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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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December 30, 2014

The Ice Cream Wars; Hip, Hip, Hooray!

by Jerry Vovcsko

Maybe there isn't a lot of fishing activity on the Cape just now, but that doesn't mean there's nothing going on. For instance, you wouldn't necessarily think there'd be a Cape Cod crime wave based on whose ice cream is best, but think again. After a six-month investigation, Bourne police have charged a local businessman with giving teenage employees alcohol and money as rewards for vandalizing a competing ice cream parlor.

David Ariagno, the 53-year-old owner of Lazy Sundaes Ice Cream in the village of Cataumet, was released on his own recognizance last week after pleading not guilty to two counts of malicious or wanton damaging of property, along with malicious destruction of property worth more than $250 and contributing to the delinquency of his teenage workers.

Bourne police opened the investigation after a string of vandalism incidents at the nearby Somerset Creamery ice cream store on Route 28, where the windows had been repeatedly broken with rocks. The police eventually determined that teenage employees of Lazy Sundaes were behind the vandalism. Police then learned after interviewing the three suspects that Ariagno's interest in disrupting a competitor was ultimately the cause of the vandalism.

Ariagno, who allegedly smoked marijuana with his teenage employees, also urged them to puncture the tires of staff and customers at the Lobster Trap restaurant on Shore Road said. But they refused. The three teenagers have been charged with malicious destruction of property and for the time being at least it appears there's a cease fire in the Cape Cod Ice Cream Wars.

On a different note, I've been looking forward to getting a new hip at the hands of of a top notch orthopedic surgeon in Boston. The surgery was originally scheduled for October but in the pre-surgery screening the docs discovered some dental issues that needed attending before the hip could be addressed. They were concerned lest a systemic infection find its way into the hip surgery site.

After getting the dental work attended I returned for final pre-surgery screening and Murphy's Law kicked into gear again as an echo cardiogram divulged a leaky heart valve. Which means bright and early tomorrow morning I'll head back to the hospital so the cardiologist can run a wire with a camera up a vein into my heart to have a look around. With a little luck, the heart problem will be minor and I'll get my new hip by mid-January and be able to cavort around again like a teenager at the prom.

Of course, there's also Vovcsko's Law that says Murphy was an optimist. But that's just the way it is in Chapter One of the Hip Replacement Chronicles – and the beat goes on. My advice? Don't get old; you'll live to regret it.

December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas, Ho, Ho, Ho

by Jerry Vovcsko

Woke up this Christmas morning to a gray, dreary, rainy day with pockets of fog scattered along Washington Street from East Bridgewater to Whitman. But no matter, by the looks of things under the living room Christmas tree, Santa had successfully completed his annual visit and dropped off more than enough presents to fortify a household that would resonate with song, laughter and good cheer throughout the day. It would be a merry New England Christmas indeed.

Wasn't always that way though. Back in 1659, for instance, those non-playful boogers they called Puritans passed a law declaring that anyone caught observing such day as Christmas would be fined five shillings. Yessir, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony came down heavy on anyone "observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way." Those black-clad folks flat-out deemed Christmas a profane and superstitious custom!

As if that wasn't enough, in 1621 Gov William Bradford of Plymouth Colony did his best to put the kibosh on any holiday celebrating when he forbid game playing on Christmas. Seems the earliest years of the Plymouth Colony were troubled with non-Puritans attempting to make merry, and the Guv was forced to reprimand offenders. (Bradford would have undoubtedly been horrified by the antics of modern-day Governor William Weld, a Republican with a taste for a mug of ale and a happy-go-lucky approach to both governing and life in general.)

Anyhow, Christmas celebrations in New England remained illegal during part of the 1600s, and were culturally taboo or rare in Puritan colonies until the 1850s. The Puritan community found no Scriptural justification for celebrating Christmas. and associated such celebrations with paganism and idolatry. The law was repealed in 1681 along with several other laws, under pressure from the government in London. And, in fact, it wasn't until 1856 that Christmas Day became a state holiday in Massachusetts. Those Puritan folk sure lacked a sense of humor; they should have lightened up and gone fishing.

