by Jerry Vovcsko
Good news for Chatham merchants as the sixteen foot great white shark tagged off Cape Cod last September was tracked last week passing the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach, SC approaching the North Carolina state line and heading our way. This shark was originally christened Mary Lee by locals and will no doubt provide a boost to the Chatham economy as her name turns up on T-shirts, caps and other souvenir merchandise hawked to visiting tourists when the new vacation season commences in 2013.
Recently a second tagged great white shark - Genie - surfaced off Hilton Head allowing scientists to get a definite read on this 14-foot, 2,292-pound female via tracking satellite which was installed in her when she too was tagged off Cape Cod last summer.
While scientists celebrate the shark sightings chances are the Chatham seal population isles than delighted by this news as the seals comprise the main dish on the great white's dinner menu. Here's hoping this does not turn out to be the year when some hapless tourist becomes the appetizer.
So here we are in mid-December with both air and water temperatures proving discouraging to angling activity. It's not a bad time to scout local ponds looking for anomalies that could make the difference between a skunking and a successful outing once the ice forms up and we shift into hard-water mode. For instance, here in East Bridgewater Robbins Pond is a shallow body of water with an average depth of 6 ft for its 128 acres…but just east of a small island in mid-pond there's a drop off to 10 feet and a savvy ice fisherman will set up shop right over that hole. It's a perfect spot for big bass to lurk and ambush bait swimming past overhead.
Most ponds have some sort of structure that invites an angler's attention even if the pond is new and unfamiliar to him. The folks at Mass Wildlife publish a listing of ponds with maps and details about species-in-residence, depths and access points. Now is a good time to do a little research locating and marking off these spots and printing out the maps for later use out on the ice. Abrupt changes of depth are worth noting, as are points of and that jut out into the water…currents flowing around those points will often hold baitfish and baitfish attract predators.
Mouths of creeks emptying into a pond or lake are good places to toss a lure. Fish know that food comes their way on these watery conveyor belts and they will hang around to see if something tasty might becoming their way. Especially after heavy rains or in the spring when snowmelt-out increases the flow and washes insects, worms and other edibles into the pond. Fish will gather at these food stations and veteran anglers will work their lures in and around the area.
Cod and pollock remain available for deepwater excursions but that kind of fishing is weather dependent to a large degree and lately the weather hasn't exactly been inviting. Not to see that there's nothing to be caught in the salt these days. Used to be that late November pretty much ended striper fishing until the following year. Not so these days. For one thing there's a holdover population of stripers that can be found in the shallow, muddy backwaters where the sun warms things up rapidly. Also, some scientists believe that there are striped bass stocks now based in Cape waters that reproduce in a cycle just as the Hudson River or Chesapeake fish do. That's a debatable question but many locals are convinced it's fact. Whatever an angler's stance on that might be, the fact is there are stripers to be had the year around and these over-wintering fish can be caught up inside the Cape's rivers and streams.
In the freshwater right now the ponds are producing bass – small and largemouth varieties – trout, salmon, pickerel and perch. Bait and lures have proved effective and the salmon that have been stocked recently make the fishing even more attractive as there are some big fish added to the works albeit only a couple dozen to each stocked pond. Shiners, chubs and worms are highly successful baits and some anglers also prefer fish eggs, marshmallows and even corn niblets as personal favorites. My own preference, especially if I'm food-fishing, is an eighth ounce jig with a good sized worm streaming from the hook. I fish that in the deeper pond waters and have pretty good luck in ponds where salmon have been stocked. The trick is to slow-retrieve if casting or slow-troll down deep to tempt one of the big ones.
Right now Peters Pond in Sandwich is a favored trout location and Lawrence Pond, also in Sandwich, holds an active population of largemouth bass as well as pickerel that hang around weed beds at the eastern end of the pond. Peters Pond, as well as Sheeps Pond in Brewster, received their allocation of salmon so that's the bonus aspect of fishing either spot.
Now, on to more disappointing matters…my beloved Patriots ran into a buzzsaw in the form of the San Francisco 49'ers and fell just short in their comeback attempt after being down 31-3. But, hope, as they say, springs eternal and should they meet the 49'ers again in the Super Bowl, I think it might be a different story this time around. And speaking of sports, it's only two months until the trucks leave Fenway Park for spring training. As announcer Joe Castiglione would say: "Can you believe it?"