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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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January 31, 2015

The Blizzard of 2015 Visits New England

by Jerry Vovcsko

Well, the Blizzard of 2015 turned out to match all the forecasts from the weather folk…and then some. At least that's the way it shaped up here in New England. Sixty mile per hour wind gusts combined with some 28 inches of snow made for brutal conditions and it didn't take Governor Baker long to declare a state of emergency and slap a driving ban on everything except snow plows and emergency vehicles.

The one upside to the storm was the low number of power outages in Southeastern Massachusetts and I for one was very pleased to not have to resort to candles and flashlights for light and the front room, fireplace for heat. However, electricity on Nantucket was pretty much non-existent a few hours into the storm and the power company dispatched forty emergency crews to get island residents' power turned back on.

Along with the snow pretty much burying most of the state, the Blizzard brought in some frigid temperatures. Wind chills dipping into sub-zero numbers made things even more challenging and it looks like those uber-chilly conditions will stick around for at least the upcoming week. That's good news for the ice fishing crowd as there will be no shortage of ice forming on local ponds and lakes. On the other hand the hardy souls who trek out onto the hardwater had better make certain to wrap up with plenty of wool, fur and PolarTec lest exposed body parts succumb to frostbite – as Momma would say, dress warm!

Down on the Lower Cape flooding concerns became reality as the Atlantic Ocean poured through a breach at Ballston Beach and into the Pamet River in Truro about an hour before high tide at the height of the Blizzard. Folks have long joked about Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown "seceding" from the Upper Cape but it appears Mother Nature may have stepped in to accomplish just that.

The combination of storm-driven high tides with twenty-foot waves ginned up by the Noreaster wreaked havoc along the coast from Plum Island down to Cape Cod. Several beach homes in Scituate, Plum Island, Sandwich and Plymouth were condemned by town inspectors including a half dozen actually lifted from their foundations by the storm surge.

For all the catastrophic damage inflicted by the Blizzard of 2015…still, I have this strange notion that sometime, somewhere, somehow during the height of the storm, some lonely angler gazed at the wild surf and thought "Hmmm…I wonder if there's anything swimming around in that stuff?"…and then proceeded to take his just-in-case rod and reel (rigged with a 2-ounce bucktail jig) from the bed of his pickup truck and whip a few casts into the swirling froth. Because anglers are hard-wired to think that way and regardless of weather conditions, you just never know…

Ah well, come tomorrow we'll all be glued to our 60-inch flat screen TVs watching the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks tangle out there in the Arizona desert for NFL bragging rights and the opportunity to hoist the Lombardi Trophy one more time. So Go-Pats, and may it be a great game for fans and players both.

January 25, 2015

Blizzard Headed Our Way

by Jerry Vovcsko

Hardwater anglers on the Cape had just gotten used to having sufficient ice surface to work with and here we go again with temperatures spiking all over the place, a week's worth of rain melting that ice away and now a blizzard supposedly heading our way early next week. Anybody know what to do with the two feet of new snow we're supposed to get?

Sad news this past week with the death of Bill Bauknecht, former long-time owner of Green Pond Tackle Shop in East Falmouth. Below are a few excerpts from his obituary published in several local newspapers:

William E. "Bill" Bauknecht, 77, of East Falmouth, passed away at home on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015 after a 19-year battle with multiple myeloma. He was the beloved husband of 56 years to Mary Sue (Johnson) Bauknecht.

Born in Cincinnati, OH, the son of the late Joseph E. and Esther (Wagner) Bauknecht, he was raised with his sister, Jo Ann, on a farm in Milford OH. He graduated from Milford High School in 1955. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on Aug. 10, 1955 and was accepted into the security service, where he acquired the highest security clearance. He spent two years with a mobile unit in Alaska. He earned a good conduct medal and was honorably discharged in 1961.

Bill married his high school sweetheart, Mary Sue, in 1958 in Alaska. They moved to Cape Cod in 1963 to help his father run the small business he had purchased from the Costas in 1959 on Green Pond. He managed Green Pond Shellfish until 1967 when he took over the business from his father. He moved his family into the adjacent house on the property in 1971. He changed the name to Green Pond Tackle, Inc., though most people called it "Bauknechts." Through the years, he expanded the business by doubling the marina capacity, adding marine products and services, and wholesaling the famous Green Pond stuffed quahogs to many local restaurants, manufacturing as many as 200,000 a year. During this time, he served as Falmouth's Assistant Harbormaster, as well as Harbormaster of Green Pond. He served as director and vice president of the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce and was the director of Falmouth Youth Hockey.

