Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Danger -- Aug 8 Weekly Column -- so much stuff it's hazardous

TV Time and Parking Hawks

To wind down from the tension of work, I routinely plop down and watch calming shows, like the real life shoot-‘em-up police adventures on Court TV.

I’m really into this new show during which inner-city cops leave electronically rigged cars out to be stolen. The car is computer controlled by the blue boys, who flick a switch to shut done the vehicle’s engine to nab thieves after they drive off with the car.

The secretive vehicle is called a bait car.


I was pondering what might happen if they put a bait car out down here.

First, it would have to be Lexus – and not one of those cheap-o models without the gold “chrome.”

Even then, we’d be way too smart for such a ploy – sorta. Though we’d pick out a rigged car like that in a heartbeat, dollar to donuts you’d soon have a bunch of surfcasters in chestwaders mulling around to see if the bait car has gotten in any fresh bunker; a bunch of them cupping their faces to the windows to look for coolers inside.

While over in the bushes: “Do you think they made us, chief?”

“I have no idea, sergeant, but those cups of coffee they’re all holding sure look good. Let’s take a break.”

What about the bait car?”

“Hell, we only put frozen bunker in there. Those guys won’t touch it.”

“Good point, Chief. I think I’ll try one of those frozen lattes.”


Last week, during a break in my Court TV watching, I was surfing past MTV and hit on yet another bait related theme. It was during a show called the “Top Most Outrageous High School Pranks Countdown”

You know you have too big of a research staff when they can track down something like that, but, the MTV staff did just that and right there at the prestigious Number 6 spot in the countdown was an odiferous stunt pulled off by a kid named Ryan, formerly a student at a high school in Florida.

Ryan’s “senior farewell prank” stank wonderfully, especially when you consider he was only a junior and was actually trying to get seniors blamed.

It was Ryan’s choice of prank material that got my angler attention.

To pull off his stunt, he tapped into a pier-based bait and tackle shop, a tiny shop I know well. I used chat with the older fellow who owned it.

You can get a sense of where the prank was going via Ryan’s own recollections, taped for the countdown. “I guess the word ‘chum’ caught my eye,” said Ryan of his trip to the shop. He bought the small shop’s entire stock of frozen chum.

We of an angling ilk know the most common component of chum. Yep, bunker -- so sweet when fresh but so abysmally vile when foul, near the top of a yet unpublished list of the worst fishing-related stinks.

With the now-thawing chum in tow, Ryan and some cohorts, with a tactical team’s grace, waited for nightfall and went yard – as in schoolyard. They busted into the high school.

The prank played out even smoother than the pranksters had planned. They easily accessed the building and nonchalantly placed gobs of chum in lockers, desks, closets, toilets, wherevers. But Ryan had this sense things just weren’t stinkin’ enough. The chum needed a more definitive deployment, a placement so profound that one and all entering the school would be odiferously impacted. That’s when one of his cohorts rose to the task. He climbed a chair, pushed out the ceiling panels and got into the schools ductwork, including the air conditioning system. Just like that, the prank went from a mere also-stunk stunt to a top spot in the “Top Most Outrageous High School Pranks Countdown.”

The chum implantation impact was outstanding, A-Company -- I mean, if you’re into such ridiculously childish behavior.

The long-term affects were really cool.

The following morning, the smell for the arriving students and faculty was foul -- but tolerable. School authorities even felt they were getting the upper hand in the prank as they systematically de-chummed lockers, desks, closets, toilets, wherevers. Then came the Floridian heat-of-day and on came the air conditioning and out came the fragrance of the slowly decaying chum.

“The whole school just reeked. It was fun to see peoples’ reactions,” recalled Ryan for MTV.

Which hints at the fact he failed to fully pull-off his chum-chucking caper. Seems he was so proud of the prank he just had to tell a few folks who told a few more who told …

He and his buddies were busted. The cleanup costs were $5,000 and some serious suspension time.

