by Jerry Vovcsko
It always seemed as though the Florida Wildlife folks were going to try to do something about the burgeoning population of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades. And so they did. According to a blurb in the Boston Globe more than 1,000 people signed up recently to hunt Burmese pythons in the Everglades, but it appears that just a fraction of them have been successful so far.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said last week that thirty of the invasive snakes have been killed in the competition that began January 12th. The officials claim that eradicating pythons from the Everglades was never the goal of the month long ‘‘Python Challenge.'' Instead, they say they hoped to raise awareness about the snake's threat to native wildlife and the fragile Everglades ecosystem. Pythons face both state and federal bans and nobody really knows just how many of these snakes infest the Everglades, but researchers say the hunt is helping them collect more information about the pythons' habits.
Not sure which is potentially the biggest danger: That the Everglades harbor these big-time eating machines that can grow upwards of twenty feet, or that a thousand or so heavily armed good-‘ol-boys are wandering the swamps looking to blow them away; it just might be a tossup.
A couple of weeks ago the Cape unexpectedly lost one of its local legends. Dave Masch, fisherman, raconteur and blithe-spirit-emeritus suffered a massive heart attack and passed away at seventy-five. Dave's name should be familiar to many as a result of his contributions to "On the Water" magazine via his "Cooking the Catch" and "Ask Pops" columns. The longtime Falmouth and Woods Hole resident touched the lives of an awful lot of people during his lifetime.
He worked with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for 10 years and helped found the Penikese Island School, a boarding school for troubled juveniles where he was tagged with the "Pops nickname. I met Dave back in the seventies when I worked in the Falmouth School system and crossed paths with him at some of the alternative educational programs that had sprung up in Falmouth. He was, as they say, "bigger than life.""
He published his first "Cooking The Catch" recipe book in 2006 which sold surprisingly well for a local undertaking. In the book's introduction, he says, "I saw the ocean in 1955 and have not yet recovered from it." He had recently published "Cooking The Catch II" when the heart attack (he had previously survived two others) took his life. But sense of humor? It was pure Dave Masch when he kidded about another book he wanted to write…his working title was: "Having Fun With Your Grandkids With Fire and Explosives."
RIP, Dave, you touched many lives and we will miss you.
It's not Halloween right now but the fishing situation on Cape Cod is definitely a trick-or-treat proposition. Just when it look like a streak of single-digit temperatures has formed thick, solid ice on the local ponds, don't we find ourselves smack in the middle of fifty-degree spring-like weather. Yessir, classic New England weather…don't like what you've got? Wait a day and here comes the opposite.
Anyhow, the best bet right now is to spend some time checking out local ponds to see which of them have some shoreline access. On your life be careful of that ice crust; it's likely to be extremely unstable and a late January plunge into the water can be life-extinguishing. I've had some success in previous years finding a pond with open water between the shoreline and the edge of the ice field and casting bait or lure out onto the ice and slowly working it back until it drops off the edge into the water. Right then is when the strike is likely to come and you can see the line move sideways a little as a fish takes the bait.
It's an effective technique at times, especially with pickerel and bass. Mouse or frog artificials are probably the best lure choice…I suppose the fish may have seen critters fall from the ice shelf now and then. Rubber worms also draw some action and I like to play around by working them to the edge and letting them dangle partially over until they fall. Inevitably, strikes will come right after the splash. It's sort of the winter version of topwater action and will certainly sharpen an angler's concentration and test the reflexes when the bass are hitting.
Super Bowl Sunday coming up this weekend but us New England Patriot fans no longer have a dog in this hunt so it won't capture my interest quite as much. I've gotten a little tired of Ray Lewis's "celebration of Me" routine so I suppose I'll root for the 49'ers. And maybe in this year's college draft Bill Belichick will find that big, fast wide receiver the Pats haven't had since the days of Randy Moss so that when next year's Super Bowl rolls around, the Pats will be in it!