Getting the Lead Out:
Lizzie and Yo-Yoing
FAMED HACKER LOVED FISHING – OR DID SHE?: The other morning I was doing some casual early-a.m. computer newspaper reading -- hey, who has time to go to the trouble of opening the lengthy and often combative pages of an actual newspaper?
I was downing my second energy drink while chewing on my third energy bar and listening to my recently purchased “Instant Energy Boost Hypnosis” CD (a real product), when I felt this peculiar urge to run out and begin hitting inanimate objects with a blunt instrument. Staving off that inexplicable urge, I instead tore into some on-line encyclopedia surfing, looking for more info on “hatchet marlin” to fatten a story I’m doing on same.
I never reached the targeted marlin. I was waylaid by a segment on “hatchet murderers,” specifically Lizzie Borden, far and away the most famed hatchetmatrix in all of bloody history.
To this day – some 120 years after that case -- many of us can still remember that famed ditty, “Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her father 40 whacks and when the job was nicely done she went and lost the bloody glove.” Or am I mixing up my hackers here?
Unbeknownst to many, The Liz was actually fully acquitted of all charged, despite everyone and their brothers knowing she did it. Still, the jury took only 90 minutes to deliberate – after a colossal trial – before coming to the conclusion that such a dastardly deed could not be done by a faintly little woman – at which point women’s rights groups exploded in rage at the suggestion that a woman was incapable of brutally chopping numerous people to pieces. Liz was a bit reluctant to join in those protects.
You’re thinking there’s no way I’m going to get a fishing angle out of this horrific historic happening. Oh, ye, of little fishing faith. Believe it or not, this amazing trial all but teetered on fishiness. In fact, you might say that Lady Chopperly’s testimony caught the jury, hook line and sinker.
Seems that the Liz had a convincing alibi for the time when the heavy hackings were taking place. Based on her unwavering responses to cross examining, she simply could not have been doing any in-house slaughtering at the time because she was – remember this info went a long ways to convincing the jury of her innocence -- out looking for lead to make fishing sinkers. Gospel truth.
The following is taken from the exact trail transcripts form the Lizzie Borden case (available from many on-line sites). It begins with Lizzie’s response to a question about the last time she saw her father – intact.
A. I asked him if he wanted the window left that way. Then I went into the kitchen and from there to the barn …
Q. What doing?
A. Trying to find lead for a (fishing) sinker.
Ah, ye olde, looking-for-lead-to-make-sinkers defense, eh?
And it gets even fishier. Later questioning:
Q. Had you got a fish line?
A. Not here. We had some at the farm.
Q. Had you got a fish hook?
A. No sir.
Q. Had you got any apparatus for fishing at all?
A. Yes, over there.
Q. Had you any sinkers over there?
A. I think there were some. It is so long since I have been there, I think there were some.
Q. You had no reason to suppose you were lacking sinkers?
A. I don't think there were any on my lines.
Q. Where were your lines?
A. My fish lines were at the farm here.
Q. What made you think there were no sinkers at the farm on your lines?
A. Because some time ago when I was there, I had none …
This line of questions and responses focusing on the making sinkers goes on forever. It’s something of a trail focal point, leading into Liz’s ability to tell fresh fishing line from old and her tying of fishing rigs.
I read the entire trial and from it all, instead of seeing a savage spinster hell-bent on hacking, I get this very sympathetic portrait of a damn decent outdoorsy gal who you could always count on to make sinkers at the drop of a dime. She was also fully proficient at determining fishing line quality at a glance and could tie hooks with the best of them. Sure, there’s that quirky penchant to savagely brandish sharpened chopping implements when she doesn’t quite get her way but that’s surely nothing a little “I see you’re a tad upset, darlin’ , but, I’ll tell ya what, let’s you and I go make us some new sinkers out in the barn (wink-wink)”
MORE LEAD FLIES FURIOUSLY: But lest I leave the subject of lead cold, let’s time-rush forward to the cover of last Friday’s “Wall Street Journal.” An angling article leaped out at me., Along with a small graphic of striped bass, I was lured by the headline,
“Yo-yoing is irresistible to striped bass but technique can fill them full of lead.”
