Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Fun thing of the day. I got this picture of a surfing lesson being visited by what surely seems to be a cruising/feeding shark in the waves.
Similar to sasquatch and paranormal pics, you have to tilt your eyes and imagination a bit.Make a line between the two beginner surfers. Look midway, on water surface. Give your eyes a second to make out the form at the far end of the wave breaking just outside of the surfer closest in. Hey, sharks don't jump up and wave their fins.
After intense Photoshop looks -- the blue picture is a high-temp look -- I repeatedly see a solid fish form, not a play of light or waves. Not only do I see a shark shape but -- dare I say it -- a dorsal similar to that of a brown or (low likelihood) a hammerhead. Hammerheads, especially small ones, are notorious for coming into only a foot or two of water. I only bring them up because some were recently seen in Delaware and, possibly, Cape May area.
Back to the easier to see -- and feel -- things.
Water temperature was 53 when I went to the water’s edge and took a highly accurate infrared reading at sunrise today. That frigidity wasn't a huge surprise since an icebox chill hit me half way across the beach.
While I see very little upside to frigid upwelled water, there is something to be said for the Island being as much as 25 degrees colder than a scalding mainland. That’s the big air conditioner generated by the sea chill. Still, summer seas are supposed to be invitingly mild – as in 70-ish right about now. Out at the nearshore buoys, water temps are in the mid-70s. Cape May Point had a 78-degree reading.
We are about to see a short stretch of calm air -- to light onshore winds -- that could usher in milder water by the weekend. However, this current cold stuff is deep down so it’s gonna take a solid 24 to 36 hours of southerly-less winds to finally see that “break line” near the beach, marking cleaner warmer water bumping out the murky cold stuff.
Not necessarily apropos to the photos up top, I had a bayside home owner, North End, see “The biggest shark I have ever seen in my life” swim quietly past the end of his dock. “The kids swim off there a lot. I’m actually a little bit nervous now,” he added. I no longer offer consoling “Fear not the sharks” remarks. Hell, I don’t wanna be responsible if that one-in-a-thousand shark nips at someone’s toes – or worse. Interestingly, the fellow was calling to ask me about a submersible video camera. Cool idea! I sure know GoPros but now I’m wondering about a submersible camera that could be attached to, say, a dock piling and offer real time images to a nearby computer, via WiFi. It would be a bayside homeowners dream. I’m checking on a company called http://www.aquabotix.com. Hell, now I’m gonna have to buy a bayfront home to accommodate my camera.
MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT: http://bhcfa.net/
FISH HANDS: Anyone who has ever fished with even a modicum of catching success has had hands that reek of fish slime. It permeates every hand cell, where it hostilely takes up residency, fighting off showers and even OCD-grade washings and rewashings.
But, did you ever stop to think what human hands smell like to a fish? Well, it might very well be the difference between successful fishing and skunk sessions.
I’ll first harken back to a fellow who absolutely lives and breathes fishing. He’s now happily embedded in the sands of Florida. Maybe 30 years ago, he chastised me for baiting my hooks without meticulously cleaning my hands first. “You gotta take off all your stinkin’ hand smell,” were his exact words.
It was the first time I had ever heard such a bizarre notion. It struck me as odd-plus since I was baiting with bunker. It seemed to me he had the stink on the wrong hand, so to speak.
I doubly remember the event because he then handed me a bottle of vodka, with one of those slow-pour plastic doohickeys on top.
I cautiously took the bottle and mumbled, “Drinking vodka can make my hands smell better?”
“No! You wipe your hands with it. Takes off all the stink.”
Hey, I'm a nondrinker. What the hell did I know?
There were probably Russians rolling in their graves as I loosed the equivalent of three or four shots upon my hands -- to the unique fragrance of spilled vodka.
I’d like to say I then had a fishing day to do shots over but short of a couple short stripers I was schooled by Mr. Clean. He bailed big bass, right next to me, and using the exact same bait – and same bottle of vodka. I even checked to make sure he wasn't sneaking in a twist of lime without offering one to me.
Anyway, years of studies since then have proven that passing human smells onto bait can stink up the fishing day. Fish can often detect one molecule of humanity amid millions of other sundry molecules.
