Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
I know I exhausted my storm-writing welcome in my last weekly blog but I just have to offer a few parting words about Storm Saturn. That girl was a superfreak. I kid you not. And I've been watching weather like a hawk my entire life. My first words weren't “mamma” or “dada” but “quantitative precipitation forecast.” I was immediately placed on intravenous Ritalin.
What Saturn Girl loosed was, verbally speaking, outside common meteorological wordage. What does one call a one-day storm that floods like crazy for four days, including a road closer (Boulevard) an entire day after the she was long gone? Freaky, that’s what.
That said, I do want to note that some aggravated folks were getting a bit overblown in their descriptions of Saturn’s day-after-day-after-day of moderate flooding. While it was a major-ass inconvenience to be sure, I twice heard folks making genuine references/comparisons to Sandy. We both know those folks obviously weren't in the house for the Superstorm. They were bunching together all of Saturn’s moderate flooding to form a severe flooding classification. It doesn't quite work that way, any more than day after day of moderate rip current risks doesn’t make it high rip current risks.
Speaking of rips, the recent storm-based beach damage was fierce. The north end of LBI might very well have gotten chewed to a Sandy degree, per locals there. No Island dissections, though, by a long shot.
In calibrated retrospect, the high tide readings from Saturn didn't even inch toward established severe parameters. I’ll re-agree the daily road sinkings comprised a severely bothersome volley of flooding. However, Saturn will not be leaving her mark on any (remaining) walls where we keep high-water marks from dearly departed storms. Fortuitously, I guarantee Saturn will not add to the 10,000 or so Sandy insurance claims – just from LBI.
While Storm Saturn deserves some sort of asterisk for the above-noted freaky-deakiness, it’s now time to wonder what would possess the bay to keep overflowing long after she all but off the weather maps?
I have theories that I’ll bank on.
First, one has to realize the ocean was fully riled by Saturn’s consistent 50 mph winds. Even I noted that the frequency of Saturn’s rafter-shaking gusts (60 mph plus) were more consistent than Sandy’s gusts -- though, again, any further comparisons to the killer Superstorm are unwarranted.
So, Saturn offers us a storm-perked, high-rise ocean. Such a sea situation is always able to power water into the bay. The problem is we've seen that same scenario many a time but the elevated bay waters have always obediently scurried back out to sea shortly after the storm departs.
Now theorizing gets tricky – and up to date, so to speak.
One of the main flood culprits had to be the big, highly consistent swells in the wake of Saturn. The waves remained steady, even after she moseyed off. They kept pounding ocean water toward our inlets, preventing what is technically known as an evacuation of accumulated bay waters. As distant proof of the waves’ pizzazz, Saturn’s swells quickly reached Puerto Rico -- as grinding 12- to 15-foot waves, testimony to the swell’s power.
But even the swell setup we saw after the Saturn is rarely enough, on its own, to pen up bay waters for days on end. Enter my pet concept: Our bay is in getting worse and worse at handling tidal waters. This is due to overall shallowing, and, most notably in this flooding case, an insidious closing off of the Little Egg Inlet area – all the way north to bayside Beach Haven. Saturn’s flood waters couldn’t escape even if they wanted to. Predictably, Beach Haven, closest to the piled up water, suffered worst – though many other places in Barnegat Bay complex were also up to their gills in piled up waters.
While I am the furthest thing from a doomsdayist, I sure don’t like the way the bay has been acting. Sorry, waterlogged roadways, but it won’t be getting better any time soon. As I wrote a few columns back, I just don’t trust it any more. And we used to be such good friends.
The bass are kinda back – as in barely back.
There are some small stripers being caught in the Mullica area and also near the east-facing sod banks off the end of Seven Bridges Road. It’s a chore tracking down these winter bass, much less getting them to suck in bloodworm, still, it’s always a great outing just to get out and finally shake off what has become a mighty thick layering of winter blahs. The near-time problem is we have some very cold nights arriving, which won’t allow a warm-up of the flats, where overwintering bass come onto the shallows to sun.
I hope to kayak out to the creek flats near the Sheepsheads. Years back I did some ice-out sight fishing there on my yak -- until I paddled too close and spooked the bass back into the nearby 113 hole. I have a GoPro this time so I can record the high-speed V-lines made by the bass as they spook off the eel grass beds. It shows how shallow they’ll go to get at that first solar warmth of the season – and to nab a stray grass shrimp or two.
