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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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July 31, 2015

A Quick Dip In the Canal

by Jerry Vovcsko

For those wanting exercise, there's nothing quite as refreshing as an early morning swim. But it's always important, of course, to pick the right spot to take a dip. Not like the 23 year old gent who was staying at Bourne Scenic Park last week and decided to dive into the Cape Cod Canal for his morning workout. The six-knot currents of the Canal swept him away as other campground visitors called for help.

By the time Bourne firefighters could get a dive team and rescue boat to the scene, the man was able to pull himself out of the water about a quarter mile downstream. Rescue personnel transported him to the hospital for an evaluation. Bourne police forwarded a report of the incident to the Army Corps of Engineers. Kids, don't try this at home.

Also a little further north in Cape Cod Bay, the carcass of a very rarely seen whale with a long, slender, toothed snout washed up on Jones Beach in Plymouth Friday. The female whale — 17 feet long and weighing almost a ton — is thought to be a Sowerby's beaked whale, according to the New England Aquarium.

These are deep water creatures and are almost never seen especially washed ashore in a relatively shallow bay. It appeared to be fresh, in good condition, and "did not have any obvious entanglement gear or scars or obvious trauma from a vessel strike," according to the aquarium statement. The whale's weight and inconvenient location meant they needed to wait until about 5 p.m. for high tide to remove the carcass. The harbormaster's office towed it to the pier and lifted it by crane onto an aquarium trailer.

Aquarium biologists were performing a necropsy on the whale Saturday afternoon, assisted by staff from the Cape Cod-based International Fund for Animal Welfare. The results were not immediately available.

Beaked whales are "so rarely seen that New England Aquarium biologists have been conferring to determine the exact species," aquarium officials said in a statement. The whales are usually found on the continental shelf, hundreds of miles out to sea in the deep ocean, officials said.

Little is known about the Sowerby's beaked whale, which are most often seen by commercial fishermen who catch them alongside other sea creatures. New England is believed to be the southern end of the mammal's range, which extends north into the sub-Arctic. Staff at the aquarium last handled a beaked whale in 2006 in Duxbury, the statement said.

While that young gent who dived into the Canal was thrashing around in the fierce current, it's too bad he didn't have a rod and reel with him as The Ditch has been serving up some hot topwater action lately. One local bait and tackle shop weighed in a near-thirty pound striper last week and breaking fish have been the rule-du-jour in the early morning hours.

Metal slabs offer excellent results in terms of casting distance as well as fish-attracting capability. Which is why I'm never without a couple of Kastmasters stashed in the tackle box. In the Canal the ones with bucktail attached have always been a favorite of mine.

Over on Martha's Vineyard anglers dipping parachute jigs around Devil's Bridge have been doing okay for themselves while across the Sound at Quicks Hole the action has been hot and heavy at first light. The Middleground continues to produce the occasional keeper size fluke but the stripers haven't been cooperating lately.

With the month of August lurking right around the corner we can expect a dropoff in surface action before long. The bluefish will stick around for the most part but heavyweight bass will head for the deeper, cooler waters. This is when the tube-and-worm lad and lassies come into their own. The cooler waters of Cape Cod Bay make it a more attractive proposition than the south side of the Cape

Large quantities of water in movement make such locations as the edge of the Brewster tidal flats a very attractive proposition for boat anglers. Some heavy-weight bass hang out along the drop-off and ambush baitfish during tidal changes. A little time spent studying an area chart can pay off big-time for anglers working the flats.

It often gets lost in the salt water frenzy during striper season, but never forget that the freshwater environment on the Cape remains robust all year long. This is the peak of largemouth bass activity in Cape waters and a visit to one of the local ponds can be a real treat…especially when the winds blow strong out on the ocean.

The Red Sox are sinking like a stone; the Patriots opened training camp; Deflate Gate rages on around the Pats…another typical year in New England sports gets underway. Rejoice, sports fans, rejoice! It just doesn't get much better than this.

July 24, 2015

Doldrums On the Horizon

by Jerry Vovcsko

I won't be all that surprised if reports start coming in about Narwhales being harpooned in Cape Cod Bay. We're already hearing about cobia and sailfish – sailfish, for God's sake! – being caught in Cape waters. I don't know if it's because of global warming or just some meandering eddies of the Gulf Stream that's responsible, but we are definitely seeing species that were previously only found south of the Carolinas showing up these days around Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Sound.

