by Jerry Vovcsko
The trick-or-treat weather we've experienced lately has really made it tough on the salt water scene what with high winds and rough seas keeping anglers pretty much shorebound. There's been sporadic activity along the Cape Cod Canal but that's always hit or miss and lately it's been pretty much all miss. A few mackerel blitzes kept the action revved up last week but that's about played out and the schoolie size stripers that were hanging around the last week of November have also disappeared.
Still, there's lots of good fishing to be had while we wait for the thermometer to plunge and the ice to form on local ponds. There have been credible reports of striped bass being landed up around Boston Harbor (can you believe it?) and some of those reports mention double-digit weights for these late season fish. Laugh it off if you will, but keep in mind what we saw last year when striper fishing morphed into a year-around deal and Old Linesides was still here when January and February rolled around. The NOAA buoys in Nantucket Sound and Buzzard Bay show water temperatures in the mid-forties and we're coming up on Christmas and New Years so wetting a line for stripers is not out of the question especially in the warmer, shallow backwaters and estuaries of the Cape.
Deep water anglers have cod, cusk and pollock to pursue and tautog continue to lurk among the rocky nooks and crannies that comprise bottom structure in our New England waters. The Canal, for example, is basically seven miles of boulder-strewn bottom so there's always a chance to tangle with a ‘tog in there and we all know striped bass are also known by their rockfish sobriquet so trying a little jigging-action isn't as weird as some might say this late in the season. Just remember to take it slow and easy because these fish aren't in any hurry to frivolously expend calories in pursuit of a meal; they'd way rather munch on something that came their way with a leisurely inhale.
Now when it comes to freshwater action things are looking very good indeed. To start with, many of our ponds scattered end to end in Massachusetts hold ample pickerel and even pike populations and these toothy critters are not only feisty on the end of an angler's line, but darned tasty in the skillet too. A trip to Central Mass, say, over around the Connecticut River in Northampton offers the possibility of a plus-twenty-lb giant if an angler's lucky rabbit's foot happens to be working.
The Swift River is a trout fisherman's dream location and the Quabbin Reservoir is home of some of the biggest lake trout this side of the Great Lakes as well as a plethora of other species. Closer to home, Cape ponds such as Mashpee-Wakeby on the Falmouth/Mashpee line; Peters Pond in Sandwich; Long, Cliff and Sheeps Pond in Brewster…we're talking very fishy waters indeed. Trout, salmon, bass, perch, pickerel…there's plenty to pick from and most of these places are sheltered from winds that might make the saltwater a little too ominous to venture out on.
An old Central New York fishing partner of mine used to coax perch, sunfish and rock bass into shoreline proximity by an early-morning visit to the same spot on Otsego Lake for about five or six days in a row. He'd dump a cup of Quaker oats into the water and let the wave action spread it around. By the end of the week the panfish would be lined up like so many Black Friday shoppers at the local WalMart and he'd proceed to drop a worm-baited hook into the finny crowd and capture enough of the hungry critters to supply two week's worth of breakfast protein. Not very sporting, for sure, but old time meat fishermen were known to cut a few corners now and then. Point is, panfish may not be very sexy targets for high-powered sport fishermen but they're darned good eating and fun to catch besides, especially if you go after them with, say, two pound test on a mini rod/reel setup.
My best-bet suggestion for the upcoming week? Snipatuit Pond, a shallow, weedy little puddle of water in Rochester just off-Cape a little ways. They've got a well-established Northern Pike population in there and these fish will teach you what a "savage" strike is all about. Troll with metal slabs or jointed Pikie minnows or drift live chubs for a shot at a lunker pike. This place is a kayaker's delight.
The Patriots go up against the 11-1 Houston Texans on Monday Night Football. I have a hunch the Pats are going to lay the wood to the Texans and maybe surprise lots of folks…not me, though, I know they're good (and getting healthy just in time for the playoffs.) Might just be another Vince Lombardi trophy coming to New England…time will tell.