early in the Spring.

For some reason, whenever I think about catching fish on bait of any sort my mind somehow shifts to the subject of fluke. I imagine lifting out a limit of the tasty flatfish from their icy resting place in the fishbox on my boat while I ready a sharp fillet knife to properly remove four fat fillets from each.

Come summer I do my catching over on the Middleground, a reef-like area off the northwest point of Martha's Vineyard. It's easy enough to find. Coming out of Falmouth Harbor, or Great Pond, point your bow toward Vineyard Haven and head out about four miles in that general direction. Pretty soon you'll see a lone buoy, and, if you're lucky, there will be a westering tide. When that current pours over the top of the Middleground it sets up a fine rip and triggers the feeding mechanisms of the resident fluke - as if those hungry carnivores needed coaxing to eat.

Anything from seaworms to squid strips to metal jigs will do just fine. For my money, the absolute top bait, though, is a small strip cut from the belly of the first fluke you take. Use it by itself with just enough sinker to get you down to where they are, or you can add it to a small jig and do very well also. One of the latest developments in the squid-bait arena is something called a "squid sandwich", which is nothing more than a strip of plastic along with a belly strip or even a porkrind, depending on whose version of the sandwich you're trying to emulate.

Once caught, you have to decide what to do with them and let me suggest you try this

Line a baking pan with buttered foil. Lay the fillets in there skin side down. Pour buttermilk and salt into a container, then brush the salted buttermilk generously over the fillets. Sprinkle on a little more salt, some black pepper, a bit of chopped chives and you have the makings of a simple but elegant feast. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10 or 15 minutes, basting now and then with the pan juices. Serve on hot plates with the juice spooned over the fillets. Mmmmm, good.

If you have a few pieces left over that you didn't use in that recipe, try this:

Roll up the fluke strip and wrap with a piece of bacon. Stick a toothpick through to hold it together. Broil close to the heat until the bacon is done. Gobble like candy. Yum.

December 30, 2014

The Ice Cream Wars; Hip, Hip, Hooray!

by Jerry Vovcsko

Maybe there isn't a lot of fishing activity on the Cape just now, but that doesn't mean there's nothing going on. For instance, you wouldn't necessarily think there'd be a Cape Cod crime wave based on whose ice cream is best, but think again. After a six-month investigation, Bourne police have charged a local businessman with giving teenage employees alcohol and money as rewards for vandalizing a competing ice cream parlor.

David Ariagno, the 53-year-old owner of Lazy Sundaes Ice Cream in the village of Cataumet, was released on his own recognizance last week after pleading not guilty to two counts of malicious or wanton damaging of property, along with malicious destruction of property worth more than $250 and contributing to the delinquency of his teenage workers.

Bourne police opened the investigation after a string of vandalism incidents at the nearby Somerset Creamery ice cream store on Route 28, where the windows had been repeatedly broken with rocks. The police eventually determined that teenage employees of Lazy Sundaes were behind the vandalism. Police then learned after interviewing the three suspects that Ariagno's interest in disrupting a competitor was ultimately the cause of the vandalism.

Ariagno, who allegedly smoked marijuana with his teenage employees, also urged them to puncture the tires of staff and customers at the Lobster Trap restaurant on Shore Road said. But they refused. The three teenagers have been charged with malicious destruction of property and for the time being at least it appears there's a cease fire in the Cape Cod Ice Cream Wars.

On a different note, I've been looking forward to getting a new hip at the hands of of a top notch orthopedic surgeon in Boston. The surgery was originally scheduled for October but in the pre-surgery screening the docs discovered some dental issues that needed attending before the hip could be addressed. They were concerned lest a systemic infection find its way into the hip surgery site.

After getting the dental work attended I returned for final pre-surgery screening and Murphy's Law kicked into gear again as an echo cardiogram divulged a leaky heart valve. Which means bright and early tomorrow morning I'll head back to the hospital so the cardiologist can run a wire with a camera up a vein into my heart to have a look around. With a little luck, the heart problem will be minor and I'll get my new hip by mid-January and be able to cavort around again like a teenager at the prom.

Of course, there's also Vovcsko's Law that says Murphy was an optimist. But that's just the way it is in Chapter One of the Hip Replacement Chronicles – and the beat goes on. My advice? Don't get old; you'll live to regret it.

December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas, Ho, Ho, Ho

by Jerry Vovcsko

Woke up this Christmas morning to a gray, dreary, rainy day with pockets of fog scattered along Washington Street from East Bridgewater to Whitman. But no matter, by the looks of things under the living room Christmas tree, Santa had successfully completed his annual visit and dropped off more than enough presents to fortify a household that would resonate with song, laughter and good cheer throughout the day. It would be a merry New England Christmas indeed.

Wasn't always that way though. Back in 1659, for instance, those non-playful boogers they called Puritans passed a law declaring that anyone caught observing such day as Christmas would be fined five shillings. Yessir, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony came down heavy on anyone "observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way." Those black-clad folks flat-out deemed Christmas a profane and superstitious custom!

As if that wasn't enough, in 1621 Gov William Bradford of Plymouth Colony did his best to put the kibosh on any holiday celebrating when he forbid game playing on Christmas. Seems the earliest years of the Plymouth Colony were troubled with non-Puritans attempting to make merry, and the Guv was forced to reprimand offenders. (Bradford would have undoubtedly been horrified by the antics of modern-day Governor William Weld, a Republican with a taste for a mug of ale and a happy-go-lucky approach to both governing and life in general.)

Anyhow, Christmas celebrations in New England remained illegal during part of the 1600s, and were culturally taboo or rare in Puritan colonies until the 1850s. The Puritan community found no Scriptural justification for celebrating Christmas. and associated such celebrations with paganism and idolatry. The law was repealed in 1681 along with several other laws, under pressure from the government in London. And, in fact, it wasn't until 1856 that Christmas Day became a state holiday in Massachusetts. Those Puritan folk sure lacked a sense of humor; they should have lightened up and gone fishing.

Some scientists did a bit of fishing recently and found a little action in the deep… the very, very deep. Recorded during a recent exploration of the Mariana Trench (the deepest place on the planet), the strange-looking new species has set a record for fish depth.

Jeff Drazen and Patty Fryer, the University of Hawaii researchers who led the expedition, believe that this is a new species of snailfish. A write-up in a scientific journal describes the species:
Snailfish are known to thrive at extreme depths: another variety, Pseudoliparis amblystomopsis, previously held the undisputed record for deepest-living fish at 7703 meters. Handling the intense pressure of the deep sea is a challenge for most animals because it impedes muscles and nerves and bends proteins out of shape, disrupting the working of enzymes required for life.

But this creature, which was filmed several times at a depth of 8,143 meters, or 26,715 feet, has a different body shape from known species of snailfish, so it might be something else entirely.

"We think it is a snailfish, but it's so weird-looking; it's up in the air in terms of what it is," Alan Jamieson of the University of Aberdeen told the BBC. "It is unbelievably fragile, and when it swims, it looks like it has wet tissue paper floating behind it. And it has a weird snout — it looks like a cartoon dog snout."

Deep-sea fish have higher levels of a chemical called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO). TMAO helps proteins maintain their shape as pressure mounts which is why these creatures manage to survive at such extreme depths. Fish shouldn't be able hold enough TMAO in their cells to live below 8,200 meters, according to recent research by Jamieson — so these new fish may very well be permanent record-holders.

Closer to home, and at less spectacular depths, about the only reliable action is to be found in our Capewide freshwater ponds. Pickerel are plentiful and can be counted on to whack a shiner fished in their vicinity. Work baits or lures near the edge of a likely looking weed bed and stand by for action. Perch are plentiful as well – both white and yellow perch – and they'll gobble a worm or snap up a fuzzy bug presented artfully by a long-wand aficionado.

And, of course, there are trout to be had…rainbows, brookies and even an occasional brown…a few lucky anglers may well tangle with a double-digit salmon stocked by the lads and lassies from Mass Environmental when their trucks roll in the spring and fall bringing a new round of replacement fish to good little boys and girls wetting their lines in Cape waters.

Anyhow, it's time to depart the keyboard and go see what Santa and his elves deposited under the Christmas tree this year. So, Governor Bradford's scrooge-like imprecations not whithstanding, here's wishing peace, joy and happiness to everyone during the Christmas season. Merry Christmas one and all!

December 14, 2014

Freshwater Action on the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

A multistate commission has told Maine to reduce its harvest of striped bass by 25 percent next year. Maine fishery regulators are planning an informational meeting about the ruling, approved recently by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The commission's ruling directs coastal states to reduce their catch of striped bass. A stock assessment found that the fish's 2012 mortality was higher than anticipated and the spawning female population is declining. Maine's striped bass fishery is year-round and recreational only and the current rules allow fishermen to take and possess one fish per day.

Meanwhile, back on Cape Cod, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave permission to Joseph Vaudo to sublet his fish market to Scott Thayer who took over the business in a private deal between Vaudo and Thayer. Thayer reopened Joe's Lobster Mart last week saying he had the necessary licenses from the state Department of Public Health. Anne Roach, a spokeswoman for the state health department, released a letter sent to Thayer issuing him a permit. The permit is effective through the end of the year when Thayer would have to reapply.

The news of Joe's reopening was heralded by customers on social media, though some were skeptical about it because Thayer worked for Vaudo. Thayer said his longtime boss will have no say in the day-to-day operations. Joe's Lobster Mart was forced to close its doors in early November after a protracted legal battle with the state. The state moved to revoke Vaudo's licenses to operate Joe's Lobster Mart, a wholesale and retail operation, after he pleaded guilty in March to receiving stolen oysters.

Vaudo had been in business 43 years when he was forced to shut down. Thayer, a longtime general manager of the operation, has been at Vaudo's side full time since 1991 and before that worked part time and summers since 1985. Thayer went to Boston in September to testify on Vaudo's behalf before the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals.

And locally a Marston Mills man was arrested after shooting and wounding a jogger that he thought was a deer. Sean Houle, 47, was charged with unlawful possession of ammunition/primer, carrying a dangerous weapon/spring-loaded knife, unlawful possession of a firearm and careless or negligent use of a weapon causing injury.

Police and Hyannis fire officials responded to a wooded area near Mary Dunn Road to reports of a man staggering out of the woods. The victim, a 39-year-old man from Marstons Mills, sustained buckshot wounds to the rear of his neck and shoulder, according fire Lt. Mark Storie. He was taken to Cape Cod Hospital and was reported in stable condition.

The victim was jogging through the woods with his dog on the Barnstable watershed property when he was struck twice by shotgun pellets, police said. The victim was wearing a white shirt, according to police on the scene.

Although a few hardy anglers can be seen occasionally dunking jigs or bait at the Cape Cod Canal, most of the action is on the freshwater scene these days. Trout continue to be targeted for the most part but there are a few folks who like to concentrate on bass, both the largemouth and smallmouth varieties. A few small ponds in the Sandwich area are prime locations for bass seekers.

Lawrence Pond harbors a healthy population of largemouths and fishing pressure there is practically nil. Access can be had either via the YMCA's Camp Lyndon or on the eastern side of the lake where a kayak/canoe/skiff launch site can be found. A handy general store sits near the launch area and coffee, sandwiches and such can be obtained after a short walk.

A drop-off just around the cove from the Y-camp is home to largemouths in the five-pound-and-up range. Swimming plugs or jig & plastic combos produce good results here where the bottom drops away from shallows to twelve-foot depths. Working lures along the edge of the drop-off will produce lunker bass. Weed beds at the eastern end of the pond near the boat launch offer better than average size chain pickerel to folks tossing metal slabs. Pond wide white perch can be taken and kids will see plenty of action while soaking worms.

A short drive up the road Triangle and Spectacle ponds can be found and they offer rainbow trout action as well as fine smallmouth bass fishing. An angler need only travel about four miles to visit all three locations and discover where the action is hottest. Not a bad way to spend a couple hours on a Sunday morning while waiting for the Patriots game to come on TV. Speaking of the Patriots, Super Bowl anyone? I think so.

December 07, 2014

Winter in New England

by Jerry Vovcsko

So here we are in that transitional stage from summer-on-the-Cape with striped bass, bluefish, bonito and false albacore a'plenty to catch, to waiting-for-ice-to-form time. What's an angler to do?

Well, the most recent ice age provided us an answer back in the day when it dragged huge boulders along while receding and scooped out all those kettle ponds that dot the Cape from Falmouth to Provincetown. Until the ice forms on the Cape's freshwater ponds, we'll just have to make do with efforts devoted to coaxing trout, bass - both large and smallmouth – pickerel, perch and assorted panfish from the ponds scattered far and wide. PowerBait, spinner-and-plastic combos, stickbaits, streamer flies, plugs, spoons and various baits, including shiners, worms, salmon eggs and the like all have their moments of glory in the sweet water.

Peters Pond in Sandwich, Sheeps Pond, Long Pond, Cliff Pond, Flax Pond….these are all first class freshwater fishing locations. Ditto Grews, Jenkins and Mares ponds in Falmouth. Ashumet, Johns and Mashpee-Wakeby ponds offer productive waters in the Mashpee area and Barnstable's Wequaquet Lake has the added bonus of pike, BIG pike…there have been twenty-pound-plus fish taken there. Yessir, even though the stripers and blues have left for points-south and won't be back again until late spring, there's plenty for Cape anglers to do until the hardwater season commences ate ice-up in mid-winter.

But eventually winter will depart, spring will arrive and along about April the when's-the-first striper-going-to-arrive guessing-game will commence. And when that happens the 2015 summer session will be officially underway. Over the years I've had a plethora of e-mails from individuals asking for directions to "...a good spot to fish from shore on the Cape." For that I'm going to suggest that a book entitled: "Fishing New England: A Cape Cod Shore Guide" by Gene Bourque is the one book that a newbie angler on the Caper should have in his library.

Not only does it list more than forty places to fish, it includes maps and directions on how to find these spots, how-to suggestions for fishing them, and tips on accessing the locations without running afoul of landowners or town officials.

A compilation of access information for locations from Bourne to Provincetown serves as a reminder that it's always a good idea to check ahead about such matters as guidelines and permits for using four wheel drive vehicles at the National Seashore, regulations and licenses needed to obtain herring from the Cape Cod Canal herring run, parking fees and ramps and so forth. A call ahead can prevent nasty, last minute surprises and Gene includes both phone numbers and addresses for town officials.

Starting at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the guide mentions several good spots to fish along the Cape Cod Canal. This is not vague, general information. It's specific to the point that it spells out what sort of conditions apply at each spot. For instance, at the Cribbin (named after the retaining wall that runs along the embankment), located between mile poles 220 to 245, the book reports:

"On a west tide one to two hours after the turn, a good rip forms close to shore here. Try below pole 235, at the base of the steps where there is a mussel bed. Toward the end of a dropping west tide, move down to pole 245. This is a great spot to drift an eel after dark."

That's good information, very specific and the product of years of accumulated experience. You could fish the Canal for a long time and not figure out something like that without shedding a lot of lures on the rip rap that litters the bottom of the Big Ditch. The Guide lists Canal guru Dave Laporte among those who contributed local information to the book and if Dave says it's so, you can take that to the bank.

Besides the more well-known locations like the Canal, there are a number of obscure but hot producing sites that go untraveled because they're a bit out of the way. The Knob at Quisset Harbor is one such. Accessible via a trek through the woods across Conservation Commission lands, the Knob sits out at the end of a promontory jutting into Buzzards Bay just around the corner from the Woods Hole channel. It's a great spot to toss plugs and poppers for blues in early summer.

And speaking of Woods Hole, directions are provided to one of my personal favorites, the stone pier behind the marine biological labs, one of the few places on the Cape where shorebound anglers have a legitimate shot at hooking up with bonito or false albacore in the late summer. And for those early season bluefish, few places deliver as well as Popponesset or Oregon beaches on the Cape's south shore. Good maps as well as detailed instructions will bring you right to water's edge side by side with locals who know these shallow water beaches will warm quickly drawing hungry, sharp-choppered, early season arrivals within casting range.

Scorton Creek just east of Sandwich holds winter-over striped bass and serves as a good place to get out of the way when high winds take more exposed beaches out of play. Bone Hill, the outer side of Barnstable Harbor, draws fly fisherman because of shallow, easily waded flats with plenty of drop-offs and channels between the bars. Interspersed with how-to-get-there instructions are useful gear tips, such as this one:

"Whenever possible, tie directly to the lure or use a snap or snap swivel when striper fishing. Steel leaders are unnecessary and in fact may impair the lure's performance. Also, stripers see very well and a steel leader will spook wary fish feeding over a clear sand bottom."

The Guide covers Chatham, Eastham, Truro and Provincetown with stops on both the Bay side and the outer beaches, including: Coast Guard, Head of Meadow and Race Point. There are useful tips about lures, gear and bait, as well as maps and directions on finding good, productive places to catch fish.

Yeah, I'd say this book is a must-have for anyone thinking about fishing from the beach on the Cape and for $14.95 it's one of the true bargains around. Published by the folks at On the Water magazine, it can be obtained at local tackle shops, or via a call (508) 548 - 4705, on the net at, or through the ubiquitous marketeers at Amazon .

November 30, 2014

Weather;s Lousy; Fishing's Good

by Jerry Vovcsko

On the day before Thanksgiving a couple of years back. I drove to the local seafood emporium to pick up a couple of lobsters to add to the table for the holiday feast. Seems that was a tradition in many Cape Cod homes a few hundred years ago, once the Pilgrims had changed their minds about the "crawly bugs" being agents of the devil. (I always like to ponder the question of who was the first person to gaze at a lobster and say, "Hmmmm, I think I'll cook that...and eat it.") But anyway, once that first taste of pure white lobster meat had started its journey down some New England fisherman's throat - helped along by a generous dollop of melted butter - Homarus Americanus soon took a featured place on the Thanksgiving Day menu.

Stepping out of my warm, cozy car put me right in touch with a brisk northwest wind blowing 15 to 25, a chill breeze that had dropped wind chills down to zero level by midmorning; it was clear that only the hardiest of fishermen would be out there this day. Well, lo and behold there was an old timer wetting a line down by the Canal and he had a nice assortment of mackerel in the bucket by his feet. He grinned and said "You wouldn't think they'd be hitting on a day like this, would ya?"

Of course, that's the way it often feels to veteran fishermen; the best fishing comes in the worst weather. There's the story about a farmer and his four sons who worked from first light to "can't see" six days a week. But after church on the seventh day, he and the boys without fail piled into their beat up old skiff and rowed out to the middle of the farm pond where they spent the afternoon fishing. One Sunday, as they sat there dunking worms and waiting for a bite, it started to rain. Before long it was pouring down, drenching them. The old farmer looked around at his soaking wet sons, considered the water dripping from the brim of his straw hat and mused aloud, "I wonder....I just wonder if fish can laugh."

But getting back to lobsters, a couple of weeks ago I stopped to pick up some cold cuts at a local deli and noticed a sign in the display case that read "Lobster meat - $36 lb." That's THIRTY SIX DOLLARS a pound, folks. This from a creature that the original settlers loathed so deeply that they used it in their fields for fertilizer. And back in the late nineteenth century the rich industrialists who fished from platforms anchored into the boulders along Cuttyhunk's rocky shores sent their guides to trap lobsters so they could use the tails for bait because it was the striped bass's favorite food, the fish obviously having better sense than the humans that pursued them. So if the wife happens to order up a lobster or two this holiday season, here's the way to handle them in the kitchen:

First of all, DON'T boil them. That's a sacrilege, according to Provincetown seafood chef, the late Howard Mitcham. He said to put about a half inch of water, a tablespoon of salt and tablespoon of vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil. It's steam we're after, not a potful of boiling water. Put in one lobster and steam for fifteen minutes for one pound chicken lobsters with an additional five minutes for each additional pound. Check for doneness by grabbing the end of the tail, straightening it out and releasing. If the tail snaps back with a loud "clack", it's done. Don't overcook. Dulls the flavor. In a small saucepan, melt down some butter, then skim off the white froth and serve with the lobster. A fresh salad, some crusty French bread and a chilled bottle of good white wine. Life is sweet.

To avoid excessive guilt after the fine repast, grab a rod and head for the nearest, bay, lake, pond or stream. It's great exercise and fun besides. Now I don't know if fish can laugh or not, but as much entertainment as they provide for us anglers, they deserve a chuckle or two at our expense, so get out there even if that wind comes churning in from the north and ices your mustache and freezes your nose. Winter solstice is only a month away and the days start getting longer then, and that means Spring isn't so far off, is it?

November 26, 2014

Turkey Time in New England

by Jerry Vovcsko

Looks like Thanksgiving Day in southeastern Massachusetts is going to bring a bit of snow with it. We'll be settling down at the dining room table ready to work out on old Tom Turkey and watching the white stuff come fluttering down outside. That's okay, though…at least we're not expecting anything like the SIX FEET of snow that buried them in Buffalo last week. If the "lake effect" dropped six feet of snow out in western New York, imagine what a full-blown "ocean effect" could deliver here on Cape Cod.

Orleans District Court was the setting for a you-don't-see-this-too-often courtroom drama for two alleged incidents that resulted in a man being banned from all Wellfleet beaches. Fifty-one-year-old William Vannoy, of Fairfield, Connecticut, was arraigned on charges of assault and battery on a staff member at one local beach and destruction of property over $250 at another.

According to court documents, Vannoy was driving along Ocean View Drive in Wellfleet back in August and swerved to avoid hitting another vehicle that was passing a cyclist. Vannoy allegedly reversed direction and followed the other man's car into the Wellfleet Beachcomber parking lot at Cahoon Hollow. That man told police he noticed Vannoy next to his car. Vannoy allegedly ran down the dunes to the beach when confronted, and police found four puncture holes in a tire.

In his report Wellfleet police Sgt. Michael Turner said Vannoy was homeless and slept in his Jeep. A week later Lt. Michael Hurley responded to White Crest Beach in Wellfleet for a report that Vannoy had been harassing beach staff members. In his report, Hurley said lifeguard Jody Craven told him that Vannoy appeared intoxicated and seemed to be passed out on the sand. After staff members approached him to check on his well-being, he allegedly became angry and confrontational and shoved one of them off the back of his pickup truck.
That lifeguard filed assault charges against Vannoy, whose blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit, according to results from a breath test administered by police. Vannoy was subsequently banned from all Wellfleet town beaches, ponds and parking lots. He is due back in court in mid-December.

A sea turtle weighing close to 300 pounds washed up on an Eastham beach Thursday, the largest discovered in Massachusetts waters this century, said Bob Prescott, director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.The 279-pound adult loggerhead turtle was among hundreds of sea turtles that washed up along the Cape Cod shoreline in the past few weeks, Prescott said.

Bitter chill, harsh winds and choppy waves kept Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary volunteers and naturalists from Dennis to Truro on Cape Cod Bay exceptionally busy. Starting the weekend 17 Kemp's Ridley turtles, stunned by the cold, were plucked from the shore. On Sunday, another 28 endangered sea turtles were rescued by the same folks. Sunday's rescue of 28 sea turtles is the highest for a single day since 1999, according to a New England Aquarium release.

All 45 sea turtles were then transported to New England Aquarium's sea turtle hospital in Quincy. The hospital, a rehab for endangered sea turtles, will have trained staff slowly warming the cold-stunned turtles by raising their body temperatures from 50-odd degrees to where it should be around 70 degrees. Once their body temperatures are regulated and they are treated for hypothermia, malnutrition and another other ailments, the turtles will be transferred to the south and released in warmer waters off Georgia or Florida.

In an odd way, according to the aquarium, stranding is a sea turtle's only real chance at survival once they are trapped in the unforgiving November waters of Cape Cod Bay. Once their body temperatures hit the low 50s, they no longer have the ability to navigate out and around the long arm of the Cape that protects the bay. Water temperatures plunged early this year and to date more than fifty Kemp's Ridley sea turtles -the most endangered sea turtle in the world - have been shipped south to balmy Florida waters.

Water temperatures in Nantucket Sound have slipped below the fifty-degree mark and that's a little too cold for comfort where striped bass are concerned. That's not to say that they're not still around – there'll be stripers lurking in Cape waters right through the winter months…but last spring's immigrants will have mostly departed these waters by now and the ones left here won't be easy to find.

The Cape Cod Canal probably hosts a few bass still hanging around, looking for a meal of stray mackerel or herring but they'll be lethargic and tough to coax into hitting artificial lures. Best chance for a Canal striper these days would be on an east-running tide. Water from Buzzards Bay is a good deal warmer than pours in from Cape Cod Bay so it's probably best for anglers to try their luck in those relatively tepid currents. Chances are, though, those wandering currents of the Gulf Stream, the ones that brought us such semi-tropical species as jack crevalle, cobia, banded rudderfish, mahi mahi and red drum, are long gone now and we won't see their like again until the 2015 season. They were fun while they lasted.

Bluefish are gone now as are the funny fish – bonnies and albies – but in their place an angler's thoughts turn to the freshwater action and that's been pretty good so far. Trout fishing, especially rainbows, continues to provide plenty of action Peter's Pond in Sandwich, Sheeps and Cliff ponds down Brewster way and Mashpee/Wakeby on the Falmouth/Mashpee border.

The usual baits – worms, shiners, salmon eggs have all been effective – but artificials are taking their share as well and the worm/spinner combo has picked up some big rainbows in the deep ponds. If things slow down in the trout world, there's always a chance to coax a big pickerel from weed beds in most of the Cape Ponds – toss a shiner near the edge of the weeds and stand by. Or folks working from kayak or canoe can troll a red-and-white dardevle spoon along the edge of the weeds. It's an exciting prospect to feel a kayak momentarily stopped dead by a smashing hit from a big chain pickerel erupting from a weedy ambush site – even better if there are northern pike in residence.

I guess I should say a word or two about my New England Patriots. From the disappointing performances they showed us against Kansas City and Miami, they've come a long way and if that 9-2 record should prove to be a springboard into homefield advantage for the playoffs, well…it could mean another Super Bowl appearance for Belichick, Brady and Company. Go Pats!

November 15, 2014

The Cod Forsaken Waters of New England

by Jerry Vovcsko

After years of warnings, the feds who oversee the fishing industry finally said Okay, guys, that's it for all commercial cod fishing in the Gulf of Maine. Cod, the region's iconic species, are now subject to new rules (which will last for the next six months) expanding areas where fishing for cod was already banned and will also apply to recreational fishermen. They reduce the allowed accidental catch of cod to just 200 pounds per boat, tighten reporting requirements, and cut the size of nets allowed to be used to reduce the bycatch.

"We're trying to absolutely shut down fishing where there are concentrations of cod, so there will be zero cod caught," said John Bullard, Greater Atlantic regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "No one can trawl any gear that can catch cod. Anything that can catch cod is not allowed in these areas."

The temporary decisions could be made permanent when the next fishing season begins next May, Bullard said. The cuts come after the New England Fishery Management Council last year slashed the cod catch to 1,550 metric tons per year – 77 percent lower than was allowed in 2012.

Every year, it seems, as water temperatures fall, the cooling waters around Cape Cod become an obstacle to endangered sea turtles and many of these slow-moving creatures end up trapped in Cape Cod bay. Nine such sea turtles--all Kemp's Ridleys--were rescued from the shores of the Outer Cape last week, all suffering from hypothermia.

November, according to the New England Aquarium (NEA), marks the start of the sea turtle stranding season. So far this month, 11 sea turtles have stranded, according to an NEA release. On average, 100 sea turtles strand along the Cape's shores each season. The cool waters stun the turtles and the powerful waves and heavy winds push the turtles ashore. The turtles, most juveniles, have been in the area feasting on crabs.

Kemp's Ridleys are one of the three types of sea turtles that strand this time of year and into December; they are the most endangered sea turtle in the world and are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Most of the turtles rescued on the Outer Cape last week were found in Eastham, according to NEA, and were saved by the staff and volunteers of Massachusetts Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (WBWS) and taken to New England Aquarium's sea turtle hospital in Quincy.

Experts will slowly warm the cold-stunned turtles by raising their body temperatures from 50-odd degrees to where it should be around 70 degrees. This slow process is done in increments of 5 degrees. Once their body temperatures are regulated and they are treated for hypothermia, malnutrition and another other ailments, the turtles will be sent south and released in warmer waters off Georgia or Florida.

Saw a couple of gents dunking bait in the creek by the Sandwich boardwalk the other day. Not much in the way of action but it was a mild, sunny afternoon and this time of year even the occasional sea robin bite is something to be cherished as a reminder of those heady spring days when the stripers first showed up on our Cape shores after a winter's worth of waiting, hoping and predicting their eventual arrival.

The 2014 striper season's just about done for these days but wasn't it great when the first scouts showed up back in May? We waited and waited for the bass to arrive and cheered when the temperatures in Nantucket Sound hit the Magic Fifty mark. Now it's 48 degrees and falling at the NOAA buoy in the Sound and yesterday morning we woke to a light coating of snow on the lawn as a wide band of wintery mix seeped into New England. It's almost over now, when it comes to fishing the salt water locations that held the promise of stripers all season long.

Almost, that is…which is not the same as completely done for. This is the time when the highliners get separated from the feather-merchants. There are still bass to be caught but they'll take a little more skill and determination to find and catch. Ideally, anglers looking to score will ease up into the salt marsh estuaries with kayak or canoe. Scorton Creek in West Barnstable comes to mind as one of the best locations for this type of late season fishing.

The trick is to time the tides so as to ride the flood deep into the marsh, toss a jig-and-plastic rig along the edges of the marsh and then ride the ebbing current back down to the mouth of the creek where it rejoins Cape Cod Bay. When the tide floods over the grassy banks of the stream, it washes all manner of bugs, worms, insects and assorted crawling things into the creek and stripers will be waiting. There may be debate as to whether these late season fish are just tardy migraters or winter holdovers or members of a local run, but whatever they are, the important fact is: they're still here and can be found deep into December and even beyond.

Of course, the usual suspects are still around as well. Tautog, for instance continue to hang around such places as the Weepeckett Islands; the rock ledges in Woods Hole; Cleveland Ledge in Buzzards Bay and pretty much anywhere rock piles or other structure offers safe shelter for the toothy buggers. Did I mention the wreck of the James Longstreet in Cape Cod Bay? Any wreck is worth a look and if green crabs can be found, the ‘tog will be happy to dine enthusiastically.

Winter flounder is as tasty a piscatorial treat as can be found anywhere. The trick, of course, is to find any. North of Cape Cod these guys can be caught the year around. South and east of the Cape it's March 1st to December 31st. Minimum size is 12 inches in either location and anglers who can persuade these scarce flatfish to take a whack at lure or bait will be in for a real taste treat when a few lightly seasoned and floured fillets hit the skillet. (And forget the butter-substitute any-old-things…real men use bacon fat…harrumph.)

So, yes, the saltwater scene is nearly drawing to a close but that just means the action's looking up over in freshwater lakes and ponds. We'll take a look at that venue in next week's blog. Sunday night sees the Patriots visiting Andrew Luck and the Colts in Indy. The Pats don't play in domed stadiums too often but TB and the rest of our stout lads will undoubtedly give Patriot Nation plenty of entertainment when they unleash their newfound passing game featuring Gronkowski, Lafell, Edelman, et al. Once again Air-New England takes to the skies. Eeh-hah!

November 07, 2014

High Winds, Horse Mackerel and Season's Swan Song

by Jerry Vovcsko

A couple of intense nor'easters took the top off much of the late fall action over the past week or so. That first slug of wintry rain/snow mix that coated Gillette Stadium for the Patriots – Broncos game brought air temperatures diving down toward the dreaded thirties. As air temps sink so do water temperatures and those mid-fifty numbers we've been seeing are steadily declining; magic-fifty mark, here we come. Won't be long now before we can say with some finality: So long, 2014 striper season.

But in the meantime, there's still some places to visit and fish to catch, stripers included. The Canal continues to produce bass for those persistent anglers who spend enough time working plugs, jigs and bait in the swirling currents of the Ditch. Slack tide allows a jig to make its way to the rocky bottom and it's there that the Big Ones lurk.

Live eels score with the occasional big bass pouncing on an oversized "snake" and thirty pound stripers are still at hand in the Canal ready to whack bait or lure passing nearby. Swimming plugs are the best choice now although a few anglers have done OK with pencil poppers. Personal preference dictates best lure color but I'm really all-in for those garish "parrot" color combos. For some reason they seem to work for me on late season stripers. Maybe it's just a case of that old saw: If you think it will or you think it won't, you're right.

Mackerel are probably one reason stripers continue to hang in the Canal. There have been large numbers of the little tunoids hanging around the east end and they are, of course, a striper favorite. In addition to the Canal, the macs had been thick as fleas on a barn cat up around Race Point and Provincetown Harbor. While few folks like to eat mackerel, they do make prime striper bait and those being caught here in the late fall will likely take up residence in anglers' freezers only to rise again in the spring.

To keep mackerel freezer-stored and relatively fresh for the following season, it's best to add a half-cup of salt to a quart of water and pour that into a half-gallon wax milk carton. Add however many small macs as will fit and pour more water in until the fish are completely covered. Close and seal the carton, lay it in the freezer and come next spring, these macs will make surprisingly fresh bait ready in time for the influx of the new season's striped bass.

Righty now is a very good time to fish the outflows of the south-facing estuaries and ponds from Woods Hole to Monomoy. There are still bluefish to be had in Nantucket Sound and stripers remain mixed in. Those rips south of Nantucket are active hot spots right now but the weather hasn't been the angler's friend lately as high winds have kept small boats moored at anchor for the most part. But when the rips make up and the winds allow, fishing the rips is exciting business, indeed, as the bluefish and striper mix is visible to plug casters anchored up within casting range.

