April 22, 09 -- weekly wildness
Sci-fi Nights and Bad Boys Busted
LET THERE BE NIGHT: This E-question reached me last week. “I found my dad’s old Coleman lanterns … and got this urge to night fish the way he did. I know there’s quite a history that goes along with ‘lantern fishing.’ … Do many fishermen still fish after dark? How about yourself? Any tricks?”
The popularity of night fishing, much like night itself, comes and goes. In times too far back to remember without the help of regression therapy (I’m talking the primordial 1950s), my dad would be among a beachfront battalion of glowworm guys who would Coleman up and hit the night beaches throughout summer and fall. I recall it wasn’t unusual at night to see a near continuous wall of yellowish light near the water’s edge, as one lantern’s fading beam edged onto the periphery of the next closest lantern light.
I wasn’t even remotely into the night surf-fishing scene back in those days. Being a tenderly aged kid, yet to break a double digit birthday count, the combination of watery darkness and the ocean’s edge meant just one thing: towering savage-eyed ferociously-destructive sci-fi creatures that suddenly ascend from the water, capsizing small fishing vessels in their wakes and inciting spontaneous end-time screams and the panicked fleeing of entire Japanese beachfront villages. Never mind this was New Jersey. It was imaginatively easy for me to swap a sleepy LBI village with its Japanese counterpart. There was little relief in knowing that I could, cinemagraphically speaking, count on a devout and determined multinational bevy of white-smocked scientists to rapidly ascertain what in the world could possibly kill a rapidly arising nighttime surfside creature – all of us pubescent moviegoers knowing full-well that massive jolts of electricity had worked perfectly during every triple-feature Saturday for damn near a decade but also knowing that at least one squadron of fighter aircraft and/or a division of flame-throwing tanks needed to be tried first, with tragic yet exhilarating consequences. And there was also the obligatory movie matter of piecing in a scene wherein an incongruously ditzy female scientist –mandatorily clad in a sexy white skirt so tight fitting she had to run like a geisha when fleeing a yet-to-be-stopped monster -- clumsily trips right in front of the imminent creature and, despite a PhD, foregoes craftily crawling away on her hands and knees with the speed of a desert iguana and instead lies there stupefied, slowly lifting the back of her hand up to her mouth as a prelude to a 10-second B-movie scream, alerting the perfect-haired hero scientist, with more pens in his pocket protector than anyone else, that it’s time to swoop in and scoop the trippy lady scientist into his arms just as the creature’s foot comes smashing down -- at which time my buddy Carl would always say, “Man, that woulda been so much fun to see her get squished.” Appropriately, Carl ended up as very successful sergeant in Viet Nam.
Anyway, back then I had no intention of putting myself in the way of even a Jersey-sized beast from the deep. I would do an occasional night walk to the street end with my mom, who intrinsically afforded protection from all sci-fi creatures, i.e. a creature would take his time to eat her first as I safely bolted home where I would (and I swear us guys had this all planned out) rip an electrical cord off a lamp, plug it in, expose the hot wires and touch the sparking ends to the arriving creature’s most sensitive near-the-ground body parts. “Eat my mother will you? How’s that feel on those danglers?”
I even envisioned the beaten monster letting out a scream, grabbing its electrocuted parts and bolting back toward the ocean like a tourist bounding across scalding not sand.
Now what was that original question – before I was so rudely interrupted by my imagination? Something about night fishing, right?
Well, it’s actually been in a prolonged down-and-out period for that type after dark angling. You’ll still see occasional nightists out there, using modern lanterns capable of putting forth a glow bright enough to do neurosurgery beneath. Truth be told, all you need to spark this olden surfside fishing tradition is a laid back attitude, time to spare, a goodly selection of munchables and drinkables and lots of lantern fuel.
One of the oddest night fishing scenes I’ve seen occurred last fall when I drove the ebach toward a surfcaster with his Coleman glowing and his rods spiked nearby. He was sitting in a folding chair with a truly odd play of lights accentuating his face. I couldn’t figure what the odd look was until I got close and realized he was watching a high-dig movie on a very large screened laptop DVD player, a bowl of popcorn within reach and a drink in it armrest.
My first reaction was, “That ain’t fishin’.” Then I caught a glimpse of the very cool retro movie he was watching, “Being There,” up there with my all-time favorites. As I looked back in my rearview mirror, I couldn’t overlook how fully relaxed the fellow was. Hey, I’ve been thinking about getting a nice laptop anyway.
