to UPLOAD: please register or login

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.

Search This Blog

May 31, 2014

The View From Around the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

The northerly breezes we're seeing as May winds down and June ushers itself in have been putting a bit of a damper on piscatorial activities – the stripers may just be holed in their watery dens waiting for milder conditions. Yes, bluefish action has been startlingly fierce the past week or so – at least it has in Vineyard Sound – but the bite hasn't really kicked in for those anglers in pursuit of the wily striped bass. But give it a week or so and things should be heating up in Striperville.
Right now those folks looking for good-eating have black sea bass and scup on their weekend grill menu…and the scup are running larger than we've seen in some time. (Don't forget that long timer pinhook professionals have made a tidy living drifting live scup through places where big stripers tend to lurk. Next to fat river herring in the spring, scup has long been the favored striper-candy in use around these parts. Later on local angler will break out the eels in such places as Devil's Bridge, Quicks Hole and Sow & Pigs reef…but right now scup is the bait de jure for a lot of folks working the far westerly regions of the Elizabeth Island chain.

Speaking of that area, anyone who's buzzed down there for a look at what's going on might want to duck around into the Buzzards Bay side and visit the rock piles that line the shores of Penikese Island. That's a rarely fished but often rewarding site for tangling with big bass – just keep a wary eye out for those hull-eating rocks and boulders (the main reason, after all, why stripers like the place). And if the vessel is seaworthy enough a quick sprint further south to Noman's Island on occasion can bring spectacular results. This former Navy bombing target harbors an early-arriving population of seriously large stripers that seem to use it as an R&R stop after their long swim from the Hudson River or Chesapeake Bay. But do adhere to the philosophy of the New Orleans sous chef in "Apocalypse Now" and "never get out of the goddammed boat!" (Some of that old Navy ordnance that litters the island is still menacingly live.)

Stripers may be scarce early in the season but bluefish more than make up for that shortage. They are everywhere in Vineyard Sound these days and they are more than willing to whack any old plug thrown their way. I have never really understood why so many folks troll for blues, dragging all manner of clunky terminal gear on heavy tackle instead of simply hooking an old beater plug direct to the line and having-at-it on medium spinning gear, a far more enjoyable fishing experience than trolling with a couple pounds of iron out behind the boat. Go light, folks, and enjoy the sport….that's my advice.

The Canal has had its moments. Like last week when things lit up briefly with stripers going absolutely nuts in the early morning hour and then quickly cooling off. Since that one weird blitz striper action has been slow to near-dormant but conditions in The Ditch can turn on a dime and this time of year there will be stripers showing up in the usual haunts. The west end, down around the pilings south of the Maritime Academy, often delivers big bass to anglers drifting mackerel or scup or whatever's available.

Right now those folks looking for good-eating have black sea bass and scup on their weekend grill menu…and the scup are running larger than we've seen in some time. (Don't forget that long timer pinhook professionals have made a tidy living drifting live scup through places where big stripers tend to lurk. Next to fat river herring in the spring, scup has long been the favored striper-candy in use around these parts. Later on local angler will break out the eels in such places as Devil's Bridge, Quicks Hole and Sow & Pigs reef…but right now scup is the bait de jure for a lot of folks working the far westerly regions of the Elizabeth Island chain.

Speaking of that area, anyone who's buzzed down there for a look at what's going on might want to duck around into the Buzzards Bay side and visit the rock piles that line the shores of Penikese Island. That's a rarely fished but often rewarding site for tangling with big bass – just keep a wary eye out for those hull-eating rocks and boulders (the main reason, after all, why stripers like the place). And if the vessel is seaworthy enough a quick sprint further south to Noman's Island on occasion can bring spectacular results. This former Navy bombing target harbors an early-arriving population of seriously large stripers that seem to use it as an R&R stop after their long swim from the Hudson River or Chesapeake Bay. But do adhere to the philosophy of the New Orleans sous chef in "Apocalypse Now" and "never get out of the goddammed boat!" (Some of that old Navy ordnance that litters the island is still menacingly live.)