The bonito and false albacore apparently felt the chill of the recent brisk nor'easterly winds and we won't see them again until August next year. They were great fun on light tackle but the fun's over for this season and the funny fish have taken it on the lam. North of Cape Cod Bay there are Bluefin tuna hanging around Stellwagen Bank with the occasional stray tuna showing up around Peaked Hill Bars and east of Head of the Meadow beach at Truro. All those mackerel schooling up off Provincetown may be the reason the Bluefin are sticking around.

The Vineyard – being the southerly departure point for the fall migration – still offers a mix of bass and blues and maybe even a solitary bonito that got distracted and forgot which way it was headed and hangs around hobnobbing with the others. The pre-dawn bite continues to be best-bet-time although anglers working live eels after dark have had productive sessions along the western shore of the Big Island down as far as Devil's Bridge. This is another wind-dependent location so small boat operators should have a care and know where to scamper in to the nearest safe harbor.

I would feel remiss if I didn't say a bit more about that Patriots-Broncos game I referred to earlier. When newly acquired linebacker Akeem Ayers sacked Peyton Manning late in the second half it pretty well put the cherry on the chocolate sundae. With Tom Brady lacerating the Bronco's secondary and The Gronk running wild on crossing and seam routes, the Patriots made clear just who was the cook and who the potatoes. The Pats are looking good – very, very good – these days and those football seers who wrote their epitaphs a few weeks back are being served generous portions of humble pie these days. As they say, "On any given Sunday……"

October 31, 2014

Ghosties, Ghoulies and Other Halloween Pests

by Jerry Vovcsko

We're rapidly approaching that transitional moment when the striped bass season morphs into late fall and a sportsman's attention turns to hunting. Instead of being preoccupied with the question: what are they hitting, we break out compound bows, shotguns and deer slugs, and for those looking northward, our trusty deer rifle. New England offers excellent opportunities to hunt deer, bear, wild turkey, rabbit, squirrel, grouse and lots more. Unfortunately, along with game animals, New England forests – Cape Cod in particular – are infested with ticks. And not just any ticks – the nasty critters that carry Lyme disease are out there as well.

Now Lyme disease is no joke. You wouldn't think that a bite from such a wee small creature could turn a hunter's life into pure misery, but it can and very often does. There used to be a Lyme disease vaccine but that's no longer available. Seems the manufacturer discontinued production in 2002, citing insufficient consumer demand. As it happens, protection provided by this vaccine diminishes over time and if you received the Lyme disease vaccine before 2002, you are probably no longer protected against Lyme disease.

There are a number of things you can do to keep the nasty little buggers at bay: Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin. Use repellents that contain 20 to 30% DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours. Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.
If you've been out in the bush, it's crucial to find and remove ticks from your body. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.

Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Check under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in the hair. Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully check pets, coats, and web gear. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to zap any remaining ticks. Be as conscientious as possible about searching– these bugs are determined hitch hikers and they're ever on the alert for a human (or animal) host to cling to.

The biological trigger that sends striped bass heading home from Massachusetts' waters may well be connected to the nor'easters moving through New England these days. Water temperatures that have hovered in the mid-fifties since last September might drop a bit by Halloween weekend as the weather folk predict a strong possibility of rain/snow mix.

But right now it's fifty-six degrees in Nantucket Sound and fifty-nine in the harbor at Woods Hole. So it looks like the stripers will be with us for a little while longer. Fish those estuaries, creeks and rivers for best results. And fish slower than usual – the bass in residence right now are stocking up on calories and aren't interested in expending more calories in the chase than they'll take on board when they catch up to bait or lure. So slow that retrieve and fish bigger lures to make it look worthwhile for that hungry striper to expend the effort.

Halloween weekend in the NFL has a real clash-of-titans on tap for kickoff time in Foxboro where Tom Brady and Peyton Manning go head to head in another shootout at the OK Corral, aka, Gillette Stadium, to determine Top Gun status. That'll be a heckuva good way to usher out October as well as an epic introduction to November. Which reminds me, I'll likely be needing a turkey before very long so I guess it's time to break out the old Remington twelve gauge. And the Deet as well I suppose – no ticks welcome here, thank you very much. Mother Nature must have been half asleep when she created those guys.

October 25, 2014

High Winds and Wellfleet Oyster Fest

by Jerry Vovcsko

A full blown nor'easter brought 55mph winds our way this week…so much for taking out small boats. Those winds and chilly days ought to by rights have dampened water temperatures by a few degrees but somehow didn't (maybe the northeast breezes blew the Gulf Stream a little closer to our shores.) Still, we're gradually slipping into fall-countdown mode and won't be seeing bonito, bluefish much longer. Stripers, though, will likely stick around well into November if previous years are any indicator. Actually, local anglers have taken stripers in December and January during those occasional winter-thaws when Old Sol warms things up for a day or so and winter-over bass prospect for grubs, insects, worms and baitfish in the muddy, shallow waters of our south-facing estuaries.

The Wellfleet Oyster Fest was a grand success this year as the gala event kicked off last weekend and drew some twenty-thousand visitors to the tiny seaside village on Saturday alone. One of the featured events was a $140-a-head champagne and caviar reception at PB Boulangerie & Bistro. The real action started Saturday morning when the crowds poured in and the band Crabgrass kicked things off on the main stage with good-timey bluegrass music

The real star of the weekend was, of course, the lowly oyster and they were available just about any way you cared to try them – raw on the half shell, steamed, fried, grilled, baked, or in soups and chowders – as befitting a bivalve that serves as both a historic and ongoing part of the Cape Cod lifestyle. Oyster farms pump dollars into the local economy across all income levels, and they taste great. There's just nothing like the briny, salty taste of a fresh oyster; it tastes like the sea itself, fresh and clean.

And speaking of oysters, it looks like the long-running saga of Joe's Lobster Mart and the stolen oysters has finally reached a conclusion. Last we heard, the Mass Board of Health had pulled owner Joe Vaudo's license to sell seafood at his Cape Cod Canal location and Vaudo had tried to finesse that decision by seeking an injunction in the courts (rather than before a magistrate). But the results were not what Vaudo was hoping for as Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thomas Connors denied owner Joseph Vaudo's request for a preliminary injunction against the state Department of Public Health.

Connors gave Vaudo 14 days to sell off the seafood market's inventory before he must close, according to the ruling. In his decision, Connors found that Vaudo and his attorney failed to demonstrate likelihood they would be successful in appealing the state's ruling to revoke the licenses. The state Department of Public Health issued a notice of intent to revoke Vaudo's licenses April 15, just a couple of weeks after he pleaded guilty in Barnstable District Court to charges of receiving stolen oysters and failing to keep proper shellfish records. Vaudo, 63, also admitted sufficient facts to a charge of misleading a police officer. He was ordered to pay a $6,250 fine.

In court, Vaudo's attorney John Kiernan said Joe's Lobster Mart, which has operated for 43 years, is a $5 million per year business that during the peak seafood season employs 20 people. Kiernan said that Vaudo intends to continue the legal battle, appealing the DPH ruling in Superior Court. But absent an injunction, it appears Joe's Lobster Mart will be forced to sell of its current inventory and its long-standing battle for survival may be drawing to a sad close.

There are still bonito cruising Cape waters, although much of the funny fish action is over around Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The Cape Cod Canal has been the scene of some rip-roaring striper action the past couple of weeks up until the heavy winds disrupted much of the local fishing activity. Quite a few plus-30 pound bass hit the scales of area bait and tackle shops.

Bluefish continue to hit pretty much whatever gets thrown their way in the Sound and the funny fish continue to cruise the waters around Lackey's Bay and Woods Hole Harbor. The Weepeckett Islands are thick with tautog these days and the ‘tog gobble down green crabs like kids at a marshmallow roast. The Elizabeth Islands continue to produce good sized bass with Quicks Hole leading the way with thirty pounds and upwards fish in good supply. One spot that typically receives light fishing pressure is over around the mouth of Quisset Harbor and that's hard to figure because this time of year the striper gang up around The Knob before presumably heading south in the migration.

The striper action's been relatively light recently along the outside beaches and what activity there might have been was blown out by the storm and the piles of mung stacked up along the shoreline. There's still time left before the stripers, blues and, yes, the funny fish depart Cape waters. Looks like the weather's going to be pretty decent for the next week or two – it doesn't get too much better than this and a few more fish in the freezer does make the winter a little less foreboding.

October 15, 2014

Whale Of a Tale and Late Season Bass

by Jerry Vovcsko

That was some whale that washed ashore on Long Island on Thursday last week. The bite marks looked like something had treated the 58-foot fin whale's carcass like a giant corn on the cob and gnawed massive chunks of skin and blubber from the beast (most likely after it was already dead.) Odds are whatever took those bites was either a great white shark or an orca, the fin whales only predator. Fin whales in the North Atlantic tend to top out around 75 feet in length although the Pacific versions have been known to reach upwards of 85 feet. That size whale can easily weigh in at as much as 80 tons.

New Yorkers discovered the creature near the campgrounds at Smith County Park in Shirley, New York, just outside New York City. The creature was missing most of its skin and was in an advanced state of decomposition. The fin whale is an endangered species, with conservative estimates placing about 1,700 North American specimens left in the ocean so each time one is lost it has a major impact on the species. Marine biologists think the whale was likely struck by a boat and say that samples will be sent out for further analysis to confirm the preliminary findings.

Now the trick is to figure out what to do about carcass removal as beached whales tend to decompose rapidly inflating from the buildup of gases and actually exploding. Eighty tons of decaying whale will undoubtedly prove challenging for local officials to dispose of. Best bet is to drag it off the beach at high tide and tow it out to sea, maybe out to the offshore canyons…that should provide an exciting prospect for some unsuspecting angler who snags the whale's carcass with a cod jig.

Water temperatures in Nantucket Sound continue to hover around the low sixties and there are still plenty of striped bass, blues and bonito in residence locally. But many stripers have already departed on their annual southward journey. The fall migration happens in stages and the early-to-depart fish are already on their way. The ones still left, however, are hungry and willing to hit bait or lure – the trick is to find them. This is typically a good time to check out the estuaries along the south coast of the Cape, Such places as Great Pond in Maravista and Eel Pond over toward Menahaunt Beach are places that stripers visit to find bait. Green Pond is another good location to find bass and Eel River holds bass well into November and even later with holdover bass in residence the year around.

On the Cape Cod Bay side Scorton Creek and Pamet River are well worth a look and Scorton in particular will offer a bonus from time to time in the form of brown trout, a species which provides great fun for anglers employing long wand or light spinning gear. Scorton is one of the best locations on the Cape to drift up into the recesses of the salt water marsh on a flood tide and work back down toward the creek mouth as the tide ebbs. Jig and plastic combos as well as small swimming plugs bring best results. But those times when dusk to dark occurs around dusk and into the night time hours, working a live eel in the upper reaches of the creek can sometimes produce a very Large bass, much larger than one would think these skinny waters might hold.

Of course, the Cape Cod Canal is a productive location right up until the fall migration becomes history and sometimes even beyond. These are mostly transient bass traveling down from New Hampshire and Maine populations and early morning topwater action can be rewarding. Make sure to bring rod-and-reel combo that gives best distance as it often seem that the stripers deliberately set up their feeding activities just fifteen feet or so beyond an angler's reach. Later in the day, or during the hours of darkness, working jigs along the bottom of the Big Ditch can bring big-fish-results. Ditto for live eels. But bring plenty of jigs (or eels) because the bottom is a landscape of rocks and boulders and the local anthem here is: If you're not losing lures, you're not fishing deep enough.

I should be amiss if I didn't point out that the Patriots are back in their accustomed first place in their division and the 1-5 Jets are due in for the Thursday night game tomorrow. The weather folk are calling for rain so it may come down to who brings the best running game to bear. My money's on the Patriots to come away at 5-2.

Won't be too long before stripers and blues are long gone and we head back to the sweetwater for some fall action. Here's Scott Russo with a nice four pound bass taken from a Duxbury pond on a plastic worm.

October 07, 2014

Another Chapter in the Lobster Mart Chronicles

by Jerry Vovcsko

In the never-ending saga of The Stolen Oysters, Joe Vaudo, the owner of Joe's Lobster Mart has dug in his heels and plans to fight on against the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the folks who intend to shut Joe's business down as a result of his purchase of oysters stolen from local oyster beds in Cape Cod Bay. On Friday, the state issued a cease and desist order to Vaudo, the Sandwich retailer and wholesaler whose business received the stolen oysters last year. The Department of Public Health moved to revoke the business license to buy and sell seafood.

Michael Bryant, the alleged thief who brought the oysters to Vaudo, was sentenced to two years in prison for the shellfish theft. But it looks like Vaudo isn't going down without a fight. This weekend, according to The Cape Cod Times, he answered by securing an injunction.

"We have an injunction against the state of Massachusetts right now," Vaudo said, holding the paperwork in his hands. "That's why we're open. We plan on staying open."

The DPH decision came after Vaudo made an unsuccessful appeal of the revocation. In March, after a months-long investigation, Vaudo pleaded guilty to receiving stolen oysters, and was forced to pay more than $6,000 as part of the plea agreement. But, although Vaudo's guilty plea saved him from further criminal proceedings, it didn't prevent the state's department of Public Health from taking steps to shut him down. Shortly after Vaudo entered his plea, the Department of Public Health moved to revoke his permits and Vaudo appealed, which allowed him to stay open this past summer.

Vaudo claims the public's health was never at threat because he says he dumped the oysters into the Cape Cod Canal and they never entered the market. The DPH argues that businesses cannot be allowed to violate the regulations by buying uninspected, unregulated oysters from any old source and get away with it so long as no member of the public is harmed by one of these oysters. But now, instead of a hearing by the State's Division of Administrative Law Appeals, the injunction moves the case into the legal system and the Lobster Mart saga continues to unfold.

There's nothing particularly startling about a shark eating some other fish, but here's a case of a giant Goliath Grouper taking a five-foot long shark right off am angler's line. Watch the video at:

speaking of looking at strange things, how about this old-timey lure that seems to have faded into the mists of time? It's a glass tube, corked at the top, with treble hooks sprouting out the sides…catch yourself am assortment of bugs, drop them in and cork it up…it's showtime. These used to be red-hot items back in the 1930s and earlier but you'll wait a helluva long while before you spot one these days…and then it's likely it'll be on some collector's display shelf, not in an angler's tackle box. Seems like there was a greater willingness to experiment with unconventional lures back in the day. Nowadays, it's pretty much a marketplace filled with glitzy, holographic – and expensive – lures that do everything but get up and dance the Macarena. Dunno that we're any better off than back when a handful of grasshoppers, houseflies and inchworms in a glass tube sufficed as the lure de jour.

Looks like the reports of The New England Patriots' demise may just be a bit premature. After the licking the Kansas City Chiefs put on the Pats last Monday night, fans and sportswriters were quick to leap on the "Belichick and Brady are finished" bandwagon. But not so fast, Brady & Co. put a serious hurting on the previously undefeated Cincinnati Bengals and look like they'll be in the hunt for the Super Bowl come January. Now if the Red Sox can just find themselves some front line pitching….

The saltwater scene hit a bit of a lull last week what with brisk winds, chilly rain and rough seas to contend with. Those anglers who made it out to the outside beaches from Provincetown to Chatham had to contend with wind-blown tangles of mung and other weedy debris but a few hardies managed to pick up a striper here and there in between wind gusts. The flats down around Monomoy continue to hold plenty of school sized bass and Nantucket Sound still offers anglers a late season shot at bluefish as water temperatures hover in the low and mid-sixties. the same holds true in Buzzards Bay and both the Sound and the Bay feature bonito, bonito, bonito with more of these sleek speedsters around than we're used to seeing most years.

In a few weeks we'll probably be transitioning over to freshwater activity but for now the fall migration hasn't really hit full steam so there's plenty of action to be had in the salt. Best spot to try these days might just be the Cape Cod Canal…all those bass that made it on up to New Hampshire and Maine will be coming back down this-away over the next couple of weeks and they will take the pause-that-refreshes should an angler be lurking at the Ditch with a nice juicy offering of live eel at slack tide. There are some seriously Large striped bass hanging out in the Canal this time of year…drifting eels or herring in those currents can sometimes nail a trophy bass.

September 29, 2014

Autumn Comes to Call

by Jerry Vovcsko

So we lost our shot at black sea bass when their season closed for 2014 last week. And now fluke is done for as well so I guess that leaves tautog as the main bottom-fishing target the rest of this year. And that's OK because ‘tog are pretty tasty in the skillet, on the grill, or as a welcome addition to the classic bouillabaisse dish. It shouldn't be any surprise that a fish that feeds primarily on shellfish is going to have a very flavorful taste itself. And if tautog could select their own diet it would be First: green crabs and, Second, anything else that wears a shell.

Best thing about ‘tog is they're pretty much ubiquitous in Cape waters. They can be found in Buzzards Bay over around the Weepeckett Islands, up near Cleveland Ledge and even in Woods Hole channel itself especially near the massive rock ledges just off Broadway, although the fierce currents that pour through there make it a real challenge to fish from a small boat. Still, one of the constant sights on weekends throughout the summer, was the twelve foot skiff anchored up at the edge of the channel with five guys Oriental hauling in scup and ‘tog, currents-be-dammed. I always figured one Monday morning I'd be reading about them under the headline "Five Fishermen Drown in Woods Hole Tragedy"… but so far their luck seems to have held.

It's not just Buzzards Bay that harbors tautog. Corporation Beach near Dennis in Cape Cod Bay has a healthy population of ‘tog and folks that fish the wreck of the James Longstreet are on familiar terms with these toothy fish. And there are some good sized specimens located on the remains of the venerable old target ship. When you can drop a line and stand a good chance of tangling with a ‘tog that registers in the double-digit weight class you're really saying something…and each summer there are at least a couple of jumbos that tip the scales past ten pounds. Again, green crabs are the preferred bait for most highliners, but seaworms, clam bellies and squid strips are known to work as well. In Nantucket Sound locating ‘tog is as simple as finding good rocky bottom structure: Nobska Light, Hedge Fence Shoal and the Middleground come to mind but any rock-strewn place will do.

Meanwhile, the Cape Cod Canal: The Canal lit up last week as schools of small baitfish moved into the Ditch and brought stripers in after them. Some Large bass found their way onto anglers' lines, including a pair of forty-pound-plus fatties. Jigging during the night time hours was one route to success and the banks of the Canal proved useful to a number of locals who specialize in pursuing bass getting ready for the migration back to home waters. Buzzards Bay would likely see more striper action but heavy winds have been making things rough for the small boat flotilla that usually pursue late season bass.

Bonito and false albacore continue to provide plenty of action for those able to get out on Nantucket Sound these days. And there are still bluefish around which is no surprise as long as water temperatures continue to hover in the mid-sixties. This a pretty good time to explore some of the estuaries along the south side of the Cape. Such places as Great Pond in Falmouth and Waquoit Bay further east harbor surprisingly big bass and offer protection from windy conditions out on the open waters of the Sound. These two estuaries are fed by the Coonamesset and Eel rivers, respectively and stripers will hang around the mouths of these rivers waiting for baitfish to emerge. It pays to work live eels around there from dusk into the night hours.

Sunday's eighty-degree air temperatures and sunshine brought out large numbers of beach goers and the parking lots was filled at Race Point. About thirty feet off from the beach a six-foot shark frolicked in the shallows. Bathers didn't seem perturbed by its presence and apparently remained oblivious to the possibility that it was a juvenile shark whose much bigger parent might just be nearby. It seems we've grown pretty blasé about the presence of creatures we once referred to as "man eaters". But one of these days I fear some random great white is going to make its presence known by dining on a visitor from Kansas or Nebraska and our casual attitudes will undergo a serious makeover. In the meantime, there are lots of bluefish feeding on mackerel in the Race Point area…an afternoon spent plug casting from boat or beach can result in sore arms indeed after battling these feisty blues.

So we're entering the last days of the 2014 fishing season around Cape Cod, and, coincidentally, Derek Jeter finished off his two-decade long career with a three game series at Fenway Park. Neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees had banner seasons this year and they're going to be hitting the golf links while others get ready for the playoffs. But they'll both be back in 2015…just like the new cycle of striped bass emerging from their spawning grounds in the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay. Meanwhile, we'll soon put away the surf gear and get ready to break out the tip-ups and power ice augers for that time when ponds and lakes freeze over and winter shuts down all but the hardiest among us. Thanks for the memories, 2014…looking forward to meeting you, 2015. Tight lines, everyone.

September 24, 2014

South Seas Dreaming

by Jerry Vovcsko

Although the buoy in Nantucket Sound reads in the mid-sixties right now, water temperatures in Cape waters have been trending downward for the past couple of weeks. The weather gurus tell us the upcoming weekend will feel like summer revisited and undoubtedly the beaches will be clogged with sun-seekers, but, ladies and gents, there's no getting around it: fall is right around the corner. That's not necessarily a bad thing. The fall migration is ranked second only to spring in terms of red hot fishing action her on the Cape but when the striped bass and bluefish depart for points south it will start the clock ticking for local anglers counting down to May 2015 and the return of saltwater action for another year.

Right now, though, there are still fish to be caught. False albacore have staked out territory in Nantucket Sound and Buzzards Bay providing real thrills for anglers hooking up with the tunoid speedsters on light gear. That sizzling first run is not-to-be-forgotten experience for the fortunate few who happen find an albie at the end of their line. Deadly Dicks, Kastmasters, Hopkins lures and the like provide plenty of distance when long range throws are needed such as when pods of albies are bait-busting out a ways in the Cape Cod Canal. An extra ten or twenty feet can make the difference between successful hookup or big time frustration and the metal slabs can reach out and touch an albie where a plug falls aggravatingly short of the action.

Striped bass have been somewhat angler-shy since the dreaded doldrums descended on Cape waters. Things will get better as the migration picks up steam but for now bass can best be found down along the Elizabeth Island chain between Woods Hole and Cuttyhunk. Charter boats have been taking twenty and thirty pound stripers in the Quicks Hole area and along the western shoreline of Martha's Vineyard. Drifting with live eels has brought good results lately and the rocky shoreline around Cuttyhunk and Pasque Island lends itself to this method of striper gathering.

Bass, blues and an assortment of funny fish are making themselves available over around Nantucket Island and there are plenty of jumbo-size bluefish cavorting in the rips south of the big island. Nantucket Sound between Falmouth and the mouth of the Bass River has been a lively scene with action provided by a mixed bag of bass, blues, bonito and albies with reports of a school of jack crevalle working over baitfish on the surface just off Waquoit Bay. It seems each year new visitors from southern waters turn up locally…one of these years we may wake up some morning and find bonefish finning along on the Mashnee Flats. Hey, it could happen. It wasn't that long ago that the idea of Spanish mackerel in local waters was considered nuts; now it's an event that barely registers on the Odd-O-Meter.

The outside beaches are a hit-or-miss proposition as migrating stripers coming down from northern waters light up the fishing for the surfcasting crowd, but pickings are lean in between schools. Some of the bigger bass have been taken on live eels drifted during the nighttime hours and a plus-thirty pound striper was netted from the beach a little south of Peaked Hill Bars. Race Point sees on-again, off-again striper activity with the occasional appearance of bluefish and a few locals managed to coax a nice catch of keeper size fluke from Provincetown Harbor.
Cape Cod Bay continues to offer up striped bass in the Billingsgate channel, along the edge of the Brewster Flats and over at Scorton Ledge. It's mostly tube-and-worm or live eels in these places with some plug casting for schoolie stripers around Barnstable Harbor.

Chatham and Monomoy continue to produce stripers although there hasn't been much lately in the way of size. Plenty of schoolie bass around the Monomoy Flats and the seal colony presents quite an obstacle for returning stripers…maybe one of the scientists monitoring the comings and goings of the great white sharks will take the time to do a study on how many stripers are consumed by the seals that have taken up residence along the Chatham beaches. I think they'll find that a lot of fish are ending up in the gullets of these seals but the government lads say hands-off the seals, so what are you gonna do?

The leaves are turning colors now; the local apple orchards are cranking out product; the last of the tomatoes are showing up on farm stands. Won't be long before snow shovels and bags of rock salt appear on the hardware store shelves. It's autumn in New England. And that means winter is just around the corner. Now it's time to decide between a snow blower and a generator. When I hit the lottery jackpot I think I'll talk to George about becoming the at-large editor covering the fishing scene around Raritonga or Papeete. Yep, cold beer at hand, hammock strung between a couple of palm trees and fishing rod stuck in a sand spike…Jerry Vovcsko reporting with the South Sea Chronicles. I do believe I could handle that.

September 16, 2014

Saturday Nights at the Bucket Of Blood

by Jerry Vovcsko

My New England Patriots redeemed themselves with a win in Minnesota Sunday but sure got their heads handed to them the week before in Miami. Reminds me of those high school Saturday afternoons at Richfield Springs in upstate New York when we went at it with our chief rival Cooperstown. We'd slug it out on the gridiron in the afternoon and then meet later that night at the Brass Lantern in Schuyler Lake, a one-store intersection halfway between the two towns. The Brass Lantern was a bucket-of-blood bar room where we could drink without getting carded because Henry, the owner/bartender, was usually three sheets to the wind by 11 o' clock and less than conscientious about checking IDs.

Regardless of who won the afternoon game, the real battles played out that night as players from their respective schools shipped aboard excessive wet goods then fired insults and taunts across the crowded bar. Before long trash-talking turned to fists-flying and eventually the mob spilled out into the blacktopped parking lot to continue the manly art of beating the hell out of each other while too drunk to stand without leaning on some other inebriate. Sometimes we didn't even make it outside and I can recall a time or two trying to brush something off my cheek and discovering it was the floor. Yeah, that was football as we played it…Old School style.

Closer to home, though, those of us who once-upon-a-time indulged in Saturday night fisticuffs to satisfy the urgings of excessive testosterone levels, nowadays set forth to do battle with the wily denizen of local waters…the striped bass, the bluefish, the bonito and the albacore. Though we outweigh these fishy opponents by a factor of something like thirty to one, to hook up with a ten pound bluefish is to come away with aching forearm muscles and a healthy respect for the blue's willingness to slug it out, size disparity notwithstanding.

And double-digit blues are not all that difficult to locate right now. The mild days and chilly nights we're experiencing now are the first reminders that fall is lurking just around the corner. That means the migration is not far off and stripers and blues will soon begin taking on calories for their long journey home. It used to be that an angler in search of jumbo bluefish need only head the backside of Martha's Vineyard to Wasque Rip and have at it with big swimming plugs or metal slabs. But winter storms over the past few years rearranged Wasque right out of existence and it takes a little more effort to locate the big ones nowadays.

A good place to start would be the Cape Cod Canal. Everything that swam north last spring will be heading south soon and most of these fish will pass through the Canal on the way out of town. Ideally, anglers looking to tangle with the resident Large will have been savvy enough to save up some whole or chunk mackerel for bait. Catch the half-hour intervals at turn-of-tide when currents slack off enough to allow baits to sink deep and, chances are a hookup will be forthcoming.

Come the evening hours, a live eel drifted down deep should bring good results. Often there will be an Old Timer or two working a rigged eelskin in among the rocks and these guys are worth watching because anyone who knows how to rig an eelskin possesses a virtual storehouse of savvy and experience when it comes to catching bass. Watch and learn.

Albies are swarming Nantucket Sound right now but they can be devilishly frustrating when it comes to trying to draw a strike. When they're around I keep a rod at hand pre-rigged with a metal slab – usually a Hopkins or small Kastmaster – featuring a bit of bucktail with a few strands of mylar flash. I can grab that rod when a pod of bait-driving albies cruise past and whip a cast a little ways beyond them and work it back on a path that intersects with where they're headed at some point. And when one hits it's Katy-bar-the-door because that first run is a not to be forgotten line-stripper. Best bet right now is around the Woods Hole Harbor/Nonnamesset Island area on over toward Hyannis and the mouth of the Bass River.

Groundfish action got a little less rewarding as the season for black sea bass ran out as of September 15th. Those tasty critters sure do please the palate even though they're real pains to clean and prepare what with the tiny pin bones that need to be plucked out individually with tweezers or pliers. It's worth the effort, though, when a crispy-skinned sea fillet bass plunks down on your plate with a side of roasted potatoes and a serving of tangy slaw…doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

So, yeah, the fish are around right now, bass and blues…but this is the part of the season where time seems to accelerate and it won't be long before they're all heading off for home waters leaving us to wonder if it's too soon to break out the ice fishing gear. Guess we better get out there and do some business while business is still being done.

Oh, and about that drinking/fighting stuff I mentioned in the beginning? A pretty good writer name of Kurt Vonnegut said as we grow up we drink less because we don't want the police to revoke our puberty by taking away our license. I think he was on to something there.

September 06, 2014

Doctor Gonzo Time

by Jerry Vovcsko

"It was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top." Hunter S. Thompson

I ran across that remark recently while I was rereading some of Hunter's short stories in all their Gonzo brilliance. Got me thinking about what he'd make of all the great white shark activity in Cape waters over the past couple of years. Makes perfect sense he'd see it in terms of the silly hubris we humans embrace in our dealings with other creatures – in this case an apex predator. Hunter wouldn't be terribly troubled by the notion of a huge shark taking a chunk out of some tourist's ample derriere…and when you get right down to it, neither am I.

This does seem to be the Year of the Shark around these parts. There was even a sighting ten miles inland in the Taunton River. The first report was checked out by harbormaster Ron Marino and he found a ten to twelve foot sand tiger shark cruising in shallow waters. But then another sighting came in about a much bigger shark, also seen in the river. That one turned out to be a basking shark, a creature that grows to around thirty feet as it reaches adulthood.

Then we heard that officials had closed the beach in Duxbury because a great white had been spotted just offshore. A few locals took the opportunity to write "You're gonna need a bigger boat" in the sand, a reference familiar to all fans of Steven Spielberg's seminal shark-horror film, Jaws. This visit was followed by another great white sighting near Chatham with its colony of seals as the primary lure de jour.

Wednesday's sighting is the third in ten days after sharks were spotted near Duxbury Beach and off the coast of Chatham, and the recent slew of sightings closes out a summer that felt like it was full of sharks. And then this past week a great white shark bit into a kayak off the coast of Plymouth tumbling two frightened but unharmed kayakers into the water where they were rescued by the Plymouth Harbormaster.

So, yeah, this was definitely shark-time around Cape Cod waters even though nobody was eaten by one of these apex predators. And, hey, at least we didn't have to contend with a deadly albino cobra like the one that ran loose for days in a Southern California neighborhood was captured Thursday.

"We are overjoyed. We are glad that the public was not harmed," Los Angeles County spokesman Brandon Dowling said after county animal control officers nabbed the monocled cobra.

The venom of the cobra is a neurotoxin that can kill within an hour. Television reports showed officers using a long-handled tong-like grabber to haul the snake from a pile of scrap lumber in a backyard and put it in a long wooden box. So, no thanks, we'll stick to great whites and California can keep any and all assorted cobras out there in La La Land. Seems only fair to me.

Nantucket Sound may not have registered any great white shark action this season but it sure has its share of albacore activity going on right now. Pods of albies have been herding baitfish every which way and anglers have probably tossed a cumulative ton of metals at the speedy little tunnies. In lieu of metals, those holographic Yozuri swimmers bring good results for folks able to get close enough to lob one in front of the cruising albies. Local Canal-rats heaved metal slabs and performed high-speed retrieves with good results during the week and that action should continue through the weekend.

Striper catch reports have been sporadic although a few locals have done very well around Quicks Hole and out near Penikese Island. Penikese offers excellent tautog action because of the rock-studded bottom structure that surrounds the island. Bluefish can still be had just about anywhere in Nantucket Sound and some bigger blues have been taken in the rips south of Nantucket Island.

Tube and worm is a good bet to produce along the shoreline from Scussett Beach around toward Manomet. But kayakers in particular should keep an eye out around Manomet Point as that was the location of the last great white sighting. And the back beaches, from Nauset to Race Point, have been kind to surf anglers lobbing live eels into the wash, especially between dusk and dark…just don't get too far out there in waders and such. As Game of Thrones characters are fond of pronouncing, the night is dark and full of terrors. At least for those who didn't get a bigger boat.

I started this thing with a Hunter Thompson quote; guess it's only right to wrap it up with a line about Doctor Gonzo. So how about this one by Frank Kelly Rich, editor and publisher of Modern Drunkard Magazine:
"There was always a powerful comfort in knowing he was out there somewhere in the night, roaring drunk, guzzling high-octane whiskey and railing against a world amok with complacency and hypocrisy."

Yeah, well, Hunter's not with us any more…when the aches and pains and depression got to be too much, he checked out with a .44 magnum bullet to the brain while talking with his wife on the phone. While he was around though, he stomped the terra…and left his Gonzo mark on the literature. So RIP, Hunter…you had a helluva run while it lasted.

August 30, 2014

Mass Division of Marine Fisheries Requests Opinions From Anglers on Striper Policies

by Jerry Vovcsko

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is soliciting opinions from recreational anglers regarding striped bass management issues for 2015. According to these folks the recreational catch has taken a serious plunge (75%) and the management people want some input on what to do about it. Size and bag limits will more than likely be a starting point for changes in fishery regs. The Sept 30th deadline for comments and opinions gives rec anglers about a month to have our say. This is an important regulatory matter coming under consideration so it behooves all of us to have our say. Details below.

Opportunity for Angler Input on Two Recreational Fisheries Issues:
Your opinions matter! Below are two important issues for Massachusetts recreational fisheries for which public comment is being sought. Marine Fisheries encourages you to get involved in the management of YOUR recreational saltwater fisheries by providing your views.