He was an avid fisherman, boater and golfer, however, martial arts was his biggest interest. He began his Karate training in 1974 as one of Arthur Rabesa's first students at the Falmouth Uechi-Ryu Karate School. He performed at such a high caliber that after a few years, he was placed in the New England test for his black belt promotion, which he achieved. He continued his training over the next 40 years, being promoted to higher ranks. He often taught many of the adult and children's classes at the dojo. He achieved the master rank of 8th degree in 2012. He was well-known in the martial arts world for his dedication and loyalty to Uechi-Ryu Karate and credited his training for helping him battle multiple myeloma, an incurable blood and bone cancer he was diagnosed with in 1996.

Initially facing the possibility of having only 9 to 18 months to live, Bill underwent an experimental stem cell transplant and was given a life expectancy of three years. He survived for almost 19. During this time, he established a website for those diagnosed with multiple myeloma that offered advice and counsel. His doctors also provided his contact information to newly diagnosed patients. He received emails and phone calls from all over the world and provided hope and guidance to complete strangers. He was featured in a multiple myeloma survivors calendar and is one of the longest known survivors of this disease.

Bill was a heckuva good fisherman and his dad built me a fiberglass rod back in the 70s that I still use to this day. Rest in peace, Bill…you touched the lives of a lot of local anglers.

One of the attractions of fishing in the salt water is the unknown nature of what eventually comes out of the water anytime an angler hooks up. Like the fishermen in Victoria, Australia, who didn't know what to think when they reeled in a prehistoric-looking creature from the water. They noticed its head and body looked like it belonged to an eel, but the tail looked like a shark's. They had caught a very rare frilled shark, sometimes referred to as the "living fossil." The creature's ancestry goes back roughly 80 million years and is rarely sighted.

The creature was described as looking prehistoric, like something from another time that just happens to have 300 teeth over 25 rows, so that once you're in that mouth, you're not coming out.

The New England Patriots are headed to Arizona for the Super Bowl but all fans seem to be talking about is "DeflateGate", the name the media slapped on the matter of the less-than-official air pressure the footballs supplied by the Patriots turned out to contain after a complaint by the Indianapolis Colts to NFL officials. Patriots' fans for the most part dismiss the allegations of cheating – fans of other teams are somewhat less charitable. Come Feb 1st, aka, Super Bowl Sunday, we'll see how it all plays out as the NFL will be supervising the handling of the game balls. Now if somebody can just figure out a way to keep Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch's hands off the post-touchdown balls, all will be well in Arizona.

January 15, 2015

Cut That Meat!

by Jerry Vovcsko

Near zero temperatures have put a nice skim of ice on many of the Cape Ponds but it's still a little early to have too much confidence in the strength of that ice. Definitely try a couple of test holes before setting up shop with heavy gear. And watch out for feeder streams or springs – either will cause ice to lose weight-carrying strength and the water's a little too chilly for an impromptu swim.

Not all the ponds are fully ice coated and I saw a couple of kayakers doing business on a popular Brewster pond. Those folks aren't limiting their efforts to just trout; they're still out looking for bass and the largemouths have been most obliging on both shiners and jerkbaits. Perch and pickerel add to the possibilities and trout, of course, remain hungry and ready to pounce on shiner or PowerBait.

We'll soon be coming up on spring in these parts, even though it's hard to imagine when windchills drop us into the ten-below-zero range. (We already had one session of frozen water pipes in our house but that was just a matter of not leaving the cabinet doors open under the kitchen sink.) Still, spring will eventually show up and when it does my thoughts inevitably turn to flounder. So I thought I might just pass along a few ideas on preparing, cooking, and eating the tasty flatfish. Handled properly flounder fillets are one of the finest specimens of great-to-eat seafood to come out of the ocean. Of course, it's also possible to ruin flounder, rendering it virtually inedible. Oddly enough both outcomes are possible for much the same reasons.

To start with, flatfish need to be iced down when caught…the sooner the better. They're an easy fit in even the smallest of coolers, so bedding them down in a layer of ice cubes is both easy to do and a very good idea. Should you be dealing with a catch of summer fluke, it's a must….you leave them sitting on a hot boat deck in the noonday sun and you may as well be eating shoe leather.

Filleting flounder or fluke is a cinch. You'll get four fillets from each fish and you want to use a real flexible fillet knife, flexible and sharp. That's key. Lay the fish on its back, insert the knifepoint and cut around the fillet letting the knife slide along the ribs. Lift the fillet by an edge and slide the knife under to sever it. You should be holding an oval fillet, long and thin, all meat. Repeat on the other side. Then flip the fish over and do the same for the two belly fillets. To skin, let the knife slide between skin and meat with the edge tilted toward the skin. You can pin one end to the filleting board to make it easier. I use a board with a 6# finishing nail driven in at the top, then clipped off and sharpened with a file so I can pin the fillet in place…I find it makes the skinning process faster and easier.

