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Tuna under heavy pressure.

Byline: Mark Blazis

COLUMN: OUTDOORS

Writing our "Fish Finder" was particularly time-consuming this week. In fact, it took me away from some of the best fishing of the year, and there's a veritable buffet of seafood to choose from.

You can check out the full menu - too extensive to print here - at www.telegram.com/sports.

There you can read my complete analysis of fishing in eastern Connecticut, Rhode Island, Buzzards and Cape Cod bays, Cape Cod Canal, the South Cape and the Islands, Outer Cape and north of Boston.

I love sushi but can't avoid considering the cost - to both us and our tuna. Last January, the Japanese paid nearly $400,000 for a single, particularly fat sashimi-worthy bluefin. The money involved in tuna fishing is too big to give these magnificent, population-depleted giants a break.

With pressure from anglers, charter boat captains, and especially international commercial and political interests, they had little chance of being placed on the endangered species list, as some concerned marine biologists and environmental advocates advised. Though their populations have plummeted by two-thirds around the globe, they apparently have not yet reached the alarming bottom numbers necessary to trigger protective environmental listing.

Our local bluefins, which migrate here after breeding in the Gulf of Mexico, may have had their spawning ravaged by last year's Gulf oil disaster. No one seems to know just yet how badly they were hurt by the BP catastrophe. It will be several years before we see how many of those newborns survived.

Some fear a precipitous drop in their numbers when it's time for their age class to migrate back to our fishing grounds off Chatham and Stellwagen Bank. Those who love giant tuna are hoping the now-tiny fish somehow survive that calamity, mature, and return to New England.

As waters warm to the mid-50s, we can expect the big bluefins' imminent arrival, and anglers intensely pursuing them with both rods and harpoons, bringing home the sushi - as well as some very big paychecks.

Largely because of cost and danger, not many recreational ocean fishermen go far offshore, all the way out to the canyons, where a very different and exciting world of big-game fishing beckons. The canyons are six-figure, big-boat country requiring huge fuel expenditures. Small boats can be swallowed up by fast-changing conditions.

The first time I ventured out to the canyons was about 30 years ago when we chartered a fishing boat in Plymouth to observe and film unusual marine mammals and seabirds. We'd leave the dock at 10 p.m., sailing east all night, setting up a sleeping bag to get at least a few hours' rest before arriving at Hydrographer's Canyon at sunrise.

The water is surprisingly warm near the Continental Shelf, where our relatively shallow 200- to 300-foot waters suddenly plunge a mile deep. Along that line of drastic depth change is a massive upwelling of nutrients that provides vast quantities of food for fish, seabirds and marine mammals. That's Gulf Stream territory, where southern species like sperm whales and flying fish can appear, along with strange seabirds like white-faced storm petrels, skuas and jaegers. It's a place for yellowfin tuna and species you might expect to catch in the Carolinas or Florida.

As waters warm, the intrepid anglers who specialize in this great adventure will begin regularly fishing those wildly exciting areas again. If you ever get a chance to get out to our offshore canyons and experience their wonder, take it.

But you don't have to go far at all to get into some excellent fishing. Inland action has been great, thanks to stockings that have not yet been depleted. Fishermen, even at the Cape Cod kettle ponds, have been deterred by bad spring weather. But near-perfect conditions are providing fly fishermen excellent hatches of mayflies, caddis and midges.

Jim Bender of the Lower Forty confirms fast action at many underfished Cape Cod ponds. One of our region's finest fly fishermen, Joe LeBlanc of Auburn, has been catching and releasing many trout at Goose Pond in Chatham.

Bender notes the perfect 60-degree water temperatures are keeping the fish actively feeding. Midges, often the cause of prolific surface action, are common on the Cape's kettle ponds. There are evenings when rises appear almost everywhere and promise banner fishing. But many fishermen get frustrated trying to figure out how to fish this hatch successfully.

Bender recommends small-quilled wet flies in sizes 18-20, fished slowly just below the surface. To match the adult midge hatch, tie on tiny black gnat dry flies.

Mark Blazis can be reached by e-mail at markblazis@charter.net.

Outdoors Calendar

Today through Sunday - Mass. Outdoorswoman weekend workshop at Camp Becket in Becket. Outdoor skills include shooting firearms, bows, muzzle loaders, spin fishing, fly fishing, nature photography, edible plants, kayaking and outdoor cooking. Brothers Jerry and Albert Lemire of the Elusive Whitetail will teach tree stand safety. Info: Sue Fritze at MassWildlife, (508) 389-6329.

Today - Bear hunters should send in bear permit applications with the $5 fee, due by July 16, to Mass Wildlife in Westboro. Online license holders must apply using MassFishHunt's services at www.mass.gov/dfwele/licensing/index.htm. Hunters who purchased regular licenses at vendors can still use the application attached to their licenses.

Tomorrow - South Quabbin Park Bird Walk, Forbush Bird Club. Meet at 7 a.m. at the DCR Quabbin Visitors Center and Administration Building off Route 9 in Belchertown. Leader: John Shea.

Tomorrow - 50 Bird Sporting Clay Shoot, 9 a.m. every Saturday, Leicester Rod & Gun Club, 1015 Whittemore St., Leicester. Info: Bob Small, (508) 892-4548.

Sunday - Central New England Brittany Club annual field day, meeting and morning seminar, 9 a.m. at Herman Covey Wildlife Management Area, Belchertown. Guest speaker: Mark Blazis on birds, dogs and bird hunting, followed by puppy stakes. Cost: $12/dog. Info: Bob Hallberg, (508) 882-3632, or Dottie at flashfirebrittanys@comcast.net.

Sunday - Safari 3-D League Traditional Rendezvous, 7 to 11 a.m., Auburn Sportsman's Club, 50 Elm St., Auburn. Thirty challenging targets. Info: Ron Kazlauskas, (508) 839-0098.

Sunday - Central Mass. Trout Unlimited's free family barbecue/outing, noon to 4 p.m., Trout Brook Park, Holden. Burgers, hotdogs, trout-stocked pond, fly-tying and fly-casting lessons; entomology demonstration by Bob McMenemy.

Sunday - Leominster Trail Stewards/American Hiking Society's National Trails Day hikes, noon to 3 p.m., North Monoosnoc Trail. Outstanding views of Mounts Watatic and Monadnock. An easy hike. Info: Art O'Leary, (978) 537-2642 or oleary5150@comcast.net.

Sunday - Free kids spring trout derby, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Gardner Fish and Game Club. Free hot dogs, hamburgers, candy and drinks. Children 12 and under free. Bait donated by Seaside Bait. Info: Bill Shea, (978) 844-3620.

Sunday - Rutland State Park and Barre Falls Dam Bird Walk, Forbush Bird Club. Meet at 7 a.m. at the parking lot area above the dam, approximately half-mile south of Route 62 in Hubbardston. Leaders: Dick and Peg Knowlton, (978) 632-9639.

ART: CHART

CUTLINE: Fish Finder
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 3, 2011
Words:1165
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