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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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February 07, 2016

In thje Deep Freeze and More Snow On the Way

by Jerry Vovcsko

Just as it appeared we might see some breakout from ice on local ponds here comes another cold snap with temperatures shoved even further into the deep-freeze by strong winds boring down from the northwest. Like today, for example, where the thermometer reads a manageable 31 degrees but breezes blowing in from the Canadian high plains produce a wind-chill reading of 23. Not conducive to a leisurely afternoon spent pond-side.

However, those who ventured out recently and could locate access to open water continue to do well for themselves along with the hardy souls who create their own access to watery depths via ice augur or hatchet. On the Upper Cape, Peters Pond in Sandwich continues to produce trout, perch and bass (both large and smallmouth) as well as salmon occasionally reaching double-digit weights.

In addition to producing good catch prospects, Peters Pond has an interesting historical context. Back around the turn of the 20th Century when "gentlemen" were prone to wield cane fly rod while decked out in three-piece suit and bowler hat, Peters had long been a favored fishing locale of President Grover Cleveland who was a frequent visitor to the Falmouth area.

A 1911 survey reported the pond was in its youth "and a few bass present but do not bite" which makes one wonder about the skills (or lack thereof) that the old timers brought to the table. The pond was later stocked (between 1933 and 1948) with brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, Chinook salmon, Sebago salmon, white perch and yellow perch.

When considering historical context, though, it's well to keep in mind that times were very different back in the old days, especially where weather conditions are concerned. Anglers setting out for an afternoon session on the ice might well have to shovel away a couple of feet of snow cover before getting down to the ice surface. After all, back in the 1800s it was not all that rare an event for Vineyard Sound to freeze over completely from Falmouth to Vineyard Haven.

Locals whose livelihood revolved around delivering four-foot blocks of ice to homes and businesses in need of refrigeration would cut the ice in the Sound and load it onto horse-drawn wagons. When fully loaded those wagons might weigh upwards of a thousand pounds which gives some idea of how thick the ice cover formed back in the good-old-days, even the saltwater of Vineyard Sound..

Right now, though, the smaller Falmouth ponds such as Mares, Grews, Coonamesset and Deep ponds have re-grown their ice cover and offer plenty of perch, pickerel, bass and assorted panfish to those anglers willing to brave the chill. Shiners are the bait de jour although some folks like to jig with small-bladed, shiny, fluttering lures tipped with mini-marshmallows, pink being the favored color choice locally.

Another few weeks and we should be bidding farewell to the ice so there will be more opportunities to access open water via kayak, canoe or skiff. As the waters warm fish become a bit livelier and more aggressive in their feeding habits so savvy anglers ratchet up a couple notches from the smaller-and-slower methods they employed during earlier cold water excursions.

Next week the buses leave from Fenway Park carrying the Red Sox baseball equipment down south for the start of spring training. Right now it's hard to picture the Boys of Summer working out under blue skies and temperatures of seventy-degrees and upward while we struggle to clear the seven inches of snow that fell the other day. But we have to make room for fresh snowfall from the next storm the weather folk tell us is moving up the coast and heading our way. Of course, I don't really need to rely on weather forecasts from the TV people. My achy knees tell me what's what and these days the word is: Cold temperatures and lots of moisture in the air so I keep a snow shovel handy and plenty of firewood close at hand.

It's Super Bowl Sunday as I write this, so I'll watch the Denver Broncos tangle with the Carolina Panthers later today but it won't be the same without the New England Patriots taking the field. But there's always next year and we Pats fans have probably become spoiled with the success Brady/Belichick and Co. have brought our way over the years. So this time around it'll be Cam Newton jousting with Peyton Manning. I'm taking Carolina in this one.

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.

November 30, 2014

Weather;s Lousy; Fishing's Good

by Jerry Vovcsko

On the day before Thanksgiving a couple of years back. I drove to the local seafood emporium to pick up a couple of lobsters to add to the table for the holiday feast. Seems that was a tradition in many Cape Cod homes a few hundred years ago, once the Pilgrims had changed their minds about the "crawly bugs" being agents of the devil. (I always like to ponder the question of who was the first person to gaze at a lobster and say, "Hmmmm, I think I'll cook that...and eat it.") But anyway, once that first taste of pure white lobster meat had started its journey down some New England fisherman's throat - helped along by a generous dollop of melted butter - Homarus Americanus soon took a featured place on the Thanksgiving Day menu.

