by Jerry Vovcsko
Even though Massachusetts will see little or no effect from the law it recently passed, still, it became the ninth state to criminalize the traffic in shark fins. Governor Deval Patrick signed the new restrictions into law outlawing the removal of shark fins (often while the animals are still alive) although it exempts locally caught species including skate, smooth hound sharks and spiny dogfish from the regs.
Restaurants which serve shark fin soup
charge as much as one hundred dollars a bowl for the Asian delicacy which has contributed to the fierce demand. The new law is designed to help shrink the US market for shark fins that are typically imported from countries with less restrictive laws. Violators of the new Massachusetts law could be fined up to $1,000, plus 60 days in prison and the loss of their fishing licenses, according to the Governor's office.
In other news, Massachusetts has been trying to lower the mortality rate for endangered shorebirds, including plovers,
by regulating off-road vehicular access to nesting areas and restricting foot traffic to these areas during the crucial nesting periods. But as of late town, state and federal agencies are grappling with the complex problem of addressing the increasing populations of predators that cause more shorebird deaths than human activities.
Many of these predators, including foxes, skunks, coyotes and even crows are thriving on foodstuffs discarded by humans and their populations are growing to such an extent that they threaten to virtually exterminate some shorebird species. The Mass Audubon Society tells us that crow populations have just about doubled since the 1980s and continue to rise exponentially, taking an unsustainable toll on plover eggs among others. In the past two years alone, the number of plover chicks that successfully reach maturity levels are much lower than what it takes to have a stable population, and that is largely due to increased predation, say conservation science officials for the state's endangered species program.
One of the most promising tools in protecting these birds from predators flamed out when predators figured out how to exploit beach cages known as exclosures that safeguard eggs and nesting birds. Then too, the lethal removal of predators by poisoning or with hired shooters is no longer an option as public opinion put the kibosh on such programs ever since a crow-poisoning project in 2010 had to be cancelled because of a firestorm of public protest.
While in 2001, the Cape Cod National Seashore had a somewhat successful plover protection program, with 76 nesting pairs of birds and 155 chicks that reached the point where they could fly and migrate, last year only 46 chicks fledged from 85 nesting pairs of birds, just half a chick per pair. Previously, the wire cages (exclosures) were so successful in safeguarding plovers from wandering coyotes and other predators that as many as 91 percent of the eggs hatched and more than two chicks per nesting pair successfully fledged.
Coyotes are the most prevalent predator on Monomoy Island and refuge officials killed 189 coyotes and pups between 1998 and 2012. They also killed individuals from other bird species such as black-crowned night heron. Town officials say that if the shorebird losses to predators continue at the current rate, discussions about eliminating those predators may well be back on the table as perhaps the only effective solution to keep some shorebird species from sliding into extinction.
Meanwhile, the fishing in Cape waters runs the gamut from so-so as the rising water temperatures push striped bass populations into deeper waters, to pretty decent at first light and around dusk in places where rips provide opportunities for bigger fish to set up shop waiting for baitfish to get tumbled in the current.
One of the reasons that I spend the bulk of my time tossing plugs into the rocks and boulders along the Elizabeth Islands is the presence of such localized rips formed by the tidal currents that sweep along the island chain. There's a reason that striped bass are known in the vernacular as "rockfish" and if it's rocks an angler seeks, there's no better place to find them than down along Naushon and Cuttyhunk Islands. Which is also why so many world record stripers have been pulled from these waters.
And then there's the stretch of shoreline along the western edge of Martha's Vineyard. A clever and determined angler could spend the entire season fishing along that shoreline and do very well for him/her self. For a shot at really BIG bass, there's the infamous Devil's Bridge, a rocky shoal that juts out into Vineyard Sound near the southwestern corner of the Vineyard.
I know a gent who fishes nothing but parachute jigs
on this prime striper habitat and keeps his grill busy all summer long turning out delicious marinated striper steaks and his freezer well stocked for the winter months. Mostly, he runs a drift along the Bridge on the night tides, switching up on occasion by wirelining the jigs down deep over the holes he is as familiar with as the idiosyncrasies of the ancient forty horse Evinrude that hangs from the stern of his salty old lapstrake skiff.
His fishing secret?
"Do one thing but be expert at it…know your territory, know every last rock and sandbar and stick with that."
Well, maybe that didn't work so well for Willy Loman as readers of Arthur Miller's classic "Death of a Salesman" can vouch for, but then, striped bass don't read (sort of like "Charlie don't surf!") so, what the hell….
These days bluefish are everywhere. Snapper blues can be found in the harbors and estuaries along the Nantucket Sound shoreline. Bigger blues cruise the Sound daily and the rips behind Nantucket hold some double-digit bluefish that will give anglers a real tussle before they come in over the gunwales.
Tunas can be found east of Chatham now, both the big bluefins and football-sized varieties…and some of the more exotic, southern species are showing up thanks to the vagaries of the Gulf Stream currents – mahi mahi, cobia, even the odd wahoo have surprised local anglers tooling around offshore looking for stripers or whatever.
Those cooler waters east of the Cape keep the stripers feisty and alert so fishing the surf after dusk can be very productive along those outside beaches between Chatham and Provincetown, especially for anglers using live eels. This is an ideal time to lob those "big snakes" into the wash and feel them hammered by wide-shouldered striped bass upwards of thirty pounds.
Just steer clear of the seal colonies down around Chatham.
They'll clean a hooked striper off an angler's hook in a jiffy, yes, but more to the point, they invite unwanted visitors, namely, the Great White sharks that sure do love themselves a little seal meat. Best not to add "tasty angler" to the menu.