by Jerry Vovcsko
The Boston Globe ran a lengthy article a few days ago describing the crash of lobster stocks in southern New England while at the same time the lobster population has simply exploded in the cold waters off Maine and further north. What's the answer? Well, to some scientists, the geographic shift points to the warming of the ocean.
Whatever the reason, the result is the driving of lobstermen in Connecticut and Rhode Island out of business, ending a centuries-old way of life for them.
‘‘It's a shame,'' said Jason McNamee, chief of marine resource management for Rhode Island's Division of Fish and Wildlife. ‘‘It's such a traditional, historical fishery.''
In 2013, the number of adult lobsters in New England south of Cape Cod slid to about 10 million, just one-fifth the total in the late 1990s, according to a report issued by regulators in July. The lobster catch in the region sank to about 3.3 million pounds in 2013, from a peak of about 22 million in 1997.
The declines are ‘‘largely in response to adverse environmental conditions, including increasing water temperatures over the last 15 years,'' along with continued fishing, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission said in a summary of the report.
But in northern New England, meanwhile, the bad news for southern New England lobstermen signals a bonanza for Maine fishermen who have landed more than 100 million pounds of lobster for four years in a row, by far the highest four-year haul in the state's history.
‘‘It very much looks like what you would expect from a species that is responding to a warming ocean: It's going to move toward the poles,'' said Andy Pershing, chief scientific officer for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute of Portland, Maine.
‘‘The wheelhouse of the lobster fishery has shifted north,'' said Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and chairman of the Atlantic States commission's lobster management board.
Maybe the lobster stocks are in decline in Cape waters, but there's no shortage of sharks…and once again bathers at Coast Guard Beach were ordered out of the water for about an hour last week after a lifeguard observed a pool of blood near a group of seals. Swimmers were allowed back in the water about an hour later.
Some may wonder if the bluefish are starting to sense the start of the fall migration coming in view. I mention it because there's been an awful lot of action in Nantucket Sound featuring blues driving bait every which way recently. Blues in the Sound and stripers schooling up in Cape Cod Bay…sure sounds like pre-migration activity. Maybe the big southward runs will be starting a tad early this year.
Once again, working live eels at night is a good way to tie into some of those cow bass that will be feeding heavily in anticipation of the journey back to whence they came from last spring. The Cape Cod Canal continues to feature pre-dawn topwater action but live eels and deep-down jigging come into their own during nocturnal visits to The Ditch.
School bass are around in massive numbers the length of Buzzards Bay. From the western shores of the Elizabeth Islands on up to the lower end of the Canal, non-keeper size stripers are everywhere in numbers. Makes local anglers optimistic about the future of the striper stocks to see all those little guys milling around.
Lots of bait fish around in Nantucket Sound as well as throughout Cape Cod Bay. On the ocean-facing beaches folks pitching live eels have been doing very well from dusk into the night time hours. Swimming a big snake around and into the holes and sandbars on a flood tide is very likely to produce a rod-bending strike from bait-guzzling stripers up to and including the occasional forty pound version.
Meanwhile, end-to-end in Nantucket Sound, the funny fish have taken up residence and are at peak activity levels right now. Bonito and allbies abound, especially in that stretch of the Sound between Waquoit Bay and Woods Hole. Pitching a lure into one of their lightning-fast, bait-driving swarms can bring exciting, line-sizzling runs from those torpedo shaped speedsters.
And with a little luck, hooking up with one of the five-pounds-and-up critters can produce a reel screamer of breathtaking proportions. Folks who tangle with one of these guys for the first time – even experienced anglers – have been known to become paralyzed by the speed of the initial run and freeze while line melts off the reel like butter in the noonday sun. Yep, the funny fish are here and they won't be around for long so get them while the getting's good.
And finally, a word about DeflateGate…the more transcripts and documents that emerge from the hearings in Judge Berman's court, the clearer it becomes that Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL are on a mission to get-the-Patriots. As that fact becomes embarrassingly clear, it might be that Rodger the Artful Dodger will soon have lots of time to spend getting after those north-bound stripers himself because his handling of the Peterson-Rice-Brady situations may well end up in the immortal words of one D. Trump: "You're fired!"