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. Take for example, last fall, when the scientific types who study the species found major errors in a federal analysis that three years before had shown the local cod stock was healthy and regenerating. Now, however, the most recent assessment estimates there were only 26 million pounds of adult cod in the Gulf of Maine in 2010, about 19 percent of what scientists say is necessary for a healthy population. Based on these new numbers, the folks at NOAA decreed last week local fishermen could catch no more than 14.8 million pounds of cod in the Gulf of Maine. Whoops! Sorry guys; better hang those nets up to dry and maybe try lobstering.
But if it's good news you're looking for, how about the water temperatures in Buzzards Bay? Right now they're crowding 49 degrees and that's just one digit light of the Magic-Fifty mark that switches the light to green for striped bass set to head north into Cape Cod waters and beyond.
That doesn't usually happen until about a month from now but 2012 has been a very different year on many fronts and we are on the cusp of seeing the first scouts migrating into our waters any day now, ADN. As opposed to Real-Soon-Now, aka, RSN. Kinda makes me wonder if eventually our language will devolve into initials-only, a sort of shorthand ebonics, and we'll address each other in a series of perfunctory grunts full of Ls and Rs and Es and who-knows-what…WKW.
But I digress. The main point of those water temperatures numbers is simply to remind us that we about to see stripers by the boatload swarming into our local waters and right now it appears that the Elizabeth Islands just might be lighting up at-any-moment…aka, AAM. Early in the season it's a good idea to tempt these first arrivals with bucktail jigs, plastic eels or small swimming plugs. For years I've made it a kind of tradition to take my first striper of the season with a 5 ¼ inch, blackback, sinking Rebel. It's the old school version of the popular lures of today, the Yozuris and their holographic brethren that'll set an angler back twenty bucks and up at the local tackle shop.
Fishing the islands isn't all that complicated. The secret is to work the boat in as close to the shoreline as you can manage without stoving in the hull on the rocks that litter the bottom. Cast in among all that rocky structure and go so far as to toss the plug right up on the beach and jerk it back into the water to start the retrieve. Strange as it might seem, the stripers will be found in tight to the shore and the hit will likely come within the first ten feet of the retrieve rather than further out. Don't be dismayed by putting the lure in that close; there's a pretty steep drop-off that offers plenty of depth for lurking bass to ambush whatever you toss in there.
It's worth taking a few moments to check out drift-direction so as to set up the boat position that ideally lets you maintain a pattern paralleling the shoreline for as long as possible in order to get maximum coverage of the target area. If you're feeling especially adventurous you might try working the same area using live eels. They can be a pain in the rear when it comes to keeping them swimming and away from holing up in some rocky crevasse or weedy entanglement. But get an eel in among those boulders along the islands and it can bring amazing results , including perhaps a fine cow bass to start your season on a good note.
We're awfully close now…spring is here, the stripers are on the way and as our friends in New Orleans would say: Laissez les bon temps roulez! Let the good times roll...LTGTR! Real soon now...RSN.