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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 24, 2016

Of Elvers, Pike and A Deep Bullpen

by Jerry Vovcsko

What can you say about a Saturday that features windchill temperatures down to -34 only to be followed by 55-above temps the following Tuesday? After extensive pondering, ruminating and consultation with the Ouija board, my considered analysis leads me to conclude: I have no idea what the hell's going on.

What I do know is it's dammed difficult to figure out whether to bring a bunch of tip-ups to the pond in hopes of finding solid ice thanks to those minus-temps, or haul the kayak and my freshwater spinning gear along with me trusting those fifty-degree days to provide enough open-water to take a shot at local trout, bass and pickerel populations. Schizophrenic weather conditions don't make it easy to plan.

They'll be stocking the ponds and lakes locally before long and the trucks will be rolling to such destinations as Peters Pond in Sandwich; Sheeps, Long and Cliff ponds in Brewster; Barnstable's Wequaquet Lake and a host of other locations in southeastern Massachusetts.

In the past, such species as trout, salmon…even tiger muskies were fed into the ponds but the Wildlife folk haven't been including salmon for a while now and angler have had to chase after the more wily critters that have survived in the wild for a few years. On the plus side, some of those fish have reached impressive size and make worthwhile trophies when coaxed to swallow bait or lure.

Of the more accessible Cape destinations, Peters Pond, Mashpee-Wakeby, Lake Wequaquet and some of the larger bodies of water are worth a look right now. For one thing, all hold pickerel populations and even when nothing else is biting those toothy guys can make for an exciting day on the water. Additionally, Wequaquet holds some mighty fine double-digit size pike. A strike from one of those is an experience not to be forgotten.

Speaking of pike, off-Cape Snipatuit Pond in Rochester offers major league pike grown fat over the years on a plentiful supply of panfish, frogs, small animals and the occasional Big Mac remnant tossed in by boaters unable - - or unwilling – to consume anymore fast food delight. And out toward Central Mass there's the Connecticut River below Northampton where some genuine lunker northerns cruise the river in search of prey. The section of the river known as The Oxbow used to be the destination of choice for pike anglers but the river meandered off in search of a different path leaving the Oxbow more lake-like and marshy. Still, the river is home to pike well upwards of twenty pounds and remains a good source of these toothy fish.

Meanwhile, it appears lawmakers in the state of Maine are looking to change the restrictions on the baby elver fishery to give fishermen a better chance to catch their entire quota. A legislative committee recently approved a plan to extend the season by a week and allow weekend fishing, as opposed to the current limitation to five days per week. The baby eels are sometimes worth more than $2,000 per pound at the dock but fishermen must abide by a strict quota system that limits the state fishery to 9,688 pounds per year, and they caught only 5,242 pounds of elvers last year.

Fishermen attributed the slow season to a cold spring, which state regulators said slowed the migration of elvers in the rivers and streams where they are caught. The baby eels, called elvers, are sold to Asian aquaculture companies who raise them to maturity for use as food, and they frequently end up in sushi and sashimi. Elver fishermen have spoken in favor of the changes, which they said will allow them to make the most of the brief elver season, which is scheduled to begin March 22 and end May 31. The proposed changes now go to the full legislature, which could vote on it by the end of the month. The proposal also provides more flexibility in the type of gear fishermen can use to catch elvers.

We're about two months out now on the arrival of striped bass in our waters to begin the 2016 striper season. Water temperatures sit down in the mid-thirties right now in Nantucket Sound and we won't begin to see any real action until those temperatures hit fifty degrees and higher. Meanwhile, as the sun lingers longer and air temps climb into the fifties and sixties on a regular basis we'll be able to target some of the holdover stripers that emerge in early spring in the shallow creeks, rivers and estuaries around the Cape.

Such places as Scorton Creek, Bass River, Waquoit River and others provide early season action and kayakers have a good chance to score on stripers just shaking off their winter lethargy. Look for shallow, mud bottomed, fast warming places and work baits or lures slow, slow, slooooowly in order to give the fish a chance to grab a meal without expending too many calories in the chase.

Baseball season is just around the corner. The Red Sox appear to have a deep pitching staff for a change and if lefty David Price is as good as they say he is, Red Sox Nation won't have to suffer through another last place finish. Play ball!

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