jaymanntoday

Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Wow, there’s life out there. This past week I got a goodly slew of emails, blog-mails, and chatments (comments picked up while chatting with angling and non-so folks, often at church). Much of this week’s admittedly ambulatory column is thusly derived.

Keep those card and letters coming. Just don’t send any alerts. And what’s up with all this alert madness? There are those nearly nonstop “Silver Alerts” on highway digital signs, whereby we’re alerted to look for oldening Jersey motorists -- who go out for their regular morning coffee at Wawa, get a tad lost and ultimately end up being taken hostage somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan.

Then there’s that eye-opening, ear-rattling statewide television version of “Amber Alert.” That’s the abducted kids thing; a super good thing if ever. What ain’t so good is that “Amber Alert” wail tone, a recurring invasion of our TV space via a hideous screech, akin to an electronic goose being torn apart by a pack of feral cats. There’s no focusing on “Gold Rush” when that alert kicks on.

But there’s actually more alertedness now bumping your way, as folks in Little Egg recently found out. It’s called a lost pet alert. A number of e-companies now offer a service whereby despondent lost-pet people can pay something like 80 bucks and have literally every single phone in the lost-pet area called four or more times. Upon pickup, a recorded announcement alerts one-and-all that a specific hometown pet is lost. A description and contact point follows. I sardonically imagine: “Hi, my name is Hal. I live out on that high-speed section of Route 9. I got the alert about your cat, Buster. I, uh, kinda think I found him. Uh, his collar is still in pretty good shape.” 

By the by, I have no doubt the pet alert intrusion PO’ed a load of Little Egg folks but the ones I talked to – avid per owners – said they took it quite seriously and hopped to, assuming their finest look-about mode, some even stepping outside just to check nearby.

It would almost be worth 80 bucks to launch an all-points phone-out pet alert for an “18-foot python that goes by the name of Kaa. Very friendly. Red collar. Often enters vehicles through the smallest of openings. Enjoys cats.” 

Per usual, I have to think in terms of retiring someday so I’m wondering about a bite-alert service. For just a C-note a year, you get real-time phone messages about where blitzes have busted out. I can see working out an agreement with the sate to use that westbound-facing digital sign on Rte. 72, Manahawkin. Flash: “Turn around! Bass blitz just began on Hudson Avenue!”

FERAL NONSENSE: Of course, I have to chime in on this feral cat to-do in Harvey Cedars, whereby a man was cited for feeding untamed domestic cats, which are rather (quite) numerous within that small high-end borough.

Firstly, I know wild. Been there, seen that. Domestic cats -- and even ferals are domestic -- aren’t meant to be untamed.

While happily homed felines are things of beauty and benevolence, feral cats are a whole other beast. And if you’ve ever seen one caged or cornered, it’s obvious homeless cats quickly morph into a form of misaligned urban wildlife.

Per studies, a solid majority of cat lovers agree that ferals are not their cup of cat tea. Many a mild-mannered lap-cat, during its allotted bout of outdoorness, have been raped, shredded and even de-nined by feral feline gangs hangin’ in the hood.

I oft hear nonsense that neo-wild cats are “living the way they should,” free and natural.  First of all, given their druthers, every domestic cat wants to be indoors and pampered by affection-giving, food-garnering humans.

Can an animal lover truly believe domestic cats like freezing their furry asses off in the winter, to then simmer like stewing roadkill all summer -- hungry on a daily basis?

I already hear the poorly thought-out retort: That’s why we feed them. What? To further perpetuate the torment, as more and more animals are born into the festering feral mix? And don’t tell me all the ferals are spayed or fixed. Ask animal control, or the Humans Society, about that notion.

What’s more, do feralaphiles ever stop to think that the cats they’re clandestinely feeding are the alphas, fully willing and able to fend off – kill when possible -- any lessers? Hey, you wanted nature, dude. It’s survival of the fittest – in a venue unsuited to such inhumane hierarchies.

