Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

For the umpteenth week in succession, the weather remains the biggest outdoors-ish news. It’s cool being so mild, albeit weird to think about donning short sleeves during traditionally the coldest days of the year. And this week might be the weirdest of all, with air temp highs forecasted to surpass 60 degrees, daily, up to Saturday – when a fairly strong cold front steps in before the mildness returns.

As we inch toward March, enrobed in this meteorological oddness, it’s time to wonder how this all-but-AWOL winter might impact our spring fishing season.

By all accounts, even meek winters usually don’t mean much when it comes to timing the arrival of spring stripers. Check your records of when the first stripers have shown in the past and maybe deduct a week or so, not much more.

Confusing matters this year is the fact there are still 2011 bass (so to speak) being taken off the beaches to our north – and one 30-incher I know of here on LBI last week. It might be hard differentiating between the old hangers-on and the new spring-fresh arrivals. Keep in mind that these 2011 lingerers are not part of the big-ass biomass of bass. They are merely overwintering stragglers, a breakaway phenomenon that often takes place when stocks of a particular species increase and expand, as bass stocks are now doing.

I’ve always hung to the theory that it is more often length of day and sun angle that spur true migrations. That concept is verifiable in fall, when baitfish are driven almost fully by the skies. In that instance, gamefish are often influenced as much by the forage as by sun and stars. Admittedly, water temps play into it, but not nearly as much as many anglers think. It’s solely precipitous drops in water temps that occasionally force the migratory issue.

Predicting the arrival of spring migrators based on forage is a tougher call. Bait doesn’t move very dramatically, as in the fall. Gamefish, therefore, default to astronomical prompting. They go pretty much by the calendar.

Making springtime matters muddier is the fact that the once reliably predictable nearshore migrations of herring and Boston mackerel have been blown out of the water by flagrant overfishing, mainly by factory ships. In many ways, striped bass now simply mosey up this way as spring shows itself.

Last week, I noted anecdotal tales of how winters affect clamming and crabbing. I hadn’t mentioned the huge effects of a mild winter on certain gamefish forage, particularly grass shrimp and most types of minnows. It’s a simple attrition thing. Freezes kill. Deep freezes kill deeply. No freezes, no problems.

With nary a skin of ice topping backbay creeks this entire winter, grass shrimp are surely going to burst forth in huge numbers as spawn times arrive – unless killer storms kick in. Let’s not even go there.

Being some of the most prolific spawners out there, grass shrimp can singly vitalize the bay for the likes of starving spring bluefish, unable to find those missing mackerel and herring. I’ve also caught early-season bay bass so loaded with shrimp their stomachs look freaky. Weakfish, at least those that still remain, can’t survive without the tiny crustaceans.

Unfortunately for baitmen, grass shrimp for weakie fishing is no longer in high demand. Stocks of sparklers continue to spiral down the drain, especially in the famed Delaware Bay spawning grounds. Hereabouts, we had a few decent weakfish years while other areas saw solid collapses. The past couple summers we, too, felt the collapse. Still, I’m anxious to try some night plugging near the spans come March. It’s fully and emphatically catch-and-release of those early spawners – should they show.

Finally, I can’t even venture a guess as to when the winter flounder will mud-out and depart the bay. If the day-length motivator applies, it’ll be right on schedule, i.e. anytime now. If the move-out is based on water temps, the blackbacks might never have fallen asleep for their winter break.

With the fishing season for winter flatties running from merely March 23 to May 21 – and allowing only two fish of 12 or more inches to be taken per day, per angler – there is no glory to this once spring-ushering fishery. Gone forever are the olden “ice-out” days, when we gathered en masse at the empty lot next to Hochstrasser’s in Ship Bottom to fish winter flounder and talk story. Pity.

As for bluefish, there is also no guessing how many there are or how soon they’ll arrive, though the mid-April arrival time is a rough guess.

Overall, the bluefish stocks may well be undergoing one of the most famed “routine” disappearing acts on the East Coast fishing books. At the proverbial drop of a hat, the species can go, and often has gone, missing for massive chunks of time. It fell fully off the map for nearly 50 years from the late 1700s into the 1800s. That said, we have been seeing very fine showings of smaller “tinker/tailor/cocktail blues” in recent springs.

