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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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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

A newly-purchased 30-foot boat briefly caught fire near the Nobska Point Lighthouse last weekend after crashing into a rock. The boat had left Falmouth Harbor in mid-afternoon when it struck the rock, dropping one of the twin motors into the water and sparking an electrical fire that was confined to the electrical compartment. Those swirling currents that churn the waters around Nobska make it prime striper territory but the massive ledges just beneath the surface routinely dine on boat hulls piloted by careless or inexperienced skippers. This owner inflicted about $150,000 damage on his craft by not paying attention to charts that all but screamed: STAY AWAY from the waters close in around Nobska.

East End Canal fishing has picked up lately and one local bait and tackle shop weighed in a hefty forty-two pound bass pulled from the Ditch. There's been lively action at varying times around Murderer's Row, the Mussel Bed and Pip's Rip. The Elizabeth Islands continue to produce bass with the bigger fish showing up down around Quicks and Robinsons holes as well as Sow and Pigs reef and around Cuttyhunk Island itself. Anglers who work plugs or eels amidst the rocks surrounding Penikese Island have a chance to nail double-digit tautog as well as big stripers.

Bonita swarm around the Vineyard and Nantucket nowadays. Great Point and the Bonita Bar on Nantucket have been productive and there were a few plus-thirty-lb stripers taken at Devil's Bridge on Martha's Vineyard by anglers trolling big swimming plugs or drifting live eels. The biggest striper was hauled in by one local who specializes in livelining scup around the reef.

Pods of four to five pound blues continue to cruise the Sound and occasionally pin bait against the beach in such places as Popponessett and South Cape beaches. Hedge fence Shoal has rewarded folks bottom fishing there and the Middleground lights up off and on with west running tides most productive for fluke and the occasional black sea bass.

Buzzards Bay and most of the south side estuaries are alive with snapper blues now making it especially rewarding to take kids out for a day on the water. Light gear and tiny lures will draw plenty of action for young folk to enjoy. And scup provide extra fun as they seem to be around in bigger numbers (and size) than most years. Bring plenty of seaworms and let the kids have a ball catching these ocean-going panfish.

Striper action seems to have died down on the outside beaches but anglers fishing the surf down round Chatham can amuse themselves by watching the ever increasing population of seals chasing and devouring stripers (including ones they may have hooked up with). With any luck at all that seal that swiped the big bass off the angler's line will enter the food chain via a hungry twelve foot great white…payback, as they say, is a bitch.

Cape Cod Bay is heavy with bluefish right now and some nice bass have been taken over at Billingsgate and further west off the Manomet Cliffs area by tube and worm anglers. There was a brief striper blitz off Scusset Beach mid-week but nothing much by way of size. The Brewster Flats are worth a look on a falling tide. Anglers tossing plugs in the evening hours have done very well for themselves and drifting live eels at the edge of the Flats just before dark might produce a keeper or two as well as a jumbo blue.

North Falmouth is a far cry from the real "North Country", but last week it turned up a sighting of a creature more at home in the Adirondacks or the Canadian wilderness than on Cape Cod. Chris LeBoeuf, who lives on Teneycke Hill Road, was returning home around midnight when he spotted a large feline in his yard, said Chuck Martinsen, deputy director of the Falmouth Department of Marine and Environmental Services.

LeBoeuf said he wasn't at first surprised to see an animal – which he described as about the size of a small- to medium-size dog – in his yard when he pulled into driveway. His property, located 12 miles from the Bourne Bridge, abuts conservation land, where wildlife thrives, he said. This animal disappeared into the woods when he drove in, but then it came back out, and stood on top of a rock wall about 8 to 10 feet from where LeBoeuf sat in his car.

It was too dark, so he turned on his headlights. The animal didn't move and he began to video it with his iPhone. When the cat turned to slink away, LeBoeuf saw the little tail, and thought he might be seeing some sort of exotic cat. Later, he sent his 32-second video to local experts who confirmed that it was indeed a bobcat.

Although the video is a little murky, when the animal turns to walk away, the picture shows a stubby tail, just a few inches long. This nubby appendage, white on the underside and with a black tip on the end, is what led wildlife officials to say definitively that the bobcat had somehow managed to cross the Cape Cod Canal.

Bobcats are classified as common in the central and western regions of Massachusetts, according to the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. They are classified as "present" in the northeastern part of the state, and "rare to absent" in Southeastern Massachusetts, but the state may just have to revise that classification before long.

The 2013/2014 NFL season gets underway in less than a week and the Patriots are looking pretty good right now. But who would have thought that come opening day, Tim Tebow might still be on the New England roster? Tim Tebow and Bill Belichick certainly qualify as the NFL's version of the Odd Couple, but they are both hard-wired to winning and wouldn't it be a hoot to see the two of them standing side by side when they hand out the Lombardi Trophy at the Super Bowl? It could happen.

August 22, 2013

Hi-times,Offshore, Inshore

by JerryVovcsko

Okay, so maybe the striper fishing's slowed down a tad in Cape waters, but there are plenty of bluefish around and fluke, black sea bass and scup continue to provide plenty of action for anglers in places such as L'Hommedieu and Hedge Fence Shoals just off the southern coast of Cape Cod in Nantucket Sound.

August 12, 2013

It Only Gets Weirder

by Jerry Vovccsko

Check out the Associated Press story about a Connecticut angler who holds the current striper record at 81+ pound…too bad the story is rife with silly remarks by the reporter who obviously knew nothing about striped bass or fishing for that matter. Forty-four inch record for length? Stocking streams??C'mon.....

A few evenings back 29 year old Justin Sprague hopped on his bike and headed down for a ride along the Cape Cod Canal. He hadn't intended to do any fishing but seeing a bunch of fishermen hard at it along the Canal he decided to go home and grab his gear. When he got back he picked a spot known to Canal regulars as Murderer's Row. He'd been casting for about fifteen minutes with no luck and then spotted a tail breaking the surface. He thought it was a shark and flipped a cast in that direction and found himself hooked up, not with a shark, but with a real rarity around these parts: A white Marlin!

His first reaction when he figured out what he'd hooked into was "Holy S-word!"

After being hooked under its mouth, the fish began jumping out of the water "just like you see on TV," Sprague said. Two nearby fisherman came by to help and combining their efforts the men eventually pulled the fish up onto the rip rap. The fish was "a good 6 feet long" and weighed at least 60 pounds, Sprague said. The fishermen tried to revive the fish after catching it, but were unable to.

Anglers who land billfish — such as a white marlin — must report it within 24 hours and there's a minimum size restriction of 66 inches, according to information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries division. Confusion over the legality of his catch was part of the reason why Sprague ended up giving it to the two men who helped him pull it ashore, he said.

"I was on my 10-speed. I didn't even have pliers," he said of how ill-equipped he was to deal with the fish, and said his catch wasn't so much the work of a skilled fisherman, but being at the right place at the right time.

"I never really have good luck fishing," he said.

Yeah, well, I wouldn't mind not-having-any luck like that myself.

In my last column I mentioned the shark turning up in the doorway of a Nantucket pub. Looks like a copycat "sharker" was on the loose in the New York subway last week. New York City's transit authority says a conductor found a small dead shark aboard a subway train in Queens on Wednesday. Apparently fearing that "Jaws" might be lurking nearby, the conductor asked passengers to leave the car and closed it off. The train continued to the end of the line, and there a supervisor placed the shark in a garbage bag and put it in the trash. Photos on a New York blog show the shark with a cigarette in its mouth and a can of Red Bull nearby.

Transit officials are aware of the photos but are making no effort to find the person who posted them, saying they have ‘‘better things to do.'

Yessir, never a dull moment in the Big Apple.

Locally, striper fishing has slowed a tad as water temperatures hover in the seventies and the low-hanging fruit has already been picked clean. Now it takes some savvy and experience to hook up with Morone saxatilis (In my mind they'll always be "Roccus") and that probably eliminates a large segment of visiting anglers. Nevertheless, there are bass around and they can be caught. A few important considerations when it comes to methods:

1) Some of these bass have traded in their usual haunts for deeper water. Swimming plugs that dig deep will bring results when the shallow running favorites go fishless.

2) Fish moving water! Rips are good lurking places and stripers will hang around waiting for the current to bring bat past them. Why exert themselves when the rip-buffet-line will bring food to them? Criss- cross working rips with casts be sure to get lures up into the place where the rip begins.

3) With warmer waters around it becomes even more important to get out there just before first light as it's the best time to tangle with stripers on the feed. Top water lures will do the trick although later in the day deep runners are far more effective. Besides early morning activity, next best is dusk into the night hours. Drifting chunk baits, live eels or herring in fishy-looking places is a good way to find where the bass are doing business.

4) Slow it down, folks. No point in making a good sized striper exert itself any more than need be to catch up with bait or lure. Make it easy for the fish to dine on your offering and there's a better chance of hooking up.

Bluefish are another matter altogether and they like the warm temperatures. Pods of blues continue to cruise Nantucket Sound and when you catch one you'll generally take more of that size as they tend to school up in roughly the same size class. Some false albacore are beginning to filter into the Sound and the Lackey's Bay mouth is one of the first locations where they show up. I've had pretty good luck tossing metal slabs – Kastmasters, Hopkins Lures, Deadly Dicks – until I locate a school and then working that spot. If they disappear, stay put, they'll circle around and return nearby…keep your head on a swivel until they show up once more and cast a little beyond the school and work back through it for best results.

One lucky gent landed a 900+ pound Bluefin east of Chatham…didn't think there were too many in that size class still left so it's good to hear there are still some around. The Japanese covet these fish for their rare-beefsteak-like flesh and it's tempting to target fish that can bring thousands at the dock from waiting fish buyers. But it also takes a long time to grow a Bluefin to that size and there may come a time where the huge "horse-mackerels" slide into the mists of extinction as some management people are concerned might happen.

We're not too far from the start of fall migration and fishing will definitely ramp up then before it's time to store the gear away. Hard to believe we're less than three weeks out from Labor Day weekend but there it is. I see Red Sox owner John Henry has bought the Boston Globe and Amazon titan Jeff Bezos is acquiring the Washington Post. Wonder what it feels like to sit down and write a check for $70 million as John Henry will be doing? Me, I'm a little nervous writing a check for $7 if it's near the end of the month and my math is a little shaky when it comes to balancing the checkbook.

Okay, that's it for now. There's more fishing to do and time's running out. I'll have more in another week or so…tight lines.

August 06, 2013

Jumping the Nantucket Land Shark

by Jerry Vovcsko

Those wild and crazy guys over there on Nantucket! What'll they think of next? Seems last week a cleaning crew found an unexpected mess when they arrived at the Sea Dog Brew Pub on Nantucket: a 5-foot-long shark blocking the door. Pub manager Jimmy Agnew says he doesn't know why anyone would have dumped the sea creature there. But Agnew says the pub fielded calls and questions all day long after word got out about the land shark and everybody had their own theory about how it got there. Two people had been removed from the Sea Dog in separate incidents Wednesday night, Agnew said, but he didn't know if they had anything to do with dumping the shark.

One local wag speculated that the shark went to the Sea Dog ‘‘to meet his chums.'' Others thought it might have arrived early for happy-hour and one regular said he'd seen the shark at the pub during a previous Karaoke Night and had a friend who "may have dated it".

It gets a little wonky over there on the Big Island, especially when the drinks begin to flow and the band kicks out the jams. Guess it's probably time for Inspector Clouseau to solve the Great Sea Dog Pub Shark mystery, aka, what's a nice critter like you doing in a place like this?

Meanwhile, a bit westerly of Nantucket the fish have been biting with gusto. Some large blues were grabbing chunk baits around Chappaquiddick Island. Bass and blues mixed in the Menemsha Channel kept local anglers busy in the early morning hours. Things will heat up even more when late season funny fish – albies and bonnies – show up in numbers a couple of weeks from now.

Striped bass are not especially fond of the warmer water temperatures that have seeped into Nantucket Sound but bass can still be found, schoolies mostly along the south around Cuttyhunk in the Elizabeth Islands chain. Plenty of scup around the islands right now and fluke can be found on and off at such places as the Middleground and Lucas Shoal in Nantucket Sound.

At Provincetown the word is "sand eels' and there are swarms of these little bait eels all the way from Race Point to below Truro. Every now and then stripers and blues shift into a feeding frenzy and if an angler happens to be in the vicinity when the blitz kicks off, sore arms will be the result as the fish hit just about anything tossed their way.

