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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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June 20, 2013

Fishing the Back Side of the Elizabeth Islands

by Jerry Vovcsko

Back in the 70s and 80s my neighbor and I used to religiously fish the Elizabeth Island chain about five mornings a week. The fishing was good and a successful outing depended largely on our willingness to get in close to the rocks lining the shore and work plugs, plastics and live eels in the wash.

June 13, 2013

Tautog, Tunnies and Tebow

by Jerry Vovcsko

Tim Tebow signing with the Patriots? Really? That's just the sort of sports headline that can get you a hot cup of coffee square in your lap if you're not careful. I mean...Tim "God Is My Co-Pilot" Tebow signing with the home team? After all the ridicule we Pats fans heaped on Rex Ryan for signing the kid? C'mon... Yeah, but then again, who knows? The Pats' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel saw enough in Timmy T, to spend a high draft choice on him back in Denver and the lefty QB in a tight end's body did pull out an overtime playoff win against a pretty decent Pittsburgh Steeler, who knows?...maybe Belichick and McDaniel have some secret-weapon-plan in mind for this young man. One thing's certain, if Tim Tebow makes the team it will be an interesting 2013/2014 season in the NFL...I'm sure looking forward top it.

And here we go again…the first great white shark sighting close enough to shore to get the beaches closed. Happened over the weekend when a senior lifeguard at Nauset Beach spotted a dorsal fin about 150 yards offshore and had swimmers get out of the water. Judging by the distance between the dorsal fin and the tail the shark was estimated to be between 12 and 13 feet. The shark was soon seen heading toward Chatham (home of the seal colonies) and the beach was reopened an hour later. Looks like the great whites have made the outside beaches of the Cape a regular way stop on their pelagic travels. The Department of Fish and Game urges beachgoers to stay close to the shore and avoid swimming at dawn and dusk and last summer, a Boston man swimming in Truro survived the first shark attack in the Commonwealth since 1936.

Many anglers familiar with Cape Cod waters would pick mid-June as perhaps the best time to fish for stripers, blues, tuna and other species such as tautog and black sea bass. Stripers and blues are everywhere right now and reports of bluefin tuna east of Chatham and northward toward Stellwagen Bank have included a couple measuring upwards-of-90-inch fish recently. Always an exciting prospect to know the big tunnies are back in town and for some it signals the quasi-official kickoff of the real fishing season on the Cape. This was definitely the breakout week for bluefin. Calm seas early in the week made conditions just right for spinning and trolling anglers working just off the outside beaches. More and more giants are being caught including a 92-incher an angler caught using spinning gear on a charter boat. In addition, numerous fish in the 60 and 70-inch size range have been taken and the stretch of water around Peaked Hills bar has been productive for those in pursuit of the Bigs.

Turn-of-tide times in the Cape Cod Canal have been producing good catches of stripers in the mid-teens to twenty pound range as warmer water pouring in from Buzzards Bay takes the chill off the Ditch and generates results up around the east end. Bluefish have also moved into the Canal there have been a few pushing double digits lately caught by anglers working jig and plastic combos during waning and slack tide conditions. Bluefish in the Ditch are a true good news/bad news deal…on the one hand it's nice to see the moving in locally but it's also bad news for everyone but the tackle shops as these toothy critters can easily put a dent in a fisherman's wallet by inevitably carving up these soft baits. One old timer saves those shredded plastic eels and trims them down on his workbench and "laminates" two plastics together with Neoprene Queen, a wetsuit adhesive, and a couple wraps of dental floss to secure the ends. He claims the refurbished plastics work "just about as good as new" and saves a few bucks in the process.

The area around the big pilings at the west end of the Canal has been a bluefish hot spot for the bigger fish but folks working from small skiffs want to take care when the tide runs against a southwest wind as that area can gin up a real messy chop in short order and three to six foot random wave turbulence can quickly take the fun out of fishing when things get hairy for those in a small boat.
Bluefish and stripers have been providing plenty of action for anglers stationed around Race Point and around westward to Herring Cove. Early morning topwater activity has resulted in bass in the high teens and an occasional twenty pound specimen. (One local bait shop confirmed a forty eight inch striper caught in the Sound). Big swimming plugs, jigs and mackerel chunks are the preferred offerings for dusk and into the hours of darkness with live eels beginning to show up more frequently now as the bait of choice.

In Vineyard Sound the entire south side of the Cape swarms with recently arrived stripers and bluefish. Anybody looking to take a few fresh bluefish for the grill need only have a bit of patience while casting smallish jigs or plugs and before long a pod of three to four pound blues will likely come calling. Keeping a couple beater-type plugs in the tackle box with squashed barbs is a pretty good idea when bluefish are around as it makes it way easier to unhook them and the condition and appearance of the plug is largely irrelevant – blues will attack just about anything that swims. It's not a bad idea to keep a couple of metal slabs on hand as they can be particularly effective on bright, sunny days with their sparkly reflective surfaces.

Bluefish have taken up residence around the Vineyard and stripers have moved into the estuary ponds recently and some of these bass carry substantial size. Fly rod equipped anglers have had good success with these stripers on an ebbing tide from dusk well into dark. During the daytime hours the bluefish are everywhere and provide great fun for one and all, especially for those fishing with kids. Rick, my oldest boy, got really hooked on fishing back in the late 70s when we went out early one morning before school and caught 65 blues among the three of us. The fish were all right around five pounds and by the time we wrapped things up Rick said his arm was sore from hauling in those feisty blues and he was raring to get out there again where the blues would hit anything you threw their way and sometimes when you were landing one fish another would hit the plug hanging from the first one's mouth. I told him it's not like that all the time but when it is, it's something you don't forget. Sure enough, some thirty-five years later, he still remembers that morning.

