by Jerry Vovcsko
Windy conditions lately have made Vineyard Sound a rough proposition for boat fishermen. Seems even when things are fairly calm in the early AM by afternoon that old sou'west wind begins to hum and navigating in a three to four-foot chop becomes a regular event. Still, discomfort notwithstanding, the fishing's been pretty good on the south side of the Cape.
Of course, it helps if you're fond of bluefish, either for cooking or for eating. Because Cape waters are seeing as many bluefish around these days as I can recall reaching all the way back to the mid-seventies. There are so many, in fact, that it scares me a little bit. Folks tend to forget that historically bluefish have appeared and disappeared on a cyclical basis. In fact, up until the thirties or forties they weren't to be found locally. The old timers of that era talked about the bluefish blitzes that they recalled around the turn of the century, but their stories were written off as the meanderings of feeble old minds. And then the blues returned.
And now we take for granted that they'll always be around, and in huge numbers to boot. Anybody who thinks along those lines would do well to read John Hersey's book, "Blues"…it's a great winter read, and it chronicles the vanishing bluefish phenomenon. What's scary about those disappearances is that typically they lasted for a couple of decades or longer until the fish returned. So keep that in mind when you're cursing over a lost plug or two that got consigned to the choppers of a ten pounder out there around Nobska, or because you lost half an eel down around Quick's Hole. From what Hersey writes, it seems that bluefish become much more appreciated a year or two after they've disappeared from local fishing grounds. Might be we'd do well to treat them with a little more respect while they're still around.
While the blues seem to own the top layer of the water column, striped bass appear to have taken up residence on the bottom, the bigger ones anyway. Tube and worm aficionados are doing business along the Middle Ground and in tight to the rocks along the Elizabeth Islands. Island fishing calls for very specific and detailed local knowledge. Doesn't do a lot of good to pull a worm through the water if you're a hundred yards out from shore, but you get in close along Naushon, Pasque and Cuttyhunk and you stand a very good chance of finding a damned big hull-eating rock with your boat. That's why local anglers regularly take big fish out of that spot while weekend skippers get shut out in the same area…a few feet in close to the rocks can make all the difference. If you don't know you're way around in there, try to find somebody who'll take you with them who knows it rock by rock. And when you get that chance start keeping track of where the rocks are located and where you can safely fish, and on what stage of the tide you can do that.
When we were teens we mostly hung out on the same street corners all the time. Why? Because that's where we knew the girls would be passing by. Same with the fish, except with them it's food, not females, they're after. And that's where you want to put your rubber tube with that juicy seaworm trailing from the hook…right in front of their noses. The old timer who taught me to fish the tube and worm showed me a trick that worked then and it will work today and seasons to come as long as stripers are around. You find the place where they hang out, troll past and slow your speed so the tube and worm sinks a few feet as it gets to where the fish are sitting, when you resume speed and the tube starts to come back up and head forward again, you'll get your hit just then…count on it.
In the meantime, while you're still figuring out where the rocks are and where your boat can safely go, why not break away for a bit of action when you see birds working over feeding bluefish? If you don't want to lose your expensive lures keep a spare rod loaded with some beater plug that you've rigged with a single hook. And to make it even easier to release a frantic blue, crimp the barb. Keep a couple for the grill and toss the rest back; it's fun and, besides, history tells us they won't always be around, so why not enjoy them while they're here.
Those of us who live and die following the fortunes of our local sports teams were particularly interested in the results of the recent baseball draft. The Red Sox, picking at number twelve in the first round, chose Jason Groome, a 17 year-old, 6'6" left hander fresh out of high school who throws a baseball 97mph (high heat) and loves to fish. In fact, he's part of the high school fishing club, said Dan McCoy, Groome's coach at Barnegat HS in New Jersey. Well, young Jason may have spent some time fishing for stripers and blues off the New Jersey coast but he'll have a chance to do some serious fishing here in the striped bass mecca of the northeast. Welcome to Red Sox Nation, Jason.
Bluefish action was at peak levels off Cotuit and around the Waquoit jetty in Vineyard Sound. Also, some jumbo blues were smacking metal slabs off South Beach, Poppy and Oregon Beach early in the week. Same thing around Nobska and over along the Woods Hole channel. These were smaller blues in general but perfect for the grill.
Striper action on the south side of the Cape seemed sporadic but a 39-pound bass was taken from the surf at Martha's Vineyard and weighed in at a local tackle shop. That's a nice fish by anybody's standards and one of the biggest I've heard about so far this season. The rips around the east side of the island have been productive this week and the Middleground shows signs of heating up as well. Much of the striper action on the west side of the island has been on schoolie bass.
Water temperatures in the Sound and Buzzards Bay have crept into the low sixties and that seems to have motivated bass and blues alike to be more aggressive these days. The Canal saw robust early morning topwater action mid-week delivered keeper-size bass to anglers fishing the night tides. As always in the Ditch, the key is to get jigs down deep on the slack tides keeping in mind the advice of savvy locals: If you ain't losing a few jigs to snags, you ain't fishing deep enough.
Over on the Cape Cod Bay side, Barnstable Harbor saw lots of striper action with schoolies for the most part and the Brewster Flats had some bigger bass taken on ebbing tides by anglers tossing plugs along the edge of the flats. This weekend should be just about perfect weather assuming the winds don't kick up too much. Game on, people…game on.