I MIGHT JUST WHIFF ON LENT: Being a relatively good Catholic, I take the current Lenten period to heart. More exactly, I take it to task. I actually prohibit myself, devotedly, from indulging in some favorite thing for 40 days. For the second year in a row, I’m nixing all soft drinks, including Pepsi and, frighteningly, carbonated energy drinks.

This is such a mind-bending challenge that I go into cold sweets, I mean sweats, just thinking about it. Pepsi is like my only child. Energy drinks are my adopted children. We’re one happy fluid family. To pack them up and place them in limbo for more than a month is a true sacrificial forfeiture.

Girding for the Pepsi-free challenge, I was all but cosmically confronted by a mysterious temptation, one that is sorely testing the “relatively” side of my Catholicism. I heard about a new “kick” hitting the world of caffeinated rushes: inhalable energy drinks.

I’m serious as sin.

The whole idea of puffing in everything from coffee to lobster bisque comes compliments of the LeWhif company. The freakily creative folks there have gone front page with their creations of vaporized coffee and chocolate.

Inhalable chocolate, you say? My attention instantly began puffing away at such a potentially wonderful thing. Then, up pops the AeroShots Company, marketing what amounts to an inhalable energy drink in, well, a misty, powdery form.

Per the purveyors: “AeroShots Pure Energy delivers an airborne shot of fast-acting energy. … It delivers a unique blend of caffeine and B vitamins in a fine powder that dissolves quickly in your mouth … that’s ready anytime, anyplace.”

Hey, dudes, I’m ready – anytime, anyplace. Come to Papa.

By rushing online to www.aeroshots.com, I got a gander at the future of, well, something or other. A hint of bigger things to come might be in the manufacturer’s name: Breathable Food. (Hey, I’ve oft been accused of inhaling my meal. Fast food becomes instantaneous food.)

AeroShots are magically contained within a cylindrical container that looks like a toss-up between an overgrown Chapstick and a shotgun shell. I think the shotgun angle is closer to the product’s namesake.

Since no local shops have AeroShots just yet, I ordered online. Purely academically, mind you. They should arrive right as I go into mental upheavals over my lack of energy drinks.

I then zipped over to YouTube, where a slew of recently posted videos show a growing number of Guinea piggers openly first-timing the misty energy puffs.

After the YouTubers dispense overly long lead-ins to actually trying the stuff – acting as if they’re trying something like skydiving for the first time – they inhale their AeroShots. The reactions are a tad ominous. Most choke a bit; a few gag. The hacking and gagging are often followed by explanationless “whews” and “wows.”

Most first-timers expect an inhaler type of lung mist. Apparently that’s not the essence of this invention. Instead, a microfine powder explodes on contact with the tongue and throat. The absorption of the caffeine/B-vitamins is nearly instantaneous.

While I see this as an out for Lent – no it’s not cheating, I love my Pepsi – I also see an angling angle. Predawn fishing sessions will become a mere inhale away. At 3 a.m., you grope around atop the bedside table, closed-eyed, until you latch onto a shotgun shell of instant wake-up dust. You breathe in – and bam! Instead of lying there trying to convince yourself that getting up early causes warts, you’re instead bounding out of bed, grabbing a couple plugging rods and sprinting to your buggy – naked as a jaybird but clinging to the AeroShot inhaler for all it’s worth.

But can this be legal, you ask? The FDA itself has already said, “Go for it,” categorizing the stuff in AeroShots as a dietary supplement, a term generally reserved for just about anything that is eaten but doesn’t fall into the five or 10 recognized food groups.

However, the first salvo of inhalable energy mists has some politicians already sensing that something just ain’t right with huffing away for an eye-opening impact. Bowing to political pressure, the FDA has already agreed to re-review the advisability of allowing AeroShots to burst into the throat of everyday society.

A doctor in Massachusetts – one of only two states (New York being the other) where it is being sold – is warning that it might be too hard to self-monitor inhalable energy dust. The doctor warned that drinking caffeine sources, like coffee or energy drinks, allows one to more or less keep track of the dosage, for lack of a better term. Going the vapor-whiffing route offers no digestive sense of the actual caffeine intake. Good point. I’ll be very careful, Doc.

