Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
LIVING WEIGH-INS AND HOLGATE PASSAGES
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: Jay, A possible idea is to discuss how to go about weighing in a live fish for the tournament, and then releasing it. I didn't even know this was possible, but recently heard from a couple sources that it can be done … Art Great question -- and perfectly timed as we head into the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic.
Having been a saltwater aquarium connoisseur for years, I know the oxygen demands of even small fish. I would have bet the fish farm that keeping a weigh-worthy striper alive would take a full-blown life-support system, similar to one I once found in the trash over at the hospital. I keep it in my room just in case. (I’m not serious.)
But to keep a 40-pound bass in the pink after the stress of being landed, the trauma of having to be thrown into a container with water and waiting out being driven to a weigh-in station? Seems fruitless.
Not so, by any stretch, according to hard-core angler George Gilbert of Beach Haven.
On three different occasions, George has caught-entered-and-released three major bass. In fact, he’s batting three out of four, the one failure being a somewhat fluke accident whereby the fish apparently broke it back in transport.
It was one of George’s enter-and-release 38-pound bass -- weighed into a tourney before being let go bayside – that alerted me to the potential, high potential, of having your striper cake and releasing it, too.
“It’s not really that hard,” said George.
The thing that amazes me is the simplicity of George’s method. He fills a 40-gallon trashcan with seawater and places the fish in, headfirst.
And his releases weren’t always rush-off-the beachers. In one instance, while fishing in the middle of the night and needing to wait for a shop to open, George threw a simple air stone in the can and waited till morning. That hints at the potential keep-alive timeframe involved. “One fish was probably in there three or four hours,” he noted, adding
“I don’t think there is any doubt, if the fish is caught and taken off within an hour, it will swim (when released).” .
George pointed out that his trashcan conveyance method is likely not the ultimate in fish-holding devices. “The ultimate would probably be a 160-quart cooler so the fish could lie straight,” he said.
Tony C. of Beach Haven used his large cooler in a culling manner. “I had caught a smaller bass and kept it in the cooler to see if I could get a bigger bass,” recalled Tony. The fish survived fine, though Tony didn’t mention if a larger fish ever came along.
This culling method would likely work with even a smaller cooler, providing a better bass comes along in due time. My guess is for-culling fish could also be kept spry by regularly refreshing the ocean water in the cooler.
Of course, getting a living fish to the scales is only part of the enter-and-release task. The coup de grace, in a living sense of the expression, is the revival. And it is a revival, more than resuscitation.
George goes bayside to release his fish. There’s a lot to be said for that. In the case of his Fisherman’s Headquarters releases, he goes to the nearby Ship Bottom Boat Ramp.
The calmer bay water allows the fish to be held by the tail or under belly until it revitalizes. “I revived my first one in a couple of minutes. The trick is you don’t give up on it”
On the other hand, a surfside release can have problems. Along with wave action making it tougher to see the fish through to a full recovery, the stressed animal is suddenly out there in a stunned state, slowly bumbling around in a fully vulnerable conditions. And there are predators, even for a large bass. Years back while surfing in Harvey Cedars, a group of us had ridden in waves and were walking the beach to paddle back out near the rocks. We changed our immediate paddle out plans when right next to the jetty was the head or what had to have been a 40-pound bass. Its gills were still moving. It has just been fully dissected by a shark.
George has observed that some of the fish he has kept for later release have looked better than some of those he fights and releases back into the ocean after a lengthy fight.
As for bluefish, the odds of keeping those hyper high-metabolism cruisers alive for even a short time is slim and none. The only hope would be inside a container with ice to slow down the fish. Even then, the danger of thermal shock is high – not to mention the bodily damage done during a bluefish’s famed alligator thrashing.
One final note for those (hopefully) thinking about enter-and-releases, the early days of the tourney are apparently going to be very warm, almost hot. All bets are out the survival window during the day, when heat drains oxygen from contained water.
A DISAPPEARING HOLGATE HISTORY: An emailer questioned me about the erosion of Holgate and any relationship that might have to the former Tucker’s Island, totally lost to erosion.
If you have even an iota of interest in the past and future of LBI’s south end, please go on this quick history tour.
It is vital to understand the alignment of LBI and Tucker’s, back in the day.
Going back to the 1700s, the area now known as Holgate (formerly Bond’s or Homer’s beach) was the site of the main inlet for Little Egg Harbor, one of the busiest ports-of-entry in the nation.
That inlet was located just past what is now the parking lot overlook at the south end of Long Beach Boulevard. Historical accounts have it at upwards of two miles wide and deep enough to allow the largest of sailing ship to access Tucker’s Town, eventually Tuckerton.
Note: It is very unlikely the inlet was two miles across. That would be the equivalent of the parking lot south to the Rip. No way. But we’ll run with that number – and run into some other dubious historically-accepted distances further along in this tutorial.
In the late 1700s, the sea began playing the sand game. It filled in the huge inlet, making ship passage more and more treacherous. However, further south, a new inlet formed. That was cunningly named New Inlet, later called Little Egg Harbor Inlet.