There are plenty of bass down Chatham way and the action around Monomoy has been red hot at times. The cut formed by last winter's storms is a popular spot but steer clear of the seal populations that have proved so attractive to great white sharks recently.

Speaking of great whites, there have been several beach closings over the past couple of weeks when sharks were spotted cruising nearby lining up their dinner. Town regulations call for swimmers to stay at least 100 yards away from the seals (and great whites). I don't know about other folks but I prefer to locate as far away as possible when these eating machines are in the vicinity – Wisconsin is none too far away for me to feel secure, but they'll close a beach at 9AM because of a great white sighting and open it an hour later when they figure the shark is gone. But sharks are pelagic creatures capable of putting a thousand miles on the odometer in a hurry, so I'd like a little more than a hundred yards as a safety zone if you don't mind.

Stripers showed up between Town Neck Beach and Scorton Creek last week and a few folks scored heavily working the edge of the Brewster Flats with tube and worm rigs. Billingsgate Shoal produced some nice bass for folks wirelining jigs along with the tube and worm method and plug casters did well for themselves around the mouth of the Pamet River – the Pamet's a weedy place so expect to pick plenty of salad in some spots.

The Cape Cod Canal has been improving the past few days and several bass in the forty-inch were measured at local bait shops. Overall, things will remain somewhat slow for another week two until the albies and bonnies show up in Nantucket Sound, but there's plenty of action on tap as we ease into late summer, early fall, Seems we were just waiting anxiously for the 2013 season to arrive and now here we are contemplating the fall migration one more time. Whatever happened to those endless slow-moving summer we knew as kids?

The Red Sox are still in first place in the Division race. Bud Selig's fixing to put it to A-rod in the form of a suspension through the 2014 season, and Jose Iglesias and his magic glove got traded to the Tigers allowing the Sox to pick up starting pitcher Jake Peavy. Don't blink because you'll miss the World Series and when you open your eyes it'll be the New England Patriots taking the field. Wither goest, Louie Tiant?

July 31, 2013

Rocks With Guts and Other Fish Tales

by Jerry Vovcsko

We've got our share of strange looking marine creatures in Cape waters but I think we've got to take a back seat to the folks along the coasts of Chile and Peru when it comes to any weird-creatures contest. Take, for instance, a sea creature from those parts that can best be described as resembling a rock-with-guts. The thing lies there sucking in water and filtering out microorganisms while it's clear blood somehow secretes a rare mineral, vanadium!

Think that's not strange enough? Okay, there's this: although Pyura chilensis is born male, it turns hermaphroditic at puberty and reproduces by releasing clouds of sperm and eggs into the water around it and hoping they hook up somewhere along the line. Folks who eat the "shellfish rock" raw or in stews describe the taste as soapy, bitter and with a kind of weird iodine flavor, not the sort of thing likely to end up as the next, great, fast-food item to tempt the American palate.

Scientists call its asexual method of reproduction "selfing", a method which, when successful, which produces tadpole-like offspring that eventually settle onto a rock and grow into the ultra bizarre "rock with guts" adult form. The magazine Scientific American has more information about this odd creature. Just more proof that Mother Nature has a really twisted sense of humor.

After weeks of sweltering heat and humidity on Cape Cod, a wind shift and cooler temperatures brought some relief. The late-July fishing is great, and fishermen all over the Cape have plenty of reasons to get excited about fishing this weekend.

Fishing in the Cape Cod Canal has been hit or miss during the past week. Topwater results with striped bass are good one morning and zilch the next. Some nice keeper size bass have been taken behind the Bourne skating rink and a mid-week blitz took place behind Joe's Fish Market in Sandwich. Naturally, the stripers churned the surface just out of range for 90 percent of the folks throwing plugs. Sometimes the fish almost seem to have internal GPS that tells them where to locate themselves in order to drive anglers nuts. Out in Cape Cod Bay Billingsgate continues to deliver bass upwards of twenty pounds to tube-and-worm specialists and action on western edge of the Brewster Flats picks up on falling tides during the evening hours after beach goers have departed the scene.

The stretch of beach between Sandwich and Barnstable Harbor has been productive for bass and blues and shore-based anglers with a little patience and tenacity have picked up sizable bass with best results in the wee early morning hours before the life guards set up for business along Sandy Neck beach. Bottom fishing for black sea bass, tautog, scup and the like continues to thrive at the wreck site of the old target ship, the James Longstreet.

On the Nantucket Sound side water temperatures in the 70s make striper fishing a challenge, especially in shallow waters. Boat anglers working along the Elizabeth Islands continue to pick up keeper bass size but will have to work for their catches. I've had pretty good luck using smaller lures and slowing down retrieves unless I happen across strong currents, rips and fast-moving water such as those making up around the edges in Woods Hole channel. Pulling jig-and-plastic combos through those places usually produces good results and metal slabs will, on occasion, work when nothing else seems to.

The Middleground harbors a lively fluke population and drifting a strip of fluke belly on a westerly tide has been productive for some locals looking to put some doormat fillets in the freezer for late season grilling. Lucas Shoal holds a supply of fluke as well but these flatties have been running on the small size lately. We're going into August now with water temperatures in the seventies and that's a recipe for bonito to show up sooner than later. The western end of Nantucket Sound will be seeing these funny fish in numbers before too long and the false albacore will make their presence known as well. Local estuaries are beginning to sprout snapper blues in a big way and I know of a couple locals who don't even start fishing for striped bass until they've got a bait-well full of snappers for live-lining purposes.

South of the Vineyard there have been reports of yellowtail tuna and mahi mahi being caught. Back in the day these fish rarely, if ever, made an appearance in Cape waters…now they're fairly common visitors. Don't know what it takes to convince some folks that climate change isn't a government plot cooked up by President Obama, but just in my lifetime there have been water temperature changes that are kind of hard to dismiss as such.

Now's a pretty good time to scout around for mako and thresher sharks in Cape Cod Bay. That "reaper" tail the thresher shark wields is a sight unlikely to be forgotten, the same way spotting an ocean going sunfish (mola mola) falls into the unforgettable-event category.

Sometimes you run across a story that reminds you just ho star-crossed some people can be. Like the pregnant Maine woman and her friend who got lost hiking and were rescued but died later that evening when they accidentally drove their car into the ocean in the nighttime fog.

"They called on the phone that they were in the water and the car was filling up. Then the phone went dead," Smith said. "An hour later, the deputies found the car."

Earlier in the evening, the women had been hiking in Roque Bluffs State Park but got lost and called for help. A local resident found them and their dog and gave them rides on his ATV back to his house, where a warden picked them up and brought them to their vehicle, which was parked at the park.

But it appears Stiner drove toward the boat ramp instead of in the other direction toward Machias. After the women called 911, authorities used GPS coordinates from the cellphone to place the van near the boat ramp. Responders at first couldn't find it because it was dark and foggy out, and the dark-colored van was in 20 feet of water and couldn't be seen from shore or the water's surface, said Lt. Travis Willey, of the sheriff's department.

A volunteer diver from the Jonesboro Fire Department found the car about 175 feet off the boat ramp, the women and the dog inside with the doors closed and the windows up.

"It appears they went the wrong direction and drove off the ramp," said Sheriff Smith.

I suppose we can file this story under the heading: If it wasn't for bad luck, they'd have no luck at all.

July 25, 2013

Mid-Season in Cape Waters

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's been a case of the Return-of-Jaws over the past week. Last Sunday a fifteen footer was spotted staking seals on the beach near Chatham and the following day a fourteen foot shark cruised a couple hundred yards offshore a little further north of Chatham also on the lookout for a nice seal meat dinner. As the beach was clear of people it wasn't closed but officials kept a wary eye out for any repeat visits.

July 14, 2013

Declaring War on the Man-O-War and Other Odd Notions

by Jerry Vovcsko


Some unlucky tourists summering on Martha's Vineyard found themselves tangled up with an unwelcome guest at South Beach near Edgartown last week. That beach was closed for a day while Vineyard Parks Department employees scrambled to clear away remnants of Portuguese men-o-wars, those strange, purplish, helmet-shaped balloon-like critters that are carried by wind and current and float from place to place with stinging tentacles dangling upwards of six or eight beneath the surface.

July 04, 2013

Don't Taze Me, Bro!

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's tough enough to catch fish to begin with. They are elusive critters and even when you get a hook into them, chances are, they'll still manage to find a way to escape. But now it looks like an angler may also have to worry about getting ambushed and tasered by one species of these bottom dwellers and that just doesn't seem fair at all.

June 20, 2013

Fishing the Back Side of the Elizabeth Islands

by Jerry Vovcsko

Back in the 70s and 80s my neighbor and I used to religiously fish the Elizabeth Island chain about five mornings a week. The fishing was good and a successful outing depended largely on our willingness to get in close to the rocks lining the shore and work plugs, plastics and live eels in the wash.

June 13, 2013

Tautog, Tunnies and Tebow

by Jerry Vovcsko

Tim Tebow signing with the Patriots? Really? That's just the sort of sports headline that can get you a hot cup of coffee square in your lap if you're not careful. I mean...Tim "God Is My Co-Pilot" Tebow signing with the home team? After all the ridicule we Pats fans heaped on Rex Ryan for signing the kid? C'mon... Yeah, but then again, who knows? The Pats' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel saw enough in Timmy T, to spend a high draft choice on him back in Denver and the lefty QB in a tight end's body did pull out an overtime playoff win against a pretty decent Pittsburgh Steeler, who knows?...maybe Belichick and McDaniel have some secret-weapon-plan in mind for this young man. One thing's certain, if Tim Tebow makes the team it will be an interesting 2013/2014 season in the NFL...I'm sure looking forward top it.

And here we go again…the first great white shark sighting close enough to shore to get the beaches closed. Happened over the weekend when a senior lifeguard at Nauset Beach spotted a dorsal fin about 150 yards offshore and had swimmers get out of the water. Judging by the distance between the dorsal fin and the tail the shark was estimated to be between 12 and 13 feet. The shark was soon seen heading toward Chatham (home of the seal colonies) and the beach was reopened an hour later. Looks like the great whites have made the outside beaches of the Cape a regular way stop on their pelagic travels. The Department of Fish and Game urges beachgoers to stay close to the shore and avoid swimming at dawn and dusk and last summer, a Boston man swimming in Truro survived the first shark attack in the Commonwealth since 1936.

Many anglers familiar with Cape Cod waters would pick mid-June as perhaps the best time to fish for stripers, blues, tuna and other species such as tautog and black sea bass. Stripers and blues are everywhere right now and reports of bluefin tuna east of Chatham and northward toward Stellwagen Bank have included a couple measuring upwards-of-90-inch fish recently. Always an exciting prospect to know the big tunnies are back in town and for some it signals the quasi-official kickoff of the real fishing season on the Cape. This was definitely the breakout week for bluefin. Calm seas early in the week made conditions just right for spinning and trolling anglers working just off the outside beaches. More and more giants are being caught including a 92-incher an angler caught using spinning gear on a charter boat. In addition, numerous fish in the 60 and 70-inch size range have been taken and the stretch of water around Peaked Hills bar has been productive for those in pursuit of the Bigs.

Turn-of-tide times in the Cape Cod Canal have been producing good catches of stripers in the mid-teens to twenty pound range as warmer water pouring in from Buzzards Bay takes the chill off the Ditch and generates results up around the east end. Bluefish have also moved into the Canal there have been a few pushing double digits lately caught by anglers working jig and plastic combos during waning and slack tide conditions. Bluefish in the Ditch are a true good news/bad news deal…on the one hand it's nice to see the moving in locally but it's also bad news for everyone but the tackle shops as these toothy critters can easily put a dent in a fisherman's wallet by inevitably carving up these soft baits. One old timer saves those shredded plastic eels and trims them down on his workbench and "laminates" two plastics together with Neoprene Queen, a wetsuit adhesive, and a couple wraps of dental floss to secure the ends. He claims the refurbished plastics work "just about as good as new" and saves a few bucks in the process.

The area around the big pilings at the west end of the Canal has been a bluefish hot spot for the bigger fish but folks working from small skiffs want to take care when the tide runs against a southwest wind as that area can gin up a real messy chop in short order and three to six foot random wave turbulence can quickly take the fun out of fishing when things get hairy for those in a small boat.
Bluefish and stripers have been providing plenty of action for anglers stationed around Race Point and around westward to Herring Cove. Early morning topwater activity has resulted in bass in the high teens and an occasional twenty pound specimen. (One local bait shop confirmed a forty eight inch striper caught in the Sound). Big swimming plugs, jigs and mackerel chunks are the preferred offerings for dusk and into the hours of darkness with live eels beginning to show up more frequently now as the bait of choice.

