by Jerry Vovcsko
For anyone who missed this announcement back in January, Governor Charlie Baker has announced $50,000 in grants from the Department of Fish and Game's Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) for recreational saltwater fishing access projects in Dennis, Gloucester, Marshfield, Plymouth, and Rockport. Cape Cod anglers in Dennis will have better access to Nantucket Sound as a result.
"Uncle Freeman's Landing in Dennis offers people from every walk of life an opportunity to enjoy not just Bass River, but Nantucket Sound as well," said State Senator Dan Wolf (D-Hyannis). "This grant helps make that access real, and does so with funds that come directly from fishing license revenue. Many thanks to the Department of Fish & Game for administering such a smart, successful program."
DMF's Public Access Small Grant Program uses revenue from the sale of recreational saltwater fishing permits to improve angler opportunity in Massachusetts' marine waters. This is the third round of grant funding since the state saltwater fishing permit was established in 2011.
During the third round of grants, DMF awarded funds to five coastal municipalities. The approved projects are listed below.
•Dennis — The town was awarded $15,000 to replace a gangway and two tie-up floats at Uncle Freeman's Landing, a state boat ramp located on the Bass River off Uncle Freeman's Road.
•Gloucester — The city was awarded $15,000 to partner with the local high school shop department to rebuild the floating portion of the Magnolia Pier in Gloucester.
•Marshfield — The town was awarded $1,100 to install lighting at the state launching facility at Green Harbor, increasing the safety of launching and retrieving boats during low-light conditions.
•Plymouth — The town was awarded $6,000 to install a filet table at the state boat launching facility at Plymouth Harbor, enabling anglers to clean their catch before going home. The fish racks will also be collected as bait for local lobstermen. A web camera will also be installed to allow anglers to see the current harbor conditions before driving to the boat ramp.
•Rockport — the town was awarded $13,500 to maintain access paths and the main pathway along Atlantic Path. Rockport will hire a professional landscape architect who will clear pathways and utilize natural materials that will maintain the footpath along the shore. The path traverses 1.5 miles of rocky coastline that boasts some of the best shore fishing in the Commonwealth.
The projects are being funded from revenues in the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Fund, which was established in 2011 when the Massachusetts Legislature created a state recreational salt water fishing permit. Prompted by a federal mandate enacted to improve estimates of saltwater fishing effort and catch data, the permit program provides funds for marine recreational fishing programs including fisheries research, management, and public access for anglers.
DMF administers the fund with the assistance of the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Panel, a group of private stakeholders that advises DMF on recreational fishing projects and initiatives. Under the state law that established the recreational saltwater fishing permit, one-third of all license fees are dedicated to recreational saltwater fishing infrastructure projects in Massachusetts, ensuring better access to coastal fishing.
Right now water temperatures are creeping into the low forties which is good news for local striped bass anglers. When the thermometer registers fifty degrees sometime in April, the striper-watch will kick into high gear and the countdown begins for the start of the 2016 striper season. Those early arriving bass will spread out along the Elizabeth Islands then gradually make their way north toward New Hampshire and Maine. Before we know it, it'll be: Game on!, and the salt water scene will light up for another year's worth of striper action.
Right now, though, there's plenty of good freshwater fishing to be had. Upper Cape destinations such as Jenkins Pond in Falmouth offer yellow perch, chain pickerel, smallmouth bass and white perch as well as smallmouth bass and even the occasional catfish. Fishing pressure on Jenkins is light throughout the year.
Another productive location in Mashpee is Johns Pond which offers yellow perch, chain pickerel, rainbow, brook and brown trout. However, because of contamination concerns questions related to contaminated groundwater seeping in from the old Otis airbase, there is a state Fish Consumption Advisory that suggests limits of public consumption to two meals of fish from Johns Pond per month and recommends that pregnant women abstain completely from eating fish from this source.
Mashpee-Wakeby ponds on the Falmouth/Mashpee line used to be stocked with chinook salmon until 1948 and anglers say remnants of those stocks continue to inhabit this body of water. This is a deep water pond (actually two conjoined ponds) with the deepest parts near ninety feet. Largemouth bass thrive here and canoes, kayaks and small skiffs prevail. Gamefish display excellent growth rates as sea run alewives travel in via the Mashpee River from Nantucket Sound. Largemouth bass and chain pickerel in Mashpee-Wakeby run bigger than average and anglers have tied into six pounds-plus white catfish. Shiners and PowerBaits are the lure de jour in the spring and artificials come into play later in summer and into the fall.
The Brewster ponds offer some of the best freshwater action on the Cape. Long Pond is another relatively deepwater pond with a population of sea run alewives and the smallmouths are plentiful in the three to five pound range. Yellow perch tend to run bigger than usual as do chain pickerel. Long Pond was actually stocked by private parties with striped bass up until 1971 but there have been no recent reports of the presence of stripers currently.
Herring Pond in Eastham is stocked regularly with brook, brown and rainbow trout and the presence of alewives swimming in from Cape Cod Bay means bigger than average trout not to mention that the wash of tidal seawater alleviates some of the tendency to become acidic. Those alewives provide great forage for the resident brown trout which Cape anglers target for their size.
Yes, we all yearn for the striper action to kick in before long, but until it does the Cape's ponds can provide a heckuva good alternative while we're waiting. It won't be long now.