Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Danger -- Weekly blog for July 25, 2007

Follow the Bouncing Blogs

(last segment can be nixed for this week)

Wow, I have a ton of stuff to blog about this week. I guess I’ll just put it in five-pound bags and throw in as many as I can.

Let’s go small first.

Much to my delight, I’ve become a bit of a compendium for LBI related e-questions, from fishing to nature to life on this 20-mile spit of sand.

Yep, 20-ish miles, not the famed 18 miles often bandied about.

That’s a segue, by the way.

An emailer asked “How long is Long Beach Island – for real?”

Decently tricky question, actually.

Those of us mobile anglers who perennially buggy the two or so miles of beach adjacent to the Edwin B. Forsyth Wildlife Refuge’s Holgate Wilderness Area know the true measure of LBI doesn’t stop at road’s end, i.e. the Holgate parking lot.

The wilderness area adds its own mileage -- before the Island comes to a somewhat subtle halt at Beach Haven Inlet. The established 18-mile measurement is based on navigable asphalt not full-blown as-the-plover-flies length.

Still, there is variableness when figuring out the Island’s total distance. That has to do with where to jam a marker to signify the official south end.

Some over-itchy mark-placers might mark the south end where the Island first begins to bend to the west on the beach near the inlet. Not me. I got gooder learnin’ than that and realize that a hypotenuse-ification demands a marker placement on the west side of the south end, an area sometimes called the west peninsula. That creates the longest distance between Barnegat Inlet and Holgate, via a straight line between the two points. It also nicely rounds out the total length of the Island at exactly 20 miles.

Here’s an oddish biting grasshrimp email:

“Jay, My son and I were swimming near the inlet (Barnegat) and kept getting bitten. I finally saw what was biting us and it looked like very small grass shrimp. Can they bite?”

On a whole, grasshrimp can’t do much more than chew little pieces of eelgrass. HOWEVER (!) you may have been unfortunate enough to come across the dreaded Africanized grasshrimp, in which case you’re lucky to have gotten out of the water with your internal organs still intact.

Just kidding -- as the Chamber of Commerce immediately scratches me off its Christmas card list.

Isopods were biting you and not grasshrimp.

These crustaceans are distantly related to shrimp and are one of the largest most diversified members of the crustacean order.

Isopods date back 350 million years – though most don’t look a day over, say, 200 million.

Virtually every waverider or ocean swimmer has had countless run-ins with these very aggressive grabbers, which often abound in warmer summer waters, especially water with a lot of floating vegetation. When surfing, you have to keep pushing them away as they just keep trying to hop aboard any leg they can grab.

I call isopods “grabbers” because I can’t tell if they’re actually biting us to see if we’re worth eating or if they’re simply searching for anything secure to keep them from being washed ashore. I’m guessing that distinction is needlessly esoteric when one of them latches on.

And an isopod latch-on can really itch. That itch gets seriously disconcerting when overly eager isopods swim inside one’s bathing suit, which they’re inclined to do.

One more LBI-ified email from an angler “I know the law states that motorists have to stop for people trying to cross the Boulevard away from traffic lights but does the law require you stop for people wanting to cross the Boulevard at a traffic signal, even when I have the green light?

I know of what you speak, as antsy beachgoers edge onto the road even though they’re facing a red traffic signal.

Well, I’ll go out on what I feel is a sturdy legal limb by saying, no, you not only do not have to stop but technically should not.

I amend that only by saying that common sense dictates that crossers obviously committed to stepping out against the red light must be given due stoppage – in the name of safety.

What I say “no” to is routinely coming to a complete stop at a green traffic signal to allow waiting pedestrians to cross.

My logic is pretty sound. According to the Centers for Disease Control, jaywalking is far-and-away the leading cause of pedestrians being stuck and killed by motorists. By stopping at a green light to allow signal-stopped pedestrians to cross, you are fully encouraging jaywalking against the light It’s contributing to unlawful behavior, plain and simple.

