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. That would be the 489-lb bluefin that brought a cool $1,760,000 at a Tokyo auction over the past weekend. The Japanese, who consume 80% of the bluefin tuna caught worldwide, prize the tender pink and red meat for use in sashimi and sushi and this particular fish was purchased by the Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain.
The company President allowed that "the price was a bit high", but at $24 for each piece of sashimi on the restaurant's menu the Sushi-Zanmai folks shouldn't have too much trouble recovering their investment. Bluefin tuna stocks, on the other hand are finding it very difficult to recover from their depleted status and the pressure on the stocks resulting from these kinds of prices will not likely ease up anytime soon.
Well, we probably don't have any million-dollar fish swimming in our waters as far as I know, although I suppose our giant bluefin summer visitors might fetch a pretty penny at the dock when they are in residence. I recall back in the 70s when Japanese buyers carrying a satchel of cash would shell out big-bucks for prime specimens, have them packed in ice in aluminum "coffins" and flown non-stop to Japan markets.
Those were the days when local anglers cowboying-around in 20-ft open console skiffs would be out chasing the giants…and now and then catch and land one hitting the fishy lottery-jackpot in the process. Most of the hopefuls went fishless and some ended up in the water when their under-sized craft capsized and foundered. Fortunately, those days are pretty much behind us as tightened regulations and fishery requirements have established a saner approach to pursuit of the giant bluefins.
Our local rainbow trout may only be worth a buck ninety-five or so on the open market but, hey, we have a lot of fun catching them and our local ponds contain plenty of them as well as brook and brown trout and even some large and tasty broodstock salmon that the folks at Mass Wildlife deliver in the spring and fall. So we're more than willing to settle for these tasty critters even though they're not going to improve the status of our bank accounts or 401k's.
And right now the trickiest part of filling our creels has to do with the recent weather fluctuations where one minute we're looking at single-digit temperatures and the next minute there's a stretch of plus-forty degree days in the offing. That's about where we stand right now. There's plenty of ice on the lakes and ponds in the western part of the state especially out around the Berkshires. Anglers out there have been dangling shiners and chubs through three or four inches of solid ice but here on the Cape most of the ponds are half-frozen and likely to lose what thin, frozen coatings have formed over the past few days.
Still, there's decent access to be had at some of the larger bodies of water such as Peters Pond in Sandwich; Mashpee-Wakeby on the Falmouth line; Wequaquet Lake in Barnstable and the like. Artificial lures have given way to live bait for the most part although those who favor PowerBait presentations continue to have decent production for their efforts. Ponds and lakes that have pickerel and pike populations are especially productive these days as those carnivores become active and hungry in their chilly habitats. The Oxbow, just off the Connecticut River near Northampton delivered a 21-lb northern pike to a lucky angler last week. That's one big fish, folks. The Quabbin has some ice cover also but recent warm weather makes fishing there an iffy proposition.
Northern New England offers solid ice cover as it's been cold lately up in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. There's also been considerable snowfall up that way as well so plan to do a little shoveling before putting the old ice augers to work. And, of course, this week sees the New England Patriots taking on the Houston Texans in the annual quest for the Super Bowl. The Pats put a hurting on the Texans last time around; the game may be a little tighter this time but All-Word tight end Rob Gronkowski is back in action so we Patriot fans feel pretty good about our chances. The beat goes on.