This story – along with my follow-up research -- has me both openly balking and furiously taking notes on yo-yoing.
Synopsis: When Lev Wlodyka brought a 57-pound striper to the scales of the annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, the angler was sitting proud and pretty. It was the largest linesider entered in this fully-famed event. Lev was feeling it – luxuriating in that surge of striper elitism associated with taking one of the most prestigious tourneys in the world.
Then, like a sniper attack, the lead began to fly. Fully-undeserving, Lev’s beauty of a bass was shot down.
A necropsy had been performed on the leading fish and 10 bullet-shaped sinkers were found therein. The sinkers amounted to 1.68 pounds of extra bulk.
Glares and nostril flares were directed Lev’s way. The poor guy just stood there thinking “What the hell?”
Just like that he was driven to Pariahville, his fish noisily disqualified. He was drenched with implications that he had cheated. The upstanding angler swore he had no idea how the lead got into the fish’s belly.
Fortunately, higher intellects prevailed. Tourney officials, to their credit, looked more deeply into the matter and soon realized the sinister sinkers were all but embedded in the fish’s lower belly where they were seemingly making their way into the intestines. They had surely been there for a long time.
With apologies abounding, Lev’s fish was reinstated, though at the sinker-emptied weight. Just to show the significance of the added weight, that loss of ounce-age dropped his fish to second place.
Then came the tempest from the belly of the bass.
Tourney officials were quickly advised that the sinkers were the result of a commercial striped bass fishing technique known as yo-yoing, a bait-preparation method common to primarily New England. The practice there is becoming very widespread – and surely working its weigh, make that way, into recreational circles.
Herein, I’ll offer a rough look at this convoluted and controversial baitfish preparation method – which (I’m sorry to admit, should any New Englanders read this) sounds fascinatingly effective. I’ll positively not push it to the point of suggesting the method be used hereabouts. The ecological folly of this technique – as seen in Lev’s leadbellied bass – is obvious.
Anyway, to reach larger deeper down stripers, commercialites rig a large bunker by jamming sinkers inside the fish for weight. Truth be told, anything from rocks to spark plugs can be dropped into the bunker’s belly.
Once weighted, a wooden BBQ skewer is carefully driven through one of the bunker’s eyes, forced all the way through the fish to just inside the tail, keeping the skewer as aligned as possible with the fish’s lateral line. This skewering acts to essentially secure the rigidity of the baitfish, which is needed to counteract the weights.
The bunker’s mouth is securely clamped shut using a hog ring or a cow ring. These are rounded open-gapped metal rings that are pressed shut with pliers.
To fish the heavily-prepared bunker, a single hook is placed in front of the dorsal fin, above the skewer. Using heavy tackle, the rigged bunker is lowered to the bottom, then slowly raised and dropped (sub-jigging speed), thus the yo-yoing nomenclature.
One of the proponents of the method, per the Wall Street Journal story, is Scott Terry of Cape Cod. Describing the technique before the WSJ cameras, Terry noted, “It looks more alive than a live fish.”
Note: Those perpetually prissy and pissy fishing chatroom sites are acting as if this whole yo-yoing thing should be hushed over. That’s BS on a half shell. As a writer, I can assure that nothing does a greater dishonor to life, liberty and the American way than hushing things up. Tell it like it is -- and let the people decide.
For a Web read (and vivid visual), check out Googel “Yo-yoing Bass Wall Street Video.”
RUN-DOWN: I have fluke reports from all over the place –and they’re all over the place when it comes to hookup rates for fluke. I have many folks offering tales of near-crazed fluke hooking. There is a spattering of “it sucks” types, referring mainly to their lack of showiness in the cooler come day’s end. Hey, no take-homes means the ice stayed clean in there so you can use it to chill strong drinks to forget the poor bring-home rate for flatties.
On the other hand, a highly irascible angler I know gave me a bit of hell since he’s having one of his better fluking seasons while, he insists, I’m fostering lousy keeper ratios. As I chatted with him, I didn’t want to bring up the fact that if I have any nega-sensitivity toward the fluking season it’s based primarily on the way the reg-shortened season grinds to halt just as we of a local ilk finally free up time to fish for fluke. This guy was such a summerite, he’s be getting his boat out of the water this holiday weekend, since “the season is over.”
