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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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August 17, 2015

The Old Tacklebox

by Jerry Vovcsko

I was cleaning out my ancient, wood tackle box the other day and as each fresh-water lure emerged I felt like I was taking a time-trip all the way back to kid-hood. First out of the box was that old faithful Jitterbug, the green and white one that took my first largemouth bass, a three pound beauty that to my nine-year old eyes looked like a world record candidate…or a state record at least.

That fish hit the J-Bug as it churned along the eastern edge of Sunken Island in Otsego Lake wobbling like a demented minnow, its concave metal lip spraying water left and right as it burbled along. I worried that the reel would seize, the line would snap or some other catastrophe would happen. But it didn't and I landed my (up to that time) biggest-ever-fish.

A battered red-and-white Dardevle followed the Jitterbug out of the box and recalled my first pickerel, an event that made me feel the way big game hunters must feel when they bag their first rhino. The pickerel came rocketing out of the weed bed like a piscatorial torpedo, all tooth and attitude, but the classic old spoon stood up to the strike and before long that toothy fish took its place on the stringer and, later, on the family dinner plate, bones and all.

A Rapala minnow appeared next, roughly chewed up as though Dracula himself had sharpened his incisors on its back and sides. Somewhere among the myriad teeth marks were those left by my first pike…a fish that I viewed as a pickerel on steroids. It exploded on the Rapala on a quiet lake situated near the Adirondacks in upstate New York one evening around sunset. No camera was handy but no matter, I have that image burned irrevocably in my memory banks as vividly as if it were on Kodak color film.

Yep, that old tacklebox holds a lot of memories…feather-light cork poppers that annoyed a few smallmouth bass into ill-considered strikes that landed them in my old, black, cast iron skillet, nicely coated in corn meal and bacon fat. My first bucktail jig…a lure that every angler insisted should be the top choice if only one lure was available. It took me a more than a few decades to learn how to work it…and then it became my go-to lure forever after.

As a carpenter loves his tools, I admire the form and function of these old standbys. Every so often I get them out and handle them just to be carried back in time to when I was a youngster falling under the spell of what would be an activity to last me a lifetime. I started at seven years old on a lake that James Fenimore Cooper wrote about in his Leatherstocking Tales novels…seventy years later that old tackle box stands as an archive of the memories of an Old Timer looking back fondly at his days spent fishing.

But that was then, this is now and what's happening in and around Cape Cod waters these days?

For one thing, sharks are on everyone's mind once again. According to a release from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC), researchers spotted almost twenty sharks off Chatham last week. And tourists were mightily entertained by one of those Great Whites demolishing a seal just off Coast Guard Beach. Summertime beach goers seem to have adapted to the presence of sharks sharing the ocean with them. Let's hope the Great Whites continue to demonstrate their menu preference for seals and leave the visiting bathers alone.

Once again stripers set up shop in the middle of the Cape Cod Canal and teased shore-bound anglers by staying just out of reach of all but the most talented distance casters. Double-digit bass worked over baitfish on the early morning hours but reaching out and touching one of the jumbos takes real skill. Pencil poppers and metal slabs are best bets for this type of canal fishing.

The funny fish are arriving in numbers now and the back sides of the big islands are heating up for both albies and bonito. Fluke on the Middleground continue to provide action along with scup and the occasional black sea bass.

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth experienced a federally mandated shutdown this past weekend as they are mandated to shut the plant down if water temperatures climb higher than 75 degrees. The shutdown was only the second in 43 years. No wonder the striped bass have been lethargic and hard to find. Whatever one's opinion about global warming, these kinds of water temperatures are not good news. The action for stripers was a little more positive in the cooler waters of Cape Cod Bay and the tube and worm crowd working out on Billingsgate Shoal did about as well as anywhere around the Cape.

The Elisabeth Islands saw slow going for stripers but more bluefish turned up mixed in with the occasional bass. Keeper-sized fish have been few and mainly down around Quicks and Robinsons holes as well as during the night tides on Sow and Pigs reef. Unfortunately, Sow and Pigs is no place for on the job training during the nocturnal hours.

Hire-a-guide is my best advice about this destination. A southwest breeze against a westerly tide can turn the place into a real churning cauldron and hidden boulders have put many a sea-going vessel on the rocks over the centuries. Forty pound bass aren't uncommon on the reef but, once again just to be clear, if you're thinking about fishing Sow and Pigs at night, be smart and hire a guide.

Looks to me like the DeflateGate saga is headed for trial in Judge Berman's court and most probably later on in Federal Appeals Court. Today's toddlers may be pre-teens before this thing sees final resolution. Just imagine how motivated Bill and Tom are to garner that fifth Super Bowl ring now.


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