Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

August 21, 2013: Weekly blog-about ... Mink stink.

The Fish Story

A Minor Mink Stink in BL; Beaches, Buggies, More


LBI Thoughts: It’s been a god-awful summer for some businesses and an ass-kickin’ godsend for others. Here’s to the many shops and businesses kicking tourist butt, so to speak. A slew of shop owners I know are having a lustrously black summer, which is a good thing – being in the black ink, that is.

From my visual read of Summer 2013, the Island isn’t lacking in visitorship. In fact, recent weekends in Ship Bottom have seen some of the most vehiculared days ever. I base that on how far from the beach some folks are forced to park. Parkers fully have covered the shoulders of Central Avenue and have even worked their way down to Barnegat Avenue. That’s a loada beachgoers.

It sure seems we’ve suddenly slipped back to the olden days of touristization, when LBI summers were dominated by day-hoppers and weekend warriors. This is doubly apparent in the way the tourist presence falls off to near-winterish quietude for evenings twixt Monday and Thursday. Such was the schedule when temporary tourists floated the Island. It was how the shore worked back when – and maybe now. Final figures have yet to filter in.

YES, THEY’RE MINKS, DUDE: I got a bit of a stink over mink, namely the ones that have been residing at Barnegat Light State Park for a goodly number of years. Despite being primarily nocturnal, the BL mink have become crepuscular (dusk and dawn). Why so? Their jetty home has a huge fishermen presence, so the resident minks surely keep a careful nose out for any bait left behind by anglers. That could demand a zip onto the walkway in full view of astounded daylight strollers.

It’s during those high-viz forays that the BL minks evoke assorted and sundry ID guesses, mainly from folks trained exclusively by “Animal Planet.” I’ve had TV-trained folks fight me tooth-and-nail over the mink ID, including this latest mink stink.

“They are NOT mink!” vehemently argued a dear old dad (with child in hand), who refused to believe something as “rare” (his word) as mink even exists in the park. “Mink live deep in forests,” he assured, based on who-knows-what.

His double-barreled, ill-logic threw me off my game, forcing me to backtrack to explain that N.J. mink are actually not all that rare and are, in fact, highly inclined to inhabit salt marshes and coastlines. They are also apt to become suburbanized, easily adjusting to humanized haunts. The BL touristy minks are eye-catching examples.

But this doubting dad came up with a unique repudiation. “If they were mink, someone would have trapped them by now.” His exact words.

I had to again detour from my living proof phase of mink persuasion (photos) by explaining that trapping in Barnegat Light State Park is not high on the list of the park’s suggested activities. Never to be seen sign: “Enjoy the park’s diversified wildlife and don’t hesitate to put out traps and snares to capture and kill said wildlife.”

To this point, I hadn’t even gotten around to refuting his confident claims that the animals on the jetty rocks were, in fact, otters, weasels or ferrets. Ferrets? WTF!

He wouldn’t budge a hair when I finally offered to show him close-up photos I had taken a few years back, scientifically confirmed as “mink” photos.

So it became a case study in human stubbornness far more than proper wildlife identification. After he again blurted, “They’re just not minks,” I shot off one of the oddest, off-the-cuff remarks I’ve spontaneously spewed forth in many a moon: “OK, maybe they’re just furry little land dolphins.”

Oddly enough, it broke the ice. I kid you not. He chuckled. I chuckled. And we simultaneously reassessed the amount of ire time we had just wasted. I even got him to accept emailed photos to forward to a “college professor” friend of his. I couldn’t care less that his college professor had his PhD in alpaca counseling. He’ll surely recognize a mink. As you will, too, if you’re willing to spend some late-day time near their jetty home in BL.

BEACH REPLENISHMENT TRENDS: (Vernacular note: The rebuilding of LBI beaches and dunes is also called renourishment, mainly by those performing the act, i.e. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company. At some hereabouts point, we seemed to prefer thereplenishment nomenclature. I bring that up in case the company term renourishment is being bandied about and you’re not sure it’s one and the same as replenishment. It is.)

The sand pumping on LBI is pau for 2013. Pau is the Hawaiian word for finished, pronounced pow. Hey, it could be on “Jeopardy” someday.

Now comes the waiting game to see which LBI area is next up to bat.

If the courts come into play in a replenishment-favorable way, the entire Island could be be-sanded within a year or two, per top Army Corps of Engineers officials. Easement holdouts can kiss our grit.

If those holdout beachfronters – quite obviously risking everyone for their selfish sakes – prosper, only Beach Haven and Holgate seem poised for “the pump.” That work could be by next spring, in perfect world time.

By the by, it is NOT the Army Corps that designates who getteth the sands. The NJDEP does the legal legwork and permitting. The Corps receives the marching orders from the DEP, though the Corps then has its own series of legal concerns to sift through.

HOLGATE ACTIVIZATION: As the sands of optimism flow toward re-beaching and re-duning Holgate/Beach Haven Inlet, an eel grassroots group in that community is striving for the tweaking of the replenishment parameters to allow for sand bar preservation and less acute water’s edge drop-offs. I, in fact, stand among those who like the idea of conserving sandbars – and maybe building large mounds of sand right next to the water so I, make that surfcasters, can cast farther.