Finally, if you persist in that backyard “let them live wild” thinking, let’s turn it up a notch and allow feral pit bulls. Hell, I’ll feed them. You can see how ridiculous feral feeding can get?

AND STAY AWAY!: I will take fleeting credit for being the only weather prognosticator who predicted, far ahead of time, this freakishly feeble winter. To say I have to share the credit with (La) Niña is an understatement. She’s actually done all the heavy lifting, steering Jet Streams way to our north. I’ve opportunistically cashed in. This winter I’ve been fully able to carry on with my therapeutic treasure hunting, backwoods tracking, mountain biking and (soon) trail running.

Per the latest South Pacific Ocean temp readings, Niña remains quite the meteorological matriarch. She’s holding strong and steady. I should note that Niña has often fostered dramatic March storms in our area. Such wet and wild events aren’t likely until we get a more prolonged inflow of moist southerly winds.

For those of you hell-bent on global warmingizing every mild winter into living proof of doomstimes, you might want to check out Alaska. That region is struggling within one of its coldest winters in decades. And when one speaks of “coldest ever” in Alaskan terms, you better be wearing layers just to mention such.

NINA FUELS THE FLU? Fairly fearsome fallout from a Niña reign was recently put forth by Ivy League brain trusts.

A team of researchers from Columbia University and Harvard School of Public Health has found that dramatic La Niña appearances – and we’re having a doubly dramatic one -- have preceded the last four worldwide (and catastrophic) flu pandemics.

The team’s study, currently published online in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” points the finger of pandemic blame squarely on the wings of migrating birds, long thought to be the so-called reservoir of the human influenza virus. La Niña seems to modify avian migratory patterns – placing birdlife closer to humans and domestic livestock. Also adding to the viral exchange is milder weather, creating heightened  contact potential.

Study co-author, Dr Jeffrey Shaman from Columbia University, was quoted as saying, “We know that pandemics arise from dramatic changes in the influenza genome. Our hypothesis is that La Nina sets the stage for these changes by reshuffling the mixing patterns of migratory birds, which are a major reservoir for influenza.”

SUSHI BY THE THOUSANDS: The world’s most valuable tuna, a $740,000 giant bluefin tuna weighing 593-pound, caught off Northern Japan, was consumed in bite-sized portions -- in less than 24 hours!

Last week, the Kiyomura Co., a Tokyo-based firm operating the popular “Sushi Zanmai” chain, ceremoniously purchased the just-landed fish.

The media hoopla surrounding the big buy launched the chain to the top of Japan’s highly competitive sushi chain leader’s list.

The mega-yen purchase was also a boost to the company’s employees. "Certainly the morale of our staffers were greatly raised," recalled Kiyomura Co. president, Kiyoshi Kimura, 59.

Unlike similarly employed American employees, that company’s worker’s had something a little different in mind when they whispered, “I’d like to get a piece of that action.” They did get a piece – along with  squeeze of rice.

Had the fish’s price line been mercenarily maintained into the customer’s mouth, a tiny shaving of the tuna would have cost about $125. While that bft’s fame would have easily allowed the buyer to find plenty of folks willing to pay big yen for the honor of downing such a celebrated fish, Kimura went the admirably righteous route and charged the exact same price of an everyday bluefin tuna, about six bucks. Very cool guy.

Speaking to business publications, Kimura admitted that part of his generosity was aimed at boosting the wavering reputation of the Japanese fish market – and the nation’s suspect ocean waters – in the wake of the tsunami.

I saw a photo of the head of the world’s wealthiest (so to speak) tuna many days after it was caught. Oddly, it was perfectly intact. I have to think that was a promotional photo-op thing since the cheek meat and eyes of that monster hadn’t been removed. Five gran, easy.

RI ROUGHNECK COOLED: Up Rhode Island way, a commercial fishing boat captain is facing some serious downtime --- in the cooler.