1) Striped Bass Management Measures in 2015
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission – which coordinates management of shared fisheries resources along the Atlantic Coast – is accepting public comment on proposed revisions to the interstate management plan for Atlantic striped bass. Draft Addendum IV proposes reducing fishing mortality because even though overfishing is not occurring, spawning stock biomass has been steadily declining below the target level since 2006 and is projected to fall below the threshold level due to a series of years with poor juvenile production. While recreational harvest of striped bass in Massachusetts has not changed appreciably with the decline in the stock, recreational catch (including both harvested and released fish) has fallen by roughly 75% since 2006, a trend anglers like you have likely noticed. In response, the draft addendum offers a range of management options to reduce both commercial and recreational harvest throughout the striped bass' range beginning in 2015. Specific options under consideration include various bag and size limit combinations for the recreational fishery and quota reductions for the commercial fishery. Please read the addendum for more information.

Draft Addendum IV is available here or through the Commission's website,, under "Breaking News". The document includes instructions for submitting written public comment through the comment deadline of September 30. There will also be four public hearings in Massachusetts on the Draft Addendum during the first week of September. Details on the hearings are available here or through MarineFisheries website,, under "Marine Fisheries Notices."

2) National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy
NOAA Fisheries ( is developing a national policy on saltwater recreational fisheries to outline a set of principles to guide the agency's management actions and decisions over the long term. The new policy will make clear the values NOAA Fisheries will keep in mind when implementing the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the legislation that governs fisheries management in federal waters. The policy will also serve as the underpinning to the agency's recreational fishing Action Agenda.

NOAA Fisheries would like to know your thoughts on what should be in the policy. Comments will be accepted through September 12. Check here for more information, including how to submit comments:

don't often get the chance to have our say on these issues so it's worth taking a few minutes to let these folks know what's on our minds. I plan to.

August 26, 2014

Where Have All the Codfish Gone, Long Time Passing?

by Jerry Vovcsko

The Cape Cod Times recently published a story noting that as of the third week in August, striped bass is still on restaurant menus and being sold in fish markets. That's a situation that hasn't existed for six years and with 33 percent of the total striped bass quota — nearly 368,000 pounds — still left to be caught, it appears restaurants may be able to keep stripers on their menus right through the summer, maybe into fall.

That's good news for fishermen who are getting between $4 and $5 per pound, up from the three dollars a pound that was the going rate last year. The news is less pleasing for consumers, however, as the price to retail customers is a whopping $17 to $26 a pound. The time may well be coming when customers will have to settle for lobster because striped bass is too expensive.

The current striped bass season is now more in line with what the state Division of Marine Fisheries had in mind when it dramatically changed striped bass regulations this spring. The DMF wanted to bring some order to the commercial striped bass fishery for years. That was especially true over the past two years when the state bass quota, which used to last for months, was filled in just 16 days as fishermen flocked to a relatively small area near Chatham. The glut of stripers flooded the market, resulting in reduced prices for fishermen and it wasn't especially good for consumers as striped bass disappeared from seafood cases and menus by the third week of July.

This spring, the DMF implemented new regulations that cut the number of fishing days each week from four to two, and lowered the daily limit of striped bass per fishermen from 30 to 15. Commercial surf fishermen fishing from the beach could only take two fish. The strategy appears to have paid off, although it was probably helped when the big "bite" off Chatham did not happen this year. There are also fewer adult fish, something the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission wants to address with a new management plan that could ask for a 25 percent cut in the commercial quota for next year.

Striped bass were brought back from record lows in the 1970s to record highs in the 1990s and are still considered a healthy fish stock, but fishery managers worry about environmental and other factors in their breeding grounds in the mid-Atlantic states that have resulted in years of low numbers of juveniles reaching spawning age which translates into fewer adult fish coming north.

Maybe DMF's plan will eventually prove effective in protecting striped bass stocks but it sounds disturbingly familiar to me. It's pretty much the same approach that Canadian officials took in managing the Atlantic cod fishery and that turned out to have disastrous consequences when those same officials ultimately had to close the cod fishery putting every single fisherman on the dole and shutting down ALL cod fishing activity, including recreational and even subsistence fishing. Sure hope the prospects for the striped bass fishery don't go the way of the cod.

Oh, and speaking of cod, the level of codfish spawning in one of the most critical fisheries in the Northeast is at an all-time low, putting more pressure on a fishery already dealing with declining catch and dramatic quota cuts. National Marine Fisheries Service scientists say the amount of cod spawning in the Gulf of Maine is estimated to be 3 to 4 percent of its target level. That number has declined from 13 to 18 percent three years ago.

Low levels of reproduction in the fishery are holding repopulation back, scientists say. They are investigating what might be driving down the numbers of cod but believe temperature change — which they have also linked to a declining Northern shrimp stock and northern migration of herring — may be one factor. A recent assessment of the Gulf of Maine cod shows the fish spawning at levels lower than seen in data stretching back to the 1930s, scientists say. Records of cod catches dating back to the 19th century indicate the population has never dipped this low before, according to Russ Brown, deputy science and research director at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

Before the 2013-14 fishing season, federal regulators cut the Gulf of Maine cod harvest quota by 77 percent, to 1,550 metric tons, in the hopes of spurring growth in the fishery, and that's still in effect. Instead, however, commercial catches have plummeted, with Maine dropping from more than 560 metric tons of cod in 2009 to less than 130 metric tons last year. Massachusetts, the most productive cod-fishing state in the Northeast, fell from 6,810 metric tons in 2011 to 4,075 metric tons in 2012, federal data show and the number of fish surviving their first year has also dipped since 2009. Which is to say, no news regarding the cod fishery sounds promising and time to fix the situation may well be running out…if humans aren't able to find a suitable answer, Mother Nature may just step in with far more Draconian results.

The recent mackerel bonanza that triggered daily striped bass blitzes in the Cape Cod Canal appears to have petered out now and the easy pickings that prevailed last week have become things of the past. There still bass in the big ditch, yes, but they're not showing up en masse these days. So it looks like it's back to deep jigging with plastic and jig combos or working needles on the surface in the early morning hours. A few Old School types have done well for themselves with eelskin rigs worked during the night hours but those ladies tend to be close-mouthed about where they fish and what they catch.

Vineyard Sound has seen increasing numbers of bonito showing up and cruising along driving baitfish and providing great sport for anglers employing light gear. There's nothing quite like the sizzling runs the funny fish display when they're hooked on less-than-heavyweight-tackle and allowed to show off their speedy antics.

Bluefish continue to make up the bulk of catches in the Sound these days as stripers require a bit more savvy and experience to hook up with. A few anglers have done well on bass around Quicks Hole and Cuttyhunk recently but nothing spectacular in the way of size. There have also been striper reports over near Chatham and Monomoy. Last year at this time there were huge numbers of striped bass showing up east of Chatham which pleased anglers as well as the resident seal population; this year, not so much. Action seems to be picking up along the outside beaches especially between Truro and Race Point. The surf lads working live eels in the wash around Head of Meadow Beach have been taking a few Large on the outgoing tide between dusk and dark.

The appearance of a Great White shark – estimated at 12 to 14 feet – just off Duxbury Beach caused considerable excitement over the weekend. Locals know that Mako and Thresher sharks are fairly common in Cape Cod Bay but Great Whites had so far kept their appearances limited to the Atlantic side around Nauset and Chatham. Having them show up in the Bay is not good news to swimmers and kayakers. Vacationers on the beach at Duxbury got into the swing of things with the message they wrote in the sand: "You're gonna need a bigger boat!"

Where's Quint when you need him?

August 16, 2014

Messages On the Coconut Telegraph

by Jerry Vovcsko

"They're closin' down the hangout
The air is turnin' cool
They're shuttin' off the superslide"
The kids are back in school

The tourist traps are empty
Vacancy abounds
Almost like it used to be
Before the circus came to town"
(When the Coast is Clear)

Well, Mister Jimmy Buffett sang those lyrics when he played his annual New England gig over at what used to be Great Woods Performance Center, now known as The Tweeter Center, which lets Parrot Heads everywhere know that summer is officially on the wane. But I didn't need the coconut telegraph to tell me that because when I came downstairs to grab that first cup of morning coffee the living room thermometer read a crisp fifty-nine degrees. Chances are, the local striped bass population also caught a whiff of that chill and the message it carries, namely: "Get ready…it won't be long now."

No, it won't be long before those bass, whose arrival we waited for so long back in the spring, get ready to depart for the Hudson River, Chesapeake Bay and points south as the annual fall migration kicks into gear. There's still some time though before fall happens, but it's coming and we should make hay while the sun shines, as the old saying goes.

Striper activity in the Canal has been ratcheting up over the past week or two. There was mid-week blitz action near the visitors' area on the mainland side and some of those fish were keeper size or better. Needle plugs and jig/plastic combos took bass up to 24 pounds and the parking lot filled up fast as the word got around. At one point there were so many rods sprouting from pickup trucks it looked like a surf caster's jamboree had just gotten underway.

Bottom fishing in Buzzards Bay continues to produce scup, sea bass and tautog although the ‘tog action has slowed considerably of late. The Weepeckett Islands are probably the best bet for tautog and green crabs bring best results.

The Elizabeth Islands on the Vineyard Sound side continue to harbor striped bass and Quicks Hole is the likeliest place to tangle with a plus-thirty-pound fish. An angler working a live eel in the vicinity of North Rock has a chance of hooking up with the fish of a lifetime and the charter boats out of Fall River make a nice living plying their trade in the rugged currents of Sow and Pigs reef. Wire-lining a big swimming plug at Sow and Pigs at night in rough seas will satisfy even the most daring angler's taste for adventure. These are Big Waters that open to the Atlantic and they can get a little scary when the southwest wind kicks up.
Scattered appearances of bonito continue and they should be here in force over the next two weeks, especially around the Vineyard and possibly at Nantucket. Right now bluefish are the current catch de jour…they are ubiquitous (always like to toss that word in there when I get the chance…ubiquitous, yeah…)

The good-old-days up at Race Point seem to have taken on a more summer-doldrum-like appearance and even the blues have moved on to other locations. Stripers are off-and-on along the outside beaches although a thirty pounder was reported taken around dusk near Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro by an angler dunking sea clam bait from a sand spike. (Guys like that are the ones who get those $400 winning scratch tickets too…I hate ‘em.)

Bluefish have cruised into the area between Barnstable Harbor and Scorton Ledge with a couple of double-digit fish taken just off Sandy Neck Beach by anglers tossing metal slabs. One Old Timer that I've known for a whole lot of years swears that the way to avoid cut-off lures by toothy bluefish is to drop down to ten pound test braid. Counter intuitive it may be, but he says the skinnier line slips between those sharp teeth and he's caught a helluva lot of blues in his day so I figure he probably knows what he's talking about.

Those estuaries along the south side of the Cape hold an increasing number of snapper blues and local anglers look forward to livelining those guys to tempt big stripers. The pin-hooker pros do the same thing with scup which is probably why they fill their skiffs to the gunnels when their season opens. I remember doing the same sort of thing on an upstate New York lake when I was a kid. I'd catch a half dozen sunfish or rock bass and live line them around weed beds to catch big chain pickerel. Worked back then in the sweetwater; works now in the salt.

And then there's this uniquely colored lobster that was brought into Cape Tip Seafood in Orleans by a local fisherman along with his regular catch. According to experts, calico lobsters are the second rarest lobsters--second only to albinos. Calicos, with a mottled orange and black shell, are a one in 30 million find, according to the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine.

Other rarities include blue, yellow, split color and albino lobsters. According to, shell color can be genetic or inherited as is the case with calicos. The scientific laddies say shell color in some lobsters can also be affected by their diet. This one can be seen at Cape Tip Seafood at 18 Old Colony Way in Orleans.

August 08, 2014

Striper Regulations From Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries

by Jerry Vovcsko

The latest newsletter from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries included a description of new regs aimed at improving the management of the commercial striped bass fishery. The following is excerpted from that source:

Effective 2014: New Rules to Improve the Commercial Striped Bass Fishery

This past winter, MarineFisheries and the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission proposed a suite of regulatory revisions to the management of the Commonwealth's commercial striped bass fishery. Most of the proposals were developed to improve the performance and administration of the commercial fishery given recent resource distribution patterns.

One item, a commercial tagging program, was in response to an interstate plan requirement of every Atlantic coast state with a commercial striped bass fishery. As anticipated, these proposals garnered a lot of public comment, some of which significantly shaped the final measures being implemented. The following regulation changes are in effect starting in the 2014 season. The number of open fishing days has been reduced from four to two days to assist with market glut, ex-vessel value, and season length.

Based on public input, Mondays and Thursdays were selected as the new open fishing days in order to accommodate supply to both out-of-state and local markets. Notably, Sunday was eliminated as an open commercial day to reduce user conflict, primarily between recreational and commercial harvesters. While the number of fishing days per week was reduced, the number of open days per season may stay the same or even increase given other rule changes, such as the lowering of the daily possession limits. Like the number of weekly fishing days, the commercial bag limits were also reduced to improve market conditions and extend the season. In addition, two different daily limits were applied to harvesters based on the type of commercial fishing permit held.

A 15-fish limit was set for fishermen issued a Commercial Lobster or Boat Permit endorsed for striped bass, whereas a 2-fish limit was set for fishermen issued a Commercial Individual or Rod & Reel Permit endorsed for striped bass. The reduction from prior years' 30-fish limit may discourage long-distance travel to the Chatham bass aggregation, alleviating vessel congestion and diffusing the repeated site-specific heavy fishing effort that has implications for the stock's health.

The lower limit for non-boat permits aims to accommodate the occasional catch with intent to sell that occurs from shore, while also discouraging the illegal practice of fishermen selling an overage of the possession limit by attributing the excess harvest to a second permit. To further combat this illegal activity, dealers are now prohibited from purchasing more than one daily limit from a commercial fisherman regardless of the number of commercial Striped Bass Permit Endorsements in the fisherman's possession.

Both the 15 and 2-fish limits apply to the permit holder regardless of the number of Striped Bass Permit Endorsements held or trips taken in a day. The 15-fish limit also applies to the vessel regardless of the number of Striped Bass Permit Endorsement holders onboard or trips taken in a day. The season start date was moved forward from July 12 to June 23 based on industry interest to provide fish to the busy 4th of July market, as well as increase access to the resource in more areas of the coast (that is, start the fishery before the Chatham aggregation forms). With reductions to both the number of open days per week and the daily limits, it is not expected that the earlier opening date will curtail the season's end date (recent closures have been in early August). Rather, it is hoped that this suite of options will extend the season later into the summer, benefiting both harvesters with better prices and consumers with better availability of local, fresh seafood.

A control date of September 8, 2013 was also implemented by which future access levels in the fishery may be determined. Any person issued a new Striped Bass Permit Endorsement after the control date may be restricted from participating in this fishery or may be subject to different eligibility criteria than those persons who did hold a Striped Bass Permit Endorsement on the control date. Several previous control dates applied to the commercial striped bass fishery in the early 2000s, but these were never used to condition participation in the fishery and have since expired. Another control date of March 6, 2008 applies to all other commercial hook and line fisheries. One more date to remember is the Striped Bass Permit Endorsement application and renewal date, which is now the last day of February beginning in 2015 (moved up from March 15 this year so as to align with other permit renewal deadlines). The rules by which for-hire vessels may sell striped bass caught during for-hire trips have also been adjusted.

A for-hire 2014 rule changes aim, in part, to disperse congregations of striped bass commercial fishermen that have occurred east of Chatham in recent years. A vessel on a for-hire trip must now abide by all recreational rules for striped bass (i.e., no more than 2 fish per person, 28" minimum size), but could sell part of the striped bass catch if unwanted by the patrons at the end of the trip, provided the commercial rules are also met (the for-hire vessel is also properly permit- ted for commercial bass sales, 34" minimum size met, it's an open commercial day, no more than 15 fish sold per day, etc.). This differs from past years in which a for-hire vessel with a commercial permit endorsed for striped bass could take a for- hire trip and fish under the commercial rules for striped bass (30 fish in prior years at 34" minimum), patrons could leave with up to two fish each, and the for-hire captain could sell the remaining fish. This change will improve data collection on both recreational and commercial harvest. Fish kept by the patrons will be accounted for by MRIP, the recreational fishing survey, while the sold fish will be reported on commercial trip-level reporting forms.

MarineFisheries will be considering whether to extend to other species this special allowance for the sale of striped bass caught during for-hire trips. Lastly, a dealer (or point-of-sale) tagging program now requires all primary buyers of striped bass to affix a valid MarineFisheries-issued Striped Bass ID Tag to each striped bass at the place of primary purchase and prior to transit. The tags must remain affixed to whole striped bass until the fish are processed into fillets; thereafter, the tags must accompany the fillets while in possession for re-sale. Tags are to remain on the premises of retail seafood dealers or food establishments until all portions are sold, at which point the tags must be cut into two pieces and discarded.

Primary buyers are subject to tag accountability measures following the close of the commercial striped bass season. It is unlawful for any individual to possess whole or portions of striped bass for the purpose of re-sale without the fish being tagged in accordance with these provisions. The objective of the coastwide tagging program is to increase accountability in the supply chain and give law enforcement a greater ability to detect poaching. MarineFisheries will be working closely with primary buyers of striped bass to achieve as smooth an implementation as possible of this new requirement.

July 31, 2014

Gotta Know the Territory, Right, Willy?

by Jerry Vovcsko

Even though Massachusetts will see little or no effect from the law it recently passed, still, it became the ninth state to criminalize the traffic in shark fins. Governor Deval Patrick signed the new restrictions into law outlawing the removal of shark fins (often while the animals are still alive) although it exempts locally caught species including skate, smooth hound sharks and spiny dogfish from the regs.

Restaurants which serve shark fin soup charge as much as one hundred dollars a bowl for the Asian delicacy which has contributed to the fierce demand. The new law is designed to help shrink the US market for shark fins that are typically imported from countries with less restrictive laws. Violators of the new Massachusetts law could be fined up to $1,000, plus 60 days in prison and the loss of their fishing licenses, according to the Governor's office.

In other news, Massachusetts has been trying to lower the mortality rate for endangered shorebirds, including plovers, by regulating off-road vehicular access to nesting areas and restricting foot traffic to these areas during the crucial nesting periods. But as of late town, state and federal agencies are grappling with the complex problem of addressing the increasing populations of predators that cause more shorebird deaths than human activities.

Many of these predators, including foxes, skunks, coyotes and even crows are thriving on foodstuffs discarded by humans and their populations are growing to such an extent that they threaten to virtually exterminate some shorebird species. The Mass Audubon Society tells us that crow populations have just about doubled since the 1980s and continue to rise exponentially, taking an unsustainable toll on plover eggs among others. In the past two years alone, the number of plover chicks that successfully reach maturity levels are much lower than what it takes to have a stable population, and that is largely due to increased predation, say conservation science officials for the state's endangered species program.

One of the most promising tools in protecting these birds from predators flamed out when predators figured out how to exploit beach cages known as exclosures that safeguard eggs and nesting birds. Then too, the lethal removal of predators by poisoning or with hired shooters is no longer an option as public opinion put the kibosh on such programs ever since a crow-poisoning project in 2010 had to be cancelled because of a firestorm of public protest.

While in 2001, the Cape Cod National Seashore had a somewhat successful plover protection program, with 76 nesting pairs of birds and 155 chicks that reached the point where they could fly and migrate, last year only 46 chicks fledged from 85 nesting pairs of birds, just half a chick per pair. Previously, the wire cages (exclosures) were so successful in safeguarding plovers from wandering coyotes and other predators that as many as 91 percent of the eggs hatched and more than two chicks per nesting pair successfully fledged.

Coyotes are the most prevalent predator on Monomoy Island and refuge officials killed 189 coyotes and pups between 1998 and 2012. They also killed individuals from other bird species such as black-crowned night heron. Town officials say that if the shorebird losses to predators continue at the current rate, discussions about eliminating those predators may well be back on the table as perhaps the only effective solution to keep some shorebird species from sliding into extinction.

Meanwhile, the fishing in Cape waters runs the gamut from so-so as the rising water temperatures push striped bass populations into deeper waters, to pretty decent at first light and around dusk in places where rips provide opportunities for bigger fish to set up shop waiting for baitfish to get tumbled in the current.

One of the reasons that I spend the bulk of my time tossing plugs into the rocks and boulders along the Elizabeth Islands is the presence of such localized rips formed by the tidal currents that sweep along the island chain. There's a reason that striped bass are known in the vernacular as "rockfish" and if it's rocks an angler seeks, there's no better place to find them than down along Naushon and Cuttyhunk Islands. Which is also why so many world record stripers have been pulled from these waters.

And then there's the stretch of shoreline along the western edge of Martha's Vineyard. A clever and determined angler could spend the entire season fishing along that shoreline and do very well for him/her self. For a shot at really BIG bass, there's the infamous Devil's Bridge, a rocky shoal that juts out into Vineyard Sound near the southwestern corner of the Vineyard.

I know a gent who fishes nothing but parachute jigs on this prime striper habitat and keeps his grill busy all summer long turning out delicious marinated striper steaks and his freezer well stocked for the winter months. Mostly, he runs a drift along the Bridge on the night tides, switching up on occasion by wirelining the jigs down deep over the holes he is as familiar with as the idiosyncrasies of the ancient forty horse Evinrude that hangs from the stern of his salty old lapstrake skiff.

His fishing secret?

"Do one thing but be expert at it…know your territory, know every last rock and sandbar and stick with that."

Well, maybe that didn't work so well for Willy Loman as readers of Arthur Miller's classic "Death of a Salesman" can vouch for, but then, striped bass don't read (sort of like "Charlie don't surf!") so, what the hell….

These days bluefish are everywhere. Snapper blues can be found in the harbors and estuaries along the Nantucket Sound shoreline. Bigger blues cruise the Sound daily and the rips behind Nantucket hold some double-digit bluefish that will give anglers a real tussle before they come in over the gunwales.

Tunas can be found east of Chatham now, both the big bluefins and football-sized varieties…and some of the more exotic, southern species are showing up thanks to the vagaries of the Gulf Stream currents – mahi mahi, cobia, even the odd wahoo have surprised local anglers tooling around offshore looking for stripers or whatever.

Those cooler waters east of the Cape keep the stripers feisty and alert so fishing the surf after dusk can be very productive along those outside beaches between Chatham and Provincetown, especially for anglers using live eels. This is an ideal time to lob those "big snakes" into the wash and feel them hammered by wide-shouldered striped bass upwards of thirty pounds.

Just steer clear of the seal colonies down around Chatham. They'll clean a hooked striper off an angler's hook in a jiffy, yes, but more to the point, they invite unwanted visitors, namely, the Great White sharks that sure do love themselves a little seal meat. Best not to add "tasty angler" to the menu.

July 25, 2014

Rabid Foxes and Fish Sanctuaries: Just Another Day in New England

by Jerry Vovcsko

First it was problems at the parking areas near Race Point in Provincetown as visitors insist on feeding coyotes and park Rangers warned about the public making close contact with wildlife as rabies are often an issue. Now residents of Newbury and Newburyport are being told to keep a close eye on their children and pets after two recent rabid fox attacks.

Board of Health officials say a 60-year-old resident was attacked by a fox that suddenly appeared from the woods last weekend. That fox was caught and euthanized. A few days earlier a woman in the same area was attacked. Both women quickly sought medical attention and while it's not certain that it was the same fox, the many similarities in the attacks point in that direction.

Police told local media that they have received multiple sightings recently of raccoons and foxes that might be infected with the deadly virus. The Board of Health is asking residents to make sure pet rabies vaccinations are up to date and to keep a close eye on pets and children.

A recent story in the Boston Globe reminds readers that "for thousands of years, the jagged rocks of a submerged mountain range about 80 miles off the coast of Gloucester have preserved one of the region's most distinct marine habitats. The frigid waters and glacier-sculpted peaks are home to a billowy kelp forest and an abundant array of life, from multicolored anemones to cod the size of refrigerators."

That place is Cashes Ledge and for hundreds of years fishermen recorded massive hauls of cod, pollock, and other groundfish. But about a decade ago, in an effort to bolster declining fish stocks, regulators cordoned off 550 square miles of the area, making it one of the largest fishing closures from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia.

Now the New England Fishery Management Council, which oversees fishing issues in the region, is considering reopening some or all of the area to trawlers. Not surprisingly this has seriously pissed off environmental groups who worry about the impact on the ledge's unique biodiversity and the risk of damage to the already decimated cod populations.

Fishermen claim the closure is no longer necessary because a quota system now caps the amount of each species that fishermen can catch each year. They also say the closure likely causes more damage to the environment than allowing fishing in Cashes Ledge because fishermen spend more time raking the seabed with their dredges and nets in areas where it's harder to find fish. If they were allowed into waters where there are ample amounts of cod and Pollock, they could speed up their catch, burn less fuel, and earn more money, they say.

The council will hold public hearings in the region this summer and will vote on lifting the closure this fall. Its members will look at four options, starting with one that would permit fishing throughout the entire 550 square miles and ending with one that would maintain the status quo.

It's likely few will be completely satisfied by the final decision but the council has been receiving heavy pressure from the various stakeholders and it's a good bet that some changes will be made; the question is, to what extent? Typically, when these opposing constituencies get together at these kinds of meetings, it often deteriorates into what sounds like Bingo-Night at the Tower of Babel. Maybe this one will be different and folks will actually try to reach a workable compromise….or maybe not.

The Canal has been seeing increased early morning action these days and much of that has been top water action with needles and darters the favored plugs. It's mostly school sized bass but the occasional keeper turns up now and again. Bluefish show up from time to time but mostly individual fish, not the pods that continue to cruise Vineyard Sound. A 12 pound blue took a chunk of mackerel near the east end this week and probably contributed a fillet or two to the lucky angler's grill.

First reports of bonito over around the Vineyard surfaced a few days ago and that's always good news for anglers who crave the reel-screaming runs these mini tunas make when hooked. They and their false albacore brethren provide great action as the season hits the mid-point in our waters and tilts toward the downhill run to the fall migration.

Unfortunately, as the bonnies and albies begin to show up locally, the bass fishing slides into the dreaded doldrums and stripers become considerably harder to find. Best bet now is to cruise on down the Elizabeth Island chain and work the tides in Quicks Hole, Robinsons Hole and around the Cuttyhunk shoreline on both the Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay sides. It's a good idea to stock a couple dozen or so live eels on board as there are days when the stripers turn up their fishy noses at artificials but continue to smack a feisty live eel just on general principles. There are a number of theories why stripers will attack an eel but from what I've read it seems likeliest that the eels prey on striper fingerlings and the bass, particularly the females, take issue with having their young preyed upon.

A few miles south of Nantucket gets anglers into tuna-territory and further south bring boaters into the realm of the deep Canyons and this year the actions started with a bang as one boat caught and released a twelve foot marlin near Veatch canyon. East of Chatham, Bluefin tuna show up from time to time and a couple of those Big Guys have already been caught this year.

In the estuaries along the south side beaches between Woods Hole and Waquoit, snapper blues and mini-stripers can be taken of light spinning gear and there's no better fun than to take a couple of small children along and let them enjoy a fish-catching bonanza by drifting small pieces of seaworm in the currents around these warm, sheltered inlets. Cast a worm into the shadows around moored boats and there's a good chance school sized stripers will take a whack at it. It's a twofer as the fish is hooked and the child finds his/herself hooked on fishing, sometimes for a lifetime.

Two pretty good locations for anglers out for fluke include the area around the mouth of the Bass River and, further west, the Middleground. Scup and black sea bass can be picked up around the Woods Hole/Lackey's Bay area and sea bass continue to reward anglers fishing over wrecks such as the James Longstreet in Cape Cod Bay. Billingsgate Shoal continues to deliver stripers to folks working tube and worm in the slot and around the edges. Locals employ a slick technique by making a turn that puts their tube& worm rig over the deeper holes and then slowing boat speed to drop the rig down to those holes. Time it right and it's a killer technique for big, lazy bass that lurk in the holes waiting for something to drop by for an ambush…it works also at the western end of the Middlegound where holes at the sixty-foot depth level hold lunker bass as well.

There were reports of stripers feeding in the surf on the south side of the Vineyard last week but a person can do a lot of walking and still end up skunked as bass become very fickle this time of the season. Nevertheless, it's worth a look for boat fishermen roaming around Cuttyhunk who want to change up their location and try a few new spots. Maybe take a shot at where Wasque Rip used to make up…maybe the fish will be drawn back there based on their own memories of the good-old-days when the rip featured a four-foot standing wave and churned up baitfish like an epileptic washing machine.

This the time of the year that separates the real anglers from the wannabes…early in the year, back in May and June, the bass are newly arrived hungry and relatively easy to catch. Now it takes some skill and determination to get a hookup and land a keeper. But that's why it's important to accrue experience when it comes to fishing…after a while an angler develops a feel for where the fish might be. Instead of just tossing a lure anywhere and hoping for the best, experience whispers "Over there, just at the head of that rip making up by those rocks…work it slow at an angle to the current."

That's the way a wannabe gradually becomes an angler… and that's how we figure out who's cook and who's the potatoes.

July 15, 2014

Fishing the Elizabeth Islands

by Jerry Vovcsko

The Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs issued a press release this past week announcing the completion of 15 fishing and boating access projects across the state. The combined projects cost $2.2 million and included four on Cape Cod and one on Martha's Vineyard.

Funds for much of the work were made available through state general funds, bond appropriations, revenue from the sale of saltwater fishing licenses and reimbursements from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the federal Sport Fish Restoration Act.

The four Cape projects took place in Dennis, Harwich, Mashpee and Orleans:
• Uncle Freeman's Landing in Dennis – Included $5,000 in improvements to the boat ramp. were made. The boat ramp, which is on Bass River, is managed by the Town of Dennis and offers good fishing for striped bass, bluefish and flounder. Parking spaces for eight vehicles with trailers and three single cars are available at the ramp.
• Allen Harbor, Harwichport - Received $140,000 project consisting of the reconstruction of the bulkhead/retaining wall. The harbor provides boat access and has parking for 20 vehicles with trailers. Fishing for striped bass, bluefish, fluke and cod are popular in this area
•Popponesset Bay, Mashpee - The access stairway at the shore fishing area was repaired at a cost of $7,000. There are five parking spaces at the site and fishing for striped bass, bluefish and weakfish is popular in the area.
• Baker Pond, Orleans - $1,000 in general site repairs and improvements were made. The Department of Fish and Game manages the car-top access facility. There are parking spots for eight vehicles and the location offers good fishing for three species of stocked trout and smallmouth bass.

Artists have always been drawn to Provincetown by the pureness and intensity of the light at the Cape tip. But last week two artists on a painting trip encountered a weird blob at the Cape tip.

"It was so freaky looking," said Arthur Egeli, who snapped a photo of the large wormlike object he estimated to be 10 feet long. Egeli and Kevin McNamara were painting an outdoor scene in the town's East End when they noted the weird object.

One chunk was disposed of several days ago by the town, and another piece about 7 feet long showed up a few days ago in the East End. The piece that Egeli and McNamara found at the beach at Snail Road and Route 6A on Friday was possibly 2 to 3 feet in diameter. One scientists said the object looked like the viscera of a large whale or an extremely large basking shark and expects to carry out further research on the materiel.

Meanwhile, down Chatham way it looks like coyotes have made North Beach Island their home and officials are offering safety tips to visitors. According to a Chatham Police Animal Control release, coyotes have been observed on the island over the past several months.

Animal control and the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife have compiled a list of tips for keeping visitors, their children and their pets safe:

According to the release, coyotes are shy and tend to avoid contact with humans but may associate people with an easy source of food and cats and small dogs are included in that food source. People should avoid contact with wild animals at all times. Wild animals including coyotes should never be fed. Pets should be leashed at all times and kept inside at night. Trash should be either properly secured outside or stored inside. If pets are fed outside, they should be supervised and the area should be cleaned of food remnants after feeding.

Coyotes have become more visible and bolder on the Cape lately. Last October, the Cape Cod National Seashore issued a warning to visitors about feeding coyotes at the Cape's tip. According to a CCNS release at the time, coyotes were seen begging at cars for food in the Herring Cove North parking lot in Provincetown and officials are concerned about the potential presence of rabies…possible signs of rabies or sickness include circling, falling over, lethargy, seizures and aggressive behavior.

Hurricane Arthur brushed past the Cape last week bringing high winds and pounding waves to the outside beaches but sparing the Cape any serious damage. As often happens, the fish go a little crazy pre-storm and then drops off sharply once it passes through the area. That's pretty much what happened and anglers are only now beginning to see the good fishing returning to these parts. Inshore action has been fairly good in such places as Nantucket Sound, Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay. But surf fishing along the outside beaches between Chatham and Truro has taken a hit and things have been slow to re-settle along there. The action around Race Point has also diminished since the storm and anglers have had better results inside the Bay.

Brewster Flats continues to produce good striper results for trollers and casters working the edge on a falling tide. Barnstable Harbor and Bass River also hold populations of stripers and the stretch of beach from Sandy Neck to the East End of the Canal has been home to pods of cruising bluefish. An early morning visit – before the arrival of vacationing swimmers – is likely to deliver both stripers and blues to early rising anglers. There's nothing quite like pausing for a mug of steaming coffee from the thermos as the sun rises over Cape Cod Bay…with or without fish in the creel it's a delight.

The Sound side of Monomoy around the flats has been alive with stripers lately. Spinning gear of long wand style has spelled success for tide-conscious anglers working those flats. Most of the bass are school-size but every now and then a Large shows up and is taken on board somebody's boat. Walk-the-dog plug specialists have been scoring around the mud flats and should do well until water temperatures rise into doldrum-levels in a few weeks.