Stripers may be scarce early in the season but bluefish more than make up for that shortage. They are everywhere in Vineyard Sound these days and they are more than willing to whack any old plug thrown their way. I have never really understood why so many folks troll for blues, dragging all manner of clunky terminal gear on heavy tackle instead of simply hooking an old beater plug direct to the line and having-at-it on medium spinning gear, a far more enjoyable fishing experience than trolling with a couple pounds of iron out behind the boat. Go light, folks, and enjoy the sport….that's my advice.

The Canal has had its moments. Like last week when things lit up briefly with stripers going absolutely nuts in the early morning hour and then quickly cooling off. Since that one weird blitz striper action has been slow to near-dormant but conditions in The Ditch can turn on a dime and this time of year there will be stripers showing up in the usual haunts. The west end, down around the pilings south of the Maritime Academy, often delivers big bass to anglers drifting mackerel or scup or whatever's available. A word of caution about that area though…when a westerly running tide meets up with a stiff southwest breeze, things can get hairy for anglers working from small skiffs. A steep chop forms and can build rapidly into standing waves of six to eight feet…in a fifteen foot aluminum skiff anglers are at risk of capsize so pay attention and feel free to run for home if it gets nasty.

There's been some good striper action up around Herring Cove on the west end of Provincetown with the occasional keeper turning up and lots of bass in the twenty two to twenty four-inch size range showing up. The other striper hot (relatively speaking) spot in Cape Cod has been around Barnstable Harbor and over toward Sandy Neck beach. This area, along with Billingsgate Shoal, is attracting early season attention from the tube & worm crowd and it won't be long now before bluefish enter the equation as well. Meanwhile, wherever a wreck can be found, tautog will have gathered. A day's worth of success with ‘tog, scup and black sea bass adds up to tasty results on the backyard grill.

Having waited patiently through a long, depressing winter, local anglers turn most of their attention toward the salt water with good reason. But it's worth keeping in mind that there's still plenty of fishing available in the freshwater ponds and right at the top of the target list is trout, both brookies and rainbows. Peter's Pond is a smart choice and Mashpee-Wakeby has been very productive for those folks using PowerBait. Less effective, but more fun, light spinning gear and small metal lures like Al's Goldfish or Mepps spinners draw strikes and allow for a bit of action from trout or feisty bass fresh off the spawning beds.

Actually, migrating stripers and blues create a situation where it almost doesn't matter where an angler wets a line. Newly arrived bass are heading in pretty much every direction so any place there's access to the sea is a good place to toss a cast or two…and if it doesn't pay off, keep moving; the fish are here and it's just a matter of keeping bait or lure in the water as they pass through. We're here, the fish are here…life is good in Cape waters.




A word of caution about that area though…when a westerly running tide meets up with a stiff southwest breeze, things can get hairy for anglers working from small skiffs. A steep chop forms and can build rapidly into standing waves of six to eight feet…in a fifteen foot aluminum skiff anglers are at risk of capsize so pay attention and feel free to run for home if it gets nasty.

There's been some good striper action up around Herring Cove on the west end of Provincetown with the occasional keeper turning up and lots of bass in the twenty two to twenty four-inch size range showing up. The other striper hot (relatively speaking) spot in Cape Cod has been around Barnstable Harbor and over toward Sandy Neck beach. This area, along with Billingsgate Shoal, is attracting early season attention from the tube & worm crowd and it won't be long now before bluefish enter the equation as well. Meanwhile, wherever a wreck can be found, tautog will have gathered. A day's worth of success with ‘tog, scup and black sea bass adds up to tasty results on the backyard grill.

Having waited patiently through a long, depressing winter, local anglers turn most of their attention toward the salt water with good reason. But it's worth keeping in mind that there's still plenty of fishing available in the freshwater ponds and right at the top of the target list is trout, both brookies and rainbows. Peter's Pond is a smart choice and Mashpee-Wakeby has been very productive for those folks using PowerBait. Less effective, but more fun, light spinning gear and small metal lures like Al's Goldfish or Mepps spinners draw strikes and allow for a bit of action from trout or feisty bass fresh off the spawning beds.