Stepping out of my warm, cozy car put me right in touch with a brisk northwest wind blowing 15 to 25, a chill breeze that had dropped wind chills down to zero level by midmorning; it was clear that only the hardiest of fishermen would be out there this day. Well, lo and behold there was an old timer wetting a line down by the Canal and he had a nice assortment of mackerel in the bucket by his feet. He grinned and said "You wouldn't think they'd be hitting on a day like this, would ya?"

Of course, that's the way it often feels to veteran fishermen; the best fishing comes in the worst weather. There's the story about a farmer and his four sons who worked from first light to "can't see" six days a week. But after church on the seventh day, he and the boys without fail piled into their beat up old skiff and rowed out to the middle of the farm pond where they spent the afternoon fishing. One Sunday, as they sat there dunking worms and waiting for a bite, it started to rain. Before long it was pouring down, drenching them. The old farmer looked around at his soaking wet sons, considered the water dripping from the brim of his straw hat and mused aloud, "I wonder....I just wonder if fish can laugh."

But getting back to lobsters, a couple of weeks ago I stopped to pick up some cold cuts at a local deli and noticed a sign in the display case that read "Lobster meat - $36 lb." That's THIRTY SIX DOLLARS a pound, folks. This from a creature that the original settlers loathed so deeply that they used it in their fields for fertilizer. And back in the late nineteenth century the rich industrialists who fished from platforms anchored into the boulders along Cuttyhunk's rocky shores sent their guides to trap lobsters so they could use the tails for bait because it was the striped bass's favorite food, the fish obviously having better sense than the humans that pursued them. So if the wife happens to order up a lobster or two this holiday season, here's the way to handle them in the kitchen:

First of all, DON'T boil them. That's a sacrilege, according to Provincetown seafood chef, the late Howard Mitcham. He said to put about a half inch of water, a tablespoon of salt and tablespoon of vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil. It's steam we're after, not a potful of boiling water. Put in one lobster and steam for fifteen minutes for one pound chicken lobsters with an additional five minutes for each additional pound. Check for doneness by grabbing the end of the tail, straightening it out and releasing. If the tail snaps back with a loud "clack", it's done. Don't overcook. Dulls the flavor. In a small saucepan, melt down some butter, then skim off the white froth and serve with the lobster. A fresh salad, some crusty French bread and a chilled bottle of good white wine. Life is sweet.

To avoid excessive guilt after the fine repast, grab a rod and head for the nearest, bay, lake, pond or stream. It's great exercise and fun besides. Now I don't know if fish can laugh or not, but as much entertainment as they provide for us anglers, they deserve a chuckle or two at our expense, so get out there even if that wind comes churning in from the north and ices your mustache and freezes your nose. Winter solstice is only a month away and the days start getting longer then, and that means Spring isn't so far off, is it?

January 29, 2014

Kettle Ponds And a Bowl of Portagee Stew

by Jerry Vovcsko

Mid-summer water temperatures in Nantucket Sound can easily reach the high seventies while the sunbaked beach sand sizzles under air temperatures pushing ninety and beyond. That's when we head for air-conditioned destinations and gripe about "…this dammed heat!" Of course, things feel a little different right now what with water temperatures in the Sound hovering at thirty-one frigid degrees while the air registers a brisk nine degrees overnight. Thirty one degrees in the water! That's one degree cooler than it takes to freeze water, folks.

We're talking serious ice here…and some of the real down-Cape Old Timers can recall winters where it froze all the way across from Woods Hole to Edgartown and the ferries sat ice-bound at the pier waiting for a warm spell and surging tides to break them free from Jack Frost's icy clutches. Well we haven't seen it that bad – at least not in the forty-some years I've meandered about the Cape wetting a line in both salt and fresh water fish-harboring locations. And I've learned along the way that come early May striped bass will find their way to Cape waters and come the fall those fish will head back to whence they came from. This year will be no different.

In the meantime, we anglers will make do with what we can find when Old Man Winter clutches us in his frosty embrace. Once four inches or more of ice forms on local ponds we can auger out a hole through which we'll drop a line baited with chub or shiner; dangle a shiny jig or spoon and wait for perch, pickerel, trout or salmon to take notice and swallow our offering. Cape Cod is the chief beneficiary of the last ice age when glacier and pack ice dragged huge boulders across the land scooping out a host of kettle ponds in the process and blessing local anglers with a bonanza of fishing destinations. Like so many watery grocery chain stores these ponds offer nearly every freshwater species imaginable. And not just a stringer of pan fish…nossir, double-digit northern pike inhabit Barnstable's Lake Wequaquet, salmon upwards of twenty pounds can be taken from a number of Upper and mid-Cape ponds and just last week one local angler hauled a twenty-nine inch brown trout from an un-named location.