Unbeknownst to many folks, myself included, it takes a solid 20 minutes for caffeine to make its full presence known. An AeroShooter might empty an entire shotgun shell worth of caffeine (six doses) in short order, thinking “This ain’t doing squat,” then suddenly end up spinning on the floor, Curly-like.

If and when AeroShots become outlawed, I will have been among those who irresponsibly gave it a try. I’ll then have to contend with that frivolous experimenting during my run for the presidency. I can hear me now: “I tried it once – but I didn’t inhale.”

FELINE PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE: A jokester buddy of mine just couldn’t resist sending me a recent news story out of Bakersfield, Calif., where Jason Louis Wilmert, 36, is in hot (and spicy?) water for allegedly cooking and eating cats.

Wilmert is being charged with the obvious “cruelty to animals” offense but is also facing what I consider a far odder crime, “using a pet or domesticated animal for food.”

Per a news report, Wilmert’s neighbors called the sheriff’s office after hearing cats wailing and screeching. Sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt said evidence clearly pointed to the suspect as having “the intent to use a cat for food.” While Pruitt empathically refused to offer juicy details, he did say, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Obviously, Wilmert, if guilty, is a few screws short of a six-pack (or something like that). With that certainty in tow, I’m going to creep dangerously close to the oft equally deranged PETA realm by questioning the integrity of that “domesticated animal for food” offense. Hey, it’s one helluva stretch to consider millions of obediently stalled cattle as being “wild.”

Cattle prattle:

“You feelin’ wild at all, Ralph?”

“Wild? I can’t even turn the hell around in here. Maybe my butt is wild and I just don’t know about it.”

“Ya think?”

“Just eat your frickin’ soy straw, Lou.”

And what about those Purdue chickens? They’re crammed into pens by the billions and handfed. They’re not considered domesticated? That’s wild.

Now don’t go getting all hairy and furious on me. If convicted, hairy-tongued Jason should be strung up – with catgut. Eating Felix is taboo – unless, of course, you’re Cantonese and it’s, like, the Year of the Cat. Sure, those Asian epicureans may snicker at the cat-free dietary naiveté of the rest of the planet, but dollars to doughnuts, any Cantonese folks living in Bakersfield won’t be, let’s say, culturally exertive when dealing with the sheriff there.

IN PASSING: Last week’s passing of Barnegat Light icon George Svelling, 77, was like losing a piece of living history. An LBI-born, lifelong BL resident, he both figuratively and literally changed the shape of the Island, as a professional dredger, commercial fisherman and fishing fleet owner.

Born in Barnegat City, now Barnegat Light, he attended a one-room schoolhouse and was taught by Ethel Jacobsen. Graduating from Barnegat High School, he served as a staff sergeant in the Air Force, stationed in Florida.

Returning to LBI, he worked for Reynold Thomas, owner of the Barnegat Bay Dredging Co. He was part of a crew, along with the likes of Pete Kitson and Billy Montgomery (known as the “Band of Brothers”), that accomplished some of the largest dredging and land-filling projects the area had ever seen, essentially laying the groundwork and waterways for developments such as Loveladies Harbor, High Bar Harbor, North Beach and Mystic Island.

George married Dolores Richmond in 1959. The couple raised five children.

For many years, George was a charter member and volunteer in the Barnegat Light Fire Co. He did a stint as town councilman.

George’s fishing legacy in Barnegat Light is renowned. He first operated the headboat Petrelli with his father, Jack Svelling. He then moved on to his own commercial fishing boat, Pearla Mae. Later, George built and fished another commercial boat, Red Baron. Through the years, George operated a fish market and two other commercial vessels, Goforit and Dawn, before working with his son Eric on his boat, Native Sun

Per his obituary, “George kept his Norwegian heritage alive by making and repairing the commercial fishing nets used by local fishermen.”

In September 2011, he was awarded the prestigious Hurley Conklin Award, given at the annual Ocean County Decoy and Gunning Show. The award is presented to people who have lived in the Barnegat Bay tradition. This award is named in honor of the last of the great old-time Barnegat Bay carvers, Hurley Conklin.

I’ve known part of the Svelling crew (Eric, Jill and Candy) for years/decades. Great folks. It’s going to be a tough go without their dad, but the entire extended Svelling family has strong community support coming their way




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