by Jerry Vovcsko
Summer is officially here now that the first report of a great white shark sighting is at hand. Researchers from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy happened to be in the area when the shark was spotted a little ways out from Nauset Beach. The southeastern end of the Cape has become a destination resort for great whites and they show up regularly now for dinnertime frolics with the seal colony that's established itself around Chatham and Nauset.
Great whites are frequently in the news on the west coast as abalone divers and surfers work the waters where the great whites reside. Last week there was a report of a swimmer bitten by a great white near a dock where folks were fishing. We had one shark-bite event last year and odds are there will be more to come with these eating machines cruising around our waters now.
Great whites are massive animals but on a much smaller scale, another dangerous critter has turned up in our region. Scientists from the University of Massachusetts Amherst this spring detected the presence of a newly recognized disease in 12 deer ticks found on or near state residents — including six people from Cape Cod.
Its appearance is so new it doesn't have its own name, Borrelia miyamotoi is being known by the species of bacterium that causes a relapsing fever type of illness. The disease was first discovered by Japanese scientists in 1995. It was first reported in humans in Russia in 2011 and in U.S. citizens in early 2013.
"It's a Lymelike illness," said Stephen M. Rich, UMass professor of microbiology.
The disease is the fourth illness known to be carried by hard-bodied deer ticks in Massachusetts. In addition to Lyme, the ticks carry anaplasmosis and babesiosis, incidents of which have risen over the past several years. Whether cases of Borrelia miyamotoi are going up or have been here for years, undetected, isn't known just yet but it's cause for study, scientists say. Diagnosis is tricky and researchers described how two men at first thought to have anaplasmosis ended up being so sick with miyamotoi they were hospitalized. Symptoms of the illness include fever — sometimes recurrent or relapsing fever — fatigue and muscle aches, sometimes with a rash.
On the fishing scene, Hurricane Arthur scrambled things pretty well before heading on up to the Canadian Maritimes. Things had been looking good in the Canal what with schools of stripers showing up to munch on baitfish, herring and mackerel in particular. Then Arthur blew past about fifty miles west of Nantucket and all bets were off.
Even with the disruption, bluefish activity continues at a good pace and the seventy-degree waters of Nantucket Sound have made things quite pleasant for scads of baitfish to call it home in the Sound. Few things excite blues like big schools of baitfish wandering around in open waters and there have been some double digit bluefish caught around the south side of the Vineyard not far from what used to be Wasque Rip.
Lots of school bass showing up in Buzzards Bay now, although Arthur may have put the kibosh on that for a while until things settle down later this month. The islands should recover quickly as the boulders along shore provide excellent bass habitat and safe harbor from the big storm swells that rolled in as Arthur steamed past.
Cape Cod Bay continues to produce striper catches around Billingsgate, Scorton Ledge and the western edge of the Brewster Flats. The tube and worm patrol at Billingsgate pulled in couple of near-thirty pound bass and the Flats have been generous to T&W anglers doing business around dusk. Barnstable Harbor has also continued to produce and it's a good sheltered place to fish when the winds churn things up in the Bay.
The Monomoy Rips are coming into their own right now and some Large bass have been taken recently including at least one fish nudging into the forty pound range.
Race Point probably caught as much of the brunt of Arthur's effects as anywhere around the Cape. The bass that had been hanging there for weeks must have felt like they were caught in a giant kitchen blender when the storm churned past. It will be a while before things settle down along the outside beaches…and chances are, the sandbars and "holes" along the Outside have been rearranged by wind and wave, so it's worth doing some bottom-scouting at the next low tide.
We've had a few days in the 80s and 90s and the weather gurus say there's more on the way. If they're correct, we could be peering at the front end of the dreaded "doldrums", although that's hard to believe since we just emerged from spring it seems. Still, if water temperatures continue to climb, doldrums it will be, so now's a good time to hit it while the fish are still active.