On a scarier and more litigious note, signaling pedestrians across could fully implicate you if those walkers were to be stuck during the street crossing. “Well, Your Honor, that man in the truck signaled us to cross against the light …” Ouch.

I even pondered the applicability of the Good Samaritan law in allowing pedestrians to cross against the light. It just doesn’t fit.

That said, I still have to quadrupley emphasize that the body language of pedestrians at a signal override all else. If crossers are obviously and irreversible stepping into the roadway, you grind to a safety halt even on green – and, if you’re like me, you try to alert other approaching drivers that jaywalkers are on the move. Thereafter, I wouldn’t be afraid to issue a non-adversarial “You know you’re jaywalking” to those traffic signal violators.

HOLGATE MARINA UPDATE: I had a useful chat with Nick G., fellow who is in the final phases of building the new marina, bayside Holgate.

It turns out things are looking more aesthetically up than ecologically down.

Firstly, Nick has local ties. The “Holmdel” part of the application simply has to do with blueprints, architects and such. He knows the needs, wants and worries of other Islanders.

What’s more, Nick is a longtime boater.

The biggest thing of all is the fact this is not a new marina at all but a rebuilding of that now decrepit marina at the east end of McKinley Avenue. That area is now closed to public access due to liability problems. When building, Nick will carefully follow public access mandates. In doing so, a goodly amount of bayside view-age will be made available to folks. Admittedly, there will be a number of new townhouse sprouting up but those are well within allowable usages, so much so that no variances will be needed. That’s hugely unusual.

The facility will also offer some lucky boat owners almost instant access to Little Egg Inlet.

The marinas piling and bulkheads will be made of high-tech vinyl materials.

Some dredging of sand will be have to be done on the inside south side of the marina.

Another up side to the marina, is the increased emphasis that will be placed on authorities to keep the main channel open. That shallowing waterway is becoming atrociously problematic.

By the by, I am still very nervous about the open piece of bay at the end of Roosevelt Avenue. It is just an undeveloped cove but it’s one of the very last places where one can actually see indigenous sand touching bay. The birds love it. I’m wondering if there is any way to assure this area gets preserved.

RUNDOWN: We’re into a prolonged stretch of highly fishable weather.

Offshore waters will be fully worked by those participating in the 2007 White Marlin Invitational Tournament. It runs from Wednesday through Saturday. Daily info on the event can be found at www.wmit2007.wordpress.com

Bassing is busy if you don’t mind sifting through small stuff. Those working Barnegat Inlet are finding undersized models in goodly numbers. Mixed in with the let-go bass are a few bigger models. The largest I know of pushed 40 pounds, with a couple in the 30-pound-plus range.

It seems the livelining route is the way to go when seeking bass suited to table fare. Spot, a.k.a. Lafayette, are great swimmer – available at the likes of Barnegat Bay Bait and Tackle. Very popular among heavy line folks are the ocean herring, sometimes being called hickory herring, which are all over the place this summer. I can’t imagine what the fall showing of these “Jersey tarpon” will be like. Undoubtedly huge.

The bunker baitballs are not showing that well locally. Even to out north, where the bunker had gathered last week, the snag-and-drop action is way down.

I had one excited tale from a South End beachcaster who was trying a spankin’ new plug made by his buddy and caught his first keeper bass (29-incher) of the year -- on his first cast, early a.m. “I cellphoned the guy who made the plug and ordered three more,” he told me.

The maker of that plug (does not make plugs to sell, just for fun) is kinda interesting since his main wood-based hobby is turning pens, as in high-end ballpoint pens used by people working in offices at the top of really high buildings. That pen-building concept was fairly new to me but some of you likely know about this huge pastime since it is now the largest segment within an always-huge woodworking realm.

I went on line and instantly saw the potential tie-in between the incredible variety of hobbyist-made pens (from every material imaginable) and the shaping of fishing plug blanks. It is a great source for materials if you’re hankerin’ to get into plug-making.

