(NOTE: As I zip my columns out to this website -- ahead of it even going into The SandPaper -- it is a rough draft with typos and such. I apologize for the pre-editing mistakes but I figure you'd rather see things first andf foremost.)
See All Y’all in 2010;
Grab Some Schoolies
I’m soon on vacation, zipping off to far-away places -- possibly as far south as Tuckerton and northward to where Japanese tourist flock to get the ultimate view of the aurora borealis and to photograph deer ticks in all their natural glory: The Forked River Mountains. (I want to hire the advertising agency that marketed that destination.)
For my big break, I hope to be doing tons of plugging for schoolies, clamming the south end mudflats, tracking Ocean County coyotes and treasure hunting. (I’m hot on the trail of Tuckerton railroad artifacts. Got any leads?)
I’ll keep a hand in the writing realm via my website http://jaymanntoday.ning.com/
In that vein, I’m also heavily in the story-seeking mode. Pass on those wild and wooly experiences you’ve had while fishing or exploring the great outdoors. Even if they don’t seem exciting, I have an entire shelf of exotic verbiages to spice them up. I’ll cook ‘em up real nice for my return to The SandPaper for the January 6, 2010 issue.
2010! Are you kidding me? How did I ever last this long? Hell, I’ve been shot, stabbed, clubbed and snake bit. And that was just January 11, 1972. Not my best day. As I grow long in the artificial tooth, I doubly ponder the idiom, “Only the good die young.” Hmmm.
Even in the face of a testy economy, warming seas and too many ghost reality show, you have to admit that things are pretty damn good, especially for those of us who live the Jersey Shore lifestyle, be it year’ round or just for frequent visits. Hopefully, this Christmas season will offer added LBI visiting opportunities for off-Islanders and offer us locals a chance to carry on old holiday traditions, among those, collecting what we used to call “Christmas clams” from Holgate, nabbing those schoolie striped bass for olde time holiday feasts and emailing everyone on our “Contacts” list to offer season’s greetings. OK, so maybe some “traditions” are a tad less tried-and-tested than others.
Officially, have a great Christmas season and let’s kick some ass in 2010.
TIDES BOTTOM OUT: The westerly winds honked for a good 36 hours late last week but the water blown out of the bay on par with a weeklong blow. Three different Beach Haven West homeowners said they saw easily the lowest tides ever. One fellow, Morris Boulevard, had lived there over 35 years. It was the first time his moored boat bottomed out. “I looked down and thought it had sunk. Then I realized it was sitting on the mud. Never seen anything like it.” Ditto for a lagooner down in Tuckerton. “I didn’t have a chance of getting out (to the bay). I coulda walked out the lagoon easier,” he said.
The seemingly increasing number of record-breaking blowout tides is further notice that the bay is getting shallow at a breakneck pace. All those summer algal blooms, tapping into the over-nitrification of the bay, are showing as inches – then feet – of bottom detritus. Water pressure compresses the annual muck fallout into a harder pack. Each year, more algal sinkage lights atop that.
The plot thickens when the bay shallows. There is soon a lowered volume of baywater – and it gets blown away easier than ever, come winter and its related west winds. Yes, that shallower bay thing also means that blown-in water from storms can accumulate faster. Remember my recentl writings about the way many “Road Flood” barrels and markers are now all but permanently residing near the increasing number of fast-flood roads on LBI? Baywater issues forth, through the sewers, when it can’t find room. Also, if you’re so pessimistically inclined, you can factor in global sea rise. For now, believe me when I say that radical bay tides are more a result of an over-nutrified bay that global warming. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to get on the bandwagon to stop the polluting (fertilizers and petroleum byproducts) that is essentially fostering the disappearance of the bays.
SOMALI PIRATE SUPPORTER: I’m compelled to pass on this aggravating, albeit fascinating, email exchange I recently had after receiving a totally legitimate email from a Somali. The emailer (not sure, man or woman) took me to task for my ongoing verbal barrages against Somalia pirates, which I, in full respect, feel are a buncha mindless goons gone mad off the coast of that chaotic little nation. The attacks on fishing vessel are a daily threat in waters well off the coast of Somalia.
When I first got the email, I was convinced it had actually arrived from Somaliland. “Wow, are you, like, an actual pirate and stuff?” I emailed back. I’m easily star struck.
No such luck. It was from a Somalia expatriate living in North Jersey. He/she is a caregiver, working for folks who live up there and also have a home on LBI. The former-Somali’s well-written email reflected an education begotten in England. We never got around to whether or not the émigré was ever actually in Somalia.
Anyway, one paraphrased line from the exchanged emails (the sender requested none be published in full) indicates that the people of Somalia believe the “thousands” of commercial fishing vessels are “raping” the waters of their destitute nation. The implication is the pirating is retaliation.
