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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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February 16, 2016

Ice Fishing With the Bard

by Jerry Vovcsko

"Fish not, with this melancholy bait,
For this fool-gudgeon, this opinion."
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

The bard apparently had strong opinions on how to bait a hook in pursuit of the elusive gamefish. But that was back in the day and right now a group of Cambridge thespians are in rehearsals for an American Repertory Theater production of the play, "Nice Fish". In "Nice Fish," three-time Tony winner Mark Rylance plays one of two ice fishermen at the center of the show, but that's not his only role with the piece. Directed by Claire van Kampen, his wife, "Nice Fish" is adapted by Rylance and the Minnesota poet Louis Jenkins from Jenkins's prose poems.

According to a Boston Globe article much of the task for Rylance as adapter has been figuring out how to link the poetry together to tell a story set on a Minnesota lake on the last day of ice-fishing season. It was 20-some degrees outside, but Rylance prefers cold to heat: a relic, maybe, of the childhood years he logged in suburban Milwaukee.

"I miss the strength of the seasons," he says "I miss the explosiveness of spring in Wisconsin and the depth and kind of mortal peril of the winter."

So this is the sort of person who finds himself on a frozen lake at 4 a.m., learning how to catch a fish. Rylance was in Minneapolis, starring in Robert Bly's adaptation of Ibsen's "Peer Gynt," the first time he went ice fishing, eight frigid Minnesota winters ago. He looked around, saw an unfamiliar culture — who brings a television and furniture and Christmas lights out onto the ice? — and got the seed of an idea for "Nice Fish."

"One of the things I hadn't brought into the play was the perspective of an old man," Rylance said.

And when the actor they'd cast in the old-man role dropped out, Rylance asked Jenkins to step in.

"He's the kind of man you'd find outdoors…he's got a wildness about him. He's got very beautiful eyes, and he has a kind of a — what's the word? — a soulfulness, a patina that he's acquired."

It's not quite Jenkins's first acting gig. He's been on "A Prairie Home Companion," where he took part in a sketch, and he has a role in an upcoming movie that the actors Rene Auberjonois and Kate Nowlin, friends of his, shot in Minnesota. But it is his first in the theater.

And in "Nice Fish," he plays a character whose lines are words he's written. At one point, the troupe went into the middle of the lake, set up a tent, and ice fished for about four hours. They rehearsed the scenes and the odd thing is, every time Mark or Jim said a poem, they caught a fish.

So maybe there's a lesson to be learned here. Perhaps those of us obsessed with acquiring all manner of gear, the latest lures and the trappings of angler-bling…just perhaps we might profit instead by standing tall and intoning poetic lines by Emerson, Whitman or Frost. Consider it the road not taken…

The Freshwater Sportfishing Award winners were announced this week and three of the top catch & keep fish were caught on Cape Cod. The folks at Massachusetts Wildlife week announced the 2015 Freshwater Sportfishing Award winners. Twenty-three gold pins were awarded in twenty-two catch and keep sportfishing categories (adult) for the largest fish caught. Twenty-three gold pins were awarded in twenty-two catch and keep sportfishing categories (youth) for the largest fish caught. Five of the winning fish were caught on Cape Cod. For the catch and release (adult and youth) category, twenty-two gold pins were awarded in twenty-two categories for largest fish. Only one fish in this category was caught on Cape Cod.

Adult and youth anglers are encouraged to submit their catches each year. As part of the catch and keep category, fish must meet a minimum weight (by species). Fish must be weighed on a certified scale and an affidavit and photo must be submitted to MassWildlife. All anglers who meet the criteria receive a bronze pin. The angler who catches the largest fish by species also receives a gold pin. In the catch and release category, fish must meet a minimum length (by species).

For 2015, the Adult Catch and Keep Angler of the Year Award went to Mark Mohan Jr. of Pembroke. Mohan caught 16 species. The Youth Catch and Keep Angler of the Year Award went to Tauri Adamczyk of Taunton, who caught 15 species. The Catch and Release Angler of the Year Award went to Michael Nee of Northborough, who caught 15 species.

Winning Cape Cod fish were caught in Brewster, Yarmouth, Sandwich, Eastham, Falmouth and Mashpee.

2015 Freshwater Sportfishing Adult Catch and Keep Gold Pin caught on Cape
•Michael Siemasko of North Grafton caught a 4 lb., 8 oz. brook trout (2 lb. minimum) in Cliff Pond in Brewster (tied with another angler)
•Todd Matera of Palmer caught a 6 lb., 5 oz. chain pickerel (4 lb., 8 oz. minimum) in Long Pond in Yarmouth
•David Souza of Berkley caught a 6 lb., 7 oz. white catfish (4 lb. minimum) in Mashpee-Wakeby Pond in Mashpee

2015 Freshwater Sportfishing Youth Catch and Keep Gold Pin caught on Cape
•Riley Rabesa of Teaticket caught a 3 lb., 13 oz. brook trout (1 lb. minimum) in Peters Pond in Sandwich
•Jake Calogero of Middleboro caught a 2 lb., 2 oz. bullhead (1 lb. minimum) in Mashpee-Wakeby Pond in Mashpee
•Stephen Kalinick of Brewster caught a 8 lb., 9 oz. largemouth bass (4 lb. minimum) in Great Pond in Eastham
•Nathan Ryan of Cotuit caught a 1 lb., 15 oz., yellow perch (1 lb. minimum) in Santuit Pond in Mashpee

2015 Freshwater Sportfishing Catch and Release Gold Pin caught on Cape
•Peter Brundrett of Walpole caught a 16.5" yellow perch (14" minimum) in Coonamessett Pond in Falmouth

Congratulations to all who received an award for meeting the category requirements. It's especially rewarding to see all those young folk participating. The next generation of anglers is at hand. Job well done, kids!

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