Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report


Duct Dollars, Worldly Fluke and Big Busts

IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCT: Garett Croft Stenson, an Oregon native, is one of those annoying people who doesn’t just think up creative moneymaking concepts but actually follows through with them -- unlike folks like myself, who come up with brilliant ideas just to watch the pretty colors they make before vaporizing into nothingness. This guy can actually take a free-ranging concept and tie it together to form a huge dollar sign. Take, for instance, a loaded idea that came to him on how to change the back pockets of men around the world, by having them nix luxurious leather for street-grade glue.

I explain.

Garett, poor as sin only half a dozen years back, is becoming sinfully rich. But one thing you’ll never see him do is toss out his duct tape wallet, which he’ll surely pull out to offer the doorman a tip as he enters the Millionaire Club. In fact, Garett’s tip might be the entire duct tape wallet – along with some prophetic words, like, “Anyone can become an overnight millionaire -- if you just stick to it.”

The “stick to it” part will surely get Garett giggling. And for good reason. His arriving fortune is assured through a product so famously sticky – and tough-- that it has been used for everything from wrapping drippy pipes under my house to taping together a crashed military aircraft to fly from behind enemy lines. We’re talking good old duct tape, a role of tightly wrapped solution just looking for yet another way to be applied.

Not long ago, Garett took duct tape to an application so simple yet so sophisticated it is being featured in both art galleries and industry tradeshows. He colored and sewed duct tape into a tough but oddly artistic wallet. He called it “100% Duct Tape Wallet.” OK, so maybe he wasn’t a tornado of creativity when it came time to naming his utterly unique creation. Still, his wallets, along with a slew of related accessories, likes handbags and watchstraps, are selling internationally.

Truth be told, Garett wasn’t the father of duct tape wallets. The idea stems from Garett’s college days, when he saw someone else put duct tape to this astoundingly utilitarian use. Undoubtedly, there is some poor sot walking around bemoaning another failed McDonald’s job interview and wondering how he can make a few bucks to put into the tattered homemade duct tape wallet he thought up back in college. (Hey, I’m a writer, man, I gotta constantly come up with these emotion-stricken literary tangents. It’s the law.)

Anyway, be he core creator or not, Garett’s management, marketing and patenting has made the duct take wallet concept his alone. You can see where his idea has gone at www.ducti.com.

This week, his wallet – and a rapidly growing line of related duct tape “accessories” -- went public, so to speak, via a nationally published news story. That’s where I saw it -- and extruded that oft-mumbled lament: I could have done that.

So now I’m on an also-ran tear. I just know there has to be something fishy I can make from duct tape. I’ve already cast around the idea of metal plugs comprised of fish-shaped pieces of duct tape wrapped around strips of lead. Boring. Many anglers already use duct tape to secure reels to custom rod reel seat so there’s no big-money potential thereabouts. I have no doubt boat anglers won’t need customized duct tape for slapping across the mouths of constantly prattling crewmembers. But, I am homing in on a perfecting a brightly colored back-pocket duct tape plug holder – that also doubles as, uh, a wallet-ish device that holds stuff like cash and credit cards and driver licenses. Bingo! The “100% Unique Jay Mann 100% Duct Tape Wallet and Plug Holder” are headin’ into town.

If you think I’m kiddin’, just stay tuned.

BIG MAMMA – THE FLUKE, THAT IS: The big chatter among those sitting around unable to fish due to wicked weather woes is the likely world record fluke caught up in Shrewsbury Rocks.

A 38-inch, 24-3 pound double-doormat was taken by 45-year-old Monica Oswald of Neptune. She caught it while working a Spro and squid strip atop some mussels beds.

I’ve read quite a few accounts of the fight lasting almost 20 minutes, though that sounds a tad lengthy to boat even for a monster fluke like that. Sure I’m a tad jealous, but I’m hyper happy for the gal, who is a long-time angler. I’m hoping she followed International Gamefish Association mandates to the prerequisite “T.”