Obviously, many an oblivious fish will down even stunked-up humanized baits. However, it’s the bigger and wiser world-class fish that have attained humungous sizes by turning a disgusted nose up at any bait with even a hint of uninterpretable odor. I’ll re-mention that serious anglers focus on the big little things.
That said, I rarely see fishing folks in Jersey sanitizing their hands before casting. That’s not so in many other state, especially from Delaware to Florida -- where no serious angler forgets to earnestly sanitize before and during fishing sessions.
And can you guess why anglers in other states are more hip to cleaning hands?
Correctamundo! In all other states (except Oregon), folks pump their own gas. I've traveled enough to know the smelly aftereffects of self-pumping. Not only is there that famously foul gas residue smell on fuel pump handles but also the human scent from hundreds of hands holding the same pump handle. Didn’t think of that second one, did ya? Actually, good old Jim W., Waretown, taught me about fish-scaring smells related to gas pumps.
As to gas pump hands, we have nothing to worry about in NJ. Nonetheless, there are clear-cut fishing benefits to sloshing sanitizers upon hands about to fish.
As to what sanitizer works best before handling your bait, it’s a lot trickier than many anglers know. For commercial and recreational fishermen alike, the industry standard in removing fish-stink hands is Purell. But it’s definitely not the stuff of stellar pre-fishing descentings. The reason is governmental. I kid you not.
Purell and the plethora of knock-off sanitizers must contain a fragrance – a mighty strong one. Why? Ready for this? So folks don't drink it. You can't make this stuff up. Virtually all of your typical alcohol based hand sanitizers leave a strong perfume residue on one’s hands. Hell, if humans can easily smell it, just think what fish pick up if the stuff gets rubbed on bait.
So what works? Yep, turns out that vodka thing is sweet when it comes to de-stinking hands. Admittedly, in the wrong hands, it could actually violate some open-container laws. So, maybe think straight witch hazel or rubbing alcohol. If you wanna get just a squirt creative, an organic magazine did a study showing the best commercial hand sanitizers can’t beat their homemade recipe of : "2 ounces vodka; 4 to 5 drops essential oil such as tea tree or eucalyptus; 2 teaspoons witch hazel.”
Obviously, you nix the essential oils, which have nothing to do with the sanitizing.
I had Nick Gennari and his son Michael on a 4hr bay fluke trip - the two did a pretty good job jigging them up - unfortunately all of the fish were short. Again, same story a few in the 17.5 inch range, but still not legal to keep so back they go. We fished some of the usual spots but the key was to finding cleaner water - the bay water was pretty dirty. We tried for some blues in the inlet area, but the tide/swell made it too dangerous for safe fishing.
I had a chance to make a few drifts solo later that evening - I ended up with over a dozen short fluke and a nice 25.5inch fish weighing 6.3lbs. There are some keepers there, but you really have to work for them.
5 Reasons Snakeheads Are a Threat
1. They’re voracious predators and can severely alter the feeding habits, food availability, and behaviors of other members of an ecosystem.
2. They can survive in water with very low oxygen, which other fish species often cannot do.
3. They can breathe atmospheric oxygen, which means they can survive out of water for up to four days.
4. They spawn multiple times a year, releasing 10s of thousands of eggs per spawn, and they protect their young so survival rates are high.
5. They’re built like armor and are difficult to catch because of their heavy mucus covering.
Aquatic invasive species are marine or freshwater organisms that have found their way to non-native habitats and negatively affect ecosystems, economic development, and/or human health. While the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force—an interagency organization co-chaired by NOAA and the US Fish and Wildlife Service—works to coordinate management efforts, local fishermen are playing an active role in controlling invasive species, too.
We met two fishermen leading a grassroots movement to control the spread of northern snakehead. Chef Chad Wells of Alewife in Baltimore, Maryland, and John Rorapaugh, director of sustainability and sales at Profish, Ltd., a seafood company in Washington, DC, plan to do what they know best—create a market for snakeheads so people can eat them.
Why is the northern snakehead a problem?
Native to parts of Asia, the northern snakehead (Channa argus) was first introduced through the live food fish trade. It has taken hold in the Potomac River and its tributaries throughout Maryland and Virginia. Snakeheads are air-breathing, sharp-toothed, fierce top predators that can decimate populations of native fish, having serious ecological consequences.