That said, years ago I made up a saying: “Beggars can’t be choosey.”

(Then again: 

Actually, my exact saying was, “Oh, quit your bitchin’ and get a frickin’ job.” But, boo-hoo, that allegedly violated the civil rights of beggars, who held a protest rally over my saying, marching on D.C. by the hundreds – and joined by dozens of top chefs, who misheard it as a “Bakers Protest Rally.” So, not only did the beggars get my saying drubbed but they also got tons of excellent appetizers and assorted finger foods that even congressmen and senators ran out to try. I ended up getting pelted by crackers covered in sheep’s milk “maggot cheese” and snail caviar, which, I should note, the beggars choosily choose not to eat. By the time the rally was done imbibing on fine French aperitifs, Congress returned to its quarters to find it somehow gained 18 members.

Yes, that was quite a tangent but it’s a lead-in to the goodly enough number of folks who aren’t wild about others trying to tweak the beach replenishment to meet certain user agendas. One replenishment-anxious Islander said, and I quote, “Beggars can’t be choosey.” How disgustingly PC.

It should be fully understood that it is easement holdouts, solely, that threaten the expanding of LBI beach replenishment efforts, not folks vying for modifications to the replenishment models. Wanting to tweak the salvation sands coming to the Island is still highly LBI-friendly. But holding out on easements to get a big payday …

BEACH BUGGY BANTER: I have never ever gotten so many calls, emails and Facebooks asking about the status of the front beaches for buggying this fall. Please believe me when I say – on the behalves of Island municipalities – that there are tricky last-minute beach tweaks needed before giving the final 4WD OK.

I will go out on a limb by unofficially saying that it seems Island municipalities are amenable to buggy the beaches this fall.

Over the weekend, I had another chat with the Army Corps about the finalizing of the beachfronts of HC, SC and BB. Crossovers, dune fencing, beach buggy access points are being finished in HC and BB. Surf City will be last to get that grooming action.

The final touches are being done by subcontractors of Great Lakes Dredging. Those cherry-on-top activities will likely come to an end right about time buggying season begins.

I’ll, of course, stay on this dicey issue but will likely be hemming and hawing until opening day arrives. Per my nature, I’m optimistically focused on permits finally being issued close to the usual fall beach buggy schedules.

Please, do not bug the towns about buggy permits – yet. Hopefully we won’t have to even assume the bug mode. And we could all use a peaceful, quiet, fishful fall.

By the by, huge stretches of LBI beachfront look ideal for driving. It’s easy to forget that as recently as a few years back, we had skinny sections of beach that required exiting, driving the pavement for a stretch before getting back on beyond the erosion areas. Overall, it’s better now than then.

HARVEY CEDARS RUN-DOWN, LITERALLY: I recently wrote about the concern-causing Causeway work. While I got a veritable caravan of agreers behind me, I also got responses from another direction, namely folks bemoaning “a far deadlier stretch of road.” One email read, “Why are you writing about that (Causeway) when the real danger is the Boulevard here in Harvey Cedars!”

I knew of what the emailer spoke – in spades.

I drive to “Cedars” every weekend (for volleyball) and unfailingly marvel at the dumbfounding closeness twixt zipping motorists and plodding pedestrians. Mere inches separate tender bodies and heavy-metal motoring madness. It’s world-class nutsness.

Personally, I fear for the kids – and they are a-shoulder in huge numbers in HC. It’s the nature of little ones to misstep. You can’t afford even a fractional misstep in Cedars. Where else in the entire state do women pushing baby carriages, or men holding the hands of young’uns, have their elbows brushed by perpetually impatient drivers clipping by at over 40 mph?

The margin for driver error thereabouts is nonexistent. One senior moment or texting drift or DWI wobble and you can kiss an entire beach-bound family good-bye. It’s death on the hoof from one end of the borough to the other.

Sure, I know the intrinsic fury exhibited by folks in Barnegat Light and Loveladies over the mere mention of changing Harvey Cedars’ Boulevard to a three-lane roadway, with a middle turning lane. The north end folks swear such a lane-reduction plan is a covert effort to destroy all life forms north of Cedars, alleging emergency vehicles will somehow be thwarted by such a traffic pattern change in HC.

I’m not taking sides here – since either side of the Boulevard in Harvey Cedars is equally deadly. But I have no doubt I’m closer to saving lives by supporting the lane rearrangement than leaving all those trembling folks tight roping the edge of the roadway.

FUN WITH SKATES: I got an email from a young gun asking if skates can bite? He caught one over the weekend.

Skate will chomp down but have no teeth. In fact, with a smaller one, it’s kinda fun to put your finger in its mouth just to make it clamp down. You’ll see it isn’t much on crunching power. What it has is holding power.

Mannly Fun thing: Run around with one or two skate dangling from your finger; yelling and pretending you’re being attacked by them. Little kids panic and bolt, swearing they’re never going to leave the computer’s side ever again.