Richard Wetherell, 61, has pleaded guilty to assaulting two federal at-sea monitors. Those monitors are the folks assigned by the Magnuson Act to watch what’s what aboard certain commercial vessels. They ostensibly collect data, though there is little doubt they also record any fishy fishing practices.

I’m the first to admit that, in the heat of the long-hours commercial fishing moment, things can get testy – and downright nasty -- on virtually any vessel. However, you have to be a bit too far astern to openly attack federal officials.

Wetherell was charged with physically attacking, impeding and intimidating the monitors, on at least two separate occasions. He faces a year in jail and $200,000 in fines.

His defense: “Hey, I’m the captain. I’ll attack, impede and intimidate anyone I feel like.”

Uh, meet Bubba, Cap.

 

 

PISS CLAM PRIMER: Email: We were walking the blowout tide over the weekend and came across the famed piss clams shooting up streams of water. We even digging as fast as we could but we couldn’t catch them. What can you tell me about this speedy bugger? Most of all how do you catch them?

You’re touching a bay subject near and dear to me. I always enjoy talking about piss clams since they’re seldom a hot topic when compared to other edible clams. What’s more, even bay seasoned shellfishermen rarely know the ins and outs of this deep-digging, highly secretive bivalve.

To begin with, we kinda oughta nix the piss clam references and use it’s more respectable name, the softshell clam. Oddly, that name seldom sticks for very long, being regionally displaced with a load of nicknames, including Ipswichs, longnecks, and, very commonly, steamers. However, that last nickname doesn’t fly well locally since we reserve the expression “steamer” for small (just keeper-sized) hardshell clams.

Whatever you dub them, softshell clams are not big in the professional baymen realm. Demand just ain’t there, at least hereabouts. There was once a middling market on LBI, one I tapped into back in the day. Older Old World folks bought all of them. I can still hear old lady Shorely yelling down the block, “You got any a them pissers today?”

Another reason pissers, I mean softshells aren’t particularly attractive to pros are their delicate nature, i.e. softshells. It’s a bitch getting them out of the sand without cracking their decidedly fragile shells. Even when dug, there’s the testy matter of tenderly transporting large numbers of them.

Another drawback is the work involved with digging softshells. And it is truly digging. Archetypal clamming methods, like treading, raking or tonging, won’t get you anywhere near softshells.

As to digging softshells, they ain’t where you think they are. If you’re standing on mud where hardclams hang, you’re too close to water. Softshells are way up high. They are located found by first finding air holes then digging down with heavier digging equipment. I use a Martha Stewart digging fork, signed model.

Once you’ve dug down a foot or more (to very drippy sand), you have to nix the tool. Even a minor poke to the clam means busted a clam shell. You then begin literally groping around, by hand, in the wet sand. Clam by feel alone. Some holes have a dozen or more clams.

Be very aware of toxic sand cobras. They run in that layer, measure five feet long and have some of the longest and deadliest fangs in the business. Unfortunately, the only way you know if a subterranean sand cobra is in a hole is after you feel an seemingly innocent skin poke. We call a softshell clam hole with a rigid clammer lying next to it a “dead hole.”

Yes, you need a license to dig softshell clams and they count toward your daily recreational allotment of 150 clams. 

As to your recent sightings of “piss clams,” I have to dispel a deeply entrenched falsehood. Those squirts of water shooting into the air when walking low tide flats are NOT from piss clams. Many an eco-tour guide and even experienced baymen perpetuate this myth. The little low tide geysers are almost always compliments of razor clams, a whole other animal.

This is also a good time to suggest your innocent clam chase over the weekend was a bit off. It kinda took place on Sunday – when any and all clamming is strictly prohibited. You coulda been shot. Maybe not, but even a spontaneous educational clam chase could garner a fine. And it’s hard to deny the fact you’re clamming when you’re the only person along the state’s entire bayside digging holes.

