Fisherman’s Chronicle of Cape Fish by Harvey W. Bloomer

The Cape Naturalist: Vol 1 No 1

June, 1972

When did it start and why? Year after year it continues as it has for countless ages. Changes occur, but mostly from the destructive efforts of man in his greedy, wasteful means of harvesting the sea.

Our beginning of the year: January, a cold bleak, windy month. The fish are scattered. A few hardy cod remain on shoals of the Atlantic Coast of the Cape. The larger schools have long since gone to warmer and deeper water, along with “trash fish”, lobsters, crabs, for the shallow waters of the coast have become much too cold.

The pond, or black back, flounder is snug in his headwater, quietly lying in his bed of mud, as so the eel in the spring hole, or marsh bank.

February. Still the coast fish remain in deep water, but the flounder starts from the mud on sunny days. Soon, but by March, he begins to spawn and move from the pond back to sea. Cod begin to return to the ocean shoals, scattered at first, and then in schools. He first appears to the south and then works north.

In the last days of March and the first few of April, sea herring show, in from deep water to the coastal shoals and bays. About this time come the alewives. Soon they will gather and commence their run to spawning areas in fresh waters. This continues into late April and May. Now there are many other fish. In the bays squid are appearing in increasing numbers, returning, as the herring, to their place of birth to spawn again. For the same reason come the mackerel? Outside on coastal shoals, pollack, a few early bass, and countless kinds of “trash fish” appear. Deeper off, haddock return, full of spawn. Halibut arrived in April. All life in the sea and bays respond to the spring. This is the way for as long as fishermen tell.

May and June: alive with bass, blues and bait fish (shiners, white bait). In come some fluke, butterfish, and occasionally squeteague (weak fish, sea trout), and some porpoise, and now and then a sturgeon.

It continues through the summer. Most squid leave; the young show up from the spawn -a meal for bass and blue on their way to the sea. Herring left long ago. Sardines leave late. Mackerel leave the bays, then school outside to depart. By fall all that remain are blues, bass, some bonito, scup and trash. Lobsters came and are leaving fast. Each to their completing cycle.

On the shoals, the cod are bunching. They will stay until the real cold weather, and then leave. The last fish of the bays will be scup and fall herring. Then nothing, until the pond flounder returns at the end of October and the beginning of November to his winter home in the mud. Haddock move to deeper water. Winter closes in.

There is an emptiness, and a house-cleaning to come from the winter’s violence. The Cape coasts and bays seem to sleep, but in reality it is a deep breathing, an exhaling, a readying for the next breath of spring.

HARVEY BLOOMER is a fisherman out of Chatham, as was his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Now-a-days he handlines for cod in the spring and fall, and in the summer puts out some 400 lobster pots off Monomy Point.


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