Some scientists did a bit of fishing recently and found a little action in the deep… the very, very deep. Recorded during a recent exploration of the Mariana Trench (the deepest place on the planet), the strange-looking new species has set a record for fish depth.

Jeff Drazen and Patty Fryer, the University of Hawaii researchers who led the expedition, believe that this is a new species of snailfish. A write-up in a scientific journal describes the species:
Snailfish are known to thrive at extreme depths: another variety, Pseudoliparis amblystomopsis, previously held the undisputed record for deepest-living fish at 7703 meters. Handling the intense pressure of the deep sea is a challenge for most animals because it impedes muscles and nerves and bends proteins out of shape, disrupting the working of enzymes required for life.

But this creature, which was filmed several times at a depth of 8,143 meters, or 26,715 feet, has a different body shape from known species of snailfish, so it might be something else entirely.

"We think it is a snailfish, but it's so weird-looking; it's up in the air in terms of what it is," Alan Jamieson of the University of Aberdeen told the BBC. "It is unbelievably fragile, and when it swims, it looks like it has wet tissue paper floating behind it. And it has a weird snout — it looks like a cartoon dog snout."

Deep-sea fish have higher levels of a chemical called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO). TMAO helps proteins maintain their shape as pressure mounts which is why these creatures manage to survive at such extreme depths. Fish shouldn't be able hold enough TMAO in their cells to live below 8,200 meters, according to recent research by Jamieson — so these new fish may very well be permanent record-holders.

Closer to home, and at less spectacular depths, about the only reliable action is to be found in our Capewide freshwater ponds. Pickerel are plentiful and can be counted on to whack a shiner fished in their vicinity. Work baits or lures near the edge of a likely looking weed bed and stand by for action. Perch are plentiful as well – both white and yellow perch – and they'll gobble a worm or snap up a fuzzy bug presented artfully by a long-wand aficionado.

And, of course, there are trout to be had…rainbows, brookies and even an occasional brown…a few lucky anglers may well tangle with a double-digit salmon stocked by the lads and lassies from Mass Environmental when their trucks roll in the spring and fall bringing a new round of replacement fish to good little boys and girls wetting their lines in Cape waters.

Anyhow, it's time to depart the keyboard and go see what Santa and his elves deposited under the Christmas tree this year. So, Governor Bradford's scrooge-like imprecations not whithstanding, here's wishing peace, joy and happiness to everyone during the Christmas season. Merry Christmas one and all!

December 14, 2014

Freshwater Action on the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

A multistate commission has told Maine to reduce its harvest of striped bass by 25 percent next year. Maine fishery regulators are planning an informational meeting about the ruling, approved recently by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The commission's ruling directs coastal states to reduce their catch of striped bass. A stock assessment found that the fish's 2012 mortality was higher than anticipated and the spawning female population is declining. Maine's striped bass fishery is year-round and recreational only and the current rules allow fishermen to take and possess one fish per day.

Meanwhile, back on Cape Cod, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave permission to Joseph Vaudo to sublet his fish market to Scott Thayer who took over the business in a private deal between Vaudo and Thayer. Thayer reopened Joe's Lobster Mart last week saying he had the necessary licenses from the state Department of Public Health. Anne Roach, a spokeswoman for the state health department, released a letter sent to Thayer issuing him a permit. The permit is effective through the end of the year when Thayer would have to reapply.

The news of Joe's reopening was heralded by customers on social media, though some were skeptical about it because Thayer worked for Vaudo. Thayer said his longtime boss will have no say in the day-to-day operations. Joe's Lobster Mart was forced to close its doors in early November after a protracted legal battle with the state. The state moved to revoke Vaudo's licenses to operate Joe's Lobster Mart, a wholesale and retail operation, after he pleaded guilty in March to receiving stolen oysters.