The sailfish was caught in the Northeast Canyons off Cape Cod and the cobia was boated at Horseshoe Shoal (the site where a group called Cape Wind wants to build a giant windmill farm smack-dab in the middle of Nantucket Sound.) Add them in to the lionfish, wahoo and red drum that New England anglers have taken recently and it's clear things ain't like they usta wuz in Cape Cod waters.

In the meantime, some of the more mundane species have been doing their thing from Provincetown to Cuttyhunk. Those stripers that were just hammering mackerel (and anglers' baits) up around Race Point have faded away to some extent. There are still bass around the tip of the Cape but the frenzied feeding that's been going on since the first of June has dissipated and things are more back to normal – still some action but more muted and irregular.

Those massive schools of twenty and thirty pound fish have dwindled to individual bass taking up residence in the usual places and these stripers are more likely to be right around the cusp of keeper-size.

Some of that Provincetown action seems to have gravitated over toward the Cape Cod Canal (the last place, by the way, where a sailfish was caught on hook and line around here – that was back in 2013.) As is standard for this time of year, the best Canal action often comes around break-of-day when topwater lures become very effective and the ability to reach a long way out on the Canal is paramount. Don't expect great results if you're using a seven foot rod that might be just the thing for working live eels but falls a long way short of reaching out and touching breaking fish.

Some say the action along the Elizabeth Islands has been somewhat slow this season. But I've heard that story in the past and come to find out it's not a lack of fish, it's a case of anglers sitting way out away from shore and casting far short of the rocks sitting tight against the beach. For the umpteenth time I'll say it: Get in as close to those rocks the draft on your skiff will permit and land those casts up on the beach if need be and work back into the salt. THAT'S where the stripers can be found.

I almost hate to mention it as we seem to have waited just about forever to get the striper season underway this year (that massive snow/debris pile in Boston only officially melted out on July 14th), but we're very close to entering that dreaded interval known as The Doldrums. Yes, folks, it won't be long now and we'll be asking ourselves what happened to all those striped bass that used to swarm around the Cape.

The answer, of course, is, they're still around but probably headed off to find cooler waters. So savvy anglers will insure that parachute jigs, deep running plugs and metal slabs occupy a prominent spot in the old tackle box. And, of course, for those who aren't phobic about employing bait, there's always live eels…about the closest thing to a sure-thing as it gets in the late season. The water temperatures continue to creep toward the seventy-degree mark and once they get there it'll get increasingly hard to nail a striper in the usual places.

Fortunately, the bluefish will remain comfortable with higher temperature waters and they'll continue to hit pretty much anything thrown their way. The stretch of beach between Nobska Point and Falmouth Harbor as well as the stretch between Menahaunt Beach and Popponesset will feature pods of bluefish cruising along well within casting range, especially in the late afternoon, early evening hours. Crush those barbs down and have fun casting these feisty blues. They'll give you a good run for your money and nothing beats them fresh off the grill when it comes to taste.

Pre-season practice kicks off very soon for NFL teams and Patriot Nation enters Day 31 waiting for Roger Goodell to decide how he's going to extricate himself from the mess he's made of the Tom Brady "Deflategate". It's hard to believe the owners pay that man forty-four million dollars a year but as P. T. Barnum opined, there's a sucker born every minute and it looks like the NFL managed to collect thirty two of them for the ownership designation.

July 15, 2015

And Then it Got Kind of Strange

by Jerry Vovcsko

Strange days indeed around New England, it seems. A visitor to the Gloucester shore this week stumbled upon a torpedo ray — a rare find for beachgoers because the animal usually dwells far below the surface - because torpedo rays are bottom feeders, most can only be found in 30 feet of water or deeper. Torpedo rays are electric, meaning they can shock or stun their prey with a jolt of up to 200 volts and they can grow to 5 or 6 feet long, and up to 200 pounds – best not step on one of these prickly denizen.

Speaking of electricity, a bald eagle was apparently electrocuted when a lamprey eel it had captured came in contact with power lines in Milbridge, Maine. Wildlife warden Scott Osgood said it was one of the more unusual bald eagle deaths he has ever investigated. The banded raptor was found dead in April, with the 2½-foot eel by its side. Osgood told The Lewiston Sun Journal that he suspects the eagle caught the eel in a nearby bay and was flying over power lines with the eel dangling from its talons and when the eel came in contact with the power line predator and prey were killed.