In actuality, I have been all but yodeling the praises of a 2008 fluke fishery that seems to be super-exceeding previous summers – biomass-wise. I simply can’t ignore the great majority of reports I get demonstrating hideous take-homes rates. Interestingly, calling in bad-ratio news has become a bit of a novelty. I have dozens of reports from folks who excitedly explain how few keepers they caught. It’s apparent that anglers are almost obsessively keeping very close tabs on their releases. Hell, it’s become something of a game: “Who’s got the worst ratio?”
The stripers are moving into their assigned summer slots; better late than never – or not, if your fishing time is draining with the season. Barnegat Inlet (mainly north side) is thick with sub-keeper bass, best taken by live-lining bunker, herring or spot. The beachfront will see a burst in bass with this week’s stirred up conditions. Some cooler night could also perk the plugging potential. I’ll soon be doing much more time a-sand, as Holgate is scheduled to open next week – and may be open all the way to the end. More below on Holgate.
The bluefishing was back to the old hit-or-miss thing. A few major bursts of blues – some to 5 pounds – were showing but it sure seemed that the folks who didn’t want them had too many and those actually targeting these Jersey piranhas were having a helluva time tracking them down. That even came across in some North End radio chatter where one angler said he was looking all over for blues while his contact responded, “Come out here (ocean), I have more than I need.”
Kingfishing is spotty. A few folks are taking a half dozen in the surf but it’s generally a pick with a couple/few fish needing some significant surfcasting time. I anticipate an early run of larger migrating kingfish, beginning as early as next week. Should some warm air move in during migration, the kingfish are very inclined to hunker down wherever they’re at, fattening up. That works fine if they hunker hereabouts. I had a couple kingfishing guys tell me that the artificial worms are working like never before. That concurs with both anecdotal and industry reports of a further refining of fake-o baits. By the by, I assure you I get no kickback whatsoever from GULP! or Fishbites.
Crappy crabbing email: “BIG QUESTION....what happened to the crabs?. Went to a long time productive spot west of the middle grounds, and after moving and crabbing hard for 2-3 hrs.... only came up with 1 crab. Un-heard of! We were also throwing traps at night behind Ship Bottom with no measurable results. Had another report of a boat crabber who tried earlier in the week, who also got skunked . Isn't this august? Geo.
BRING THE KIDS: On Sunday, I hung out for a short time at the inlet fishing walkway on the banks of Barnegat Inlet – west of Andy’s. This is easily the finest family fishing area on all of LBI – and as nice as anywhere in the state.
Pure plaudit to the Barnegat Light Borough in persevering through some early snafus – the first bulkhead and deck being eaten by the inlet in nothing flat.
This angling area is big and located right next to deep and very-fishy water. While it is quite easy to fish simplistically there, it is not uncommon to run headlong into the predicament of trying to hoist a larger fish up over the bulkhead and railings. Obviously, a dip net or extended gaff would work perfectly but most of the folks fishing there are not even remotely thinking that big – or that far ahead.
As I chatted my way up and down the lengthy deck, the many entry-level anglers there had a wide selection of hookups, including porgies, blowfish, bergalls, snappers and (far-too-small) black seabass. Unfortunately, Fish and Wildlife officers would have had sore writing hands had they stopped by right about then. I’m wondering if the town might not consider bolting on plasticized “Recreational Minimum Size and Possession Limits & Season” charts.
As for better fish thereabouts, within a few minutes I saw a 7-pound bluefish blast the crap out of a squid gob a gal had hanging from a small hook on 10-pound test. I will surely be giving that walkway a few casts as fall kicks in and the likes of departing weakfish hold in the inlet before making the big move southward and outward. What’s more, there are huge bass and blues that cruise through there with regularity – starting now.
GONE TOO SOON: It with a stunned sadness that I recently learned about the passing of my fishing and Holgate buddy, John Hagaman. He is yet another way-too-young loss. Brutal. In autumns past, he and I threw net together on the South End. A dedicated fisherman and outdoorsman, no one I know kept his family in the fishing/Holgate game like John did. Seldom if ever was he seen buggying about without family (and friends) along. He is instantly sadly-missed.