How is the spread of snakeheads being controlled?
Rorapaugh, Wells, and others believe that encouraging a market for edible invasives such as snakeheads can help mitigate the species’ impacts. “It’s a problem for them to be here. Why not eat them?” Wells says.
In Maryland, commercial catfish fishermen catch snakeheads as bycatch in their nets and are permitted to sell them commercially. Without this permission, snakeheads “never would have been marketed and would have been dumped back in,” said Rorapaugh.
He adds, “Not only is there a market but there’s a valuable market. Those [fishermen] are used to getting paid 50 cents a pound for catfish, and I’m paying $5 a pound for snakeheads. As a result, they’re going to find a way to catch them.”
In addition to these proactive activities by fishermen, the Lacey Act prohibits the importation and interstate transportation of live snakeheads and viable eggs, as they are considered "injurious" to wildlife resources. Several states have made possession of all live species of snakeheads illegal, and others advise fishermen to not release any snakeheads they catch.
The Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force also adopted a federal snakehead management plan to guide prevention, control, and management of this invasive predator throughout the U.S.
Are snakeheads tasty?
Rorapaugh has tried snakehead in a variety of ways: "I've had it broiled, fried, sous vide, ceviche, straight raw—I had to try it every way. And I love it. My favorite might be smoked.” For others, the texture of the fish is a big draw. “The texture of the fish is incredible…really dense and firm,” Wells said.
How do you explain the invasive snakehead to your customers, and how have people responded?
“Any time we serve anything different, we give our servers a list of what to do, what to say about why they should be eating it,” Wells says. “And the response has been great. Anytime we put it on as a special, it’s gone right away. People now come into the restaurant looking for snakehead. We don’t always have it, but our servers know what to tell them, and every single time, they’re able to sell blue catfish, another invasive we serve.”
Have you had any challenges to creating a snakehead market?
According to Wells, “There’s always going to be the argument that if you create a market, people are going to try to maintain it (people raising or releasing the species where they did not already exist). That’s an argument I disagree with because I think that as much as John [Rorapaugh] is selling, it’s there to be sold at this point. I don’t want to ever sound like we’re accepting it into our ecosystem, but it is there. I don’t think we’re ever going to get rid of it. But if we can’t ignore it, we might as well create a market for it so we are able to control it.”
What sort of impact do you think this is having?
According to Rorapaugh, they’ve been able to take and sell about 8,000 pounds of snakehead from the Potomac River annually, which means tens of millions of eggs have been taken out of the ecosystem, and they’ve only begun to get fishermen and the market behind the issue. Rorapaugh stated that, “Since 2012, we’ve been taking more and more snakehead from the Potomac River and have had great feedback from customers.”
Rorapaugh and Profish, Ltd. have been co-sponsoring the Potomac River Snakehead Fishing Tournament since 2011. The tournament attracts both hook-and-line anglers and bow fishermen and has popularized the snakehead sport fishery in the Chesapeake Bay. According to Austin Murphy, tournament director, the 2014 snakehead tournament yielded 216 fish weighing more than 1,500 pounds. To promote the palatability of the meat, Wells served prepared snakehead for tournament participants. Because of the great taste of snakehead and Wells’ culinary ability, he has also been highlighted on the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern for his use of snakehead as a food fish.
Why is this issue important to you?
“As sportsmen, we want to help the ecosystem,” Rorapaugh says. “That’s the bottom line.” This issue is one that touches a lot of fishermen. “The way I look at it, every time you’re eating a fish like a snakehead, you’re helping a native fish. Plus, they taste good,” Wells says. “It all comes back to fishing with me—that’s my passion in life besides cooking. I’d hate to see the day when I can’t go fishing, or my kids can’t go fishing anymore because the water’s overrun with things that aren’t supposed to be there. We can’t ignore the fact that our ecosystems are being tainted by things that aren’t supposed to be there.”
What can the public do to prevent spreading the northern snakehead and other invasive species?
Learn how to identify the northern snakehead and report new sightings. Early detection of new populations might help slow or restrict the spread of the snakehead. If you find a snakehead, kill it and put it on ice, then contact your state’s natural resources agency and report it online.
Some tips for preventing aquatic invasive species: