Monday, March 31, 2008: Light winds and light seas have led to a fairish testing of the suds for bass. Boat anglers are still mainly in the process of readying their vessels for what will be one of the wildest striper seasons on record – fishing gods allowing. The beach has small fish and even couple keepers, per a half dozen “I heard …” reports I got. The tale of a 22-pounder in the surf has not been substantiated – just yet. If you caught it or know more about that fish please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve had zero reports from winter flounder fishermen. The weather over the weekend was good for blackbacks. I bitterly miss the bulkhead fishing we used to do just north of Hochstrasser’s in Ship Bottom. Through a horrific snafu, the builder on that lot somehow got by statutes that said no one can build on bay property without leaving a right-of-way for the public. I was told that mandate was somehow neutralized when the new owner built a bulkhead. That makes no sense but it’s all water over the dam now – unless someone wants to bring the issue back up for state review. I thought not. Anyway, old West Creek Charlie and his buddies would park there, cast out their rods and settle in for the entire day, be it on lawn chairs or the front seat of a truck. Others would join in by the loadful. It was often a family affair there – and one of the funnest fishing holes on all of bayside LBI. That general area is now a boat anglers target zone for winter floundering. The water just north of the bridge is upwards of 60 feet deep. I sometimes pull in at a SB street end and binoc the guys out there. It doesn’t take long to see if there’s a bite on. As often as not, there’s a battle on -- as boat folks are easily irked when not much action is a-foot. I like it when they argue over tapping into each other’s chum slicks. Too much caffeine.
LET’S GET WEAK: If the ever-so-slight influx of spring-ness has you thinking about the soon to show super weakies – our beloved spring run tiderunners – the Village Harbor Fishing Club will be hosting a presentation called “ Fishing for Weakfish,” given by Steve Purel of Barnegat Bay Guide Service. Friday, April 11 2008, 7:45 p.m., Mill Creek Community Center, 1199 Mill Creek Rd., Manahawkin. The talk is open to nonmembers. At the same time, Village Harbor Fishing Club membership is open to anyone in the Southern Ocean County Area. For information: 609-978-1480, e-mail VHFCinfo@aol.com or http://Fishermansheadquarters.com/VHFC.
As for the weakfish arrival, the weather looms large. It’s not so much a question of air and water temps as it is storminess. Day length is the major player in spring migrations, so even a late spring, air and water temperature-wise, will not greatly stymie the spawn showing of big weakfish. However, expert anglers are always apprehensive about large nor’easters as spawn schedule ruiners. As all weakfishists known, sparklers are fair-weather sorts. This is a species that isn’t wild about wild-and-wooly weather, especially storms marked by heavy rains resulting in something called freshets.
In bay terms, freshets are intrusions of freshwater into saltwater environments. They are often sudden, epitomizing so-called “run-off” events -- which might be a huge clue as to why the weakies are repulsed by them. It’s a little discussed fishing fact, but weakfish are highly sensitive to run-off toxins (my word). These toxins are most often petroleum-based pollutants and nitrogen-based yard and garden fertilizer chemicals. The likes of stripers, bluefish and even flatfish are not nearly as put off by insidious chemical imbalances caused by run-off.
Pollution does not only immediately impact spawning weakfish by creating uncomfortable habitat but the success of spawns in chemically unfavorable water conditions is dismal. In this polluted case, even the striper fares very poorly when faced with the loss of very specific chemical balances needed for successful fertilization.
This all reflects clearly on what is becoming a horrific reversal of the water health within Barnegat Bay as chemicals from human overdevelopment intrude into coastal waters.
Nitrogen is one of the main intrusion culprits, arriving via air and water.
It is almost impossible to devise a more insidious and destructive chemical intruder than nitrogen. It destroys by actually enhancing growth. Nitrogen literally embraces, all but cheers on, the likes of microalgae and other phytoplankton. While phytoplankton are the first step in the food chains of most marine life, in morosely high densities (we call them algal blooms) the algae actually turn on virtually everything around them. This is referred to as the nutrient load.
Along with out-competing other creatures for sustenance within the water column, algae remove oxygen at a deadly rate, asphyxiating (via hypoxia) other marine creatures within an ecosystem. Virtually every “die-off” that has impacted the Jersey shore in the past, say, 100 years, has been due to algal blooms.
Algae in overabundant numbers can also become toxic due to the incredible number of phytoplankton, each containing miniscule amounts of poison. A brown algae (Aureococcus anophagefferens) that has heavily impacted Manahawkin Bay and Great Bay over the past decades, were destructive to mollusks and crustaceans due to their shape and the sharpness of their calciferous parts. .
However, it’s the impact on water clarity that can be the deadliest effect of algal blooms. Population explosions cause prolonged periods of turbidity, not allowing sunlight to reach the most important subaquatic vegetation within the bay, namely eelgrass. The death of eelgrass pretty much means the death of the bay – and a spike in the heart of most nearshore gamefish species. Adding to the destruction of eelgrass due to lack of sunlight is the fallout from algal blooms. The over-nitrification, i.e. the over nutrification, of the bay leads to massive blooms that in-turn lead to massive die-offs, as short-lived algae die and sink to the bottom. That in turn causes the bottom to rise upward, shallowing the entire bay -- a phenomena known as eutrophication.
It is vitally important for every angler – be he or she an offshore, nearshore or bayside angler -- to get involved in stopping the pollution of the bay areas. I will be continually offering ways and means to help the cause. An initial way is to go involved with the likes of Alliance for a Living Ocean and Save Barnegat Bay. Also, those of you familiar with your local town fathers (and mothers)councils should openly suggest that your home municipality combine with all other state towns to fight pollution related to overdevelopment and the rampant use of household chemicals that work their way into the ecosystem.