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. There may be some of those vagrant eddies from the Gulf Stream to account for that differential but either way, it's still pretty chilly in local waters these days. Judging from current weather forecasts, though, we have a string of days coming up with air temperatures in the mid to high forties so we might just be at that early-March turning point where water temps begin to trend upward and local anglers commence thinking about an arrival date for the this year's striped bass migration.
Personally, I like to stick with the end of the first week of May as the time when I can finally head for the Elizabeth Islands feeling confident that, indeed, the stripers are in residence among the rocks, boulder and ledges that line the shores of the islands from Nonamessett all the way down to Sow and Pigs Reef just off the southwesterly tip of Cuttyhunk.
Those islands were there when British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold sailed up Vineyard Sound and "discovered" them back in 1602 (naturally, the Wampanoag Indians had already been there for hundreds of years.) The islands haven't changed all that much in the interim but there have certainly been changes in the bass fishery since I first wet a line in pursuit of Old Linesides some forty years ago.
The minimum back when I started striper fishing was 16 inches and we could keep as many as we could catch; now it's 28 inches and 2 fish per angler. And a salt water license required, thank you very much. Where we were just transitioning from braided linen lines and the tin squids lures of the 40s and 50s, nowadays it's hi-tech braids, futuristic carbon fiber rods, space technology reels and holographic plugs designed and manufactured in Japan.
Electronic fish-finders, GPS devices and hi-powered boats can all but locate, catch and process the fish while the on-board angler kicks back with a cold bottle of Bud in hand and the Red Sox game on his iPad or "smart" cell phone. He knows that if something goes awry with the boat, the folks at Sea Tow (the Marine version of AAA) will have him back in port in a jiffy.
Yeah, it's a different world out there on the water now, but the name of the game is the same: Find stripers and catch them…if you can. Some do; some don't. Either way, it's a great feeling to be out there for first light and feel that jarring hit when a striper grabs your plug and your very first cast finds you hooked up and another season under way. I'll be there; hope to see you around, too.
In the category of Strange Things Where Fish Are Involved, how about the 18-year-old tropical fish named Big Blue that miraculously survived a night out of water after a robber broke into Animal Instincts Aquarium & Pet Center in Fall River last week and smashed its 180-gallon reef tank. Store owner Robert Schenck said he had no idea how Big Blue made it through the night in the half-inch of water left in the bottom of the tank but he's glad she did.
Video cameras showed a bunch of men breaking through the shop's front door around midnight (alarms didn't ring as they didn't open the doors) and stealing cash registers and a computer system. One of the men went out of his way to smash the tank containing the valuable reef fish and 25 tropical species and 40 corals from all over the world perished. Big Blue, a rare Hippo Tang, survived and Schenck has been dipping the fish into a special solution to clean and regenerate its slime coat. He says Big Blue isn't altogether out of the woods, but the staff is hopeful.
Now Schenck wants the perpetrator caught and with financial help from a customer he is offering a $750 reward for information leading to an arrest. Anyone with information can call his cell phone, he said, at 774-201-1478.
Oh, and spring is semi-officially here now that Sullivan's on Castle Island, is open and selling hit dogs to some of whom who have frequented the South Boston institution for decades. The Southie motto is: When Sully's opens you know spring is coming. And by the way, Castle Island is a pretty darned good place to fish when the striper and bluefish season gets under way. There are some very productive spots in the shadow of the old fort's walls where old timers nocturnally dunk bait and toss lures.
And know that an apocryphal legend holds that the inspiration for "The Cask of Amontillado" came from a story Poe had heard at Castle Island when he was stationed there as an army private back in 1827. How's that for ambiance?