There are big fish a-plenty to be had in these parts.

I don't know about anyone else but when the thermometer dips below freezing my thoughts turn to hot coffee and rib-sticking food. Back in 1958 when I was a young Marine attached to the Sixth Fleet for an eight month cruise around Mediterranean ports-of-call, a grizzled old Navy Chief Bosun's Mate told me the secret to brewing great tasting coffee. Fresh-ground coffee beans were imperative and required a handful of broken eggshells plus a pinch of salt in with the grounds. Percolate the coffee through that mixture and pour it steaming hot into a thick, white porcelain mug. Nectar of the gods.

As to food, here's an old-timey Portuguese recipe for a stew that'll fill your stomach and warm your toes:
Portagee Stew:
•1 ½ lbs fresh eel cut into 1-inch pieces
•Seasoned flour for dredging
•2-4 Tablespoons lard
•2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
•1 1/2 cups onion, small diced
•2 garlic cloves, minced
•1/3 cup white or red wine
•1 cup fresh diced tomato
•1 sprig mint, chopped
•1 sprig parsley, chopped
•Herbs for garnish
•Hot sauce (if you've a mind to)

Heat the lard and olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. When the oil's ready, add the onions and sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and let sauté until it begins to get brown around the edges. Add the tomato paste and stir well, then deglaze the pan with the wine. Let reduce for a moment, and remove the onion mixture from the pan. Add a little more oil if necessary, and heat the pan back up. Meanwhile dredge the eel in the flour. When the pan is hot, add the eel pieces. Cook the pieces for a few minutes on each side. Then re-introduce the onion mixture, and add the fresh tomatoes. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for about 10 minutes, and check to see if the eel is done. Add the fresh herbs, then taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper (and hot sauce) as necessary. Divide into four bowls and serve. (From an old Nantucket Island recipe)

Three weeks to go until the equipment-laden eighteen-wheelers pull out from Fenway Park and head off down Interstate 95 bound for Florida and spring training. As long-time Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione would say: "Can you believe it?"

December 24, 2013

Winter Ice is Mighty Nice

by Jerry Vovcsko

Santa Claus sails his sled down from the North Pole tonight so tomorrow morning all the good little boys and girls will find out if Santa got their letters and they'll see whether that shiny new Van Staal reel or a lump of coal turned up in their stockings. Surprises are nice but sometimes they're a little more startling than we might need…or want.

Take, for instance, Los Angeles resident Jessica Hanson who was delighted to see the delivery crew show up at her house with a brand new Sears dishwasher still shrouded in its plastic and tape packaging material. Although the delivery crew, and apparently everyone else along the delivery chain, failed to notice the sizable garter snake stuck to the packaging material, Hasson and her boyfriend were immediately able to spot the difference between a drain hose and a three-foot snake.

Hasson promptly called animal control—a smart move, no doubt—but after some really hapless bureaucratic natterings, officials declared that they weren't able to do anything, since the snake was "already contained." A call to Sears brought equally ineffective results and in the end Ms. Hasson returned the dishwasher for a snake-free replacement at a later date.

A week after Christmas Day we'll be ushering in the New Year and hoping that 2014 turns out to be a year with perhaps fewer bizarre episodes for us to deal with, such as the gent who tried to trade a live alligator for a beer at a convenience store in Miami. The Florida state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission gave that guy a citation for illegally capturing and trying to sell the gator. He apparently trapped the 4-foot-long gator at a nearby park and brought it to the store in early December. When he proposed to trade the animal for a 12-pack of beer, the store clerk called authorities and the deal fell apart. Authorities said the alligator was "pretty much in good shape" and the creature was released back into the wild.

Well, we're in that transition time right now from open water fishing to wetting our lines through the fishable ice that should be forming soon. Actually, most of the local ponds in Southeastern Massachusetts have an inch or two of ice on the surface and if the weather turns out the way the TV weather guys are predicting, we may well have a solid four inches on top by New Year's Day. In any case, most of the ponds are inaccessible to fishing right now because of the ice coating and the salt water scene pretty much dwindled away a couple of weeks ago. So what's an angler to do….?