This is the perfect time to head for the Elizabeth Islands; the rocky shorelines are alive with bass, blues and even the occasional tautog (which will definitely smash a plug if one should land in its vicinity.) Best spots to hit right now are the points off both Quicks and Robinsons Holes. When the tide runs through these inter-island channels a flotilla of small boats lines up to drift both live and cut bait through the current. There are big fish down there…sometimes there are Very Big Fish down there.

For those folks who have fished the western end of the Elizabeths over the years, the time comes when the western-most tip of the islands calls out for a visit: that would be the legendary Sow and Pigs Reef. World record bass have been coaxed from these waters below Cuttyhunk…back in the day wealthy industrialists cast lobster tails into the boulder-strewn waters looking to score that once-in-a-lifetime-strike.

By all means give it a try but, on your life, get someone who knows the area to show you around the first couple of times you try it. There are huge stripers around – yes – but the trick is to make sure you return from the visit. There are also huge submerged boulders lying in wait and the winds blow heavy when they come up from the southwest. The bones of vessels and fishermen lined the deep over the eons and local knowledge is absolutely crucial. No need to add to the numbers.

July 08, 2014

Hurricane Arthur, We Hardly Knew Ye

by Jerry Vovcsko

Summer is officially here now that the first report of a great white shark sighting is at hand. Researchers from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy happened to be in the area when the shark was spotted a little ways out from Nauset Beach. The southeastern end of the Cape has become a destination resort for great whites and they show up regularly now for dinnertime frolics with the seal colony that's established itself around Chatham and Nauset.

Great whites are frequently in the news on the west coast as abalone divers and surfers work the waters where the great whites reside. Last week there was a report of a swimmer bitten by a great white near a dock where folks were fishing. We had one shark-bite event last year and odds are there will be more to come with these eating machines cruising around our waters now.

Great whites are massive animals but on a much smaller scale, another dangerous critter has turned up in our region. Scientists from the University of Massachusetts Amherst this spring detected the presence of a newly recognized disease in 12 deer ticks found on or near state residents — including six people from Cape Cod. Its appearance is so new it doesn't have its own name, Borrelia miyamotoi is being known by the species of bacterium that causes a relapsing fever type of illness. The disease was first discovered by Japanese scientists in 1995. It was first reported in humans in Russia in 2011 and in U.S. citizens in early 2013.

"It's a Lymelike illness," said Stephen M. Rich, UMass professor of microbiology.

The disease is the fourth illness known to be carried by hard-bodied deer ticks in Massachusetts. In addition to Lyme, the ticks carry anaplasmosis and babesiosis, incidents of which have risen over the past several years. Whether cases of Borrelia miyamotoi are going up or have been here for years, undetected, isn't known just yet but it's cause for study, scientists say. Diagnosis is tricky and researchers described how two men at first thought to have anaplasmosis ended up being so sick with miyamotoi they were hospitalized. Symptoms of the illness include fever — sometimes recurrent or relapsing fever — fatigue and muscle aches, sometimes with a rash.

On the fishing scene, Hurricane Arthur scrambled things pretty well before heading on up to the Canadian Maritimes. Things had been looking good in the Canal what with schools of stripers showing up to munch on baitfish, herring and mackerel in particular. Then Arthur blew past about fifty miles west of Nantucket and all bets were off.

Even with the disruption, bluefish activity continues at a good pace and the seventy-degree waters of Nantucket Sound have made things quite pleasant for scads of baitfish to call it home in the Sound. Few things excite blues like big schools of baitfish wandering around in open waters and there have been some double digit bluefish caught around the south side of the Vineyard not far from what used to be Wasque Rip.

Lots of school bass showing up in Buzzards Bay now, although Arthur may have put the kibosh on that for a while until things settle down later this month. The islands should recover quickly as the boulders along shore provide excellent bass habitat and safe harbor from the big storm swells that rolled in as Arthur steamed past.

Cape Cod Bay continues to produce striper catches around Billingsgate, Scorton Ledge and the western edge of the Brewster Flats. The tube and worm patrol at Billingsgate pulled in couple of near-thirty pound bass and the Flats have been generous to T&W anglers doing business around dusk. Barnstable Harbor has also continued to produce and it's a good sheltered place to fish when the winds churn things up in the Bay.

The Monomoy Rips are coming into their own right now and some Large bass have been taken recently including at least one fish nudging into the forty pound range. Race Point probably caught as much of the brunt of Arthur's effects as anywhere around the Cape. The bass that had been hanging there for weeks must have felt like they were caught in a giant kitchen blender when the storm churned past. It will be a while before things settle down along the outside beaches…and chances are, the sandbars and "holes" along the Outside have been rearranged by wind and wave, so it's worth doing some bottom-scouting at the next low tide.

We've had a few days in the 80s and 90s and the weather gurus say there's more on the way. If they're correct, we could be peering at the front end of the dreaded "doldrums", although that's hard to believe since we just emerged from spring it seems. Still, if water temperatures continue to climb, doldrums it will be, so now's a good time to hit it while the fish are still active.

June 29, 2014

Killer Whales, Belugas and the Usual Suspects

by Jerry Vovcsko

With more and more oceanic areas being described as "barren" and "fishless" it only makes sense for nations to become more cautious about where, and to what extent, they allow heavy fishing pressure to be put on stocks. Along those lines, President Obama is looking to make a broad region of the central Pacific Ocean off-limits to fishing, energy exploration and other activities. The proposal, slated to go into effect later this year could create the world's largest marine sanctuary and just about double the area of ocean that is fully protected.

The announcement is part of a broader focus on maritime issues by an administration that has generally favored other environmental priorities. Given the political climate of these times there's a real good chance that the oceans effort, headed by Secretary of State John F. Kerry and White House counselor John D. Podesta, will trigger new political battles with Republicans over the scope of Obama's executive powers.

The president will also direct federal agencies to develop a comprehensive program aimed at eliminating ting seafood fraud and the global black-market fish trade. In addition, the administration came up with a rule that allows the public to nominate new marine sanctuaries off U.S. coasts and in the Great Lakes.

Under the proposal the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument would be expanded from almost 87,000 square miles to nearly 782,000 square miles, all of it adjacent to seven islands and atolls controlled by the United States. The designation would include waters up to 200 nautical miles offshore from the territories. Although the ocean area under consideration includes uninhabited islands in a remote region with sparse economic activity, the designation is expected to face objections from the U.S. tuna fleet that operates in the area.

Kerry said that the United States and other nations need to take bolder steps to protect marine habitat..."If this group can't create a serious plan to protect the ocean for future generations, then who can and who will?" he asked during an appearance at a State Department oceans conference.

More locally, we are seguing into the summer portion of our oceanic activities in Cape Cod waters. The fishing is good just about everywhere around these parts and will likely stay that way until we hit the dreaded "summer doldrums".

Bluefish are thick throughout Nantucket Sound, from Monomoy westward to Woods Hole blues can be encountered by boat and surf anglers alike. Never forget how tasty these fish are when grilled over a charcoal fire, especially if a few chunks of mesquite wood are included in the firebox.

On Nantucket proper blues have been visiting the north side of the big island lately and stripers are showing up on a now-and-then basis. Casting big plugs seems to draw strikes from bass on the upper size range and blues will hit just about anything tossed their way. Metal slabs will sometimes produce when blues aren't showing in numbers.

Over in Cape Cod Bay, where the iron bones of the former target ship James Longstreet form a fish-filled reef, black sea bass, scup, ‘tog, fluke and the odd mackerel serve as an embarrassment of bottom fishing riches. Go online to find the coordinates of the old vessel…or just head north across the Bay from Barnstable Harbor and when you see a gaggle of boats anchored up, you're probably at the wreck site. Any kind of bait will do or dip some bucktail jigs or jig & plastic combos…you're sitting over a veritable fish-bazaar.

Fishing the outside beaches calls for more patience than some anglers might possess but old timers who've worked these shorelines for decades know that a skunking is inevitably followed – eventually – by blitz conditions. The trick is to put up with slim-pickings in order to be on site when the fish come cruising through. It also pays to scout the shoreline at dead low tide in order to identify the location of "holes" and sandbars because wind, waves and currents rearrange the underwater topography out here on a daily basis. Further up around Provincetown the stripers have pretty much hung around Race Point since the start of the season. If the bass aren't strung out on the Atlantic side, a quick trip over to Herring Cove can often produce good results.

Billingsgate Shoal is providing some striper action for the tube&worm folk and before long a smart angler will begin testing things with live eels, especially as dusk fades to darkness. Big snakes often mean bid bass and The Bay is a good spot to check out the eel situation. From Billingsgate, a small boat can run southward and drift around Barnstable Harbor and along Sandy Neck beach in the evening hours. Catch a falling tide at the northwest corner of the Harbor and there may be a Large hanging around there at the corner looking for targets-of-opportunity. Drift an eel on the current and hang on! If eels aren't at hand, a mackerel chunk is next best.

For folks with bigger boats, reports from the Canyons say the action has been sporadic but occasionally lively for tuna, billfish and sharks. The weather can be iffy for runs out there but patient anglers can sometime spot a window of good weather and make the run with impressive results. South of the Vineyard there's ample bluefish activity but striper fishing hasn't been the same since Wasque Rip got rearranged by the winter storms a couple years back.

And, to wrap things up for the month of June I should probably mention the out-of-town visitors that passed through the area. A beluga whale dropped in near Fall River and meandered up the Taunton River drawing crowds hoping to spot the all-white creature that normally inhabits the Arctic region. And around the same time a pod of killer whales cruised past about 150 miles southeast of the coast of Nantucket. July will have to go some to top that.

June 23, 2014

Cape Cod News

by Jerry Vovcsko

"Scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service say the great white shark population in the Northwest Atlantic appears to be on the mend thanks largely to a prohibition on landing these huge predators"

That observation accompanied a story that was out on the AP newswire last week. And ecologically it's good news even though California surfers, swimmers at Australian beaches and, of course, the seals cavorting around Chatham beaches the past few years might be less than pleased.

The great white shark population hasn't always been in such great shape, especially in the 70s and 80s when a robust commercial and recreational shark fishery pushed the numbers into a sharp decline until 1997 when a ban on landings of great whites was put into effect.

Some scientists are now wondering if that's what it will take to rehabilitate other depleted populations such as Atlantic cod, river herring and Bluefin tuna. Problem is, those who fish for the latter species have far more defenders –and highly vocal ones - who make their living in these fisheries. Closing them down would not be without serious political consequences.

That having been said, folks hoping to do a little fishing in Massachusetts this year will have an easier time buying and displaying recreational licenses and permits. The Department of Fish and Game has announced that the state's licensing system is now mobile-friendly, making it possible for people to quickly obtain licenses and permits using mobile devices such as iPhone and Android smartphones.

The first phase of the project gives customers the ability to use smartphones to obtain saltwater fishing permits, freshwater fishing licenses and trapping licenses. Hunting and sporting licenses are not available for purchase using mobile devices at this time, but the department says they will be available for sale via mobile devices later on in the year.

A new electronic signature will allow customers to download the licenses and permits to their mobile devices without having to print and sign the documents. Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island will share $32.8 million in disaster relief funding for communities suffering severe economic losses because of declining fish populations. The funding is part of $75 million being sent from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to affected fishing communities around the country. The specific amounts for each state have not been determined yet.

There was considerable news coverage recently about Joseph Vaudo, the owner of the Sandwich fish market who pleaded guilty to receiving stolen oysters at his store. He had his first hearing before the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals where he is fighting an effort by the state Department of Public Health to revoke his license to operate Joe's Lobster Mart on the Cape Cod Canal. Vaudo's lawyer says his client has been "punished sufficiently" and publicly "embarrassed" and should not lose his license to sell fish at his Sandwich market.

John Kiernan, the Boston-based attorney representing Vaudo, told the hearing commissioner he intends to make a "double jeopardy argument." Vaudo paid a $6,250 fine for pleading guilty in the criminal case at Barnstable District Court to charges of receiving stolen property, willfully misleading police during an investigation and failure or refusal to file required statistical reports of wholesale and retail dealers. Vaudo has been in business 43 years and employees 20 people, Kiernan said. Both fishermen and other fish retailers depend on Joe's Lobster Mart as a "known and trusted" source, he said. Revoking Vaudo's license would have an adverse economic impact, Kiernan said. A full hearing, which will include witness testimony, is scheduled for September 4th.

The Canal continues as a hit or miss proposition although a recent influx of mackerel has brought a number of stripers into the east end and some of these bass reportedly were in the twenty to thirty pound range. The rips on the back side of Nantucket saw a mix of stripers and blues chasing baitfish in the churning currents. Problem there is weather conditions dictate if or when small boats can operate in and around those rips.

The Vineyard Sound side of the Elizabeth Islands has been active and productive the past couple of weeks. The stretch of shoreline from Tarpaulin Cove down to Robinsons Hole rewarded anglers who began tossing plugs at first light with catches of keeper-sized stripers with some plus-twenty pound bass taken around the northwest corner of Robinsons over the weekend.

The Middleground also produced some nice stripers to folks drifting live scup along the reef. The Middleground has long been a prime target for anglers in search of doormat fluke. An east to west drift is the direction de jour and squid strips or fluke belly are as effective a bait as any…some folks prefer to cast junebug-type spinner rigs or bucktail jigs (green or golf mylar threads in the deer hair are favored) and do well for themselves with the artificial versions.

Bluefish continue to cruise Nantucket Sound rounding up baitfish and triggering feeding frenzies that bring terns and gulls swooping down to dine on the flying scraps of bait that get churned up in the melee. Catching blues is only a matter of being nearby when the blitz is under way and tossing anything with a hook into the middle of the watery chaos. But casting beyond the frenzy with a Kastmaster or other metal slab, letting it sink deep and retrieving slowly can reward a patient angler with a Large striper, one of the Big Boys who lurk down below lazily dining on the chopped up pieces of baitfish that sink beneath the mass of bait-and-bluefish churning around on the surface.

Lively striper action continues up at Race Point in Provincetown and sand eels are the preferred offering by surfcasters and boaters alike. Most of these fish seem to fall into just-below or just-above keeper size and they stick around throughout the day although the best times are early morning and dusk-to-dark.

Anglers fishing around the Truro beaches got a look at a body pulled from the ocean near Peaked Hill Bars where a swimmer apparently got into trouble and drowned. The Coast Guard launched a small boat out of Race Point but the swimmer had already been pulled ashore and CPR begun without success. Just a reminder that the sea can be a dangerous mistress.

June 14, 2014

Bobcats, Bunnies and Blues...Just Another Day in New England

by Jerry Vovcsko

The fire that burned off ten acres of pitch pines and scrub oak last month in the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge on Cape Cod didn't make national headlines, probably because it was part of a multimillion-dollar effort by federal and state agencies to rebuild the dwindling habitat of the New England cottontail, which lives in the dense bramble found in new forest growth. The fire consumed everything in its path but the scattered trees, leaving a bed of fertile ash and enough open space for the sun to reach the ground again, allowing growth of a new forest to begin.

That the cottontail population has been in trouble is an undisputed fact. Over the past 50 years, this wild creature has lost nearly 90 percent of its dwelling areas to development, which has also contributed to the loss of most of the region's young forests. The rabbit is the only animal from New England that federal officials are now considering as a candidate for the nation's list of endangered species. These rabbits play an important role in the ecosystem and the work being done to protect them also benefits scores of other animals who share the same habitat.

No one knows exactly how many cottontails remain in New England but wildlife biologists believe they have vanished from Vermont and dwindled to several hundred elsewhere. Those remaining live in young forests spread like islands over a few thousand acres across New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. They used to be found in every part of Massachusetts but now live only in Eastern Cape Cod and parts of the Berkshires. With the right conditions, wildlife scientists say, they could repopulate quickly. They can breed before their first birthday and females have two to three litters a year, ranging from three to eight bunnies at a time.

One wild creature that presumably would be delighted to see the New England cottontail population spike upwards is, of course, the bobcat…and it appears that recent sightings in the town of Sharon suggest the big cats are making a comeback in the state. One Sharon resident was surprised last week to look out her kitchen window and see a bobcat strolling across her back yard but recovered quickly and snapped a photo before it wandered back into the woods. Tom French, assistant director of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said it did appear to be a bobcat and, judging from the photo, was probably a young female, about 18 pounds. Bobcats usually avoid humans, French said, but they are common in western Massachusetts and are appear more and more frequently in eastern suburbia.

Leaving forest creatures to fend for themselves while we take a look at the latest doings on the salt water scene… the action has been steady, if not explosive. We haven't seen any of those boom-time blitzes just yet, the ones that rattle the nerves and jangle an angle's concentration…but we will before long. Closest we've come so far has been the discovery of some jumbo bass working over the sand eel population up Provincetown way.

The stretch of surf between Herring Cove and Race Point has been rewarding folks who dropped either sand-eel-baits or reasonable facsimiles into their midst. Some of those bass pull the scales down to the thirty pound mark and are more than willing to slug it out. These stripers don't stick to one spot and have also turned up south of Peaked Hill bars and southward toward Truro and Wellfleet. Fly-rod-folk have gotten good results with large streamer flies, Clousers and such. Top water needle plugs might work now and again but big plastics also are worth a try.

Bluefish have definitely taken up residence in Vineyard Sound and they'll hit just about anything an angler cares to toss their way. One Old Timer acquaintance of mine got tired of losing plugs and spoons to these big-toothed chomping machines so he took his battery operated drill and made himself a bunch of metal bluefish lures out of everything from beer can openers to Italian lire coins…bore a hole in both ends, hang a couple of split rings with a hook on one end and a swivel on the opposite side and he was good to go.

I asked him once about his lure-stock choices and he said "…that Italian funny-money is cheaper than buying scrap metal…and you can use the can opener to crack open a Bud when the action slows down." Like with all good fishermen, versatility is an important quality.

There were a couple of plus-thirty stripers taken at night from Devil's Bridge on the western end of the Vineyard and rumor has it the boat that accounted for these lunkers was drifting with live scup, a favored bait of pin-hooker pros. The usual suspects have been productive lately: Robinsons and Quicks holes, Sow and Pigs Reef and the stretch of shoreline between French Watering Place and Tarpaulin Cove. Heck…right now, anybody on site anywhere along the Elizabeth Islands at first light, should be able to catch three or four decent striped bass before the bite turns off just by getting a five inch swimming plug anywhere among the rocks near the shoreline.

Black sea bass continue to please the palate of those anglers bottom fishing in Buzzards Bay. And keeper sized tautog continue to move into the boulders strewn around the Weepecket Islands as well as the rock ledges in Woods Hole channel. Green crabs are ‘tog candy but whatever bait is handy will usually get sucked down by these toothy crunchers. And every so often one of the over-five-pound ‘togs will take a whack at a plug meant for stripers.

Things are very pleasant on the salt water scene at the moment; the Cape is a good place to be. Now if the Red Sox could just start winning a few……

June 05, 2014

Free Fishing Announcement!

by Jerry Vovcsko

The folks at Massachusetts Marine Fisheries would like everyone to take advantage of a no-license-needed weekend of fishing for the whole family. No permit needed, just grab some gear, rustle up some grub and taker the family out for a day at or on the water. Here's the announcement:

Massachusetts Anglers,

It's time to introduce your friends and family to fishing! This weekend, June 7th and 8th, is the Free Fishing weekend in Massachusetts. Whether you go freshwater or saltwater fishing this weekend, you do not need a permit. Permit and license free fishing only occurs on these weekend days, so make sure to purchase your saltwater recreational fishing permit to continue in the fun of saltwater fishing.

MarineFisheries, along with MassWildlife and the Department of Fish and Game, now has mobile-friendly permitting! When visiting our website to purchase or view your saltwater permit history on your smartphone or tablet, you will be directed to the new MassFishHunt system. Simply log in (or create a new login if you don't have one) to edit your personal information, purchase a permit or license, or send copies of the permit or receipt to an email address. However, you must still print out the permit and have it with you when fishing.

Saltwater recreational permits, freshwater recreational licenses, and trapping permits are all currently available through the mobile-friendly site. Hunting and sporting licenses will be available in the near future.

Tight lines!

May 31, 2014

The View From Around the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

The northerly breezes we're seeing as May winds down and June ushers itself in have been putting a bit of a damper on piscatorial activities – the stripers may just be holed in their watery dens waiting for milder conditions. Yes, bluefish action has been startlingly fierce the past week or so – at least it has in Vineyard Sound – but the bite hasn't really kicked in for those anglers in pursuit of the wily striped bass. But give it a week or so and things should be heating up in Striperville.
Right now those folks looking for good-eating have black sea bass and scup on their weekend grill menu…and the scup are running larger than we've seen in some time. (Don't forget that long timer pinhook professionals have made a tidy living drifting live scup through places where big stripers tend to lurk. Next to fat river herring in the spring, scup has long been the favored striper-candy in use around these parts. Later on local angler will break out the eels in such places as Devil's Bridge, Quicks Hole and Sow & Pigs reef…but right now scup is the bait de jure for a lot of folks working the far westerly regions of the Elizabeth Island chain.

Speaking of that area, anyone who's buzzed down there for a look at what's going on might want to duck around into the Buzzards Bay side and visit the rock piles that line the shores of Penikese Island. That's a rarely fished but often rewarding site for tangling with big bass – just keep a wary eye out for those hull-eating rocks and boulders (the main reason, after all, why stripers like the place). And if the vessel is seaworthy enough a quick sprint further south to Noman's Island on occasion can bring spectacular results. This former Navy bombing target harbors an early-arriving population of seriously large stripers that seem to use it as an R&R stop after their long swim from the Hudson River or Chesapeake Bay. But do adhere to the philosophy of the New Orleans sous chef in "Apocalypse Now" and "never get out of the goddammed boat!" (Some of that old Navy ordnance that litters the island is still menacingly live.)

Stripers may be scarce early in the season but bluefish more than make up for that shortage. They are everywhere in Vineyard Sound these days and they are more than willing to whack any old plug thrown their way. I have never really understood why so many folks troll for blues, dragging all manner of clunky terminal gear on heavy tackle instead of simply hooking an old beater plug direct to the line and having-at-it on medium spinning gear, a far more enjoyable fishing experience than trolling with a couple pounds of iron out behind the boat. Go light, folks, and enjoy the sport….that's my advice.

The Canal has had its moments. Like last week when things lit up briefly with stripers going absolutely nuts in the early morning hour and then quickly cooling off. Since that one weird blitz striper action has been slow to near-dormant but conditions in The Ditch can turn on a dime and this time of year there will be stripers showing up in the usual haunts. The west end, down around the pilings south of the Maritime Academy, often delivers big bass to anglers drifting mackerel or scup or whatever's available.

Right now those folks looking for good-eating have black sea bass and scup on their weekend grill menu…and the scup are running larger than we've seen in some time. (Don't forget that long timer pinhook professionals have made a tidy living drifting live scup through places where big stripers tend to lurk. Next to fat river herring in the spring, scup has long been the favored striper-candy in use around these parts. Later on local angler will break out the eels in such places as Devil's Bridge, Quicks Hole and Sow & Pigs reef…but right now scup is the bait de jure for a lot of folks working the far westerly regions of the Elizabeth Island chain.

Speaking of that area, anyone who's buzzed down there for a look at what's going on might want to duck around into the Buzzards Bay side and visit the rock piles that line the shores of Penikese Island. That's a rarely fished but often rewarding site for tangling with big bass – just keep a wary eye out for those hull-eating rocks and boulders (the main reason, after all, why stripers like the place). And if the vessel is seaworthy enough a quick sprint further south to Noman's Island on occasion can bring spectacular results. This former Navy bombing target harbors an early-arriving population of seriously large stripers that seem to use it as an R&R stop after their long swim from the Hudson River or Chesapeake Bay. But do adhere to the philosophy of the New Orleans sous chef in "Apocalypse Now" and "never get out of the goddammed boat!" (Some of that old Navy ordnance that litters the island is still menacingly live.)

Stripers may be scarce early in the season but bluefish more than make up for that shortage. They are everywhere in Vineyard Sound these days and they are more than willing to whack any old plug thrown their way. I have never really understood why so many folks troll for blues, dragging all manner of clunky terminal gear on heavy tackle instead of simply hooking an old beater plug direct to the line and having-at-it on medium spinning gear, a far more enjoyable fishing experience than trolling with a couple pounds of iron out behind the boat. Go light, folks, and enjoy the sport….that's my advice.

The Canal has had its moments. Like last week when things lit up briefly with stripers going absolutely nuts in the early morning hour and then quickly cooling off. Since that one weird blitz striper action has been slow to near-dormant but conditions in The Ditch can turn on a dime and this time of year there will be stripers showing up in the usual haunts. The west end, down around the pilings south of the Maritime Academy, often delivers big bass to anglers drifting mackerel or scup or whatever's available. A word of caution about that area though…when a westerly running tide meets up with a stiff southwest breeze, things can get hairy for anglers working from small skiffs. A steep chop forms and can build rapidly into standing waves of six to eight feet…in a fifteen foot aluminum skiff anglers are at risk of capsize so pay attention and feel free to run for home if it gets nasty.

There's been some good striper action up around Herring Cove on the west end of Provincetown with the occasional keeper turning up and lots of bass in the twenty two to twenty four-inch size range showing up. The other striper hot (relatively speaking) spot in Cape Cod has been around Barnstable Harbor and over toward Sandy Neck beach. This area, along with Billingsgate Shoal, is attracting early season attention from the tube & worm crowd and it won't be long now before bluefish enter the equation as well. Meanwhile, wherever a wreck can be found, tautog will have gathered. A day's worth of success with ‘tog, scup and black sea bass adds up to tasty results on the backyard grill.

Having waited patiently through a long, depressing winter, local anglers turn most of their attention toward the salt water with good reason. But it's worth keeping in mind that there's still plenty of fishing available in the freshwater ponds and right at the top of the target list is trout, both brookies and rainbows. Peter's Pond is a smart choice and Mashpee-Wakeby has been very productive for those folks using PowerBait. Less effective, but more fun, light spinning gear and small metal lures like Al's Goldfish or Mepps spinners draw strikes and allow for a bit of action from trout or feisty bass fresh off the spawning beds.

Actually, migrating stripers and blues create a situation where it almost doesn't matter where an angler wets a line. Newly arrived bass are heading in pretty much every direction so any place there's access to the sea is a good place to toss a cast or two…and if it doesn't pay off, keep moving; the fish are here and it's just a matter of keeping bait or lure in the water as they pass through. We're here, the fish are here…life is good in Cape waters.

A word of caution about that area though…when a westerly running tide meets up with a stiff southwest breeze, things can get hairy for anglers working from small skiffs. A steep chop forms and can build rapidly into standing waves of six to eight feet…in a fifteen foot aluminum skiff anglers are at risk of capsize so pay attention and feel free to run for home if it gets nasty.

There's been some good striper action up around Herring Cove on the west end of Provincetown with the occasional keeper turning up and lots of bass in the twenty two to twenty four-inch size range showing up. The other striper hot (relatively speaking) spot in Cape Cod has been around Barnstable Harbor and over toward Sandy Neck beach. This area, along with Billingsgate Shoal, is attracting early season attention from the tube & worm crowd and it won't be long now before bluefish enter the equation as well. Meanwhile, wherever a wreck can be found, tautog will have gathered. A day's worth of success with ‘tog, scup and black sea bass adds up to tasty results on the backyard grill.

Having waited patiently through a long, depressing winter, local anglers turn most of their attention toward the salt water with good reason. But it's worth keeping in mind that there's still plenty of fishing available in the freshwater ponds and right at the top of the target list is trout, both brookies and rainbows. Peter's Pond is a smart choice and Mashpee-Wakeby has been very productive for those folks using PowerBait. Less effective, but more fun, light spinning gear and small metal lures like Al's Goldfish or Mepps spinners draw strikes and allow for a bit of action from trout or feisty bass fresh off the spawning beds.

Actually, migrating stripers and blues create a situation where it almost doesn't matter where an angler wets a line. Newly arrived bass are heading in pretty much every direction so any place there's access to the sea is a good place to toss a cast or two…and if it doesn't pay off, keep moving; the fish are here and it's just a matter of keeping bait or lure in the water as they pass through. We're here, the fish are here…life is good in Cape waters.

May 24, 2014

Bluefish and Humpback Whales In the Bay

by Jerry Vovcsko

I've always been an admirer of unique angling methods and innovative approaches to catching fish. One of my favorites is an Old School technique designed to improve an anglers chances of catching sharks while working from a beach or jetty. It requires a good sized eel and a wood shingle. Whack the eel against a rock to stun the creature, then attach to line with a single circle hook through the jaw and nose. Lay the stunned eel on the shingle and float it on an outgoing tide. When it's out a sufficient distance, give the line a jerk dunking the eel in the water which will soon revive it and have it swimming around much further out than if you tried to cast it…with any luck a shark in the vicinity will swim over to investigate its struggles and there you go. Innovative.

But that method pales in comparison to what any reasonably competent group of humpback whales can come up with when they're foraging for one of their favored meal treats, the lowly sand lance. This 6 to 10-inch oily fish, also known as a sand eel, is a favorite of the whales, who gobble them up by the ton. Their unique approach to food gathering consists of several whales rounding up schools of sand lance by creating walls of bubbles using their breathing apparatus to do so. When they have the wee, small fish gathered in a tight ball, they swim through the school openmouthed and devour immense amounts of fishy treats with each pass. How cool is that?

This past week a lot of lucky folks who booked passage on a whale-watching boat taking off from the New England Aquarium in Boston, bound for Stellwagen Bank, one of the world's most active marine sanctuaries, were treated to a rare abundance of humpback whales, getting to see a dozen or more whales culminating with one whale-watch boat spotting a remarkable forty whales in one three hour tour.

Last year sand lance were among the missing at Stellwagen, but this spring they have returned in force. No one is quite sure why, but their numbers have spurred a feeding frenzy of whales, seals, and basking sharks. It appears the humpbacks, about the size of a school bus and weighing up to forty tons, have been more than pleased to have the little fellas back in town.

Anybody interested in catching bluefish these days might want to employ the following technique: Take an old, beat up plug and attach it to your line. Cast it pretty much anywhere in Buzzards Bay or Nantucket Sound. Retrieve…unhook bluefish, repeat. The blues are – in technical terms – all over the damn place! It's a good idea to either crimp down the barbs or replace the trebles with single hooks, thereby making life a lot easier when it comes time to unhook the feisty critters.

There's nothing quite like finding one's self with a treble hook attached to a flopping-around ten pound bluefish as well as hooked into some exposed part of the angler's anatomy. I recall having exactly that happen to me when a thrashing blue snagged me an inch or so above the eye with a flying treble on a blackback, sinking, five-inch Rebel. The fish managed to dislodge it almost immediately by ripping it through flesh and skin as it gyrated about. My fishing partner at the time noted the blood running down my face, treated the wound with a quick squirt of WD-40 and said "C'mon, quit whining about a little scratch…the blues are hitting."

Stripers are plentiful as well. From the south and west shores of Martha's Vineyard to the full length of the Elizabeth Islands, around the Monomoy Flats and as far north as Race Point and Herring Cove up at Provincetown, the stripers are here and they are hitting plugs, baits, metal slabs and plastic combos. Not too many keepers reported caught just yet but we are in the midst of one of the absolute best times to fish for striped bass in our waters. (The only comparable time might be in the fall as the migrating fish take on calories for their return trip to more southerly waters.)

Those folks seeking fluke might do well to head on over to the Middleground and drift the reef with a strip of squid or fluke belly to tempt the big doormats. Best thing about fishing the Middleground is even when the fluke are playing coy and ignoring baits and lures, there are striped bass in residence along with bluefish and even the occasional Pollock which makes this location a go-to spot for folks looking to fill the freezer or provide an assortment of seafood for the weekend grillmeister.

This is the time of year when it's probably least important to worry about what specific bait or lure to employ…right now, they're hungry and will hit just about anything that remotely resembles protein content of a size that can be swallowed. And where the bluefish are concerned, when you find them there's little need to wonder what to throw their way. In fact, if you get into a good sized school, there's plenty of entertainment available in casting a lure and trying to get it back WITHOUT hooking a blue.

I can recall a few years back, drifting just off Poponnesset Beach with blues all around us, sweeping a 7-inch needle plug in twenty-foot skips across the surface and still having a blue grab it as it hit the water. My forearm was so sore from landing one six-pound blue after another I had to call it quits and rest poor aching flipper while the others continued to fish. It doesn't get a whole lot better than this out there on the water, so now's the time to jump on the chance and enjoy it while it lasts. Won't be too long before the summer doldrums bring the action to a plodding halt and we find ourselves grumping about the lack of available action. Feast or famine, as the man says…seems it always one or the other and right now it's most definitely feast time, so have at it. I know I will.

May 17, 2014

The 2014 Striper Season is Under Way

by Jerry Vovcsko

Back in the day the Connecticut River was home to all manner of fish including a species that resembled armored leviathans like the Monitor and Merrimac that slugged it out during the Civil War. I'm referring to the Atlantic Sturgeon, a resident fish known to top the ten foot mark and beyond, until pollution, development and fishing pressure pushed the species into extinction. Well, extinction so far as state fish biologists were concerned. But not so fast. Seems a rare seven-foot Atlantic Sturgeon washed up on the shore in Lyme a couple weeks ago, an occurrence that some scientists say could be the find of the century.

Why it died is still a mystery, but the biggest question is why it was 8 miles up the river from the mouth of the Long Island Sound in the first place. Scientists hope tests will help them determine if the Sturgeon is unique to the Connecticut River or just part of the population from another waterway, such as the Hudson River. If in fact the dead specimen, an egg-bearing female, turns out to be a true Atlantic Sturgeon there will be a lot of crossed fingers as fish biologists hope to discover some youngsters further up the river, an indication that a species once thought extinct is making a comeback in the Connecticut. That would be welcome news indeed.