BASS FLASHBACK: As we get back into bass season, I want to throw in a vintage writing fragment from one fine fishing columnist, LBI’s own Dick Clements, -- for decades the voice of LBI fishing, via “The Beachcomber.” While Dick confined his writing to our region, take it from a writer who knows the complexities of trying to keep a column interesting, he could have written anywhere for any publication. His wit, wisdom and wackiness were a great influence on my columnizing.
The following piece, done in the late Sixties, appeared in an annual publication known as the “Long Beach –Stafford Business Directory and Guide Book; Summer 1969-70.”
Dick writes of surf fishing for striped bass:
“He is no great shakes as a fighter. A blue half his size will fight rings around him with a little left over. He is powerful, it’s true, as plenty of fishermen who have tried to slug it out with him have found out, but fight … no! His flesh is tasty but I’ll take fillet of flounder anytime. On top of this he is a prima donna bar none. He’ll roll in front of you and laugh at everything you throw his way. He’ll turn down all of your squids and plugs and swim away with a flip of his spade tail and then calmly wolf down the monstrosity on some amateur’s line -- The monstrosity happened to by lying dead on the bottom while its owner is trying to take out a birdnest on his bay reel and boat rod.
“Why would a human being want to go weeks on end, red-eyed from lack of sleep from fishing the night tides, soaked by rain and splashed by the stinging salt spray, hands frozen by bitter winds and utterly fatigues with hours and hours of fruitless casting and reeling? … Nobody seems to know, but the best part is nobody seems to care. All’s necessary is for a bass to be there and for you to have a rod and reel and stamina to wait him out.”
TOURNEY TALK: All that glamour and glory in mind, I’ll remind all y’all that the 2009 Simply Bassin’ spring tourney is coming on fast. Registration forms are in the participating shops and event pamphlets have been mailed out to those folks who fish the fall event. Mucho thanks to the Chamber for doing that mail out chore.
I hinted last week that significant changes might be coming to this fall’s LBI Surf Fishing Classic. Nothing is etched in granite yet but I can assure that the contest sponsor, the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, will almost certainly focus on only the largest fish. I know for a fact the Chamber folks will no longer painstakingly data enter details of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of noncontending fish caught on a given day. Sure, it was fun to go on-line for a gander at the 25 bass and 100 blues taken on a given day but you can’t believe the time and man(woman)power needed for that perk. Truth be told, the tourney really should be solely about only the best fish, be they the event’s top 15 fish or daily, weekly, segmental or grand prize contenders.
By the by, the tourney hats will stay for this year, despite costing a nasty chunk of change. Get this: The hat alone gobbles up nearly one-forth of the entry fee monies. At the same time, the mere suggestion that hats be nixed causes an instant uproar. Go figure.
Final decisions on the fall classic will be made next month.
DREDGE DRUGERY: The kinda controversial dredge work in Mill Creek is crawling along at a dead snail’s pace. The weather is running roughshod over the tricky deepening effort, which could have been done and gone by now.
Chatting with Charles Pound, owner of Aqua Dredge, Inc, Armonk, N.Y., the company contracted to do the work, it’s not just the project’s unforeseen delays but the media write-ups mucking things up over at the creek.
Pointing out his company’s stellar record of the doing clean dredges, the owner was a tad critical of newspaper photos and stories focused on the unnatural looking skim that formed along the creek’s surface shortly after work began. He pointed out that state DEP officials had rushed to the scene, found nothing bad (truth be told, the skim was gone by then) and gave the “All Clear” to proceed. In that same vein, Pound repeatedly alluded to the fact that the DEP had long-ago OK’ed the entire project. I did note to him that the DEP had openly admitted it kinda missed the mark when researching he dredging application. Still, the company was not to blame for that.
Pound did proffer one interesting insinuation regarding the odd surface skim, pictured in The Sandpaper a couple issues back. He assured whatever it was floating atop the water did not come from his company’s equipment, adding he had never seen the likes before. Then came his read-between-the-lines notation that, “There are people against this dredging …” He stopped short of any flat-out accusations about sabotage and was far more comfortable touting the fact that nothing has been seen on the surface since then.
As for what the work means to spawning fish, I don’t think that’ll be so easy to determine, considering it might take years to see the trickle down impact of a lost year-class – if, in fact, the work leads to that.
By the by, my intent with publicizing the Mill Creek dredge work was to make sure that any future bay or lagoon bottom work gets the full research treatment.
RUNDOWN: Weather still plays the spoiler. There are bass, blues, blackfish, black seabass, blowfish, blackbacks and even some other letters of the alphabet out there. Nothing is sizzling but when the skies allow they’re all catchable.