Keep in mind that some of the larger ponds such as Mashpee/Wakeby, Peters Pond in Sandwich and Lake Wequaquet are open for the moment so trout fishing is available with live shiners and jig/plastic baits the preferred offerings along with PowerBait and salmon eggs. Those places with moving water such as Scorton Creek in West Barnstable, Yarmouth's Bass River and the Coonamesset River in Falmouth provide access as do the tidal estuaries on the south side of the Cape. Casting small spinner rigs across the current and low-retrieving can be surprisingly productive if there are fish around.

For those still Jonesing for salt water action, the Cape Cod Canal is the place to try. The Canal is a fishy four-lane freeway during the season and although fish-traffic slows during the winter months, there's always something swimming around in there. A few years back I caught three decent sized Pollock out behind Joe's Fish Market in the Canal in mid-January by drifting sea-clam laden jigs shortly after the tide turned easterly. I've also had catches of mackerel, tautog, sea robins, a lobster and even one bluefish (I surmised that the blue had been hanging around in the warm water outflow at the Pilgrim nuke plant over in Plymouth and tried to make a run for it when the water got too chilly in Cape Cod Bay.) When you can go out there at the Canal the day after Christmas and catch a fish, then you can genuinely stake your claim to the status of a Real Cape Cod Angler or RCCA as we say in the trade.

I would definitely be remiss if I didn't say a few words about the New England Patriots' demolition of the Ravens in Baltimore last Sunday. It was awesome and if the Pats continue to play at that level we could be looking forward to a Super Bowl visit to New York City in February. Polish up the Lombardi Trophy, boys, the Pats are coming to town!

December 14, 2013

Careful Where You Step

by Jerry Vovcsko

Hunting season in Massachusetts continues to bring out elements of the strange and bizarre behavior that makes a person ask: "Say what?"

Like the Marshfield family that may be facing criminal charges for allegedly threatening hunters in a no-hunting zone and using an air horn to scare away ducks. Police Chief Phil Tavares says the allegations have been referred to a clerk magistrate who will schedule a hearing to decide whether there is probable cause to charge the family members with hunter interference and threatening to commit a crime.

Chief Tavares said the three hunters had set up stands in an area in which hunting is not permitted, but which had not been posted as a no-hunting zone. (No hunting signs have since been put up.) He says the family members threatened the hunters with physical harm. Their names were not released because no charges have been filed.

Over on Nantucket Island, when Cam Dutton came home from work Wednesday, she discovered a bullet hole the size of a saucer through her second-story kitchen window on Barrett Farm Road and after looking around, found the shotgun slug lodged in the hallway ceiling three rooms away from the window. With only a few houses on Barrett Farm Road, the land in that area is often used by hunters. But even with a hunting club regularly renting land at the end of Barrett Farm Road, Dutton said she's never been worried about being shot, since she feels most of the hunters are responsible and keep 500 feet away from houses as required by law.

"The gun club people tend to be responsible but I suppose there are other cowboys walking around randomly shooting. The environmental police spent a lot of time trying to figure out the trajectory and calculating how it could have gotten that high, unless they were trying to shoot Santa's reindeer. I just would like to see more responsible hunting and see the more experienced hunters policing some of these cowboys that are out back," Dutton said.

The environmental police told Dutton her house was the first to be hit by a stray bullet this year, although such incidents are not uncommon, she said. Last year, a bullet went through someone's dining room window while they were home, and she believes that sooner or later someone will end up as the unintended target of a careless hunter.

Meanwhile, way south of us, scientists have been focusing on enormous herds of rhino-like animals that turned parts of what is now Argentina into pastures of dung, new fossils reveal. These giant herb eaters were dicynodonts, mammal-like reptiles that some say looked something like a cross between a rhinoceros and the demon dogs from "Ghostbusters." Argentine researchers have now found that these dicynodonts pooped in communal latrines, designated areas for depositing dung - guess you had to be careful where you stepped back in the day.

Lots of modern-day animals, including elephants, llamas and rhinos, poop in communal latrines. Scientists have even discovered fossilized hyena poop from several hundred thousand years ago that was deposited in communal latrines, but the behavior has not been found further back in the fossil record.