Through the quirks of storms and sands, the old inlet reopened between 1840 and 1870 and was promptly named Old Inlet. I’m guessing the creative flow back then wasn’t as active as the ocean flow.
(It is crucial to make a mental note of these inlet-ish comings and goings. They are quite likely precursors to what’s next to for our South End.)
Between Old Inlet and New Inlet formed a barrier island called Short Beach. It was historically measured at five miles long but was far more likely 3 miles, tops.
Short Beach essentially protected Tucker’s Island, which was located inside the far south end hook of Short Beach.. That same sand hook configuration is present today, hugging the New Tucker’s Island. There were times when Tucker’s Island connected to Short Beach, mainly in the 1870s. That was short-lived, though.
For upwards of 50 years, Short Beach and Tucker’s were separated by a narrow waterway called “the slough.”
Looking closely at old maps, it would seem the slough was almost identical in shape and depth to the current back cut, which I will now call the slough in all my future writings. (Because it’s a cool historic word, that’s why.)
At the height of Tucker’s Island history, circa 1880, it had a Sea Haven section with two highly touristy hotels. There was a wooden “walkway” to Short Beach built over the slough. That “walkway” indicates the slough was likely just about the width it is now. Any wider would have required a bona fide bridge. The walkway allowed Tucker’s tourists to stroll to Beach Haven for shopping and cavorting.
Hey, Beach Haven has been a partying town since the get-go. Don’t let any uppity historians tell you any differently. And I’d give anything to do a back-track to the days of cruising Short Beach, plugging away the whole time.
Over the years, the popularity of LBI stole virtually all the business from the likes of Sea Haven, which could only be accessed by boat. The golden era of automobiling added to the magic of LBI and the decline of Tucker’s.
As for Holgate, things get doubly tricky during the Twentieth Century.
A second coming of the Old Inlet occurred after a monster nor-easter in 1920 re-opened the waterway, attesting to the overnight potential of storms in changing the entire flow of things on the south end.
With LBI spiking in popularity, the new inlet caused a media stir. Since “New Old Inlet” was both confusing and unsexy, it was renamed Beach Haven Inlet. That is still the name you’ll see on the water tank and attacked to the taxpayer’s and homeowners group there.
The newly born Beach Have Inlet marked end times for Tucker’s. The inlet either allowed more seawater to pass into Little Egg Harbor or it changed currents around Little Egg Harbor Inlet. Be it one or both, erosion began attacking Tucker’s Island with a vengeance. Since the tourism potential of Tucker’s was long gone, it was doom and gloom for the remaining life saving station and lighthouse. In a geological heartbeat the island was gone.
At the same time, Beach Haven Inlet began what amounted to a high-speed migration southward. During this move, the opening between the bay and ocean was too uncertain to be considered navigable, though open periods and high tides allowed smaller craft to sneak through. Little Egg Inlet was far and away the inlet of choice.
Of further geological import, land quickly accrued behind the southward traveling inlet. The piled up and duned up sand became our current “Holgate,” the uplands of which now comprise the Wilderness Area of the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge. It is highly likely that much of that sand was from the deceased Tucker’s Island.
There are some indications that the current Beach Haven Inlet, adjacent to the tip of Holgate, is the final restring place of the migrating inlet. However, it is unrecognized by the U.S. Coast Guard, though “Beach Haven Inlet” is clearly written on most marine maps.
At a glance it would seem that Holgate has been relatively stable for many decades now. Deceiving. A recent study indicates that the exact location of Tucker’s is now well out at sea, indicating the entire south end tail of LBI has wagged amazingly westward. That is fully visible when looking northward from about a mile onto Holgate. It’s astounding how much further westward the Holgate Wilderness Area now is from the built-up area of LBI.
The nodal point, where the two areas meet, is so distinct because of the bayside bulkheading and oceanside jettying of the developed areas of LBI. The built-out portion of the Island simply cannot migrate westward like Holgate.
And therein lies a huge headache for Holgate Wilderness Area aficionados.
That nodal point, right where we first drive on the beach, is a very likely breaking point, especially with its history of being a former inlet. The ocean is already making inroads toward the bay there.
However, there are many more factors coming into play than in times past.
The jetties along the beachfront and the bayside bulkheads are deflecting some of the ocean’s impact, diverting it southward. Not surprisingly, it’s further down the Wilderness Area beach, 4,000 feet from the entrance, that the erosion has now eaten all the former beach, dunes and uplands, along with what was once thick vegetation.
Standing on the high ground of the beach at the 4,000-foot mark, one can now look westward to the nearby bayside marsh meadows. There is nothing but a thin beach and a slight rise between what is oceanside and bayside. The next major storm will easily dissect the Holgate Wilderness area at this point. And if history is any indicator, a new inlet could easily form overnight.