I have to admit I felt very worldly knowing my fishing column had reached such a global scale. But, I also have to say – albeit it more guardedly – that the pirates off Somalia remain pure criminals, if not downright hideous people. I will grudgingly bow to the notion that there may be a tad of patriotism tucked in the far back hold of the pirates’ cigar boats. However, kidnapping, ransom and murder seem a tad too severe for your everyday fishery conservation efforts. What’s more, the millions of dollars already gained by the goons all went into the purses of known warlords, the same ones who essentially massacred American soldiers trying to help the diseased and impoverished peoples of that nation.
Note: I am working on an interview with a fellow who commercially fished an American boat off east Africa. As crew, he was part of an onboard guard force that had to be kept 24-7.
CITES AND SPINY DOGS: Seems that CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) has come to its senses regarding spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias). They are off the list, so to speak.
There had been talk – and conservational efforts by some green groups – to place the tiny sharks on a CITES list of harvested fish, purportedly being wracked by international trade.
Such a conservational concern amazed and dismayed fishermen around the planet. A glut of dogfish has become the bane of fishermen from hereabouts, down to western South America, over to Australia and up to Japan. Fascinatingly, the eat-any-fish Japanese want no part of spiny dogs – and are furious at the localized overabundance of same, which is all but ruining commercial fishing efforts to reach prized codfish and such.
Turns out dogfish won’t even be on the menu for the hugely important 15th Conference of CITES to be held March 13 – 25, 2010 in Doha, Qatar.
The dogfish was pondered as a possible candidate for CITES Appendix II action, which restricts some trade in a troubled species, based on the possibility that unrestricted worldwide trade could lead to a dangerous decline.
Determining what creatures need 2010 CITES help was an advisory panel consisting of 22 international fishery experts from 15 different countries. While the panel didn’t think dogfish were a worthy Appendix II candidate, per se, they did issue a statement saying that inadequate management in some areas of the world is a cause for serious concern. I might add that groups like that seldom address the possibility that too many of a certain species might be a serious concern.
BFT BAN WITH TEETH: The 15th Conference of CITES, to be attended by reps from the 80 nations in the organization, is still loaming large due to the possibility it might lead to a ban of all international trade in bluefin tuna. That would come via CITES Appendix I -- the strictest ruling the group can make. It should be noted that not all the experts on the advisory panel agreed with such a radical tuna move, likely the most impact-laden ban the group has ever considered,
A CITES full-blown ban of world trade in bluefin tuna would hit close to home. I know America has traditionally done a ton of trade in bft, far-and-away the most valuable fish on the planet. What Japan alone does by way of bft imports can pay the entire planet’s electric bill for a month. The odds of Japan fully accepting a CITES ban? None. There is a possibility of fractionizing blue fin tuna biomass into separate stocks, Atlantic, Pacific, etc. That could mean one stock would be under Appendix I and another under the less draconian Appendix II.
It’ll be pretty ugly should a potential CITES bft trade ban run headlong into immensely weaker International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) provisions. Experts and non-experts alike agree that ICCAT’s half-assed provisions – and lack of enforcement -- have allowed the wholesale destruction of the species in the Atlantic. ICCAT has appropriately been likened to the foxes watching the henhouse. Still, ICCAT remains the authority of choice for commercial fishing interests.
In an end-around effort, ICCAT recently suggested (which is the most they seem capable of doing) another in a series of cuts in the allowable bft harvest.
Per U.S. ICCAT rep and National Coalition for Marine Conservation president Ken Hinman, “The impending threat of a total ban on trade in bluefin undoubtedly motivated ICCAT countries to bring the catch down by quite a bit. But, is the lower quota enough to save the species, and is it enough to convince the world that an endangered listing under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is no longer necessary?"
In the past, many fishing nations have covertly snubbed ICCAT’s mandates. However, snubbing CITES could bloody a lot of commercial fishing noses. If you’ve ever seen enforcement coming down on the likes of illegally imported elephant ivory tusks, rhino feet or tiger’s teeth (all Appendix I listed), that is CITES in its most fierce and unforgiving mode. If that vigilance and enforcement carries over to bft, it could lead to a bona fide rebound in the stocks -- or, more alarmingly, an eventual ignoring of CITES. The trickle down effect of civil disobedience could mean a diminished effectiveness in protecting the direly endangered species listed under CITES.
ARTIFICIALS LACK BITE: As things return to post-Classic mellowness, a read on the fall fishing has to be a great one – with so many stripers of 25 pounds and up. However, it might also be called the fall that artificials faltered. It’s almost a stunner how plugs and such failed to garner even a glance from bass, even though nearby anglers were banging the bejeezus out of them using spot, snag-and-drop bunker or everyday bunker chunks. Clams were doing OK but nowhere near the success rate of bloodier meat presentation.
So why the failure of artificials?