In Vineyard Sound the entire south side of the Cape swarms with recently arrived stripers and bluefish. Anybody looking to take a few fresh bluefish for the grill need only have a bit of patience while casting smallish jigs or plugs and before long a pod of three to four pound blues will likely come calling. Keeping a couple beater-type plugs in the tackle box with squashed barbs is a pretty good idea when bluefish are around as it makes it way easier to unhook them and the condition and appearance of the plug is largely irrelevant – blues will attack just about anything that swims. It's not a bad idea to keep a couple of metal slabs on hand as they can be particularly effective on bright, sunny days with their sparkly reflective surfaces.

Bluefish have taken up residence around the Vineyard and stripers have moved into the estuary ponds recently and some of these bass carry substantial size. Fly rod equipped anglers have had good success with these stripers on an ebbing tide from dusk well into dark. During the daytime hours the bluefish are everywhere and provide great fun for one and all, especially for those fishing with kids. Rick, my oldest boy, got really hooked on fishing back in the late 70s when we went out early one morning before school and caught 65 blues among the three of us. The fish were all right around five pounds and by the time we wrapped things up Rick said his arm was sore from hauling in those feisty blues and he was raring to get out there again where the blues would hit anything you threw their way and sometimes when you were landing one fish another would hit the plug hanging from the first one's mouth. I told him it's not like that all the time but when it is, it's something you don't forget. Sure enough, some thirty-five years later, he still remembers that morning.

June 05, 2013

Groundfish in the Bay and Controversy At the Canal

by Jerry Vovcsko

Last weekend saw typically decent early season striper fishing around Nantucket but trouble showed up when a charter boat capsized near Bonito Bar and five people ended up in the water for nearly three hours before being rescued in the late afternoon. Local officials blamed a "series of waves" for the boat turning over. Bonito Bar has a history of wave-related incidents as it was there in 2008 that a 26-foot Regulator got flipped by a rogue wave and ended up sinking and then drifting across the Atlantic to wash ashore on the coast of Spain some three years later. Also last weekend a wader-clad gent fishing from a sandbar in the harbor got cut off by the tide and had to be rescued by a good Samaritan on a paddleboard.

Meanwhile, back on the Cape, controversy around the summer train service between Hyannis and Bourne continues to simmer over fishing access to the Cape Cod Canal. Local anglers who have historically crossed the train tracks to get to favored fishing spots or pull their lobster pots are angry about the appearance of "no-trespassing" signs posted along the tracks in dozens of locations. Add the newly posted access restriction to the already existing lack of parking and folks who have fished the canal for decades are concerned. Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation say the signs are intended to warn people of the dangers of trespassing on the rail line, an explanation that does little to alleviate canal anglers' anxiety what with State law threatening a $100 fine or 50 hours of community service as well as arrest for violations. A DOT spokesperson says the signs have been installed in locations where there is evidence of recent and continual trespassing.

Overall, it's been typical early season fishing action with Buzzards Bay lighting up for ground fishing – tautog and sea bass in the area around Cleveland Ledge in particular along with scup and fluke throughout the Bay and down along the Elizabeth Islands. The mouth of Lackey's Bay has been seeing plenty of scup action, a fishing activity that's especially enjoyable for kids as these little critters will continue to bite as long as anybody's willing to drop a worm in their vicinity. Many a youngster has been introduced to the sport via an afternoon of scup fishing.

The Middleground continues to deliver catches of keeper size fluke and half-ounce jigs tipped wit flue belly strips are definitely effective around there. Best drift has been on the west-running tide. The absence of commercial squid boats this spring point to a disappointing year for folks who relish a fine calamari feast on the dinner table. There have been numerous theories about their absence but according to some of the old timers, it was just "one of those years when the squid didn't show up."

Stripers have been showing up in the Cape Cod Canal however, and some of the ones arriving recently have decent size now including a fat thirty four pound fish caught on a jig during slack tide Monday evening not far from Joe's fish market – how fitting is that? Over the years a lot of bass have come out of the Ditch having eaten a jig worked down deep along the rocky bottom. Anglers new to the Canal sometimes find it difficult to accept the need to plumb the depths with four to six ounce jigs but those are swift currents swirling through there and it's not possible to get lighter jigs into the strike-zone when the tide starts running.

Yes, it can get expensive snagging jigs on boulders, lobster pots and the varied debris that lines the bottom of the canal, but, as the locals say, "If you ain't losing jigs in the rocks, you ain't fishing where you should be" and that's the God's truth. To catch the big ones it takes big jigs and big plastic baits…newbies to the Ditch may consider it overkill to flip a twelve inch jig & plastic combo into the current but Canal Rats who've fished here for years consider that rig business-as-usual.

Over in Cape Cod Bay the tube-and-worm lads have been making hay around Billingsgate on good sized bass in the slot and some of the highliners use a trick they've employed over the year that's proved effective. They'll slow the boat to a near stop when they make the turn causing the tube to sink deeper and closer to some of the "holes" in that area, then add a bit of throttle as they come out of the turn. Right about then is when they're liable to get the hit and frequently it's a jumbo striper on the line. Maybe the Large like to lie deep in ambush and when they see the tube/worm rig falling and then starting to "swim" away, it triggers their strike reaction. I first saw one of the charter skippers work that technique and found it impressive..and productive.

Further north some city anglers have been doing well for themselves from the beach around Castle Island in Boston. Fishing a late evening ebb tide has been putting keeper sized fish in the cooler lately and swimming plugs seem to do the trick. To my mind, when swimming plugs are mentioned I reach for a blackback five and a quarter inch Rebel, one of the sinking variety that I've hung onto since back when you couldn't find them in the bait and tackle shops anymore. But nothing seems to work quite as well for me as these old favorites do and while others say they do well with the floating variety, for me there's no comparison and I'll keep hunting for them at tag sales and online auctions.

The past week saw plenty of bass and blues caught along the stretch of south-facing beaches between Falmouth and South Cape Beach. Not a whole lot of size, maybe, but all the action an angler could wish for. Maybe there are folks who become annoyed at having their lures grabbed by undersized stripers or three-pound bluefish but I'm not one of them. When it seems these sized fish are what's at hand and it looks like that's going to be pretty much what I can expect for the day's activity, instead of getting grumpy about it I bend down the barbs, switch to whatever light gear I have at hand and settle in for a day's worth of fishing in Cape waters.

I think sometimes I get a little bit spoiled and kind of lose track of how lucky we are to be out there enjoying ourselves and communing with the fishy environment around the Cape, but with my seventy-fifth birthday looming on the horizon I try to take very little for granted these days. Three-pound bluefish or twenty-four inch striped bass…hey, I'll take ‘em and consider myself among the luckiest folks on the planet because I can do this kind of fishing every day if I feel like it from mid-May through to Thanksgiving and maybe a little beyond. How many anglers would wish for the chance to say the same?

May 30, 2013

Some Areas Turning On Around the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

Looks like temperatures, both air and water, are due for a serious upward spike over the upcoming weekend. Right now water temps in Nantucket Sound are sitting in the mid-fifties but the weather folks tell us we're going to see air temperatures zooming into the ninety-degree range for the next four days.

May 21, 2013

Notes From Around the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

Looks like the current version of the Gold Rush of 1849 is off and running…only this time it's happening in Maine and instead of the yellow, shiny stuff, it's all about eels and folks getting rich overnight.

May 14, 2013

Season's Open; the Stripers are Here!

by Jerry Vovcsko

The 2013 striper season is definitely under way and water temperatures in the mid-50s are proving attractive to migrating bass as more and more fish swarm into the waters around Cape Cod.

May 06, 2013

Fishing the Cape: Brewster to The Cape Cod Canal

by Jerry Vovcsko

Coming back from Provincetown, when you get back to the Orleans rotary keep an eye out for signs pointing toward Rock Harbor. It's your first right just after you enter the rotary, and a couple miles down the road you'll find yourself at a small parking lot near a cluster of charter boats in the twenty eight to thirty four foot range.These will be skippered by some of the finest guides to have set trolling lines in the Bay. Their lineage has its roots in names well known within the Cape's maritime heritage – Snow, Larkin, Nickerson, Harris, et al - and traces back to that original Old Timer, Phil Schwind, who, with a few friends, invented and developed the sport fishing charter industry in Cape Cod Bay following WWII. If you have a hankering to see lots of striped bass in the thirty pound and up range, be here when the charter boats unload their catch dockside. It's a great photo op and serves as a reminder that these Large bass are still around if you know how to find them. Bear in mind that many of the ones you see were caught on the classic tube and worm rig.

Continuing west on route 6A you'll find yourself on Main Street in the village of Brewster. Lots of antique and gift shops along here but a right hand turn on almost any one of those side streets (especially the ones with the suffix, Landing, as in: "Captain's Landing"), takes you to Cape Cod Bay. It gets a little tricky to find parking down there and pay attention to parking related signs, lest you find a ticket waiting upon your return…or your car towed. Generally speaking, you can find beach access after five PM once the swimmers have headed back to their rental cottages to shower and dress for dinner.

If the tide is dead low, you can walk out on the "Flats" for more than a mile and find wonderful conditions for fly fishing out there at the water's edge with virtually unlimited room for backcasts. One caveat! Pay attention to tidal conditions and look behind you from time to time. The tide doesn't come straight in and you can find yourself cut off by deep channels forming behind where you're fishing if you're not paying attention. Just to ratchet up the excitement level a few notches, a few anglers who regularly fish The Flats mentioned brushes with sand sharks. One gent told of being waist deep on the flats casting his Clouser toward a school of stripers that were feeding on silversides. He felt something brush against his thigh and watched as a sand shark he estimated at eight feet glided past. That's the sort of experience that'll make you change your shorts in a hurry.

The next town over, Dennis, provides some good beach access along with a summer theater that drew such thespian stars as Henry Fonda, Cary Grant, Betty Davis and others back in the day. One spot worth wetting a line from is Corporation Beach and back in my more youthful times, I used to Scuba dive there and pick lobsters from their lairs among the rock ledges and boulders that crust the bottom just offshore. Nowadays this same area is home to a thriving tautog population and a few green crabs can go a long way toward helping to fill the freezer with tasty ‘tog. Expect to lose some hooks and line in here as the snag potential is high and, as the locals put it, "if you ain't losing gear, you ain't fishing deep enough."

Further west on route 6A brings us to Barnstable harbor and you'll want to take a look there, especially if you've been searching for a boat launch ramp with parking available. Costs five bucks (unless the rate went up while I wasn't looking) and you can park your car and trailer there. A skiff with, say, a five-horse engine or better will allow you to spend the better part of the summer finding productive spots to fish all through here without leaving the sheltered waters of the harbor. There are sand bars, weed beds, channels and pier pilings galore scattered all around the harbor and every one of them is a likely hang-out for striped bass and bluefish as well. The harbor winds westerly up into what's listed on the map as Scorton Creek ( locals refer to the creek further west along 6A as the "real Scorton Creek".) You can cruise to your heart's content and sometimes I think the tube and worm technique must have been invented in these waters because it's an absolute killer method for catching bass.

Continuing on the last leg of our round-the-Cape quest for good places to fish…after leaving Barnstable Harbor the next stop brings us to Sandy Neck beach. It's a few miles west of the harbor and calls for sharp eyes or you'll miss the Sandy Neck Road sign just off route 6A. Follow that about 3 miles and you'll come to the parking lot. There's a park ranger shack at the entrance and it'll cost ten bucks to park during the day in season. But you don't want to fish there in the daytime anyhow as the beach is jammed with families and sun worshippers. But if high tide turns to ebb an hour or so before dawn, or just before dark in the evening, it's a very good spot to swim an eel or toss plugs. Sand bars appear all over the place on a falling tide and the channels that form are also worth a look, especially for the fly fishing contingent.

Heading west again, toward Sandwich, keep an eye out for a winding tidal creek; that's the Scorton Creek I mentioned earlier, and a few hundred yards after you cross over it on 6A you'll see a dirt road off to your left. Drive down in there (slowly, there are lots of ruts and holes) and you'll come to a natural parking space that overlooks the marsh. This area is a fly fisherman's paradise and a potential nightmare all at the same time. The creek is less than twelve or fifteen feet wide in places back there and it's real tempting to try and jump the channel to get to a better spot but many an unlucky soul has ended up muddied and stinky from an excess of optimism about their broad jumping capabilities. Experienced locals solve the stream-crossing dilemma by dragging a plank along to facilitate fording the creek. Look for stripers finning and feeding up in these back waters. And don't be deceived by the skinny water, some Large bass have been taken here, including one in the low forties that I know about, caught a few years back on a sea worm. Scorton is a kayakers heaven and drifting way up into the marsh on a fine summer day is a seriously pleasant way to commune with Mother Nature.

