by Jerry Vovcsko
Come this July I'll be turning 79, just one year short of quadrennial status. I don't really need the calendar to tell me that…joint pains, thinning hair, multiple nocturnal trips to the loo…the years do take their toll. And I seem to spend a fair amount of time looking back over those years…ah, memories, they do linger.
I was driving through Falmouth the other day and visits there always trigger a flood of nostalgia. Passing the Maravista jetty brought back the days in the 70's when I fished the outgoing tides there with my fishing buddy, Junior. We were tossing metal slabs for bluefish on the west side of the jetty when a camo-clad dude marched out to the end of the eastern side of the jetty. He looked real spiffy in camo pants, multi-pocket jacket and a Robin Hood cap, sans feather. The burlap gunny sack hanging from his belt said here was a gent serious about his angling activities. Junior and I waited while camo-guy readied his first cast, and there it went…straight down into the rocks he was standing on…to be followed by two more just like it. We watched as he calculated the adjustments needed to get bait in contact with water. Whatever ballistic calculations he came up with led to over-compensation and bait and sinker rocketed skyward arching pretty close to straight-up. I stood watching openmouthed but Junior waved an arm skyward and shouted: "Infield fly rule."
It seemed the perfect comment for the moment.
The other Maravista jetty recollection that springs to mind took place across the street from the Nantucket Sound-side by the channel that empties into Great Pond when minimum keeper size was sixteen inches. It happened on a mid-day flood tide and I had lucked out with striped bass feeding on baitfish carried in with the current. I had a nice striper on the line when a sliver Mercedes pulled up by the bridge and a middle-aged gent hopped out, grabbed a rod from the trunk and sprinted down toward me. Now I wasn't used to seeing anglers in three-piece suits and wingtips racing along through the tidal puddles, wet seaweed and crushed quahog shells but here he came, assembling his two-piece spinning rod as he ran.
"Looks like they're hitting", he said, as he arrived and bending on a needle plug fired his first cast into the current. We took a few more stripers and then the current slowed, the stripers moved on and the action was over. Turned out my fishing companion was a lawyer and later he would handle the closing on the house I bought in Great Harbors. I figured I could trust a man who had his priorities straight and realized all else could wait when breaking fish were there to be had.
By the time I got to Woods Hole I was awash in time-travel and flashed back on the time Junior and I were catching bluefish in the harbor and had pulled dockside to boat a five-pound blue. What followed was my own fault as it never pays to get careless while de-hooking lure from blue. But I did and the fish thrashed energetically managing to flip the five and a quarter inch Rebel swimmer up against my forehead as I leaned over. Luckily the flying treble missed my eye but embedded one of the points past the barb just over the eye and I was now Siamese-twin with a frantic flapping bluefish as blood ran down my cheek and I seized the fish to keep it from doing any further hook-damage. One of the men in a boat docked next to us happened to be a professor who taught orthodontic surgery at Tufts medical school and he demonstrated real skill with his side-cutter pliers and the loop-of-mono, press-down-on-the-hook extraction technique. Junior – ever ready to offer minimal sympathy for what he regarded as googan-stupidity – picked up a can of WD-40, shot a stream of it onto the wound on my head to help staunch the bleeding and sneered "Suck it up, man, them blues are still hitting…let's go."
Yep, memories…there's nothing like them and even at my age they're still vivid.
So what's happening in the salt these days?
Well, the Canal has begun to heat up especially around the Herring Run. Keepers just starting to come out of there with increasing frequency now. And we are getting real close to the usual arrival date for stripers anyhow so it's not like we have to spend all our time chasing down wild rumors; the fish are due in about now anyway. Have to admit I haven't had much luck myself. A couple of school bass and that's about it. But, what the heck, I was checking back over my fishing logbooks from previous years and the fact is I don't seem to really get going until June arrives and I start hunting the Big Boys down along the Islands. So maybe these early season efforts are half-hearted attempts just to keep my hand in and ward off the boredom and early season frustrations.
A few macs are around now, it seems. They made a showing for a while along the west shore of the Vineyard down near Gay Head and provided great fun for a few local anglers while they lasted. Dunno what effect the recent winds will have but maybe the school will turn up again in that area. Smaller macs are hanging around the east end of the Canal and that population usually sticks around for a while. Of course, should the bluefish turn up in numbers anytime soon, say bye-bye to the mackerel.
Speaking of bluefish, a couple more under-five pounders were caught this past week but so far neither the big schools nor the jumbo blues have been sighted. Only a matter of time, though…they'll be arriving in about a week would be my guess. The surf boys have been doing okay tossing metal slabs at Poppy and along the shoals over there. For some reason, the fish do seem partial to metal early in the season. Worth a try, anyhow.
The tautog population in Buzzard's Bay appears healthy this year, if anybody could get out there in a small boat, that is, what with high winds, rain, trough seas and who-knows-what to battle against. But the rocky places from Cleveland Ledge on down to the Weepeckets at least, appear to be teeming with the bucktoothed critters. I heard one report of an over-nine pounder getting caught by a lady angler and the source is pretty reliable so it could well be.
If by some chance you're able to lay hands on some herring, and have a means to keep them alive, you may want to spend a little time drifting around the rock piles in Woods Hole, just to see if there's any big fellows lurking there yet. The Hole's a funny place and you never know until you try it. Scuba diving around there years ago I recall spotting genuine tropical species around the pier pilings. That's when I was young and stupid, of course, because later I was given to understand that you can also locate conger eels in impressive sizes around those pilings as well. And those things have about as nasty a disposition as any species around. What I was thinking poking into some of those places I'm not exactly clear about, but one thing is certain: I won't be doing that again anytime soon.
I know the calendar says it's May, but it sure doesn't feel like it. Brisk northeast winds, cold, pelting rains. The fish, however, seem to be far less bothered by the inclement weather than the fishermen. More keeper-sized stripers are being caught every day. Squid have moved into the Sound in fair numbers, and striper do savor these tasty guys. Striper action seems to have been delayed a bit this season but judging from previous years, I'd say it's about to bust wide open in Cape waters. Maybe this week coming up.
Fair is fair, so I have to acknowledge that my Red Sox marched into Yankee Stadium ready to rumble and the Yanks waxed them in the first two games of the season. So time to regroup and get back on the winning track. Play ball!