The 2022 Edition: Dispatches From The Ditch - The Fisherman

The 2022 Edition: Dispatches From The Ditch

A lone angler casts at sunrise along the rubble-strewn shorelines of the Cape Cod Canal. Dave Anderson photo.

Another season in the books, memories from the Canal in 2022.

You never know what might happen from one tide to the next on the Cape Cod Canal. The following are memories from a guy who was there almost every day.


Kids think seals are cute, but they continue to be our competitors. A fat harbor seal with an enormous appetite, who was given the name Bubba by some of the guys, always seemed to make an appearance when a Canal Rat had a nice fish on. Joe Keegan hooked a striper breaking about 40 yards out with a Guppy surface plug while fishing next to me with his brothers Sean and George. The fish fought ferociously until wrapping the line around a submerged rock 10 yards from shore. Joe couldn’t move the brute so he left his rod standing up in a crevice and used another to continue fishing.

He reeled in some more fish including a 38-incher and then, after about 20 minutes, cast a bucktail at the entanglement, hooked his line and dislodged it from the rock. Joe could see that it was a big one, way above slot, when suddenly Bubba attacked the fish in close causing a huge explosion of saltwater as it bit down on the striper and ran with it toward the center of the Canal! This was going to be a losing battle so Joe broke the line and the enormous seal had its breakfast!

A doe makes the brave crossing at the east end of the Big Ditch, but would someone really hunt around the jetties? John Doble Photo.

Risk & Reward

Guys were elbow to elbow at Bell Road where tangled lines are as predictable as the sunrise. A surfcaster yanked his soft plastic jig out of the water to avoid a mess, but he jerked too hard causing the lure to fly through the air landing on top of another fisherman’s head, causing the strong hook to dig into the top of his skull! The unfortunate angler was walking around the parking lot expressing his displeasure as the upside down paddle tail wiggled back and forth in his hair. Emergency triage surgery was performed from the back of a truck by a guy who used bolt cutters to snip through the shank and free the jig. Of course, the point, barb and part of the bend remained imbedded in the cranium which was later removed at the hospital.

Anglers who are crammed in next to each other near the railroad bridge on the mainland side, AKA the Combat Zone, can sometimes be heard screaming at each other over tangled lines from a great distance away on a clear morning. You don’t have to be there very long before hearing somebody yell, “Open your bail!”

I was casting before first light next to Dr. Johan Frenje, a professor at MIT who teaches nuclear physics. He was on his way to New York for a work assignment so he had decided to try his luck and wet a line before continuing on to the Empire State. I knew I was in the good company of a true surfcaster when I asked him what time he had to get back on the road. Johan smiled and said, “It depends on the fishing!”

There are more and more motorized bikes with rod holders on the Canal service roads every year. Powered bikes with surf rods sticking up in the back pass me all day long. It’s starting to look like the Hells Angels have taken up fishing!

Pipefitter Bill Jenkinson with a 44-inch striper with the proud recipient of his handiwork, the Power Plant, standing watch in the background.

You Can’t Make This Up!

Joe Gray caught a couple of 30-pound stripers on Friday, four fish way above slot on Saturday and then got married on Sunday! The ceremony took place in a hotel on the Canal and Joe and his groomsmen all wore waders for the wedding photos!

I was buying some fishing line at Red Top when a guy came in to pick up his rods that had the broken tips repaired. He was happy that they did a great job and looked brand new, but was mystified as to how they had been damaged in the first place. As he quickly walked out of the shop he didn’t lower the rods enough so that they slammed into the frame above the door. We all just looked at each other: the mystery had been solved!

An Environmental Police Officer was checking for fishing licenses near my spot. A 25-year-old guy said he didn’t have a license because he wasn’t planning on fishing that day even though he was holding a rod in one hand and a surf bag in the other! I asked the officer if he wanted to see my license, but when he spotted my white hair he said, “No, that’s OK, yours is free anyway.”

I was travelling home from the Canal in the middle lane on Route 25 west when a car in the left lane with roof racks holding fishing rods flew by me at a very high rate of speed. I looked over just in time to see the driver brushing his teeth with his knee on the wheel! It’s time for him to loosen up his schedule so he can find the time to use a bathroom sink!

Fall fishing was fantastic in the Big Ditch because the bait was so abundant. Predators like bluefish and striped bass had the best meal plan in a long time along the 7 mile stretch. We got used to seeing silversides and peanut bunker every day, but one morning stripers were travelling just below the surface causing frightened adult menhaden to jump out of the water so high that it looked like the Baitfish Olympics!

I wasn’t surprised to see a sign on the east end jetty prohibiting swimming and diving off the boulders, but there is also a ban on hunting! I’m not a hunter, but what kind of game lives around a jetty? I have seen some nice photos of deer swimming across the Canal taken by John Doble, but were they being hunted from the jetty?

John Gray (on bride’s left) with his wader-clad wedding party, congratulations to the lucky couple!

Cast Of Characters

A guy used to ride his bike along the Canal with his CD player loudly blasting Elvis Presley songs as he sang along with the chart topping music. We used to call the shirtless bicyclist Riding Elvis and he actually had a good voice, but he hasn’t been seen for a while so I hope he’s okay.

My wife J. Do bought me a bright yellow raincoat that goes down below my knees and looks like something you would see on a police officer working a road job detail. I was wearing it on a wet morning in the west end, as I was about to make another cast I noticed an elderly gentleman out for a walk on the service road behind me. He took one look at my bright yellow rain gear and said, “Are you here to catch fish or to direct traffic!”

Bill Jenkinson is a Local 51 union pipefitter who has done repair work at the power plant on the Cape side. His photo was taken holding the nice 44-inch striper that he jigged up on the mainland side and by sheer coincidence the power plant is shown standing tall in the background.

I’m far from a slave to fashion, but I still get bewildered when my old eyes see someone wearing ripped jeans. A cheerful 25-year-old mother was pushing a stroller with a happy baby along the Herring Run. I admit to being old fashioned, but she was wearing jeans that had so many holes and rips that she looked like she had been attacked by a bear! Then along came another young woman guiding a baby carriage, but instead of a child the passenger was a small barking dog!

Peanut Bunker & Jelly?

My line had been wet for about a half hour at Pole 155 on the mainland side. I had just reeled in a slot before sunup and looked to my left to see the horrific sight of a man jumping off the Sagamore Bridge, landing in the water with a huge splash and the east tide carrying him away from my position. The helicopter and rescue boats, which responded remarkably fast, never found his body as far as I know so whatever was troubling him – may he rest in peace. It’s moments like these that should serve to remind us how lucky we are to have the opportunity to fish these places of beauty and to make the absolute most of every day we have on earth.

While interesting, I have been unable to verify the following. A fisherman who looked to be about 20 years old set down his gear to get ready to fish at the Cribbin. He clipped on a surface plug, took a jar of peanut butter out of his backpack and proceeded to smear it all over his lure! The older guy to his right just had to ask what the heck this was all about! The young man said that he was duplicating the scent of peanut bunker with the peanut butter so that the stripers would think the plug was a baitfish! The experienced angler tried to be helpful by telling him that juvenile menhaden are called peanut bunker because they are small bunker and that they don’t smell like peanut butter, but the rookie was not convinced!

Just another season in paradise!

Doherty is a retired Massachusetts District Court clerk-magistrate and the author of “SEVEN MILES AFTER SUNDOWN.” He had surf cast the east end of the Canal so often that other anglers started calling him East End Eddie, thus a nickname became a pen name. He can be reached at



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