By the by, I was very dismayed by the behavior of Ryan. What kind of parental neglect and misguidance would allow a kid to perform a stunt like that -- and then blow it by not keeping it quiet until the statute of limitation runs its course?

THE HORROR OF PARKING HAWKS: I want to pass on a pissser of a tale.

I have often written about the conflicts between ocean block property owners and those folks trying to legally park on the public roadway fronting those properties.

Summer surfcasters are frequently among those vying for parking spots close to the beach -- to make gear hauling a bit easier. They are among those confronted by indignant – often just mean-spirited -- property owners not wanting anyone parking on the roadway anywhere in front of their property. They conveniently overlook the fact that the road is NOT their property.

This annual parker/property-owner conflict is a bane to local cops, who tire of it very early in the season, especially when the in-street exchanges get down and dirty. I’ll mix it up every time when I get pushed too far by home owners who know full well they’re not allowed to confront people yet continue to routinely do so. In a heartbeat, these agro types ruin the entire day for people just wanting to have fun on the beach.

Local ordinances (and, obliquely, state law) prohibit property owners from laying claim to the entire stretch of public road fronting their property. That obviously applies to ocean block properties, where an inordinately large number of hawkers wait the livelong day to run out and verbally confront anyone who they deem is in their “driveway,” which they consider every square inch of property frontage.

Such hawking, if done after police have warned a property owner against it, is illegal and falls under disorderly persons laws. Should a parker take legal umbrage over being confronted by a mean-mouthed property owner, a whole can of “rights” violations could come into play.

At most, municipalities allow no more than 40 percent of a property’s frontage be designated as “driveway.” Many towns legally allow only 30 percent frontage be driveway.

This leads into a tale that just came my way via an angler. It pushes this parking confrontation game to a new level.

As I heard it, a surfcaster was skunked looking for a parking spot on a mid-Island ocean block and pulled the nose of his buggy into a driveway to turn around, he was immediately put upon by a hyped-up elder hawker.

This angler was “verbally abused” (his words), accused of trespassing and threatened with arrest, per the property owned.

Well, this hawker was blowin’ smoke out his rumpled rear.

There is, by law, an easement zone fronting a house -- and extending across a driveway --where a sidewalk should reside. It is fully legal to access that portion of a driveway zone to turn around in a vehicle. We’re not talking full-blown pull-in up the drive, but the amount this angler was using for a turn-around was surely legal.

I have to underline the fact it is seldom, if ever, worth taking these confrontations to the limit. It really does ruin the whole day. Admittedly, the cops will likely be on your side should they be called on-scene. But, in the long run, all that happens is you allow these low-lurking property owners to drag you into the pit where they hang even on fine and sunny days.

ARE YOU A 60-ER?: I had a pre-production read of “The Striped Bass 60-Pound-Plus Club,” a book being written by Tony Checkowski, a Pennsylvania angler who also angles our area.

I won’t go into detail since the book is still a work in progress – though now on its final stretch before production. However, I think you can sense the super insights such a book offers, as Tony personally interviews loads of folks who have caught 60-pound-plus stripers.

Each detailed rundown of each angler -- and details of his or her catch (of a lifetime in most cases) -- instantly surpasses the dozens of how-to books out there. Face it, this is a how-it-was-done compilation. Each tale stands on its own striper-taking laurels.

Tony derived his book idea after reading “The Complete Book on Striped Bass Fishing” by Nick Karas, in which Karas lists the 60-pound-plus club but offers few details on how those anglers became members.

“He only gave it a page and half. So I decided to see if I could contact some of these people,” said Tony, thus launching a research effort that took him on road trips to the home states of the catchers.

Even during my quick read-through of the book, I jotted down dozens of details on how folks actually negotiated with an epic bass. You can safely assume that techniques used by anglers featured in this book all work. It’s a case of nothing succeeds like success – and in this case, nothing succeeds like excess – poundage.

As for the writing, the book is very nicely crafted by Tony, who allows the anglers to speak for themselves – in their own terms. But don’t mistake this for some grassroots effort. The book is heavily researched and well written.

