Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Out of all holidays great and small, Christmas Day has an unapproachable lead when it comes to being anticlimactic. This is not a bad thing since it simply highlights the buildup to the day itself, beginning months in advance. Celebratory in its own way is the Christmas countdown, with the light hanging, the shopping, the card writing, the store tapestries, the sounds of everything from Bing to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and the anticipation of a vacation break. All this holiday hullabaloo sets the top-this bar too high for the big event itself to top. It even has a hard time outdoing the post-Christmas cool-down period, when a palpable calm sets in, a relief-it’s-over peacefulness -- despite only 364 shopping days until Christmas.
Anyway, here’s hoping the entire Christmas package shined for all y’all – and that the next holiday (of sorts) is the greatest ever, speaking of New Year’s Day and, specifically, the making of a resolution.
If there was ever a time to make a for-real resolution, it’s now. I’m going full guns on resolving to finally subdue my pandemic-induced irascibility, something just about everyone needs to curtail. Vowing to be a friendlier motorist might be a good everyday starting point … providing all those other jackass drivers get their s*** together! Oh, dang, this is going to be tougher than I thought.
Don’t try this at home – unless you have a rascally raccoon in the attic.
My in-house raccoon, as nearly as I clearly hear it, is hanging in the attic right over my bedroom. As I wrote in my weekly column, it is the world’s noisiest critter, either accidentally or purposely knocking over anything it passes, which is not all that hard with my goodie-packed attic.
While I like wildlife, having it wake me up every a.m. right before first light, in this case coming back to its news digs after fattening up on garbage can fodder, had me bleary-eyed and highly unsharp throughout the workday. The trash panda had to go.
Getting rid of the rapidly-named Ralph the Racoon seemed a formidable task. The insane congestion in the attic restricted putting in humane traps. Going after Ralph with a cast net was impossible, due to low hanging two-by-four beams and all. Using a pest professional was not an option, lest an exterminator get lost in the attic and never found again. And, I’ll leave before using toxic removal methods.
Then, a couple nights back, as I lay awake at 4:54 a.m. marveling over how anything so otherwise stealthy when foraging the neighborhood can make such a racket, a stroke of sheer genius befell me in a cure-for-the-critter epiphany. So, as the emerging day took hold, and I readied for work, I added yet another item to the attic: a very powerful Bluetooth portable speaker, aligned with my Sony sound system. Yep, I headed off with the attic rafters rocking with nonstop heavy metal music, via YouTube’s “ Heavy Metal Songs Collection (5.5 hours),” automatically followed by three hours of Metallica, a video called “Metallica Greatest Hits.” I went Noriega on the raccoon.
As you might chucklingly recall, Manuel Antonio Noriega, the scummy former Panamanian military dictator, using CIA funds meant to defeat communism in Central America, instead used millions in donated US dollars as seed money to create a powerful drug trafficking cartel.
He went from an almost ally to America’s most wanted, going straight to the top of the CIA hit-hard list and having a million-dollar bounty placed on his head.
Forced to go military on his ass, the US organized one of the largest attack forces since Nam, consisting of 27,000 soldiers as well as 300 aircraft. Crack Seal and Delta forces were in on the action.
A shifty Noreiga, seeing his troops wither away under the attack force, bolted to the sanctuary of an Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican’s’ embassy.
Being good Christian attackers, our forces paused outside the holier-than-thou building, a bit miffed at Noriega’s praying hands strategy. That’s when General “Mad Max” Thurman turned up the volume on the attack by unloosing the deafening sound system on Humvees. He created a “Musical Barrier” aimed directly at the opera-loving ears of the enemy within.
On Christmas day, 1989, a sound wave of an amplitude The Who, credited with the world’s loudest rock concerts, would have envied.
An intrinsically hilarious Guardian article headlined, “How Manuel Noriega surrendered to the sanity-destroying power of mallrat music” writer Gavin Haynes offered, “The first day was something of a truce – Christmas music. But thereafter, things rapidly descended towards classic rock. Noriega was an opera fan. Instead of Verdi, he got a psyops (psychological operations) playlist that included Billy Idol’s Flesh for Fantasy, Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses, God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood, We’re Not Going to Take It by Twisted Sister, several songs by the Doors: Strange Days, People Are Strange, The End, War Pigs by Black Sabbath, Electric Spanking of War Babies by Funkadelic, and most worryingly of all: If I Had a Rocket Launcher by Bruce Cockburn.”