I even recall one ultra-large skate in Holgate that put a damn decent clamp on my thumb. After the initial bit of pressure pain, it made for a really convincing-looking skate attack. I staggered along the water’s edge, moaning and letting my attacked arm dangle down, the doormat skate dragging along on the sand. A slew of weekend anglers looked on in sheer shock, doing squat. It wasn’t until a buddy of mine came running toward me with a fillet knife to help that I quickly pried out my finger. “I’m just pretending! I’m just pretending!” I imagined him saving me by lopping off my thumb.

A quick note about skate tails. They have no stings, like their look-a-like stingray cousins, but they do have jagged, scaly protrusions that have a slight ripping capacity if grabbed bare-handedly. I still tail-grab skate but make sure to get a firm grip. If the skate shakes out of a hand grip, it’ll take some of the grabber’s skin along for the ride.

As for the old question of eating skate, that’s a given. Much of the world is actually running short of skate meat due to escalating demand in gastronomic circles.

Unfortunately, our way-too-common little skate isn’t taste tempting enough to garner planetary demand – which might help us control this pest.

Oddly, just to our north is the growingly sought-after barndoor skate, being dredged (bycatch) for the world market. I’ve had barndoor skate and they are scrumptious. Little skate are more toward the so-so-ish side of the plate.

BARRACUDA: I got an email from Brian C. with an underwater photo of either a barracuda (likely) or a sennet (rarer). It was seen near Barnegat Inlet.

I’ve taken loads of tiny barracudas during my professional seining days. Collectors wanted them for their aquariums – until it ended up being the only thing left in said aquarium.

By the by, I did damn well netting and transporting locally caught “tropicals,” mainly seined in bayside Barnegat Light. There was/is a huge market for all our sometimes-plentiful baby butterfly fish. The main buyers were up Camden County way.

Even newbies to saltwater aquariums can keep N.J. butterfly fish alive since the seemingly dainty fish are so toughened up from being hatched here – as opposed to tropics-caught butterfly fish, which are wimps outside their cozy environments.

I retired from the tropical fish business when gas prices took off and my time got assigned elsewhere. There are still years where butterfly fish can be seined around here by the dozens.

EVEN COWS MUST HIDE: Email: The water finally cleared up and the diving has been eventful if nothing else. Wanted to give you an update of what has been going on in the inlet. So much life it’s crazy: good size tog, trigger, fluke, sheepshead, blues, cunner, scup? (I think), lots of bait I can’t identify, and of course bass, which is kind of why I am writing you. Today the bass were holed up doing their best tog impression. I have never seen anything like it. They are usually on the move and hanging in the current. Today they were chilling in the rocks (until spooked) on both jetties. Wild! What’s your take?

That tog-like behavior by stripers is 100 percent defensive. I absolutely guarantee there were big sharks in the rocky hood. In the early 1980s, we were surfing Bergen Avenue in HC and a group of us were running back to paddle out at the jetty when just the head of a 40-pound striper washed in – with its gills still moving! I frickin’ kid you not. There’s even a photo somewhere of it being held up by the late George S. It obviously didn’t find the rocks in time. It became a shark snack. Sure, we paddled right out. As George said, “That shark’s gotta be full.”

RUNDOWN: I refuse to say fluking is anything less than excellent. Sure, you got skunked a couple times this summer and a guy you know hasn’t seen such a bad fluking summer but I gotta run with the living, photo-laden proof I see in emails, Facebook and tackle-shot weigh-in boards. There are some sweet flatties showing everywhichaways. Be it ocean (best), inlets (decent) or bayside (iffy), the fluke are showing big and fat.

Remember: Fluke is a meat fish far more than a gamefish. What’s the difference if you get 10 pounds of top-shelf filets from half a dozen fish or just a couple? A huge chunk of fluking fun is taking home the chunks.

A bit oddly, I recently threw net where there had been loads of bayside spot and didn’t net a one. It could be they’re mustering for migration, which would put them in more concentrated balls.

Blowfish haven’t gone anywhere. It’s been many a year since so many fishing folks have pushed off with purely puffers in mind. I’ve seen photos of 50 or more on a dockside cleansing table.

You can’t say blowfish tails without saying delicious. One thing I recall from way back, blowfish tails are only so-so as freezable meat.

I first learned to hard freeze fish when putting up pounds of blowfish. I’d open the top of an empty/rinsed paper half-gallon milk container so the top flaps were still attached. I’d carefully layer blowfish tails to nearly the top, and then fill the container with freshwater with a mere pinch of salt. Then, I’d refold the top flaps into their original layout and staple the container shut. It wasn’t watertight – so they had to be allowed to stand upright until fully frozen – but it fully kept freezer burn and taste out. The big trick was to allow the block of tails to thaw slowly, pulling off loosed tails as they melted free, then refrigerating the thawed tails as the others in the middle of the block finally released. That process works for many a filet. Use quart milk containers to store smaller, single-meal portions.

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