by Jerry Vovcsko
Just as it appeared we might see some breakout from ice on local ponds here comes another cold snap with temperatures shoved even further into the deep-freeze by strong winds boring down from the northwest. Like today, for example, where the thermometer reads a manageable 31 degrees but breezes blowing in from the Canadian high plains produce a wind-chill reading of 23. Not conducive to a leisurely afternoon spent pond-side.
However, those who ventured out recently and could locate access to open water continue to do well for themselves along with the hardy souls who create their own access to watery depths via ice augur or hatchet. On the Upper Cape, Peters Pond in Sandwich continues to produce trout, perch and bass (both large and smallmouth) as well as salmon occasionally reaching double-digit weights.
In addition to producing good catch prospects, Peters Pond has an interesting historical context. Back around the turn of the 20th Century when "gentlemen" were prone to wield cane fly rod while decked out in three-piece suit and bowler hat, Peters had long been a favored fishing locale of President Grover Cleveland who was a frequent visitor to the Falmouth area.
A 1911 survey reported the pond was in its youth "and a few bass present but do not bite" which makes one wonder about the skills (or lack thereof) that the old timers brought to the table. The pond was later stocked (between 1933 and 1948) with brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, Chinook salmon, Sebago salmon, white perch and yellow perch.
When considering historical context, though, it's well to keep in mind that times were very different back in the old days, especially where weather conditions are concerned. Anglers setting out for an afternoon session on the ice might well have to shovel away a couple of feet of snow cover before getting down to the ice surface. After all, back in the 1800s it was not all that rare an event for Vineyard Sound to freeze over completely from Falmouth to Vineyard Haven.
Locals whose livelihood revolved around delivering four-foot blocks of ice to homes and businesses in need of refrigeration would cut the ice in the Sound and load it onto horse-drawn wagons. When fully loaded those wagons might weigh upwards of a thousand pounds which gives some idea of how thick the ice cover formed back in the good-old-days, even the saltwater of Vineyard Sound..
Right now, though, the smaller Falmouth ponds such as Mares, Grews, Coonamesset and Deep ponds have re-grown their ice cover and offer plenty of perch, pickerel, bass and assorted panfish to those anglers willing to brave the chill. Shiners are the bait de jour although some folks like to jig with small-bladed, shiny, fluttering lures tipped with mini-marshmallows, pink being the favored color choice locally.
Another few weeks and we should be bidding farewell to the ice so there will be more opportunities to access open water via kayak, canoe or skiff. As the waters warm fish become a bit livelier and more aggressive in their feeding habits so savvy anglers ratchet up a couple notches from the smaller-and-slower methods they employed during earlier cold water excursions.
Next week the buses leave from Fenway Park carrying the Red Sox baseball equipment down south for the start of spring training. Right now it's hard to picture the Boys of Summer working out under blue skies and temperatures of seventy-degrees and upward while we struggle to clear the seven inches of snow that fell the other day. But we have to make room for fresh snowfall from the next storm the weather folk tell us is moving up the coast and heading our way. Of course, I don't really need to rely on weather forecasts from the TV people. My achy knees tell me what's what and these days the word is: Cold temperatures and lots of moisture in the air so I keep a snow shovel handy and plenty of firewood close at hand.
It's Super Bowl Sunday as I write this, so I'll watch the Denver Broncos tangle with the Carolina Panthers later today but it won't be the same without the New England Patriots taking the field. But there's always next year and we Pats fans have probably become spoiled with the success Brady/Belichick and Co. have brought our way over the years. So this time around it'll be Cam Newton jousting with Peyton Manning. I'm taking Carolina in this one.