It may be the first official days of spring but its still winter here where the cold ocean waters touch the land. The Cardinals and Red-Wing Blackbirds are staking out their lofty territorial treetop positions in the hopes of wooing the females to them. The increased sunlight levels seem to be illuminating the shallow waters of our Cape Cod coves and estuaries. Soon the eels and the spring peepers will start to stir from their muddy winter dormancy, and then we will really be into the onset of spring.
Speaking of eels, we seem to have another dilemma similar to the alewife or river herring problem. It seems the American eel is in decline. Having once potted eels for commercial sale, I know a little bit about this. Traditionally there were basically two markets for our eels here in the Northeast. We have the seasonal ethnic food market and the bait market. Recently the worldwide decline of eels has introduced another market for the elvers or fry of the eel. These are collected with various illegal small mesh (cheesecloth sized) seine and traps (fykes) and sold to aquaculture farms to be grown and resold for food. Did you ever have Anakyu or Unagi in the sushi bar ? The fisheries enforcement folks have recently cracked down on these illegal elver operations, but a lot of damage has been done already. We need to watch this very carefully. If you see anything suspicious in your small creeks and estuaries call your marine fisheries folks to report it. The seasonal ethnic market is quite small and may not be an issue. The bait eel industry is large and growing, as is the demand for elvers for culturally raised food eels.
On our side of the fence as sportfishermen, we need to take a look at our uses of the eel as well. Once considered the only way to catch a decent bass in the surf at night, the eel has been granted a “superbait” status among bass fishermen. Part of the reason is that they keep well and generate a great profit for tackle stores. If we continue to use the eel as our primary bait of choice, it is my belief that they will soon go the way of the alewife and become off-limits to harvest for any use. I used to use live American (or common) eels exclusively. Now I only use the sand eels, (lance) which is not like an eel but more like a minnow. I can remember using 100 live eels in one day striper fishing. Now I use maybe 3 pounds of sand eels to catch the same amount of bass. The live eels cost $100 – the sand eels cost $18. Try it and see if you don’t do as well with the sand eels and help save some of our eel resource.
It may be a bit early for most of you to think about reserving your summer fishing day, but remember that in July and especially August when the tourist season is buzzing along, I will be booked quite solidly. If you were quite sure that you would be coming out with me again (new boat or old) it would be a good idea to reserve your time now. You will then have your pick of day, time and tide. Whereas if you wait, you will have to take the time and tide that is left, perhaps an afternoon instead of a morning trip or a 7:30 am departure instead of the 5:30 am departure. Remember we go according to the timing of the tide, which will vary from 30 minutes to 1:15 later each day. Some tides are better than others as well, especially later in the season when we need to go farther to find deeper cooler waters. I hope to hear from you.
Thanks very much,
Captain Bruce & “Miss Jillian”