"This is the only case of megaherbivore latrine and it's the oldest found fossilized", said study researcher Lucas Fiorelli of the Centro Regional de Investigaciones Científicas y Transferencia Tecnológica in La Rioja, Argentina.

Fiorelli and his colleagues began excavating in northwest Argentina two years ago and quickly uncovered fossilized poop — known as coprolites — by the bucket load. These coprolites date back to the middle Triassic, 240 million years ago. In this era, small dinosaurs were just beginning to appear. In some areas, there were as many as 94 rounded fossil poops every 10 square feet (1 square meter). The coprolites varied in size from just about half an inch (1 centimeter) in diameter to more than a foot (35 cm) wide. Such variation in such a small area strongly suggested a herd of young and old animals living together, defecating communally.

In total, the researchers found eight separate latrine spots. Most of the coprolites were oval or spherical, with a few "sausagelike" outliers and a few shaped like cow patties. The only animal large enough to produce dung balls more than a foot in diameter in this region was Dinodontosaurus, a beaky, tusked bruiser that could weigh up to 6,600 pounds (3,000 kilograms). In comparison, a modern African female bush elephant weighs about 8,000 lbs. (3,600 kg).

Modern animals use communal latrines for communication — a big pile of dung can say anything from "dominant male lives here" to "fertile female nearby!" Communal defecation also prevents animals from spreading parasites, because they don't poop where they eat, Fiorelli said. It's not possible to know why Dinodontosaurus engaged in communal pooping, but the behavior could have served a similar purpose. Fiorelli and his colleagues have plans for more excavations in the region. They also plan to take a closer look at the Dinodontosaurus poop, which provides direct evidence of the kind of plants that were in the area 240 million years ago. My guess is they'll simply discover what many of us already know: poop happens.

The weather is having a dampening effect on local fishing efforts these days: too cold for comfort; not cold enough to form safe ice. Some ponds have started to form an ice slick but nowhere near what's needed to support an angler's weight. And now the weekend forecast is calling for snow turning so we probably won't know what we've got until early next week. What we do know, however, is that there has been plenty of trout showing up in recent catch reports, including rainbow, brook and brown varieties. Smallmouth bass have also been providing some action lately and yellow perch continue to show up locally in good numbers. While it's true that not many anglers set their sights on perch as a first-choice option, these small critters are tasty in the extreme when corn-flour-coated and fried up in bacon fat in a hot, cast iron skillet…calories be damned

Scargo Pond in Dennis may not get much mention when the talk turns to good trout locations, but this fifty acre pond with a maximum depth of forty-eight feet is stocked annually by the state environmental folks and harbors populations of brook, rainbow and brown trout. Because Scargo has a kind of "shelf" where shallow waters drop off into plus-twenty foot depths, it's a favorite of fly casters other wader-wearing anglers. In general Scargo Pond doesn't get the same fishing pressure that other, more popular, ponds receive but it's definitely worth a visit.

Depending on what the winter of 2013/2014 has in store for us, we may be transitioning over to ice fishing before long. Best to have a little patience on that score, though. It may be some time before solid ice cover becomes sufficiently weight-bearing to support those of us closing in on the 300 pound category. I'm among those packing on the calories. I tell my wife it won't be long before the NFL holds its annual draft and I hear the Patriots are in need of offensive linemen. Well, I've certainly been considered as offensive as the next guy, so I figure I've got a chance to go by maybe the third or fourth round. But in the meantime I guess I'll stay off the ice until it's a good four inches thick …and you should, too.

February 06, 2013

Pond Fishing On the Cape

by Jerry Vovcsko

Looks like those Great white shark taggings on the Cape last year are starting to pay off. One of the sharks, named Mary Lee by the folks who tagged her off Chatham, was tracked rounding Montauk in late January heading back to Cape Cod.

January 30, 2013

The Great Python Hunt and RIP A Local Legend

by Jerry Vovcsko

It always seemed as though the Florida Wildlife folks were going to try to do something about the burgeoning population of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades. And so they did. According to a blurb in the Boston Globe more than 1,000 people signed up recently to hunt Burmese pythons in the Everglades, but it appears that just a fraction of them have been successful so far.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said last week that thirty of the invasive snakes have been killed in the competition that began January 12th. The officials claim that eradicating pythons from the Everglades was never the goal of the month long ‘‘Python Challenge.'' Instead, they say they hoped to raise awareness about the snake's threat to native wildlife and the fragile Everglades ecosystem. Pythons face both state and federal bans and nobody really knows just how many of these snakes infest the Everglades, but researchers say the hunt is helping them collect more information about the pythons' habits.