Other accounts had a Van Halen cassette tape, provided by Special Forces Sergeant John Bishop, as the prime sound fury.
Noriega, aurally wracked and egged on by nearby nations that could hear the music way over their ways (not true), surrendered.
Uh, how the hell did I get to this point? Oh, that’s right, ridding myself of the renamed Noriega the Raccoon. Well, loud story short, the invader was sounded clean out of the attic. It has now been five days without so much as a proverbial peep to be heard. This is not to say sound warfare is the way to routinely address raccoons in the attic or bats in the belfry, but it might by a highly humane way to oust such interlopers. By the by, I was going to use recorded nonstop sound of dogs barking but I feared the hyper hearing of Fidos around the block would have led to response chaos.
WEATHER WATCH: I won’t go hog wild here except to say I see another influx of less-than-wintry weather approaching, the result of a persistent la Nina influence.
What makes things tough when foreseeing weather with la Nina in play is the historic fact she has been know to unloose some of the bitterest air the lower 48 have ever seen, especially when she evokes warm high-pressure intrusions over the arctic, where an annual static low pressure system – the stratospheric polar vortex -- holds frigid winter vortexes tightly together. When that cold core low is broken by other air masses, breakaway vortexes can sink down across the US, literally lowering pools of single-digit air southward, as we saw maybe a decade or so ago.
It was early signs of the polar vortex being sheered into breakaway pieces by la Nina that had long-range forecasters first calling for a brutally cold winter, beginning by now.
History note: During my Christmas vacation back in the early 1990s, the exact year eludes me, I spent the entire two-week stint ice fishing Collins Cove on the Mullica. In fact, leading up to Christmas of that year, the high temps were barely into the teens with the long-night lows in the single digits to below zero. That was a time of polar air masses dipping down with a vengeance. Such a crush of late-fall and early winter frigidity was what many experts had on tap for the 2021/22 winter.
Might la Nina still force high pressure into the Arctic, downloading critically cold air upon us in January and February? To be trite, it’s complicated.
Other shorter-term factors can always join the overall sky picture, especially surface variabilities, meaning concentrated storms and, locally, ocean temperature anomalies, the latter able to effect NJ weather from even great distances away.
Another huge factor impacting the troposphere (from the earth's surface to a height of about 3.7–6.2 miles) is one I’ve come to watch very closely. It’s the maritime tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico, symbolized mT. That huge warm air mass moves north in the summer, becoming continental maritime (cT), both directly and indirectly dominating summer weather across much of the nation east of the Rockies. It is especially powerful when combined with a Bermuda high pressure pump of mT Atlantic air.
The Gulf mT air mass is typically pressed southward in winter, and of only minor import for all but states adjacent to the gulf. Up our way, we traditionally see the winter upper air jet streams (in the stratosphere) usher in colder northern air, influenced by continental polar (cP) air.
Whatever the larger cause – from la Nina to, larger yet, global warming -- the cold northern jet stream has tended to remain to the north, with only dips into the Great Lakes and New England. That positioning of the jet allows troposphere factors at ground level to carry the day, especially from the Midwest to the Middle Atlantic.
The current sky set-up can be watched for uncustomary northward intrusions of milder mT air, what I simplistically call bubbles of warm air. This late fall and winter such bubbles have inserted themselves into short-lived periods of typical winter temperatures. Such will be the case twixt Christmas and New Year’s, with the potential for temps far above normal and bordering on all-time high for mainland areas.
One peculiarity to date is the lack of storms common to mild and moist air masses moving out of the Gulf. Not that anyone up this way is complaining about our relatively storm-free stint. That said, the recent horrific tornadoes down south were surely the result of the confluence of two opposing air masses, possibly made worse by the above-mentioned juxtaposition of air.
