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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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September 29, 2014

Autumn Comes to Call

by Jerry Vovcsko

So we lost our shot at black sea bass when their season closed for 2014 last week. And now fluke is done for as well so I guess that leaves tautog as the main bottom-fishing target the rest of this year. And that's OK because ‘tog are pretty tasty in the skillet, on the grill, or as a welcome addition to the classic bouillabaisse dish. It shouldn't be any surprise that a fish that feeds primarily on shellfish is going to have a very flavorful taste itself. And if tautog could select their own diet it would be First: green crabs and, Second, anything else that wears a shell.

Best thing about ‘tog is they're pretty much ubiquitous in Cape waters. They can be found in Buzzards Bay over around the Weepeckett Islands, up near Cleveland Ledge and even in Woods Hole channel itself especially near the massive rock ledges just off Broadway, although the fierce currents that pour through there make it a real challenge to fish from a small boat. Still, one of the constant sights on weekends throughout the summer, was the twelve foot skiff anchored up at the edge of the channel with five guys Oriental hauling in scup and ‘tog, currents-be-dammed. I always figured one Monday morning I'd be reading about them under the headline "Five Fishermen Drown in Woods Hole Tragedy"… but so far their luck seems to have held.

It's not just Buzzards Bay that harbors tautog. Corporation Beach near Dennis in Cape Cod Bay has a healthy population of ‘tog and folks that fish the wreck of the James Longstreet are on familiar terms with these toothy fish. And there are some good sized specimens located on the remains of the venerable old target ship. When you can drop a line and stand a good chance of tangling with a ‘tog that registers in the double-digit weight class you're really saying something…and each summer there are at least a couple of jumbos that tip the scales past ten pounds. Again, green crabs are the preferred bait for most highliners, but seaworms, clam bellies and squid strips are known to work as well. In Nantucket Sound locating ‘tog is as simple as finding good rocky bottom structure: Nobska Light, Hedge Fence Shoal and the Middleground come to mind but any rock-strewn place will do.

Meanwhile, the Cape Cod Canal: The Canal lit up last week as schools of small baitfish moved into the Ditch and brought stripers in after them. Some Large bass found their way onto anglers' lines, including a pair of forty-pound-plus fatties. Jigging during the night time hours was one route to success and the banks of the Canal proved useful to a number of locals who specialize in pursuing bass getting ready for the migration back to home waters. Buzzards Bay would likely see more striper action but heavy winds have been making things rough for the small boat flotilla that usually pursue late season bass.

Bonito and false albacore continue to provide plenty of action for those able to get out on Nantucket Sound these days. And there are still bluefish around which is no surprise as long as water temperatures continue to hover in the mid-sixties. This a pretty good time to explore some of the estuaries along the south side of the Cape. Such places as Great Pond in Falmouth and Waquoit Bay further east harbor surprisingly big bass and offer protection from windy conditions out on the open waters of the Sound. These two estuaries are fed by the Coonamesset and Eel rivers, respectively and stripers will hang around the mouths of these rivers waiting for baitfish to emerge. It pays to work live eels around there from dusk into the night hours.

Sunday's eighty-degree air temperatures and sunshine brought out large numbers of beach goers and the parking lots was filled at Race Point. About thirty feet off from the beach a six-foot shark frolicked in the shallows. Bathers didn't seem perturbed by its presence and apparently remained oblivious to the possibility that it was a juvenile shark whose much bigger parent might just be nearby. It seems we've grown pretty blasé about the presence of creatures we once referred to as "man eaters". But one of these days I fear some random great white is going to make its presence known by dining on a visitor from Kansas or Nebraska and our casual attitudes will undergo a serious makeover. In the meantime, there are lots of bluefish feeding on mackerel in the Race Point area…an afternoon spent plug casting from boat or beach can result in sore arms indeed after battling these feisty blues.

So we're entering the last days of the 2014 fishing season around Cape Cod, and, coincidentally, Derek Jeter finished off his two-decade long career with a three game series at Fenway Park. Neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees had banner seasons this year and they're going to be hitting the golf links while others get ready for the playoffs. But they'll both be back in 2015…just like the new cycle of striped bass emerging from their spawning grounds in the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay. Meanwhile, we'll soon put away the surf gear and get ready to break out the tip-ups and power ice augers for that time when ponds and lakes freeze over and winter shuts down all but the hardiest among us. Thanks for the memories, 2014…looking forward to meeting you, 2015. Tight lines, everyone.

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