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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 09, 2016

Stripers, Funny Fish and a Whale Blubber Meal

by Jerry Vovcsko

Those of us who pursue the finny denizen that inhabit local waters are used to working hard to tempt those fish to take our baits or lures and thus be captured for sport or a rendezvous with the backyard grill. But last week Cape Cod anglers experienced a strange, new phenomenon: namely, fish leaping out of the water at their feet. Yessir, all along Nauset Beach hundreds of ten to fifteen-inch Atlantic Menhaden, frantic and desperate, flung themselves onto the beach in an attempt to escape a mix of hungry striped bass and bluefish that were herding the menhaden toward the shore.

New England Aquarium biologists say this kind of behavior is fairly common although we humans rarely get to witness it. Biologists said blues actually work together, trapping schools of menhaden against a shoreline, a possible scenario that occurred at the Orleans beach. Although it looks dire, the menhaden jump out of the water onto the shore in an effort to avoid attack

"What appears to be a suicidal act to people, actually might offer a slim but better chance at survival as an incoming tide, the next lapping wave and some flopping around might eventually get the fish back into the water after the predator has departed," the scientists say.

Menhaden or pogies are a foundation fish species on the marine food chain. In addition to blues and stripers, they are also eaten by sharks, tuna, whales, seals and seabirds during the summer in New England.

Speaking of sharks (which we seem to be doing with ever-increasing frequency these days), six great whites were seen chowing down on a Minke whale carcass this past week off Truro. The sharks had removed the tongue, internal organs, and most of the muscle," local officials said in a statement.

"The carcass was still floating, but was essentially little more than the spinal column and skull."¬

Three Truro beaches had been closed when the sharks were sighted but opened the next days. I guess the beach-master figured the great whites wouldn't need to eat any swimmers after guzzling down that much whale blubber.

The Canal looks to be cranking up the action now that mackerel and herring are around to serve as floating buffet lines for stripers and blues. Some of the bass caught topped the forty-inch mark and it's good to see the increased activity after a couple less-than-robust weeks of Canal fishing. Over around the big islands (The Vineyard and Nantucket) there's been an outbreak of brown shark action reported during the nocturnal hours and bluefish have been providing sport for locals and visitors as the warmer waters in the Sound lull striped bass into somnolence and ennui.

But that will change in another month as the stripers begin packing away extra calories in preparation for the return journey home. The Great Fall Migration offers some of the very best striper fishing on the east coast and it's not that far off. Right now it's the start of Funny-Fish hijinks in Nantucket Sound and there have already been bonito and Spanish Mackerel taken along with the reports of the first false albacore boated near Lackey's Bay.

There are bluefish in the rips out behind Nantucket Island with Old Man's Rip harboring some double-digit blues in the standing waves. Blues and bass are also coming out of Wasque lately although anglers have to work through bass in the 24 to 26-inch range in order to find a keeper or two. There have been some nice striped bass taken from the boulders around Penikese Island last weekend and once in a while a jumbo tautog will take an interest in a plug cast into those rocks providing a nice serendipity effect.

Bonito are arriving in numbers around Nomans Island and they'll be moving into the Sound along about mid-week. The Buzzards Bay side of the Elizabeth Islands have been flush with school-size stripers although some big guys were taken on live eels in Quicks Hole and on big swimming plugs around the southwest corner of Robinsons Hole.

The charter skippers occasionally pull forty-pound-plus stripers from the reef at Sow and Pigs but they actually do better when southwest winds churn things up around there. It's worth taking one of those charter trips just to see an old timer out of Mattapoisett back his bass boat into the boulders on a pitch-black night with the wind ripping thirty knots and rain pouring down.

They'll rig a big swimming plug on wire line and feed it out over the stern…when the line feels like it's "thrumming" just so, a strike usually comes soon after and bass up to fifty and sixty pounds have been known to get pulled out of there. Not for the amateur, perhaps, but those who know the reef score big when wind and tide combine on a night that ends up putting fish – big fish- in the boat.

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