Doting Over Dolphin; Kournikova and Clams
KEEP OFF THE DOLPHIN: A push of very inquisitive dolphin is keeping Barnegat Inlet anglers entertained, as a pod (or two?) of these hyper-aware marine mammals has been seen cruising the inlet, sometimes swimming along with boats.
As we all should know by now, it is a federal offense to take the initiative and motor after the dolphin to get them to, uh, “swim along.” That law was established through the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. It was recently heavily enforced up in the Shrewsbury River, where some seemingly wayward young dolphin settled in for a long go at Jersey living. By the by, it is even illegal to feed the likes of dolphin, which means inviting them to a bayside barbecue is out.
As for the Barnegat Inlet dolphin, I’ve heard they are occasionally exploring fringe areas, even zipping all the way across the bay to the far west side, where some night fishing folks along with bayfront homeowners have heard the mammals passing by in the dark, leisurely inhaling and exhaling through their blowholes.
Speaking of dolphin breath, one has to wonder if these constantly cavorting creatures occasionally choke on water, considering they heavily inhale and exhale through a very small opening. Well, it turns out that even this craftiest of marine mammals can have water go down the wrong tube, to coin a human expression. When that happens, a dolphin must stay atop the water and cough it off, a bit human-like.
Just this summer I was beach-chatting with a fellow who is a huge dolphin/whale fan. He is a matrix biologist by trade. (Don‘t ask.) He annually takes his entire family to locations around the world just to interplay with marine mammals. I bring that up since he noted that baby and adolescent dolphin are more prone to coughing on water that goes down wrong. Significantly, when interacting with these marine mammals it’s essential to back off a bit when coughing kiddy dolphin are on the surface, vulnerable. Mommy bottlenose is not as inclined to accept human visitors right about then.
While dolphin can bite beyond belief, it is something they are actually very un-inclined to do to humans. (“We find it so disgusting,” per interpreted beeps and clicks from studied dolphin). What they can – and do – do is to ram the stuffing out of you. A dolphin can knock a human ten feet into the air. In fact, I’d love to see a bunch of dolphin methodically going airborne, one after the other, then in the midst see some interloping human go flying through the air screaming, followed by another jumping dolphin.
“Check this out, George. Wait. Wait. No, that’s just another dolphin. There!”
“What the hell was that?”
“That would be a matrix biologist swimming with the dolphin.”
“Looks more like he’s flying with the dolphin.”
(Just kidding, James.)
MUSSELS AND KOURNIKOVAS: The shellfish are coming! The shellfish are coming!
Seems our unsuspecting Atlantic shellfish species could soon be under attack by invading Pacific shellfish.
Actually, I liked it better when the Russians were coming, ditto.
Back in those Cold War days we knew where the enemy was and what they looked like. Actually, we knew what they supposedly looked like, thanks to convincingly belittling images created by the dogs of propaganda – our very own dogs of propaganda.
As a boomer, I readily absorbed our government’s depiction of all Soviet women as facially warted (long and aggressive hairs from whence), wearing beet-stained babushkas to cover radioactive quaffs and fat to the point of bearing boobs that could suffocate the average American in minutes if the Cold War were to heat up to the point of hand-to-boob combat.
Then, lo and check it out, the Cold War ended and almost instantly gals like Maria Sharapova and Anna Kournikova started coming out of the Russian woodwork. From Cold War repulsions to hanging out at meetarussianhottie.com.
Now, where was I? Oh, that’s right, it’s now shellfish that are coming (!), invading the Atlantic – via the Rusky-ish Bering Sea, no less.
Two up-there scientists believe that within even the next couple dozen years, Pacific Ocean-based shellfish – especially mussels and clams – will be rushing over to the North Atlantic. Why? Global warming, blah, blah, blah.
Geerat J. Vermeij of UC Davis and Peter D. Roopnarine of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco took to the latest issue of the journal “Science” (don’t even think about subscribing unless you’re free of mortgages) to describe what they call “the coming Arctic invasion.” See, I told you the frickin’ shellfish were coming.