Here we are in mid-May and the striped bass we've been so patiently waiting for have most definitely arrived! Not only are the stripers here, but it looks like some bluefish have accompanied them into our local waters. Seems a little early for the blues to show up but that may be because massive swarms of squid have showed up over the past week or so in Buzzards Bay. Reports have it that a run of squid has also turned up off Popponesset Beach in twenty foot depths of the water column. Squid has long been striper candy and there are some unusually Large stripers for this time of the season being taken.

Guess it's time to break out the squid plugs and have a go. Drifting fresh squid just after dark from local jetties can have a serious serendipity effect with the possible result ranging from tangling with a jumbo blue to a ten foot shark or who-knows-what? Anyhow, it's most assuredly time to break out the salt water gear because there's action to be had. Bluefish appear to be in residence now around Martha's Vineyard and stripers are just about everywhere. The Canal action is constant near the herring run these days.

Whereas it used to be the drill to pick up a license at Town Hall and boogey down to the herring run for a bucket full of live-lineable river herring, the state shut down those runs a few years back and now Cape anglers pursue the bass with such fishy delights as plugs, metal slabs, jig & plastic combos or – for the Old School types – eelskin rigs. Yes, it's a little more work than when dunking live herring meant a forty pound bass might decide to dine on that attractive dish, but the big bass are still around; they just have to be coaxed to swallow what's set before their hungry eyes. Some folks have made an art out of imitating herring with big swimming plugs; takes patience and there will be plenty of fishless days, but a tenacious angler may find a hard-earned reward in time when one of those jumbo bass decides to take a bite at something that looks herring-like as it swims past.

And there's more good news at hand: the black sea bass season opens this weekend so between the presence of tasty tautog and black sea bass, folks who crave a bowl of delicious bouillabaisse have two of the key ingredients available. Some scup, a bit of haddock, clams, mussels, maybe a couple of quahogs and even a sea robin or two…yessir, there's the makings of a tasty fish stew that cries out for a glass of chilled white wine and hunks of French bread to sop up the "gravy"…just doesn't get much better than that, I tell you truly.

Best bet right now to take a striper? Head on over to Nonamesset Island just across the Woods Hole channel. Drift along the island shoreline and toss swimming plugs into the rocks…the key is to cast right up to the edge of the beach and retrieve…look for a hit in close to shore. Whatever the outcome though, enjoy the day…a new season is under way. The stripers are here. What more could we ask for?

May 06, 2014

They're Almost Here, But Not Quite

by Jerry Vovcsko

By this time most years, the water temperatures around Cape Cod would be in the low to mid-fifties and the first scouts would be showing up ahead of the arrival of masses of migrating striped bass. Not this year. So far, water temperatures linger in the mid to high forties and there's little sign of any migrating bass showing up in our waters. Granted, a few stripers have been caught locally but these are small fish that have likely hung around these parts right through the winter. We are still on the lookout for those bright, shiny newcomers all decked out in sea lice and hungry from their long trip up from the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay. But if anglers have acquired nothing else they have learned to be patient and wait for Mother Nature's rhythmic cycles to play out once again.

The one place that has seen a little preliminary action is over around Popponesset and South Cape beaches. That makes sense because the shallow water near the beach slopes gradually away from shore and warms rapidly as the afternoon sun beats down. Most folks casting into the suds around there are tossing metal slabs such as Kastmasters, Deadly Dicks, Hopkins lures and the like. Jig and plastic combinations are also favored for early season work. In any case, it's a good idea to go a little on the small side when choosing lures…three-quarter ounce metal slabs are the preferred size and slow retrieves are most effective this time of year.

It looks like we're a few days out from stripers arriving in any numbers but by this weekend I'm guessing we'll be seeing plenty of striper activity on the south side of the Cape and around the islands – both the Elizabeths and Martha's Vineyard as well. The Canal is also worth keeping an eye on although the herring run will be where the Large bass stack up in wait. Used to be an angler could buy a herring license at Town Hall, carry a bucket over to the Environmental officer dipping herring at the run and get his allotment, then walk across the highway to the Ditch and live-line up a jumbo bass. But herring numbers dwindled and a few years back the state closed the runs to herring harvests so until the stocks are sufficiently replenished herring remain off-limits to harvesting although there are occasional reports of poachers scooping fish from unattended runs.

Speaking of poachers, the gent who stole something like thirty-thousand oysters from oyster beds in Barnstable and Dennis has an upcoming date with the courts. Michael Bryant, of West Yarmouth, has been indicted in connection with those alleged thefts. He is scheduled to be arraigned May 9 in Barnstable Superior Court on six counts of larceny of property, a shellfish sales violation, shellfishing in a contaminated area and a commercial fishing violation.

Bryant is alleged to have sold the stolen oysters to Joseph Vaudo, owner of Joe's Lobster Mart on the Cape Cod Canal and Vaudo is fighting an attempt by the state to revoke his license to sell seafood, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Health said. On April 15, the state agency filed a notice of intent to revoke his retail and wholesale license. Vaudo had 14 days to appeal, which he did by last week's deadline. The health department's action came after Vaudo, 63, pleaded guilty in March to receiving stolen property, willfully misleading police during an investigation. Vaudo's appeal will be made to the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals, which will handle the case.

Once the department receives the case it will assign it to a magistrate and schedule a pre-hearing conference, where the two sides will meet to discuss the issues. A public hearing will be scheduled and during the appeal process, Joe's Lobster Mart, located in Sandwich along the Cape Cod Canal, remains open for business.

The striper influx hasn't slipped into high gear just yet but it's day-to-day right now and a few more warm back-to-back days could see the season really getting under way with a rush so it's a good idea to continue testing out those early season locations that have paid off in the past. One morning an angler will go to wet a line and the stripers will have arrived and the 2014 season will be officially under way. Hot damn, I'm ready for it!

April 29, 2014

Dam Comes Down, Herring Come Back

by Jerry Vovcsko

An archaic East Bridgewater dam that has served mostly as an obstacle to the passage of fish in the Satucket River will soon be coming down according to the state's Division of Ecological Restoration, which announced details of the demolition project last week. A recent story in the Boston Globe notes that the Carver Cotton Gin Mill Dam was once an economic engine in East Bridgewater, harnessing the power of the Satucket River to run a major factory. After years of neglect, the dam has been slated for destruction, part of a statewide push to restore rivers to their natural state.

There are some 3,000 dams in Massachusetts, a vestige of its milltown past. But just 10 percent serve an active purpose, either for energy or flood control, and many are structurally unsound. Over the past decade, state agencies joined by environmental groups have stepped up efforts to remove the outdated structures, allowing 100 miles of rivers to run free. Removing the East Bridgewater dam, which now blocks a substantial population of river herring from traveling upstream, will open up several hundred acres of spawning habitat.

Built in 1815, the dam ranked among the worst 10 percent in impeding migratory fish, environmental officials say. The privately owned dam was declared unsafe more than a decade ago and the owner, who had not made the necessary repairs, had asked for help in removing the dam, and town officials all agreed. The project will be funded by the state, environmental groups, and the federal government. It will probably cost several hundred thousand dollars, officials said, and will take several years of planning but will give fish such as alewife, American shad, white perch, and brook trout free passage to the river's source, Robbins Pond. It's a worthwhile undertaking, though, as a fully recovered alewife population would approach 200,000 adults a year, one of the largest in the state.

The Satucket River is a five and a half-mile long river in southeastern Massachusetts that lies within the Taunton River Watershed. It flows generally west from Robbins Pond in East Bridgewater, and into the Matfield River draining a watershed of 35 square miles and 700 acres of natural ponds. Rich with iron and the color of tea, the Satucket is generally slow moving water and relatively shallow, no more than 8 feet deep even in its deepest spots. It's fed by the Poor Meadow Brook which joins the Satucket just below Robin's Pond in East Bridgewater. Robin's pond is a 124 acre natural warm water pond with a predominantly sandy bottom and a fairly uniform 6 foot depth.

As a result of the unused Murray Carver Mill dam four and a half miles of the Satucket River up to Robin's pond are unreachable by the once common river herring which used to swim up and spawn. The removal project will make Robins Pond and Monponsett Pond (528 acres) once again accessible to river herring as well as other species of fish. In the past the river was rich with Alewives that would travel upstream to spawn in the slow moving waters. Until the 1950s the Satucket had Alewife runs, but environmental changes led to their eventual disappearance in the Satucket.

In early times the Wampanoag Indians would live off the Alewives as a food source and the river had many fish weirs built to spear fish for this abundant species. Some of these weirs still exist today and are essentially miniature dams made of rocks shaped in a V position that face up stream. The Wampanoag's would wait on the rocks until a fish would swim through. The only opening was at the tip of the V so the fish had to swim through the weir where they were speared.

Since 2004, Massachusetts has removed 28 dams, and similar projects are in the works. Last week, the state announced plans to remove dams in Bellingham, Chilmark, Northampton, Revere, and West Boylston. Because river herring stocks had been seriously depleted, the State shut down the herring runs to any harvests back in 2006. Maybe with restoration of river access these fish will rebuild their stocks to levels that permit taking them again which will be welcome news indeed to anglers who live-lined the herring to catch striped bass. Time will tell.

Water temperatures in Nantucket Sound continue to creep toward the fifty degree mark which is roughly the minimum water temperature for striped bass. Even though those fish are sparse right now, given another week and a half they will have taken up residence all along the Elizabeth Islands and will continue to migrate into local waters as well as points north. I've been greeting these magnificent gamefish for over forty years now and to me they are nothing short of sea-going nobility. They'll be here until the fall and we are fortunate indeed to have them around.

My recipe for catching my first striper of the season? Simple. Launch the skiff at the Woods Hole boat ramp. Run across the channel to Nonamesset Island and set up a drift just below the house that perches on the shore overlooking the Sound. Tie on a battered, old blackback, five and a half inch, sinking Rebel and cast in to the rocks as lose to shore as possible – put it right up on the beach in fact and gently skip it back into the suds. Retrieve briskly and stand by for the hit…it will likely be a striper somewhere between 24 and 26 inches although keeper sized bass will be on hand a little later in the season. I fish with barbs crimped down because most of the fish I take along here in the early season will be released and flattened barbs equals less damage to the stripers.

The 2014 striper season's about to start, folks. See you out there.

April 22, 2014

High Seas Poachers

by Jerry Vovcsko

Recent stories about mislabeled fish on restaurant menus ought to have clued us in to the ethically challenged behavior that occasionally surfaces in the seafood industry. But new studies are pointing to a disturbing trend that's emerging in the importation of illegally caught fish in US markets. As it is, scientists are concerned that the world's oceans can barely sustain legal seafood catches and they say that upwards of eighty-five percent of the world's commercial seafood grounds are fished up to or beyond their biological limits.

So when a new study that looks at illegal and unreported marine harvests brought to the United States from around the globe and concludes that 32 percent of imported wild shrimp, crab, salmon, pollock, tuna, and other catch was poached, I guess it's time to get concerned about what's going on in the seafood industry. Earlier studies have shown that illegal and underreported fishing comprises up to 31 percent of the world's catch, but this study is the first to examine how much of it slips through the better-inspected ports of the United States.

‘‘That was really a surprise to us,'' said Tony Pitcher, a professor of fisheries at the University of British Columbia who helped author the study, ‘‘Estimates of illegal and unreported fish in seafood imports to the USA,'' published this month in the journal Marine Policy. US inspectors are far more concerned with the freshness of seafood and its potential impact on human health but what gets by inspectors is valued in the study at $1.3 billion to $2.1 billion per year, a sum that only encourages more illegal and unreported fishing, Pitcher said.

The study's authors point out that fishing vessels and seafood processors rely on a high seas shell game to deliver illegal and unreported catches to US ports. Ships fish at different spots, often for months at a time, using ‘‘transition vessels'' to taxi their catches to market while they keep trolling for fish. Documenting where the fish were caught is lax, and many of the fish, crab, shrimp, and other products are rushed to Chinese processing plants, where low-paid workers fillet salmon, clean the guts of tuna, and pull meat from crabs. Illegally caught fish are easily mixed with legally caught fish at those plants and if so much of the overall harvest slips past under the radar, then questions about what happens to the by-catch are at least as troubling.

Add this to concerns about pollution and habitat destruction and the future doesn't look too rosy for the oceans and, subsequently, for the seafood industry.

It was a remarkable sighting last week when for only the second time in recorded history a bowhead whale was seen swimming and feeding with right whales in Cape Cod Bay. According to experts from the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown bowheads just aren't seen so far south in the waters of the Atlantic. The first time a bowhead was spotted in our waters was two years ago, when one was observed by CCS researchers off the Outer Beach in Orleans in August 2012. The bowhead whale that was spotted in 2012 off the coast of Cape Cod has been seen again in Cape Cod Bay — the farthest south that the species has ever been documented — prompting excitement and concern among researchers.

The Cape Cod presence of the bowhead whale, which normally inhabits the Arctic Ocean and far northern parts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, raises profound questions about how whales are adapting to a changing environment in the world's oceans. Researchers note there is not enough information yet to link the bowhead's 1,000-mile southern sojourn with climate change.

"It's another piece of a puzzle," said Corey Accardo, the flight coordinator for the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies Right Whale Research program. "Being so far out of its natural range, and having it here twice leaves a lot of room for a lot more questions."

Been hearing some good things about the numbers of returning herring in the herring runs. That's a big plus and bodes well for the future…I have to think that plentiful herring availability means positive things for striped bass numbers. And with current water temperatures creeping ever closer to the Magic Fifty mark, it won't be long before migrating stripers swarm back into our waters once again. As far as that goes, ambitious anglers can always venture into some of our local backwaters in pursuit of holdover stripers right now. Such places as Scorton Creek in West Barnstable, Great Pond in Falmouth and pretty much all of Bass River serve as home to striper populations the year-round and a few locals make it a point to seek them out over all twelve calendar months.

The trick with early season bass, fish that are just transitioning from a state of slowed metabolic activities, is to "go slow and small". No point in high speed retrieves and three-inch lures will likely achieve better results than a nine-inch jumbo chugging through backwaters. I've had my best luck with soft baits – jig and plastic combos – small swimming plugs, and bucktail-tipped metal slabs such as Kastmasters and Deadly Dicks. Probably the most effective lure for taking a striper this early in the season is a small jig with a fresh seaworm trailing rom the hook. Lob-cast this combo around jetties, pier pilings and other structure and if there are bas around, chances are one will hit. It's as close to a go-to rig as I know. If seaworms aren't available just yet, a strip of squid can be almost as effective.

April 15, 2014

'Tog In the Ditch

by Jerry Vovcsko

Haven't had much of anything to report on the saltwater scene for some time now, maybe even as far back as last fall. But it looks like a little tautog action is beginning to stir in Buzzards Bay and around the Cape Cod Canal. It's still a bit chilly what with water temperatures hovering in the mid-forties, but the numbers have been trending upwards and ‘tog don't especially mind a little cool water. Yep, this is a pretty good time to snatch up some green crabs (heck, any crabs will do…I've caught tautog using fiddler crabs I picked up out of Sippewisset Creek) and get to ‘togging.

Anyhow, the ‘tog are here and they're on the bite and the minimum size is sixteen inches, three fish per angler per day. Boat-equipped anglers can do well around the rocky ledges at Cleveland Light as well as the rocks that line the bottom among the Weepeckett Islands. Otherwise, folks might take a shot in the Canal down near the Merchant Marine Academy or at the Ditch by the Railroad Bridge parking lot. Early reports this spring mentioned some ‘tog caught near the Mussel Bed at the eastern end but these were mostly undersized fish.

Just a reminder, but right around the time that stripers shoe up in numbers along the Elizabeth Islands, the season opens for black sea bass (may 11th). Sea Bass are one of the tastiest of species that inhabit our waters and make for a wonderful addition to a bouillabaisse. In fact, any fish stew that includes scup, black sea bass and tautog is a candidate for culinary greatness so it's not a bad idea to stash some of these fish in the freezer until the relatives gather later in summer. Spring a finfish/shellfish bouillabaisse on them and forever be spoken of in hushed, reverent tones as a true kitchen hero.

Lately we've been hearing that the oceans are, among other reasons, crucial to our well-being because they absorb large amounts of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) thus helping to mitigate the dastardly greenhouse-effect. But, whoops, hold on just a minute….seems a study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University and the Georgia Institute of Technology found the behavior of fish would be "seriously affected" by greater exposure to CO2. Researchers studied the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally occurring CO2 vents in Milne Bay, in eastern Papua New Guinea and found that escalating carbon dioxide emissions will cause fish to lose their fear of predators, potentially damaging the entire marine food chain.

They found that fish living near the vents, where bubbles of CO2 seeped into the water, "were attracted to predator odor, did not distinguish between odors of different habitats, and exhibited bolder behavior than fish from control reefs". Which just means that more of them are picked off by predators than is normally the case, raising potentially worrying possibilities in a scenario of rising carbon emissions.

The study found that fish's nerve stimulation mechanisms were altered, meaning the smell of predators became alluring so that fish become bolder and venture further away from safe shelter, making them more vulnerable to predators. While fish at the vents faced fewer predators than usual, the consequences for fish in the wider ocean could be significant as more CO2 was dissolved in the water. Little fish are generally very nervous and stay close to shelter, but increasing levels of CO2 reverses this, meaning they are more vulnerable and quickly get eaten by predators. The result would be even more rapidly depleted stocks of fish we humans depend on for food. Some days it seems like you just can't win for losing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released their draft management plan for the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge that will manage the refuge for the next 15 years. It includes the annexation of 717 acres of sandy beach that accumulated in recent years on the northeast portion of the island. The refuge boundary would now be located at the new inlet created in a February 2013 storm on the spit of barrier beach extending south from Lighthouse Beach and known as South Beach.

The draft proposal has three alternatives, including one that maintains the status quo. The preferred alternative expands protection of species and habitat but also provides more opportunities for compatible wildlife-dependent recreation like photography, fishing, observation and waterfowl hunting. Shellfishing is big business in Chatham and the proposed plan's preferred alternative prohibits horseshoe crab and mussel harvesting, while allowing scalloping and clamming done by hand.

Dogs would now be prohibited from all areas within the refuge, including Morris Island. While swimming and beachcombing are allowed, beach sports, kite-flying, personal watercraft, and other non-wildlife activities are prohibited. The new plan also proposes an expansion of the headquarters and a move to establish a downtown facility and offsite parking area.

The refuge will hold two public open houses and a public hearing. The open houses will be on April 24 and May 21, 2014 from 3-7 p.m. at the Chatham Community Center at 702 Main Street, Chatham, MA 02633. The public hearing will be on May 29, 2014 from 6-9 p.m. at the Chatham High School at 425 Crowell Road, Chatham, MA 02633.

To get a look at the proposed plan go to:

As I watch the Red Sox continue stumble along losing a weekend series to the Yankees and two crucial players to injuries, I am reassured that better days are just around the corner. Yes, folks, in about two weeks we will actually be able to wet a line in local waters and stand an excellent chance of success because the stripers-will-be-here! Life is good.

April 08, 2014

Stolen Oysters and Illegal Sales

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's not all that uncommon to hear about poachers operating on the Cape. Certainly the herring runs have seen their share of nefarious characters plying their crooked trade under cover of darkness and many an angler has heard rumors of ethically-challenged persons taking under sized stripers or more than their two-per-angler allotment. And now it appears that an unlikely pair of individuals has been conspiring to raid Cape Cod Bay oyster beds and resell the stolen shellfish on the open market. As it stands, nearly 25,000 oysters were stolen in the two separate thefts.

According to stories in the Cape Cod Times and Boston Globe, Michael Bryant, 37, was indicted by a Barnstable County grand jury last week on six counts of larceny of property, a shellfish sales violation, shellfishing a contaminated area and a commercial fishing license violation. Bryant will be arraigned "in the upcoming days" in Barnstable Superior Court, according to a statement from Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe.

"He's certainly been arrested many times," Barnstable police Lt. Sean Balcom remarked about Bryant, but back in January Balcom had said that the case was close to being solved, and he predicted that where Bryant sold the oysters was likely to come as a pretty big surprise. He was right about that.

And who bought Bryant's illegal oysters? Joseph Vaudo, a 62-year-old Sandwich businessman who has owned Joe's Lobster Mart on the Cape Cod Canal for more than 35 years, pleaded guilty last week in Barnstable District Court to charges of receiving stolen property, willfully misleading police during an investigation and failure or refusal to file required statistical reports of wholesale and retail dealers.

And that's the real shocker. Because Joe's Fish Market has over the years developed a solid reputation as a purveyor of high quality fresh fish, lobsters, clams and oysters. The notion that the owner would agree to buy stolen shellfish is disappointing in the extreme and the fallout could have a profound - and long-term - negative impact on the business. (Not to mention the heavy fines that this escapade is likely to generate.)

An investigation into stolen oysters began this past summer when oyster growers in Dennis and Barnstable reported the theft of thousands of oysters and plastic cages to police. Police zeroed in on Bryant in late October, when officers observed Bryant raking oysters in a closed area in Yarmouth. After determining that Bryant was not legally licensed, investigators executed a consent search at his home where they seized oysters and harvesting equipment. The case continues under investigation by Barnstable police and Massachusetts Environmental Police.

There aren't many anglers who fish the Canal who don't recognize the name Stan Gibbs. He was a legendary angler and lure maker whose plugs still inhabit the tackle boxes of east coast anglers and beyond. He died in 2004 at the age of 89. But when The Fisherman Fund commissioned a commemorative bronze statue, it chose to name the 10-foot monument simply "The Fisherman," with no mention of Gibbs. The decision was made to commemorate all fishermen — past, present and future — at Buzzards Bay Park rather than just one, but it created controversy with Gibbs' son Bruce, who said his father should be recognized by name.

This past week, according to a story in the Falmouth Enterprise, the Board of Selectmen signed off on a compromise between Gibbs and the Bourne residents who spent the past five years raising $80,000 for the statue. In a 5-0 vote, it approved the less controversial title: "The Fisherman," with lines underneath that will read: "A tribute to past, present and future striped bass fishermen of the great Cape Cod Canal" and "inspired by local fishing legend Stan Gibbs."

The image is iconic, showing a fisherman, rod in hand, with one 40-pound striped bass slung over his shoulder and another hanging at his side. Sculpted by David Lewis of Osterville, the statue is now being bronzed in Arizona. Lewis' other works include statues of John F. Kennedy in front of the Hyannis museum devoted to the former president, Wampanoag Sachem Iyannough at the Hyannis Village Green and Mercy Otis Warren in front of Barnstable Superior Courthouse.

"If you don't know who Stan Gibbs is, you aren't a striped bass fisherman," said Selectman Earl Baldwin, chairman of the board.

Trout is the name of the game this week. Many of the Cape ponds have been stocked recently and these fish are hungry. PowerBait, small artificials, salmon eggs or worms…anglers have been successful with almost anything they care to offer and some of these fish are Large, especially if one of the holdover browns decides to inhale bait or lure. The Brewster ponds in particular have been productive but the Upper Cape has had its moments also, with Peters Pond in Sandwich delivering some fine rainbows to willing anglers.

It's been a while since we had anything positive to offer about the salt water scene, but water temperatures in Nantucket Sound have crept slowly into the low forties and continue trending upward toward the Magic Fifty mark. This time next month we'll be looking for that first striper of the season…and standing a very good chance of landing it. Seemed like the winter would never let up, but it won't be long now.

March 30, 2014

Oysters and Computer Cleaning

by Jerry Vovcsko

Anyone that's ever eaten a bad oyster doesn't need to be told how sick these shellfish can make you. And now the Department of Marine Fisheries has announced public hearings on oyster safety plans. The new control plan will address Vibrio parahaemolyticus concerns. A new plan to help curb Vp related illnesses will be unveiled at public meetings in Eastham, Duxbury and Vineyard Haven in early April. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) Thursday announced three public meetings to unveil the 2014 Massachusetts Vibro parahaemolyticus (Vp) Control Plan for Oysters.

During the three meetings, to be held in early April in Duxbury, Eastham and Vineyard Haven, DMF will review a plan that was created with recommendations from the US Food and Drug Administration to control post-harvest growth of Vp bacteria in oysters during warm weather to prevent Vp related illnesses, according to a DMF release.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Vp is a bacterium that "naturally inhabits coastal waters in the United States". In the same family that causes cholera, it causes gastrointestinal sickness including diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting. There is a higher concentration of Vp in the summer months, according to the CDC.

Summer 2013 was the first year a Vp outbreak closed harvest areas in Massachusetts. In February, public meetings were held to seek feedback and input from oyster harvesters. That input was used to create the control plan, according to DMF.

The plan includes:
• Faster cooling and delivery of oysters
• Changes in oyster handling for harvesters
• Harvester icing within two hours of exposure/harvest and before leaving landing site

The plan also features additional Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) record keeping requirements for "primary buyers of oysters harvested within the Commonwealth for commercial purposes". According to the US FDA, HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed and analyzed from beginning through handling, distribution and consumption.

All commercial harvesting of oysters in Massachusetts will fall under the new plan between May 19 and October 19, 2014, according to DMF, which will be developing new regulations to mandate the plan.

The three public meetings are as follows:
• Friday, April 4 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Duxbury Maritime School, 457 Washington Street, Duxbury
• Friday, April 4 from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Nauset Regional High School, 100 Cable Road, North Eastham
• Monday, April 7 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Katharine Cornell Theatre, 54 Spring Street, Vineyard Haven

DMF regulates aquaculture for the state by overseeing the licensing of sites by towns and cities and permitting growers to "obtain and possess" sub-legal shellfish (seed) for transplant and grow-out to legal size." For more information about harvesting sites and licensing, visit your town's shellfish or natural resources office.
On another subject, and as a Public Service Reminder, all computer users should be aware that the annual Internet cleaning is scheduled for this coming Tuesday. Mark it on your calendar. During the day, you should place duct tape over any open network outlets to eliminate recycled electron spills. If you forget to do this and later find piles of electrons on your desk, take appropriate precautions in cleaning them up.

Although the recycled electrons may be safely discarded with your regular trash, they should be collected using an extra-strength paper towel that has been only slightly dampened. Using too much water can lead to a nasty shock if you wipe up more than a Coulomb. In some cases, you may find it easier to push these electrons back through the router and onto the Internet.

To accomplish this, obtain a can of compressed air (or use a reversible vacuum cleaner). Create a funnel using a piece of standard paper that has been folded in half by rolling the paper and then spreading one end. Place the small end of the funnel in the router outlet and use the compressed air or vacuum cleaner output to blow the electrons back into the outlet.*

*Thanks to Mr. Bill Blinn of Columbus, Ohio, for this timely reminder. Be sure to mark it on your calendar.

March 24, 2014

The Village Smithy Goes Fishing

by Jerry Vovcsko

Even though the weather has been anything but cooperative in New England, there's still plenty to do while we're waiting for things to warm up. New Hampshire Fish and Game officials are offering a series of outdoor adventure talks in April that will feature fishing, birds of prey, and a film festival. Topics include taking your fly fishing to the next level on April 2, New Hampshire raptors April 10, and an introduction to kayak fishing April 23. The midweek talks will be held at Fish and Game's headquarters in Concord. They are free, open to the public, and start at 7 p.m. Registration is not required.

Then there's the Reel Paddling Film Festival at Concord's Red River Theatres April 16 which will take viewers on a hair-raising ride down the rapids. The film festival is cosponsored by Fish and Game and Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Tickets can be purchased at the theater and are $10 for students and $12 for others.

"Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands. "

A pretty capable wordsmith by the name of Henry Longfellow wrote that poem, The Village Smithy. Back in the day, when I was a fresh-faced, callow fourth grade student, we had to memorize such classic verse as The Smithy and, by golly, daunting as it seemed to go about stashing eight stanzas in our reluctant memory banks, with continued practice we discovered we could manage to get it done. Nowadays, of course, some seventy-five years later, I consider it a success if I can recall where I last put the car keys and whether or not I had already taken my blood pressure pills. Sure, those good-old-days weren't all problem free and smooth sailing but there was a lot of useful lessons that served us well over the years.

As a long time angler I've picked up – and also discarded - plenty of hot tips and ostensibly "cutting-edge techniques" over the years. Among the discards were most of those sure-thing lures promoted –and marketed – on those nifty TV commercials served up on the plethora of Saturday morning outdoor/fishing shows by one fast-talking "expert" or other. The battery-operated, robot type lures went into the mental trash can pretty much upon first-sight. Besides being illegal in most places, they just seemed too stupid to take seriously (although, to be fair, some of that robot technology eventually morphed into such modern delights as the housewife's friend, the look-ma-no-hands, Roomba vacuum cleaner.)

But there were other Old School methods and tools that came along for my decades-long ride as an enthusiastic, often hapless but always willing to learn, amateur angler. And high on the list of tools I still employ after seventy-some years on the water, are the Jitterbug, the Hula Popper, the Helin Flatfish and the Hawaiian Wiggler. Anyone with a hankering to pursue and land black bass, both large and small mouth, pickerel, walleyes and other freshwater species, might do well to add some of these Old Timers to the tackle box. They're not all currently in production but a quick glance over on eBay will find them available at surprisingly reasonable prices.

The Jitterbug is perhaps the most effective topwater bass lure ever designed and if the lake or pond you're fishing holds a population of largemouths, this lure will draw smashing hits, especially in the hours between dusk and dark. It acts like a mouse or other small creature that's fallen into the water and struggles to swim to shore. And if pike or pickerel should be the target species, a killer technique is to cast and then let the lure sit unmoving for a full minute or more, and then twitch it before starting the retrieve. Often, the hit is immediate and explosive.

The Hula Popper has a concave face that stirs things up on the surface with a popping sound when worked properly along the surface. It's especially effective fished near and around docks, pilings or stumps. Late in the day, where a shadow forms back under a dock, the Hula Popper will consistently draw strikes from lurking largemouths. And if fished around the edges of weedbeds, pickerel can't seem to resist ambushing it.

I first laid eyes on the Hawaiian Wiggler when I was about ten years old and used to read Outdoor Life magazines under the covers by flashlight. I thought the Wiggler was the absolute cat's whiskers and when I finally laid hands on one found it to be a go-to lure when weedless action was needed. The rubbery skirt kept the hook from snagging weeds but allowed hungry bass to hook up with little effort.

And no other lure that I've ever fished felt like the vibrating dynamo that is the Helin Flatfish. Orange and black or frog-color design are the classic bass configuration. When I fish Cape Cod ponds I locate the drop-off line where the shallows fall away to ten feet or so and drift along while working the flatfish midway down the line. The action drives bass crazy and I've caught the same five pound bass I just released two or three times of an evening; can't do too much better than that when it comes to selecting a bass bait.

There are others that I use from time to time, but these four are old favorites and they're always in my tackle box when I head out to do a little fishing. That's not to say that modern lure technologies aren't equally effective – I've fished with some of those holographic Japanese swimming plugs and there's no question but that they're attractive to the fish. But as they say, Dance with the one that brung you, and I've been doing the foxtrot with these old favorites for so long I can't quit ‘em. Sometimes, Old School is the best way to go.

March Madness is full under way right now and my Alma Mater (UMass) didn't make it out of the first round. Upsets were the flavor of the day and such powerhouses as Duke, Syracuse and previously undefeated Wichita State got bounced even before achieving Sweet Sixteen status. It should be a spectacular Final Four and, hey, can you believe that Major League baseball season already opened – in Australia, no less? Looks like 2014 promises to be a year to remember in the World of Sports…and the stripers will soon be on their way north. Ya gotta love it.

March 15, 2014

Blimey, It's a Great White!

by Jerry Vovcsko

Massachusetts state shark scientist Greg Skomal helped tag a 14-foot, 1-ton female great white in the waters off Florida last winter. Since then, she's been on a nearly 20,000-mile voyage along the East Coast of the U.S., and then Newfoundland in January before turning toward Europe. Last week the great white shark (named Lydia by Skomal) was monitored within less than 800 miles of the English coastline. Although she had been heading north for around a week, if she does reach Great Britain it would be the first documented Atlantic crossing by a white shark, Skomal said.

Scientists maintain a shark tracking website that plots signals from Smart Position and Temperature tags, called SPOT tags, which are bolted onto the great white's dorsal fin after it is caught and raised out of the water on a specially adapted platform on a large research vessel. SPOT tags broadcast a locator signal to satellites every time the shark's dorsal fin breaks the surface. Skomal has either tagged or assisted in tagging 37 great whites in the four years since his first successful tagging off Chatham in 2009. All but Lydia were tagged in Cape waters, mostly off Chatham, where they prey upon seals in the largest gray seal colony in the U.S.

When Lydia's satellite tag popped off in June, analysis showed she was diving deep, as far down as 3,000 feet, and surfacing. Scientists believe that may represent deep ocean hunting behavior as the white shark pursues prey in the pitch-­black depths of the sea, where the temperature can range between 37 and 41 degrees, and then surfaces to get warm again. Some sharks don't surface for months at a time and their SPOT tags can have long gaps between locations, but Lydia has a lot of satellite markings in recent weeks and that is one indication she is likely still diving and surfacing.

What does concern shark researchers is that few if any juvenile great whites – between four and ten feet long – have been spotted in the Atlantic. In almost all other areas of the world that have established great white populations, these juveniles can be seen feeding on fish in shallow waters. Some scientists worry that the lack of these younger sharks could mean the Atlantic great white population may be in trouble.