(Below: Part of the problem is Holgate shift westward, closing off ICW. Shot from our flying buddies of the Black Sheep Squadron.)
(Ever wonder what baby striped bass look like? Wonder no more. These are for restocking. "
(Ambergris worth a whale of a lot, selling for $65,000. Kid has his college tuition paid for ... if he invests his whale vomit money until he hits college age.)
An email harkening back to my missed chance to haul home some ultra-valuable ambergris:
I read with interest, your story about the whale throw-up in the Sandpapers Feb. 13 edition. About 10 + years ago, my husband and I were beachcombing in Florida(Hobe Sound area). I saw something roundish and shiny, thought it looked interesting, and picked it up. Well, it was cold and slimy, and I dropped it like a hot potato! Yuk, I said to my husband, and we walked on. Didn't think another thing about it, until a day or two later it was on the local news that a piece of whale throw-up was found on the beach, and it was worth about a quarter mil. Boy, did I feel bad! But then I thought, If I had kept it, I probably still wouldn't know what it was. Anyway, it’s good to know that someone else did the same thing. Misery loves company!
(Below: Now that's an epic upchuck. Value (outside the museum) easily into the mils.)
On Wednesday, March 13th at 10 a.m. Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) will kick off the first in a series of hearings on the process to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Funding for the primary statute governing fishing activities in Federal waters, the Magnuson-Stevens Act is set to expire at the end of Fiscal Year 2013, and according RFA executive director Jim Donofrio, it's going to be another contentious process.
"We've been spearheading efforts to reform this broken federal fisheries law since it was first reauthorized by unanimous consent in the Senate back in 2006, an action that occurred because a group of environmental organizations essentially got their way without open and honest debate," Donofrio said.
"RFA has been fighting hard to get this federal law amended since early in 2007, and we've testified numerous times before the House Natural Resources Committee, currently chaired by Doc Hastings, as to ways this law could be enhanced with minor changes to provide a better balance of commerce and conservation, and we're hoping that the voice of fishermen will ring louder than that of the anti's this time around."
According to Chairman Hastings, his Committee held several oversight and legislative hearings on the Magnuson-Stevens Act during the last Congress (112th), noting specifically that among the specific issues raised during those hearings included "basing annual catch limits on better science; requiring participant approval of new catch share programs; allowing rebuilding flexibility for certain fisheries; using NOAA enforcement funds to acquire better fisheries information; requiring decisions on commercial fisheries disaster assistance in a timely manner; and requiring better transparency for the activities and decisions of the regional fishery management councils."
Donofrio said one particular Committee bill which came from these specific hearings which would address the issues outlined above was the Transparent and Science-Based Fishery Management Act of 2012 sponsored by Committee member Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and supported by fellow Committee members Steve Southerland (R-FL) and Don Young (R-AK).
"RFA would like to see the Magnuson-Stevens Act reformed now as opposed to later in order to protect and preserve what's left of our struggling recreational fishing industry, and this particular bill has various components supported by many different factions which makes it the perfect vehicle for moving forward," Donofrio said.
On Thursday, March 14th at 10 a.m., members of Committee on Natural Resources' Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation chaired by the Honorable Rob Bishop (R-UT) will listen to testimony in support of H.R. 819, a bill sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) which would authorize pedestrian and motorized vehicular access in Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area, and for other purposes. The aptly named Preserving Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area Act would limit the Commerce Secretary from being overly restrictive of recreational activities, including surfcasting, at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.
The House Natural Resources Committee itself last year noted that a recent federal decision to turn away surfcasters is in many ways similar to the implementation of 'no take' marine reserves planned in other areas to ban boating anglers too. "Fishing is an important economic activity that draws tourists and provides locals with an excellent outdoor recreational opportunity," the Committee noted last year, adding "Access to Cape Hatteras National Recreational Area has been severely limited by Park Service management and environmental lawsuits under the guise of species protection. Not only have vehicles been restricted from areas traditionally available, but in some areas pedestrian access was eliminated as well."
Donofrio said RFA is very much in favor of the Jones' bill and is hoping that the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation will react favorably on Thursday.
"We've seen a systemic problem at the federal level to restrict public access through restrictive federal laws and a burdensome bureaucracy, maybe having two hearings in one week on behalf of coastal anglers is a good sign for a new year," Donofrio said.