by Jerry Vovcsko
Fishing may be somewhat dormant in Cape waters these days but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of wildlife action elsewhere in the world. British fisherman Bernie Campbell has been trying to catch a monster fish for the past seven years and last week he managed to haul the 206 pound, 8-foot albino wels catfish from the River Ebro near Barcelona, Spain. His catch tops the previous world record by ten pounds.
And one of the most secretive creatures on Earth — the saola — has been photographed in Vietnam for the first time in 15 years. Scientists first discovered the saola in 1992 in Vietnam near the country's border with Laos. It was the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years. But since its discovery, the elusive creature has rarely been seen in the wild, earning it the nickname the "Asian unicorn" (even though it has two long horns instead of one).
A lone saola was documented this past September by a camera trap set up in the Central Annamite Mountains by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Vietnamese wildlife officials. Though the beast is more closely related to wild cattle, it resembles an antelope with two sharp horns that can reach up to 4 feet in length. Scientists suspect that no more than a few hundred or a few dozen saola exist in the wild, but they have not been able to come up with a precise population estimate. The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Closer to home, coyotes foraging in a Provincetown parking area managed to create a nuisance that could end up with the parking area shut down. After nine coyotes were spotted begging at cars one night last month, Cape Cod National Seashore officials threatened to close the northern parking lot at Herring Cove Beach for two weeks to stop people from illegally feeding them. Rangers found bags of dog food along Province Lands Road and piles of fish guts and fish heads in the parking lot which points to deliberate attempts to feed coyotes, according to Seashore chief ranger Leslie Reynolds.
"If we don't see a marked improvement, the superintendent is intending to close Herring Cove north for two weeks," Reynolds said. "We would only do that if the feeding continues."
The parking lot, with 208 spaces, is popular for residents and visitors throughout the year because of its drive-up views of the ocean and the sunset. The beach itself is popular for evening bonfires. The coyotes have been coming over the dunes and lingering on the tarmac next to cars, on the beach and in the shadows around the beach fires. Coyotes will eat whatever is readily available including rodents, rabbits, deer, birds, insects, reptiles, fruits and berries, but also scavenge road kill, garbage, pet food and even cats and small dogs.
The coyotes may be active right now but the salt water fishing has slowed to a crawl lately. Bluefish are virtually non-existent now except for the occasional lingerer in the Canal and Buzzards Bay. The Canal also harbors a mackerel, Pollock and a few striped bass stragglers. Schoolie stripers can still be found along the south-facing beaches of Nantucket Sound. The estuaries strung out between Woods Hole and Bass River will continue to hold school sized bass including some that will ultimately stick around over the winter and – the good Lord willing and the creeks don't rise – eventually establish a local spawning population (some say that has already happened).
Stripers are still being caught along the Elizabeth Islands with the bulk of the action taking place on the eastern side of the islands between Tarpaulin Cove and Cuttyhunk Island. South of Martha's Vineyard, around Nomans Island has seen some lively striper action although that's tricky this time of year as high winds kick up steep seas making it dangerous for small boats to get too far out into open waters.
November is typically a transitional time for Cape Cod anglers. The salt water action wraps up for another year and local anglers turn their attention to the freshwater scene. Fortunately, the presence of lakes and ponds from one end of the Cape to the other makes the switch relatively easy to endure. Stripers and blues leave the area but trout, salmon, bass (both large & smallmouth), pickerel and pike make pretty darned good replacements and the stocking efforts of the folks from the State Environmental Department provide ample replacements. Bring plenty of PowerBait, shiners, salmon eggs and artificial lures to the freshwater-dance that kicks in big-time now that the stripers have departed.
The Patriots come off their bye week and head south for a Monday night game with the Carolina Panthers. The walking wounded got a chance to heal, Bill Belichick and his coaches had a little extra time to come up with a game plan for Cam Newton and Co., and it's home-stretch-time now as teams gear up for the Super Bowl run. Won't be too long before the tip-ups and other ice fishing gear come out of storage and we start monitoring ice-thickness on the ponds as Mother Nature gives the seasonal clock another half-turn.
Oh, and it's none too early to keep an eye out for a fat guy in a fur-lined red suit carrying a sack of goodies slung over his shoulder; he'll be checking out who's been naughty and who's been nice, and somehow he'll know about that new Van Staal reel you were hoping to see under the Christmas tree. You may want to leave some cookies out…just in case.