We can't seem to shed the cold weather here in New England just yet but water temperatures in Nantucket Sound have been creeping upward, albeit at a glacial pace. It's not terribly exciting to see temperatures of 36 and 37 degrees at the NOAA buoy in the Sound right now, but considering that we were looking at 33 and 34 degrees a couple weeks ago, the trend is in the right direction. Pretty soon the possibility of mackerel showing up around the east end of the Canal becomes a reality and it won't be long after that tautog anglers will be spotted working the waters around Cleveland Ledge and the Weepeckett Islands. And when April arrives we can get right down to the business of wishful speculation about what day the first striper scouts will show up in Buzzards Bay or over near the warm shallows of Poponnesset Beach.

Right now, though, the ice has pretty much disappeared from Cape ponds and we're sliding into prime trout-fishing times. PowerBait and shiners cause the cash registers to jingle at local bait shops and the fresh water scene lights right up this time of year. Bass and pickerel are also available and mid-Cape ponds that have been salmon-stocked over the years hold trophy specimens for some lucky angler.

I would be derelict, I feel, if I didn't say a word or two about the free-agent frenzy that brought former Seahawk Brandon Browner and Darrelle "I Am an Island" Revis to the Patriots. I'm guessing Bill Belichick has seen a sea change in the way defenses need to be put together to counter run/pass quarterbacks and, presto, change-o, Revis-Island has surfaced here in New England. Now if he can get Tom Brady one or two more talented pass catchers, this could be a very good year for the Pats. Brady turns 36 and I turn 76 this year…so, c'mon, Bill…we're running out of time here. It's Super Bowl or bust!

March 07, 2014

Mountain Lion in Town

by Jerry Vovcsko

The Town of Winchester, a typical New England village, sits about eight miles north of Boston and until the mid-1800s the territory that would ultimately become Winchester comprised parts of Arlington, Medford, Cambridge and Woburn. Then the Whig Party decided there were just too-durned-many Democrats in Woburn so they decided to split away and incorporate Winchester as a separate entity and Colonel William P. Winchester generously contributed $3000 toward the construction of the first Town Hall. Then, as now, money talks, which is how it came to be named Winchester. Unfortunately Colonel Winchester contracted a terminal case of typhoid fever and died before he ever laid eyes on the eponymous new building.

This peaceful New England town was perhaps best known for current and former residents that included: pro wrestler Brutus Beefsteak who occasionally partnered with Hulk Hogan to engage in villainous tag team antics; former Heisman Trophy winner and college All-American running back at Navy, Joe Bellino; world class cello player Yo-Yo Mas, and Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford.

So it seemed just a bit out of character that Winchester should turn up in the news because a resident reported seeing a mountain lion in town earlier this week, an animal that's officially extinct in the area. The man told police he spotted the mysterious animal in the Dunster Lane, Pepper Hill Drive neighborhood. Massachusetts Environmental Police responded and found paw prints that strongly resembled those of a mountain lion - also called a cougar, puma or catamount.

The last confirmed mountain lion sighting in Massachusetts was in 1858, in the western part of the state. There have been numerous reported sightings since, but none have been confirmed which probably contributes to lingering skepticism around this report. One resident says he has spotted a fisher cat in the neighborhood, and thinks that's probably what the person who reported the mountain lion saw.

But it just may be possible that mountain lions are returning to areas they once held after a 156-year absence. Like most cats, they adapt easily and can live quite well in suburban areas. A 140-pound lion was killed in an accident involving an SUV on a Connecticut highway in June 2011. That animal was tagged and scientists determined from the tag that the cat had traveled all the way from South Dakota to get here. What the heck, bears have managed to somehow make it across the canal onto the Cape so why not a mountain lion coming down from the mountains of Vermont or New Hampshire and crossing into Massachusetts?

We may not have any mountain lions on the Cape just yet, but dolphins sure seem attracted to the beaches around here. Five common dolphins - four adults and a calf - were found stranded the other day on low-tide flats in the East End of Provincetown.

One of the dolphins died but the others were deemed healthy. The animals were lined up by rescuers in a kind of star-shaped array so that their snouts were facing each other. Their tails could be seen moving and flipping in the frigid, windy air. Plans were to transport and release them at Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown and word is the rescue was successful with the healthy creatures released back into Cape Cod Bay.

Speaking of frigid air, the series of cold days we've been hit with recently has slowed down the arrival of the New England maple syrup season. Folks tapping maple trees need warm days and cold nights to really get the sweet sap moving and we've yet to see a significant stretch of warm days. Question is, will the chilly days and nights slow down the arrival of migrating stripers coming up from the south? Well, if the stripers are smart, they may want to linger a while in the Hudson River or the bathtub-warm waters of Chesapeake Bay rather than braving the chilly water temperatures of Nantucket Sound which have hovered in the mid-thirties for some time now. And the weather gurus don't sound too optimistic about the immediate prospects for the region. They say the chill will remain in place for the next couple of weeks at least.

But those low temperatures are doing a fine job of keeping solid ice cover on local ponds so local anglers have been catching plenty of perch – white and yellow – as well as trout, pickerel, bass and the occasional pike. It shouldn't be too long before the ice is out and access to freshwater haunts becomes more available. In the meantime, bait shops continue to sell shiners, chubs and jigs to hardy angler stocking their freezers with Mother Nature's fishy bounty.

It's hard to believe that the Major League baseball season opens in less than a month. Haven't seen any Polar Tec uniforms up until now but this could be the year for them. Maybe the 7th inning stretch will consist of fans standing and chanting "Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr……." to get the juices flowing. Think I'll stay home and watch Opening Day on TV. These old bones don't get along well with the cold.

February 27, 2014

Fishing For Photos and Fisher Cats Return to Cape Cod

by Jerry Vovcsko

About five years ago my wife and I took a trip out to Reno, Nevada to visit with her brother's family. He kept his 24 foot open console Grady White at a marina at Lake Tahoe and one afternoon we took a run out there to spend a day on the lake. Lake Tahoe happens to be some 1600 feet at the deepest part. That's like 5 football fields stacked up one on top of the other, plus thirty-yard field goal distance left over. It was probably an omen of things-to-come that when the marina folks brought out his boat, the battery was dead, so they charged it enough to get it started and said we'd probably charge it some more as we motored around, but they gave us a spare battery pack...just in case.

We spent the afternoon running end to end around the lake, seeing the sights, then stopped for a while to do some swimming and bask in the sun. By late afternoon we got ready to head back and, no surprise, the battery was dead. We hooked up the marina-provided battery pack and - surprise!- that one was dead also. Eventually we got a jump start from a kindly boater who had a spare battery on board and never stopped until we drove the boat right up onto the trailer and delivered it back to the marina along with a few choice words about their maintenance and equipment performances.

So that's why when I run across any mention of Lake Tahoe I tend to react negatively. I wasn't shocked, for instance, when I read about a Utah woman, Jana Livitre, who lost her camera when the neck strap broke and she got to watch it sink in some 200 feet of crystal clear lake water, carrying with it over a thousand irreplaceable photos of family and friends she had accumulated over time. What made the story unique, though, was what happened two years later when a gent named Stephen Garrett decided to do a little fishing on the lake and reeled in something he sure wasn't expecting, namely, a camera. Noticing that the camera card was still in place he took it home and a friend plugged it into her computer – sure enough, in this digital era of ours the photos were clear and unharmed.

So Garret's posted them on Facebook where a friend of Livitre's spotted them and before long the memory card was back with its happy owner. For a strange and slightly spooky ending to this particular fish tale, it turns out that the card had one extra photo that Jana Livitre hadn't taken. It was a clear picture of the bottom of the lake and makes you wonder who snapped that one: a passing fish; the water pressure on the way down; or perhaps some creature that inhabits the murky regions of this watery deep? After all, legends have come into being based on far less than.

Speaking of strange creatures, the re-emergence of fisher cats on the Cape has become more and more plain to see. Just last week one of these members of the Mustelid, family (shared by wolverines, badgers, otters and weasels) was hit and killed by a car in Sandwich. Fishers, valued by trappers for their luxurious fur, used to be plentiful around New England back in Henry Thoreau's day, but they got trapped and hunted into near extinction and their return appearance has been an unexpected development, albeit an environmentally positive one.

To be fair, though, not everyone is delighted to have these aggressive and highly skilled hunters back in the region. Pet owners for instance take a dim view of sharing the woods with predators quite willing to include, cats, dogs, rabbits and birds on their daily menu. They've been known to grow to four feet in length although locally, three footers are closer to the norm. Even birds aren't safe because the fisher cat is a tree climber extraordinaire but they also happily take on wild turkeys at ground level and their viciousness credentials are unchallenged as they've been known to kill bobcats, not exactly passive tabbycats themselves.

Anybody who still traps is undoubtedly delighted to see these creatures show up once again. To give some idea of their value, a hat made from fisher furs sells for between two and four hundred dollars and as full coat, well, that would set you back enough dough to keep you in Van Staal reels pretty much the rest of your life. All in all, it's nice to see these guys back and thriving in New England forests and fields and maybe, just maybe, we can figure out a way to share the Cape with these furry expatriates.

As far as fishing goes these days, the weather folk predict three more weeks of cold temperatures and at least one or two snow storms headed our way. So if we ever get a break, maybe we can get a little ice fishing in and at least catch ourselves a mess of perch to drop in a big, cast iron skillet with a dollop or two of bacon fat – calories be damned – for a celebratory end-of-winter fish feast. Pass the home fries, please, and yes, another mug of coffee to wash it all down…that's what I'm talkin' about!

Saw a list of the Red Sox starters in the sports pages the other day: Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Peavy and Doubront…and that's not even counting the kids coming up in Triple A. So eat your hearts out, Yankee fans…looks like it might just be another World Series year coming up for the Red Sox.

February 21, 2014

Can't Find the Ice For the Water

by Jerry Vovcsko

The March edition of Outdoor Life showed up in my mailbox yesterday and I thumbed through it looking to see if there was anything new and interesting. Turns out they were reviewing some freshwater fishing gear and the new version of the Mitchell 300 spinning reel caught my eye. The original Mitchell 300 first appeared on the scene back in 1948 and a couple of birthdays later it became my first spinning reel.

Up to then I'd been using mostly bait casters jury-rigged to whatever rod I was able to lay hands on as back then as money was short and we kids fished with whatever gear we were able to lay hands on. Before the Mitchell 300 showed up I'd been wielding a one-of-a-kind rig consisting of an old fencing epee that my father had soldered guides onto. The "rod" was square shaped metal tapering to a fairly flexible end and the epee grip actually custom fit the hand quite comfortably. A few wraps of electrician's tape was all it took to fasten an old Pfleuger baitcaster in place and I had pulled my share of perch, pickerel, rock bass and sunfish from the waters of Otsego Lake in Upstate New York. But that sword-rod went into retirement upon the arrival of the Mitchell 300 – it had served me well.

Back in the day the Mitchell was a real workhorse and reliable as it gets; hefting it in hand told the story right away: Here was one solid piece of equipment. So, yeah, I was interested in seeing what the "experts" thought of the latest iteration of the 300. They were reviewing the Mitchell 300 Pro model and the folks doing the testing called it a winner. The Pro version's spool held a mighty 210 yards of 35lb test braid and it spun smoothly on ten ball bearings with a 5.8.1 retrieve ration collecting 33 inches of line per revolution of the handle. For a more than reasonable seventy bucks it sure sounded pretty good to me and if I didn't already have seven vintage 300s (I'm a sucker for them when they turn up on EBay) I ‘d probably be tempted to slide into acquisition mode. Anyhow, they look like they just might be a winner.

Recent weather fluctuations have put the kibosh on ice fishing on Cape ponds and lakes. Right now many of those places have three or even four inches of ice, but so-what? Because that ice is sitting there under an inch or two of water collecting as a result of heavy rains and mild temperatures that have begun melting the ice cover. But some folks have gravitated northward, heading off-Cape in pursuit of fishing opportunities not available locals east of the Bridge.

Westward, around Worcester, Lake Quinsigamond has been delivering plenty of pike action and the bait shops have experienced runs on shiners as Central Massachusetts anglers heard about thirty inch-plus pike being pulled from Quinsig. North of us up around Arlington, Spy Pond has produced pike thirty inches and above including one 36 inch beauty taken through the ice last week. In addition, pickerel can be found in most any pond or lake that sports lush weedbeds and even those pocket-sized versions of mini-pike are exciting to hook up with.

Daylight savings is just a couple weeks away and that means spring is a-comin' round the bend. Largemouth bass offer plenty of action when spawning time looms on the horizon, but we oughtn't to overlook what smallmouths can bring our way. Way long ago, further back than I care to remember, an old timer gave me a tip for fishing rivers that held smallie populations that I've used over the decades with good results. He told me to check out wadable rapids sections of rivers where large boulders created pools with riffles as the current flowed past. His lure of choice was a Mepps or Panther Martin spinner which he cast diagonally across and beyond and then worked back through the riffle. He'd discovered that those v-shaped disturbances in the current were natural ambush points for smallmouths and the years have proved his theory time and again for me. A good pair of waders and a rod with the flex to cast some distance and enough backbone to handle a smallie in the current are must-haves…but this method produces, I tell you truly.

I took a look at the data buoy in Nantucket Sound the other day. Water temperature was thirty six degrees. It's been gradually rising from thirty three and change, which was the coldest I saw back in mid-January. So, yeah, pretty soon the ice will be gone and we'll be making plans and getting ready for reacquainting ourselves with the salt water species' that inhabit our waters through the spring, summer, fall seasons. The merry-month-of-May launches yet another striped bass season on the Cape and that's not all that far off now.

There will likely be some Big-Doings at Fenway Park this year when the Yankees bring the Derek Jeter Traveling Retirement Circus to town. But that's OK…Derek played the game right and he deserves to bask in the sun one more time around the American League. He was one of those rarities in baseball, a genuine Star, and he will have stomped-the-terra for the past 20 seasons when he retires. A lifelong Red Sox fan, I can still appreciate a great player, and Derek Jeter was one of the Greats.

February 15, 2014

The Winter Doldrums

by Jerry Vovcsko

As the first half of February recedes in the rear view mirror the Cape readies itself for yet another major storm due to bring blizzard conditions and another foot of snow our way between noon and midnight tonight. This is starting to get a little old, know what I mean? Fifty mile an hour winds eliminates any potential boating activity and a foot or more of new white-stuff precludes easy access to local ponds…so what's a poor, frustrated angler to do?

Some folks will use the down time to get their gear in shape for the upcoming season: fresh line; new hooks; reels oiled, cleaned and new drag washers in place. Yep. All good stuff. Also, there's plenty of reading material to catch up with…Jim Harrison's book "Brown Dog" is a window into fishing and hunting possibilities on Michigan's Upper Peninsula; the late Phil Schwind penned the definitive work about the early days of striper fishing in Cape Cod Bay with his "Cape Cod Fisherman". And then there's anything by the late Frank Woolner, that wonderful old gent who's likely standing near the Pearly Gates showing Saint Peter how to get a little more distance out of his surf-casting gear. If for one reason or another I can't fish, these Old Timers provide the next best thing with their no-frills, voices-of-experience literary efforts. What better time to read them than on a storm-tossed mid-February evening with a fire on the hearth and a mug of Irish coffee at hand?

In other parts of the world sharks are in the news again. A man was killed by a shark last week while spear fishing with friends off the south Australian coast. The 28-year-old was part of a group spear fishing off Yorke Peninsula, west of the South Australia state capital of Adelaide, when witnesses reported seeing a shark attack him at midday, police said. Rescuers searched the area near Goldsmith Beach with boats and helicopters, but found no trace of the man. Western Australia officials announced recently that they intend to hire shark hunters to kill as many sharks as necessary to "make the beaches safe for swimmers and surfers." That doesn't strike me as sound policy, either politically or environmentally, but I suppose governments feel they have to at least appear to be taking some sort of action when their citizens are endangered.

Elsewhere, scientists have discovered a cold water reef growing in the sea off Greenland. .A cold-water coral that thrives in deep, dark water has been found growing off the shore of Greenland as a reef for the first time. A Canadian research ship sampling water near southwest Greenland's Cape Desolation discovered the Greenland coral reef in 2012, when its equipment came back to the surface with pieces of coral attached.

"At first, the researchers were swearing and cursing at the smashed equipment, and were just about to throw the pieces of coral back into the sea, when luckily, they realized what they were holding," Helle Jørgensbye, a doctoral student at the Technical University of Denmark who is studying the reef, said in a statement.

Cold-water corals have been found off of Greenland's west coast before, but never the stone coral Lophelia pertusa, and never as a reef, according to a report by the researchers published in the journal ICES Insight. A common cold-water coral, Lophelia pertusa built the reef, which is about 3,000 feet (900 meters) below the sea surface, in strong currents, close to where the edge of Greenland's continental shelf drops precipitously to the deep ocean floor. Little is known about the relationship between the reefs and other species, such as fish, but scientists think the coral reefs may serve as spawning grounds and hunting territory for redfish, monkfish and cod, among other species.

These days any positive news about coral reefs is welcome news indeed, as the usual reports have typically focused on dead or dying coral reefs in topical waters where pollution and human development have destroyed them. Perhaps the Greenland corals, located 3000 feet deep, will get a chance to survive even if they have to remain well out of sight of human presence to do so.

A month from now we'll be starting to speculate about the date of striped bass returning to Cape waters. Some folks seem to think that April brings the first migrating bass into Buzzards Bay. Maybe so, but I don't look for them much before the first week of May. Still, it helps survive the bleak winter months knowing those fish are stirring in the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay, getting ready to spawn and then set forth on their long swim north. It may be several weeks yet before there's any point in heading out to see what's what in the salt water scene, but having waited this long I can spare a little more patience on their behalf. Beside, today was the first day of spring training for pitchers and catchers at the Red Sox facilities in Florida. Season opener is March 31st…that's just six weeks until the first umpire call of "Play-Ball" summons the Boys of Summer. I'm ready; how about you?

Hope everyone had a Happy Valentine's Day.

February 07, 2014

Shakespeare, Starfish and Flying Snakes

by Jerry Vovcsko

It may be slow going these days when it comes to fishing in Cape Cod waters, but that doesn't mean things aren't happening elsewhere around the globe. The folks who study marine conditions say that starfish have been mysteriously dying by the millions in recent months along the US west coast. That's especially worrisome to biologists who say the sea creatures are key to the marine ecosystem. Scientists first began noticing the mass deaths in June of 2013 and they say the two species affected most are Pisaster ochraceus (purple starfish) and Pycnopodia helianthoides (sunflower sea star)…the sunflower sea star is considered among the largest starfish and can span more than a meter in diameter.

The most commonly observed symptoms are white lesions on the arms of the sea star and those lesions spread rapidly, resulting in the loss of the arm. Within days, the infection consumes the creature's entire body, and it dies. Entire populations have been wiped out in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington state, in the Salish Sea off Canada's British Columbia, and along the coast of California. Estimates of the mortality rate run around 95%.

Even those scientists who have spent decades studying the local ecosystem haven't yet been able to figure out what's causing the deaths but some believe it's likely that there is a pathogen, like a parasite or a virus or a bacteria, that is infecting the sea stars and that somehow compromises their immune system. The creatures become more susceptible to bacteria which may be causing a secondary infection that inflicts most of the damages resulting in the die-off of sea stars.

The 2013 phenomenon hasn't been limited to the West Coast; a smaller outbreak also killed East Coast sea stars last year. Previously the deaths were believed to be associated with warmer waters -- sea stars have sensitive skin and prefer cooler water -- but this was not the case in 2013. Sea stars are important, scientists say, because they play a key role in the West Coast ecosystem, eating mussels, barnacles, snails, mollusks and other smaller sea life, so their health is considered a barometer of marine life health in a given area.

But at least sea stars can be perceived as "cute" by your average beach goer. Such is most definitely not the case for anyone susceptible to a touch of ophidiophobia - fear of snakes, that is. Yes, it seems that researchers have determined that flying snakes have surprisingly good aerodynamic qualities. They've been studying the amazing gliding proficiency of an Asian species known as the paradise tree snake found that it does two things as it goes airborne. It splays its ribs in order to flatten its profile en into a more triangular form, and it undulates while airborne - sort of swimming through the air.

Experts in biomechanics at Virginia Tech, replicated in a plastic model the shape the snake assumes while airborne, and tested it to evaluate its aerodynamic qualities. The results contradicted expectations going in that the snakes would be poor "fliers" because they don't look like your typical, streamlined, airplane design.

Well, I don't know about anybody else, but I'd just as soon stay away from the notion of swarms of itinerant snakes flying around every which way looking for their next meal. Heck, I didn't even care for the movie version where a bunch of the venomous ones escaped from their crates and turned up in the first class section of a Boeing jet liner. Talk about your uninvited guests.

But it's not all bad news, it appears. A tiny fish characterized by a disproportionately large head and previously unknown to scientists has been found in mountain rivers of Idaho and Montana in what biologists are characterizing as a rare discovery. The new aquatic species is a type of freshwater sculpin, a class of fish that dwell at the bottom of cold, swiftly flowing streams throughout North America and are known for their oversized head and shoulder structure.

Scientists with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station in Montana first encountered the new species while conducting a genetic inventory of fish found in the upper Columbia River basin.

The fish has been named the cedar sculpin, after Western red cedars that line streams in the Idaho panhandle where it was first discovered. Sculpin are the preferred prey of prized sport fish like cutthroat trout and anglers have for decades used a fly-fishing pattern that imitates sculpin to catch trout. We may not have much to do with cedar sculpin over here on the east coast, but still, it's promising to hear about any new species discovery rather than the usual warnings that something else is about to fall into extinction. Shows that Mother Nature might have a trick or two up her sleeve if we'll just refrain from dousing the waters with all manner of toxic wastes.

Anglers who have been looking for suitable ice conditions to ply their trade have been pretty much out of luck on the Cape lately. Where the ice had previously formed to a reassuringly solid six inches a week ago, it's now likely to be breaking up and developing cracks and fissures that shout: Stay clear! And that's before we even get the slug of rain heading our way Sunday. Besides, that forecast originally threatened to dump a load of snow our way but now calls for rain and maybe a bit of sleet. All in all, not conditions conducive to spending time watching over tip-ups that stubbornly refuse to budge because the fish are somewhere down below laughing at those fools wandering around up above on the increasingly treacherous ice, getting soaked and freezing while they wait for a bite.

Best bet right now for those anglers jonesing for action would be to head north to lakes and ponds where the locals zip around on ATVs and snowmobiles secure in the knowledge they've got a nice, safe foot or more of ice underneath them. Quaboag Pond in East Brookfield might be one such destination worth the two and a half hour drive from the Cape. It's a 531-acre body of water with a maximum depth of 12 feet a population of northern pike along with bass, trout and perch to round out the chances of a successful day's fishing. Pike pushing the 20 pound mark have been taken from there over the years and it's far enough north to sustain sufficient ice cover to hold both angler and shack in relative comfort.

In Shakespeare's time there was a popular belief that the prey of the sea hawk surrendered voluntarily by turning belly-up, in recognition of the sea hawks' innate superiority. So, yeah, it would seem the Bard's bit of old-timey ornithology does a pretty good job of describing last Sunday's Super Bowl game. The 49ers rolled over and the Seahawks claimed their due…natural selection in action, with a vengeance. Let's hope next year the Patriots get their shot at Seattle…that is if the Seahawks make it past the 49ers again. And the trucks roll southward in about a week, carrying Red Sox equipment to spring training. Spring can't be far behind.

January 29, 2014

Kettle Ponds And a Bowl of Portagee Stew

by Jerry Vovcsko

Mid-summer water temperatures in Nantucket Sound can easily reach the high seventies while the sunbaked beach sand sizzles under air temperatures pushing ninety and beyond. That's when we head for air-conditioned destinations and gripe about "…this dammed heat!" Of course, things feel a little different right now what with water temperatures in the Sound hovering at thirty-one frigid degrees while the air registers a brisk nine degrees overnight. Thirty one degrees in the water! That's one degree cooler than it takes to freeze water, folks.

We're talking serious ice here…and some of the real down-Cape Old Timers can recall winters where it froze all the way across from Woods Hole to Edgartown and the ferries sat ice-bound at the pier waiting for a warm spell and surging tides to break them free from Jack Frost's icy clutches. Well we haven't seen it that bad – at least not in the forty-some years I've meandered about the Cape wetting a line in both salt and fresh water fish-harboring locations. And I've learned along the way that come early May striped bass will find their way to Cape waters and come the fall those fish will head back to whence they came from. This year will be no different.

In the meantime, we anglers will make do with what we can find when Old Man Winter clutches us in his frosty embrace. Once four inches or more of ice forms on local ponds we can auger out a hole through which we'll drop a line baited with chub or shiner; dangle a shiny jig or spoon and wait for perch, pickerel, trout or salmon to take notice and swallow our offering. Cape Cod is the chief beneficiary of the last ice age when glacier and pack ice dragged huge boulders across the land scooping out a host of kettle ponds in the process and blessing local anglers with a bonanza of fishing destinations. Like so many watery grocery chain stores these ponds offer nearly every freshwater species imaginable. And not just a stringer of pan fish…nossir, double-digit northern pike inhabit Barnstable's Lake Wequaquet, salmon upwards of twenty pounds can be taken from a number of Upper and mid-Cape ponds and just last week one local angler hauled a twenty-nine inch brown trout from an un-named location.

There are big fish a-plenty to be had in these parts.

I don't know about anyone else but when the thermometer dips below freezing my thoughts turn to hot coffee and rib-sticking food. Back in 1958 when I was a young Marine attached to the Sixth Fleet for an eight month cruise around Mediterranean ports-of-call, a grizzled old Navy Chief Bosun's Mate told me the secret to brewing great tasting coffee. Fresh-ground coffee beans were imperative and required a handful of broken eggshells plus a pinch of salt in with the grounds. Percolate the coffee through that mixture and pour it steaming hot into a thick, white porcelain mug. Nectar of the gods.

As to food, here's an old-timey Portuguese recipe for a stew that'll fill your stomach and warm your toes:
Portagee Stew:
•1 ½ lbs fresh eel cut into 1-inch pieces
•Seasoned flour for dredging
•2-4 Tablespoons lard
•2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
•1 1/2 cups onion, small diced
•2 garlic cloves, minced
•1/3 cup white or red wine
•1 cup fresh diced tomato
•1 sprig mint, chopped
•1 sprig parsley, chopped
•Herbs for garnish
•Hot sauce (if you've a mind to)

Heat the lard and olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. When the oil's ready, add the onions and sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and let sauté until it begins to get brown around the edges. Add the tomato paste and stir well, then deglaze the pan with the wine. Let reduce for a moment, and remove the onion mixture from the pan. Add a little more oil if necessary, and heat the pan back up. Meanwhile dredge the eel in the flour. When the pan is hot, add the eel pieces. Cook the pieces for a few minutes on each side. Then re-introduce the onion mixture, and add the fresh tomatoes. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for about 10 minutes, and check to see if the eel is done. Add the fresh herbs, then taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper (and hot sauce) as necessary. Divide into four bowls and serve. (From an old Nantucket Island recipe)

Three weeks to go until the equipment-laden eighteen-wheelers pull out from Fenway Park and head off down Interstate 95 bound for Florida and spring training. As long-time Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione would say: "Can you believe it?"

January 22, 2014

Polar Vortex, Redux

by Jerry Vovcsko

Just when we thought the January thaw was upon us, here came another Polar Vortex bringing us piles of snow – up to 18 inches falling on parts of southeastern Massachusetts – and temperatures that plunged overnight into the sub-zero range. There won't be much opportunity just now to fish the salt water, even if there were lots of fish around – wind gusts up around 40-knots saw to that. And pretty much forget freshwater action for a while as it might take half a day to trek through these awesome snow drifts just to get near enough to fishable ponds to check for sufficiently solid ice cover.

Yeah, we might just want to pull the old rocking chair up close to the woodstove and sip a bit of Irish coffee while perusing the spring Bass Pro catalog or taking another spin around the literary block with Papa Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. Myself, I'll be planted near the fireplace while shipping aboard caffeinated wet-goods in the form of a mug of dark French Roast coffee in one hand and a book of Tom McGuane's wildly entertaining fish tales in the other.

While we hole up waiting for Mother Nature to deliver more favorable weather our way, it helps to know that Gulf of Maine Cod swimming off Massachusetts shores have been tagged with acoustic tracking devices that will help scientists determine when and where the fish spawn. Scientists, state and federal environmental officials and local fishermen are working together to attach the electronic tags to cod and return them to the water. Fishermen began taking scientists aboard their boats in September to find and tag fish.

The tags are detected by a series of underwater monitors that pick up the sounds and track the movements of the fish, according to state environmental officials. Each electronic tag emits a sound once every minute, for up to six years, and each tag has a unique sound that allows scientists to track individual fish. The signal is recorded whenever the fish pass within a network of receivers deployed on the sea floor by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game's Division of Marine Fisheries.

Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin described the tags as akin to an "E-Z Pass for fish," and said the tracking project will help scientists determine where cod spawn off the South Shore. Knowing where the spawning grounds are is important for recovery of the population as dwindling stocks of cod have led federal officials to institute fishing quotas.

Some fishermen report seeing cod only during their spawning season in the late fall and early winter, where in the past the fish were abundant most of the year, according to Frank Mirarchi, who has fished out of Scituate Harbor since 1962. Mirarchi was one of the local fishermen who pushed to research the spawning habits of cod.

"We hope to provide these fish with protection while they're vulnerable," Mirarchi said in a press release. "The expectation is that we can provide discrete, small protected areas which will not be disruptive to fishing, while helping the cod stock to recover."
The acoustic monitoring data will allow researchers to visualize the movement behavior of fish while they are on the spawning grounds, and when they leave the area – information that is needed to define seasonal closures and to better understand spawning behavior, according to environmentalists.

Meanwhile, some folks on the other side of the world got pretty excited when a fisherman in waters north of New Zealand came across an odd-looking, translucent sea creature swimming on the surface. Curious, he netted the creature to get a closer look and saw he had what he described as a see-through, shrimp-like creature.

"It felt scaly and was quite firm, almost jelly like, and you couldn't see anything inside aside from this orange little blob inside it," said fisherman Stewart Fraser.

Later, scientists at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, U.K., identified it as a Salpa maggiore (Salpa maxima). Paul Cox, director of conservation and communication at the aquarium, said that a salp is barrel-shaped, moves by pumping water through its gelatinous body, and that the life-cycle includes alternate generations of existing as solitary individuals or as a group forming long chains.

"In common with other defenseless animals that occupy open water—jellies and hydroids, for example—the translucence presumably provides some protection from predation," Cox said. "Being see-through is a pretty good camouflage in water."

And that brings me to the subject of my New England Patriots. They traveled to Denver last Sunday for the AFC championship game and got soundly trounced by the Broncos, far and away the better team that day. Can't fault the Pats too much, though, as they won a heck of a lot more games than most fans expected given the number of season-ending injuries to starters they suffered throughout year. Hats off to the Patriots for their next-man-up mentality and here's hoping Peyton Manning and his crew can grab a Super Bowl win in New York come February when they face the lads from Seattle. Oh, and spring training kicks off in mid-February, less than a month away now…think the Red Sox can repeat?

January 14, 2014

A Tunafish Big Enough to Feed Austin, Texas

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's a pretty well accepted notion that fishermen might possibly not be entirely trustworthy when it comes to weighing and measuring their catch. The old thumb-on-the-scales approach has a long history with anglers seeking bragging rights among their peers and measuring length by including a bit of the shadow hasn't been unknown to neighborhood sharpers gunning for king-of-the-hill status. Still, all those machinations are small-potatoes in comparison with the Internet when it comes to exaggeration and subterfuge. Like the tall tales that have surfaced recently on the World Wide Web.

Seems that earthquake that struck Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant a couple of year back has produced some dire effects on this side of the Pacific Ocean. According to "reliable Internet sources" (a concept some would consider an oxymoron), scientists believe that following the power plant disaster in the Futaba District of Japan, certain oceanic creatures suffered genetic mutations that triggered uncontrolled growth – or "radioactive gigantism."

Take, for instance, those folks strolling on the beach in Santa Monica who were said to have discovered what might be the largest modern colossus lying dead on the beach, a creature that supposedly started its life as a rare oarfish known to reach as much as 19-feet in length…only this Santa Monica oarfish was said to measure out at a stunning 130-feet. Radioactive gigantism, indeed!

Even more impressive, however, was the giant squid measuring a whopping 160 feet from head to tentacle tip that ostensibly washed up on another California beach. Nothing enhances the credibility of a tall-fish-tale like the supporting testimony of various "experts" and Internet sources abound in that arena.

"We are confident that this fish comes from the Fukushima Dai-ichi region," said one supposed Ph.D equipped fish biologist. "We can tell from the radioactive Cesium present in its tissue. We also have strong cause to believe that the nuclear event in Japan triggered radioactive gigantism in this particular specimen."

Another mightily-credentialed fishy expert provided some perspective for the possibilities inherent in these astounding assertions with the following: "These creatures give us the chance to study radioactive gigantism. Imagine a tuna fish that could feed a city the size of Austin, Texas. This is the potential of radioactive gigantism.""

Well, I don't know about anybody else but I'm a little bit wary of mutation on that scale. I mean, if we're looking at individual tunas big enough to feed a Texas city, then it only makes sense that we have to consider the possibility of Jaws the size of a New York skyscraper. Think I'll stick with the relatively benign thumb-on-the-scales maneuvers and leave the mega-fish tale stories to the Internet tale-spinners. Besides, who wants to spoil the Internet fun by suggesting a visit to Not me; that's for sure.

