As the water heats up, the bluefishing just keeps getting better and better. I recorded some extraordinary surface water temperatures last week: 77 degrees in the harbor, and 75 degrees off the cottages at Beach Point. That is downright tropical. Even the normally cooler Race rips were 71 degrees on the ebb tide.
Striped bass continue to hang around the ocean beaches way down by Head of the Meadow and towards Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet.
But locally, it’s all about the bluefish. They are literally everywhere. Charter boats are catching them off the Race Station and at Race Point. There are bluefish from Herring Cove to Wood End light, and also off the cottages at Beach Point and all the way south to the entrance to the Pamet.
And they are hungry. We caught them well on cut mackerel chunks and Ava green tail diamond jigs on the Cee-Jay. Capt. Russ of the Lisa Z, Capt. Dave of the Ginny G, Capt. Nico of Cape Tip’N, and Capt. Rich of the Beth Ann all reported solid bluefish catches trolling umbrella rigs.
Keep in mind: bluefish are highly perishable, so bleeding them out and icing them down quickly is key to having a fish that will taste great when cooked the same day.
We got a disturbing email alert from National Marine Fisheries this week: the south end of the bay has become hypoxic. Apparently, the data indicate that dissolved oxygen levels are decreasing at some locations in the southern portion of Cape Cod Bay — the same region that experienced hypoxic conditions in 2019 and 2020.
Data collected by the Cape Cod Bay Study Fleet and by the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown indicated oxygen levels near the seabed of 4.0 mg/L. In several locations, the values were less than 4.0 mg/L, which is considered mildly hypoxia. Readings of less than 2.0 mg/L indicate severely hypoxic conditions. The data indicate that some locations have been varying at around 4 mg/L for about a week.
No severely hypoxic conditions have been detected yet this summer, but the trend of declining dissolved oxygen observed is certainly an area of concern. Bottom-dwelling animals like lobsters will move to avoid hypoxic conditions when they can, but they will die if stuck in traps and exposed to hypoxia for more than a few hours.
Consequently, fishermen working in or near the area are encouraged to be on the lookout for signs of hypoxia, which includes unusual amounts of lethargic or dead lobsters, crabs, or finfish in the traps. Marine Fisheries recommends that fishermen check their traps frequently, and possibly consider moving gear out of the affected region to prevent trapped lobsters or crabs from being in hypoxic conditions.
How does this condition happen? One major factor is the amounts of nitrogen- and phosphorus-based lawn fertilizers that Cape home owners use to get that lawn emerald green. All that fertilizer eventually ends up in the bay; excess nitrogen levels in the bay create an algae explosion. Algae consume oxygen — and the next step is a hypoxic condition. Nitrogen fertilizers should simply be banned Cape-wide, not just in a few selected towns.