Sandwich is the next stop heading west and you'll want to turn right at the lights in the center of town and follow the signs to the town beach. Walk that beach toward the east and you'll come to the old Sandwich harbor with a busted up jetty and a creek emptying into the Bay. Be careful out here. The mouth of the creek is very inviting and you can score on stripers when the tide's right and the current's running. But you can also get trapped out there and this is a location where a number of inattentive anglers drowned over the years, many of them fly fishermen who had waded out and stepped off into a deep channel on the way back in; waders filled up and that's all she wrote. But stripers, blues and, on occasion, school sized Pollock can be found here. And mackerel will cruise through from time to time, making it a lot of fun for those who brought their light spinning gear along.

Continuing on, 6A brings us to the Cape Cod Canal.Follow the signs to the parking lot by Joe's Fish Market. That path that runs along the canal past the rest rooms will take you to the long jetty that usually holds a few meat fishermen chucking clams of belly strips for flounder, scup or sea bass. But there'll be others tossing plugs and metal or bouncing jigs off the bottom. Spend a couple of hours around here and you'll see it all: tourists with spinning reels upside down on their rods; "Canal Rats" who ride the access road with custom designed bikes rigged with rod holders for their expensive conventional setups; kids with everything from Sabiki rigs on handlines to basic spinning outfits; the Orvis crowd with every weight of fly rod imaginable and everything in between. Now and then a school of blues will erupt in a feeding blitz and every conceivable type of lure will rain down on the fish as the anglers in the vicinity fire away hoping for a hookup.

No point in trying to give detailed advice here about fishing the Canal; can't be done in a paragraph or two. Best I can say is, watch what the folks who look like they know what they're doing are up to. Don't crowd them while they're working their lures but pay attention to the kind of gear they're using and if the action slacks off, feel free to ask politely for advice. Don't, however, expect to get detailed information on where their favorite spots are located. That's privileged info that they've likely spent years figuring out.

If you've read the first five parts of this series, you should have a basic idea of where to start looking when you visit the Cape. Pick an area and don't forget to scout it out on a variety of tides. One thing about Cape Cod that I've always loved is anytime you get near the water anywhere down here, you have a great chance to catch fish. But your chances to get into some decent action rise considerably if you work some of the places mentioned. Tight lines and good fishing; enjoy.

April 28, 2013

Fishing the Cape: Eastham to Provincetown

by Jerry Vovcsko

There aren't many places on the Cape (or anywhere else for that matter) where an angler can choose where to fish from seventeen and a half miles of open beach, striped bass territory. But the stretch of sand between South Wellfleet and Peaked Hill Bars just off North Truro is definitely one of them.

April 18, 2013

Fishing the Cape: Dennis, Harwich and Chatham

by Jerry Vovcsko

Although a lot fishing reports will cover Chatham thoroughly, you don't often hear much about the area around Dennis and Harwich. Which is odd because not only is there plenty of striper and bluefish action available but being at the eastern end of Nantucket Sound, this area will occasionally report catches of some really unusual species.

April 11, 2013

Fishing the Cape: Part II, Waquoit Bay to Bass River

by Jerry Vovcsko

Continuing with the tour of places-to-fish on Cape Cod, we left off at Menahuant beach in East Falmouth which puts us back eastbound on route twenty eight coming out of East Falmouth. Next is Waquoit Bay and a good place to stop there is the Waquoit Sanctuary which offers plenty of parking and access to the river as well as to the Bay itself.

April 05, 2013

Fishing the Cape: Falmouth to Provincetown

by Jerry Vovcsko

It can be daunting to arrive at Cape Cod wondering where to find a good place to fish. Heck, never mind a "good" place to fish, just finding an accessible spot can be a challenge.

March 31, 2013

Upcoming Fishing Flea Market in Newbury, Mass.

by Jerry Vovcsko

Fishing flea markets are almost always great fun and the one taking place in Newbury, Mass is right up there with the best of them.

March 26, 2013

The Shining Tides and Funding For Fisheries Assistance

by Jerry Vovcsko

In the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, the United States Senate has passed an amendment that would allow funds in next year's federal budget to be used to aid fishermen in the Northeast. The amendment, introduced by Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, was included in the Senate budget proposal that passed early last week.

March 18, 2013

Stompin' At the Savoy and Boogying At the Quabbin

by Jerry Vovcsko

***"I think I fish, in part, because it's an anti-social, bohemian business that, when gone about properly, puts you forever outside the mainstream culture without actually landing you in an institution."

March 12, 2013

Spring's Coming and So Are the Stripers

by Jerry Vovcsko

"I look into my fly box, and think about all the elements I should consider in choosing the perfect fly: water temperature, what stage of development the bugs are in, what the fish are eating right now.

March 06, 2013

Record Goldfish and More Stormy Weather

by Jerry Vovcsko

They get some weird stuff happening out there in the Midwest. Must be something in the water. Like a couple of weeks ago when a gent named Mike Martin headed out on the ice of Lake St. Clair in Michigan to do a little hardwater angling. The angling gods must have been smiling on Mr. Martin because it wasn't long before he felt the hit and pulled up a bright orange goldfish. A three-pound goldfish that measured out at an eye-popping fifteen inches!

"Basically, I was doing what I always do, trying to catch perch and I thought I had a big perch on" said Martin during an NPR interview. "Definitely not a perch…I've been fishing this lake for 20 years, first one I've ever caught. I called my dad the second it came out of the hole. I didn't know what to do with it…asked him what I should do with it. I've never caught a goldfish. What do you do with a goldfish?"

Eat it or mount it, I suppose, depending on whether Martin craves admiration or a good meal. Either way, it's not something that happens every day although fish experts say the main factors that affect the growth of a goldfish are feeding and temperature, and that in ponds, life spans of 15 to 20 years are not unheard of. Don't know if there's a goldfish category in the record books but, if so, three pounds rates at least an honorable mention I would think.

Locally, it's a case of here-we-go-again as another winter storm is on the way north along the coast and the weather folk tell us we may be seeing snow, rain, sleet and generally slushy conditions depending on where the storm center passes by. A fifty-mile change in direction by the storm can mean the difference between five or ten inches of snow they tell us.

As if heavy snow isn't enough of a problem the forecast includes fifty-knot wind gusts that are slated to produce twenty-five foot waves just offshore. All I ask is that we don't lose power again like the last storm inflicted. These old bones of mine did not respond well to thirty five degree temperatures IN the house. That's enough to get a man thinking seriously about booking Jet Blue for a few days in Aruba or St. Thomas, or anyplace that's warm.

They tell us things will pick up once this storm passes through and air temperatures creep upwards of fifty degree over the next ten days or so. I hope so, because the Mass Wildlife folks are putting their trucks on the road with lots of trout and salmon to stock local ponds. Peters Pond in Sandwich has been rewarding anglers with some nice broodstock salmon and a few browns have been picked up at the Brewster Ponds, Sheeps and Cliff ponds in particular.

It won't be long before the herring begin to run and soon after that the first stripers arrive in our waters and another season of great fishing begins. I mean to concentrate more on the Cape Cod Canal this year. My doctor says I could use more exercise and a few pounds less on my butt and belly so I might combine walking the bike path with a stop here and there to toss a jig & plastic combo into the current just to see what happens.

Management tells us the Red Sox should be "competitive' this season. Seems to me, every time they use that word it ends up with the Sox looking up at the Yankees in the standings come playoff time. Well, maybe this year will be different…besides, when I return from one of my Canal outings with an empty creel and the wife asks me how I did, I can always say: "Well, I was competitive, honey…and can you fix me a gin and tonic while I crawl into a nice, hot bath".

Sure sounds like a winner to me.

February 26, 2013

Fish Out of Water and The Hotdog Guy Is Here!

by Jerry Vovcsko

The NOAA buoy in Buzzards Bay reports a water temperature of 34.5 degrees and the one in Nantucket Sound reads a relatively balmy 38.9 degrees right now.

February 21, 2013

And You Thought Eels Were For Bait!

by Jerry Vovcsko

New Hampshire officials say two people climbed to safety when their pickup truck crashed through ice on Lake Winnipesaukee. Police in Meredith said two people were driving the truck back to shore from an ice fishing shack Saturday night when it plunged through the ice near the boat launch on Meredith Bay.

February 12, 2013

Nemo, Blizzard of 2013

by Jerry Vovcsko

Went to bed last Friday with high winds from winter storm Nemo rattling tree limbs against the house.

February 06, 2013

Pond Fishing On the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

Looks like those Great white shark taggings on the Cape last year are starting to pay off. One of the sharks, named Mary Lee by the folks who tagged her off Chatham, was tracked rounding Montauk in late January heading back to Cape Cod.

January 30, 2013

The Great Python Hunt and RIP A Local Legend

by Jerry Vovcsko

It always seemed as though the Florida Wildlife folks were going to try to do something about the burgeoning population of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades. And so they did. According to a blurb in the Boston Globe more than 1,000 people signed up recently to hunt Burmese pythons in the Everglades, but it appears that just a fraction of them have been successful so far.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said last week that thirty of the invasive snakes have been killed in the competition that began January 12th. The officials claim that eradicating pythons from the Everglades was never the goal of the month long ‘‘Python Challenge.'' Instead, they say they hoped to raise awareness about the snake's threat to native wildlife and the fragile Everglades ecosystem. Pythons face both state and federal bans and nobody really knows just how many of these snakes infest the Everglades, but researchers say the hunt is helping them collect more information about the pythons' habits.

Not sure which is potentially the biggest danger: That the Everglades harbor these big-time eating machines that can grow upwards of twenty feet, or that a thousand or so heavily armed good-‘ol-boys are wandering the swamps looking to blow them away; it just might be a tossup.

A couple of weeks ago the Cape unexpectedly lost one of its local legends. Dave Masch, fisherman, raconteur and blithe-spirit-emeritus suffered a massive heart attack and passed away at seventy-five. Dave's name should be familiar to many as a result of his contributions to "On the Water" magazine via his "Cooking the Catch" and "Ask Pops" columns. The longtime Falmouth and Woods Hole resident touched the lives of an awful lot of people during his lifetime.

He worked with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for 10 years and helped found the Penikese Island School, a boarding school for troubled juveniles where he was tagged with the "Pops nickname. I met Dave back in the seventies when I worked in the Falmouth School system and crossed paths with him at some of the alternative educational programs that had sprung up in Falmouth. He was, as they say, "bigger than life.""

He published his first "Cooking The Catch" recipe book in 2006 which sold surprisingly well for a local undertaking. In the book's introduction, he says, "I saw the ocean in 1955 and have not yet recovered from it." He had recently published "Cooking The Catch II" when the heart attack (he had previously survived two others) took his life. But sense of humor? It was pure Dave Masch when he kidded about another book he wanted to write…his working title was: "Having Fun With Your Grandkids With Fire and Explosives."

RIP, Dave, you touched many lives and we will miss you.

It's not Halloween right now but the fishing situation on Cape Cod is definitely a trick-or-treat proposition. Just when it look like a streak of single-digit temperatures has formed thick, solid ice on the local ponds, don't we find ourselves smack in the middle of fifty-degree spring-like weather. Yessir, classic New England weather…don't like what you've got? Wait a day and here comes the opposite.

Anyhow, the best bet right now is to spend some time checking out local ponds to see which of them have some shoreline access. On your life be careful of that ice crust; it's likely to be extremely unstable and a late January plunge into the water can be life-extinguishing. I've had some success in previous years finding a pond with open water between the shoreline and the edge of the ice field and casting bait or lure out onto the ice and slowly working it back until it drops off the edge into the water. Right then is when the strike is likely to come and you can see the line move sideways a little as a fish takes the bait.

It's an effective technique at times, especially with pickerel and bass. Mouse or frog artificials are probably the best lure choice…I suppose the fish may have seen critters fall from the ice shelf now and then. Rubber worms also draw some action and I like to play around by working them to the edge and letting them dangle partially over until they fall. Inevitably, strikes will come right after the splash. It's sort of the winter version of topwater action and will certainly sharpen an angler's concentration and test the reflexes when the bass are hitting.