While I was doing a readabout on a pen-making site, I found and instantly ordered a “medium” lathe to turn my artwork. I’m making a large multicolored only-for-show plug out of vintage 1930s Bakelite, which I’ve layers and laminated myself. It will not be a functional fishing plug, per se, though knowing me I’ll probably just have to give it toss or two – despite the $100-plus value. Snap!

There is a notable upturn in weakfishing, mainly spikes with some keeper-age. I have picked up the first of these arriving fish in the dark of night, bayside SB, where they are willing to take small jigheads – and are small enough to yank up onto bridges.

Overall, weakies bite zones include established prime grasshrimping grounds, namely Grassy Channel vicinity, west Middle Grounds (outside main boat flow zones), Manahawkin Bay (from bridges over to Turtle) and, especially, west B. Bay from 40 northward toward the oft-overworked zones near BB and BI buoys

This is likely the in-slaught of seasonal weaks. If so, that wave of sparklers is a bit late in arriving. The bite is also rapidly moving into very backbay areas, even up some of the smaller creeks and areas better known for crabbing.

Here’s a boat report from Rambunctious:

“The good news is that the summer weakfish bite seems to be coming together on schedule. I decided to give the grass shrimp chumming routine a try for a couple of hours on yesterday's trip with regulars George Selph and Bob Keller aboard, and found a pretty steady pick of nice sized weakies and small blues behind Island Beach State Park (picture). What was impressive was the overall quality of these fish... the ten weakfish that the guys boxed were all in the 17-22" range, not the 13-18" fish we normally see this time of year. If this is a sign of what we can look forward to in August, this could be a year to remember. Capt. Jack Shea, Barnegat Bay Fishing Charters.

Bluefishing has perked a bit -- all cocktails, in bay and inlet areas. Full-blown gators are out at sea. Had an email mentioning blues have grass shrimp inside. That’s kinda interesting since that diet is very spring-ish, as the blues first arrive. It could possibly be a batch of very late arriving blues. There’s a better chance that the blues are intermingling with similarly sized weaks and are imitating the weakfishes’ eating habits, focusing on downing every crustacean in sight.

Fluke fishing is just plain good – up from just plain decent. Overcrowded fishing grounds cashed in on plenty of flatties with one of the better summertime keeper rates in many years. Not that small fish weren’t far-and-away the main models, but the take-homes filled many a cooler. I had three different emails talking about techniques to nab larger fluke – while minimizing small stuff. The only thing in common had to do with larger and heavier baits.

Doormat notice: “Hi Jay,

This afternoon 7/21/07 we landed a doormat fluke weighed in with the nice guys at Barnegat Light Bait and Tackle pictures were taken at the scale with my father Jay who caught the fish and his grandson Max also pictured. Fish weighed in at 11 Lbs. 9 oz. Michael”

CRABBY IS WONDERFUL: The summer has taken a decidedly crabby turn – and folks are loving it. Large blue-claws are showing, though not in huge numbers, especially in backyard commercial traps.

By the by, that “commercial trap” expression simply refers to the type of trap. It does not mean that folks are selling their catches, which is illegal without a commercial license.

While the crabbing is not yet up to that stunningly great action we saw a couple years back, there are strong indications that the blue-claw catching is about t take off.

Here’s an apropos email and op-ed from regular Ron K. “Jay, Crabbing has produced some of the biggest crabs I've seen in years. Still, not a lot to be caught.

I remain very concerned about the lack of action being taken to protect our crab stocks. Too many comercial traps in the bay, too few restrictions on taking females.

Crabbing has been a relatively inexpensive way for a family to spend a day together on the water for years. It would be a shame to see this all disappear due to greed …”

Speaking of crabbing, I’m a bit stunned at what an important role these delectable bayside crustaceans play in the average angler’s life.