Vaudo had been in business 43 years when he was forced to shut down. Thayer, a longtime general manager of the operation, has been at Vaudo's side full time since 1991 and before that worked part time and summers since 1985. Thayer went to Boston in September to testify on Vaudo's behalf before the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals.

And locally a Marston Mills man was arrested after shooting and wounding a jogger that he thought was a deer. Sean Houle, 47, was charged with unlawful possession of ammunition/primer, carrying a dangerous weapon/spring-loaded knife, unlawful possession of a firearm and careless or negligent use of a weapon causing injury.

Police and Hyannis fire officials responded to a wooded area near Mary Dunn Road to reports of a man staggering out of the woods. The victim, a 39-year-old man from Marstons Mills, sustained buckshot wounds to the rear of his neck and shoulder, according fire Lt. Mark Storie. He was taken to Cape Cod Hospital and was reported in stable condition.

The victim was jogging through the woods with his dog on the Barnstable watershed property when he was struck twice by shotgun pellets, police said. The victim was wearing a white shirt, according to police on the scene.

Although a few hardy anglers can be seen occasionally dunking jigs or bait at the Cape Cod Canal, most of the action is on the freshwater scene these days. Trout continue to be targeted for the most part but there are a few folks who like to concentrate on bass, both the largemouth and smallmouth varieties. A few small ponds in the Sandwich area are prime locations for bass seekers.

Lawrence Pond harbors a healthy population of largemouths and fishing pressure there is practically nil. Access can be had either via the YMCA's Camp Lyndon or on the eastern side of the lake where a kayak/canoe/skiff launch site can be found. A handy general store sits near the launch area and coffee, sandwiches and such can be obtained after a short walk.

A drop-off just around the cove from the Y-camp is home to largemouths in the five-pound-and-up range. Swimming plugs or jig & plastic combos produce good results here where the bottom drops away from shallows to twelve-foot depths. Working lures along the edge of the drop-off will produce lunker bass. Weed beds at the eastern end of the pond near the boat launch offer better than average size chain pickerel to folks tossing metal slabs. Pond wide white perch can be taken and kids will see plenty of action while soaking worms.

A short drive up the road Triangle and Spectacle ponds can be found and they offer rainbow trout action as well as fine smallmouth bass fishing. An angler need only travel about four miles to visit all three locations and discover where the action is hottest. Not a bad way to spend a couple hours on a Sunday morning while waiting for the Patriots game to come on TV. Speaking of the Patriots, Super Bowl anyone? I think so.

December 07, 2014

Winter in New England

by Jerry Vovcsko

So here we are in that transitional stage from summer-on-the-Cape with striped bass, bluefish, bonito and false albacore a'plenty to catch, to waiting-for-ice-to-form time. What's an angler to do?

Well, the most recent ice age provided us an answer back in the day when it dragged huge boulders along while receding and scooped out all those kettle ponds that dot the Cape from Falmouth to Provincetown. Until the ice forms on the Cape's freshwater ponds, we'll just have to make do with efforts devoted to coaxing trout, bass - both large and smallmouth – pickerel, perch and assorted panfish from the ponds scattered far and wide. PowerBait, spinner-and-plastic combos, stickbaits, streamer flies, plugs, spoons and various baits, including shiners, worms, salmon eggs and the like all have their moments of glory in the sweet water.

Peters Pond in Sandwich, Sheeps Pond, Long Pond, Cliff Pond, Flax Pond….these are all first class freshwater fishing locations. Ditto Grews, Jenkins and Mares ponds in Falmouth. Ashumet, Johns and Mashpee-Wakeby ponds offer productive waters in the Mashpee area and Barnstable's Wequaquet Lake has the added bonus of pike, BIG pike…there have been twenty-pound-plus fish taken there. Yessir, even though the stripers and blues have left for points-south and won't be back again until late spring, there's plenty for Cape anglers to do until the hardwater season commences ate ice-up in mid-winter.

