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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 31, 2016

Weird Times in Cape Waters

by Jerry Vovcsko

When you get two weeks of air temperatures in the eighties and nineties it's only fair to expect local waters to warm up a bit. And right now Nantucket Sound registers 75-degrees at the NOAA buoy. So I suppose we can expect peculiar occurrences now and then. Like the manatee swimming around Chatham, and the great white shark looking for a meal about 4 feet from shore up at Race Point. Humpback whales foraging over near Stellwagen Bank? Sure, why not? Just another day in Cape Cod waters.

And it had been a slow day of tuna fishing for a group of friends bobbing in a boat 12 miles off the coast of Chatham this week. But then they witnessed a rare event — an apparent pod of killer whales swimming nearby as their vessel cut through the Cape Cod waters. Alex Wyckoff, 17, of Brewster, said he was on the "Fish Box," which launched from Nauset Marine East, in Orleans the other day when he and three friends spotted the orcas.

"We have seen white sharks, but since the whales are foreign to these waters for the most part, we were ecstatic," he told a Boston Globe reporter. "We didn't know they were orcas at first, because we only saw the spouts. But they ended up being very playful and swimming alongside the boat."

Some locals speculate that the orcas were drawn to the area because of the seal colonies that have taken up residence along the Cape's Atlantic-facing beaches. But marine scientists say the North Atlantic pods of killer whales are not the same as those on the Pacific coast and feed mainly on squid, fish and sea birds.

Well, today looks like one of those gray rain-lashed dreary days today. Good day to stay home and get some of those honey-do inside jobs finally taken care of. Or maybe spend some time cleaning out my office...when was it I was last able to actually see the top of my desk for all the junk piled up on it? The garden tools could use some maintenance, and I really ought to sharpen the kitchen knives; my wife said she'd have better luck slicing tomatoes with piece of broken glass than the dull blades nestled in the knife rack. Lots to choose from, which one to do? Heck with it, may as well go fishing.

No need to drive out to Nauset, Orleans or any of the back beaches right now. Lately they've been as dead as Cleopatra's cat. Chatham has been a bit more active but you pretty much need to be onboard a boat to do any serious business around there. Skip the Bathtub unless you're interested in small bluefish. The shallow waters in there are a mite warm for striper activity.

Great whites notwithstanding, Provincetown is still pretty active up around Race Point especially. Sand eels are the order of the day and a few skiff trollers have been doing business with rubber-tipped jigs, although there's more to that technique than meets the eye. And I still urge folks to try the old-timer's method of trolling a willow-leaf spinner rig, red beads and all, with two or three sandworms trailing from a 3/0 hook. Funny how such an effective method all but vanished from the scene. Maybe because trolling, for a lot of anglers, isn't nearly as much fun as chucking lures into the surf. But one thing I know, if you need a decent sized bass for the grill, there are two ways to pretty much guarantee success. One is, of course, the tube 'n worm. And the other, to my mind, is that willow leaf spinner rig. Pull that around real slow close to any kind of bass structure - rocks, weed beds, a fast moving rip - and there's a good chance you'll have bass for the grill.

There I go spinning off on fishy tangents again. The subject at hand, naturally, is: Where's a good place to find fish this time of year? Well, I'd say a good bet right now is the Cape Cod Canal. And the best way to go about it, especially for those folks not entirely familiar with the Canal, is jig and rubber. Specifically, depending on speed of the current going through there, a jig somewhere between an ounce and a half and four ounces. Hang a SlugGo on your jig - nine inch version - these are big fish that hang in the Canal - and try to get it down near the bottom by casting slightly up-current and retrieving just fast enough to keep from getting hung up on the rocks, lobster pots and other debris that litter the bottom. And bear in mind that if you aren't getting hung up and losing a jig or two, you probably aren't getting down deep enough. Lost jigs are simply the cost of doing business in the Canal.

If you don't have any favored Canal spots, try around the bridges, including the Railroad Bridge. There are some deep, current-scoured holes around there and the Large bass like to sit down there waiting for the tide to bring dinner along. Pick up a map of the Canal at one of the local bait shops. The map will show you where places like the Cribbin, Murderer's Row, One Hundred Steps, The Mussel Bed and others are located. Best time to hit it is just before or just after turn-of-tide when the slack water lets you get down deep and work your jig near the bottom.

Some bonito showing up in Nantucket Sound lately. Out a little ways from Lackey's Bay is worth a try. And they're catching them on the Vineyard from shore as well as from boats. The Elizabeth Islands continue to produce stripers; the islands are probably the best bet right now what with the high water temps in the Sound. Find moving water and work those rips for good results. So many bluefish around that there's no point in suggesting where-to-go spots; just cast in any direction and a bluefish is liable to show up and take a whack at your plug.

In Cape Cod Bay Billingsgate is probably your likliest shot at stripers. And I've preached tube and worm for so long that there's no point in my mentioning it again. But tube & worm is your best bet…there, I said it again.

I almost hate to bring it up, but we're about to turn the corner into September, which as everyone on the Cape knows, is pre-migration. When it happens, the fishing turns from pretty damn good to FANTASTIC. Unfortunately, what follows is the lead in to winter, the dreaded time when north winds blow, snow piles up and anything wet turns to ice. So get out there now while the getting's good. That's what I'm going to do as soon as I put this honey-do list back where it belongs: under the stack of bills I should probably do something about one of these days.

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