Bloody Worm Sidebar: I used to have the only bloodworm business in all of NJ. During low tides, I energetically dug our fairly common smaller bloodworms, solely to meet the demands of LBI’s once-flourishing springtime winter flounder fishery. My prime digging spot was on a wide-open stretch of mudflats frequented by scratch rake clammers.

At the height of the flounder season, I had to dig on Sundays. Making hay when the flounder shined.

Long story short, in just one single two-month season, I was separately confronted by marine police, Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers and even local police. All had been called by fuddy-duddies, squealing into the phone, “There’s a man illegally clamming in font of my house. Please hurry.”

Even when I proved I was worming not clamming, Fish and Wildlife weren’t thrilled with my Sunday digging. I heard they even tried to get a regulation against any and all bayside digging on Sundays. I was the only one in the whole state doing it and they wanted a brand new law added to the books. That’s NJ.

By the by, I quit the bloodworm business when my favorite mudflats sanded over, the kiss of death for “spearchucker” worms -- a weird bloodworm nickname I always kinda liked.

Weird nature note: Bloodworms are likely the only creatures on the entire planet with solid crystalline copper fangs. Quite weird. I’ve had the honor of seeing bloodworm fangs under an electronic microscope and, sure enough, crystalline copper – with some zinc. It’s fiercely hard and, more essentially, able to activate the toxins the worm uses to poison prey. 

Per University of California Santa Barbara researchers, their initial findings are fully remarkable since the amount of copper in the fangs should cause the worm to keel over dead from copper poisoning. 

UCSB's Herbert Waite, professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, theorizes that the crystalline copper hardness is an adaptation to the worms borrowing and prey-seeking lifestyle. “The worm is going to miss its prey a fair number of times," he said. "And that means that its jaws are being abraded by gravel. So they need to be made of more robust material than the jaws of the clamworm, which is a scavenger."

That queer copper exploitation could also be “a design prototype for new materials that need to be hard, lightweight, and durable," said Waite.

Bloody Worm Sidebar: I used to have the only bloodworm business in all of NJ. During low tides, I energetically dug our fairly common smaller bloodworms, solely to meet the demands of LBI’s once-flourishing springtime winter flounder fishery. My prime digging spot was on a wide-open stretch of mudflats frequented by scratch rake clammers.

At the height of the flounder season, I had to dig on Sundays. Making hay when the flounder shined.

Long story short, in just one single two-month season, I was separately confronted by marine police, Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers and even local police. All had been called by fuddy-duddies, squealing into the phone, “There’s a man illegally clamming in front of my house. Please hurry.”

Even when I proved I was worming, not clamming, Fish and Wildlife weren’t thrilled with my Sunday digging. I heard they even tried to get a regulation against any and all bayside digging on Sundays. I was the only one in the whole state doing it and they wanted a brand new law added to the books. That’s NJ.

By the by, I quit the bloodworm business when my favorite mudflats sanded over, the kiss of death for “spearchucker” worms – a weird bloodworm nickname I always kinda liked.

Weird nature note: Bloodworms are likely the only creatures on the entire planet with solid crystalline copper fangs. Quite weird. I’ve had the honor of seeing bloodworm fangs under an electronic microscope and, sure enough, crystalline copper – with some zinc. It’s fiercely hard and, more essentially, able to activate the toxins the worm uses to poison prey.

Per University of California Santa Barbara researchers, their initial findings are fully remarkable because the amount of copper in the fangs should cause the worm to keel over dead from copper poisoning.

UCSB’s Herbert Waite, professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, theorizes that the crystalline copper hardness is an adaptation to the worms burrowing and prey-seeking lifestyle. “The worm is going to miss its prey a fair number of times,” he said. “And that means that its jaws are being abraded by gravel. So they need to be made of more robust material than the jaws of the clamworm, which is a scavenger.”

That queer copper exploitation could also be “a design prototype for new materials that need to be hard, lightweight, and durable,” said Waite.

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