But eventually winter will depart, spring will arrive and along about April the when's-the-first striper-going-to-arrive guessing-game will commence. And when that happens the 2015 summer session will be officially underway. Over the years I've had a plethora of e-mails from individuals asking for directions to "...a good spot to fish from shore on the Cape." For that I'm going to suggest that a book entitled: "Fishing New England: A Cape Cod Shore Guide" by Gene Bourque is the one book that a newbie angler on the Caper should have in his library.

Not only does it list more than forty places to fish, it includes maps and directions on how to find these spots, how-to suggestions for fishing them, and tips on accessing the locations without running afoul of landowners or town officials.

A compilation of access information for locations from Bourne to Provincetown serves as a reminder that it's always a good idea to check ahead about such matters as guidelines and permits for using four wheel drive vehicles at the National Seashore, regulations and licenses needed to obtain herring from the Cape Cod Canal herring run, parking fees and ramps and so forth. A call ahead can prevent nasty, last minute surprises and Gene includes both phone numbers and addresses for town officials.

Starting at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the guide mentions several good spots to fish along the Cape Cod Canal. This is not vague, general information. It's specific to the point that it spells out what sort of conditions apply at each spot. For instance, at the Cribbin (named after the retaining wall that runs along the embankment), located between mile poles 220 to 245, the book reports:

"On a west tide one to two hours after the turn, a good rip forms close to shore here. Try below pole 235, at the base of the steps where there is a mussel bed. Toward the end of a dropping west tide, move down to pole 245. This is a great spot to drift an eel after dark."

That's good information, very specific and the product of years of accumulated experience. You could fish the Canal for a long time and not figure out something like that without shedding a lot of lures on the rip rap that litters the bottom of the Big Ditch. The Guide lists Canal guru Dave Laporte among those who contributed local information to the book and if Dave says it's so, you can take that to the bank.

Besides the more well-known locations like the Canal, there are a number of obscure but hot producing sites that go untraveled because they're a bit out of the way. The Knob at Quisset Harbor is one such. Accessible via a trek through the woods across Conservation Commission lands, the Knob sits out at the end of a promontory jutting into Buzzards Bay just around the corner from the Woods Hole channel. It's a great spot to toss plugs and poppers for blues in early summer.

And speaking of Woods Hole, directions are provided to one of my personal favorites, the stone pier behind the marine biological labs, one of the few places on the Cape where shorebound anglers have a legitimate shot at hooking up with bonito or false albacore in the late summer. And for those early season bluefish, few places deliver as well as Popponesset or Oregon beaches on the Cape's south shore. Good maps as well as detailed instructions will bring you right to water's edge side by side with locals who know these shallow water beaches will warm quickly drawing hungry, sharp-choppered, early season arrivals within casting range.

Scorton Creek just east of Sandwich holds winter-over striped bass and serves as a good place to get out of the way when high winds take more exposed beaches out of play. Bone Hill, the outer side of Barnstable Harbor, draws fly fisherman because of shallow, easily waded flats with plenty of drop-offs and channels between the bars. Interspersed with how-to-get-there instructions are useful gear tips, such as this one:

"Whenever possible, tie directly to the lure or use a snap or snap swivel when striper fishing. Steel leaders are unnecessary and in fact may impair the lure's performance. Also, stripers see very well and a steel leader will spook wary fish feeding over a clear sand bottom."

The Guide covers Chatham, Eastham, Truro and Provincetown with stops on both the Bay side and the outer beaches, including: Coast Guard, Head of Meadow and Race Point. There are useful tips about lures, gear and bait, as well as maps and directions on finding good, productive places to catch fish.

Yeah, I'd say this book is a must-have for anyone thinking about fishing from the beach on the Cape and for $14.95 it's one of the true bargains around. Published by the folks at On the Water magazine, it can be obtained at local tackle shops, or via a call (508) 548 - 4705, on the net at, or through the ubiquitous marketeers at Amazon .

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