And in Connecticut, a bite from what was believed to be a copperhead snake sent a teenager to the hospital. Wildlife officials said the 14-year-old was on a field trip to Devil's Den Preserve in Weston when he was bitten by the snake earlier this week. He was treated at Norwalk Hospital and was expected to recover. The snake was not captured. One of two venomous snakes found in Connecticut, copperheads can be two to three feet long and are generally found in edges of swamps, rocky hillsides, and open woods, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said.

But snakes aren't the only ones doing the biting around these parts. The Provincetown-based Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) Saturday saved a humpback from yet another danger. According to a CCS release, the organization's Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team was alerted to an entangled whale five miles north of Provincetown by a CCS research team.

When rescuers arrived, they found a hogtied humpback whale anchored in place. According to the release, they also found a white shark circling the trapped whale. The humpback had rope running through its mouth and twisted to its tail. The great white took a good sized chunk out of the whale while it was hobbled.

With the 15-foot white shark still in the area, rescuers worked to free the whale from the 35' response vessel IBIS. Although rescuers usually employ smaller vessels in such situations, the IBIS was chosen to keep rescuers safe from the circling shark.

From the IBIS, the team was able to cut the rope from the whale's mouth. Once the shark left, the team shifted to a small, inflatable boat, giving it better access to the entangled whale. Aboard the inflatable, rescuers were able to cut the rope from the whale's tail and it swam away.

The next day, the tables would be turned as a juvenile male shark about seven feet long stranded on a Chatham beach. Rescuers towed the shark into deeper water and it swam off seemingly none the worse for its stranding. When last seen a scientists was splashing water on it attempting to keep its gills wet.

There's nothing strange about the fishing scene around Cape Cod, though. Striper action continues going great-guns up around Race Point, Herring Cove and Long Point. In fact, the ongoing action has generated a veritable flotilla of boats working over the bass drawn to the location by large schools of mackerel. As the water continues to warm, however, the macs may be heading for cooler climes and when that happens the striper bonanza will likely be finito.

Mackerel have also been providing plenty of action for anglers in Barnstable Harbor. Livelining macs for stripers is one of the more successful approaches available and skiffs and kayaks abound in the harbor and along Sandy Neck beach.

Over in the slot at Billingsgate the usual suspects continue to score on bass up to thirty pounds by tube and worming across the shoal. Bluefish are showing up in the bay now and folks tossing metal slabs or plastic bait tails from jetties between Sandwich and Brewster are taking their share of the sharp-choppered blues as well as schoolie sized bass that cruise the shoreline. There's a contingent of regulars who work the edges of the Brewster Flats either trolling, working tube and worm rigs or casting plugs on falling tides.

On the Nantucket Sound side Monomoy has come into play now and produces ample striper catches during the early morning hours. The rips that form during the daylight hours hold keeper sized bass along with the occasional jumbo blue. On the ocean side things get a little tricky around Chatham thanks to the presence of a large colony of seals along with the transient great white sharks that dine on the blubbery critter. With stripers available in good numbers Cape-wide, it's probably just as well to avoid the shark/seal gathering and pursue the bass elsewhere.

The Cape Cod Canal continues to be one of those choice "elsewhere" locations. It's not as blitzy in there as it was a couple weeks back but there's been a fair amount of topwater action in the early morning hours lately. That style of fishing calls for the ability to reach out and touch those fish that show up near mid-Canal so adequate long-cast gear is a must. Few things are as frustrating as trying to reach breaking fish in mid-Canal and coming up twenty feet short while local "Canal-Rats" wielding eleven and twelve foot sticks lob darters and pencil poppers into the melee and haul in fat twenty pound bass, The Canal is not light-gear territory.

Things have picked up lately along shore in West and North Falmouth in Buzzards Bay. Lots of shorts in residence at the moment (which can be great fun on fly rod and freshwater spinning rigs) but there are some keepers being taken between Quissett Harbor all the way up to Old Silver Beach.

Cleveland Ledge continues to reward bottom fishing efforts with limit catches of tautog, black sea bass and fluke. Tossing plugs near the Maritime Academy on westerly running tides has been productive for anglers as well as for those working live eels around the mouth of the Canal.

The Elizabeth Islands continue to deliver up striped bass to those anglers unafraid to work in among the rocks and boulders that line the island shores. It can be a bit daunting in there when the swells roll in from the east, but it's where the fish can be found and eventually folks who spend some time fishing the islands become adept at reading and locating the site of the real hull-eating boulders.