Having said all that I'm a little concerned that some readers may be less than accepting of the news that the Mexican government says local fishermen found two rare conjoined gray whale calves that died shortly after being born. Biologist Benito Bermudez says the whales were found alive in the Ojo de Liebre lagoon in the Baja California Peninsula but lived only a few hours. Bermudez said Wednesday they were linked at the waist, with two full heads and tail fins. Bermudez is a marine biologist with the National Natural Protected Areas Commission, or CONANP. He said scientists are collecting skin, muscle and baleen samples to study the creatures.

Well, I'll leave it at that and let skeptical readers check it out for themselves on the Web…thing is, I've seen photos…so it must be true, right?

Leaving aside the strange doings out there in cyber world, we've been experiencing trick-or-treat weather on the Cape the past couple of weeks. One minute it's a plunging thermometer that's registering below-zero numbers, the next we're basking in a balmy sixty-degree environment. The other day I watched some kids playing on a frozen cranberry bog that looked to have a solid six inches of ice cover up top. The next day the thermometer hit 58 degrees in mid-afternoon…how does an angler make sense of that?

As it stands, most Cape ponds have at least some ice cover right now but those surfaces are pretty treacherous and best avoided until Mother Nature makes up her mind about the weather. In the meantime, those of us who simply must find a way to wet a line are probably better off returning to the salt water locations that we don't bother with during striped bass season. There are flounder and other groundfish lurking around the dock pilings in places like Woods Hole Harbor, the Sandwich Marina, Bass River, Scorton Creek and, of course, the Cape Cod Canal…this time of year mackerel have been known to show up in and around the Canal. And rumors of cod-from-the-beach date back to a time when Hector was a pup.

Which brings us to playoff time in the NFL. And there we see our beloved New England Patriots still hanging on, still persevering. Not only that but they've sprouted a newfound running game and LeGarrett Blount has morphed into the reincarnation of Jim Brown complete with scatback speed, bulldozer power and the ability to return kickoffs and pound out goal-line yardage alike. Only four teams left standing and the Super Bowl waiting right around the corner. What a year, huh?

January 07, 2014

Getting High on Puffers

by Jerry Vovcsko

Okay, so now we hear that you can legally buy marijuana in Colorado and Washington State. Swell! Let the puffing begin. But it seems some of Mother Nature's critters are one step ahead of us already. A recently filmed documentary appears to demonstrate that dolphins can get high on Puffer Fish.

Whereas adventurous humans may get a rush out of flirting with death by eating a piece of puffer fish, dolphins may experience something completely different. Filmmakers at John Downer Productions recorded the dolphins snacking on the puffer fish for the documentary "Dolphins: Spy in the Pod." After eating the puffer fish, the dolphins seemed to enter a trance-like state.

"[They were] hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection," John Downer, executive producer of the documentary, told International Business Times. "It reminded us of that craze a few years ago when people started licking toads to get a buzz."

However not everyone agrees that the dolphins were doing the marine version of a Cheech and Chong ganja-fest. Christie Wilcox, author of Discover's Science Sushi blog and a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, said that while dolphins were curious animals, she found it hard to believe that they were chasing the fish for a high.

"The puffer fish's tetrodotoxin shuts down nerve cells, but it doesn't cross the blood brain barrier," she told ABC News. "It's not like recreational drugs that have some effect on the brain, so I find it hard to believe that it would be pleasurable."

In addition, she said that if the dolphins really wanted to get high, there were other sea critters that would fit the bill. "In many areas of the world, sea bream are known to produce vivid visual and auditory hallucinations, much like tripping on acid," she said. "And of course, people have used them recreationally."

That's certainly reassuring news for those of us troubled by the notion that lovable, old Flipper has been tripping in a cloud of boo-smoke and hanging out in some remote coral patch just one toke over the line.

Meanwhile, leave it to the Australians to take a Shootout-at-the-OK-Corral approach to the problem of shark attacks on bathers. Politicians have launched a series of measures declaring that sharks longer than 3 meters (10 feet) that get near popular beaches in Western Australia will be caught, shot and dumped back into the sea, in an attempt to reduce public anxiety over attacks. Details of the Western Australia government's controversial "shark management" strategy have been recently released, with sharks bigger than 3 meters singled out for shooting and then discarding offshore.

A tender released by the government calls for an "experienced licensed commercial fishing organization" to deploy and maintain up to 72 drum lines off popular beaches in Perth and elsewhere along the south-west coast. The drum lines, containing a hook with bait on them, will catch and, eventually, kill passing sharks that come within 1km of the beach.

Should a live white shark, tiger shark or bull shark longer than 3 meters be found on the drum lines, they will be "humanely destroyed" with a firearm, according to the tender documents. Shark corpses will be then tagged and taken further out to sea and dumped. Other animals caught on the baited hooks will be released alive "where possible".

The drum lines will be patrolled by boats for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, until April. Only contractors' vessels will be allowed within a 50-metre exclusion zone set up around the drum lines. The state government said the tender was a "direct response" to the "unprecedented" number of shark attacks off the Western Australia coast. Surfer Chris Boyd, 35, was killed following a shark attack in November, becoming the sixth swimmer or surfer to die from shark-inflicted injuries in the past two years.

Predictably, scientists and animal welfare groups have labelled the strategy barbaric and even counter-productive. Christopher Neff, who has completed the first PhD on the "politics of shark attacks" at the University of Sydney, told Guardian Australia there was "no evidence" that baited drum lines reduced the risk of a shark bite.

"There is evidence that drum lines draw white sharks in, but I am unclear on how this is meant to reduce the risk to the public," he said. "If the point is to symbolically kill a protected species for political gain then it will be successful, but if the point is to protect the public from sharks this policy will likely be a failure."

Well, I suppose the plan may not be very effective in preventing shark attacks on humans but it may well bring a few extra votes for politicians promoting the idea and that's probably the bottom line. I think it was cowboy-comedian Will Rogers who said "The more I see of politicians, the better I like dogs." Or maybe it was W. C. Fields…point is, it's one of the dumbest ideas to surface lately and here's hoping it fades into oblivion. Along with the politicians that dreamed it up.

That "vortex" of Arctic air swirling down our way from Canada has turned New England into a veritable deep freeze with below-zero windchills and warnings from the weather folk not to step outdoors with any skin exposed lest we become instant victims of the dreaded "frostbite". It's cold, yes, but reasonable care in dressing with layers of warm clothes should make outdoor excursions plenty safe. And that cold snap we're experiencing is also producing ever-thickening depths of ice cover for local ponds. Four inches of hard water is the target anglers seek to make it safe to get out there with tip-ups, shacks and other gear. Another couple days of near-zero temperatures should see local ponds sporting four-or-more surface cover; be aware, however, of creek inflows, subsurface springs and other anomalies that can drop an unwary angler in the drink. An impromptu bath in thirty-six degree water is no fun.

My New England Patriots go up against the Indianapolis Colts and their young prodigy quarterback Andrew Luck this Saturday. The Pats, behind their newfound running game featuring LeGarret Blount and Stevan Ridley, should emerge with a win. And if the Broncos take care of business out in Denver, fans may yet get to see a shootout between the Pats' QB Tom Brady and the Broncos' Peyton Manning. And that might just be one for the ages.

December 30, 2013

Frilled Sharks, Carnivorous Fish and Killer Lakes

by Jerry Vovcsko

Less than forty eight hours from now we'll be saying adieu to 2013 and welcoming the New Year into town. Maybe 2014 will be the year that those seals crowding the Chatham beaches figure out a way to co-exist with the great white sharks that have made the Chatham area a way station on their pelagic travels. It's pretty certain local striped bass populations are rooting for the sharks because these voracious seals have been feasting on the stripers over the years and that's a less than pleasing situation for Cape anglers who would just as soon see the seals thinned out a bit.

But even with hungry Great Whites cruising around the Chatham beaches, there are other locations around the world that prove even less inviting to folks looking for places to wet a line. Take, for instance, beautiful Lake Karachay, a Russian lake so tainted by nearby nuclear facilities that it's considered perhaps the most polluted place on the planet, a lake so polluted that spending an hour there would kill you! Scientists studying the lake region in 1990, concluded that just standing on the shore for an hour would give you a radiation dose of 600 roentgen, more than enough to kill you. (On the plus side, lakefront property is probably really, really cheap.)

The lake sits squarely within the Mayak Production Association, one of the biggest and most porous nuclear facilities in Russia. The Russian government kept Mayak secret until 1990, and spent that period of "out of sight, out of mind" existence experiencing nuclear meltdowns and dumping waste into the river. When Mayak's existence was finally acknowledged, there had been a 21 percent increase in cancer incidence, a 25 percent increase in birth defects, and a 41 percent increase in leukemia in the surrounding region of Chelyabinsk.

Lake Karachay is now chock-full of concrete that's intended to keep radioactive sediment away from shore. Downstream water in the Techa river has almost no radioactive cesium, though you still can't drink the upstream stuff and the riverbanks will be dangerous for hundreds of years. Kind of makes those great whites look a lot better, doesn't it?

And it looks like fishing is expected to be banned near the Atlantic islet of Rockall after a rare methane gas vent in the seabed and two new shellfish species were discovered by British scientists.The methane, which leaks through a so-called "cold seep" vent in the ocean floor, was found last year by scientists working with the government agency Marine Scotland. It is the first of its kind to be found near UK waters and only the third in the north-east Atlantic. Scottish scientists detected it after Marine Scotland's Scotia survey ship trawled up two new species of deep-water clam that have a "chemosynthetic" relationship with the methane: the clams' food source is a bacteria that harvests the gas. That tells scientists there may be a complex ecosystem around the mouth of the vent.

Francis Neat, the Marine Scotland scientist who oversaw the survey, said the site roughly four miles west of Rockall Island was comparable to the complex habitats that build up around often exceptionally hot mineral-rich hydrothermal vents found on mid-ocean ridges. The clams were "packed full" of polychaete worms that are also expected to be new to science, he said. The International Convention on the Exploration of the Seas, an intergovernmental agency which polices fish stocks in the North Atlantic, has now recommended a fishing ban for the site, which is international waters, to protect it from highly damaging bottom trawling. It has also requested additional fishing bans – adding to several already in place - at three other sites around Rockall to protect rare cold-water coral, sea sponge colonies, and sea fans or gorgonians which are being harmed by bottom-trawling. The agency's surveys around Rockall also caught a frilled shark, an ancient "living fossil" species of shark that dates back at least 90 million years and is rarely seen in northern waters.

Meanwhile, our southern hemisphere neighbors might not be dealing with great whites, nuclear wastes or methane gas vents, but they've got fishy problems of their own. A surprise attack by a school of toothy fish recently injured 70 people bathing in an Argentine river, including seven children who lost parts of their fingers or toes. The director of lifeguards blamed the attack on palometas, "a type of piranha, big, voracious and with sharp teeth that can really bite."

Paramedic Alberto Manino said some children he treated lost entire digits. He told reporters from the local TV channel that city beaches were closed, but it was so hot that within a half-hour many people decided to take their chances with the toothy fish and went back to the water. A nice little comment on human nature.

Which brings us back to Cape Cod and wintry conditions much the same as we bumped into last week. But the weather-meisters tell us we have several days of frigid conditions coming our way the rest of the week and before that's over we should have at least four inches of solid, reliable ice cover to make it possible to drop bait and lures through the ice so now's the time to get the shacks, tip-ups and the rest of the gear ready for a foray out on the hard water at a pond of your choice. My number one recommendation would be Peters Pond over Sandwich way…trout, bass, perch and the occasional salmon can be plucked from its waters on any given day.

The New England Patriots turned loose 250 pound running back LeGarette Blount on the Buffalo Bills and he shredded the hapless Bills with 189 rushing yards and another 145 or so bringing back kickoffs – a nice day's work indeed. In the end the Pats dropped 34 points on their final regular season opponent which earned them a bye in the opening playoff round. Now we fans can sit back and watch the run for the Super Bowl…and it looks like the playoffs may well include a Manning-Brady rematch. It doesn't get a whole lot better than that, folks.

December 24, 2013

Winter Ice is Mighty Nice

by Jerry Vovcsko

Santa Claus sails his sled down from the North Pole tonight so tomorrow morning all the good little boys and girls will find out if Santa got their letters and they'll see whether that shiny new Van Staal reel or a lump of coal turned up in their stockings. Surprises are nice but sometimes they're a little more startling than we might need…or want.

Take, for instance, Los Angeles resident Jessica Hanson who was delighted to see the delivery crew show up at her house with a brand new Sears dishwasher still shrouded in its plastic and tape packaging material. Although the delivery crew, and apparently everyone else along the delivery chain, failed to notice the sizable garter snake stuck to the packaging material, Hasson and her boyfriend were immediately able to spot the difference between a drain hose and a three-foot snake.

Hasson promptly called animal control—a smart move, no doubt—but after some really hapless bureaucratic natterings, officials declared that they weren't able to do anything, since the snake was "already contained." A call to Sears brought equally ineffective results and in the end Ms. Hasson returned the dishwasher for a snake-free replacement at a later date.

A week after Christmas Day we'll be ushering in the New Year and hoping that 2014 turns out to be a year with perhaps fewer bizarre episodes for us to deal with, such as the gent who tried to trade a live alligator for a beer at a convenience store in Miami. The Florida state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission gave that guy a citation for illegally capturing and trying to sell the gator. He apparently trapped the 4-foot-long gator at a nearby park and brought it to the store in early December. When he proposed to trade the animal for a 12-pack of beer, the store clerk called authorities and the deal fell apart. Authorities said the alligator was "pretty much in good shape" and the creature was released back into the wild.

Well, we're in that transition time right now from open water fishing to wetting our lines through the fishable ice that should be forming soon. Actually, most of the local ponds in Southeastern Massachusetts have an inch or two of ice on the surface and if the weather turns out the way the TV weather guys are predicting, we may well have a solid four inches on top by New Year's Day. In any case, most of the ponds are inaccessible to fishing right now because of the ice coating and the salt water scene pretty much dwindled away a couple of weeks ago. So what's an angler to do….?

Keep in mind that some of the larger ponds such as Mashpee/Wakeby, Peters Pond in Sandwich and Lake Wequaquet are open for the moment so trout fishing is available with live shiners and jig/plastic baits the preferred offerings along with PowerBait and salmon eggs. Those places with moving water such as Scorton Creek in West Barnstable, Yarmouth's Bass River and the Coonamesset River in Falmouth provide access as do the tidal estuaries on the south side of the Cape. Casting small spinner rigs across the current and low-retrieving can be surprisingly productive if there are fish around.

For those still Jonesing for salt water action, the Cape Cod Canal is the place to try. The Canal is a fishy four-lane freeway during the season and although fish-traffic slows during the winter months, there's always something swimming around in there. A few years back I caught three decent sized Pollock out behind Joe's Fish Market in the Canal in mid-January by drifting sea-clam laden jigs shortly after the tide turned easterly. I've also had catches of mackerel, tautog, sea robins, a lobster and even one bluefish (I surmised that the blue had been hanging around in the warm water outflow at the Pilgrim nuke plant over in Plymouth and tried to make a run for it when the water got too chilly in Cape Cod Bay.) When you can go out there at the Canal the day after Christmas and catch a fish, then you can genuinely stake your claim to the status of a Real Cape Cod Angler or RCCA as we say in the trade.

I would definitely be remiss if I didn't say a few words about the New England Patriots' demolition of the Ravens in Baltimore last Sunday. It was awesome and if the Pats continue to play at that level we could be looking forward to a Super Bowl visit to New York City in February. Polish up the Lombardi Trophy, boys, the Pats are coming to town!

December 14, 2013

Careful Where You Step

by Jerry Vovcsko

Hunting season in Massachusetts continues to bring out elements of the strange and bizarre behavior that makes a person ask: "Say what?"

Like the Marshfield family that may be facing criminal charges for allegedly threatening hunters in a no-hunting zone and using an air horn to scare away ducks. Police Chief Phil Tavares says the allegations have been referred to a clerk magistrate who will schedule a hearing to decide whether there is probable cause to charge the family members with hunter interference and threatening to commit a crime.

Chief Tavares said the three hunters had set up stands in an area in which hunting is not permitted, but which had not been posted as a no-hunting zone. (No hunting signs have since been put up.) He says the family members threatened the hunters with physical harm. Their names were not released because no charges have been filed.

Over on Nantucket Island, when Cam Dutton came home from work Wednesday, she discovered a bullet hole the size of a saucer through her second-story kitchen window on Barrett Farm Road and after looking around, found the shotgun slug lodged in the hallway ceiling three rooms away from the window. With only a few houses on Barrett Farm Road, the land in that area is often used by hunters. But even with a hunting club regularly renting land at the end of Barrett Farm Road, Dutton said she's never been worried about being shot, since she feels most of the hunters are responsible and keep 500 feet away from houses as required by law.

"The gun club people tend to be responsible but I suppose there are other cowboys walking around randomly shooting. The environmental police spent a lot of time trying to figure out the trajectory and calculating how it could have gotten that high, unless they were trying to shoot Santa's reindeer. I just would like to see more responsible hunting and see the more experienced hunters policing some of these cowboys that are out back," Dutton said.

The environmental police told Dutton her house was the first to be hit by a stray bullet this year, although such incidents are not uncommon, she said. Last year, a bullet went through someone's dining room window while they were home, and she believes that sooner or later someone will end up as the unintended target of a careless hunter.

Meanwhile, way south of us, scientists have been focusing on enormous herds of rhino-like animals that turned parts of what is now Argentina into pastures of dung, new fossils reveal. These giant herb eaters were dicynodonts, mammal-like reptiles that some say looked something like a cross between a rhinoceros and the demon dogs from "Ghostbusters." Argentine researchers have now found that these dicynodonts pooped in communal latrines, designated areas for depositing dung - guess you had to be careful where you stepped back in the day.

Lots of modern-day animals, including elephants, llamas and rhinos, poop in communal latrines. Scientists have even discovered fossilized hyena poop from several hundred thousand years ago that was deposited in communal latrines, but the behavior has not been found further back in the fossil record.

"This is the only case of megaherbivore latrine and it's the oldest found fossilized", said study researcher Lucas Fiorelli of the Centro Regional de Investigaciones Científicas y Transferencia Tecnológica in La Rioja, Argentina.

Fiorelli and his colleagues began excavating in northwest Argentina two years ago and quickly uncovered fossilized poop — known as coprolites — by the bucket load. These coprolites date back to the middle Triassic, 240 million years ago. In this era, small dinosaurs were just beginning to appear. In some areas, there were as many as 94 rounded fossil poops every 10 square feet (1 square meter). The coprolites varied in size from just about half an inch (1 centimeter) in diameter to more than a foot (35 cm) wide. Such variation in such a small area strongly suggested a herd of young and old animals living together, defecating communally.

In total, the researchers found eight separate latrine spots. Most of the coprolites were oval or spherical, with a few "sausagelike" outliers and a few shaped like cow patties. The only animal large enough to produce dung balls more than a foot in diameter in this region was Dinodontosaurus, a beaky, tusked bruiser that could weigh up to 6,600 pounds (3,000 kilograms). In comparison, a modern African female bush elephant weighs about 8,000 lbs. (3,600 kg).

Modern animals use communal latrines for communication — a big pile of dung can say anything from "dominant male lives here" to "fertile female nearby!" Communal defecation also prevents animals from spreading parasites, because they don't poop where they eat, Fiorelli said. It's not possible to know why Dinodontosaurus engaged in communal pooping, but the behavior could have served a similar purpose. Fiorelli and his colleagues have plans for more excavations in the region. They also plan to take a closer look at the Dinodontosaurus poop, which provides direct evidence of the kind of plants that were in the area 240 million years ago. My guess is they'll simply discover what many of us already know: poop happens.

The weather is having a dampening effect on local fishing efforts these days: too cold for comfort; not cold enough to form safe ice. Some ponds have started to form an ice slick but nowhere near what's needed to support an angler's weight. And now the weekend forecast is calling for snow turning so we probably won't know what we've got until early next week. What we do know, however, is that there has been plenty of trout showing up in recent catch reports, including rainbow, brook and brown varieties. Smallmouth bass have also been providing some action lately and yellow perch continue to show up locally in good numbers. While it's true that not many anglers set their sights on perch as a first-choice option, these small critters are tasty in the extreme when corn-flour-coated and fried up in bacon fat in a hot, cast iron skillet…calories be damned

Scargo Pond in Dennis may not get much mention when the talk turns to good trout locations, but this fifty acre pond with a maximum depth of forty-eight feet is stocked annually by the state environmental folks and harbors populations of brook, rainbow and brown trout. Because Scargo has a kind of "shelf" where shallow waters drop off into plus-twenty foot depths, it's a favorite of fly casters other wader-wearing anglers. In general Scargo Pond doesn't get the same fishing pressure that other, more popular, ponds receive but it's definitely worth a visit.

Depending on what the winter of 2013/2014 has in store for us, we may be transitioning over to ice fishing before long. Best to have a little patience on that score, though. It may be some time before solid ice cover becomes sufficiently weight-bearing to support those of us closing in on the 300 pound category. I'm among those packing on the calories. I tell my wife it won't be long before the NFL holds its annual draft and I hear the Patriots are in need of offensive linemen. Well, I've certainly been considered as offensive as the next guy, so I figure I've got a chance to go by maybe the third or fourth round. But in the meantime I guess I'll stay off the ice until it's a good four inches thick …and you should, too.

December 06, 2013

Quiet In the Salt But Action In the Sweetwater

by Jerry Vovcsko

Hunting season on Martha's Vineyard is underway. Typically, that consists of traipsing through the scrub pine and tick infested underbrush and maybe getting a shot at one of the underfed, undersized bucks that proliferate the island these days. Some modern day hunters attempt to up the enjoyment level by arming themselves with black powder weaponry such as the Kentucky long rifle wielded by Daniel Boone and his cronies in days of yore.

But the annual deer hunt on the Vineyard took a turn toward the bizarre when Steven Carlson, 49, of Oak Bluffs, allegedly aimed his Ruger 77 modern black powder rifle at another hunter instead of a deer. Carlson was promptly arrested on charges of assault with a deadly weapon stemming from the incident, according to a statement from Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi.

When the first report of the incident came in police issued an alert and a nearby local school was locked down. Things ramped up as a police search for Carlson ensued at a nearby swamp, with assistance from multiple departments, according to Chilmark police. A short time later State police were brought in and lent the use of two helicopters. They were on the scene until late afternoon and the situation resolved peacefully when Carlson turned himself in after friends and family convinced him to do so and his bail was set at $2,000, according to Chilmark police. Why a gun was pointed at another hunter is not clear at this time and the incident remains under investigation.

Meanwhile, problems continue to emerge in the waters around the world. As if the presence of invasive fish like snakeheads and Asian carp wasn't already problematic, a new species may have arrived on the scene, namely, the Eurasian ruffe.

Genetic material from this species has been found in southern Lake Michigan for the first time, raising the possibility that it could migrate into the Mississippi River watershed and compete with native fish there, scientists say. Researchers testing Great Lakes waters for signs of Asian carp and other invasive species detected DNA from the ruffe in two samples taken in July from Lake Michigan's Calumet Harbor at Chicago, said Lindsay Chadderton of The Nature Conservancy, a member of the research team.

No actual ruffe were seen and State and federal officials downplayed the likelihood that the DNA discovery signaled a significant presence of the exotic fish even as they urged anglers to be on the lookout for them. Still, Chadderton urged the agencies to take the threat seriously and step up monitoring of Chicago-area waters.

"This could be the first indication that Eurasian ruffe are on the cusp of using the Chicago canal system to invade the Mississippi," he said.

You like to think that it would be a fairly uneventful matter to get in your kayak and head out for a little local fishing, but that's not always how it goes. Earlier this week a kayak fisherman died after a shark attack in Hawaii. Maui County Ocean Safety officials received a report that a shark attacked a man fishing in a kayak between Maui and Molokini, a small island less than 3 miles off the southwest coast of Maui that is popular for diving and snorkeling.
Maui County police identified the man as Patrick Briney, 57, of Stevenson, Wash. The shark bit his dangling foot while he fished with artificial lures to attract baitfish. His fishing partner in another kayak tied a tourniquet on the man and sought help from a nearby charter tour boat. The boat took them to shore, and the man was transported to a hospital.

And back in August, a German tourist died a week after losing her arm in a shark attack. Jana Lutteropp, 20, was snorkeling up to 100 yards off a beach in southwest Maui when the shark bit off her right arm. Before Lutteropp's death, the last shark attack fatality in Hawaii was in 2004, when a tiger shark bit Willis McInnis' leg while he was surfing in Maui.

Scientists haven't figured out why sharks attack have increased this year. If this keeps up it might just be time to bring Quint, Hooper and sheriff Brodie back out of retirement to deal with these increasingly bold sharks.
"Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain…"

Cold weather, high winds and chilling rain has kept the salt water action to a minimum lately. A few local anglers continue to work the rivers, creeks and estuaries looking for a stray striper or two but for the most part the 2013 recreational fishing season is finito. However, the action is lively on the freshwater scene where anglers have been taking trout, salmon, bass – both smallmouth and largemouth – as well as pickerel and, in one or two Cape lakes, northern pike in double digit weights. PowerBait and shiners have been the popular baits for trout and locations such as Peters Pond in Sandwich; Sheeps and Cliff ponds in Brewster; Mashpee-Wakeby Pond in Mashpee and Grews Pond in Falmouth have been among the more productive sites.

One lightly fished pond that deserves more largemouth activity is Lawrence Pond in Sandwich. With maximum depths of 27 feet, Lawrence harbors an extensive largemouth population. Jigging with plastic worms and working buzzbaits along the surface will bring good results this time of year. Pay attention to the small coves and be sure to cast around the points of these bays. Lawrence is well protected from the wind and on a breezy day it's a good place to fish in safety and comfort. There are plenty of yellow perch in residence and tossing metal slabs around the edges of weed beds will likely turn up a nice pickerel or two.

Looks like the Yankees have signed speedy center fielder and base-stealer par excellence Jacoby Ellsbury away from the Red Sox. Well, Sox fans wish him well as he helped bring two World Series titles to Boston and played hard for the Boys of Summer. Yankee fans will enjoy watching Jacoby going from first to third on a base hit…as they say, you can't teach speed. Only four months to Opening Day!

November 30, 2013

Let's Hear it For the Wild Turkey

by Jerry Vovcsko

Thanksgiving, except for turkey leftovers, is in the rearview mirror now as Christmas looms on the horizon. But before all thoughts of Thanksgiving fade into dim memories, it's worth a quick look at the guest of honor at some of those Thanksgiving dinner festivities, namely, Meleagris gallopavo, the American wild turkey.

A century ago, with a population of only 30,000, these birds were on the road to extinction. Today, they number 5.4 million. Habitat destruction and overhunting by early European colonists had put the wild turkey—North America's largest ground-nesting bird—on the road to extinction. Before the colonists arrived, millions of turkeys roamed across what are now 38 states, Mexico, and Canada. As the colonists worked to clear land for their homes, farms, and pastures, the most easily available food other than deer was wild turkey.

By the time the forests were cleared and wetlands drained to make room for rice, cotton, and other crops, wild turkeys had no habitat to call their own and no place in which to hide from their predators, including their number one predator: people. By 1851 wild turkeys were extinct in Massachusetts; by 1907 they had disappeared completely in Iowa. This pattern repeated itself over and over as the colonists settled across the country, killing turkeys and deer for sustenance while they cleared forests, planted their fields and started new lives.

By the 1930s, the only the places where wild turkeys remained were pockets of habitat inaccessible to people, such as the mountainous landscape of Pennsylvania's Poconos and the swamps of Alabama. A turnaround in Massachusetts began in 1972 when 15 birds were trapped in upstate New York and transplanted to Massachusetts. Now there are some 15 thousand inhabiting the state and New England hunters pursue the wily creatures in hopes of making one the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving feast.

This week's fishing activity can be pretty much summed up with two words: windy and cold. How windy, you ask? Well, the ferry run from Cape Cod to Nantucket got cancelled a couple of times as wind gusts to 50mph made things too hazardous for travel. Besides, few folks feel like fishing when bare skin freezes to metal objects such as reels and beards raise a fine crop of ice crystals thanks to the Arctic breezes filtering down from the Canadian plains.

Still, a few adventurous types braver than I did manage to take a crack at the freshwater ponds over Sandwich way and were rewarded with trout, yellow perch and smallmouth bass. Peters Pond delivered up the trout, rainbows mostly, and Pimlico Pond, a small, seldom fished body of water, produced a brace of plump smallmouths for one enterprising Falmouth angler.

This weekend continues the pattern with temperatures trending from chilly to downright cold but the fish will continue to bite for those folks who persevere. One advantage to fishing the estuaries and creeks on the Cape is the prospect of hooking up with a random striper hanging around looking for something to dine on. Plastic and jig combos are ideal baits to coax bites from both fresh and saltwater species. Big time freshwater opportunities exist at some of the larger ponds such as in Brewster where Sheeps, Long and Cliff ponds offer a shot at salmon that have been stocked there over the years. The environmental folks didn't stock any salmon this year but plenty of these big fish remain, growing fatter and feistier on a robust diet of minnows and insects.

For those who simply must get their saltwater fix, the best bet for that might be at the east end of the Canal where occasional schools of mackerel have been showing up out behind Joe's Fish Market and around the mouth of the harbor itself. Their presence has been real iffy but for those lucky enough to be on hand when they cruise by, the action is hot while it lasts and these little critters make for a tasty dish, especially when they're stuffed with some of that leftover Thanksgiving stuffing and baked. For those not fond of mackerel on the dinner table, they can be frozen and stored in anticipation of striper season, 2014.

I would be remiss if I didn't say a few words about my New England Patriots and their game-of-the-decade against the Denver Broncos. Down 24-0 at the half but never a notion of quitting, the Pats roared back to win it 34-31 on a muffed punt by the Broncos. Yessir, this could be another Super Bowl year and it just might be the greatest coaching effort of Bill Belichick's career. So all I can say is: Go Pats!

November 23, 2013

Wannabe Robinhood Meets the Sheriff of Bellingham

by Jerry Vovcsko

When I moved my family from Massachusetts to Washington State back in 1990 we settled in the college town of Bellingham located a few miles south of the British Columbia border. Located in bucolic surroundings with the North Cascades National Park wilderness to the east and Puget Sound to the west, Bellingham sat like a crown jewel in the northwest corner of the country. A great place to raise the kids away from the drug-infested streets of big cities.

And for the most part, that's the way it turned out…although it did seem that the northwest put some kind of weird backspin on the shadowy folks who inhabited the back-alleys and seamier side of town. Which is why it was no great shock when I noticed an AP item on the Internet regarding 36 year old David Wayne Jordan.

It seems one of Jordan's friends had taken up residence recently in the Whatcom county jail and found his surroundings somewhat depressing. In an effort to cheer up his brooding friend, this wannabe Robinhood wrapped a package of marijuana around the shaft of an arrow and fired it at the second-floor recreation area of the jail. Unamused by Jordan's innovative delivery system, police charged him with distributing the weed to inmates, but Jordan claimed he was hunting squirrels.

County sheriff Bill Elfo appeared somewhat skeptical of that tale noting that Jordan had no explanation as to why squirrel hunting requires attaching marijuana to an arrow, nevertheless Mister Jordan now also resides in the Whatcom County jail – his cell is located on the first floor where squirrels are unlikely to frolic.

With water temperatures in Nantucket Sound hovering in the mid-40s and air temperature plunging into the 20s this weekend, there's not much action on the saltwater scene. There may be a few stripers being caught in the estuaries, creeks and rivers along the Cape's shorelines, but they'll mostly be schoolie-size and hard to find. But it's a different story in the sweetwater where the Cape's lakes and ponds offer a plethora of opportunities for enterprising anglers.

Rainbow trout, salmon, even an occasional brown trout are the targets these days and that's not even to mention bass, both large and smallmouth versions, which are hungry and aggressive and willing to take bait or artificials. Such ponds as Sheep and Flax in Brewster, Peters, Triangle and Lawrence in Sandwich and Mashpee-Wakeby in Mashpee are among those that received visits from the Massachusetts Environmental trucks that have been stocking Cape waters with a new supply of trout. These fish haven't had time to become wily and elusive yet so anglers looking to stock their freezers will want to sink a PowerBait or jig & plastic combo in these ponds real soon now.

Those folks willing to make a short jaunt off-Cape might try their luck at Long Pond up in Plymouth. Some nice rainbows have been taken there and over the years broodstock salmon have been plunked into this 200 acre southeastern Massachusetts pond . With maximum depths of 100 feet there's plenty of good fish habitat and brook, brown and rainbow trout proliferate. Pickerel and perch can usually be found near the weedbeds and other structure. A few years back a double-digit salmon was taken right next to the boat launch by an angler casting an Al's Goldfish in the shallows while waiting his turn to launch.

Sunday night the Patriots take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Foxboro. The weather folk say by game time we could be looking at 20mph winds, a combination of rain and snow squalls and temperatures dipping into the 20s. Might be a good idea to include numbers-of-frostbite-cases in the statistics column.

And, as an added attraction, Wes Welker returns to the place where he once teamed up with Tom Brady to set eye-popping pass completion records. Fans respect the work he did for the Pats over the years but there will be some boos when his name is announced; his departure wasn't entirely on amicable terms but true football fans have to admire his skills and toughness. In this kind of weather, who can hang onto the ball might determine the winner. Could be a very physical game and the Pats generally handle those kinds pretty well.

Falmouth physician Art Crago with a scup taken on a fly

November 16, 2013

Around the Cape, Around the World

by Jerry Vovcsko

Fishing may be somewhat dormant in Cape waters these days but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of wildlife action elsewhere in the world. British fisherman Bernie Campbell has been trying to catch a monster fish for the past seven years and last week he managed to haul the 206 pound, 8-foot albino wels catfish from the River Ebro near Barcelona, Spain. His catch tops the previous world record by ten pounds.

