Needlefish to the Nose, A Famous Ghost Down Below
Wow, is that the downside of the hump I see warming up on the horizon?
I’m mulling over weather computers and think I see an out for what is, to me, a naggingly cold and crummy winter. It might be premature to say we’re over the hoarfrost hump but some maps show temps approaching 60 by as early as this weekend and extending into next week.
While a round of warmth won’t spike the nearshore angling in any way, shape or form, it might open some windows of opportunity for folks itching to reach the out-there wrecks, where seabass, blackies and maybe some groundfish (usually a big cod or two at the ready) are holed up -- but out of reach, of late, due to foul skies and wicked winds.
A couple things that will also offer relief from Shining-like winter mental episodes are upcoming angling events.
Celebrating its birth (so to speak), the newly formed Barnegat High School Fishing Club is enthusiastically inviting anglers to its February Fishing Seminar, on Thursday, February 12, from 6 to 9 pm. Speakers will include some super insightful fishing folks, including (small-boat inshore tuna/pelagic species experts) Darren Dorris, Bill Donovan and (back-bay weakfisherman) Steve Purul. The event will be held at the BHS auditorium.
This is going to be a quite-cool happening, easily worth its “suggested donation” of $8. There will be door prizes.
All profits go into the new club, which should be a winner considering how many kids at Barnegat High school already have a history of fishing, via their folks. Might be fun to have some surf fishing contests between local schools.
For directions, simply Google “Barnegat High School.” Mapquest will appear on top of page with a marker showing the school’s location.
Then on February 21, a late-winter tradition pulls into the Southern Regional Middle school cafetorium when the Southern Regional High School Fishing Club, the Fishing Rams, holds its annual Fishing Flea Market. And, yes, in just a short time this fine event has reached full-blown “tradition” status.
It runs from 8 am to 2 pm (strict door times) and will cost a mere $4.
Per usual, the place will be filled to capacity with sellers. I’ll re-alert to this flea market again next week since I’ve already had at least a dozen folks asking about it.
MORE NASAL NEEDLFISH: For those of you who worship the ground this column stands on (yeah, right), you might recall a couple write-ups I’ve done on the nasty side of needlefish, which have been known to blind and even kill swimmers by imbuing them in the head area with their severely sharp beaks. This most often happens when schools of needlefish execute their coordinated attack maneuver by simultaneously erupting from the water and literally skipping top speed across the surface, sometimes for ten yards or more, to disorient prey below before diving down to feast. As I found out the hard way in Hawaii, a single needlefish might also launch out of the water and commence to skipping when spooked – like when a paddling surfer drives his arm into the water and the fish thinks a cormorant is hot on its scaly butt.
Anyway, as I look at fishy news around the world, I see where a spearfisherman in the Mediterranean unexpectedly went nose-to-nose with a very large surface-skipping needlefish. The messy meeting of minds took place in Israel, where a 29-year-old man wound up with a 2-pound needlefish impaled into the side of his nose, the point settling frighteningly close to his eye socket.
Doctors at the Department of Otolarynology at Israel's Meir Medical Centre in Kfar Saba said the man arrived at the ER with the jaw portion of the fish still wedged into the wall of his maximillary sinus, only a fraction of an inch short of his eye socket.
After a few seconds of marveling over the freakiness of it all, Israeli surgeons (who are truly some of the finest docs on the planet) gingerly removed the needlefish jaw-- and had barely taken off their fish scaled surgical gloves before commencing to write the event up for the Journal of Craniomaxillofacial Surgery.
The fisherman was released in nothing flat with no complications, short of trying to find a way to attribute the attack to a Palestinian-trained needlefish.
DASTARDLY DOLPHIN BLOWER-UPPER: In response to my recent write-up about dolphin and other beloved marine mammals, a reader emailed me about a true Mr. Nasty fisherman down toward the panhandle of Florida. This numbnuts was caught making wicked pipe bombs to throw at dolphin to keep them away from his lines. If “keeping away” included killing the creatures, that was just fine to this redneck nutcase.
Local and federal authorities were tipped off that 50-year-old Garry Alvin Key of Panama City was building mini-bombs in his garage. It was during further investigation that officers found out the ultimate dolphin-damaging intent of the improvised explosives.
Such bomb-building activity is obviously a bad thing in and of itself – and one that easily penetrates into today’s anti-terrorists laws -- but Mr. Microbrain just happened to be a convicted felon. And building bombs, right? Smart. Of course, we’re talking the Deep South here. Enough said.
After being caught in the act of going explosive on easygoing dolphin, Key pleaded guilty to two federal changes last Thursday in U.S. District Court. With his past transgression playing heavily into his future, Key is looking at a solid 10 years in prison. Tacked onto that potential sentence is another year of hard time for attempting to kill a marine mammal.
It’ll be interesting to see if Key is sent to a special protective prison since inmates in the baddest big houses don’t take kindly to dolphin hurters.
TUNA TOSS IS TRUE TO TRADTION: Just in case you missed it, the 2009 Tunarama Festival was held this past weekend in Port Lincoln, South Australia.
A record-breaking number of folks gathered to watch the highlight of the event: the 30-pound tuna throwing championship, known as the World Champion Lincoln Grove Tuna Toss Competition
And controversy also soared. This year, the event organizers shunned PETA and animal activist indignation, returning to heaving an actual 30-pound tuna -- as opposed to the 30-pound rubber tuna rendition they had substituted the last couple years, infuriating and alienating the tradition-bound crowd, most wanting to see actual sushi material in flight.