Upon hooking the all-time flattie, Monica first assumed she had hung up on the bottom during the drift (over shell beds) and called out for an engine-fireup to back down on the snag. When she realized there was actually a carbon-based life form on her line, one that was not overly giving when it came to coming to the surface, she then astutely suspected a cow-nosed ray. That ray-based thinking persisted throughout the dogged battle. As we all know, it’s sometimes hard to get a final read on what’s on-line until it is almost up to the boat. It wasn’t until the fish was brought aboard that the seldom-seen fluke dimensions came into focus. (My guess is the netter was too befuddled by the fish’s size to get nervous about netting the monster.)

Since all that world-class catching was in North Jersey, out of my district, I’m going to pass on the “Breaking News” personal phone call and interview with Monica – for now. I have a contact who’ll put me through to her so I’ll give things some time to settle then go in for the more seasoned recall – one that often includes some angles missed in the furor of the first barrage of interviews.

In the face of this astounding fluke fishing, a half-empty/half-full argument begins. Regulators can use the huge fish as further verification that colossal numbers of fluke are being taken placing our 2007 quota in the dust and requiring further cuts next year. At the same time, recreationalists will argue that this is a neon sign that fluke fishing has never been better and that data saying anything to the contrary is dumbfounding. I fear the regulator will win hands down. More on that in coming weeks.

STING NETS BIG CATCH: A violation report issued by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife has rocked the angling realm.

Last weekend, the “Enforcement” boys ganged up and put a royal sting on anglers in and around the Raritan.

Per a state press release, “Working to heighten awareness of New Jersey’s marine fisheries regulations and the consequences of violating them, state conservation officers yesterday inspected scores of recreational fishing boats and popular fishing spots along the Sandy Hook and Raritan bays and the Arthur Kill. ”Eighteen conservation officers with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Law Enforcement checked 500 anglers during the eight-hour special operation -- part of an ongoing effort to spur greater compliance with regulations and laws that protect New Jersey’s fish and wildlife resources.

”Throughout the day, conservation officers inspected 195 private fishing vessels and also checked more than 100 anglers at various marinas and jetties along the targeted waters,” Marine Region Capt. Joe Meyer said.

Conservation officers issued 53 summonses and six written warnings for various marine fisheries violations:
• 28 summonses for possession of summer flounder less than 17 inches
• 2 summonses for exceeding the limit on summer flounder
• 2 summonses for possession of weak fish less than 13 inches
• 8 summonses for possession of summer flounder parts
• 2 summonses for interference with a conservation officer for attempting to throw fish overboard
• 2 summonses for possession of undersized porgies
• 1 summons for possession of parts of porgies
• 1 summons for trespassing while fishing
• 2 summonses for possession of black sea bass less than 12 inches
• 1 summons for exceeding the limit of 15 blue fish
• 2 summonses for harvesting shellfish (mussels) from condemned waters of the Raritan and Sandy Hook bays
• 2 summonses for possession of undersized blue crabs
• 4 written warnings for harvesting hard crabs recreationally from the Newark Bay Complex
• 2 written warnings for dumping trash on a wildlife management area
Lawmen also seized a dozen fishing poles and one seine net used to illegally harvest marine species.
Sportsmen and sportswomen can help New Jersey’s conservation officers by reporting marine fish and shellfish violations to 609-748-2050 or call the DEP’s 24-hour hotline at 877-WARN-DEP.

As with the huge and worldly fluke and the accompanying big-fluke bonanza, there are a couple reads on this bust.

I only have one word – iceberg. The potential numbers of illegal fluke taken daily along the coast could be titanic. I have long thought – and often thought I saw – the keeping of way-too-small fluke is rampant. So have you. I get loads of emails about good-guy anglers seeing nearby boats openly abusing regulations regarding flatties. If you extend this half-day of busts and multiply it up and down the coast then times it again by the total number of fishing days in the season, those vile violators are stinking up the place for all of us.

On the other side of the boat, I know that most clubs and fishing groups will rightfully point out that the data in this police blotter can also be read as an amazingly low showing, when one considered the total number of anglers boarded.