While it’s folly to rely on weather prognostication in here, with amazing insights being offered by world-class weather people, I do specialize in watching the weather with just LBI in mind. That offers the luxury of eyeing the sky for us alone, a far simpler task than trying to follow the entire national trends.
DON’T GET ME WRONG: I’m taking the unfair rap of being down on stripers. That’s absurd to the nth degree. Not only do I faithfully fish for them, but I rate them as one of the finest gamefish going, more so now that blues, weakfish and red drum are pretty much thorough no-shows. I simply can’t abide by haphazard management techniques favoring the striped ones over all else that swims in the sea. It’s all part of an honorable equality-seeking effort on my part.
By way of just such fairness, I will head into 2022 with plans to focus more amicably on the lives and times of striped bass, having gathered an impressive modern data file on Morone saxatilis, led by the impressive research being done by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).
I’ll start early by passing on one of the odder aspects of the bass biomass. Inexplicably, today’s striped bass sexually mature earlier than they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Half of all female fish are now ready to successfully spawn at 2.95 years old. That means many bass just under 18 inches, weighing about four pounds, are thick in the spawn mix. As recently as the late 1970s, the average female striper would not reach sexual maturity until six or seven years of age.
Below: VIMS at work ...
It is suspected that the acceleration in sexual maturity might be a genetic response to smaller and younger fish being the prime members of spawns, as larger fish have been lost to fishing pressure, with the recreational fishery now being responsible for 85 to 90% of annual striped bass removals during the last decade, per VIMS.
To be sure, the offspring of younger spawn participants can grow to monumental sizes, dispelling the misbegotten belief you must have trophy fish to produce more trophy fish. That said, we need the big ’uns to make angling interesting. See, I’m already showing some M saxatilis love.
Thinking further outside the box, I have read a load of studies on the dissemination of human hormones into the 500-mile-long Chesapeake Basin, birthplace of most bass. In his book, “Troubled Water,” activist Seth Siegel contends that flushed birth-control pills “add more than 10 million doses of synthetic estrogen to U.S. wastewater every day.”
In a National Institute of Health report titled, “Fish populations surviving estrogen pollution,” corresponding author Claus Wedekind writes, “Exposure to estrogens can have various detrimental effects in fish. It can reduce general viability, induce gonadal malformations or feminization of genetic males, or lead to sterilization.”
It seems logical that earlier sexual maturity might easily be added to that list of detrimental effects. I adhere to the “detrimental” angle since there’s the possibility that earlier sexual maturity might reduce spawn success in the long run.
Copyright © 2021 Times Newspapers
By Charlie Devereux
December 21, 2021
A company in Spain is planning to produce the world's first farmed octopus, which it says will contribute to sustaining marine biodiversity but which has led to allegations of cruelty.
Nueva Pescanova, in Galicia, on the Atlantic coast of northwest Spain, hopes to start selling farm-reared octopus by next summer. The company has invested €7.5 million in a research and development centre near Pontevedra, where 40 investigators will develop techniques in aquaculture.
The company has already overcome the challenge of breeding octopuses in captivity, given that the larvae eat only live food and need a carefully controlled environment.
Nueva Pescanova argues that farmed octoptus can replace those captured in the wild, therefore helping to maintain marine biodiversity. In Spain, where octopus is a popular dish, the majority comes from Morocco because overfishing has depleted stocks in Galicia.
Scientists and conservationists say that rearing octopuses in tanks is cruel, given growing evidence of their intelligence and capacity for feelings.
A study by the London School of Economics found that octopuses were sentient beings. Its report said: "Octopuses are solitary animals that are often aggressive towards each other in confined spaces. We are convinced that high-welfare octopus farming is impossible." It recommended that the British government ban imported farmed octopus and announce a preemptive ban on octopus farms in the UK.
Farming in the sea is a fast-growing area of food production, and is expected to be worth about £185 billion by 2027. It is an industry with plenty of room to expand of an estimated 250,000 species only 560 have been produced through aquaculture.
Nueva Pescanova already owns sea farms producing turbot in Galicia and giant prawns in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Guatemala.