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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.

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