Pretty simple – at least in the eyes of fish. Why risk grabbing something that seems odd and unusual when there is a veritable feast of easily defined, easily recognized forage fish all over the place? Face it, bunker are now everywhere. A satiated striper is far less inclined to risk taking even a passive swipe at a plug.
Of course, we are now into the schoolie bass season. These are the kid bass, so to speak. Like all kids, they’re a lot more impetuous and are just learning the ropes of what can and can’t/shouldn’t be eaten. Schoolies often get schooled the hard way, by doing test chomps on plugs and jigs. They’re particularly fascinated by teasers, which seem so safe.
Even savvy larger bass are often attracted to cleverly designed teasers (and flies) but often pass on nailing them simply because the size of the meal isn’t worth the effort. All predators have this instinctive calculator that, in a veritable heartbeat, appraises the energy output needed to chase down a targeted meal versus the final nutritional gain.
I always like to watch during mullet runs when bass are enticed by large pods of seemingly dead-meat mullet, only to be out-sped and out-maneuvered by the speedy baitfish. That is why artificials work so well during the mullet migration. Bass quickly realize the only real chance they have to bag a mullet is finding one that is badly wounded. After countless futile forays after scooting schooled mullet, a bass is doubly enticed by a sashaying shallow-diving plug, or a splashy surface popper.
Back to those arriving schoolies, they’re always suckers for clam gobs. I bring that up since take-home fish become increasingly hard to find from here on in, though with everything running so late this year I can’t imagine not having dinner fish into January. It’s a perfect time of year to switch over to circle hooks.
GOTTA SIGN UP, BOYS: Below is the notice of the need for all NJ anglers to register with the feds before fishing in 2010.
No need to be shocked and dismayed. It’s been inevitable since the mandate came down from DC that a census must be taken. I think there’s an esoteric irony here, that this notice to register is going out in December, when the most famous census of all time -- Caesar Augustus’ decree that everyone has to return to their homelands for the Roman census -- took place.
After posting this on my website, I had a couple (lengthy) phone-ins at work. Both callers voiced identical fears that signing up – even for a non-fee year – essentially commits us to a for-certain saltwater fishing license.
Being bred within a generation that lived by the water-holding mandate “never volunteer.” I also feel that such a practice sign-up is surely unadvisedly volunteering information – and vicariously accepting the “registry” premise. However, there is a little something called the law. If you don’t abide, bad things can definitely happen if you keep on fishin’. First, there are wallet-whacking things like fines. Then, up comes a loss of fishing privileges. Finally, you can be incarcerated. When you’re sitting in lock-up, it’ll be hard to tell the difference between your seemingly lightweight violations versus folks in there who broke actual law laws.
There is no legal alternative that I can see but to sign up – or abandon angling. I’ve heard some folks bandy about just such radical responses. Personally, I’m hoping to be a hardship case. “Hey, I don’t catch squat when I do fish, so how about letting me slide until the planet ends in 2012?”
I should also add that there is still recourse even if we all play nice and voluntarily participate in the first-year-free sign-up game. During 2011, some miracle eleventh-hour moves might see the state of NJ paying for the registry (no chance at all, but hey …) or the registry gets so unworkable in states already adopting it that it simply gets abandoned (anorectically skinny chance of that). Also, the entire registry might not meet long-term legal muster in the courts. That court thing is the best chance of all, but with odds a lot like that long tall Texan and Mother Teresa: Slim and nun.
Do we get an actual paper license? I’ll soon find out, as I go electronic to register. Just my luck, I try to be all legal and law-abiding, register ahead of the pack and become the first to receive a registered letter advising me report immediately to Fort Benning, Georgia, for Advanced Infantry Training before deployment to Afghanistan. “Uh, what kinda plugs should I bring with me, Gunny?”
“The NJ DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife reminds saltwater anglers that the federal government's National Saltwater Angler Registry Program requires most New Jersey saltwater anglers to register prior to fishing in 2010.
You must register if you:
* Fish for or catch anadromous species (striped bass, shad, river herring) in state tidal waters
* Fish in Federal waters (more than 3 miles from shore)
You do not have to register if you*
* Are under 16 years of age
* Only fish on federally licensed party or charter boats
* Hold a Highly Migratory Species Angling Permit
Online and telephone registration will begin January 1, 2010. Register online at
or call toll free 888-674-7411.
Registration is free in 2010.
HOW DUMB IS THAT?: I got a press release that the famed IQ test is now being simplified to lessen the impression that the test is ridiculously esoteric and stodgy. That sounded great to us of a simpler mindset. I eagerly read the report, certain I’d discover a kindler and gentler (on the mind) IQ test. Here’s the very first sentence regarding the simplified version of the Intelligence Quotient test “ … modern IQ tests such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale is now based on a projection of the subject's measured rank on the Gaussian bell curve with a center value (average IQ) of 100, and a standard deviation of 15, although different tests may have different standard deviations.”