Actually, migrating stripers and blues create a situation where it almost doesn't matter where an angler wets a line. Newly arrived bass are heading in pretty much every direction so any place there's access to the sea is a good place to toss a cast or two…and if it doesn't pay off, keep moving; the fish are here and it's just a matter of keeping bait or lure in the water as they pass through. We're here, the fish are here…life is good in Cape waters.




May 24, 2014

Bluefish and Humpback Whales In the Bay

by Jerry Vovcsko

I've always been an admirer of unique angling methods and innovative approaches to catching fish. One of my favorites is an Old School technique designed to improve an anglers chances of catching sharks while working from a beach or jetty. It requires a good sized eel and a wood shingle. Whack the eel against a rock to stun the creature, then attach to line with a single circle hook through the jaw and nose. Lay the stunned eel on the shingle and float it on an outgoing tide. When it's out a sufficient distance, give the line a jerk dunking the eel in the water which will soon revive it and have it swimming around much further out than if you tried to cast it…with any luck a shark in the vicinity will swim over to investigate its struggles and there you go. Innovative.

But that method pales in comparison to what any reasonably competent group of humpback whales can come up with when they're foraging for one of their favored meal treats, the lowly sand lance. This 6 to 10-inch oily fish, also known as a sand eel, is a favorite of the whales, who gobble them up by the ton. Their unique approach to food gathering consists of several whales rounding up schools of sand lance by creating walls of bubbles using their breathing apparatus to do so. When they have the wee, small fish gathered in a tight ball, they swim through the school openmouthed and devour immense amounts of fishy treats with each pass. How cool is that?

This past week a lot of lucky folks who booked passage on a whale-watching boat taking off from the New England Aquarium in Boston, bound for Stellwagen Bank, one of the world's most active marine sanctuaries, were treated to a rare abundance of humpback whales, getting to see a dozen or more whales culminating with one whale-watch boat spotting a remarkable forty whales in one three hour tour.

Last year sand lance were among the missing at Stellwagen, but this spring they have returned in force. No one is quite sure why, but their numbers have spurred a feeding frenzy of whales, seals, and basking sharks. It appears the humpbacks, about the size of a school bus and weighing up to forty tons, have been more than pleased to have the little fellas back in town.

Anybody interested in catching bluefish these days might want to employ the following technique: Take an old, beat up plug and attach it to your line. Cast it pretty much anywhere in Buzzards Bay or Nantucket Sound. Retrieve…unhook bluefish, repeat. The blues are – in technical terms – all over the damn place! It's a good idea to either crimp down the barbs or replace the trebles with single hooks, thereby making life a lot easier when it comes time to unhook the feisty critters.

There's nothing quite like finding one's self with a treble hook attached to a flopping-around ten pound bluefish as well as hooked into some exposed part of the angler's anatomy. I recall having exactly that happen to me when a thrashing blue snagged me an inch or so above the eye with a flying treble on a blackback, sinking, five-inch Rebel. The fish managed to dislodge it almost immediately by ripping it through flesh and skin as it gyrated about. My fishing partner at the time noted the blood running down my face, treated the wound with a quick squirt of WD-40 and said "C'mon, quit whining about a little scratch…the blues are hitting."

Stripers are plentiful as well. From the south and west shores of Martha's Vineyard to the full length of the Elizabeth Islands, around the Monomoy Flats and as far north as Race Point and Herring Cove up at Provincetown, the stripers are here and they are hitting plugs, baits, metal slabs and plastic combos. Not too many keepers reported caught just yet but we are in the midst of one of the absolute best times to fish for striped bass in our waters. (The only comparable time might be in the fall as the migrating fish take on calories for their return trip to more southerly waters.)

Those folks seeking fluke might do well to head on over to the Middleground and drift the reef with a strip of squid or fluke belly to tempt the big doormats. Best thing about fishing the Middleground is even when the fluke are playing coy and ignoring baits and lures, there are striped bass in residence along with bluefish and even the occasional Pollock which makes this location a go-to spot for folks looking to fill the freezer or provide an assortment of seafood for the weekend grillmeister.