Super Bowl Sunday coming up this weekend but us New England Patriot fans no longer have a dog in this hunt so it won't capture my interest quite as much. I've gotten a little tired of Ray Lewis's "celebration of Me" routine so I suppose I'll root for the 49'ers. And maybe in this year's college draft Bill Belichick will find that big, fast wide receiver the Pats haven't had since the days of Randy Moss so that when next year's Super Bowl rolls around, the Pats will be in it!

January 23, 2013

Sportsman's Show in East Bridgewater

by Jerry Vovcsko

Here's a local show worth checking out.

January 15, 2013

Bobcats In the Garage and Whales in Cape Cod Bay

by Jerry Vovcsko

The upcoming weather forecasts do not exactly lead us to believe a cornucopia of piscatorial plenty will soon be forthcoming. Nossir, declining temperatures with snow and freezing rain mixed in over the next couple of weeks murmur to us that pulling a kitchen chair a little closer to the old woodstove would be a smart move for these old bones.

But just because the fishing's not too promising right now, there's still plenty going on here in the New England region. Take the morning Roger Mundell Jr. experienced last week. He went out to his garage in the Central Massachusetts town of Brookfield to fetch some tie-down straps for a friend and next thing he heard was a hiss before a bobcat pounced on him sinking its teeth into his face and its claws in his back.

The critter then ran out of the garage and bit Mundell's 15-year-old nephew on the arms and back. Mundell jumped on the bobcat and with help from his wife managed to pin the cat to the ground and shoot it dead. State Environmental Police took the bobcat to have it tested for rabies, which they think is likely given its unusually aggressive behavior.

Mundell, along with his nephew and his wife began treatment for rabies. Although his wife wasn't bitten, the animal's blood got on her. Local newspapers reported that state lab results on the dead animal were announced at a subsequent selectman's board meeting in Brookfield confirming that the animal did indeed have rabies. Folks who have undergone a series of rabies shots say the treatment is painful but the disease in far worse and the Mundells are expected to make full recoveries.

Meanwhile, the first official whale sighting of 2013 on Cape Cod Bay was confirmed by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) this past Saturday as a right whale mother and her calf was spotted off Plymouth. According to PCCS, a research organization that has been conducting aerial surveys for right whales since 1997, this is the earliest a right whale has been spotted in Cape Cod Bay.

Scientists believe most right whale calves are usually born in December and January in southern waters off Georgia and Florida. The mother and child pairs then head north to the Cape Cod region to feed in early April. The good news is that New England Aquarium researchers have confirmed the identity of the mother. Wart--as she is known--was last seen in May 2010. The Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team at PCCS had succeeded in freeing Wart from an entanglement.

As she had not been seen since 2010, researchers had been very worried about Wart but spotting her in the Bay is exciting news for the population. With only 500 North Atlantic right whales left, the survival the reproduction potential of mature females is particularly critical to conservation efforts said a PCCS official.

NFL fans know the Houston Texans came to town last Sunday…and four hours later headed out of town (and the playoffs), having lost to the Patriots 41-28 in a game that wasn't really that close. Unfortunately the win cost the Pats the services of All-World tight end Rob Gronkowski; the Big Guy re-broke his arm and is lost to the Pats for the rest of the season.

Next Sunday the Baltimore Ravens will be coming to Foxboro led by their aging-but-still-vocal linebacker Ray Lewis who's been conducting a loud Celebration-of-Me in preparation for retirement. The Patriots will undoubtedly do whatever they can to assist Mr. Lewis into an early retirement on their way to yet another Super Bowl appearance. Need we say it? Go Pats!

January 08, 2013

What's That Fish Worth?

by Jerry Vovcsko

I don't know if a fish can feel "like a million dollars", but there's one recently-deceased Pacific bluefin tuna that absolutely should.

December 31, 2012

Worms, Jigs and Northern Pike

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's a gloomy picture that presents itself as I peer out my kitchen widow this morning. Cloudy skies that look like they could start spitting snowflakes any moment; ice making the driveway slick and dirty snow heaped up down by the street.

December 24, 2012

Twas the Night Before Christmas

by Jerry Vovcsko

Well, folks, here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, the best of the Holidays and a Happy New Year for 2013. May Santa fill everyone's wish list and may Tom Brady and the stout lads on the New England Patriots bring yet another Lombardi Trophy home to Patriot Nation.

December 18, 2012

Looking For Fish in All the Right Places

by Jerry Vovcsko

Good news for Chatham merchants as the sixteen foot great white shark tagged off Cape Cod last September was tracked last week passing the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach, SC approaching the North Carolina state line and heading our way.

December 09, 2012

Getting Kind of Cold These Days

by Jerry Vovcsko

The trick-or-treat weather we've experienced lately has really made it tough on the salt water scene what with high winds and rough seas keeping anglers pretty much shorebound.

December 01, 2012

Follow That Shark!

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's not all that uncommon to see a blind person being guided by a seeing-eye dog, but you don't generally expect to hear about the guide role being played by a shark. Which is why a recent story in an Australian newspaper really got my attention.

November 20, 2012

Gators, Sharks and a Busted Wing

by Jerry Vovcsko

You don't often run across guys like Steve Gustafson, a 66-year old grandfather from Lake County, Florida, who jumped into the water to wrestle with a 130-lb alligator in order to save his dog.

November 10, 2012

Additional Mass Deer/Turkey regs

by Jerry Vovcsko

Some hunting info from the folks at Mass Wildlife:


Effective October 12, 2012

Effective October 12, 2012, several new hunting regulations have been promulgated which expand wild turkey hunting opportunities across the state. These regulations take effect in time for the 2012 fall turkey hunting season.

November 09, 2012

Stormy Weather

by Jerry Vovcsko

What with storms churning up Cape waters over the past week or two, it's hard to get a predictable read on just what we've got for action on the salt water scene. What action there is has been localized around the Cape Cod Canal lately.

November 01, 2012

Trick or Treat!

by Jerry Vovcsko

The week before Halloween seemed the perfect time to catch a lobster whose colors were split into a perfect half and half of orange and black.

October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Brings Some Weirdness Our Way

by Jerry Vovcsko

Hurricane Sandy is slithering up the east coast at the moment hell-bent on slamming into mainland somewhere in the vicinity of Atlantic City. But that shouldn't stop any truly degenerate gamblers parked at the blackjack tables from splitting aces and doubling down on eleven . Nossir, hurricane or no hurricane, keep those cards coming until the money runs out. As the old timers used to say: That's the way it goes; first your money then your clothes.

Up here in New England we expect to get less of the brunt of Sandy's wind impact but probably enough to wreck the striper fishing, maybe for the balance of the season. Typically, that's what happens when a hurricane drops in for a visit. Could be that the fall migration is over as we know it and we won't see stripers again until the 2013 season kicks in. We should have a better fix on the state of things by next weekend when the weather returns to something a little more normal.

But lobster fishermen are certainly worried about what's going to happen to their lobster traps, concerned that the traps might get banged up, moved, destroyed or otherwise knocked out of commission by the storm. In a fishery already reeling from low prices, Sandy's visit could put a number of fishermen out of business if large numbers of traps are lost. Some lobsterman are bringing in their traps or running them into deeper water to prevent them from being tossed among by waves or swept into the rocks. But New Englanders who recall the 1991 "perfect storm" hope Hurricane Sandy spares the fishery from a devastating blow such as that one.

Hurricanes bring major concerns for anybody living or working around the ocean but that's to be expected. What you don't expect if you're out playing golf on a Southern California golf course is to be getting ready to tee off on the 12th hole only to have a tw0 foot long leopard shark fall from the sky bleeding from puncture wounds.

A golf course marshal saw something wriggling around on the tee and went to investigate. He found the shark, where it seems the bird had held it in its grasp. He got it into a bucket of water, and another employee drove the shark to the ocean and let it go. At first it didn't move, he said, "but then it flipped and took off."

And there you have it, folks…if you're looking for weird, between Hurricane Sandy, disappearing lobster traps and sharks falling from the sky at the golf course…well, it doesn't get much more weird than that. So, trick or treat to everyone, and have a real good Halloween as we lurch into November.

October 23, 2012

If You Go Into the Woods Today...

by Jerry Vovcsko

Hunting season descends on Massachusetts now and the lads in orange will slowly filter into the woods after turkey, deer, rabbits and an assortment of game birds.

October 14, 2012

The Cycle of Seasons

by Jerry Vovcsko

The past week has seen a grab-bag of results so far as fishing is concerned around Cape Cod.

October 08, 2012

Fall Fishing Around theCape

by Jerry Vovcsko

Water temperatures in Nantucket Sound continue their downward slide toward the low sixties as fall weather moves into the New England region. Right now the NOAA buoy reads sixty-three degrees, down from early Septembe

October 02, 2012

Draw, Stranger!

by Jerry Vovcsko

Time was when a couple of gents squared off on Main Street with six-shooters holstered and the outcome depended on fast reflexes and steely nerves.

September 26, 2012

He Gave Him the Finger!

by Jerry Vovcsko

So this guy was fishing in an Idaho lake when a total stranger gave him the finger and….. What? Wait a minute, what the hell…? Of course there's got to be more to that story…and here it is, even if it does sound kind of fishy.

September 18, 2012

Fishery Disaster and a Blast From the Past

by Jerry Vovcsko

Think things are bad overall in the New England commercial fishing sector? You're right.

September 07, 2012

Big Winds Due From the East

by Jerry Vovcsko

The political conventions may have concluded but the big winds continue to blow as Hurricane Leslie slides up the Atlantic coast on its way to the Canadian Maritimes.

September 01, 2012

Strange Days Indeed; Most peculiar, Momma

by Jerry Vovcsko

John Lennon wrote that. He was right…and they're only getting stranger. I don't watch a lot of TV but I turned the set on the other evening and what shows up on the screen but an uber-geriatric version of Clint Eastwood having an animated conversation with, by God, a chair! Not only that, but it seems whatever the chair was telling Clint, he didn't like it. Well, no wonder…if he's anything like me I don't want my chairs talking to me. There's enough muttering and grumbling when my kids deign to sit down for a family meal so I can certainly do without hearing any complaints from the furniture.

Speaking of complaints, wouldn't you know this Labor Day weekend with crowds of people mobbing the beaches Chatham officials have closed those beaches to swimming. Just way too many great white sharks roaming around real close to shore and nobody in officialdom wanting to take a chance on having some tourist separated from a body part or two. The thing is, the weather's great and the crowds are huge and they want to get in the water. So complaints? Oh yeah…big time!

And Chatham's not alone when it comes to shark dealings. The other day Orleans officials took one look at a couple of great whites frolicking near one of their beaches and they shut things down as well. They caught their share of flack from visiting beach goers and before long they reversed course and re-opened. How long they remain open? Who knows? (UPDATE: After officials spotted several great whites near Nauset Beach, Orleans parks officials made the decision to close the beach through the Labor Day weekend as a precaution. Beaches from Chatham to Orleans are now closed to swimming)

Meanwhile, on the fishing scene the summer of 2012 served up more than its share of weirdness when species rarely if ever seen in New England waters dropped by to check out the local action. Reported sightings included everything from a tropical species (frigate mackerel) to a variety of puffer fish, a red drum, gray triggerfish and a few cobia thrown in for good measure. Why the influx of strangers? Beats me. Some say it's just random excursions by stray fish surfing along on some weird eddy emanating from the nearby Gulf Stream. Others say, like hell! And they point to major climate changes thanks to global warming and further predict that coastal areas may find themselves under water before long as the ocean rises steadily over the next few decades. If so it'll have to go some to turn my house into waterfront property but I may set out a beach chair or two in the backyard, hoist a cold one and await further developments on that score.

And if it's strange behavior we're looking for, what better place to hang out than around Cape boat ramps? Yessir, grab a seat and watch what happens when newly arriving vacationers decide to back up to the ramp and launch their Bayliner. There's the usual stuff : the boat launched sans drain plug; the emergency brake routine which ends up with car, boat and trailer rolling down the ramp as wife screams and husband tries to stop the momentum manually…a maneuver that may work for Schwarzenegger, rarely for the typical weekend warrior.

Details aren't out yet but this week an elderly gent was seriously injured in an accident involving a boat trailer and a vehicle at Ockway Bay boat ramp in Mashpee. According to emergency broadcast reports, the unidentified man suffered a severe head injury and Mashpee firefighters transported him to a MedFlight helicopter crew headed for an off Cape trauma center. I'm guessing it's likely some variation on the runaway boat/trailer situation but we'll probably hear more on that later.

