by Jerry Vovcsko
My New England Patriots redeemed themselves with a win in Minnesota Sunday but sure got their heads handed to them the week before in Miami. Reminds me of those high school Saturday afternoons at Richfield Springs in upstate New York when we went at it with our chief rival Cooperstown. We'd slug it out on the gridiron in the afternoon and then meet later that night at the Brass Lantern in Schuyler Lake, a one-store intersection halfway between the two towns. The Brass Lantern was a bucket-of-blood bar room where we could drink without getting carded because Henry, the owner/bartender, was usually three sheets to the wind by 11 o' clock and less than conscientious about checking IDs.
Regardless of who won the afternoon game, the real battles played out that night as players from their respective schools shipped aboard excessive wet goods then fired insults and taunts across the crowded bar. Before long trash-talking turned to fists-flying and eventually the mob spilled out into the blacktopped parking lot to continue the manly art of beating the hell out of each other while too drunk to stand without leaning on some other inebriate.
Sometimes we didn't even make it outside and I can recall a time or two trying to brush something off my cheek and discovering it was the floor. Yeah, that was football as we played it…Old School style.
Closer to home, though, those of us who once-upon-a-time indulged in Saturday night fisticuffs to satisfy the urgings of excessive testosterone levels, nowadays set forth to do battle with the wily denizen of local waters…the striped bass, the bluefish, the bonito and the albacore. Though we outweigh these fishy opponents by a factor of something like thirty to one, to hook up with a ten pound bluefish is to come away with aching forearm muscles and a healthy respect for the blue's willingness to slug it out, size disparity notwithstanding.
And double-digit blues are not all that difficult to locate right now. The mild days and chilly nights we're experiencing now are the first reminders that fall is lurking just around the corner. That means the migration is not far off and stripers and blues will soon begin taking on calories for their long journey home. It used to be that an angler in search of jumbo bluefish need only head the backside of Martha's Vineyard to Wasque Rip and have at it with big swimming plugs or metal slabs. But winter storms over the past few years rearranged Wasque right out of existence and it takes a little more effort to locate the big ones nowadays.
A good place to start would be the Cape Cod Canal. Everything that swam north last spring will be heading south soon and most of these fish will pass through the Canal on the way out of town. Ideally, anglers looking to tangle with the resident Large will have been savvy enough to save up some whole or chunk mackerel for bait. Catch the half-hour intervals at turn-of-tide when currents slack off enough to allow baits to sink deep and, chances are a hookup will be forthcoming.
Come the evening hours, a live eel drifted down deep should bring good results. Often there will be an Old Timer or two working a rigged eelskin in among the rocks and these guys are worth watching because anyone who knows how to rig an eelskin possesses a virtual storehouse of savvy and experience when it comes to catching bass. Watch and learn.
Albies are swarming Nantucket Sound right now but they can be devilishly frustrating when it comes to trying to draw a strike. When they're around I keep a rod at hand pre-rigged with a metal slab – usually a Hopkins or small Kastmaster – featuring a bit of bucktail with a few strands of mylar flash. I can grab that rod when a pod of bait-driving albies cruise past and whip a cast a little ways beyond them and work it back on a path that intersects with where they're headed at some point. And when one hits it's Katy-bar-the-door because that first run is a not to be forgotten line-stripper. Best bet right now is around the Woods Hole Harbor/Nonnamesset Island area on over toward Hyannis and the mouth of the Bass River.
Groundfish action got a little less rewarding as the season for black sea bass ran out as of September 15th.
Those tasty critters sure do please the palate even though they're real pains to clean and prepare what with the tiny pin bones that need to be plucked out individually with tweezers or pliers. It's worth the effort, though, when a crispy-skinned sea fillet bass plunks down on your plate with a side of roasted potatoes and a serving of tangy slaw…doesn't get a whole lot better than that.
So, yeah, the fish are around right now, bass and blues…but this is the part of the season where time seems to accelerate and it won't be long before they're all heading off for home waters leaving us to wonder if it's too soon to break out the ice fishing gear. Guess we better get out there and do some business while business is still being done.
Oh, and about that drinking/fighting stuff I mentioned in the beginning? A pretty good writer name of Kurt Vonnegut said as we grow up we drink less because we don't want the police to revoke our puberty by taking away our license. I think he was on to something there.