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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday, August 30, 2019: Holgate refuge-adjacent beaches will be open to foot/pedestrian traffic this weekend

Chatted with Virginia at the Refuge and: 

Holgate refuge-adjacent beaches will be open to foot/pedestrian traffic this weekend and possibly to buggies by Sunday -- providing entry is fixed up. Should be real nice out there after such a people-packed summer elsewhere on the Island. (Remember: Refuge itslef is always closed to walkers.)

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Friday, August 30, 2019: Gonna do a half-day office visit on this truly primo outdoor day. It was a bit hot this a.m. but around midday the ocean AC kicked in and the beach is not only fine but quite people-packed for a Friday. Oh, that’s right, it’s a four-day weekend for many. It looks it. And my earlier blogging that it could be an ultrafine holiday didn’t jinx it. Come on down -- and grab the last official weekend of the summer visitor season. We really don’t abide by astronomical summer dates.

I’ll breakaway to check on the outback, though I might take a trip down to Holgate to see if anything is being done to the buggy entrance at the parking lot. As I’ve noted, there is a goodly amount of raw material, i.e. sand, to work with. How well dozed sand will be able to stave off erosion on the lee side of the terminal groin is highly problematic. Small blows won’t be a problem, but larger storms and, even more, protracted south winds and we’ll likely be back to the bad old day-by-day uncertainty about vehicular access.

While on the Holgate subject, no better time to announce the arrival of entry forms for the 2019 Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic. Make sure to setup a fast track to www.lbift.com  on your computer and cellphone.

Fishing-wise, the surf is kinda crappy colored. Hey, we’ve had so many fine water days this summer that a little turbidity is all part of the overall look. It could clear up for the weekend. Hard to say. Right now, the water is mucked up enough to hurt surfcasting. Water temps are mainly low 70s.

Boaters should have a way better time with cleaner water not that far out. Fluking will be real good once schools are located. Get exploring – and don’t mug the headboats.

The bay is clean and ready for blowfisherpeople and those willing to have catch/release fun with tons of undersized fluke.

A couple cobia still in the nearshore mix. That presence might increase over the next few weeks. 

Not sure what to make of this growing highly impressive showing of Spanish mackerel, mainly smaller ones. They’re even being taken in the bay, mostly on artificials. School of these macks travel very quickly, quite akin to bluefish – though even faster afoot/a-swim. You just keep plugging away in hopes a school is passing through. If theory hold true (mine), much larger ones could be in the surf for Sept. and Oct.

I caught my state record (long since broken) Spanish mackerel in the Holgate surf in Oct 1990-something. It was a super rough surf late afternoon and I was distance-casting, fast-retrieving  metal (Hopkins) for the monster blues that had moved in. My hookup put up a fine, albeit confusing fight. I knew right away it wasn’t a bluefish, though easily as strong. It would make these blistering runs parallel to the beach, so fast my line was singing. I even wondered if a small mako was in play, finally settling on a false albi. When I landed it I was shocked. OK, so maybe I wasn’t even sure what I had even caught -- without some research and ID’ing help from Bruce Hoagland. Hey, the big macks look significantly different than the shiny bright little ones. By the by, all current reports have them cooking up deliciously. I couldn’t say that about my big one.

Local sized: 

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Below: A major Spanish mack. 

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Greg O'Connell is with Harvey Yenkinson.
The kids boxed 3 fluke early but the bite died with the tide and didn’t bounce back after it turned. So we went on the troll. New species and First ever Bonita and Spanish Mackeral made for a fun day and a bag of filets.
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Rookie surfcaster here. Not a great pic but what fish did I pull here?

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Yesterdays pool winning fish, accompanied by a female Arctic Tern who landed on our deck today looking a bit tired. I kindly asked our customers just to give her a few feet so she could rest, that she was probably tired from all the flying in the wind over the last few days. While she was walking around the bow of the boat, she kept calling out, and sure enough, a male soon flew overhead, with a small baitfish in his mouth. He swooped down, landed on the deck, handed his lady...

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Riley caught this spanish mackerel off the dock this afternoon - 16.5” and 1.44lbs - using spearing, snelled snapper hooks and a bobber. Way to go Riley!

