Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ah, Spring

Spring comes hard in New England. The leaves on the trees almost explode into a green profusion and the birds are coming back.

But not all is so bucolic. Yesterday tied a record for lowest maximum temperature and set a record for rainfall.

Statement as of 5:40 am EDT on May 19, 2007

... Record daily maximum rainfall set and record low maximum
temperature record tied at Boston...

A record rainfall of 1.72 inches was set at Logan International
Airport in Boston on Friday may 18th. This breaks the old record of
1.09 inches set in 2002.

The high temperature for Friday only reached 46 degrees... which
occurred just after midnight. This ties the record low maximum
temperature record for may 18. The record of 46 degrees was also
set way back in 1881.

And the striped bass are back, but a couple of weeks late

The stripers are arriving on Cape Ann
Gloucester Daily Times

Spring stripers have begun arriving in Cape Ann estuaries and for once, the first witness to the event is not named Al Williams.

The pre-eminent fisherman reported taking his first schoolie Thursday, but earlier last week, photographer Nubar Alexanian reported to the Times he took about four small bass in the Essex River just behind Farnham's Restaurant.

"They're here for sure," he said.

"It would be a kick to beat Al Williams," said Alexanian, who took his fish on a fly while practicing his casting. "They were all 28 to 20 inches."

Striped bass are synonymous with Cape Ann summers, as hundreds of recreational fishermen vie to reel in the largest tasty fish.

Sportingly, Williams, who has been credited with catching the first bass in each of the past three years, discounts his earlier catches over the last two weeks on the grounds the bass seemed to be "holdovers." Those are bass that spend the winter here rather than migrating south with the vast majority of the stripers.

Holdovers don't have the sheen or sea lice on their scales that the newbies sport. Holdovers have a darkish color.

"They look like they've been here a while," Williams said.

In recent years, there have been increasing reports of stripers, a migratory species, hanging over the winter in estuaries and some of the big rivers, especially on the South Shore.

The arrival of the first from the summer migration was late by about two weeks, attributable, according to Dan Winchester of Winchester Fishing Co., Alexanian and Williams, to the cold weather and water of April.

In past years, Williams typically took his first schoolies in the Little River on a rubber lead-headed lure around the third week of April.

stripers calibrate their travel to water temperatures as they move north from their spawning grounds of the Hudson, Delaware and Chesapeake systems and from holdover schools off North Carolina. They like warmer water.

Delays that stretch the travel time are likely to get them here hungry. Like human travelers, they tend to eat to survive while on the move. They settle in to summer homes based on the appeal of the environment, which includes plenty of food.

Once having chosen a summer spot, their main activity is eating.

Williams said the first fish he caught seemed especially desirous of his rubber shad.

Alexanian said he also catches shad in the Essex River about the time he begins fly-casting for stripers.

The shad, an oversized herring, is a favored food of striped bass, second choice perhaps to their all-time favorite, baby lobsters.

It's a good guess the rich supply of lobsters helps convince many a bass that this is the best place to settle for the summer, though lobstermen might wish they looked elsewhere.

The first wave of stripers almost without exception are small, immature fish. They do not yet have reproductive duties back home in the big rivers. But the big ones are certain to be on the way. directory