Although the Red Sox lost their series with the dreaded Yankees just before the All-Star game break and Clay Bucholtz went down with an elbow problem in the first game, the Sox are still coming on strong and the second half of the season could be a real crapshoot. Wither goest, Danny Cater?

July 07, 2015

Plenty of Action Around the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

A sixty-three year old gent from Massachusetts headed on down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a bit of vacation a couple weeks ago. He was swimming not far off the beach when a shark attacked him and administered several severe bites. His take on the attack?

"It's like trying to fight off a several-hundred-pound chainsaw with a bad attitude."

With the growing seal population around Chatham beaches on Cape Cod and the increasing number of Great White shark visits the seals attract, it may not be too long before some random tourist has the opportunity to experience the chainsaw-with-bad-attitude analogy in person. Seems like it's only a matter of time.

The Fourth of July weekend just passed was a traffic nightmare as Cape residents have become used to, but things have settled back to normal now and the fishing continues to be productive, especially in such places as Race Point, the Cape Cod Canal, Monomoy and the Elizabeth Islands.

A surprise catch of an early season bonito has been reported and confirmed this past week but that's got to be an outlier as it's likely to be August before we see the funny-fish arriving in any numbers.

The striper action around Race Pointy continues hot and heavy bolstered by the presence of large numbers of mackerel in the area. Anglers live-lining macs have had great success and there's been an armada of open consoles, kayaks, skiffs and virtually anything that floats congregating up at the tip of the Cape.

Striper action around Monomoy has picked up recently and there's no shortage of school bass in that location. A number of anglers have been employing live eels along the backside beaches at night and some bass in the thirty pound range have been caught around Balston and Head of the Meadow beaches.

The Vineyard is the scene of heavy bluefish action with Menemsha and Wasque delivering double-digit blues. Devil's Bridge has been productive from dusk into the night hours for anglers pursuing striped bass. And the Elizabeth Island chain is alive with stripers now. Pre-dawn is the best bet to tangle with bass on the bite and live eels have produced some Large bass in Quicks Hole on west running tides.

Pretty much anywhere between Tarpaulin Cove and Cuttyhunk is worth tossing plugs right now. Stripers swarm among the rocks and boulders that line the shore and the trick is to get in tight to the beach with lures…dropping a cast on the beach itself and starting the retrieve from there is an effective method in these parts.

Large bass have moved into the Canal during the past week and the Herring Run was the scene of a couple of forty pound stripers caught from the rip rap. Taking advantage of slack tide to work jigs down deep is effective as well as getting live eels down into the deep holes along the bottom. Be advised that this is likely to result in lost gear from snags on the bottom but the local motto is if you ain't snagging bottom, you ain't fishing right. Local anglers consider terminal tackle losses the cost of doing business in the Canal.

The west side of the Elizabeths has also been productive for striper enthusiasts. Keeper size bass are to be found down along Naushon Island while more school bass hang out up around Woods Hole and the Weepecket Islands. The Weepeckets harbor plenty of tautog and large scup along its rocky bottom so even if the stripers aren't hitting, anglers can fill their coolers with good-eating fish.

Bluefish continue to cruise Nantucket Sound and Nobska Point has its share of the toothy critters in residence. These blues tend to run in the three to four pond range and they'll hit just about anything thrown their way. It's not a bad idea to bend the barbs down on a couple of old, beater plugs and enjoy the action with these lively blues.

And finally, it looks like Red Sox Nation is seeing a resurgence in the Home Team as the Sox are only six games back with a three game series on tap with the front-running Yankees coming up this week. Prospects for the season looked bleak a while back but the pitching's solidified lately and the lads of summer have started to hit. Could it be another World Series run coming up?

July 01, 2015

Rattlers in the City and Stripers Up the Creek

by Jerry Vovcsko

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has some good news for folks who might enjoy wetting a line over the 4Th of July holidays:
Free Saltwater Fishing Days: July 4 & 5
Celebrate Independence Day by fishing with family and friends! This year, Massachusetts's Free Saltwater Fishing Days will be Saturday, July 4 and Sunday, July 5. On these two days, no permit is required to fish recreationally in our marine waters, out to 3 miles.

If you're looking for a spot to drop a line from shore or a boat ramp to put in your kayak, canoe, or larger vessel, check out the Office of Fishing & Boating Access' directory of access points.

