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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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December 30, 2015

Happy Humpback, Happy New Year!

by Jerry Vovcsko

come We are too soon old, and too late smart. (Anonymous)

Water temperatures in Nantucket Sound at the NOAA buoy…49 degrees. Pretty warm for this time of year. Usually we'd be seeing numbers around the low forties or even the high thirties by now. So I don't know if it's just another El Nino anomaly or if we're beginning to see global warming having an impact on our local climate.

Either way, it seems one juvenile humpback whale decided to celebrate the mild temps with a lively frolic in Narragansett Bay this week punctuated by midair acrobatics. The display of gymnastic leaps took place about two miles north of the Jamestown and Newport bridges. The whale was likely in pursuit of food and decide to have a little fun along the way to the delight of onlookers along shore.

Humpbacks rarely show up in Narragansett Bay and scientists speculated that the whale was a youngster that remained in New England waters for weeks after its elders left to breed in the Caribbean. The Latin name for the species — Megaptera novaeangliae — can be loosely translated as "big-winged New Englander," so maybe it's just a case of the teen-aged chickens home to roost, if whales can be construed as some sort of giant waterfowl that is.

There was a humpback spotted in New Bedford Harbor a couple of weeks ago; could be it's an itinerant adolescent roaming about looking for adventure in New England waters. Many juvenile humpbacks congregate for the winter on their mid-Atlantic grounds, off Virginia and the Carolinas, but with water temps milder than usual in Massachusetts and Rhode Island this one probably saw no reason to rush off.

In the Gulf of Maine, a favorite summer ground for the humpbacks, the mean surface temperature rose 4 degrees between 2004 and 2013. Cape Cod Bay, for example, has been stuck at 49 degrees for more than a week although readings there are normally in the low 40s at this time. As a result of the higher temperatures, many stranded turtles on Cape Cod that in other years might perish are being rescued alive.

There are still mackerel being caught in the East End of the Canal and rumors abound of random schools of macs roaming around Cape Cod Bay We also heard of a big school of mackerel off Chatham but Old Timers like to remind us that rumors and fish tales make mighty thin soup…so there is that.

It's looking like it may be a very long time before Cape Cod sees enough ice for anglers to venture onto the hard water but there's plenty of freshwater action still at hand. A bucket of shiners will bring plenty of fun when dropped around the weed beds where hungry pickerel hang out in local ponds. Peters Pond, Mashpee-Wakeby, Grews and Lawrence ponds on the Upper Cape are prime targets of choice and Cliff, Sheep, Long and Nickerson ponds down Brewster way regularly serve up pickerel, bass and trout.

The Patriots stirred up plenty of controversy by electing to kick to the Jets after winning the coin toss. That didn't work out so well for them but a win in Miami this Sunday will give the Pats home field advantage all the way throughout the playoffs. Some say that Commissioner Goodell is busy these days thinking up excuses so as not to have to be the one to hand Tom Brady the Lombardi Trophy should they win the Super Bowl. New England fans on the other hand are storing up a massive reservoir of Schadenfreude which they will be more than pleased to serve Commissioner Goodell on a gilded platter.

In any event, I want to wish readers a wonderful 2016…hope the year brings nothing but happiness and good things. For me, hip replacement surgery is on the schedule for next spring. I'm thinking it will be nice to actually walk around without looking like Peg Leg Pete or Chester from Gunsmoke.

Happy New Year everyone!

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