Earlier in the spring, I ran an e-poll to rate what types of fish folks most actively seek. I listed a choice-list with every species of fish conceivably encountered hereabout. I asked anglers to rate every fish from favorite to least favorite. However, most respondents (nearly 75) only offered maybe a dozen most-wanted fish, often saying they knew nothing about the likes of, say, Spanish mackerel or lizardfish.

That poll began as a fun-ish thing but the data was seriously telling.

No surprise, the nearshore folks loved stripers, the summer folks worship fluke and the big-water boys were tuna and billfish adorers. The oddest finding for me was the way blue claw crabs rated royally across the board. I wasn’t even going to place them in the very long list of “catches” found locally but threw them in as an afterthought.

The final tally showed that blue claws attract anglers from every walk of the dock. From big game fighters to backbay sliders, there’s a soft place in most of their hearts – and plates – for the crabbing side of things.

The folks who offered the ‘why” of hyper-rating crabs, all reflected on the family orientation of many crabbing trips. It seems to revolve around getting out with the kids, parents, spouses, and weekend visitors. One fellow first wooed his now-wife during a “first date” blue claw crabbing trip. They’re 30 years to the good now. That’s a lot of crabs and Bay Seasoning.

BE VERY AFRAID, HUBBY: I have to share what is the year's weirdest phone call -- to date. (I'll probably catch hell for writing this since the caller definitely reads this column. But, hey, I'm not even remotely naming names, so ...) So, I'm at work, and it's bangingly busy, when this gal calls. She's in an obvious snit, one that oozes out even with her simply asking, "Is this Jay Mann?"
Of course, I had just answered the phone "Jay Mann," so I offered one of those slow and low "Uhhhh, yeah."
"Well, I want to know if you know of any private detectives on Long Beach Island."
(I swear this was a real phone call -- as one angler likely knows all too well.)
I did, in fact, know a couple PIs (private investigators) but I wasn't sure where this conversation was going so I tempted the frenetic forces of fate by aksing, "What's the problem, ma'am?"

Big mistake.

The caller instantly began entwining me in what was nothing short of a death-to-men web. "My husband is constantly going down the shore where he says he's fishing. I don't believe him," she all but hissed.

I hissed my own internalized, “Oh, crap.” I knew where things were going – and me on deadline. Still, this is why I get paid the bug buck. Yeah, right? While this was the first call I've ever gotten registering such a magnitude on the spousal paranoia scale, I'm all too familiar with fishermen purposely lying low during LBI angling jaunts. In fact, I began dropping all full names when writing who caught what. I was catching full-blown hell from anglers who, themselves, had caught same after my column alerted wives, girlfriends and even bosses as to there whereabouts when AWOL. Many tackle shops know of what I speak.
But back to this profoundly paranoid phoner.

In an instant, she goes from wanting a PI to purposefully implying that I'm an integral part of a hide-my-husband conspiracy. I kid you not. Damn, lady, I seldom know what I’m doing from one minute to the next and you’re convinced I have insider knowledge of husband’s activities. Because?

“Because he reads you column all the time,” she offered, as if that was vivid proof that I was a coconspirator.

As my deadline clock ticked off precious moments, she accelerated her venting. "I know what you fishermen are up to. You're not really out there fishing."

She etcetera-ed onwards to the point where I simply laid the phone on my shoulder and began typing my weekly column, issuing time-dispersed, "Yes, ma'am” and “No, Ma’am.” I think I accidentally slipped in a “Yes, dear." And I'm single. Despite her conviction that I was all but the ringleader of a wayward spouse ring, I had no idea where this gal's hubby was residing or fishing or hiding or whatever. I did feel instant sympathy pains for him.

When I was allowed to get in a departing word, I said in good consciousness that those huge numbers of angling spouses are, in fact, truly coming down to fish – not to mention escaping tyrannical, which I didn’t mention. The main thing I got from this exchange, during which the subject of private investigators was fortuitously abandoned, was how lucky many, many of my buddies are to have wives wonderfully geared to their spouse's fishing hobby.

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