Not sure which is potentially the biggest danger: That the Everglades harbor these big-time eating machines that can grow upwards of twenty feet, or that a thousand or so heavily armed good-‘ol-boys are wandering the swamps looking to blow them away; it just might be a tossup.

A couple of weeks ago the Cape unexpectedly lost one of its local legends. Dave Masch, fisherman, raconteur and blithe-spirit-emeritus suffered a massive heart attack and passed away at seventy-five. Dave's name should be familiar to many as a result of his contributions to "On the Water" magazine via his "Cooking the Catch" and "Ask Pops" columns. The longtime Falmouth and Woods Hole resident touched the lives of an awful lot of people during his lifetime.

He worked with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for 10 years and helped found the Penikese Island School, a boarding school for troubled juveniles where he was tagged with the "Pops nickname. I met Dave back in the seventies when I worked in the Falmouth School system and crossed paths with him at some of the alternative educational programs that had sprung up in Falmouth. He was, as they say, "bigger than life.""

He published his first "Cooking The Catch" recipe book in 2006 which sold surprisingly well for a local undertaking. In the book's introduction, he says, "I saw the ocean in 1955 and have not yet recovered from it." He had recently published "Cooking The Catch II" when the heart attack (he had previously survived two others) took his life. But sense of humor? It was pure Dave Masch when he kidded about another book he wanted to write…his working title was: "Having Fun With Your Grandkids With Fire and Explosives."

RIP, Dave, you touched many lives and we will miss you.

It's not Halloween right now but the fishing situation on Cape Cod is definitely a trick-or-treat proposition. Just when it look like a streak of single-digit temperatures has formed thick, solid ice on the local ponds, don't we find ourselves smack in the middle of fifty-degree spring-like weather. Yessir, classic New England weather…don't like what you've got? Wait a day and here comes the opposite.

Anyhow, the best bet right now is to spend some time checking out local ponds to see which of them have some shoreline access. On your life be careful of that ice crust; it's likely to be extremely unstable and a late January plunge into the water can be life-extinguishing. I've had some success in previous years finding a pond with open water between the shoreline and the edge of the ice field and casting bait or lure out onto the ice and slowly working it back until it drops off the edge into the water. Right then is when the strike is likely to come and you can see the line move sideways a little as a fish takes the bait.

It's an effective technique at times, especially with pickerel and bass. Mouse or frog artificials are probably the best lure choice…I suppose the fish may have seen critters fall from the ice shelf now and then. Rubber worms also draw some action and I like to play around by working them to the edge and letting them dangle partially over until they fall. Inevitably, strikes will come right after the splash. It's sort of the winter version of topwater action and will certainly sharpen an angler's concentration and test the reflexes when the bass are hitting.

Super Bowl Sunday coming up this weekend but us New England Patriot fans no longer have a dog in this hunt so it won't capture my interest quite as much. I've gotten a little tired of Ray Lewis's "celebration of Me" routine so I suppose I'll root for the 49'ers. And maybe in this year's college draft Bill Belichick will find that big, fast wide receiver the Pats haven't had since the days of Randy Moss so that when next year's Super Bowl rolls around, the Pats will be in it!

December 31, 2012

Worms, Jigs and Northern Pike

by Jerry Vovcsko

It's a gloomy picture that presents itself as I peer out my kitchen widow this morning. Cloudy skies that look like they could start spitting snowflakes any moment; ice making the driveway slick and dirty snow heaped up down by the street.

December 24, 2012

Twas the Night Before Christmas

by Jerry Vovcsko

Well, folks, here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, the best of the Holidays and a Happy New Year for 2013. May Santa fill everyone's wish list and may Tom Brady and the stout lads on the New England Patriots bring yet another Lombardi Trophy home to Patriot Nation.

December 18, 2012

Looking For Fish in All the Right Places

by Jerry Vovcsko

Good news for Chatham merchants as the sixteen foot great white shark tagged off Cape Cod last September was tracked last week passing the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach, SC approaching the North Carolina state line and heading our way.

December 09, 2012

Getting Kind of Cold These Days

by Jerry Vovcsko

The trick-or-treat weather we've experienced lately has really made it tough on the salt water scene what with high winds and rough seas keeping anglers pretty much shorebound.
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