And one of the most secretive creatures on Earth — the saola — has been photographed in Vietnam for the first time in 15 years. Scientists first discovered the saola in 1992 in Vietnam near the country's border with Laos. It was the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years. But since its discovery, the elusive creature has rarely been seen in the wild, earning it the nickname the "Asian unicorn" (even though it has two long horns instead of one).

A lone saola was documented this past September by a camera trap set up in the Central Annamite Mountains by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Vietnamese wildlife officials. Though the beast is more closely related to wild cattle, it resembles an antelope with two sharp horns that can reach up to 4 feet in length. Scientists suspect that no more than a few hundred or a few dozen saola exist in the wild, but they have not been able to come up with a precise population estimate. The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Closer to home, coyotes foraging in a Provincetown parking area managed to create a nuisance that could end up with the parking area shut down. After nine coyotes were spotted begging at cars one night last month, Cape Cod National Seashore officials threatened to close the northern parking lot at Herring Cove Beach for two weeks to stop people from illegally feeding them. Rangers found bags of dog food along Province Lands Road and piles of fish guts and fish heads in the parking lot which points to deliberate attempts to feed coyotes, according to Seashore chief ranger Leslie Reynolds.

"If we don't see a marked improvement, the superintendent is intending to close Herring Cove north for two weeks," Reynolds said. "We would only do that if the feeding continues."

The parking lot, with 208 spaces, is popular for residents and visitors throughout the year because of its drive-up views of the ocean and the sunset. The beach itself is popular for evening bonfires. The coyotes have been coming over the dunes and lingering on the tarmac next to cars, on the beach and in the shadows around the beach fires. Coyotes will eat whatever is readily available including rodents, rabbits, deer, birds, insects, reptiles, fruits and berries, but also scavenge road kill, garbage, pet food and even cats and small dogs.

The coyotes may be active right now but the salt water fishing has slowed to a crawl lately. Bluefish are virtually non-existent now except for the occasional lingerer in the Canal and Buzzards Bay. The Canal also harbors a mackerel, Pollock and a few striped bass stragglers. Schoolie stripers can still be found along the south-facing beaches of Nantucket Sound. The estuaries strung out between Woods Hole and Bass River will continue to hold school sized bass including some that will ultimately stick around over the winter and – the good Lord willing and the creeks don't rise – eventually establish a local spawning population (some say that has already happened).

Stripers are still being caught along the Elizabeth Islands with the bulk of the action taking place on the eastern side of the islands between Tarpaulin Cove and Cuttyhunk Island. South of Martha's Vineyard, around Nomans Island has seen some lively striper action although that's tricky this time of year as high winds kick up steep seas making it dangerous for small boats to get too far out into open waters.

November is typically a transitional time for Cape Cod anglers. The salt water action wraps up for another year and local anglers turn their attention to the freshwater scene. Fortunately, the presence of lakes and ponds from one end of the Cape to the other makes the switch relatively easy to endure. Stripers and blues leave the area but trout, salmon, bass (both large & smallmouth), pickerel and pike make pretty darned good replacements and the stocking efforts of the folks from the State Environmental Department provide ample replacements. Bring plenty of PowerBait, shiners, salmon eggs and artificial lures to the freshwater-dance that kicks in big-time now that the stripers have departed.

The Patriots come off their bye week and head south for a Monday night game with the Carolina Panthers. The walking wounded got a chance to heal, Bill Belichick and his coaches had a little extra time to come up with a game plan for Cam Newton and Co., and it's home-stretch-time now as teams gear up for the Super Bowl run. Won't be too long before the tip-ups and other ice fishing gear come out of storage and we start monitoring ice-thickness on the ponds as Mother Nature gives the seasonal clock another half-turn.

Oh, and it's none too early to keep an eye out for a fat guy in a fur-lined red suit carrying a sack of goodies slung over his shoulder; he'll be checking out who's been naughty and who's been nice, and somehow he'll know about that new Van Staal reel you were hoping to see under the Christmas tree. You may want to leave some cookies out…just in case.

November 07, 2013

So Long, 2013 Season;Hello, 2014

by Jerry Vovcsko

So here we are again, another striper season slowly drawing toward a close as water temperatures get ready to slide below the "magic 50 degree mark". We're not quite there yet, but it won't be long and the more organized anglers among us have already planning their shift from the saltwater scene over to the sweetwater for late fall adventures with the trout, pickerel and bass in our local ponds. The state environmental folks have dispatched their trucks far and wide around the state to stock ponds and lakes with lots of hatchery trout and a fair number of brood stock salmon. The weather has been surprisingly benevolent the past few weeks and forecasts look pretty good over the next ten days or so although we've had a warning taste of northerly winds recently.

October 31, 2013

Greed is Good

by Jerry Vovcsko

From worst to first! That's the story of the 2013 Boston Red Sox. The Brotherhood of the Beard lads who sneaked up on the rest of the league after a truly hideous 2012 season won all the marbles last night before a frenzied crowd at Fenway Park. John Lackey, he of the chicken and beer debacle in 2011, found redemption by pitching 6 strong innings on the way to defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 to claim the World Series title.

October 22, 2013

Trick or Treat Time in New England

by Jerry Vovcsko

With Halloween rapidly approaching it won't be long before the trick-or-treat crowd comes a-knocking at our doors hoping for goodies to fill their treat bags. And on the "trick" side of things it appears that a few local pranksters may have gotten an early jump on the spooky season as the Massachusetts Environmental Police and Stoughton police have launched an investigation after the carcass of a four foot decapitated shark was found dumped in the woods, officials said.

The body of the blue shark was found just before 5 p.m. on Sept. 30 on Shuman Avenue.

"We got a call for a smell in the woods," Stoughton Deputy Police Chief Rob Devine said.

After finding the headless shark, local police handed the case over to the environmental police, Chief Devine said.

Blue sharks, which are allowed to be harvested, are abundant in New England waters and to be legally harvested, must be a minimum of 54 inches long and can only be caught one at a time. Environmental police do not find the shark-dumping amusing and warn that whomever it was that dumped the carcass could be prosecuted for violations of fishery law, illegal dumping, or animal cruelty.

As the 2013 striper season winds down in Cape waters local anglers continue to do well in the Canal although lately mostly school-sized bass have been taken along the banks of the Ditch. A few thirty pound fish have been caught on the night tides and hopes are high that more large fish will be arriving from northern waters as Maine and New Hampshire populations work their way south.

Some large schools of bunker have been showing up around the Elizabeth Islands and up into Buzzards Bay. Back in the day Cape anglers could count on huge numbers of baitfish being driven into Woods Hole Harbor and stacking up against the shoreline as jumbo blues and big bass slashed through the bunker schools while taking on calories for the impending fall migration. These days fewer bunker have passed through but it looks like the numbers may be on the rise.

Tautog and black sea bass have been plentiful in and around Buzzards Bay with a number of small skiffs clustering around Cleveland Light and along the Bay shoreline from Megansett to Quisset Harbor. Mixed in with these bottom dwellers are occasional schools of stripers in the twenty to twenty six inch size range. Four and five pound blues round out the mix and provide lots of action for fly rodders as well as light gear aficionados.

Funny fish continue to make an appearance in Vineyard Sound and the stretch of water from Lackey's Bay on Nonamesset Island easterly as far as Menahaunt Beach has rewarded anglers lucky enough to be in the right place as a school came through. Bright metal slabs are the best bet for these roving bands of tiny tunoids; it's a good idea to keep a rod on hand rigged with a 3/4oz Kastmaster and ready to go. When the albies show up there's no time to re-tie lures.

One of the best places to pursue striped bass has to be along the western coastline of Martha's Vineyard across from the Elizabeths. Devil's Bridge continues to produce keeper size bass with the occasional twenty and thirty pound fish taken especially during the night hours. On the islands, Quicks Hole and Sox and Pigs may be the best bets for hooking up with a "cow" bass.

Over in Cape Cod Bay small stripers can be found close to shore from Barnstable Harbor and Sandy Neck Beach past Scorton Creek and Old Sandwich Harbor. Jig and plastic combinations are effective and topwater action with needles and darters can be had around first light. Folks have been taking kayaks up inside places like Scorton Creek and Barnstable Harbor with good results recently. The salt marshes teem with baitfish and other munchies and striper will prowl way up into surprisingly skinny water looking for tasty treats. And don't forget to try the edges of the Brewster Flats when the tide is falling…striped bass line up along the edge of the flats like Discount Tuesday at the local Country Buffet.

Cape ponds have been stocked now and there's excellent trout fishing from Sandwich to Brewster and over toward Harwich and Chatham. Peters Pond on the Falmouth/Sandwich line is a trout bonanza right now and such places as Sheep and Long Pond in Brewster may just deliver a double-digit broodstock salmon to some lucky angler as the environmental trucks carry out their stocking chores with a few bonus salmon thrown in to make an angler's day.

And speaking of Trick or Treat, it was that kind of week for New England sports teams. The Patriots got whacked around pretty good by the New York Jets and it looks like the Jets may be a team to be reckoned with down the line…that's a stout front four the New Yorkers line up on defense and they mounted a formidable pass rush without having to blitz much, a recipe for a rough day for Tom Brady.

On the other hand, the Red Sox made it to the World Series via good pitching – both starters and bullpen – along with some of the timeliest hitting imaginable. Take, for example, Shane Victorino who took a 2 for 22 batting record into the sixth game and then blasted a grand slam homer to send the Tigers home to Detroit wondering what had happened.

Well, there's plenty of sports to be played here in the New England fall and there's still plenty of good fishing to be had before we wrap it up and think about breaking out the ice gear. So no complaints from this quarter – we are darned lucky to live where we do. Tight lines, folks…and frozen ropes by Red Sox hitters to go along with tight spirals on Sunday afternoons in Foxborough.

October 14, 2013

Hey, Look! Is That the Fat Lady I See?

by Jerry Vovcsko

New England anglers have always been known to pay close attention to the heavens. The presence of a full moon can often be the harbinger of a great night out on the water when striped bass go on the bite. And the moon's powerful tug on local tides can determine whether said angler slips a thirty pound bass into the fish cooler or goes home fishless.

Well, even though there wasn't any full moon this past Sunday, the stars must have been perfectly aligned in the skies over New England because before that magical day was over local sports fans saw lightning strike not once, but twice, as both the Patriots and the Red Sox conjured up last minute wins just when it seemed defeat was all but entered in the record books.

First the Patriots taught their fans that the game was never over so long as there was time left on the clock. With the stands in Foxborough half-emptied as Pats fans resigned to a loss to the undefeated New Orleans Saints tried to get a jump on traffic, Tom Brady proceeded to take the Pats on another legendary, last- minute seventy yard sojourn and with five seconds left and no timeouts available dropped a perfect seventeen yard touchdown pass into the hands of his undrafted rookie receiver Kenbrell Tompkins for an astonishing win.

But the sports Gods weren't quite finished giving the fans a weekend for the ages. As the stadium clock ticked off the last five seconds of the Patriots incredible victory, Red Sox pitcher Clay Bucholtz took the mound in Fenway Park and fired a fastball to the Detroit Tigers leadoff hitter Austin Jackson. By the sixth inning the Tigers had rung up five runs and the Red Sox were flailing helplessly against Max Scherzer who struck out twelve Boston hitters to go with the seventeen Ks Tiger pitching had dropped on Sox hitters the night before.

But Scherzer ran out of steam and by scraping and clawing Boston managed to load the bases in the 8th inning with David "Big Papi" Ortiz coming up to bat. He promptly launched Joaquin Benoit's first pitch fastball into the bullpen in right for a game-tying grand slam homer and it was foregone that the Sox were destined to follow the Patriots into the New England book of come-from-behind sports glory. Which they did with a game-winning walk-off base hit in the ninth.

It was a day like no other in the history of New England sports. At one point both the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Tigers were gleefully welcoming the Fat Lady as she promenaded around the stadiums, but when she finally began to sing, for them the tune turned out to be "Taps" and they could only watch sadly as Tom Brady and Big Papi turned out the lights because, indeed, the party was over. What a day, sports fans…what a day!

October 08, 2013

Government Shuts Down But the Fish Don't Care

by Jerry Vovcsko

All but a handful of the hundred-plus workers employed at the huge Cape Cod National Seashore along the eastern shore of Cape Cod have been sent home for an unplanned, unpaid October vacation compliments of the government shutdown. The dozen folks still left are in the enforcement department which tells us something about priorities I guess. Anyhow, things are pretty quiet down along the beaches, dunes and scrub pines these days.

The good news is the striped bass didn't get the emails shutting things down so they're still packing on the calories getting ready for their long trip to home waters in the Hudson River or Chesapeake Bay and that makes for top notch fishing here in New England waters until they actually depart. Put that together with the mild and sunny weather we've been featuring the past couple of weeks and fall is turning out to be exceptionally pleasant as we set about wrapping up the 2013 salt water season in Cape waters.

In fact, right about now those outside beaches between Provincetown and Chatham are the scene of a watery four-lane expressway for southbound stripers and blues coming down from Maine and New Hampshire and local anglers are hitting the surf with plugs jig and plastic combos, chunk baits and live eels in pursuit of the heavyweight bass passing through. In the past two weeks or so a number of thirty pound stripers (and two 40 pound beauties) succumbed to temptation during the night tides and there will be more to follow before the season concludes.

In Nantucket Sound very few keeper sized bass have been taken recently and the majority of the fish caught around the Martha's Vineyard coastline or over on the Middleground have been schoolie size. The Sound has had decent false albacore and bonito action, especially over the past week or so, but folks hoping to score on bass have been doing business down along the Elizabeth Islands especially in the Quicks Hole area with live eels the bait of choice and tube and worm rigs taking second place.

Bass continue to show up in the Canal on a hit-or-miss basis and Buzzards Bay continues to be a striper dead zone with the exception of the western shoreline of the Elizabeths. An early morning jaunt along the islands can bring good results but the key is to be in place before first light as there is usually a half-hour interval where the "bite turns on". Folks tend to employ their tackle box favorites but I've found good, consistent results over the years with five and a quarter inch swimming plugs – Yozuris and Rebels for the most part.

All around Woods Hole and the islands the mini-tunoids have been swarming and chasing baitfish which provides great action for anglers rigged up with light gear. Everyone should experience the reel-burning run of a five pound albie or bonito at least once in their lifetime. A few old timers have been snagging pogies in the harbor and livelining them along the massive rock ledges in the channel…but that's a method best left for those who know Woods Hole on a rock by rock basis. When things go wrong in The Hole, they go wrong fast and six knots of current pouring through there can really spoil an angler's day.

Best place to wet a line right now may well be in the rips out behind Nantucket Island…Siasconset Rip, Old Man's Rip…these are chock full of bass and blues with some of those blues going ten pounds or better. It's quite a sight to see a standing wave with fish, big fish, swimming around inside the wave chasing bait. Throw just about anything in there and something will grab it. Pay attention, though, as "big water" can be extremely unforgiving where small craft is concerned.

It's probably time to give some thought to fresh water activity as the trucks are out now stocking Cape ponds with trout and the occasional salmon. Bass, both large and smallmouth, are available in most of the local ponds and pickerel are always hungry it seems.

We tend to get so engrossed with what's happening in the salt water scene that we forget the Cape has some of the finest freshwater resources available this side of the Quabbin Reservoir. Just as a change of pace it's worth a trip to Peters Pond in Sandwich or Sheeps Pond down Brewster way. And when the stripers have left us and the blues are long departed for warmer waters, the trout, salmon, perch and pickerel will still be here waiting to give anglers a tussle.

My New England Patriots are no longer undefeated as they got beat up pretty well out in Cincinnati by a tough Bengal team. But they will rise again and Brady & Co. should improve their performance when Gronkowski, Vereen, Slater, et al, return to the wars, injuries-healed. The Rays shocked the Red Sox in Tampa last night with a walk-off victory but the Sox have a deep and talented pitching staff and they should be okay in their World Series quest. Black powder season is not that far off and deer look to be plentiful this year; life is good here in New England.

September 30, 2013

New England Fall Extravaganza

by Jerry Vovsko

Although fall fishing on the Cape is always a treat, it's not limited to Cape-waters only. Right about now, as we segue into October, the action lights up in and around the Plymouth area. Lots of schoolie bass in the harbor these days and some bigger ones showing up down along the Manomet shoreline and around the cliffs of White Horse Beach. This is definitely tube and worm territory and there have been a few stripers in the thirty-pound-and-up category taken recently. Local anglers familiar with the location of hull-eating rocks down that way have been doing very well for themselves working live eels among said rocks during the night hours. Swimming plugs at first light have also been productive for early risers. Another good thing about launching from Plymouth is the availability of parking for car and trailer combos in the big lot by the boat ramp and where else can an angler catch a glimpse of The Mayflower as he puts out to sea?

Striper action in Cape Cod Bay was sporadic last week but a couple of spots remained productive, including the stretch of shoreline at Sandy Neck Beach on over to the mouth of Barnstable Harbor. The many coves and inlets in the harbor itself proved productive albeit with smaller, schoolie-sized bass and three to five pound blues mixed in. Anglers working from skiffs and kayaks did well for themselves up inside the skinny harbor waters. Corporation Beach in Dennis continues to offer good bottom fishing with black sea bass and ‘tog willing to dine on seaworms and green crabs as well as mackerel chunks and sea clam baits. Nothing tastier than black sea bass although they are buggers to clean properly thanks to the bony ridge that makes them tricky to fillet.

There were a couple of good semi-blitzes in the Canal over the weekend with stripers showing up in the morning behind the skating rink and later in the day near Pip's Rip. These fish were challenging to get at as they remained out where only the long-cast lads had any shot at them. Sometimes it seems as though these fish decide to amuse themselves by showing at the surface just out of casting reach. It can be frustrating but patience and tenacity will often win the day for anglers willing to put in the time.

Nantucket Sound has slowed to a crawl for striper action but the funny fish have arrived in force now and albies and bonnies keep things hopping from Woods Hole to Waquoit Harbor. There was lots of blitz activity with albies Saturday a little ways out from the Waquoit jetty and a few lucky anglers managed to hook up with the little turbo-charged tunoids. It's worth keeping a rod rigged with a metal slab lure in case a bait-chasing school shows up and it's imperative that false albacore or bonito be bled and iced as quickly as possible…it's the difference between a truly delicious grilled fish and a skinful of mush.

The back beaches are being visited by schools of striped bass cruising by as they migrate back from whence they came. Live eels from dusk on into the hours of darkness are the best bet and topwater offerings around dawn will generally produce good results. If things are slow try adding a teaser about 18 to 24 inches above lure or bait. I keep a supply of Eddystone eels in my tackle box for just such an occasion. Most effective color seems to be pink although that varies. It can be a startling experience for an angler to land a thirty pound bass on a three inch piece of rubber while a big swimming plug goes untouched. A big streamer fly such as a Clouser can also make an effective teaser; dunno what a fish makes of this rig but it's surprising how often this combination will work when nothing else seems to work.

This would be the time of year when a trip to Wasque Rip would definitely be in order, except that Wasque got wiped out by winter storms and that familiar standing wave no longer forms where it once appeared when the ebbing tide began to run strong. Still, jumbo bluefish continue to patrol the general area and a trip out there can be rewarding when these big blues decide to show up. On the days they don't, a quick westerly trip toward Quicks Hole and Cuttyhunk can be a good alternative. Stripers will remain along the Elizabeth Islands until the last of migrating fish have departed our waters. Before turning the corner at the southwest tip of Martha's Vineyard it's often worth trying a few casts round Nomans Island…big stripers have been taken there but, as the sous chef in "Apocalypse Now" put it, "Never get out of the goddamn boat!" He only had a tiger to contend with; Nomans is littered with live ordnance from when the Navy used it for practice bombing runs back in the day.

Contrary to the doom & gloom predictions of some sportswriters the Patriots put it to the Atlanta Falcons Sunday night and the defense especially had themselves a yeoman-like performance. Vince Wilfork went down, probably for the season, with a torn Achilles tendon and there was a scattering of unfamiliar names such as Mulligan, Jones and Vellone stepping up to replace the fallen…but the Pats stomped the terra and came away with their fourth win against no losses. Pretty soon Amendola and Gronkowski will be returning to the wars and those rookie wide receivers are looking better and better game by game. Oh, and the Red Sox have locked up home field advantage for the playoffs with their 97-win season…from last in 2012 to first in 2013, who'd a thunk it? For sports fans the foliage will be looking spectacular indeed in New England this year.

September 20, 2013

Getting Ready For the Fall Bonanza

by Jerry Vovcsko

Nantucket Sound water temperatures in the mid-60s means there's still plenty of time for anglers to get in their licks before the striped bass depart Cape waters for the return trip south. But even if the official start of the migration remains a month or more in the future, bass will continue to put on the calorie-stoking feed-bag over the next few weeks so now's a very good time to get after them.

And that's not even considering that we still haven't seen much of a false albacore fishery in local waters just yet. It's not clear just why the albies haven't arrived in the usual numbers by now but consensus opinion is consistent across the board: As one local angler puts it: "Wherever they are, they ain't here."

The albies may be scarce right now but Bonito have been showing up around the islands, especially in and around the Woods Hole area. Schools of albies and blues cruise around Lackey's Bay and occasionally show up just off Nobska Point. Folks who target these funny-fish keep a spare rod rigged with a metal slab such as KastMaster, Deadly Dick or Hopkins lure as the mini-tunoids find the glitter and flash of the metals alluring enough to draw strikes. Other effective lures include holographic swimming plugs like some of the Yozuris, particularly the Crystal Minnow, along with jigs that feature shiny mylar in the bucktails.

The Canal has had its good times and not-so-good moments recently and at one point there were schools of thirty-and-over stripers feeding on mackerel in the Ditch and anglers lined up around the Scusset fish pier were working out on these lunker-sized bass. But all good things come to an end it seems and lately it's been a matter of catching the occasional solo fish or more likely getting skunked. But before long the migration will turn the Cape Cod Canal into a four-lane-highway for south-bound bass and the banks will be lined with anglers looking to score a fish or two as the stripers depart.

Along the back beaches from Chatham to Truro the late afternoon to evening hours have been productive for keeper size bass. When darkness falls break out the live eels because they draw some of the most vicious hits an angler may experience all season. The waters around Monomoy continue to deliver striped bass action and the lower parts of Pleasant Bay have been productive during the day. That newly-formed cut of Monomoy Island created by last winter's storms has delivered its share of large bass and once the migration gets under way the locals will likely concentrate their striper efforts their as it makes an attractive short-cut for bass heading into Nantucket Sound. Drifting or casting herring chunks is the name of the game there and turn-of-the-tide often brings good results.

There have been some big stripers caught this past week at Billingsgate on tube and worm rigs and that will continue to be the case well into migration time. Folks working the wreck of the old target ship, the James Longstreet, have been doing very well for themselves with black sea bass, fluke and tautog. It's easy enough to find the wreck site; just pick a nice day and look for a cluster of skiffs anchored up in the middle of Cape Cod Bay...odds are, that's it.

The stretch of shoreline from Barnstable Harbor past Sandy Neck Beach and westward toward Sandwich has seen some striper activity over the past week. Popper and needless in the early morning and swimming plugs or jig and plastic combos from dusk into dark has been the way to go. Black sea bass rewarded some bottom fishers near the mouth of Barnstable Harbor and Corporation Beach off the Dennis shore offers keeper size 'tog to anglers equipped with a good supply of green crabs.

Bluefish and stripers continue to show up around Race Point and down toward Herring Cove with blues the predominant presence although the striper bite at first light has been pretty consistent and rewarding for early arriving anglers. There's still some bluefin action off to the east of the Cape and out in the canyons the yellowfin can make or break a trip depending on an angler's luck on any given day.

The rips around Nantucket hold the mix of large blues and bass that make fall fishing an exciting proposition...sometimes a little too exciting when the weather ratchets up the ante out there in the open ocean, small boats take notice. We've been very lucky so far with the weather in terms of storms and hurricane season. But there's still time for a bit of excitement to blow in from Africa and points east. It's Big Water out there and pays a skipper to keep a sharp eye out; we like to see all the boats that went out make it back.

The Red Sox clinched a playoff spot with their win last night and can clinch the division with another tonight. They feature a genuinely talented pitching staff these days and it's rounding into shape with everyone about as healthy as they've been all season. This could be another World Series year for Jonny Gomes and the rest of the bearded lads and that would make it one helluva October in New England, wouldn't it?

September 13, 2013

Fall in New England; Sharks, Stripers and Lobsters On the Menu

by Jerry Vovcsko

A six-clawed lobster has been donated to the Maine State Aquarium in West Boothbay Harbor; named Lola, the strange lobster was caught by a fishing crew off the coast of Hyannis, Mass. Aquarium officials pointed out that on one side where a single claw would be Lola has five lobster claws arranged in a starfish pattern and on the other side a normal claw. They told reporters that the claw deformity is a genetic mutation that lobsters can have throughout their life or it could be regrowth from a damaged or lost claw. Lola is scheduled to go on exhibit in the next several days.

A charter boat was about eight miles off Provincetown's Race Point, in 300 feet of water, when something took hold of the angler's bait. The crew reeled the mystery fish close to the boat. But then it took off with the line. A couple of jumps later those aboard realized it was a big mako shark, said skipper Don Campbell. The shark was more than 9 feet long and weighed about 550 pounds and the struggle to get it onto the boat lasted an hour and a half. After returning to the harbor, Campbell and crew cut up the shark, saving some for themselves and giving the rest away to people walking along the harbor.

Water temperatures continue to hold in the low seventies and some local anglers wonder if this years migration will start later as a result. The waters of Buzzards Bay are have been too tepid for much in the way of striper fishing but anglers have had plenty of success catching bluefish - local estuaries are filled with snapper blues - and the occasional bonito. False albacore have begun to filter into Nantucket Sound with the area just off Nonamesset Island the best bet for some albie-action.

Bottom fishermen are doing well in the bay with plenty of tautog and sea bass available around Cleveland Ledge and the Weepeckett Islands. Spanish mackerel and the occasional weakfish (aka, sea trout) have been reported recently. Quisset Harbor and The Knob are thick with bluefish right now and a few locals have done well working live eels on the night tides around there. Drifting eels on a falling tide at the mouth of the harbor has been especially rewarding with at least one thirty pound bass taken there. Tube and worm technique has also produced some keepers in this location recently...the key is sloooow trolling, just enough speed to keep the rig off the bottom.

This time of year is generally good news in the Cape Cod Canal and this year is no different. There have been plenty of keepers caught there lately and some of these fish nudged bait shop scales toward the forty pound mark. The presence of mackerel in The Ditch is always good news and the action has been hot lately for plug casters as well as the jig and plastic lads. This time of the year it's worth a try with two-ounce jig heads and those whopping big twelve-inch SlugGos, especially at night. Live eel anglers will want to make sure they acquire the biggest snakes when making bait shop purchases...this is the time of year when bigger is definitely better. The east end of the Canal is probably the best choice of locations as the bass are moving around, chasing bait and usually ending up around the mouth of the canal before starting another run.

The mouth of Scorton Creek produced a couple of big stripers last week with one fish tipping the scales at forty pounds plus. It's not a bad idea for kayakers to work up inside the creek in the back channels of the salt marsh and then ride the ebbing tide out toward the creek mouth as bass and blues will lurk there waiting for itinerant baitfish to be swept their way. Let the current carry the yak out into the bay and cast topwater plugs quartering across the current for best results.

Sandy Neck beach was the site of hot bluefish activity early in the week and the mouth of Barnstable Harbor offered a chance for anglers to pick up keeper sized bass for the grill, especially after dusk. The water temperature differential makes Cape Cod Bay more hospitable to striped bass right now although the projections of early fall weather will begin to lower the temps in Nantucket Sound before long. Right now, though, there's plenty of mixed bass&blue activity in the rips on the back side of Nantucket Island for folks with enough boat to handle the open water.

Speaking of boats new regulations about fueling boats in town harbors went into effect earlier this week. Harbormaster Gregg Fraser said he drafted the regulations after a series of small fuel spills, some of which went unreported, and other violations of the refueling regulations during the summer. The new rules require fueling companies to provide more detail on refueling work to the harbormaster's office, including the name and registration number of the vessel being fueled, along with the amount of fuel and the time and place of the fueling. Fueling companies also must maintain a log of the information for later inspection by the harbormaster.

The new regs will also require written reports anytime fuel is spilled directly into the water; call for absorbent materials to mitigate the effects of a spill but prohibit the use of dispersants or chemicals sprayed on the water; limit fuel truck idling time at Simpson' Landing and Tide's Bulkhead and limit fueling on Float F in the main Marina on Scranton Avenue to slips F3 through F7.

Fueling is prohibited anywhere else on town property. The new regs went into effect last week and companies can lose their fueling privileges for violations of the new regs. Now if the state would just crack down on those single-hulled fuel barges being run aground as they're towed by tugs through Buzzard Bay we'd be in a lot better shape; you can still squeeze a handful of sand from the marshes in West Falmouth and see the rainbow shimmer of petroleum from the barge spill that happened back in 1969. Enough's enough, folks.

My New England Patriots are sitting at 2-0 after their win last night over the New York Jets. But the Pats are perhaps the sorriest looking owners of a 2-0 record in the history of the sport; there are many things in need of fixing and not a whole lot of time to carry out repairs. The wide outs resemble so many stick-figures culled from the Arena League and Tom Brady at times looks like he's watching his receivers run kaleidoscopic patterns never before seen on the field or in anyone's playbook. Bill Belichick looks to have his work cut out for him this season if a return date with the Super Bowl is to become a reality.

September 06, 2013

Watch Out For Bullwinkle

by Jerry Vovcsko

September typically brings the first hint of fall our way, maple leaves show the first coloring of fall foliage and the oaks and birches won't be far behind. Cape Cod anglers feel a surge of excitement knowing that the legendary fall migration lurks just around the corner, an event some see as the time when striper fishing is at a pinnacle in Cape waters.

Things heat up in the world of sports as well with high school, college and pro football getting under way and baseball season winding down toward the staging of the annual World Series (with the Red Sox looking mighty impressive these days after those terrible Bobby Valentine days).

Bow hunters and black powder hunters gear up for their seasons to open next month and right now wildlife experts are warning Massachusetts drivers watch for moose activity in the roadways as September marks the start of the animals' breeding season. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife says male moose will often chase female moose across roads because of their urge to reproduce.

The wildlife folks say the males get "tunnel vision" and become unaware of traffic while pursuing females...guess it's not a whole lot different among the human species as far as that goes. Anyhow, motorists should keep an eye out driving around, especially in the western part of the state, because at 500 to 1,000 pounds, with long legs and top-heavy bodies, moose collisions will likely produce plenty of business for the body specialists at Maaco.

Speaking of motorists, Yarmouthport police are investigating how it is that a Jeep ended up in Dennis Pond last week. The raised hatchback of the red 2008 Jeep Wrangler was spotted by an early morning hiker near an old boat ramp at the beach on Summer Street Yarmouth, police Sgt. Gerry Britt said. The Jeep was in about 10 feet of water and after police and fire officials determined nobody was inside, it was pulled from the pond and the investigation is underway to determine how the Jeep ended up in the water. I'm guessing that the answer to that question is going to involve drugs, alcohol or kids out joyriding before another school year gets under way.

Meanwhile, there's good fishing to be had right now in Cape waters and Cape Cod Bay is one of the more productive destinations. Just off the mouth of Scorton Creek thirty-seven and forty-two pound stripers were weighed in last week and a fair number of keepers came into anglers' boats around the mouth of Barnstable Harbor. The stretch of shore along Sandy Neck was also striper-active with a few good sized blues mixed in as well. Topwater plugs in the early morning hours made for exciting moments for anglers who showed up before dawn and were on site at first light.

The Cape Cod Canal features plenty of action at the east end with live eels the bait de jure for many locals including a couple of old timers who work their magic with rigged eel, an art that has virtually disappeared but continues to be lethal on stripers in the hands of one of these piscatorial wizards.

On the Nantucket Sound side the estuaries and harbors are chock-full of snapper blues and school bass with the occasional keeper mixed in and pods of three to five pound blues can be found cruising the Sound especially in the western end around Woods Hole and the Elizabeth Islands.

he eastern shore of the islands continues to hold striped bass with many in the twenty-four to twenty-eight inch size range. Bigger bass can be found further down around Quicks Hole and Cuttyhunk Island. Recently some good scores on bass up to thirty pounds have been made in the rocky waters around Nomans Island - keep in mind that live ordinance remains on that island from the old days of military practice bombing runs, so don't decide to beach the boat and take a little stroll around the island itself.

With so much happening in the salt water it's easy to forget that freshwater fishing in southeastern Massachusetts is always available. Here's Scott Russo, a young gent from East Bridgewater, with a nice three and a half pound bass taken from one of the local ponds on a worm. That style of fishing was great fun back when we were kids and it remains so to this day so every now and then it's worth getting out there and dunking bait in the sweet water just to keep our hand in.

The New England Patriots open their 2013/2014 Super Bowl quest this Sunday coming up and they promise to be an interesting team to watch as Bill Belichick has added a lot of youth and speed, something we haven't seen in the past. And the Red Sox took the opener of their four-game set against theYankees last night by squeezing out the tying run against the Yank's legendary closer Mariano Rivera and winning it in the tenth inning behind their own super-closer Koji Uehara. Life is good in New England sports these days and we've still got plenty of time before winter winds blow. Enjoy it.

August 30, 2013

One Cool Cat and Tebow Time in New England

by Jerry Vovcsko