My first image of a shellfish invading the Atlantic from the Pacific centered on billions of shellfish strolling out of the Pacific, using modern conveyances like public transportation -- or simply hitchhiking -- to cross the country.
Ridiculous hallucinatory images notwithstanding, these two scientists were thinking more along the lines of melting ice caps creating an ice-free route for Pacific shellfish larvae to be wafted along by currents, eventually arriving in the North Atlantic, where there would be a lack of proper predators. Bad news for the local shellfish.
It’s not like these scientists are simply blowing global warming smoke to keep up with the PhD Joneses. A mere 3.5 million years ago, a telltale burst of global warming took place -- during which cavemen were openly blaming flatulent wooly mammoth for the methane that was destroying the ozone layer. Back then, marine species all but flew from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Genetic markers within current Atlantic shellfish species show that the ancient crossover from one ocean to the other was fast and furious.
Sidebar: To understand how an invasion of Pacific creatures can reach the Atlantic, it helps to have a ton of geography smarts. Since most folks don’t even known where their reading glasses are at - much less the interrelationship between a melting Bering Sea and an Arctic Ocean bio-transport mechanism -- it’s best to simply check one of those top-of-the-world maps that look down on the Arctic. Sure enough, by literally going over the top of the world it is a beeline route between the North Pacific and the North Atlantic, through a melted Bering Sea.
And, yes, finfish could be hopping onto that same Bering Sea bandwagon.
Though the current write-up in Science deals only with shellfish, Vermeij and Roopnarine touch on the finfish side of things. Way back when, it apparently took very little time for fish species to also zip Atlantic-ward to check things out.
Does that mean we’ll suddenly have a slew of new fish species to target? Not likely, but not impossible. That “not likely” has to do with the fact that virtually all fish species have been so diminished since the caveman times that even a wide open Bering Sea won’t be jammed with marine life like during that last great meltdown.
WHERE IS IT NOW?: The $160,000-winning white marlin, caught by Marlin Hunter during the recent White Marlin Invitational Tournament, was donated to the Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club, tourney sponsor. After the fish’s bill was removed and given to a Marlin Hunter crewmember, the fish went on to that big smoker in the sky – or maybe it was in Stafford.
Since the fish had hung for quite a while on the last day of the WMIT – as is the custom in the tourney (and appreciated by folks wanting to check a marlin out) – the meat needed to be smoked to best utilize it to the fullest.
I recently got a nice chunk of the final smoked product. It was viciously good. And well it should be, considering is was technically worth in the neighborhood of $3,000 a pound. I had mine on a hot dog roll with catsup. (Not serious).
I always like to note that a couple years back I was the recipient of the freshly filleted WMIT-winning white marlin. Along with barbecuing a load up that same day, I passed significant poundage off to friends. The instant reviews were total rave, as folks lined up for seconds on the fresh fillets.
I have no idea where the notion came that white marlin is anything less than delectable as a fresh item. There are recipes for it all over the Internet. My only guess might be that the marlin that are recreationally kept are often tourney fish, which usually have some serious time out of water, post weigh-in. Also, the size of a landed marlin keeps it out of standard coolers, thus transport time is spent overheating. Of course, the smoke-ability of marlin is legendary -- for good reason. It is possibly the finest smoked fish item out there, bar none.
WHAT WAS THAT BILLED FISH?: This year’s wow-worthy white marlin once again begged that deeper elucidation on whether it was a white marlin or a hatchet marlin.
The two are surely different – and something of an ongoing issue in scientific circles. Not within the WMIT, which accepts “hatchet marlin” as “white marlin” – as do most major big game events.
In point of fact (whatever the hell that means), a hatchet marlin is technically a roundscale spearfish, Tetrapturus georgii Lowe. A white marlin is Tetrapturus albidus. They differ in a few ways – the least of which is looks along. They’re a goodly bit look-alike at first glance.
This year’s marlin is a perfect indication of just how tricky the ID thing can be.
The touchy-feely way to (first try to) tell a hatchet marlin is to run your fingers against the scale grain. Hatchet’s have smoothly rounded scale ends, having little effect on passing human hands. White marlin have very pointed scales that will grab skin -- and offer a pokey reason not to rub it the wrong way again. This year’s marlin, on first fingering, had skin that surely seemed smooth. So it must be a hatchet, right? Not so fast. Swipes can be deceiving.
