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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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July 25, 2014

Rabid Foxes and Fish Sanctuaries: Just Another Day in New England

by Jerry Vovcsko

First it was problems at the parking areas near Race Point in Provincetown as visitors insist on feeding coyotes and park Rangers warned about the public making close contact with wildlife as rabies are often an issue. Now residents of Newbury and Newburyport are being told to keep a close eye on their children and pets after two recent rabid fox attacks.

Board of Health officials say a 60-year-old resident was attacked by a fox that suddenly appeared from the woods last weekend. That fox was caught and euthanized. A few days earlier a woman in the same area was attacked. Both women quickly sought medical attention and while it's not certain that it was the same fox, the many similarities in the attacks point in that direction.

Police told local media that they have received multiple sightings recently of raccoons and foxes that might be infected with the deadly virus. The Board of Health is asking residents to make sure pet rabies vaccinations are up to date and to keep a close eye on pets and children.

A recent story in the Boston Globe reminds readers that "for thousands of years, the jagged rocks of a submerged mountain range about 80 miles off the coast of Gloucester have preserved one of the region's most distinct marine habitats. The frigid waters and glacier-sculpted peaks are home to a billowy kelp forest and an abundant array of life, from multicolored anemones to cod the size of refrigerators."

That place is Cashes Ledge and for hundreds of years fishermen recorded massive hauls of cod, pollock, and other groundfish. But about a decade ago, in an effort to bolster declining fish stocks, regulators cordoned off 550 square miles of the area, making it one of the largest fishing closures from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia.

Now the New England Fishery Management Council, which oversees fishing issues in the region, is considering reopening some or all of the area to trawlers. Not surprisingly this has seriously pissed off environmental groups who worry about the impact on the ledge's unique biodiversity and the risk of damage to the already decimated cod populations.

Fishermen claim the closure is no longer necessary because a quota system now caps the amount of each species that fishermen can catch each year. They also say the closure likely causes more damage to the environment than allowing fishing in Cashes Ledge because fishermen spend more time raking the seabed with their dredges and nets in areas where it's harder to find fish. If they were allowed into waters where there are ample amounts of cod and Pollock, they could speed up their catch, burn less fuel, and earn more money, they say.

The council will hold public hearings in the region this summer and will vote on lifting the closure this fall. Its members will look at four options, starting with one that would permit fishing throughout the entire 550 square miles and ending with one that would maintain the status quo.

It's likely few will be completely satisfied by the final decision but the council has been receiving heavy pressure from the various stakeholders and it's a good bet that some changes will be made; the question is, to what extent? Typically, when these opposing constituencies get together at these kinds of meetings, it often deteriorates into what sounds like Bingo-Night at the Tower of Babel. Maybe this one will be different and folks will actually try to reach a workable compromise….or maybe not.

The Canal has been seeing increased early morning action these days and much of that has been top water action with needles and darters the favored plugs. It's mostly school sized bass but the occasional keeper turns up now and again. Bluefish show up from time to time but mostly individual fish, not the pods that continue to cruise Vineyard Sound. A 12 pound blue took a chunk of mackerel near the east end this week and probably contributed a fillet or two to the lucky angler's grill.

First reports of bonito over around the Vineyard surfaced a few days ago and that's always good news for anglers who crave the reel-screaming runs these mini tunas make when hooked. They and their false albacore brethren provide great action as the season hits the mid-point in our waters and tilts toward the downhill run to the fall migration.

Unfortunately, as the bonnies and albies begin to show up locally, the bass fishing slides into the dreaded doldrums and stripers become considerably harder to find. Best bet now is to cruise on down the Elizabeth Island chain and work the tides in Quicks Hole, Robinsons Hole and around the Cuttyhunk shoreline on both the Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay sides. It's a good idea to stock a couple dozen or so live eels on board as there are days when the stripers turn up their fishy noses at artificials but continue to smack a feisty live eel just on general principles. There are a number of theories why stripers will attack an eel but from what I've read it seems likeliest that the eels prey on striper fingerlings and the bass, particularly the females, take issue with having their young preyed upon.

A few miles south of Nantucket gets anglers into tuna-territory and further south bring boaters into the realm of the deep Canyons and this year the actions started with a bang as one boat caught and released a twelve foot marlin near Veatch canyon. East of Chatham, Bluefin tuna show up from time to time and a couple of those Big Guys have already been caught this year.

In the estuaries along the south side beaches between Woods Hole and Waquoit, snapper blues and mini-stripers can be taken of light spinning gear and there's no better fun than to take a couple of small children along and let them enjoy a fish-catching bonanza by drifting small pieces of seaworm in the currents around these warm, sheltered inlets. Cast a worm into the shadows around moored boats and there's a good chance school sized stripers will take a whack at it. It's a twofer as the fish is hooked and the child finds his/herself hooked on fishing, sometimes for a lifetime.

Two pretty good locations for anglers out for fluke include the area around the mouth of the Bass River and, further west, the Middleground. Scup and black sea bass can be picked up around the Woods Hole/Lackey's Bay area and sea bass continue to reward anglers fishing over wrecks such as the James Longstreet in Cape Cod Bay. Billingsgate Shoal continues to deliver stripers to folks working tube and worm in the slot and around the edges. Locals employ a slick technique by making a turn that puts their tube& worm rig over the deeper holes and then slowing boat speed to drop the rig down to those holes. Time it right and it's a killer technique for big, lazy bass that lurk in the holes waiting for something to drop by for an ambush…it works also at the western end of the Middlegound where holes at the sixty-foot depth level hold lunker bass as well.

There were reports of stripers feeding in the surf on the south side of the Vineyard last week but a person can do a lot of walking and still end up skunked as bass become very fickle this time of the season. Nevertheless, it's worth a look for boat fishermen roaming around Cuttyhunk who want to change up their location and try a few new spots. Maybe take a shot at where Wasque Rip used to make up…maybe the fish will be drawn back there based on their own memories of the good-old-days when the rip featured a four-foot standing wave and churned up baitfish like an epileptic washing machine.

This the time of the year that separates the real anglers from the wannabes…early in the year, back in May and June, the bass are newly arrived hungry and relatively easy to catch. Now it takes some skill and determination to get a hookup and land a keeper. But that's why it's important to accrue experience when it comes to fishing…after a while an angler develops a feel for where the fish might be. Instead of just tossing a lure anywhere and hoping for the best, experience whispers "Over there, just at the head of that rip making up by those rocks…work it slow at an angle to the current."

That's the way a wannabe gradually becomes an angler… and that's how we figure out who's cook and who's the potatoes.


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