by Jerry Vovcsko
Spring has sprung and bass are feistier than ever in Cape Cod ponds. Striped bass are just a couple weeks away from beginning to trickle back to the Cape from points south, a trickle that will soon become a torrent of fish swarming into Cape waters and onward to northerly destinations...New Hampshire, Maine, Nova Scotia, et al. After what has felt like a never-ending winter, it is just about TIME TO GO FISHING!
The state's Environmental Department trucks have been rolling and the ponds in southeastern Massachusetts received their annual resupply of trout so there's plenty of options available right now. Add to that the bass - both large and smallmouth version - that will soon be on the spawning beds and the next couple of weeks should provide a good warmup for local anglers as a prelude to the commencement of early season saltwater action.
Those ponds that feature water depths less than twenty feet for the most part are good choices right now and will remain so until it gets a bit warmer. Work the shallow areas for best results and keep in mind that slower-is-better when working artificial lures. Lawrence Pond in Sandwich has produced some nice largemouth catches recently with fish in the five pound range taking stickbaits along shore in the north western end. In late afternoon the sun casts a heavy shadow from the pine trees lining the shoreline and working the edge of the sun/shadow line with swimming plugs can be rewarding.
Triangle and Spectacle ponds, also in Sandwich, are trout havens with rainbows and brookies on hand. All three of these Sandwich destinations are flush with perch and folks out for a day's fun with children will see plenty of action from this tasty species. Plus they're perfect to introduce kids to the notion of cleaning, cooking and eating their catch. There are both white and yellow perch to be had but to my mind, the yellow variety is best tasting in the fry pan.
Lots of herring in the runs these days. Raises the question of when and if the state will consider lifting the ban on these wonderful bait fish. When that eventually happens let's hope the resource is monitored and protected better than it was back in the day when a laissez faire regulatory attitude put those stocks in danger of being wiped out. Streamside poaching as well as the activities of commercial herring boats should get plenty of regulatory enforcement efforts; we already saw how quickly herring stocks could get nearly wiped out when that was lacking.
Although it will still be a week or two before striper activity blooms in our waters via the arrival of migrating fish, now is not a bad time to check out the presence of holdover fish. Such places as Scorton Creek in West Barnstable, the Pamet River near Wellfleet and the Coonamesset in Falmouth are certainly worth a try. Clam bellies, shiners, sea worms, green crabs…whatever is available can coax a hit from striper that have been mostly dormant during the winter chill but are rousing themselves now and ready to eat.
Kayaking up into the salt marsh backwaters of these rivers can lead to surprisingly large striper catches. There's long been debates about whether these striped bass are indeed holdovers, or possibly a resident stock that travels between saltwater and freshwater here on the Cape. It'll be a while before the fish scientists confirm that one way or the other, but what we do know is that striped bass have even been taken around Christmas and into January and February in the past. It's definitely worth a try.
And here's some more news from the Division of Marine Fisheries about cod stocks
and changes in regulations aimed at reducing the harvest:
The Division of Marine Fisheries (MarineFisheries) has taken emergency action to immediately reduce the commercial and recreational harvest of Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod (322 CMR 6.03): •Recreational Rule Changes
Until further notice, recreational fishermen (both private and aboard for-hire vessels) may not retain or land any cod taken from the Gulf of Maine Management Area, which includes all state-waters within Cape Cod Bay and Massachusetts Bay north to the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. Recreational vessels may transit the GOM Management Area with cod legally harvested from outside the GOM Management Area provided all fish and gear are properly stowed and fishing activity is not occurring.
•Commercial Rule Changes
Additionally, MarineFisheries has reduced the commercial trip limit for Gulf of Maine cod from 800 to 200 pounds. This trip limit applies to all state-waters commercial groundfish permit endorsement holders, as well as any federal groundfish permit holder fishing in state-waters.
The most recent stock assessment for Gulf of Maine cod has demonstrated that the stock was overfished with over fishing occurring. Spawning stock biomass was determined to be at 3-4% of the target. Due to these severe stock conditions, the National Marine Fisheries Service promulgated emergency regulations in the early winter of 2014 and is set to promulgate additional rules during the spring of 2015 to reduce fishing mortality and protect spawning aggregations. MarineFisheries has taken the above described actions to complement these federal rules for the 2015 fishing year (FY) that runs from May 1, 2015 thru April 30, 2016.
DMF will take these emergency regulations to public hearing later this spring. In addition, MarineFisheries will also take comment on final rules to adjust recreational GOM haddock fishing limits and commercial GOM groundfish closures to complement anticipated federal rule changes for FY2015. A formal announcement of this public hearing is forth coming.