Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Thursday, April 26, 2007:
Not a perfect day, sky-wise, but it wasn’t bad for fishing. I’ve gotten word of stripers in the surf – and not there, also. Per usual, it’s right place/right time and in come as many as half a dozen bass – to keeper size, every six fish or so. Clams working on bass at many locales. The oddest clam success was some night fishing in a traditional jig and plug zone. That bass was well over 20 pounds. Other large bass have been seen in the shadows, after dark. Reminds me of that old Stones song “Have you seen your striper, baby, standin’ in the shadows.” I think that’s how it went.
Anyway, I want to allude to some very decent bassing potential in and around Barnegat Inlet – and vicinity. (It’s early in the season and I’m already catching hell for supposedly telling too much – even when I’ve given nothing more than the bare minimum of info. I’ll tell you one thing, the pace that word of good fishing travels around marinas – then around town – challenges warp speed … and to think myself and tackle shops get singled out for offering too much data.
The black drumfish are moving in at a pace that hasn’t been seen for, what, 75 years – back when those mega-drum were regular hooking fare. Currently, published reports and word at tackle shop have drum to 50 pounds surfacing. The prime zone is from Little Egg Inlet over toward Grassy and into Great Bay and especially over in Tuckerton Bay and northward (including deep bayside). The better bait stuff is clam and more clam. A black drum aficionado told me that “huge” servings help the 100-pound cause. Yep, the great holly grail of drumming is the century mark. Rare, to be sure, but I have seen boated 80s in recent years (neat Little Egg). Send me those photos before releasing.
FYI: (Via NJ State: According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, a new state record black drum was taken from Delaware Bay on May 13, 2006. William Kinzy of Southampton, Burlington County caught a 107-pound black drum that weighed 2 pounds more than the previous record taken from Slaughter’s Beach in 1995.
There’s a dearth of floundering reports. I don’t know if the bigger fish (bass and drum) are drawing anglers away from the blackbacks or if the harried bite has fallen off. I do know that a couple flatfishermen said it has been many years since they’ve put so many fillets into the freezer.
Scattered reports of single rogue weakfish, including commercialites finding (somewhat oddly) small weaks in the ocean not far away.
Here's the weekly column for April 25, 2007: Weekly blog for April 25, 2007
I’m A Multimillionaire! Or Not
Well, I’m coming off a quick-order ebb and flow of fiscal excitement.
On Friday, I got a press release from the state of New Jersey making it known that time was rapidly running out for the holder of a $19 million winning lottery ticket. Going on an entire year, the instant multimillionaire had yet to come forth and claim the mind-boggling monetary prize.
I stood there stunned.
Winnings like that had been sitting there for a year and nobody in the state had claimed it? Then it hit me, if nobody else in the entire state had collected it, hell, I must be the winner.
I began composing my acceptance speech. “I’d like to thank the company that makes the lottery tickets; the fabulous mart owner from India who told me in that wonderful accent ‘Mister Sir, you’ll just have to wait until I’m done refilling this coffee thing before I can get your frickin’ ticket …’: and most of all I’d like to thank, ahead of time, all those incredible people about to help me build my new house in a rich and satellite-fed section of Bora-bora.”
It’s amazing how the mind will hitch a ride on the unreality train when there’s – let’s write it the long way -- $19,000,000 onboard.
Instantly overlooked by my cash-crazed cranium was the negligible matter that the winning ticket was purchased at a Newark mart and I have never actually been in Newark, per se. I drove near it once. Still …
Hey, you know you haven’t been there either but reading about this Newark-based lottery ticket and you’re first reaction is, “Wow, is that the ticket I threw in the junk drawer without checking?”
Well, you can just close that junk drawer. The money was apparently neither of ours. The monstrous-money ticket went uncollected. El zippo collecto.
Picture, if you will, this tiny piece of colorful paper, quietly, at the stroke of midnight, going from a value of $19,000,000 down to zero. It pains me a great deal just to think of it.
So, where’s the money now?
All that roll-in-it dough went back to the undeserving state, which has also never actually been to Newark.
In nagging retrospect, I can’t help but slide-slip into the nebulous zone of unanswerableness. Therein, one can only idly toy with the reality that a very real person, out there somewhere, was rich beyond incomprehensibility and apparently never even knew it. Imagine having wealth to the point you could just whip into the closest gas station regardless of the price-per-gallon? What a dollar-driven superciliousness.
Sure, you can ponder the possibility that the poor sot with the winning ticket may have met an untimely end – in this case, $19,000,000 untimelier than your nickel and dime untimely end.
Still, I have this inner sense that the person who bought the winning ticket is still quite alive and fully oblivious to what has taken place, as he cooks a bag of Dollar Store microwaveable rice while wondering what that tiny wad of once-colorful paper is in the pocket of his just-washed jeans. He banks the overwashed wad off the wall and into the trashcans, announcing “two points.”