All other days of the year, saltwater anglers over the age of 15 are required to possess a Massachusetts Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permit, unless fishing under the authority of a recreational license from New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Connecticut, or unless otherwise exempt. Your purchase of a Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permit directly funds improvements to saltwater fishing access projects and other programs that support marine recreational fishing in the state.

For more information on fishing in saltwater, contact Matt Ayer (Division of Marine Fisheries) at 978-282- 0308 x107 or [email protected]

And the state Environmental Police took time out from catching miscreants poaching black sea bass to catch and relocate a five-foot long rattlesnake that was slithering in the brush near a Quincy office building.

In a video posted to their Twitter and Facebook accounts, officers from the agency can be seen capturing the rare timber rattlesnake and placing it into a cooler, slamming the lid shut. They said the snake was taken farther into the woods of the Blue Hills Reservation, away from the building's entrance.

The snakes, which have enlarged fangs that can produce venom, are listed as endangered in Massachusetts due to their declining population, he said.

The state is extremely protective of the species, and anyone caught killing or handling the snakes could face significant fines or jail time under state law. Officials are currently dealing with two ongoing cases in regards to people illegally killing timber rattlesnakes.

"These animals belong here, they are beautiful critters and they serve a purpose," Amati said.

According to the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, timber rattlesnakes are large, heavy snakes that belong to the viper family.

The endangered snakes, which have a triangular-shaped head and a noisy tail that lets off a rattling sound, have been documented in Berkshire County, the Connecticut River Valley, and the Boston area.

Adult timber rattlesnakes are typically jet black or sulfur yellow, and don't possess stripes on their heads like those found on other types of rattlesnakes. The snakes can also regulate the amount of venom that they release when attacking prey.

Massachusetts only has two types of venomous reptiles — northern copperheads and the timber rattlesnakes, he said.

After all those recent reports of bathers at North Carolina beaches being bitten by sharks (including youngsters who lost limbs in the attacks), Cape Codders might be excused for displaying acute anxiety over the arrival of the season's first Great White sharks near the seal colony at Chatham. Actually, these toothy visitors have been a catalyst for the robust summer Cape economy. At one point it seemed like everybody who had something to sell – be it T-shirts, souvenir mugs, inflatable toys or shark-watching trips – capitalized on the visage of the great white for promotional purposes.

But new state restrictions may change all that. On June 4 the Division of Marine Fisheries announced sweeping regulatory changes on shark tours. Specifically banned are" "Cage diving, shark chumming, baiting and feeding, towing decoys, applying research devices on sharks, or attracting sharks to conduct these activities." End quote.

Maybe that doesn't necessarily put anyone out of business but now they'll have to attract sharks without using bait, chum or seal decoys, and they won't be allowed to put cages in the water. Which is probably a good thing as sooner or later one of those naïve "cage divers" would likely find to their dismay just how much power an adult great white can generate.

Meanwhile, the action continues around the Cape.
The ledges around Woods Hole hold plenty of school bass with the occasional bluefish taking up residence. Just keep in mind that the six-knot currents pouring through there are not conducive to good health if attention should wander. Fish or no fish, pay attention to boat traffic and tide conditions. Stay safe.

Lots of school bass in Nantucket Sound these days and pods of small blues (2 to 4 pound range) cruising around the Nobska Point/Lackey's Bay area. Later this month we may see the first of the funny-fish when false albacore show up around here.

Pretty good fluke action around Lucas Shoal and the Middleground. Some keeper sized flatties have been reported on the wreck site of the James Longstreet target ship in Cape Cod Bay and black sea bass are always in attendance there as well as large scup. Many angler mourned the demise of the Longstreet when the Coast Guard sunk it, but it has become a favorite site of bottom fishermen ever since.

Things are still lively up around Race Point and around toward Herring Cove for bass and blues both but that real striper frenzy that had a plethora of skiffs, kayaks, open consoles and fishing boats of every sort stacked up off the Race has diminished some. The bass are still around but anglers have to do a little more work to score.

The tube and worm folks continue to ring up keeper sized striped bass at Billingsgate Shoal and the Brewster Flats have been producing on a falling tide. Speaking of falling tides, a few savvy kayakers have done very well for themselves by working jig and plastic combos well up into the marsh at Scorton Creek and then riding the ebb tide back down to the Bay. These are local dudes who've made their reputations right there between the marsh and the Bay. More of that "local knowledge" we talked about in previous blogs – you can't beat it.
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