(Could Tucker’s have been saved in this day and age? Can Holgate be saved in this day and age? I’ll touch on that next column)
START YOUR RODS AND REELS: One of the granddaddies of all East Coast surf fishing tournaments, the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic begins on Saturday, October 6, and runs through Sunday, November 18.
The 6-week tourney defines the falltime for many anglers.
Those who have entered in the event in the past have received registration forms in the mail. It’s getting tad late to send them in, especially if you live by my motto: Never put off until tomorrow that which you can put off until next week. So, get out to the participating shops and be ready for opening day this Saturday.
For all there is to know about this event go to www.lbift.com.
Obviously, I’ll be writing about it for six or seven weeks to come.
The Classic is accompanied by a super surf fishing classic clinic, a seminar-type session that has grown hugely popular in recent years. The clinic is meant to opens the angling doors to folks who want to learn the surfcasting ropes. However, the clinic is so packed with pointers from top experts that many experienced anglers unabashedly join the ranks of those there to learn the basics. Instructors include some of the area’s top surfcasters.
The clinic takes place on Saturday, October 6, 2007.
Meet at 9:00 a.m. at the Chamber of Commerce on 9th Street in Ship Bottom for door prizes, coffee, and bagels, then join us at the Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Co. No.1 Station on 21st Street and Central Avenue in Ship Bottom where the Surf City Anglers, a local fishing club, will generously share their knowledge of surf fishing equipment, surf casting, bait, driving a 4x4 vehicle on the beach, and much more. Weather permitting we will move on to the 9th Street Ship Bottom ocean beach for hands-on instruction. Please bring a folding chair for your comfort on the beach. The clinic is free, but pre-registration is required. Call the Chamber of Commerce, 609 494-7211x100 or 800 292-6372x100, to register. You may also register at www.lbift.com.
SHOP TALK: The folks at Barnegat Light Bait and Tackle are talking “lots” of bluefish. For variety beachcasters are taking moderate numbers of kingfish and croakers. Bloodworm or sandworm pieces are the top baits, with double float rigs the best presentation.
Outside the inlet, the Tires and our incredible artificial reefs are holding seabass and that allowable tog.
Weakies are still hot In Barnegat bay, with pink Fin-S being the way to work them.
A quick reminder that the weakfish bag limit is now 6 fish (down from 8) at 13inches or above. Considering how great the weakfishing remains don’t get caught over-bagging.
Polly’s Dock is having a “Heaviest Striper” tourney on October 5, 6.
It is both a bank and boat event and costs $100 per 3-angler (or less) vessel and $100 per 3-angler surfcasting team. Extra members can be taken on team or boat at a cost of $20 per person.
Winnings are based on number of entrants in the tourney. Also money will be hanging out there in the form of separate calcuttas ($20) for vessels, largest fish overall and two heaviest fish.
As you can see, this is one of the few mixed method tourney, bank and beach – with separate winnings perks for each sector. T-shirts and a buffet are also part of the event.
The captains’ meeting is Friday (Oct. 5) at 6 p.m., after which line can go into the water. Weigh-ins are until 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Get details at 492-2194.
The Chum Bucket is marking weakfish on Dock Road, taken on live or fresh dead mullet. Margaret at Jingles heard customer griping about all jellyfish slime and pieces in the water on Monday. Those were blown out by onshore winds and bluefishing, croakering and kingfishing picked up in Town. Margaret saw here first weigh-in bass of the fall, a fish that weighed 12-pounds gutted, taken on either bunker of mullet – and angler had both on his rig and wasn’t sure which took the prize.
BUGGY NOTES: With most of the Island’s front beaches now open, buggyists will be converging from all over to fish the suds – after buying their permits, of course. And the sands are hungrily waiting, even more than usual.
With the exception of Surf City – and its huge manmade beaches – most Island beachfronts are tricky for a couple reason.
Firstly, things have been thin for many years now, as communities wait to see if they’re next in line for beach replenishing.
Secondly, and more importantly, things are seriously sinky out there right about now.
We have had a very dry stretch for many weeks. This has led to a load of air in the sand, caused by the evaporation of moisture down at least a couple feet.
Yep, beach sand can take various forms and the one least friendly on buggies is just what we have now, essentially fluffed up airy sand with high sinkablity.
The trick is to stay in previously made tire tracks. However, to fish you have to break out of those tracks to avoid blocking other vehicles and to get closer to the water.
The best advice is to keep air pressure in the tires a little lower than usual. Also, always park in a way to make a pullout easier. Don’t park on an upslope or on an angle. Pick a flat or even raised area so pulling away causes the least tire dig.
Always be alert to that sinking feeling. That first sense of going down is the perfect time to release some more air or even dig some sand from around tires.
If you’re to the point where your tires are throwing sand, it’s already too late for simply solutions. Get out and dig, beginning with the low points under the vehicle: the skid plate beneath the engine, the rear axel, transfer case and muffler area, or, if you’re in real deep, the entire drive shaft and any parts of the chassis resting on sand.
Next week I’ll be writing about when the towman cometh. I interviewed Pete at South Shore Towing for that story.