We’re nearing the end of our season in the sun. As fall strengthens its grip on us, the leaves are showing off their colors and the winds coming more from the chilly north than from the warm southwest. The warm-water fish we enjoy chasing all summer long feel the chilling waters and begin their migration to their winter grounds far to our south.
Just as fish know when it’s time to leave, so do the humpback whales. They’re now taking their last big meals before they commence their 2,000-mile trek towards the Caribbean to breed and birth in tropical waters. En route they will seldom eat. Instead, they will live off the body fat accumulated during a season of feeding on the rich, diverse diet New England waters provide them.
Meanwhile, back on land, boat owners are also following their seasonal rituals and beginning to prepare their vessels for the winter. Some will haul out at Flyer’s, some will head up Cape to Northside Marina and dry store there, while others will simply haul their trailered boats to their back yards to hibernate for the winter.
So, you see, we who work and play on the ocean have seasonal habits that follow the same rhythms as those of the fish and whales that inhabit the Outer Cape all summer. We, too, have periods of high activity followed by rest and recovery, though as some of you know, the one way in which I’m unlike most marine animals, is this: I head to northern Connecticut for the winter, not south.
Even there, though, I never stop reading and following the news about the fisheries and the ocean. I plan on writing in from time to time this winter, offering a fisherman’s point of view on events affecting the Outer Cape’s waters.
So, how was this past fishing season? From my point of view, in spite of some differences from other years, it was all in all a pretty good one. We got our striped bass early, and we pretty much had them all season long — they didn’t make their typical disappearance during the height of the hot months. The bluefish arrived a little late but stayed most of the summer, too. Our bluefish were much bigger than those in schools to our south all the way to New Jersey. And this was year nine of no fluke coming into our bay despite great fluke fishing on the Cape’s south shores. Flounder are also long gone from our harbor. Cormorants and seals have pretty much decimated them.
I am very concerned about the fact that the stretch of water from Wood End to Beach Point is mostly a dead zone when it comes to marine life. This has been going on for a few years now, and I wish we knew why. Fish come through there, but do not stay around anymore, and fluke no longer seem to come in at all. We are having to go farther and farther down the back side to catch bluefish and even striped bass. And the numbers of whales and dolphins we used to see regularly in that area are also no longer there.
Can such pronounced changes simply be random? I suppose. There is so much we don’t know about fish and whale behavior. Still, I worry about whether these are signs of significant changes in the waters around Provincetown — changes that could be preventing fish and marine mammals from settling in as they have done for decades.
One thing is for sure: the south end of the bay has been considerably more consistent, with fish staying put, than the north end. I think there has to be a reason for this; call me a pessimist, but I can’t imagine it’s a good one. Still, I’m not giving up on the idea that one day we will figure it all out.