In last week’s column, I wrote that I thought I had seen it all, only to watch a man with a scuba mask dive off his paddleboard to swim with the seals. That might have been the most bizarre moment ever on the water, I thought. But it was topped this past week in a truly “hold my beer” moment.
I was running the Cee-Jay and bass fishing off of Herring Cove. A few hundred yards further out in the deeper water, my boss and good friend, Vaughn Cabral, was in his little center console boat, as usual, fishing for mackerel, which we would use for bait on our next trip. I was sitting up on the bridge, just staring out on the water in the direction of Vaughn’s boat, when, suddenly, there was a massive eruption — and his boat was lifted into the air, landing on its side.
There were fin whales in the area, feeding on mackerel. When they feed, they lunge in a short burst of high speed to catch the mackerel. Apparently, the whale did not know a boat was drifting on the surface above when it made its lunge. We see this particular whale all the time and recognize it because it has a huge scar on its back from a previous ship strike. This whale clearly has issues with orienting itself to surface objects.
I asked my passengers to hurry up and bring their lines in and we raced over to see if Vaughn was all right. It is amazing the boat did not sink, because once they go sideways and water rushes in, it generally doesn’t stop. But in this case, the boat righted itself.
When I got next to Vaughn, he was soaked from head to toe, a fishing rod lay broken, the fish finder had fallen out of its bracket, and the boat was full of water. We stayed long enough to make sure the boat was keeping water out and left a very shaken man, who doesn’t shake easily, to put his boat back together. This is the same man in the same boat who had a white shark try to bite his transom three years ago.
The heat has finally gotten to the striped bass, and they are not really biting very well. Surface water temperatures have remained balmy, in the upper 70s. Good for swimming, but bad for striped bass fishing.
Bluefish, however, like warm water, and fishing for them has been outstanding. It’s really nice to see these big, bad, toothy critters in abundance again after a few years of their being missing in action. Bluefishing has been hot in a wide swath from Long Point to Race Point and around the backside beaches towards the Ranger Station. They have been on the smallish side — two to four pounds — but in very large schools. Casting swimming plugs and vertical jigging have been the most effective methods of catching them, along with trolling umbrella rigs.
The whales are still around Race Point, as you might have guessed, feeding on mackerel and herring, so keep an eye out for the spouts. We also saw a lot of tuna this past week along the backside beaches and even saw some chasing pogies in the harbor.
The biggest treat were the huge pods of white-sided dolphins we spotted off the Race and in the harbor as well. Just goes to show, you truly never know what you will see when you throw the lines off and head out to sea.