Well you've got your fillets. Now what? How about Broiled Flounder with Puffy Cheese Topping? Here's a recipe my wife, the Fabulous Donna, got from another Donna, one of her friends down on the Cape. You'll need about a pound and a half of fillets; salt and pepper; half a cup of mayonnaise; half a cup of shredded cheese and one egg white.

Line a broiler rack with tinfoil and place the fillets on top. You can butter the tinfoil if you're worried about having the fish stick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil about four inches from the heat for about ten minutes (I start looking after seven minutes if the fillets are thin). Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients – beat the egg white until stiff (or ask your wife how to do it if you're not sure about it…actually you might want to have her separate the white for you as well, although it's a neat trick and once you see it you'll have no trouble doing it yourself), then fold into the mixture of mayonnaise and cheese. (You guys, fold means don't slam the egg white into the bowl and stir furiously…gently, says the Fabulous Donna…it keeps the air in the white so it holds its fluffiness). Spread the mixture over the fillets and broil until puffed up and lightly browned. Serve immediately…guys, that doesn't mean scarf these down before you get them out to the dining room table. At least use a plate. Both Donnas say this is a recipe meant to serve four people…ain't women funny?

And it looks like the Patriots are Super Bowl-bound once again if they can get past the Indianapolis Colts. If they do, it'll be Green Bay or Seattle waiting for them. This could be the year where Tom Brady picks up that fourth ring and joins Joe Montana under the rubric of best-QB-ever. Cut THAT meat, Peyton Manning!

January 07, 2015

Back In the Deep Freeze Again

by Jerry Vovcsko

The Cape these days looks like the inside of granny's deep freeze. Cold, cold and more cold. The ponds are frozen, the bays and estuaries sport a thin crust of salt water ice in those places where the currents run slowly or not at all. It's as though the entire Cape fell into hibernation for the winter. But there are still fish to be found for the hardier types who don't mind the bone chilling winds sweeping down from Newfoundland and the Canadian Arctic.

A few hardies are taking salmon from ponds around Falmouth, the main hot spot being Peters Pond. At other locations, such as John's Pond and, over around Hatchville, Coonamesset Pond, perch, pickerel and bass offer targets of opportunity. Shiners score with the big fish, while small metal jigs will fill your bucket with perch before you can say fish fry!

Down Cape, around Harwich and Chatham, the ponds are crusting over again, albeit not quite solidly just yet. You don't want to get out on them until there's a good four to six inches of hard water over he surface. It was only a few years back that a couple of young locals decided that their pickup truck could function in submarine mode and plunged through as they drove across the ice on a Harwich pond. They were rescued by the local fire department, however, no reports were filed on their fish catching efforts.

A whole lot of very little happening in the salt these days, but there are these persistent rumors about cod taken from the beach, either being caught clandestinely by a couple of local boys who aren't talking, or about schools of scrod sized fish waiting for the weather to break a tad so they can start feeding close in to shore and perhaps take us back to those golden days of yesteryear when they could be caught from the beach mid-winter or early in the Spring.

For some reason, whenever I think about catching fish on bait of any sort my mind somehow shifts to the subject of fluke. I imagine lifting out a limit of the tasty flatfish from their icy resting place in the fishbox on my boat while I ready a sharp fillet knife to properly remove four fat fillets from each.

Come summer I do my catching over on the Middleground, a reef-like area off the northwest point of Martha's Vineyard. It's easy enough to find. Coming out of Falmouth Harbor, or Great Pond, point your bow toward Vineyard Haven and head out about four miles in that general direction. Pretty soon you'll see a lone buoy, and, if you're lucky, there will be a westering tide. When that current pours over the top of the Middleground it sets up a fine rip and triggers the feeding mechanisms of the resident fluke - as if those hungry carnivores needed coaxing to eat.

Anything from seaworms to squid strips to metal jigs will do just fine. For my money, the absolute top bait, though, is a small strip cut from the belly of the first fluke you take. Use it by itself with just enough sinker to get you down to where they are, or you can add it to a small jig and do very well also. One of the latest developments in the squid-bait arena is something called a "squid sandwich", which is nothing more than a strip of plastic along with a belly strip or even a porkrind, depending on whose version of the sandwich you're trying to emulate.

Once caught, you have to decide what to do with them and let me suggest you try this

Line a baking pan with buttered foil. Lay the fillets in there skin side down. Pour buttermilk and salt into a container, then brush the salted buttermilk generously over the fillets. Sprinkle on a little more salt, some black pepper, a bit of chopped chives and you have the makings of a simple but elegant feast. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10 or 15 minutes, basting now and then with the pan juices. Serve on hot plates with the juice spooned over the fillets. Mmmmm, good.

If you have a few pieces left over that you didn't use in that recipe, try this:

Roll up the fluke strip and wrap with a piece of bacon. Stick a toothpick through to hold it together. Broil close to the heat until the bacon is done. Gobble like candy. Yum.

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