I even explored some distant socio-political possibilities. Imagine some national guardsman buying the winning ticket before being shipped off to Iraq; thinking he’d be been back in 12 months, with just enough time to cash in the ticket, except the president extended his tour of duty to 15 months. I hope they take away his firearms before telling him.
And there’s the born-loser scenario: This poor guy hears about his missed millions, limps home gnashing his teeth and rending clothes, to find Registered Mail from the IRS stating that even though he technically never took possession of the lottery money it was formally his and therefore he owes the federal government $7,572,699.34 in taxes, which he is allowed to round off to the nearest dollar.”
I’ll depart this weird side of wealth lost with an absolutely true story.
I met a filthy rich fellow on the beach in Hawaii. I finally got around to asking him how he got so rich. He looked right at me and with a rigid sincerity said, “It all began with something my father told me when I turned 18.”
I was all ears, ready for one of those profound pieces of fiscal advice for the ages.
“What did he say to you?” I all but whispered.
“He said ‘Here’s a million dollars, son, don’t lose it.’”
That man never cracked a smile. He just began idly looking around for something more interesting to do than talking with me.
I stood there intently wondering if his father had handed him, like, cash or a check or what.
FUZE FOR THOUGHT: I had quite a bit of feedback on my “fuze factoids” in here last week so I’ll keep any and all updates coming your way.
As for the fuzes, they keep on coming. To date, there have been over 200 fuzes dug from the Surf City and north Ship Bottom sands.
For this week, I want to add a couple insights that failed to materialize last week.
There are apparently some sections of beach that could be opened any minute now. However, there is also a ton of newly unraveled red tape pouring out of the pores of sundry bureaucracies. Needed are the official sign-offs from the borough of Surf City, the EPA, the DEP, the Army Corps, the Taliban, you name it.
The sign-offs are those groups assuring it’s safe to walk the sands.
It seems it’s going to be a load of extra time and work coordinating that OKing exercise.
I’m thinking there will also be a ton of extra work for the Surf City Public Works Department this summer. They’re going have to now set extra cans on the beach. Side-by-side will be “Trash,” Recyclables” and “Explosives and Munitions.”
Come on, if you can’t laugh at everything what can you laugh at, right?
I had to suppress some serious chuckles when a gal at one of the recent Surf City sand meetings hyperextended the realm of “what-ifs” regarding the fuzes. She asked me in dire seriousness, “What if lightning hits one of those fuzes while you’re standing right there?”
I swear, the first thing that jumped to my six-shooter mind was the scene from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” where the guys were trapped on the edge of a cliff with only a hairy jump in a river below to save them from capture. That’s when Sundance announces he won’t jump because he can’t swim. In a now classic line, Butch blurts out “Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.”
Knowing this gal wouldn’t be much on cowboy classics, I ever so discreetly noted, “Ma’am, in that instance I’m thinking I’d be a tad more concerned with the fact lightning was striking right next to me.”
Not her. She clung for dear life to her lighting-detonated fuze scenario. I looked at her somewhat sadly. I just knew this woman was the most primed candidate on the planet for just happening to be near a lighting-detonated fuze. I finally wandered off, wondering if Butch and Sundance really died in Bolivia.
Back to the realer world.
I was reading old data about the preferred drop-points for many decommissioned WWII munitions. Those dump sites were all well off the beaches of NJ. Why, then, would explosives end up so close to shore, as in less than two miles off Surf City?
I believe winter winds are the culprit. As we know all too well, those cold offshore winds crank like all get-out, often reaching gale force for days on end.
Say you’re on a warship and have a massive load of explosives to Deep Six (chuck overboard). The last thing you want to contend with is a winter gale rolling the ship in 15-foot-plus swells, as would be the case at most of the further-out prearranged dump sites. That rock and roll could prove fatal during a massive munitions dumping. What you do is sail in toward land where the wind lays down drastically. The closer the better – providing the water depths allow. And guess where you’d finally lose the huge wind waves but still have the depth to dump? Almost exactly where the Surf City fuzes were found.
I’d bank on that scenario.
Here’s another element of the munitions problem that very few folks are taking into consideration. The project’s pipes, which sucked up the explosives, were often sucking sand as much as 200 feet down. Those fuzes are heavy. Being a treasure hunting from way back, I can attest to how far down things sink into the sand. The bandied about notion that these fuzes are just sitting out there near the surface of the sandy bottom is absurd. On average, I’d guesstimate the fuzes are under at least 50 feet of sand, more likely a 100 feet or more. The surface scratching of, say, commercial clam boats is unquestionable incapable of reaching sunken explosives.
RUNDOWN: I’ve been keeping a close eye on weakfish reports from our south. Everything pretty much points to a no-show thereabouts. However, I know for a hard cold fact we already have weaks arriving here.
It’s becoming a little odd that we now often get the big tiderunners before the famed Delaware Bay zone, once one of the finest weakfish repositories on the planet. I have to guess that a spawn sprint takes place, as big weaks zip through Delaware Bay and head for the happy mating grounds of Barnegat, Manahawkin and Tuckerton bays.