One of the traits scientists turn to in separating the two species is the location of the anal vent. In hatchet marlin it is 6 inches from the base of the anal fin. Not so with the Marlin Hunter’s fish. The anal opening of that fish was exactly 2 inches from the anal vent, a posi-trait of a white marlin.
Further support for a white marlin rating came via scales taken above-and-beyond the simple rubbing phase. As the tourney fish was about to be carted off for cleaning, Brendan G. called me over to check out some scales he had just scraped off the fish. They were very much to the point. I grabbed a few for later miscroscoping. And, so much for that initial smooth feeling. That’s when I recalled reading that a more advisable way to accurately feel-test scales is after they’ve dried a bit – after slime has dried on the fish.
Sidenote: The scales I got from this year's fish where positively the shape of white marlin scales. You could replace the scales I examined with those displayed at http://www.nova.edu/ocean/ghri/sciencenews_marlincrash.html, they were that similar
I should point out that initial on-scene look of the Marlin Hunter’s fish had many big game experts quickly calling it a hatchet marlin. Now, there is a high likelihood it was a real marlin McCoy.
I’ll be writing a technical magazine piece on this subject, pending research. That will eventually go into http://jaymanntoday.ning.com/.
SEMI-WEIRD WEEKEND: The weather was partially perfect for the weekend.
The “partial” part was a picture-perfect Saturday and a piece of Sunday a.m. Then, the skies began experimenting with some of the oddest cloud formations I’ve ever seen. As that big storm system moved in early afternoon, the downright spooky cloud displays to the west had what seemed like half of Ship Bottom standing outside their homes checking out sky. I noticed some cloud types that you’ll only find pictured in books meteorologists seldom even take off the shelves. I also saw the anemometer burn to 50 mph in a heartbeat, as straight-line wind arrowed through my mid-Island neighborhood. Within ten minutes, there was barely a whiff of wind.
As if Sunday’s one-of-a-kind cloud show wasn’t quite done, Monday saw some volcanic white thunderheads erupt to the north of the Island. It was as if half a dozen large t-storm cells got together to bump chests. An astounding look. At the same time, right off Ship Bottom, was this fully freaky cloud bank that truly looked like it was visiting from some other planet.
I’ve been a sky-watchers since I was old enough to see past my eyebrows. Those two days cloud had looks I have never seen anywhere. SandPaper photog Jack Reynolds got the feel and freakiness of the moment. Check out: (need jack’s website address)
POPPING THE ROCKWEED BUBBLE:
Up in Bangor Maine, residents of coastal Washington County are calling for a moratorium on rockweed harvesting, a growingly valuable seaweed crop.
Technically known as bladder wrack, rockweed is familiar to all folks common to the Jersey coastline. It’s the brownish (sometimes greenish) rubbery seaweed with cool air bladders – which can be popped between the thumb and forefinger to carry on a seaweed popping tradition that dates back to times when native Americans (kids and adults) popped bubbly seaweed just for the heck of it.
Well, who’d guess that the Japanese have found rockweed delectable, leading to massive over-picking?
OK, you can all put your hands down. I, too, would have guessed that Asian eaters were at the root of any rockweed over-demand but, in this case, it’s simply good old American industrial needs that has lead to a seaweed rush.
The picking has gotten so potent that state of Maine is pondering some major cutbacks -- if not full-blown stoppages -- in the harvesting of rockweed.
Scientists and environmentalists in the Pine Tree State are worried that the extensive removal of the rock-clinging aquatic vegetation could endanger a portion of the ecosystem that counts on the protection of the seaweed.
And it’s not as if the Maine-anians (I think that what they’re called) are simply grabbing an occasional piece of rockweed for popping pleasure. To fill demands of industries, ranging from cosmetics to beverages to pharmaceuticals, the state last year saw a seaweed harvest of nearly 7.5 million pounds, worth $298,887. While that seems kinda like decent pay for bags of soggy marine vegetation, it’ll be a long while before it remotely measures up to that state’s famed lobster harvest. For the same year, the “bug” (slang for lobster) harvest was just over 63 million pounds but packed a wallet wallop of $280, 710,469.
