It looks like we’re finally getting the beautiful spring weather that towns inland have been enjoying for a week or two. We have been in an easterly fetch pattern, which means breezes off the ocean are chilly and damp. Right now, we’re about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the mainland to our west.
Water temperatures in New England have been running five degrees above normal for most of the winter. It was a very warm one. Meanwhile, other areas of New England have set air-temperature records for most consecutive days at 50 degrees or warmer from January through February.
This has set the stage for the annual migration of striped bass leaving the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and the Hudson River and heading north quite a bit earlier than normal. New Jersey fishermen have reported bass being around three weeks earlier than usual.
Whether all this adds up to us getting the fish sooner than normal remains to be seen. The migration seems to have slowed a bit just now, but a week or two of 60-degree air temperatures can just as easily speed things up. As of this writing, the bass have not yet been seen in the Cape Cod Canal or on the South Shore, which is where they are always seen first.
A few guys at the southern end of the bay told me they tried to see if the flounder were ready to come out of the mud and bite, but cold bottom temperatures have meant no action yet. Note that the presence of sea lice on a striped bass is proof you’ve caught a migratory fish and not a holdover fish that stayed around for the winter.
We currently have a tremendous number of right whales in Cape Cod Bay, particularly in the area from Wood End light to Race Point.
These highly endangered whales are also on their annual migration. They are headed for the Bay of Fundy, but every year they stop in Cape Cod Bay to feast on the massive plankton blooms we have at this time of year. That beautiful fresh melon scent you notice at the shoreline is the result of that plankton bloom.
Herring Cove has been very busy lately because people can easily see the whales skim-feeding the plankton on the surface right from the parking lot. You can see them with the naked eye, but a good pair of binoculars takes the viewing to another level. I went down there one evening earlier this week and watched some 15 whales surface-feeding fairly close to shore.
Look for a V-shaped spout when they exhale and a dark blackish back with no dorsal fin. As we watched the whales, we were also treated to an outstanding Cape Cod sunset. I am going to go out on a limb and say Herring Cove is probably the only place in America where you can simultaneously watch a lot of right whales feeding and take in a gorgeous sunset.
A reminder here that as long as the right whales are in the bay there is a 10-mile-per-hour speed limit that is strictly enforced: violations come with a pretty steep fine. Right whales are not the most athletic of the baleen whales and certainly possess nothing like the agility of a fin whale — hence the need for a speed limit in their presence to prevent strikes.