Cheers flew as former Olympic hammer throwers, brothers Darren and Brooke Billet, ruled this year’s tuna-tossing roost, -- though their flung fish fell short of the world record for this event, 37.23 meters, set in 1998 by ex Olympic Hammer Thrower, Sean Carlin. Best distance this year was about 32 meters.
And the use of fresh fish sat well.
"We just returned to a tradition for the finals that we have been away from for a couple of years. We used real fish just for this finals and that went off very well," festival manager Paul Sherry was quoted as saying.
Most of you likely know that Australia is also home to an annual dwarf-tossing contest. I’ll note in a likely related level that the island nation has the highest per capita alcohol consumption in the world. Might be fun to send that dolphin exploder down there to create yet another distance tossing tradition.
WAIT, WAIT … NOW!: While tuna and dwarf tossing has a sorta cool side to it, another true tale from the Land Down Under brings a new dimension to concept of deep south dumbness.
Not long go, a publication covering the popular seaside resort town of Moana, South Australia, reported a man was hospitalized after he intentionally jumped off a personal water craft and onto the back of a huge stingray. Note: intentionally. Did I mention Australia has the highest per capita alcohol consumption rate on the planet?
Anyway, for some odd reason, the generally placid stingray took offense at being suddenly mounted by a madman and drove its oversized barb into the ray-jumper’s arm. Imagine that.
Moana Surf Lifesaving Club captain Terry Semmens said his lifeguards had first noticed the man repeatedly circling the ray, looking down at its six-foot wingspan. “We advised him to stop antagonizing it but he took no notice and after he was told twice he decided he’d jump on it,’’ Semmens said, according to the newspaper article. “He ended up with the barb from the stingray stuck in his arm.”
I love Semmens parting comment regarding the ray flopper, “You’ve got to use a bit of brain …”
Fellow PWCers whisked off the man, who remained unidentified, to a nearby hospital. Sorrowfully, he could not be reached for comment, which might have been as merciful as the slightness of his injuries, when considering the famed untimely death of crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, who was hit in the heart by a ray’s barb.
And do I ever have a story to offer in that same vein – and never needing to leave Australia. You’re not going to believe this one but, hey, you can’t make this stuff up.
IS THAT GHOST YOU, STEVE?!: I’ve recently gotten into ghosting, as in looking for the paranormal in all the normal places – spooky houses, graveyards, abandoned produce stands.
Believe me, I’m far from a feng shuing Ouijaboard reading bring-me-your-dead type fanatico. I simply enjoy unreal reality TV programs likes “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Hunter International” -- and get a mocking chuckle or two from watching wannabe spirit stalkers on shows like “Ghost Adventures” and “Paranormal State.” Truth be told, I watch those series as much to get a gander at the psychology of the ghost hunters themselves as to observe and hear hissing spirits and or glance nebulous limbo-ites.
As for what’s natural and what’s supernatural, I’m more open than ever to options.
And I sure wouldn’t kick a ghost out of bed, so to speak. In fact, I’d be great on “Ghost Hunters,” since I’ve never been much of a screamer, even when scared out of my gourd. I’m one of those impulsive inhalers. When faced with terror, I noiselessly suck in enough air to clear a small room of any and all hovering insects. It’s a lot like a scream in reverse. The upside to being a panic inhaler is the viewing audience gets to hear more of what’s so damned terrifying. The show “Ghost Adventures” is hysterical in the scream vein. These big jock-type guys lock themselves in haunted buildings and taunt sprits with nasty language and macho threats. Then, when they finally elicit a spiritual response, they begin screaming like a buncha girls at a slumber party being visited by that guy from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
To date, my foray into paranormal pursuits hasn’t amounted to a hill of disembodied beans. I will admit I’ve heard a slew of entry-level bumps in the night (at an old house in the Pines) and always get a real rush when the “Ghost Hunters” gang records a spooky-ass EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) offering a creepy, “Leave me alone.” Quite cool.
This is all a spirited lead-in to one of the most bizarre news stories since that small black fellow won the presidency. It takes us back to Australia.
Pino Termini of Naples, Italy, has spent more hours underwater than many turtles. With top-notch technical training from seven years of diving for the Italian Navy, he now spends much of his time traveling the globe in search of ultimate diving experiences. He’s not a guy who succumbs to flights of fancy. In fact, as is the case with all professional divers, his specialty is keeping deadly calm under pressure.
Not unexpectedly, the Great Barrier Reef is one of Termini’s favorite underwater playgrounds. Last month, he targeted one of the most pristine and out-of-the-way sections of that entire reef system: Batt Reef.
Chartering a boat from Port Douglas, Termini and fellow divers made the long trip to the out-there reef. No sooner was he in the water than things went totally freaky. Here it is in Termini’s own words.
“As I started my dive I saw somebody and was surprised because I saw no other boats around, then I noticed that the person had no oxygen tank or mask, the person swam towards me and I realized that it was none other than the crocodile hunter himself: Steve Irwin. I freaked out, but he looked calm and at peace.
“I have seen a lot underwater but never a ghost. It was as if he was looking after the spot where he met his end, I felt that I should not impose myself on his turf as it was his and it seemed as if he was caring for the living creatures there.”
By the by, Termini claim he didn’t know the reef was the exact spot where Irwin died of a ray barb hit to the heart.