Wednesday, February 20, 2008:
We’re into what I optimistically consider the upbeat days of downbeat winter. We’re starting to actually see a quantitative increase in day length, enough that I get major chunks of outdoor time in after busting away from work in the afternoon.
I’ve been increasing my tracking, having enough time to follow some fox tracks back to an improvised den beneath huge chunks of concrete in a long-abandoned gravel quarry – not far from a working quarry. The working quarry has to be the largest in the state. It is mind-boggling how much land it has consumed and continuers to get sucked in. This is a wet quarry so it is, in large, a huge deep turquoise colored lake – the odd but eye-catching color that accompany “bottomless” quarry lakes. It is out near the R.R. crossing on 72. While this is a wanton destruction of a huge Pinelands area, quarrying is considered an acceptable historic usage, per the Pinelands Act. The only redeeming grace of this land-kill is the part of the quarry that has been exhausted, material-wise. Through an agreement with the state, the quarrying company has reclaimed the land around that portion and vibrant pines now grow up to the water’s edge and the lake is ready to rock once bass and pickerel reach there. For now it is strictly off-limits to everyone except employees – and me (on the weekends when no one is around).
Speaking of quarry fishing, the big quarry over near Warren Grove – between Lucille’s and the bombing range – is one of my regular stops to nab a few pickerel. Although also very off-limits, the northwest corner of the quarry (near Beaver Dam Road) is a sneak-in point that the quarry owners purposely overlook when they patrol the huge quarry’s parameters. However, I often taunt the powers that be by fishing from atop the very high embankment all along the quarry’s west side. I do this to cast in plugs from far above and study pickerel through the aquarium clear water. I once had a follow there that had to be one of the largest pickerel I’ve seen since my kid days. It must have wise to my splashy surface plugs since it kept its distance and eventually did one of those panic retreats, knowing something was very wrong when a supposed forage fish has a spinning propeller coming out its ass. By the by, one of my few high points of fishing was the 9-pounder I caught as a kid plugging (with my very own Garcia Mitchell reel) a millstream up in Camden County. I still get sick when I think back on keeping that fish to bike it home to show my dad. Catch and release was not a concept when at that excitement level. I was 8.
The big push for the Pot bill takes place tomorrow. I would be very surprised if this bill doesn’t reach the governor’s desk. What’s more, the governor (who apparently knows quite a bit about outdoor and fishing issues) has to have seen the NJMFC-recreational sector’s vote to keep the horseshoe crab ban, a ban the governor supports. He could very well acknowledge that support via the Pot/Artificial Reef Bill. As I’ve long noted in here, there is a fatefully important interplay in the political realm. One action often leads to other reactions beneath the surface.
This week I’ll be exploring the fluke option for this year.
****** A huge wave of thanks to our buddy Paul Haertel over at Berkeley. He’s taking our surf-casting plight to a higher level than I can through this site.
In a recent John Geiser column, Paul was interviewed.
Paul Haertel, a member of the Berkeley Striper Club, said his organization favors two ideas that are not among those already approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
“The club feels it is time that the council recognized surf fishermen are not second-class citizens who must fish only for bluefish and striped bass.
"The only real chance surf casters have of catching legal-sized fluke is during the fall run when mullet and other forage species are migrating along the beach," he pointed out.
"Last year the early September closure of our fluke fishery hit tackle stores, marinas, charter and party boats as well as other Shore area businesses really hard," he continued.
"The vast majority of private boat fluke fishermen virtually disappeared from the sea. Most of the fishermen I know were incensed over this early closure," he added.
“Haertel, who is a career law enforcement agent, knows how people think and act when government treats them unfairly. "Many are now saying that they are not going to comply with the laws that they believe are unjust," he said. "It is absolutely imperative that we be allowed to fish for fluke at least through September. … “
REASON TWO MILLION AND EIGHT WE’LL BE MISSING JIM WHEN HE LEAVES:
Saxton: $779K for Mordecai Island
Long-time plans to protect island receive funds
TOMS RIVER, NJ - Congressman Jim Saxton’s (NJ-3rd) today announced $779,000 in funding for the Mordecai Island project near Long Beach Island, N.J.
“We’ve been working patiently on this for a few years, and I’m pleased to announce it is finally taking shape,” Saxton said. “Mordecai Island is a haven for wildlife, but erosion is washing it away before our very eyes. This project is meant to stabilize the island as an ecosystem for various types of birds and marine wildlife.”
The island, just west of Beach Haven Borough in Barnegat Bay, has suffered from considerable erosion. Experts monitoring the problem estimate that three to six feet of the western side washes away each year. The island is habitat for a variety of species of wildlife. It provides forage areas for waterfowl, shore birds, birds of prey and wading birds.
“I’m pleased that the Army Corps of Engineers has decided to fund this project to completion,“ said Saxton, who has worked with the Corps to develop the project.
The island is close to the main navigational channel of the bay, the New Jersey Intercoastal Waterway. A wooden breakwater will be constructed 200 feet offshore of the island to reduce wave impact. The structure is similar to a picket fence, which will be held by pilings, and rise above the water surface. It will be marked with lighting for navigational safety. The design is nearly complete, and bids are expected to be solicited by the end of the year.
Seventy-five percent of the project’s $1.3 million total cost will be paid for by the federal government. The remaining cost share (25 percent) will be picked up by Mordecai Land Trust and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Coastal Engineering, which are the two co-sponsors of this project. Mordecai Land Trust is a non-profit organization formed in 2001 to take title of Mordecai Island, and was formed to preserve and protect Mordecai Island.