Basil at Barnegat Light Bait and Tackle said, “It was happening” on Tuesday. The 8th Street beach had plenty of bass (up to 32 inches) for surfcasters. The bait offering working best was clams and “Bloody GULP” on a high/low rig – clams up high.
Similar beachfront catches will abound this entire week.
Big-ass bass are just now edging on-scene, per some weigh-ins from members of the Beach Haven Charting Fishing Association. A 25-pounder was taken. Larger fish have apparently been quietly caught and released. A lot of secrecy surrounds he first boat bites of the season.
Bluefish are here and there, based on some bite-offs of bass and/or weakfish baits and plastic jigs.
Black drumfish are in the house, mainly near Little Egg Inlet. Very scattered, though the sharpies are onto them. It will still be weeks before the big push of mega-drum, known to approach 100 pounds hereabouts, i.e. Jersey.
Blowfish are picking away at bass baits, mainly in the surf. So are kingfish. Like weakfish, these fish are packed with roe. It would be nice if folks limit their take to allow for a good spawn.
BAD ANGLER BLOTTER: We are now upon that time of year where we go from longing to fish to actually getting out there and fishing – where we quickly begin longing to be back home because it’s freezing cold and windy out there.
This is good time to offer some very telling insights into why it is conservationally sound and sensibly ecological to obey bag and size limit regulation, i.e. if you get caught bustin’ those regs bad things can happen -- and you just might find yourself on the Division of Fish and Wildlife blotter of law breakers.
I was recently reading through that Fish and Wildlife police blotter -- much the way people wade through obituaries to see if anyone they know of has succumbed so they can shake their heads and mumble toward their spouse “My lord, Bud, Louise Von Schmidthoven died.”
“Who the hell’s that?”
“My third-grade music teacher.”
“Hell, she was old as dirt when you were in her class 30 years ago.”
“It’s still so sad.”
And there are some significantly sad stories in that police blotter, especially this one, which puts a whole new face on good old fishing dad. I’ll place it under he heading: “Daddy, why do I always have to hold the fish?”
Police report: “While patrolling Morgan Creek in Old Bridge Township, conservation officers (COs) observed an individual using a cast net. This individual would remove fish from the net and place them in a backpack carried by his 10-year-old daughter. After watching this individual for some time, the officers conducted an inspection. When asked, the individual stated he did not have any fish in his possession. Conservation officers inspected the (girl’s) backpack and found undersized blue-claw crabs, 7 undersized porgies and 1 striped bass measuring 10 inches. Summonses were issued.”
So, where’s the “corrupting the morals of a minor” charge?
And it gets even juicier when it comes to angler disobedience. Here’s a report following a boat inspection by COs:
“The (two) fishermen stated they only had skates in the boat. When COs informed them that they would be inspecting their boat, one of the fishermen attempted to surreptitiously remove fluke from a bucket and mix them in with 10 skates that they had in a cooler. The officers found 13 undersized fluke. The fishermen had no legal sized fluke.”
Maybe they released all the keepers, officer.
Check this out – again, these are all actual police reports.
“On Sunday 12/2/07, the captain and owner of the charter boat Barb Gail IV … were apprehended at the Seville Diner located in East Brunswick, NJ. Clint Dunham, Point Pleasant Beach, is being charged with selling 93 striped bass fillets or 47 whole striped bass to the diner. He is also being charged with filleting striped bass other than immediately prior to preparation or being served as food, and possession of 45 striped bass in excess of the legal possession limit of 2 striped bass.”
And check this out this bad boy: “Conservation officers were inspecting vessels returning to the Belmar Municipal Ramp. A vessel with four fishermen aboard came to the ramp. They had three coolers containing a mix of 10 legal fluke and black sea bass, 3 short fluke and 2 short black sea bass…. COs felt suspicious that there were more fish, inspected the remainder of the vessel and uncovered an additional 15 short black sea bass in a plastic bag hidden under several lifejackets…”
One last report, just to show to what extent illegal anglers will go.
“CO’s apprehended four individuals for possession of 6 short striped bass and 1 fish over the daily limit at the Keansburg Fishing Pier. A surveillance of these fishermen revealed them hiding their illegal catch in the trashcans on the pier. Earlier that day an individual was apprehended with 4 short striped bass on the beach in Keansburg. This fisherman was observed concealing the fish between rocks and covering them with flotsam from the bay. In the early morning hours of 4/13/08, four fishermen were apprehended with 8 undersized striped bass in Cliffwood Beach. The CO strategically set up observation in a bayside parking lot and caught one of the fishermen running the fish to his vehicle.”