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?