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Colder temperatures do not mean that fishing opportunities cease.

While deer and pheasant hunting have recently dominated the sportsman's world in Massachusetts, fishing continues hot even as temperatures plummet.

In one of the final runs of the season, the Canal hosted good numbers of schoolie-size stripers readily hitting small jigs. Most veterans believe there may yet be one last surge of bigger fish waiting to pass through.

Meanwhile boats fishing with crabs from Massachusetts to Rhode Island have been hauling in limits of delicious tautog and black sea bass. The tautog, or blackfish, have been up to 11 pounds. The Frances Fleet has been taking some good cod, too. On one charter, Worcester's Jenn Cofske hauled in a 21-pounder. The biggest cod caught so far this season on their trips has been 25 pounds.

A few conger eels are now being taken, as well. Their capture signals the onset of cooling water temperatures. Little known, congers can best be identified by their dorsal fin, which extends from just above the tip of their pectoral fin all the way to the tail. Congers grow much bigger than their American eel cousins -- up to 71/2 feet in length and topping out here at about 22 pounds. East Atlantic congers around the European coast grow much bigger. Up to 10 feet long, as thick as a thigh, and weighing over 80 pounds, the muscular predators have been known to attack humans. As recently as 2013, a diver in Ireland had a portion of his face bitten off by one. Asians consider them a sushi delicacy.

With substantial schools of menhaden remaining in many sheltered waters on the Cape's south side, stripers and bluefish have stuck around, feasting on them. Unlike the canal fish, the stripers, readily feeding on live or cut up menhaden bait, have been largely keepers. Additional reports of good striper action are coming from the Amelia Earhart Dam in Boston. As stripers migrate south, though, best bets for them this week are at the mouths of the Connecticut and Housatonic Rivers.

Intrepid tuna boat captains like Mike Wisniewski are getting their clients into bluefin. Wisniewski's specialty is to take them on relatively lightweight spinning gear. Peaked Hill has been hot with surface feeding fish well marked by cruising seabirds. While some tuna anglers are also doing well fishing deep with RonZs, taking them on topwater lures is far more exciting. And the reward of celebrating with fatty toro belly sashimi fresh from a fish that was thrashing just minutes before is incomparable when the captain remembers to bring along a little soy sauce.

Trout fishing at the Cape has been lights out, and local bass fishermen have been having fast action as well. Closer to home, both the Quinapoxet and Stillwater Rivers are producing landlocked salmon, and that fishery could get even better with more rain this month.

Wachusett Reservoir closes to fishing on Nov. 30. Before then, there should be some good laker fishing as they move into cooling shallow water.

In New York, the Oswego River has had great rainbow trout fishing this week. Meanwhile, steelhead are in the lower stretches of the Salmon River.

Regional stars

New England bass fishermen can compete with the best in the country. Connecticut's Paul Mueller just won the BASS Nation Championship on the Ouachita River in Louisiana.

Mueller, from Naugatuck, Connecticut, earlier won the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic with a tournament record total weight catch. Fishing the Bassmaster Classic pits anglers against the best in the country. Mueller used two lures: a 4-inch soft plastic Reins craw tube in black and blue fleck, and a Zoom WEC E1 square bill crankbait in chartreuse shad.

Mueller said, "I threw crankbait in the morning before the sun came up. The fish were off the trees in the roots. Then, when the sun came up, I'd go to areas that create shade, fishing deeper cypress trees, around 3 to 6 feet.''

While the average fish caught in the tournament weighed 11/2 pounds, Mueller's averaged 3 pounds.

Other top New England anglers in the tournament were: George Cooper of Buxton, Maine; Leo Bevelaqua of Wyoming, Rhode Island; Russell Phillips of Guilford, Vermont; Rob Messenger of Sunapee, New Hampshire; and Jeff Kenney of Franklin.

Sea turtles seen

Several rare and endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles washed ashore on the outer Cape this week. They're extremely vulnerable to hypothermia, warranting their being taken in for rehabilitation and later release.

Brewer honored

Last Wednesday, one of the greatest allies of local sportsmen was recognized at the Otter River Sportsmen's Club in Templeton. Retiring state Sen. Stephen Brewer received the Frank W. Sargent Conservation Award, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the conservation of natural resources in the Commonwealth. The award is named in honor of former Gov. Francis W. Sargent, an avid conservationist and outdoorsman who served as director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife from 1963-64.

Sargent, the 64th governor of Massachusetts from 1969 to 1975, set the bar for what a governor can do to help conservation and sportsmen. He was a bright, moderate Republican with a ready smile and sharp wit. He attended MIT's architectural program, befriending classmate and future architectural giant, I.M. Pei. Sargent never graduated from the program.

A World War II veteran, Sargent earned both a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He loved both trout and saltwater fishing -- especially at Cape Cod, where even then, he was outraged by overfishing and illegal netting. Under his governorship, statewide laws were passed protecting the environment, wetlands in particular.

Brewer, a longtime resident of Barre, was born in Worcester in 1948, graduated from UMass and received his master's degree from Assumption. He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1989 and served in the state Senate since 1995.

Brewer deserves special credit for the Land Stamp money derived from the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses. It funds purchasing of open space for everyone's benefit. He helped create the Range Protection Act so pre-existing gun ranges couldn't be closed down by housing developments that were later built all around them. And maybe most importantly of all, he fought successfully to protect Fish & Wildlife funds that are derived from license purchases. We get matching money from the federal government. If we were to ever divert those sportsmen's dollars to the general fund -- which several governors like Mitt Romney tried to do -- we'd lose that federal money and weaken our critically important Fish & Wildlife Division.

Brewer has always been on the side of protection of farms and open space. He has set the bar for the next generation of environmentally concerned politicians in Massachusetts.

Contact Mark Blazis

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Nov 14, 2014
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