Tony knowingly leans toward the exacting fishing details of every hookup in the book. That’s the stuff that fellow anglers find fascinating, even when the list of 60-pound-plus club members includes novice angler “who where at the right place at the right time,” per Tony. Face it, every such account offers yet another angle on breaking into that elite 60-pound-plus club.

By the by, I’m probably not supposed to ask this being a long-run fishing writer but do we have any local members of the 60-pound-plus club? I know of maybe half a dozen bass in the late 50s but none that reached the big 60.

I’ll let you know when the book is published.

HIGH FLYING HATCHETS: This is the time of year when hatchets fly. Hatchet marlin, that is.

It was a hatchet that won the boat Dragonfly a cool (well-earned) $101,975 in the WMIT2007.

Hatchet marlin look and act so much like white marlin (Tetrapturus albidus poey) that many clubs accept them as qualified “white marlin” weigh-ins. The current $3,000,000-ish “Mid-Atlantic $500,000” is allowing hatchet marlin. However, the event’s website has this blurb:

“This year the VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences) scientists will be taking as many white marlin as possible back to Virginia whole. They want to better study the subtle difference between individual specimens in hopes of better understanding what anglers have always called a ‘hatchet marlin.’ That is, a white marlin, often unusually large, with an odd, flattened, top to its dorsal fin.”

It is when scientists are brought into the white marlin mix that controversy erupts, as it surely will as VIMS scientists closely study the hatchets.

Already many top marine biologists firmly believe the hatchet marlin isn’t even a “marlin” per se but is, instead, a roundscale spearfish (Tetrapturus georgii Lowe). However, so little is known about this species of spearfish that it borders on being enigmatic.

A research institute founded by Artist Guy Harvey has taken a very rigid stance in saying the hatchet marlin is positively a spearfish. One research paper from the organization states, “Analysis of 16 billfish specimens from the western North Atlantic, on the basis of scale morphology, anus position, and mitochondrial DNA confirms the validity of this species … “

Some identifying characteristics differentiating white marlin from a spearfish includes scale shape, which are soft and rounded at the anterior end. The posterior part of the scales have a sort of feathered effect while the white marlin scales are far closer to your proverbial fish scales.

Of ID significance is the easily identifiable difference in the location of the anal opening in each species. The hatchet marlin opening is significantly further away from the anal fin than the opening of the white marlin. That carries the suggestion that the two type fish cannot interbreed.

However, many scientists aren’t overly occupied with fishing tournament angle on hatchet marlin. They are fully alarmed about the possible inclusion of spearfish numbers in the stock assessment of white marlin. The thinking is simple: Takes away those spearfish and the decline of the white marlin is far worse than expected.

Currently, spearfish cannot be kept by anglers.

PAY TO FISH IN THE FIRST STATE: With barely a recreational whimper, the anglers in the state of Delaware idly watched as the state legislature passed a saltwater fishing license to begin next year.

According the Recreational Fishing Alliance, which had stumped against the license, the Delaware Legislature heard little opposition from anglers. Gov. Ruth Ann Miller signed the legislation into law June 30.

“Delaware anglers always opposed a saltwater license in the past, but seemed worn out this time around” offered an RFA press release.

James A. Donofrio, RFA’s Executive Director, said Delaware RFA members had been overwhelmingly against the license but showed no such resolve this go’ round. "Some of the Delaware anglers who supported it think they're getting benefit from it," Donofrio said. "They're being told that they will get political clout from paying the tax. It won't work that way."

Donofrio referenced California, the first state to institute a saltwater fishing license. "The license is now up to $60 in California, and they're getting practically nothing from it," he said. "In fact, they have so little political clout that the environmentalists have pushed through the Marine Life Protection Act, which will actually take away some of their best fishing spots. They're losing ground every day out there," he continued.

A saltwater fishing license is inevitable for Jersey. The new Magnuson-Stevens Act inexorably demands that every state with a saltwater fishery create and maintain a viable census of anglers and, subsequently, details of the amount of fishing and catching being done. Many state already have such licenses and the clock is ticking on those states that are taking their time about it.

