We finally got into a summer weather pattern of southwest winds and warm air temperatures, and immediately things started to percolate in Cape Cod Bay. I had spent a few days on the Cee-Jay poking around the Race and looking for bass without much success. A few small fish and no keepers was all I could come up with.
But then, on Sunday, after a few days of warmth and light southwest winds, the water temperature crept up to 57 degrees and the Race was loaded with gigantic schools of big striped bass. We limited out the boat quickly and spent the rest of the trip throwing back fish of legal size. Most of the bass were between 30 and 34 inches. So, the late spring run of striped bass has officially begun here.
The Race is also loaded with mackerel, herring, and sand eels. Flounder fishing has been improving steadily from down by the bay side of Wellfleet to just off Sesuit Harbor in Dennis.
Right on cue, the seals have arrived as well. There were a dozen at Long Point and Race Point all week. It makes sense that we spotted our first great white shark of the season at Race Point.
But the big news is the spotting of an orca off Chatham. Orcas are not typically seen around here. In the 35 years I have spent on this waterfront and the thousand or so whale watch trips I have run out of here, I have seen orcas only twice.
That orcas are called “killer whales” always struck me as rather funny. They hunt in groups, seeking penguins, porpoises, and seals. When a flock of robins descends on your lawn to find worms and bugs, you don’t call them “killer birds,” do you? And orcas are not even whales — they are in the dolphin group of cetaceans.
It is thought that the “killer whale” name has roots in a historical, lost-in-translation situation. Spanish sailors who long ago watched pods of orcas preying on larger whale species, called them ballenas asesinas, which would translate as “whale killers.” Somehow, over the centuries, the name got flipped around.
It will be interesting to see how long this solitary orca hangs around. They like to eat seals, so maybe that’s why this one is here. According to the New England Aquarium, this particular orca has been around here before. It’s been identified as “Old Thom” by Massachusetts-based shark expert John Chisholm, who is with the Aquarium. Old Thom has a unique notch in his dorsal fin, which helps in his identification.
This past week there was yet another example of how lucky we are to have a TowBoatUS station in our harbor. The 34-foot lobster boat Angela & Mary III was off Race Point, taking on water, and in danger of sinking. All four crew members went into the water. TowBoat got there quickly and plucked the wet and cold but unharmed crew from the lifeboat. They were also able to right the boat enough to bring her into the harbor to be salvaged. Another job well done by Noah Santos and his TowBoat crew.