I just can’t run with that half-full angle. I want fish stocks to come back fair and square. Even if you believe, as many do, that summer flounder stocks are looking way better than scientific numbers would allow, the notion of using such an assumption to start covertly tucking away undersized fish would mean that no fishery is safe.

I know I’ll catch hell for this but I’m among the few hoping a saltwater fishing license will come along and a big chunk of related revue will go toward the Division of Fish and Wildlife so they can keep a tight regulatory ship. Even then, we can keep fighting for our fishery rights but we’ll have a lot better chance at proving our points when the variable of illegal angling is taken from the picture.

Yes, you can expect a similar bust down this way, possibly soon.

TOURNEY IS A CLASSIC: It’s already time to think Fall Classic, as in the 2007 Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic, formerly the Surf Fishing Tournament. It actually earned its ”classic” stripes along ago.

The minimum size of the fish will remain the same: 34" for bass and 30" for bluefish

The hats are black and white this year and are apparently very cool looking, per the Southern ocean County Chamber of Commerce, which runs the event as well as any tourney is run anywhere.

Of newness this year, there will be an additional registration site and weigh-in station this year. The frosh shop, Oceanside Bait & Tackle in Brighton Beach, is actually owned by our buddies Basil Shehady and Nick Sabatino of Barnegat Light Bait and Tackle fame. Their new branch will be available for signing up and weighing in. As you know, weigh-in times are predicated on the open hours of all the participating shops, namely (south to north) Jingles Bait and Tackle, Oceanside Bait & Tackle, Fisherman’s Headquarters, Surf City Bait and Tackle, and Barnegat Light Bait and Tackle.

Once again, the entry fee for this prize- and money-loaded classic six-week tourney will stay at a paltry $25. However, the tournament committee has determined that the price will just have to be hiked next year if we’re to keep this event at the super level at which it now runs. If you look at the entry fees of most two- or few-day tourneys, the LBI Surf Fishing Classic is beyond a bargain.

I had gotten an email about the common usage of a lie detector during big-money tourneys and whether such a truth-tool could be employed during the Classic. Truth be told, I believe that potential is already in place and within the rules. What intrigues me about the ease and effectiveness of this truth-be-told machine is the way it opens the long-term doors to greatly upping the ante of the tourney. This is just me speaking now, but during the tourney committee meetings there has always been a well-deserved trepidation of dangling mega-prizes, like those originally offered during the then-Striped Bass Derby. New cars, boats and planes were given annually back then. In today’s terms, that would be like offering, well, new boats, cars and planes. There are ways to bring in such beatific bonuses. With a mandatory lie detector meeting as part of finalizing the prizes, the chances of a boat bass or an out-of-state striper are slim and none.

RUNDOWN: I want to segue from the world record fluke gal to a younger gal whose first fluke was just as monumental to her – and her doormat still swims with the fishes, so to speak.

Ainsley Stein, 11, had never fished before. The kid-unfriendly weather of late drove her family to try bank fishing at Barnegat Light Inlet area, near the new bayside walkway. Using a “gold lure” and a white plastic trailer, she hadn’t been fishing more than few minutes before she hooked up and her small rod bent double. A heckuva fight later, she hauled in a 20.5-inch flattie. The size was exact because some nearby anglers ran over to measure the fish. It was plenty long enough to invite home to dinner. But that was the furthest thing from the girl’s mind. Per her grandmother, “She was so excited about catching the fish but at the same time she was hysterical because she didn’t want it to die.” With a splash, Ainsley’s fish became one of the luckiest flatties around -- as virtually everyone else out there bags all keeper flatties as fast as they come to light.

Bassing remains bogus but might get stirred up with this multi-day blow. Still, very hot weather will soon follow so it’s much too soojn to think in terms of autumnal stripers. In act, as I;’ve oft ntoed in here, every year it seems the big fall bass are tkaig longer and longer to arrive in our waters. The one huge thing working in favor of a quicker bass showing is the bunker stocks. Not the biggy bunkies but the baby bunkitos. The bayside hatch this year is huge.

Weakfishing has quietly worked its way into the way-memorable category. After something of a slow start, the over-summering weakfish stocks showing over the past month have had many experienced sparkler-chasers calling 2007 a top weakfish year. I hope the weakies hang around for us to nab them in Holgate and along Barnegat Inlet into September and October.