This is the time of year when it's probably least important to worry about what specific bait or lure to employ…right now, they're hungry and will hit just about anything that remotely resembles protein content of a size that can be swallowed. And where the bluefish are concerned, when you find them there's little need to wonder what to throw their way. In fact, if you get into a good sized school, there's plenty of entertainment available in casting a lure and trying to get it back WITHOUT hooking a blue.

I can recall a few years back, drifting just off Poponnesset Beach with blues all around us, sweeping a 7-inch needle plug in twenty-foot skips across the surface and still having a blue grab it as it hit the water. My forearm was so sore from landing one six-pound blue after another I had to call it quits and rest poor aching flipper while the others continued to fish. It doesn't get a whole lot better than this out there on the water, so now's the time to jump on the chance and enjoy it while it lasts. Won't be too long before the summer doldrums bring the action to a plodding halt and we find ourselves grumping about the lack of available action. Feast or famine, as the man says…seems it always one or the other and right now it's most definitely feast time, so have at it. I know I will.




May 17, 2014

The 2014 Striper Season is Under Way

by Jerry Vovcsko

Back in the day the Connecticut River was home to all manner of fish including a species that resembled armored leviathans like the Monitor and Merrimac that slugged it out during the Civil War. I'm referring to the Atlantic Sturgeon, a resident fish known to top the ten foot mark and beyond, until pollution, development and fishing pressure pushed the species into extinction. Well, extinction so far as state fish biologists were concerned. But not so fast. Seems a rare seven-foot Atlantic Sturgeon washed up on the shore in Lyme a couple weeks ago, an occurrence that some scientists say could be the find of the century.

Why it died is still a mystery, but the biggest question is why it was 8 miles up the river from the mouth of the Long Island Sound in the first place. Scientists hope tests will help them determine if the Sturgeon is unique to the Connecticut River or just part of the population from another waterway, such as the Hudson River. If in fact the dead specimen, an egg-bearing female, turns out to be a true Atlantic Sturgeon there will be a lot of crossed fingers as fish biologists hope to discover some youngsters further up the river, an indication that a species once thought extinct is making a comeback in the Connecticut. That would be welcome news indeed.

Here we are in mid-May and the striped bass we've been so patiently waiting for have most definitely arrived! Not only are the stripers here, but it looks like some bluefish have accompanied them into our local waters. Seems a little early for the blues to show up but that may be because massive swarms of squid have showed up over the past week or so in Buzzards Bay. Reports have it that a run of squid has also turned up off Popponesset Beach in twenty foot depths of the water column. Squid has long been striper candy and there are some unusually Large stripers for this time of the season being taken.

Guess it's time to break out the squid plugs and have a go. Drifting fresh squid just after dark from local jetties can have a serious serendipity effect with the possible result ranging from tangling with a jumbo blue to a ten foot shark or who-knows-what? Anyhow, it's most assuredly time to break out the salt water gear because there's action to be had. Bluefish appear to be in residence now around Martha's Vineyard and stripers are just about everywhere. The Canal action is constant near the herring run these days.

Whereas it used to be the drill to pick up a license at Town Hall and boogey down to the herring run for a bucket full of live-lineable river herring, the state shut down those runs a few years back and now Cape anglers pursue the bass with such fishy delights as plugs, metal slabs, jig & plastic combos or – for the Old School types – eelskin rigs. Yes, it's a little more work than when dunking live herring meant a forty pound bass might decide to dine on that attractive dish, but the big bass are still around; they just have to be coaxed to swallow what's set before their hungry eyes. Some folks have made an art out of imitating herring with big swimming plugs; takes patience and there will be plenty of fishless days, but a tenacious angler may find a hard-earned reward in time when one of those jumbo bass decides to take a bite at something that looks herring-like as it swims past.

And there's more good news at hand: the black sea bass season opens this weekend so between the presence of tasty tautog and black sea bass, folks who crave a bowl of delicious bouillabaisse have two of the key ingredients available. Some scup, a bit of haddock, clams, mussels, maybe a couple of quahogs and even a sea robin or two…yessir, there's the makings of a tasty fish stew that cries out for a glass of chilled white wine and hunks of French bread to sop up the "gravy"…just doesn't get much better than that, I tell you truly.