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Stephen Moran
 Speedsters have arrived along the beach in FULL FORCE
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Labor Day is just a few days away, and that has always been the official end of the tourist season in Beach Haven. It certainly does not mean the end of the fishing season, however. The captains of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association are eagerly looking forward to the upcoming days for some of the best fishing of the year.

Although some fluke still remain in the bay waters, the bulk of the population have made their move to the ocean waters. Traditionally, this means that boats fishing the inshore structure and artificial reefs will be enjoying some of their best fishing of the year until the season closes at the end of September.

The past few days have seen some sporty conditions in the ocean thanks to a steady diet of northeast winds. As the winds shift to the south and west, the fishing conditions will show great improvement.

Captain John Lewis has been fishing the “Insatiable” on a steady basis through some of the rough seas with some intrepid anglers aboard. The Marquis family with nine-year old Ashton and 12-year old Aliza bagged 10 fluke with two keepers and four nice keeper sea bass. On another trip the Hoven party of two boated 17 fluke despite the building wind and seas. Captain John says he is itching to get back out again now that the winds have dropped.

Captain Brett Taylor of “Reel Reaction” sport fishing who has been fishing the north end of Long Beach Island had a couple of his charters cancel. He had Gino Arbasetti and Lou Marero on a 4-hour bay charter. With some good tidal conditions, they found fish and caught close to 25 fluke in rain-soaked conditions. Two fish made the cut to go in the box. All fish were caught on the S&S Bigeye bucktail.

Besides the ocean fishing and fluke around, the local bays are also ripe with fish. Many of these fish are small, but great fun on light tackle. In addition to the ever-present blowfish, there are weakfish, small stripers, black drum, triggerfish, and tog to be found if you know where to look.

Additional information on the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association can be found at www.BHCFA.org.

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What a gorgeous morning! A few real nice fish were caught. Slow drift but we had a lot of action with shorts and keepers. Let’s see what happens this afternoon, hope to see you there.

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Former Reporter Sentenced To Prison In Turtle Trafficking Case

Credit: Ryan Hagerty

A former reporter who works as a courier for a local law firm was sentenced Thursday for trafficking protected terrapins.

David Sommers, 64, of Middletown’s Levittown section, learned his fate Thursday morning at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody six months imprisonment, three years’ supervised release including six months’ home detention, and $250,000 restitution.


In February, Sommers struck a deal with federal prosecutors and ple... to one felony count of violating the Lacey Act and agreed to forfeit nearly 3,500 diamondback terrapin hatchlings.

“Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) are a semi-aquatic species of turtle native to brackish waters in eastern and southern United States. They are not found in the wild in Pennsylvania, where Sommers resided, but have a dwindling habitat range in neighboring New Jersey. The terrapins are prized in the reptile pet trade for their unique, diamond-shaped shell markings. The turtles are protected under New Jersey law and by an international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement earlier this year.


In federal court documents, authorities outlined the case that Sommers had gathered terrapins and sold them for years. They noted that he was eventually selling 1,000 diamondback terrapin turtles per year and bringing in $50,000 and $75,000.

After looking at financial records, investigators determined that Sommers earned $530,341 from selling diamondback terrapins between 2011 to 2017.

The market value of the terrapins that were sold by Sommers was $565,000 to $958,000, prosecutors said.

If the case went to trial, prosecutors were prepared to present testimony from enforcement officials from the U.S. and Canada, record keepers for an electronic payment company, a number of banks, delivery service officials, a GPS tracking company, and an expert herpetologist.

“The defendant had a simple business plan: poach protected turtles and their eggs from their natural habitat, advertise them for sale online and then illegally ship them to customers by concealing the actual contents of the packages,” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain.  “Sommers represented himself as a legitimate reptile breeder, when he was in fact endangering the lives of these animals and breaking the law.  Thanks to our partners at the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the United States Postal Inspection Service, this defendant will be held responsible for his actions.”

Sommers’ terrapin trafficking scheme began to fall apart when a Canadian official intercepted a FedEx package Sommers was shipping from Levittown to Saskatchewan. The package was labeled as a book valued at $10, but officials found 11 live diamondback terrapin hatchlings concealed in two small pouches, authorities said.