As to local fishing lately, there's not a whole lot in the way of success stories…unless it's bluefish an angler is after. There are plenty of those around. And the funny fish have moved in to the area too. False albacore, bonito…even a Spanish mackerel or two. Junior, an old fishing buddy of mine, says he's been catching weakfish in Buzzards Bay but I don't know about that as Junior once told me he was heading for the Canal to try for giant bluefin from shore and when I asked him later if he had any luck he just gave me this cat-that-swallowed-the-canary look and wouldn't elaborate so I don't consider him a particularly reliable source. But nobody could catch tautog over around the Weepeckett Islands like Junior and he could find scup in two inches of water which I can confirm firsthand.

There are stripers around, but they're not easy to come by. Best bet is down along the Elizabeths and pre-dawn is the time to get going after them. Quicks Hole is the best and likeliest place to start…Robinson's Hole runs a close second. Try live eels if you got ‘em, jig and plastic combos if you don't. I'd say eelskins rigged over a big Danny plug might actually be the absolute best choice but hardly anybody fishes those anymore and those that do don't need me to tell them about using the skins; they already know.

And then continuing with our loose theme of "stuff from the most peculiar, momma category", it seems some bizarre bird behavior is now threatening migrating right whales in Patagonia where seagulls have learned that pecking at the whales' backs can leave open sores and so the birds return time and time again to eat the exposed blubber. In fact the attacks by gulls on southern right whales have become so common now that authorities are planning to shoot the birds in hopes of reducing their population. The gulls wait for the whales to surface for air and then create open wounds by pecking on the exposed flesh. The gent who posted this news item online speculated that anybody who'd ever been sh*t on by a gull might want hustle down to Patagonia to get in on the Great Gull Shoot the government plans to put on down there as soon as they can get permission from the courts. Makes you wonder if the gulls lawyered up…the whales too.

So that's about it for this week and I think John Lennon was right. Most peculiar, momma…and it ain't getting better from what I can see. But it's quiet around here right now and I'm grateful my chairs aren't dispensing any political opinions at the moment. There's more than enough dammed fools handling that chore which is why I don't plan to turn the TV on again for another little while, at least not until the NFL opens its 2012/13 season. Well, maybe if I see any reruns of "Rawhide" from back when Clint Eastwood was Rowdy Yates and barely able to take two steps without stepping in a cow pie. But at least Rowdy wasn't talking to any chairs that I ever saw…and if he did, I seriously doubt they were talking back. Trail boss Gil Favor would never stand for that.

August 24, 2012

A Most Dangerous Game

by Jerry Vovcsko

In the ever-expanding category of "Stuff I didn't know", the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks commercial fishing as the deadliest job in the United States. And even though lots of people assume (thanks to reality TV's "Deadliest Catch" featuring Alaskan crab fishermen), the most dangerous fishery actually is in the northeast waters of the U.S.

August 16, 2012

Sharks Are Pelagic Creatures and Water Temps Influence CC Canal Success

by Jerry Vovcsko

Cape Cod beachgoers at Newcomb Hollow Beach spotted a 12-foot shark close to shore last week. The cluster of seals in the area probably drew the shark in for a chance to peruse the seal-menu before making his selection but whatever the reason beachgoers were impressed.

August 11, 2012

This Ain't Kansas, Toto

by Jerry Vovcsko

The August doldrums. Hard to tell if they're here or not, what with the passing thunderstorms often accompanied by sporadic micro bursts punctuated by lightning, thunder and wind gusts that threaten to recreate Dorothy's mid-air excursion with Toto and that cackling old biddy on the broom.

August 05, 2012

Atlantic Salmon Restoration Project Hits the Wall

by Jerry Vovcsko

According to a story in today's Boston Globe, almost 50 years and more than $25 million after it began the federal government is giving up on restocking the Connecticut River with Atlantic salmon.

August 01, 2012

Is That a Fin I See Over There?

by Jerry Vovcsko

You can bet the fax machines at the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce are heating up these days. The Chamber's legions of PR flacks are no doubt working overtime trying to convince tourists the beaches are safe and all those vicious rumors of rampaging great white sharks are just that: rumors.

July 27, 2012

The Funny Fish Are Coming to Town

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's getting closer to funny-fish time and the bonito and false albacore are starting to make an appearance in and around Nantucket Sound and the big islands.

July 18, 2012

Alert - Striped Bass Lesions

by Jerry Vovcsko

This from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries…an advisory posted on 7/17/2012:

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) is investigating reports of skin lesions found on striped bass caught in coastal waters. The bass are exhibiting red spotting along their sides.
Such skin variants may be an indication of the disease Mycobacterium, although researchers believe the lesions are most likely caused by the higher water temperatures this spring and summer.

Mycobacterium is predominent in southern waters such as Chesapeake Bay, according to a release from DMF.
Researchers are collecting data from fishermen in the area to determine the prevalence and geographic distribution of the skin lesions. Currently, instances of skin lesions in local bass is low (less than 5%), but slightly higher in the area of Buzzards Bay and the Cape Cod Canal.

Skin lesions, according to DMF are common in striped bass and may be caused by any number of things. The heightened presence of skin lesions in the area, are likely viral or bacterial in origin, but have not been positively linked to Mycobacterium. Internal and external examination of fish with such lesions has not indicated that the lesions are associated with Mycobacteriosis. No signs of abnormalities in the spleens of the tested fish have been found--a hallmark indicator of the disease according to DMF.
Fish with mild skin lesions are safe to handle and consume.
MarineFisheries has issued the following tips for handling striped bass with skin lesions:

• Wear heavy gloves to avoid puncture wounds from fish spines
• If cuts, scrapes or other open or inflamed areas of your skin are present, cover hands and wrists with an impermeable barrier like a rubber or vinyl glove
• Wash hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap after handling fish
• Wash off all cutting boards, surfaces, knives and other utensils used to process raw fish with warm soapy water
• Discard fish with large open lesions or darkened patches in the fillets
• Persons who exhibit signs of infection on their hands after handling fish should contact their physician immediately
Researchers will continue to monitor both the recreational and commercial harvests in the area. Fishermen who observe lesions on striped bass are encouraged to report the geographical location of their find to

(Nobody seems to know yet all the whys and wherefores about these lesions but it doesn't sound good, and if it starts to accelerate the spread the striped bass fishery could be in real trouble, real fast. Let's hope the fish scientists get on top of it quickly. JV)

July 18, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

by Jerry Vovcsko

Okay, so here comes another milestone – July 18th and looks like I've made it to a whopping-big 74 years of age…Happy Birthday to me! There've been a lot of changes since I was a kid and just starting to catch on to what struck me as a really lucrative scam: Have yourself a birthday, and look here, people gave you presents! I could really get behind that idea. One of the best presents to come along showed up when I was right around nine years old or so and my dad gave me a brand new Pfleuger baitcaster reel- a level-wind at that- and I figured I'd hit the big-time for sure. That reel would be my number-one until it got lost in a move during my teen years.

It got replaced by a series of whatever-I-could-afford hardware store specials and then I laid eyes on a Mitchell 300 spinning reel and that was all she wrote for decades. The Mitchell handled everything freshwater could offer up along with schoolie-sized stripers and blues in the salt. Nowadays my Mitchells are pretty beat up and some of the parts are a bit worn but, what-the-hell, that pretty well describes me too, so we get along okay and mostly get the job done even if we don't look too spiffy doing it.

Speaking of getting the job done the hook & line commercial striped bass season opened last week and those lads surely know how to fill their boats to the gunwhales with fish. Livelining scup is one of the methods the commercials employ. They drop that tempting bait right on the nose of big stripers that hang in a variety of ambush sites and haul bass in by the bushel. The deep "holes' southwest of the Middleground is a favored location for a few locals who augment the grocery money by selling their catch. I'm okay, I guess, with folks scratching out a living by doing odd jobs locally and catching & selling some fish, but I have less patience for the notion of with a couple guys, whose fishing gear cost more than a brand new '56 Chevvy cost back in the day, hauling in stripers from the deck of a $20K Boston Whaler. There just seems something wrong about that, but maybe that's just the opinion of a cranky old crock that needs to get-with-times.

Anyhow, bluefish are still plentiful in Nantucket Sound and schools of 4 to 6-lb fish cruise the Sound regularly – the perfect size fish for a summer grilling session. Pop the fillets in aluminum foil, add a slice or two of ripe tomato, a couple slices of red onion…drizzle a little olive oil or dab a mix of mayonnaise & dark mustard on the fillets and pouch up the foil. Grill until done and Happy Eating! Wash down with a cold brew while listening to the struggles of this year's Red Sox and enjoy another fine summer day.

Right now the best places to dunk bait or toss lures include: Race Point up around Provincetown; the Chatham area from Nauset Inlet on down to Monomoy; Cuttyhunk, especially around Sow and Pigs reef and up toward Quicks Hole. The latter is especially productive around dark for those who like to work live eels into the boulders and ledges that line the bottom along these shores. Folks with local knowledge are doing well drifting live eels or tube & worming around the ledges in Woods Hole but the key there is "local knowledge". Boat traffic is heavy the current runs fierce through the Hole and those ledges are known hull-eaters if a boat wanders into the wrong place. Fog and nighttime make Woods Hole an extremely dangerous area to wander around in so have a care if you're thinking of giving it a try.

So I guess that's my Happy Birthday to Me column for 2012 and I hope I'm around to write the "I Just Turned Three Quarters of a Century Old" version in 2013. Tight line and see you out on the water.

July 11, 2012

Farewell To You Fair Spanish Ladies

by Jerry Vovcsko

More and more the scene along the eastern end of the Cape begins to look like something lifted straight from the film "Jaws" with Chatham morphing into Amityville and folks wondering when they'll see Quint come ambling down the beach singing "farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies".

July 05, 2012

Of Teasers, Stripers and Great White Sharks

by Jerry Vovcsko

More great white sharks were spotted off the coast of Chatham last week as a spotter pilot flew over the area where seals congregate near the mouth of Nauset Inlet.

June 27, 2012

Bears and Whales and Mackerel at the Canal

by Jerry Vovcsko

Cape Cod wildlife took center stage this past week. First, a young, peripatetic black bear was captured by conservation officers and trucked away to safer digs central Massachusetts.

June 23, 2012

Jaws Returns: Where's Quint When You Need Him?

by Jerry Vovcsko

Here's one for y'all…..
Polar bear walks into a bar and sits down.
Bartender says, "What'll it be?"
Bear says, "Bacardi and.......................................................................cola.
Bartender asks, "Why the huge pause?"
Bear says, "What, these? I was born with them."

June 17, 2012

Environmental Police Seek Criminal Complaint Against State Trooper in Hunting Accident

by Jerry Vovcsko

Back in January I wrote about the Massachusetts state trooper who shot a woman while deer hunting and said I'd post about the outcome of a police investigation into the shooting.

June 13, 2012

We All Live in a Yellow Submarine

by Jerry Vovcsko

Plenty of bluefish to be had around Martha's Vineyard nowadays. Most of them on the small size but some jumbo choppers showing up on the south side of the island particularly around Wasque Rip. Devil's Bridge has been productive for stripers with a couple of plus-30s caught on parachute jigs over the past weekend. Across the Sound, the northwest corner of Robinsons Hole was a very good spot to toss live eels. There's a massive ledge in there that harbors Large bass and live eels are killer baits on a flood tide. The entire island chain is chock full of bass and the trick is to get baits or lures in close to the shoreline where the stripers hang out waiting for their next meal. These fish are constantly in ambush mode and a plug dropped on their nose will bring explosive strikes.

The Middleground continues to produce hefty fluke as well as scup and the odd sea bass. Setting up a drift along the reef will prove successful for those anglers employing a strip of fluke belly or squid. Jig and plastic combos work also and a few locals like to jig with a small crippled herring metal as they run the drift. Off the western end of the reef deep holes hold Large stripers that feed on scup and other baitfish when the tide's running. Drop a jig or a live-lined scup in one of these holes and the rewards can be impressive.

Speaking of scup, Cape Cod Bay along with the Canal are practically awash in these tasty little guys. A few folks have set up over the wreck of the old target ship, the James Longstreet, and are cleaning up on scup and black seabass. Billingsgate remains in play for the tube and worm lads and lassies and plenty of keeper bass have been taken there recently.

The backside beaches are beginning to heat up now as schools of stripers cruise the area from Chatham to P'town. Still awaiting the first reports of Great White shark sightings around Chatham which should be forthcoming soon as the seal population continues to thrive. I wonder who'll be the first genius to set up a mini-sub underwater tour that will allow tourists to view the great whites going after those fat, juicy seals. Whoever manages to set that up should make a small fortune letting visitors watch the carnage for twenty-five bucks a pop.