June 05, 2013

Groundfish in the Bay and Controversy At the Canal

by Jerry Vovcsko

Last weekend saw typically decent early season striper fishing around Nantucket but trouble showed up when a charter boat capsized near Bonito Bar and five people ended up in the water for nearly three hours before being rescued in the late afternoon. Local officials blamed a "series of waves" for the boat turning over. Bonito Bar has a history of wave-related incidents as it was there in 2008 that a 26-foot Regulator got flipped by a rogue wave and ended up sinking and then drifting across the Atlantic to wash ashore on the coast of Spain some three years later. Also last weekend a wader-clad gent fishing from a sandbar in the harbor got cut off by the tide and had to be rescued by a good Samaritan on a paddleboard.

Meanwhile, back on the Cape, controversy around the summer train service between Hyannis and Bourne continues to simmer over fishing access to the Cape Cod Canal. Local anglers who have historically crossed the train tracks to get to favored fishing spots or pull their lobster pots are angry about the appearance of "no-trespassing" signs posted along the tracks in dozens of locations. Add the newly posted access restriction to the already existing lack of parking and folks who have fished the canal for decades are concerned. Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation say the signs are intended to warn people of the dangers of trespassing on the rail line, an explanation that does little to alleviate canal anglers' anxiety what with State law threatening a $100 fine or 50 hours of community service as well as arrest for violations. A DOT spokesperson says the signs have been installed in locations where there is evidence of recent and continual trespassing.

Overall, it's been typical early season fishing action with Buzzards Bay lighting up for ground fishing – tautog and sea bass in the area around Cleveland Ledge in particular along with scup and fluke throughout the Bay and down along the Elizabeth Islands. The mouth of Lackey's Bay has been seeing plenty of scup action, a fishing activity that's especially enjoyable for kids as these little critters will continue to bite as long as anybody's willing to drop a worm in their vicinity. Many a youngster has been introduced to the sport via an afternoon of scup fishing.

The Middleground continues to deliver catches of keeper size fluke and half-ounce jigs tipped wit flue belly strips are definitely effective around there. Best drift has been on the west-running tide. The absence of commercial squid boats this spring point to a disappointing year for folks who relish a fine calamari feast on the dinner table. There have been numerous theories about their absence but according to some of the old timers, it was just "one of those years when the squid didn't show up."

Stripers have been showing up in the Cape Cod Canal however, and some of the ones arriving recently have decent size now including a fat thirty four pound fish caught on a jig during slack tide Monday evening not far from Joe's fish market – how fitting is that? Over the years a lot of bass have come out of the Ditch having eaten a jig worked down deep along the rocky bottom. Anglers new to the Canal sometimes find it difficult to accept the need to plumb the depths with four to six ounce jigs but those are swift currents swirling through there and it's not possible to get lighter jigs into the strike-zone when the tide starts running.

Yes, it can get expensive snagging jigs on boulders, lobster pots and the varied debris that lines the bottom of the canal, but, as the locals say, "If you ain't losing jigs in the rocks, you ain't fishing where you should be" and that's the God's truth. To catch the big ones it takes big jigs and big plastic baits…newbies to the Ditch may consider it overkill to flip a twelve inch jig & plastic combo into the current but Canal Rats who've fished here for years consider that rig business-as-usual.

Over in Cape Cod Bay the tube-and-worm lads have been making hay around Billingsgate on good sized bass in the slot and some of the highliners use a trick they've employed over the year that's proved effective. They'll slow the boat to a near stop when they make the turn causing the tube to sink deeper and closer to some of the "holes" in that area, then add a bit of throttle as they come out of the turn. Right about then is when they're liable to get the hit and frequently it's a jumbo striper on the line. Maybe the Large like to lie deep in ambush and when they see the tube/worm rig falling and then starting to "swim" away, it triggers their strike reaction. I first saw one of the charter skippers work that technique and found it impressive..and productive.

Further north some city anglers have been doing well for themselves from the beach around Castle Island in Boston. Fishing a late evening ebb tide has been putting keeper sized fish in the cooler lately and swimming plugs seem to do the trick. To my mind, when swimming plugs are mentioned I reach for a blackback five and a quarter inch Rebel, one of the sinking variety that I've hung onto since back when you couldn't find them in the bait and tackle shops anymore. But nothing seems to work quite as well for me as these old favorites do and while others say they do well with the floating variety, for me there's no comparison and I'll keep hunting for them at tag sales and online auctions.

The past week saw plenty of bass and blues caught along the stretch of south-facing beaches between Falmouth and South Cape Beach. Not a whole lot of size, maybe, but all the action an angler could wish for. Maybe there are folks who become annoyed at having their lures grabbed by undersized stripers or three-pound bluefish but I'm not one of them. When it seems these sized fish are what's at hand and it looks like that's going to be pretty much what I can expect for the day's activity, instead of getting grumpy about it I bend down the barbs, switch to whatever light gear I have at hand and settle in for a day's worth of fishing in Cape waters.

I think sometimes I get a little bit spoiled and kind of lose track of how lucky we are to be out there enjoying ourselves and communing with the fishy environment around the Cape, but with my seventy-fifth birthday looming on the horizon I try to take very little for granted these days. Three-pound bluefish or twenty-four inch striped bass…hey, I'll take ‘em and consider myself among the luckiest folks on the planet because I can do this kind of fishing every day if I feel like it from mid-May through to Thanksgiving and maybe a little beyond. How many anglers would wish for the chance to say the same?

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