As most of you know, weakies bolt very quickly out of the bay toward fall. They get memos reminding them that gorilla blues and mongo bass are soon moving on-scene. And, yes, ravenous bass are a growing nightmare to weakies.

I have a load of interesting emails about the excellent weakfishing. You can read them in the “Daily Blog” archives at http://jaymanntoday.ning.com/.

Bluefishing and fluking are tied as the top-hooking actions out there. Bayside, inlet and nearshore boat fishermen can easily find the cocktail blues, up to three pounds. Occasionally, the bluefish bite is in a blitz-like state under birdplay. The blitzing has even gone beachside. South end surfcasters recently tangled with some cocktail blues that were chasing quarter-sized bunker into the shallows.

Sidebar: Bunkies that small are usually inclined to stay very backbay. It could very well be the loads of bayside blues and weakfish have forced the young-of-year baitfish out into the big bad open-sea world. If you’re into reincarnation, you have believe some of the planet’s worst people come back as a wounded baitfish on a planet ruled by bluefish.

IT’S ALL TASTEFUL: J, I’ve been reading your columns for years. You obviously have cooking experience. I was especially interested in the segment talking about the edibility of almost all fish we catch locally. No sooner do I read that than I catch a huge stargazer while drifting near Holgate tip. It was so fat I had to wonder about its edibility. I almost took filet knife to if but released it at the last second. Should I have kept it to dine upon?

I hate when I get stumped by my own words. Stargazers are one of the very, very few fish I have not eaten so I just can’t guess at their flavor, – though I assure you they are ultimately edible. More on that below.

By way of where I’ve gone when fish savoring: I once fried up a small piece of bunker, which had a very nutty excellent favor but a bone problem you can’t believe. I have also had terrific mullet chunks (also insanely bony) on many occasions, though not the small finger mullet we have up here. I have deep-fried small spearing to make a super-crunchy damn-near marketabley delicious appetizers – though the looks of the bug-eyed fry-ees would not go over big here in finicky America – and bones are a factor, though swallowable. Closely related bay anchovies, usually called “rainfish,” are not very edible due to savage little bones throughout, way worse than spearing.

Last year, I fatally fouled a lizardfish in my castnet, cooked it up with some other hapless net bycatch fish (I hate waste) and it was just fine, almost all meat. Spot, a.k.a. Lafayette, are delicious, as many folks who target them up around Tom River know. The related sailor’s choice (I often net near Barnegat Inlet) are super eating.

Small black drum are top shelf – but they truly have to be small and are best when pulled out of the surf, as opposed to being taken in the inlets or backbay. Sundial (flounder), often caught in decent numbers in Barnegat Inlet, are fully incredible when cooked whole, tasting like the closely related Dover sole. Skate are very good to eat, especially when fried and made into a sandwich – mimicking fllounder to a T.

Needless to say, small pompano, that can sometimes be taken by the castnetful on LBI, are among the finest eating fish on the planet, bringing ten dollar for half a pound down in Florida, where the bigger ones are taken. Toadfish, a.k.a. oystercrackers, are very good in a blowfish tail kinda way. Conger eels are top-self all the way. Dogfish are great when handled properly from the get-go. Bergalls are a total taste treat and would compete with their related tog if they weren’t so small --- and so troublesome as bait-stealers.

Among my oddly also-eaten category are single claws from stone crabs (stunningly delicious), calico crabs (slightly crabby tasting though generally blah), purple pencil urchins (yuck, though many folks love them), sand eels (very rich flavor; too much for many folks) -- and seahorses taste like real horses but less hairy.

As for real bad tasters (to me), false albacore are tough to swallow – or chew or smell -- though they can be smoked, if you can find large enough rolling papers.

One species you’d never think would taste as good as they do (providing you can get by its hideous skin smell) is the needlefish – which get really big but are only catchable using a scoop net and spotting light at night.

Check back this fall, as I’ll surely catch a stargazer – master of junkfish that I am.

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