Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Monday Aug. 18, 08 -- On the spot -- unprecedented

Monday, August 18, 2008: Waves: Small. Clarity: Good to very good. Water temps: Surf, 70; Ocean, Low 70s, bay: Up to 80. This has already been a majorly odd summer in the LBI surf. First, we had the coldest water ever recorded through the month of June (and into July). Then, we had (and are having) a bizarre non-showing of summer stripers, which are out in the big world (ocean part) in number beyond belief. Quite possibly that shivery water of June nudged our usual over-summering striper further north – or south. Or maybe we’ve ll been very evil and are now being forsaken. OK, so maybe I’ve been going to too many revival meetings – but the refreshments are so damn good (and free). Then, our always-reliable bluefish went missing, stopping by in the spring just long enough ask how the family and kids were doing before bolting. Hard to believe but it was only last year’s calendar where I had jotted own notes like “Finest summer bluefishing maybe of all time” or “The bay is so full of small blues that local shops have sold out of smokers” or “Blow up the mailbox of that numbnuts who cut you off on the Causeway.” Oh, wait, that isn’t, uh, my handwriting and stuff. Currently, we have to go many miles at sea (Mud Hole and the likes) to bang blues. Then, there’s this untamed un-stemmed influx of fluke, in numbers (and places) unseen in many half-centuries or so. I had an emailer who claim he went 0 for 100 on keeper fluke. (I hate when anglers exaggerate their fish stories so much.) So why stop the oddness now? ALL COVERED WITH SPOTS: Enter spot, in numbers worth alerting the media over. These shiny and bright panfish, also known as Lafayette (see below) or Cape goodies (can it get any more tilly-assed than that name?), are in the croaker family. Spot are most famed as a live-line item worth paying up to $3 a pop to buy. Bass suck them up like chocolate-covered blueberries. Well, whodathunkit but our surf is literally buzzing with these silvery, decent-fighting little buggers. They are swarming in such numbers that bathers are having them bumping all up and down their legs – leading to nearby men getting slapped by angry bikini wearers. “What as that for, lady?” “You know perfectly well.” Actually, I didn’t know but figured it out later. This super spot showing is just another odd-plus thing to add to Summer 2008. Sure, we always get some spot in the summer, especially places like Toms River, where riverside public docks see light-geared anglers fishing them daily, well into fall. And some years, spot can be plainly plentiful. But, to have them so solid in the suds? Angling-wise, the spot are so thick that often the instant a small baited rig reaches bottom there’ are ravenous spot waiting. Margaret at Jingles first gave me the lowdown on the bite and some calls I made to guys who fish kingfish confirmed that spot are so substantial they’re impacting efforts to get kingfish and even fluke. The small spot offer that often-aggravating rap-rap-rap effect on the line. Larger models, apparently big enough to invite home to dinner, can do a full-blown rod end dip. A SPOT IN HISTORY: So, here’s one of those rare time my infatuation with Early Amercian history pays off. Possibly the most famed in-state fish-related tale ever revolves around the return to America of Revolutionary War hero General Marie-Joseph du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. During that return visit to the New York/New Jersey area, a never before seen showing of spot took place. It was such an explosion of the species that the fish was thereafter dubbed “Lafayette,” a name still referenced today -- though seldom used since that name is longer than the fish itself. In retrospect, that celebrated spot story tells a ton. It offers an historic precedent to this species occasionally going bonkers, population-wise. That may be what’s happening now. As to why spot are detonating here and now, that picture is a tad more turbid. Importantly, there is little if any evidence that spot spawn locally. I have seined for three decades and have never once come across a single spot fry or young-of-year specimen. It’s highly likely our summer spot essentially drift up from southern waters, some arriving as early as spring but the great majority seemingly arriving by the busload in August. This fairly late “we’re here” time frame would be consistent with the species slowly working their way upward to its most northerly destination -- before turning around and heading south for the winter. Why a veritable population explosions of spot? Answer that and you’ve unlocked the cosmic-y riddle of why virtually all fish go through such spurts. More than likely, every species has a building boom based on very specific stimulate. Mulling over studies on piscatorial population bursts, there is usually some surge in a food supply or the removal of a prime predator. If you’d like to make things more complicated, specialized studies are now showing a grungy correlation between spawning success and the chemical make-up of the water in spawning areas. More and more often, spawns are being thwarted by the sinister affects of synthetic chemicals related to pollution/mankind. Back to the spot. A boom in them (up here) could be caused by a huge increase in the small worms and crustaceans they feed upon. We now have amazing numbers of cochina clams in the surfline that could offer food to the fish. The spot surge could just as easily have to do with the aforementioned lack of stripers and bluefish, among the very worst enemies of spot. I could opine that the locale showing of this more southerly fish could have to do with the wholly horrific decline in the water quality within the Chesapeake Bay, epicenter of summer spot populations. I’m fully bragging when pointing out that NJ has some of the finest (most monitored) ocean water quality in the country. It’s not a spot stretch to picture millions of these fish bypassing the stinky Chesapeake, reaching here and finding fine conditions. How it might impact the fast-approaching bass season? Considering spot are a extraordinary live-line baitfish -- currently being used as such by offshore anglers who appreciate the hardiness of spot when placed in live well or such – they could help when fishing for bass or even attract the bass to begin with. By the by, some top live-liners have learned to keep live spot alive in bayside pens for even weeks. It’s vital to remember that penned spot are very susceptible to thermal shock – primarily over heating caused by a sun beat-down. The more spot jammed in a pen the greater the chance of catastrophic die-offs.

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