This news report has perked my interest since I know where bladder wrack grows. I’m not talking about amounts worth cashing in on, mind you -- besides, my seaweed harvesting days ended long ago, providing they ever began. I can’t recall.
I’m hosting more of a New Age interest in the wrack’s nutritional herb-like usages. I‘ll be collecting some soon. Of course, in the name of science, I’ll obligatorily have to check out what happens with those air-filled bladders when microwaved to hell and back. Hey, as long as I wear a white smock with pens sticking out of the breast pockets it’s all right to blows thing us real good.
And I’ll be eating some, too, though it looks like it’ll be a bit leathery – but not nearly as much as GULP! “Sandworms,” which took me forever to test chew.
By the by, the main nutritional stuff in rockweed is trace elements that can be hard to come by in one’s everyday dining. As I refine my eating of bladder wrack, I’ll soon be all but oozing iodine, sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, silicon & iron and high in some B-complex vitamins. I hope that doesn’t make me break out of something like that.
RUNDOWN: It’s always an irony to denounce the nearshore waters as “too clear,” since the abiding craving of seasonal summerites (visitors) is warm and clear water. Well, such summerly cravings were filled to the gills lately. I did some water time on the beaches of both Harvey Cedars and Ship Bottom over the weekend and that was as clear as our summer beach water gets.
Tourist contentment acknowledged, acrylic clearness makes for slow to comatose surfcasting. Short of some fluke and widely scattered kingfish, the surf was not only clear looking but also pretty much clear of fish. However, Tuesday saw slightly less lucid waters move in. In fact, the rest of this week is looking idealish for surf pluggers seeking resident stripers. Also, night fishing could become fruitful. A few missed fish indicate larger bass may be bouncing around the beaches and inlets areas.
There are spotty showings of big bunker not far off the beach.
I saw some bottlenose dolphin feeding off Harvey Cedars. I couldn’t tell what they were targeting but there was a spray of commotion as forage fish went airborne trying to escape the seafood-loving mammals.
I had three boat reports come through the “echo” line – echoing the same report of fast and furious fluke hooking and very slow to near-moderate keeping.
The top report came from a bit north – off Island Beach/Seaside line -- where an angler live-lining baby bunker caught the two biggest fluke he had ever landed, within four hookups. The largest was 6-poundish and the second was only a few ounces smaller. In one hour, he had four huge flatties -- until the baby bunker ran out. Then, squat. However, it might have been the spot more than the bait since some other anglers have also been using live bunker with only fair results – far from spectacular. It’s still not a bad bet to net some of the many bunkies in the bay. Keeping them alive can only be done if heavily-aerated bait wells quickly come into play.
Annual mystical question:
I'm no fluker but I've been reading for weeks now about all the shorts that everyone seems to be catching this year. Does this not bode well for an outstanding season of keepers next year, or is that too simple and obvious??? Jay E.”
Jay, I can best answer this by putting on my purple vestiges to quote directly from the true and accepted Hillfinger interpretation of the Queen Ann’s lace version of the “Jawhet Book of Fishing Prophecy of the Later-Day Anglers.” Verse 1, Lines 26 – 28 reads: ”And it shall come to pass that any minimum size limit which ye shall place upon fluke shall cause those fish to shrink to just beneath said length until the final day. This shrinkage shall lead to rending of clothing and gnashing of teeth until that time when all fish shall rise up and in ablaze of glory …” etc. etc.
The very clear water has allowed snorkelers to check out the huge number of tog near the LBI groins. I have heard from a number of tog-savvy anglers that the showing of blackfish is excellent from bayside mussel beds through inlets and out to reef sand wrecks. I saw a few large blackies off the jetties of North Beach – a fairly common sight this time of year (and increasingly so through October).
A snorkeler heading into the waters of Harvey Cedars said he has seen a lot of what I’m sure were kingfish. He said they were “kinda black spotted and right on the bottom,” the look of kingfish when seen underwater.