by Jerry Vovcsko
"Scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service say the great white shark population in the Northwest Atlantic appears to be on the mend thanks largely to a prohibition on landing these huge predators"
That observation accompanied a story that was out on the AP newswire last week. And ecologically it's good news even though California surfers, swimmers at Australian beaches and, of course, the seals cavorting around Chatham beaches the past few years might be less than pleased.
The great white shark population hasn't always been in such great shape, especially in the 70s and 80s when a robust commercial and recreational shark fishery pushed the numbers into a sharp decline until 1997 when a ban on landings of great whites was put into effect.
Some scientists are now wondering if that's what it will take to rehabilitate other depleted populations such as Atlantic cod, river herring and Bluefin tuna. Problem is, those who fish for the latter species have far more defenders –and highly vocal ones - who make their living in these fisheries. Closing them down would not be without serious political consequences.
That having been said, folks hoping to do a little fishing in Massachusetts this year will have an easier time buying and displaying recreational licenses and permits. The Department of Fish and Game has announced that the state's licensing system is now mobile-friendly, making it possible for people to quickly obtain licenses and permits using mobile devices such as iPhone and Android smartphones.
The first phase of the project gives customers the ability to use smartphones to obtain saltwater fishing permits, freshwater fishing licenses and trapping licenses. Hunting and sporting licenses are not available for purchase using mobile devices at this time, but the department says they will be available for sale via mobile devices later on in the year.
A new electronic signature will allow customers to download the licenses and permits to their mobile devices without having to print and sign the documents. Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island will share $32.8 million in disaster relief funding for communities suffering severe economic losses because of declining fish populations. The funding is part of $75 million being sent from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to affected fishing communities around the country. The specific amounts for each state have not been determined yet.
There was considerable news coverage recently about Joseph Vaudo, the owner of the Sandwich fish market who pleaded guilty to receiving stolen oysters at his store.
He had his first hearing before the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals where he is fighting an effort by the state Department of Public Health to revoke his license to operate Joe's Lobster Mart on the Cape Cod Canal. Vaudo's lawyer says his client has been "punished sufficiently" and publicly "embarrassed" and should not lose his license to sell fish at his Sandwich market.
John Kiernan, the Boston-based attorney representing Vaudo, told the hearing commissioner he intends to make a "double jeopardy argument." Vaudo paid a $6,250 fine for pleading guilty in the criminal case at Barnstable District Court to charges of receiving stolen property, willfully misleading police during an investigation and failure or refusal to file required statistical reports of wholesale and retail dealers. Vaudo has been in business 43 years and employees 20 people, Kiernan said. Both fishermen and other fish retailers depend on Joe's Lobster Mart as a "known and trusted" source, he said. Revoking Vaudo's license would have an adverse economic impact, Kiernan said. A full hearing, which will include witness testimony, is scheduled for September 4th.
The Canal continues as a hit or miss proposition although a recent influx of mackerel has brought a number of stripers into the east end and some of these bass reportedly were in the twenty to thirty pound range. The rips on the back side of Nantucket saw a mix of stripers and blues chasing baitfish in the churning currents. Problem there is weather conditions dictate if or when small boats can operate in and around those rips.
The Vineyard Sound side of the Elizabeth Islands has been active and productive the past couple of weeks. The stretch of shoreline from Tarpaulin Cove down to Robinsons Hole rewarded anglers who began tossing plugs at first light with catches of keeper-sized stripers with some plus-twenty pound bass taken around the northwest corner of Robinsons over the weekend.
The Middleground also produced some nice stripers to folks drifting live scup along the reef. The Middleground has long been a prime target for anglers in search of doormat fluke. An east to west drift is the direction de jour and squid strips or fluke belly are as effective a bait as any…some folks prefer to cast junebug-type spinner rigs or bucktail jigs (green or golf mylar threads in the deer hair are favored) and do well for themselves with the artificial versions.
Bluefish continue to cruise Nantucket Sound rounding up baitfish and triggering feeding frenzies that bring terns and gulls swooping down to dine on the flying scraps of bait that get churned up in the melee. Catching blues is only a matter of being nearby when the blitz is under way and tossing anything with a hook into the middle of the watery chaos. But casting beyond the frenzy with a Kastmaster or other metal slab, letting it sink deep and retrieving slowly can reward a patient angler with a Large striper, one of the Big Boys who lurk down below lazily dining on the chopped up pieces of baitfish that sink beneath the mass of bait-and-bluefish churning around on the surface.
Lively striper action continues up at Race Point in Provincetown and sand eels are the preferred offering by surfcasters and boaters alike. Most of these fish seem to fall into just-below or just-above keeper size and they stick around throughout the day although the best times are early morning and dusk-to-dark.
Anglers fishing around the Truro beaches got a look at a body pulled from the ocean near Peaked Hill Bars where a swimmer apparently got into trouble and drowned. The Coast Guard launched a small boat out of Race Point but the swimmer had already been pulled ashore and CPR begun without success. Just a reminder that the sea can be a dangerous mistress.