One of my predictions went awry again and the Miami Heat dispatched the Celtics in seven games to join my Patriots-will-win-the-Super-Bowl proclamation. I think I'll leave the Red Sox alone as maybe I'm jinxing the locals. Still, Jacoby Ellsbury will be back on the field before long, as will Carl Crawford and the pitching is beginning to look good. So just maybe…hmmmmm.

June 06, 2012

Striper Action and The Big Green

by Jerry Vovcsko

There's plenty of good fishing to be had pretty much throughout Cape Cod Bay. Striper activity near P'town has been consistently lively in an arc from Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro around to the Bay side at Herring Cove.

May 30, 2012

Stripers, Bluefish and Macs in the Bay

by Jerry Vovcsko

With mackerel still hanging around in Cape Cod Bay the striped bass population continues to whack chunk baits or whole macs with enthusiasm. Large fish have been taken from all parts of the Bay and the stretch of water between Race Point and Herring Cove is seeing lots of action these days.

May 23, 2012

Un-Glamorous Species, Maybe - But Good Eating

by Jerry Vovcsko

Sometimes we get so preoccupied with striped bass that we lose track of the other species that populate our waters. The sexy ones include giant bluefin tuna, Mako sharks, the ubiquitous codfish, the swordfish that roam the canyons, plus bluefish and the speed-racers: bonito and false albacore that will show up later in the season. But in addition to those hot-shot species, there are others that won't necessarily tip the scales at double-digit numbers but sure hold their own under the broiler or on the grill.

I'm talking about such low rent species as scup, black sea bass and tautog. If they haven't already eased into Cape waters, they'll soon show up in their usual haunts. It's pretty much common knowledge that tautog can be found in such locations as around Cleveland Ledge in the upper end of Buzzards Bay or over around the Weepeckett Islands. And scup are thick along that part of Lackey's Bay that separates Nonamesset Island from Naushon Island on the Vineyard Sound side. Heck, scup and ‘tog both can be caught right there in Woods Hole Harbor if you're willing to anchor up and brave the fierce rip that makes up as the tidal flow churns along at five knots or better.

Over in Cape Cod Bay there's always Corporation Beach, a boulder strewn area that serves as sanctuary to tautog, black sea bass and (drumroll here), lobsters! Back in the early 70s when I first moved to the Cape, Scuba diving for lobster was a new and exciting experience for me and if I can remember back that far I think the rec license cost something like fifteen bucks. Of course, reaching deep into some rocky grotto with visions of conger eels in the back of my mind took a bit of the luster off that adventure although I never did intrude on any sleeping congers. Did manage early-on to lose part of a fingertip to a three-lb lobster which led me to employ heavy gloves from then on but that was just carelessness on my part and not to be subsequently repeated.

Over in Nantucket Sound near Martha's Vineyard lies the Middleground, a lengthy reef that stretches east to west for about a hundred feet before sloping off into 60-foot depths. Fine doormat fluke will take up residence there, along with scup and the odd black sea bass. No need to anchor up there…set up a drift on the running tide and trail a jig ‘n squid strip combo (or a strip of fluke belly) along the reef and good things will likely come your way.

Nomans Island which lies just beyond the south west corner of Martha's Vineyard is a known striped bass destination for anglers who pursue Old Linesides in those open waters. Less well known are the schools of tautog and scup that carpet the rocky bottom around the former Navy bombing target. Don't go ashore there as live munitions still linger from the bombing runs of yore and one of those duds can wreak considerable damage with a careless step.

The mouth of the Cape Cod Canal at both ends, but particularly the eastern end, tends to congregate a variety of groundfish…everything from flounder to scup to tautog will linger around the jetty rocks hiding from the predators that cruise through the Ditch. Anglers will frequently appear to be trying to set distance-casting records while schools of bottom dwellers hang around the rocks right at their feet.

Yes, the Cape is a great place to pursue the mighty striper these days but we shouldn't overlook the less glamorous, but mouth-wateringly tasty fish that come into their own on the backyard grill or under the kitchen broiler. If there's something around tastier than a black sea bass grilled over charcoal and served up with a salad of fresh greens and a glass of chilled white wine…well, I haven't heard about it. So during the season take a day out here and there from the striper wars and take a shot at some of these deeper water species. Fun to catch; even more enjoyable fresh off the grill on your plate.

May 18, 2012

Fishing For the Record

by Jerry Vovcsko

To catch a record fish you would expect that everything has to be in just-so-condition to make it happen. Which is all the more reason that a Shrewsbury gent named Shane Felch's crossbow catch last month of a 46-lb mirror carp from Lake Quinsigamond seems startling.

May 11, 2012

Busting Out All Over

by Jerry Vovcsko

June is busting out all over, as the pop tune from the stage show "Carousel" tells us. And that also pretty well describes what's happening around Cape waters here in May as stripers and blues swarm in and spread out east and west of the Cape itself. Whether it's cow bass in the Canal or schoolies off Popponesset, the action continues to pick up as more and more fish arrive.

The Elizabeth Islands on both thee Sound and Buzzards Bay sides have seen stripers taking up residence for the past couple of weeks and these bass can be taken in the usual places: Quicks Hole, Cuttyhunk Island, Robinson's Hole…these are familiar names to folks who work the rocky shores of the Elizabeth chain and there are lots of fish to be had these days. One spot that's seen lively action recently is just west of French Watering Place and on down toward Robinsons Hole. Bass in the 28 to 34 inch range have moved in over the past week and are hitting plugs cast in tight to the shoreline.

I've been tossing old-school Rebels into those rocks for nearly forty years now and the fish don't seem to have become bored with these old-timey lures just yet. And when I break out thee bifocals and take a gander at the price tag on some of the newest, cutting edge plugs on the market nowadays I do a double-take just to make sure these tired old eyes haven't made a mistake about what they're seeing. I hear from some folks that the new lures are killer-effective, but I don't know that they're worth three times what some of my old favorites cost. When I see plugs on the shelf priced at thirty-bucks or more I begin to wonder if these new whiz-bangs are really worth that much dough.

Reason I ask is because at some point during the season I'll start digging around in the bottom of my ancient tackle box and haul out a beater plug that's barely recognizable as fishing tackle, it's so dinged up. And more often than not I'll catch a fish or two on that colorless, chewed up piece of junk, about the same as what I'd probably manage with the latest, holographic, streamlined, eye-catching, high-dollar creation whose acquisition puts a serious crimp in a fifty dollar bill. So I can't help wondering if the candle is worth the game and mostly I figure it's not and go on about my business tossing stuff from the five-dollar-bin near the cash register at the local bait & tackle emporium. And I catch fish. I mean, heck yes, a lot of these plugs are ancient, beat-up and just this side of worn out but then that description pretty well describes me too, so I suppose I'll just keep reaching down there in the depths of my decrepit old tackle box and continue old-school-style.

You've probably had somebody ask what's the best bait/lure to use to catch a striped bass. One fella that asked me about a few years back said he'd put in a decade pursuing Old Linesides and never caught one. Anyhow, I thought it over and said the closest to a sure-thing (if there is such a thing) would be a 3/4oz jig (I favor yellow with a little green mylar in the bucktail for flash) with a nice, juicy sea worm streaming from the hook. Lob-cast that combo into the nearest fishy-looking rip and slow retrieve it, pausing now and then to let it sink a bit before resuming the retrieve. It may not attract the biggest bass out there but if there's a striper in the vicinity, this is as close to sure-thing as I know.

Right now the stripers are cruising in from wherever they originated and we're going into that time when fishing's about as good as it gets on the Cape, and that's saying something. There are those, yes, who prefer the fall exodus when the bass are gobbling anything and everything, stoking in the calories and getting ready for the long swim home. So maybe this isn't the number one time, but by golly, it's high on the list.

Woods Hole area is a great place to get re-acclimated withMr. Striped Bass. Those ledges around the main channel are magnet locations for stripers and anybody up for drifting a live eel in and around there could wind up connected to a genuine cow bass, especially during the night hours. Just be sure either you or a fishing partner knows the underwater topography…there are some serious hull-eating boulders lurking below the surface and the tide really rips through there. Further east the ledges around Nobska Point lend themselves to the live-eel-drift method. Same warning, though...careful where you let the drift carry you…a southwest wind against the tide puts up a vicious chop and cross-currents converge here making things sketchy for small skiffs.

Beyond Woods Hole on the Buzzards Bay side, The Knob, a hilly peninsula just outside Quissett Harbor, collects stripers and blues on three sides and no matter where the wind blows in from, there's usually a wind shadow on one of those sides to fish from. Fly rodders especially take advantage of that when the breeze makes up around midday. Heading east Barnstable Harbor and the Bass River mouth offers good fishing right now along with the entire stretch of Oregon Beach, South Cape Beach and Poponnesset. The side channels around there are especially welcoming to kayakers as are the estuaries from Nobska eastward to Cotuit and Waquoit Bay.

There's more but we'll take a look at some of those next blog. Here's wishing a Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. That's a tough gig and they deserve our respect, admiration and, of course, our love and gratitude for all they do.

May 06, 2012

In The Merry Month of May

by Jerry Vovcsko

May has to be one of my favorite months. For one thing, it's when the stripers show up in Cape waters and the fishing season officially gets under way. This year's edition of the merry-month came accompanied by an assortment of interesting features, including Saturday's full moon, aka, Super-moon, Milk-moon and Flower-moon.

April 26, 2012

Boston Woman Murdered Over Fishing Gear

by Jerry Vovcsko

Maybe it's happened before but this is the first time I've heard of anything like it in all the years I've been around fishing and fishermen. A sixty-seven year old woman was murdered inside her South Boston home by a man who planned to rob her of valuable fishing gear and sell it online.

April 21, 2012

They're Here!

by Jerry Vovcsko

Oh, they're here alright. A good two weeks earlier than usual. Stripers all over the place and more on the way. Now it's more a matter of getting out there and getting your line wet than spending time and energy trying to discern what's the exact best spot to head for.

April 13, 2012

Kids Helping at the Quabbin

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's always a pleasure to see children become involved with fishing, especially when it's in the capacity as stewards of the resource. And over the past couple of weeks school children from Petersham joined state environmental officials to stock the Quabbin Reservoir with over 1,000 rainbow trout, just in time for the reservoir's open season, which began Saturday.

Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin called the collaboration a lot of wet, fishy fun and said the kids were really excited as they tossed buckets of fish into the Quabbin. And the Petersham students are not the only ones to sample the fun. This past week, school groups from Hardwick and Shutesbury turned up to help Griffin and other officials stock the Quabbin with more trout.

Each year, the state stocks over 500 bodies of water with a total of over 500,000 rainbow, brook, brown, and tiger trout from state-run hatcheries. The state has been stocking lakes and ponds since the 1880s and their work allows people to go out and enjoy the outdoors and recreate in a sustainable way. Fisheries officials labeled the stocking program as a way to get people involved and engaged in protecting the environment.

The spring stocking program, which is paid for entirely by fees associated with hunting and fishing licenses, also allows the department to educate the public about fish, environmental sustainability, and responsible recreational fishing.

Griffin said they expected to have help from about 200 school kids who will help stock the fish into the Quabbin and said further that every child involved would probably learns something about the biology of fish as well as gain information about the ponds where the fish were placed and hoped it might get them unplugged from their smartphones and iPods at least for a while.

Now that's a story that makes me feel really good. I recall when I and my family were living in Washington State and the kids were growing up, a major part of the school curriculum included the history and importance of salmon. You could ask any middle school student a question about sockeye or Coho salmon and get chapter and verse about how those fish were born on the gravel spawning beds far up streams in the back country. And how they swam downriver to the Pacific Ocean and spent the next five or six years growing into adulthood and then returning to those same spawning beds in the same streams and repeating the cycle again.

Here in Massachusetts schools are preoccupied with the infamous MCAS exams and there's little time to learn about cod, the fish that played such a huge role in our New England history, let alone striped bass, the migratory species that provides so much enjoyment to local and visiting anglers alike. And that's a shame, because it's a loss of some of our children's heritage as well.

So it strikes me that what the fisheries folks are doing with those children out there at the Quabbin Reservoir is a very good thing and maybe the program will serve as a role model to other school systems to try some innovative activities in their regions. Teaching to the MCAS test might be a way to generate some flashy test scores but much of that information will sift out of those students' heads before they even put their pencils down. Hands-on activities involving the fisheries offers learning that will last a lifetime.