I say we should take every possible tick of the clock.

There are so many new saltwater fishing licensed states that any and all insights into what works best -- and worst -- for the anglers can be parleyed into devising the best possible saltwater license for us.

No, you simply can’t wait forever. Within something like a year or two, the feds will step in and take over control of a census, billing the state. Sure that would mean all the NJ taxpayer would then cover the cost of the census. How long do you think inland counties, not to mention Trenton, will go for that arrangement?

A government official, on terms of anonymity, suggested to me that a combined license for freshwater and saltwater fishing would work nicely. That is very intriguing since it would surely assist in the effort to assure that all license funds stay in the Fish and Wildlife system – or thereabouts.

As you know, there is a huge chance that the state will plop the licensing funds into the general fund, so anglers will be paying for very goofy thing state legislators conjure up. Be ready to fight that hook and gaff.

RUN-DOWN: Bassing is borderline abysmal. That’s to be expected with all this mild ocean water and “heat alert” weather. There are some small stripers along the beach, often one per jetty. That’s barely worth the walk down time. The other night I pulled an 18-incher from under the bridge. It went for a GULP “Sassy” on a small jighead.

Weakfish are still in the far west bay, mainly B. Bay but also Great Bay and Little Egg Harbor. There are only a few sparklers sizeable enough to dine upon though M.M. had a rogue weakie in the 6-pound range (released after photo). It was caught on a Spro-GULP combo.

I’ve been mentioning the super showing of cocktail blues – an all-summer bite this year. Many of those “eating-sized” blues are still showing up with loaded to gunnels with grasshrimp. That is not usual fare for this time of year. One has to wonder if those shrimp are vulnerable due to the choking weeds now covering eelgrass beds, where the shrimp usually hang out – and successfully hide from the likes of blues. I bring that up in the face of a federal study indicating our bays – Barnegat Bay is singled out -- are in very bad shape, endangered by pollution and over-nutrification from run-off from build-out areas. One of the findings focused on dead algae that settle on sub-aquatic vegetation, driving out indigenous marine life. More on this in weeks to come.

There are some kingfish showing as scattered hookups around LE Inlet. Hard to see where that action might go.

I’ve had quite a few reports of good fluking with doormats mixed in. Obviously, the overflow of undersized fluke remains firmly in place, both bay and ocean. At the same time, I’ve been checking on some Raritan Bay hooking. We are going so over our quota I can’t even watch any more. In fact, I’ll gladly publish individual email reports regarding fluking but I’m cutting out my own notations and predictions of this fishery in my weekly column and blogs (http://jaymanntoday.ning.com/)

Here’s an insightful email: “Jay, I have been sorely out of touch with fishing the area this summer, but took an afternoon on the bay to beat the heat on thurs. Margaret at Jingles put me onto the gulp shrimp deal...and they do fish very well.... opposed to the minnow squid combo. In short time...at the end of the high we caught lots of fun junkfish...sharks and sea robins. Constant action....we did boat about 25-30 fluke 14-16 1/2"....lost one real good flattie at the boat. Topped off the afternoon when the winds kicked up against the tide.... by chasing small blues as they were pinning spearing behind a sandbar in skinny water. ALMOST grounded the boat. A fun time was had by my party.... although "skunked" for the table....the bay is alive with life. P.S. - I heard the morning crowd did fairly well out back with the incoming tide. We were a little late on the tail end of the tide. Geo. H.”

( George, Great report since you were willing to take the "aliveness" as fun fishing. You can't believe how many folks would have reported piss-poor fishing in the very same scenario because no "meat" fish were caught. I can't fathom that thinking.

One of my fishing buddies and I often create a scoring system on days like that. We’d give a point for a sea robin, 2 points for throwback fluke, 3 points for bluefish, 4 points weakfish, 5 points keeper flattie and so on. We then tried to outscore each other. Even junkfish could bring in vital point-age. Winner gets treated to the Chinese Buffet that night. Hyper fun. J-mann)

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