PROVINCETOWN — The much quieter than normal waterfront businesses are anxiously waiting to see what Gov. Baker does with the current stay-at-home and social distancing policies. It has given boat owners plenty of time to do all those little jobs on their boats they never had time for in a typical spring. Given Boston’s cancellation of all outdoor summer events, it’s hard to believe Cape towns will go the opposite way.
The Provincetown Marina is set to open on schedule on May 15. Unlike all other businesses on the waterfront, the marina is considered essential.
The state Div. of Marine Fisheries has lifted the Cape Cod Bay gear restriction for fishermen as well as the speed limits put in place every spring to protect North Atlantic right whales. These restrictions were supposed to end May 14, but recent aerial surveys by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies showed that the right whales have departed.
Fishermen are now permitted to set traps in the waters north and east of Cape Cod. Boats smaller than 65 feet can now exceed the 10-knot limit. Right whales come into our bay to feed on the enormous amount of plankton that blooms here in the spring. That beautiful smell of melons when the wind is blowing towards land is the result of that plankton bloom.
Fishing gear restrictions and speed limits are designed to protect the highly endangered whales from becoming entangled and to prevent collisions. Right whales are slow moving, which makes it a challenge for them to avoid collisions with high-speed vessels.
There was a confirmed sighting of a pair of blue whales 12 miles east of the Outer Cape this past week. It’s not very often we get to see the largest animal on the planet around here. The last time I heard of blue whales in our vicinity, I was running the Dolphin VI and got a tremendous view of them up on the north end of Stellwagen Bank. There were large concentrations of krill in our waters at the time, and blue whales prefer these little shrimp-like creatures, which, when concentrated, appear as huge circular red patches on the surface. Hard to say if these blue whales were cruising to another area or hanging around, but time will tell, as it’s hard for an animal 100 feet long to go unnoticed for any length of time.
Not much to report on the fishing front, as so few are out there fishing. Striped bass continue to trickle in and have been caught in increasing numbers in the canal as well as the south- and east-facing beaches. Mackerel are also around, which the bass will follow.
Mackerel-colored swimming plugs and vertical jigs are favored at this time of year, as well as live-lining mackerel. Don’t forget: if you’re bait fishing this year, only circular hooks are allowed. The difference between a traditional J-hook and a circle hook is that the circle hook’s point is sharply curved back. Its use is increasing because the hook seems to catch more fish and is rarely swallowed — the circle hook usually impales the fish on the lips around the corner of the mouth. This theoretically decreases the mortality rate of undersized released fish, compared to traditional J-hooks.