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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 15, 2014

The Winter Doldrums

by Jerry Vovcsko

As the first half of February recedes in the rear view mirror the Cape readies itself for yet another major storm due to bring blizzard conditions and another foot of snow our way between noon and midnight tonight. This is starting to get a little old, know what I mean? Fifty mile an hour winds eliminates any potential boating activity and a foot or more of new white-stuff precludes easy access to local ponds…so what's a poor, frustrated angler to do?

Some folks will use the down time to get their gear in shape for the upcoming season: fresh line; new hooks; reels oiled, cleaned and new drag washers in place. Yep. All good stuff. Also, there's plenty of reading material to catch up with…Jim Harrison's book "Brown Dog" is a window into fishing and hunting possibilities on Michigan's Upper Peninsula; the late Phil Schwind penned the definitive work about the early days of striper fishing in Cape Cod Bay with his "Cape Cod Fisherman". And then there's anything by the late Frank Woolner, that wonderful old gent who's likely standing near the Pearly Gates showing Saint Peter how to get a little more distance out of his surf-casting gear. If for one reason or another I can't fish, these Old Timers provide the next best thing with their no-frills, voices-of-experience literary efforts. What better time to read them than on a storm-tossed mid-February evening with a fire on the hearth and a mug of Irish coffee at hand?

In other parts of the world sharks are in the news again. A man was killed by a shark last week while spear fishing with friends off the south Australian coast. The 28-year-old was part of a group spear fishing off Yorke Peninsula, west of the South Australia state capital of Adelaide, when witnesses reported seeing a shark attack him at midday, police said. Rescuers searched the area near Goldsmith Beach with boats and helicopters, but found no trace of the man. Western Australia officials announced recently that they intend to hire shark hunters to kill as many sharks as necessary to "make the beaches safe for swimmers and surfers." That doesn't strike me as sound policy, either politically or environmentally, but I suppose governments feel they have to at least appear to be taking some sort of action when their citizens are endangered.

Elsewhere, scientists have discovered a cold water reef growing in the sea off Greenland. .A cold-water coral that thrives in deep, dark water has been found growing off the shore of Greenland as a reef for the first time. A Canadian research ship sampling water near southwest Greenland's Cape Desolation discovered the Greenland coral reef in 2012, when its equipment came back to the surface with pieces of coral attached.

"At first, the researchers were swearing and cursing at the smashed equipment, and were just about to throw the pieces of coral back into the sea, when luckily, they realized what they were holding," Helle Jørgensbye, a doctoral student at the Technical University of Denmark who is studying the reef, said in a statement.

Cold-water corals have been found off of Greenland's west coast before, but never the stone coral Lophelia pertusa, and never as a reef, according to a report by the researchers published in the journal ICES Insight. A common cold-water coral, Lophelia pertusa built the reef, which is about 3,000 feet (900 meters) below the sea surface, in strong currents, close to where the edge of Greenland's continental shelf drops precipitously to the deep ocean floor. Little is known about the relationship between the reefs and other species, such as fish, but scientists think the coral reefs may serve as spawning grounds and hunting territory for redfish, monkfish and cod, among other species.

These days any positive news about coral reefs is welcome news indeed, as the usual reports have typically focused on dead or dying coral reefs in topical waters where pollution and human development have destroyed them. Perhaps the Greenland corals, located 3000 feet deep, will get a chance to survive even if they have to remain well out of sight of human presence to do so.

A month from now we'll be starting to speculate about the date of striped bass returning to Cape waters. Some folks seem to think that April brings the first migrating bass into Buzzards Bay. Maybe so, but I don't look for them much before the first week of May. Still, it helps survive the bleak winter months knowing those fish are stirring in the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay, getting ready to spawn and then set forth on their long swim north. It may be several weeks yet before there's any point in heading out to see what's what in the salt water scene, but having waited this long I can spare a little more patience on their behalf. Beside, today was the first day of spring training for pitchers and catchers at the Red Sox facilities in Florida. Season opener is March 31st…that's just six weeks until the first umpire call of "Play-Ball" summons the Boys of Summer. I'm ready; how about you?

Hope everyone had a Happy Valentine's Day.

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