Speaking of the striped bass migration, the first advance scouts are just beginning to show up in Cape waters. Temperatures in Woods Hole at the NOAA buoy registered over 52 degrees the past week. It's up to 49 degrees at the buoy in Nantucket Sound and about the same in Buzzards Bay. All of which adds up to striper season kicking off now and getting better and better over the next few days. I see it's going to hit close to 80 degrees for air temperatures Sunday and that'll bring water temps up well over the Magic Fifty-Degree mark and that means the bass will be arriving and spreading out all over the Sound and then on up into Cape Cod Bay. So break out the gear, boys; it's striper time!

Speaking of kids and fishing, here's a photo of my grandson, Zachary Vovcsko, age 8. He and his mom and dad and sister live in Florida near the Gulf side and last week he and his dad took their canoe out in one of the local estuaries and Zach caught this 26 ½ inch redfish. That evening the fish was on the grill and a fine dinner was had by all.

April 06, 2012


by Jerry Vovcsko

Looking for the bad news? Well, nothing like finding out that scientists have reviewed all the numbers, crossed all the "t"s and dotted all the "I"s and…gotten it wrong yet again.

April 01, 2012

Rumors, I Hear Rumors

by Jerry Vovcsko

Although it's true this column is being written on that infamous April 1st date, let me start by saying there's not going to be any ‘April-Fool!' knee slapper at the end.

March 27, 2012

Trout and Baseball: Spring is Surely Here

by Jerry Vovcsko

What a crazy spring this has been so far. Two days ago it's pushing eighty degrees, people swimming off the beach at Nantasket and we're grumbling about already having to start mowing the lawn here in March.

March 20, 2012

Striped Bass, Bluefish and Wahoo, Too?

by Jerry Vovcsko

Looks like it's going to be a pretty good year for mackerel as these speedy little guys are showing up in a lot of the old places that have been semi-dormant for the past few seasons. Cape Cod Bay, for instance, has been seeing pods of mackerel zipping around close to shore recently.

March 12, 2012

The Times, They Are Changing

by Jerry Vovcsko

Well we didn't need our snow shovels this year as the winter's snow accumulation could virtually be stored away in two match boxes and an egg carton it seems. But don't get rid of those shovels just yet, at least not the old-fashioned metal ones.

March 07, 2012

Tripping the LIght Fantastic Through Scorton Creek Saltmarsh

by Jerry Vovcsko

Water temperatures have already crept into the low 40s in Vineyard Sound. That's mighty early for the mercury to hit those numbers. Typically we don't see the 40s until around the end of March or maybe even early April.

March 02, 2012

Division of Marine Fisheries Dangles $$$ Bait

by Jerry Vovcsko

As Alice was heard to say during her excursion through Wonderland, it just gets curiouser and curiouser! And that seems like as good a characterization of the $500 check from the Mass Division of Marine Fisheries that showed up in one angler's mailbox as any I can think of.

February 29, 2012

The "Word" From Paul Diodati

by Jerry Vovcsko

11:00 AM, 2/2912 Thought I'd pass along this memo from the state Division of Marine Fisheries that came in via email a few minutes ago…not too sure if I'm reassured by the hypothetical questions about selling back my salt water permit not being used to modify fees for these permits.

February 26, 2012

Bass and Whales and One Strange Winter

by Jerry Vovcsko

Still think there's nothing unusual about fishing conditions this winter? Well, think again. Down Chatham way there's a gent named Dave - his last name remains known only to the folks at Goose Hummock – who brings in striped bass to be weighed at the Orleans bait and tackle shop.

February 20, 2012

Dinosaurs in the Charles River?

by Jerry Vovcsko

In an earlier blog I wrote about the state trooper over in Norton, Mass. who last December accidently shot a woman out walking her dog in a semi-rural section of town. The fifty year old trooper, a twenty-year veteran of the force, said he saw the flash of her dog's tail, thought it was a deer and fired hitting the 66-year old Cheryl Blair in the hip near her abdomen with a deer slug.

February 15, 2012

Stripers in January

by Jerry Vovcsko

Well, sports fans, the Red Sox equipment truck left for Florida spring training just the other day. That annual event usually occurs in the dead of winter when we New Englanders are hip deep in snow and wondering if spring will ever show up. But not this year.

February 11, 2012

Bear Baiting and Other Hunting Ills

by Jerry Vovcsko

Those of us who have enjoyed the various CSI shows on TV likely relish the idea of the bad guys getting their comeuppance because some ace laboratory tech pinned their DNA to the scene of the crime and put them in the Big House for a good long stretch.

February 05, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday!

by Jerry Vovcsko

Super Bowl Sunday and it seems as though every possible bit of Super Bowl trivia has been kneaded, dissected, scrutinized and chewed to a fare-thee-well on the local sports talk shows, in the newspapers and in every sports bar, corner tavern and pizza shop between Boston and Hoboken.

January 31, 2012

Competition at the The Top of the Food Chain

by Jerry Vovcsko

Not long ago I wrote about the turmoil taking place in the Florida Everglades thanks to the introduction of pythons and anacondas into the environment.

January 30, 2012

Sportsman's Show in East Bridgewater

by Jerry Vovcsko

Just an FYI for an upcoming event here in East Bridgewater...the club puts on a nice feed, lots of exhibits and activities...worth a look for anyone in the vicinity.

January 29, 2012

Slow Boat to Spain

by Jerry Vovcsko

Some days you go fishing and it turns out they just aren't biting. Well, that's okay; it happens. But what you don't expect is to find yourself in the water, swimming for your life. That's just what happened to 58 year old Scott Douglas and his brother-in-law Rich St. Pierre back in August of 2008 on a fishing trip just off Nantucket aboard Dougla's 26-foot open console Regulator, Queen Bee.

January 23, 2012

Around the Cape and the Green Mountain State

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's hard to make sense out of the weather these days. Here it is the end of January and we finally got our first appreciable snow accumulation: four inches of light and fluffy stuff. And now a day later it's in the forties where it's supposed to remain over the next week or so.

January 16, 2012

Waiter, I'll Have the Sea Bass Special

by Jerry Vovcsko

You like to think that whenever you shell out big bucks for an expensive seafood dinner that at least you can be assured of getting the kind of fish that you ordered. Well, don't count on it; that's the conclusion reporters for a major New England newspaper came up with after looking into what goes on in the restaurant industry around the Boston area.

January 10, 2012

Speaking Up For an Often Neglected Species

by Jerry Vovcsko

The more I ponder it, the more convinced I am that we anglers pay far too much attention to a few, sexy species and overlook the ones that may seem a bit obscure or even insignificant. Well, by golly, I'm here to say that maybe we need to give some of those poor, ill-treated species another look!

Now you take the hoopa-juba fish as a prime example. Barely anyone mentions them when the conversation turns to what's-the-best-eating fish? And don't for a moment think their name is going to come up in a discussion about hardest-fighting-freshwater-gamefish. Nossiree, you won't hear much about the hoopa-juba and that's a darned shame, because they are special indeed and deserving of way more respect than we've given them so far.

First of all, you've got to find them. Not an easy trick because they live in the deepest kettle ponds on Cape Cod. Those ponds were formed during the last ice age and some say the hoopa-juba was carried in and deposited by the same glaciers that scoured out those ponds. They claim the fish had been frozen in the glaciers for a million years or so and when the glaciers melted the hoopa-jubas were dumped in there as well. According to that theory, being frozen in the dark for so long they weren't used to bright, clear water and headed straightaway for the deepest, coldest part of the pond and that's why you find them there, way down deep where the golden trout live. But that's just theory and as everyone knows, I only deal with hard and cold facts, so you'll have to decide for yourself about that.

Catching the hoopa-jubas calls for specialized technique. First thing is to find an old wooden skiff that you can row out to the middle of the pond - bring along a water-auger. When you get to the deepest part of the pond take your water-auger and drill a hole straight down to bottom. Then row back to shore, hide the skiff as well as yourself in some willow bushes and while you're in there cut a thumb-thick branch about three feet long and keep it nearby.

Next, begin making noises like a mudworm. Now some folks like to bring along a mudworm-call and I have heard you can buy them at Cabela's when they're in stock or you can make your own from a fresh-cut chokecherry limb. But I don't hold with using a mudworm-call…a capable hoopa-juba angler should be able to call them up using mouth-produced sounds alone…just takes a bit of practice.

Hoopa-jubas love the taste of mudworm beyond all other baits, and when they hear those sounds they'll swim right up the hole you bored with the water-auger and when they reach the top they'll roll up into a hoop (hence their name) and proceed to roll along the surface toward shore in a veritable mudworm-frenzy. When they pass where you're hiding in the bushes you stick that willow branch through the hoop and that's how you catch ‘em. Once you've got a willow stick full of hoopa-jubas, you carry them home, coat them in a cornmeal-and-mushcake-flour mix and fry them up in a big cast iron skillet with a dollop of lard or half a scoop of bear grease. Purely delicious, that's all I can say.

If more folks get out there after the hoopa-jubas maybe they'll begin to get some of the recognition and respect they deserve. I'm hoping that's the case and towards that end I've been meaning to talk with Captain Neil here in the Noreast forum about adding a specialized hoopa-juba rod to his line of custom beauties. But that's barely in the talking stage so for now it's best to bring along a Barlow folding knife and cut your own limber willow branch. Besides, that's the more traditional approach anyhow.

Below: Land-based distant cousin of the hoopa-juba

January 05, 2012

Stray Shot by Deer Hunter Sends Woman to Hospital

by Jerry Vovcsko

Just when you think it'll be okay to take the dogs for a walk, turns out it's not. Cheryl Blair, a 66-year old resident of Norton, Mass was walking her two dogs on a wooded path earlier this week when she heard a shot and felt something slam into her side. Blair had been hit by a shot from a 50-caliber black powder rifle fired by off-duty state trooper John Bergeron who was hunting deer on the last day of black powder firearms season.

December 30, 2011

Freshwater Action on Cape Cod Ponds And A Ferry Collision in the Sound

by Jerry Vovcsko

You would think that a two hundred thirty- five foot long ferry would be pretty easy to see and avoid colliding with at mid-afternoon on a clear day in Vineyard Sound, but a commercial fisherman skippering his thirty-six foot fishing boat Mirage out of Vineyard Haven managed to run smack into the side of the cargo ferry Katama near Woods Hole last week.

December 23, 2011

December Fishing Around the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

After a brief flirtation with the precursors of winter such as the below-freezing temperatures of last week, things are more back to normal right now as the outdoor thermometer reads a mild 50 degrees, and with light breezes to boot.

December 18, 2011

Lies, Damned Lies and...Statistical Studies

by Jerry Vovcsko

Back in 2008 NOAA scientists released a report that portrayed the Atlantic cod stocks as being in pretty darned good shape overall. Which pleased the commercial lads as they anticipated increased catch allotments based on the study. But, whoops, not so fast…a controversial new study commissioned by the Feds (New England Fishery Management Council) now says that the cod biomass in the Gulf of Maine has reversed itself completely and, Shazam!, the commercial cod fishery may need to be shut down to allow the depleted stocks to recover.

December 12, 2011

Calico Lobster on Display and Pickerel On the Cook Stove

by Jerry Vovcsko

The folks at Chatham Fish and Lobster Company decided to donate a rare calico lobster to the New England Aquarium in Boston. The calico is second only to the albino lobster when it comes to rarity and visitors to the Aquarium are in for a treat with the opportunity to gaze at one of these creatures.

December 05, 2011

The Snipatuit Pike Chronicles

by The Jerry Vovcsko

With water temperature in Vineyard Sound hovering one-degree plus or minus around the fifty-degree benchmark that seems to send striped bass packing, an old angler's thoughts turn to the next best thing: freshwater fishing. And not just any freshwater fishing…northern pike as the target species!

November 29, 2011

Deer Season Opens and The Freshwater Scene Stays Active

by Jerry Vovcsko

Deer season for shotgunners opened this past week and runs through December 10th. Primitive firearms season will kick off on December 12th and stay open through December 31st so Massachusetts hunters will have lots of opportunity to put some venison in the freezer.

November 26, 2011

The Dangerous Waters of New England

by Jerry Vovcsko

Conventional wisdom says the most dangerous waters for fishermen are the ones where Alaskan crab boats ply their trade. Right up there at the top of the "most dangerous" list would be the Bering Sea and television shows such as "The Deadliest Catch" reinforce that notion.

November 21, 2011

Fall Fading Out Around the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

There's some strange sort of symmetry, I suppose, in shifting from column to blog format here on just as the 2011 striped bass season fades into Mother Nature's archives. The end of the striper season; the start of the Noreast blog-a-sphere. Far out.

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