One wonders if the once optimal spawning potential of the Delaware Bay may be losing some of its weakfish glow due to heavy fishing pressure and over development along the shore of the lower bay -- not that we have anything to brag about when it comes to stopping over-development.
The bassing is bouncing back with vigor. Knocked down during the blows, this weekend saw stripers in the surf, around Barnegat Inlet and near the Causeway. The only real site that seems to have full-on stripering is the Inlet area. Still, it was a fine feel for the beach casters who got a serious sunburn along with a striper or two.
There is a down and slimy side of things. From about Spray Beach southward, in-water gunk, in the form of deceased vegetation and everyday trash (likely the long-term aftereffects of massive rainfalls) is all but ruining surf fishing in what is usually a prime spring surfcasting area. Hopefully, that ruinous runoff residue will vanish is coming days.
The bay side of the Queen City has some dockside bassing action.
TIP: Inside Barnegat Inlet is ready to detonate with bass. There is still very chilly water both ocean-side and in the bay (after a cool nights.) What the chill does is slow (even stuns) crustaceans, baitfish and shellfish, making them vulnerable to currents. They often get whisked along, tumbled in some cases. The bass wait at the channel bends and creek entrances, gathering points for sluggish meals, which the gamefish chug down. Unfortunately, those same gathering points are also frequented by winter flounder, which meet an instantaneous end to their migrations thanks to packed in stripers.
Here’s some bassful emails: “The west bay locale I mentioned earlier this week lit up again last night with bass crashing BIG spearing, which dolphined ahead of the pursuing predators. Quite a sight. (I used) the same pink fly but fished higher in the water
column and aimed at the swirls. All fought like demons for 18 and 20" fish. Along with the three bass, I also caught a white perch...a bay first for me. Ron.”
Night fishing side-bar: I’m still put off by the brazenly indifferent attitude the NJDOT has regarding the lighting on the Causeway bridges.
At one bridge, two of the three stanchion lights (those are the big overhead jobs) are out cold and the lone remaining one isn’t feeling very well.
On the Big Bridge, almost half the rail lights are out on the south side of the span. I have a call into the DOT but they aren’t picking up – even for a reporter.
Floundering is actually furiously fluctuating. It’s a bit fluke-like, as one group of boats won’t have much to show for hours of work then no sooner do they putt back to the docks than a newly arrived flotilla bangs the bejeezus out of blackbacks. I’m sure that’s a sign of fast-moving migratory fish.
Ultra-big bunker are showing, both oceanside and bayside. I will soon be snagging my load for fast freezing, already readying for fall fishing.
Bluefish are just to pour south, though seemingly moving northward very slowly.
Spring-run bluefish seem to arrive in NJ from two sources.
Primarily, we see the up-the-coast run of cocktail-sized fish (1 to 3 pounds, unfattened), which are the fish that first come ashore (from deeper water) near the Carolinas and quickly head up the coast in a typical spring feeding frenzy. Cape Hatteras began seeing those fish, in great numbers, over a week ago.
There are also indications of a more northerly ocean (overwintering) stock coming in right around the Delmarva, first arriving shore near our area, sporting the full-emaciation look.
The Carolina line of bluefish are fatter and a lot more colorful (kinda purplish) by the time they reach us. That northerly tangent of Delmarva blues seems to come in a bit after the Carolina blues arrive. They are very drab in look, almost gray.
Virtually all of these cocktail blues fatten up locally on grass shrimp or crabs -- and to a lesser extent, spearing and minnows. Obviously, they’re overly opportunist feeders at this time of year and will grab anything that seems even remotely edible.
The proverbial “all-head” blues, coming off winter starve season, are truly low- to no-taste. It is a sacrilege to keep these gaunt fish.
I’ve never seen so much ingested grass and seaweed as that in the bellies of spring bluefish. This is likely the result of their chomping at grass shrimp.
I’ve only read one study on the affects of aquatic grass and seaweed being ingested by predatory fish but that research indicated that such plant life does not sit well with many predatory fish, so much so that observations have shown those gamefish regurgitating stomached foodstuff to eliminate the weed, then re-swallowing the preferred “targeted” items, like baitfish or crustaceans. That could confirm what most anglers have observed since time immemorial: weed and bait, when mixed, screw up fishing.
I have brought this up before (in fact, every spring): Spring-run blues – once fattened a goodly amount – are the best tasting blues, graced with crustacean oils, as opposed to the bluefish flesh of summer and fall, bearing bunker, spearing and baitfish oils.
Side-note: Spearing are very fishy tasting, despite their light color and white flesh. They aren’t bad tasting, just highly oily, an acquired taste to be sure.
I’ve deep-fried and eaten the jumbo spearing we see in late summer and throughout fall. I first behead and gut them. Coating the spearing in spicy crumbs helps the dining cause. Serious cooking of spearing is required, per a Japanese recipe I learned in Hawaii. You have to think crunchiness. The little buggers are quite tasty after awhile, especially when washed down with a fine beverage a