Best bet right now to take a striper? Head on over to Nonamesset Island just across the Woods Hole channel. Drift along the island shoreline and toss swimming plugs into the rocks…the key is to cast right up to the edge of the beach and retrieve…look for a hit in close to shore. Whatever the outcome though, enjoy the day…a new season is under way. The stripers are here. What more could we ask for?





May 06, 2014

They're Almost Here, But Not Quite

by Jerry Vovcsko

By this time most years, the water temperatures around Cape Cod would be in the low to mid-fifties and the first scouts would be showing up ahead of the arrival of masses of migrating striped bass. Not this year. So far, water temperatures linger in the mid to high forties and there's little sign of any migrating bass showing up in our waters. Granted, a few stripers have been caught locally but these are small fish that have likely hung around these parts right through the winter. We are still on the lookout for those bright, shiny newcomers all decked out in sea lice and hungry from their long trip up from the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay. But if anglers have acquired nothing else they have learned to be patient and wait for Mother Nature's rhythmic cycles to play out once again.

The one place that has seen a little preliminary action is over around Popponesset and South Cape beaches. That makes sense because the shallow water near the beach slopes gradually away from shore and warms rapidly as the afternoon sun beats down. Most folks casting into the suds around there are tossing metal slabs such as Kastmasters, Deadly Dicks, Hopkins lures and the like. Jig and plastic combinations are also favored for early season work. In any case, it's a good idea to go a little on the small side when choosing lures…three-quarter ounce metal slabs are the preferred size and slow retrieves are most effective this time of year.

It looks like we're a few days out from stripers arriving in any numbers but by this weekend I'm guessing we'll be seeing plenty of striper activity on the south side of the Cape and around the islands – both the Elizabeths and Martha's Vineyard as well. The Canal is also worth keeping an eye on although the herring run will be where the Large bass stack up in wait. Used to be an angler could buy a herring license at Town Hall, carry a bucket over to the Environmental officer dipping herring at the run and get his allotment, then walk across the highway to the Ditch and live-line up a jumbo bass. But herring numbers dwindled and a few years back the state closed the runs to herring harvests so until the stocks are sufficiently replenished herring remain off-limits to harvesting although there are occasional reports of poachers scooping fish from unattended runs.

Speaking of poachers, the gent who stole something like thirty-thousand oysters from oyster beds in Barnstable and Dennis has an upcoming date with the courts. Michael Bryant, of West Yarmouth, has been indicted in connection with those alleged thefts. He is scheduled to be arraigned May 9 in Barnstable Superior Court on six counts of larceny of property, a shellfish sales violation, shellfishing in a contaminated area and a commercial fishing violation.

Bryant is alleged to have sold the stolen oysters to Joseph Vaudo, owner of Joe's Lobster Mart on the Cape Cod Canal and Vaudo is fighting an attempt by the state to revoke his license to sell seafood, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Health said. On April 15, the state agency filed a notice of intent to revoke his retail and wholesale license. Vaudo had 14 days to appeal, which he did by last week's deadline. The health department's action came after Vaudo, 63, pleaded guilty in March to receiving stolen property, willfully misleading police during an investigation. Vaudo's appeal will be made to the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals, which will handle the case.

Once the department receives the case it will assign it to a magistrate and schedule a pre-hearing conference, where the two sides will meet to discuss the issues. A public hearing will be scheduled and during the appeal process, Joe's Lobster Mart, located in Sandwich along the Cape Cod Canal, remains open for business.

The striper influx hasn't slipped into high gear just yet but it's day-to-day right now and a few more warm back-to-back days could see the season really getting under way with a rush so it's a good idea to continue testing out those early season locations that have paid off in the past. One morning an angler will go to wet a line and the stripers will have arrived and the 2014 season will be officially under way. Hot damn, I'm ready for it!











You must login to post a comment.

User Name
Password

Need an account? Register here!
© 2011 Noreast Media, LLC | Terms of Service | Contact Us | Advertise