by Jerry Vovcsko
We've got our share of strange looking marine creatures in Cape waters but I think we've got to take a back seat to the folks along the coasts of Chile and Peru when it comes to any weird-creatures contest. Take, for instance, a sea creature from those parts that can best be described as resembling a rock-with-guts. The thing lies there sucking in water and filtering out microorganisms while it's clear blood somehow secretes a rare mineral, vanadium!
Think that's not strange enough? Okay, there's this: although Pyura chilensis is born male, it turns hermaphroditic at puberty and reproduces by releasing clouds of sperm and eggs into the water around it and hoping they hook up somewhere along the line. Folks who eat the "shellfish rock" raw or in stews describe the taste as soapy, bitter and with a kind of weird iodine flavor, not the sort of thing likely to end up as the next, great, fast-food item to tempt the American palate.
Scientists call its asexual method of reproduction "selfing", a method which, when successful, which produces tadpole-like offspring that eventually settle onto a rock and grow into the ultra bizarre "rock with guts" adult form. The magazine Scientific American has more information about this odd creature. Just more proof that Mother Nature has a really twisted sense of humor.
After weeks of sweltering heat and humidity on Cape Cod, a wind shift and cooler temperatures brought some relief. The late-July fishing is great, and fishermen all over the Cape have plenty of reasons to get excited about fishing this weekend.
Fishing in the Cape Cod Canal has been hit or miss during the past week. Topwater results with striped bass are good one morning and zilch the next. Some nice keeper size bass have been taken behind the Bourne skating rink and a mid-week blitz took place behind Joe's Fish Market in Sandwich. Naturally, the stripers churned the surface just out of range for 90 percent of the folks throwing plugs. Sometimes the fish almost seem to have internal GPS that tells them where to locate themselves in order to drive anglers nuts. Out in Cape Cod Bay Billingsgate continues to deliver bass upwards of twenty pounds to tube-and-worm specialists and action on western edge of the Brewster Flats picks up on falling tides during the evening hours after beach goers have departed the scene.
The stretch of beach between Sandwich and Barnstable Harbor has been productive for bass and blues and shore-based anglers with a little patience and tenacity have picked up sizable bass with best results in the wee early morning hours before the life guards set up for business along Sandy Neck beach. Bottom fishing for black sea bass, tautog, scup and the like continues to thrive at the wreck site of the old target ship, the James Longstreet.
On the Nantucket Sound side water temperatures in the 70s make striper fishing a challenge, especially in shallow waters. Boat anglers working along the Elizabeth Islands continue to pick up keeper bass size but will have to work for their catches. I've had pretty good luck using smaller lures and slowing down retrieves unless I happen across strong currents, rips and fast-moving water such as those making up around the edges in Woods Hole channel. Pulling jig-and-plastic combos through those places usually produces good results and metal slabs will, on occasion, work when nothing else seems to.
The Middleground harbors a lively fluke population and drifting a strip of fluke belly on a westerly tide has been productive for some locals looking to put some doormat fillets in the freezer for late season grilling. Lucas Shoal holds a supply of fluke as well but these flatties have been running on the small size lately. We're going into August now with water temperatures in the seventies and that's a recipe for bonito to show up sooner than later. The western end of Nantucket Sound will be seeing these funny fish in numbers before too long and the false albacore will make their presence known as well. Local estuaries are beginning to sprout snapper blues in a big way and I know of a couple locals who don't even start fishing for striped bass until they've got a bait-well full of snappers for live-lining purposes.
South of the Vineyard there have been reports of yellowtail tuna and mahi mahi being caught. Back in the day these fish rarely, if ever, made an appearance in Cape waters…now they're fairly common visitors. Don't know what it takes to convince some folks that climate change isn't a government plot cooked up by President Obama, but just in my lifetime there have been water temperature changes that are kind of hard to dismiss as such.
Now's a pretty good time to scout around for mako and thresher sharks in Cape Cod Bay. That "reaper" tail the thresher shark wields is a sight unlikely to be forgotten, the same way spotting an ocean going sunfish (mola mola) falls into the unforgettable-event category.
Sometimes you run across a story that reminds you just ho star-crossed some people can be. Like the pregnant Maine woman and her friend who got lost hiking and were rescued but died later that evening when they accidentally drove their car into the ocean in the nighttime fog.
"They called on the phone that they were in the water and the car was filling up. Then the phone went dead," Smith said. "An hour later, the deputies found the car."
Earlier in the evening, the women had been hiking in Roque Bluffs State Park but got lost and called for help. A local resident found them and their dog and gave them rides on his ATV back to his house, where a warden picked them up and brought them to their vehicle, which was parked at the park.
But it appears Stiner drove toward the boat ramp instead of in the other direction toward Machias. After the women called 911, authorities used GPS coordinates from the cellphone to place the van near the boat ramp. Responders at first couldn't find it because it was dark and foggy out, and the dark-colored van was in 20 feet of water and couldn't be seen from shore or the water's surface, said Lt. Travis Willey, of the sheriff's department.
A volunteer diver from the Jonesboro Fire Department found the car about 175 feet off the boat ramp, the women and the dog inside with the doors closed and the windows up.
"It appears they went the wrong direction and drove off the ramp," said Sheriff Smith.
I suppose we can file this story under the heading: If it wasn't for bad luck, they'd have no luck at all.