Canadian officials informed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents about the incident and a probe was launched.

Officials said Sommers advertised his terrapin sales business online and claimed all of his terrapins were captive raised.

“He primarily shipped the turtles in unmarked packages through the U.S. Postal Service and occasionally by Federal Express. He shipped them in an inhumane manner, wrapping them in socks or pouches and taping their legs to restrict movement,” authorities wrote in a plea deal memo.

Starting in 2017, undercover agents across the country caught on to Sommers selling terrapins online and placed GPS tracking devices on his two vehicles. He was spotted by law enforcement and tracked by GPS to the marshy coast of New Jersey, authorities said.

In 2017, investigators executed a search warrant at Sommers’ Levittown home and found 3,442 diamondback terrapin hatchlings and 23 box turtles. They also found packaging and labels consistent with shipping turtles, authorities said.

In the past, Sommers had made a career as a journalist for the Bucks County Courier Times and infamous tabloid The Trentonian. He launched the ahead-of-its-time online Bucks News Network. Between 2013 and 2014, Sommers wrote about a dozen articles that were published on LevittownNow.com.

Sommers has worked with Republican candidates in Bucks County as they campaigned for office since leaving journalism. He often was seen with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick and then-Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick at community events.

Editor’s Note: This story has been clarified to the type of turtle. 

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Two-Headed Timber Rattlesnake Discovered in Nearby Pine Barrens

By JON COEN | Aug 29, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

CHATSWORTH — Greek mythology tells of a two-headed serpent named Amphisbaena. It was spawned from the blood of Medusa in a gruesome story of Perseus flying with her bleeding body after slaying her. There are also mosaic sculptures that the Aztecs are believed to have bestowed upon the conquistadors in the 1500s of a two-headed serpent that show the important role that snakes played in ancient Aztec mythology. The Iroquois Confederacy has a complex story of a Native American boy who found and kept a two-headed snake that grew to eat the village and destroy all the land and the skies with an appetite so insatiable that one head eventually ate the other.

Well, two-headed serpents are not simply beasts from ancient stories. One was discovered this week in the Pine Barrens of Chatsworth, a 10-minute drive west of Stafford Township. Dave Burkett, who works for the consulting group Herpetological Associates Inc., found the juvenile timber rattlesnake while surveying an area of the Pines with his colleague, fellow herpetologist and Herpetological Associates Regional Manager Dave Schneider.

“We were out surveying a certain area where we know that rattlesnakes give birth. It’s an area where female snakes hang out, get sun and let the embryos incubate. They have live young in late August. The young usually stay by the mother,” said Burkett.

Burkett has observed rattlesnakes for years. His firm’s job is to research endangered plants and animals and help planners consider wildlife conservation in ecologically sensitive areas. Burkett started taking some photos of the “neonates” and when they started to retreat for cover, he noticed an abnormality.

“I just called to Dave Schneider and said, ‘Holy cow. This thing has two heads.’ We couldn’t see the snake at that point, so I checked the shots on my camera and there it was, two heads,” he stated.

Burkett called in for permission to extract the snake. As a certified herpetologist, he has what is called a scientific collection permit.

“Under the endangered species laws, it’s illegal to handle or harass any endangered reptiles or amphibians without that,” he explained.

The pair found the snake, which undoubtedly had two heads. The right head seems to be dominant, but both heads’ tongues are flicking normally. It's very difficult to determine the sex of newborn rattlers, so the gender is yet to be determined. They collected it and brought it, unharmed, to the firm’s Pine Barrens office in Pemberton for observation.

The timber rattler is a species of venomous pit vipers found from southern New England to Florida. It lives in regions in both North and South Jersey, although the more stable population is in North Jersey.  It’s a venomous snake that helps keep rodent populations in check. It can certainly kill a human with lethal venom.

“It’s generally a docile species, though,” said Burkett. “It would really have to be antagonized to become aggressive. In the handful of bite incidents I’ve seen, it was a person harassing the animal and the animal defending itself. That animal just wants to be left alone. It’s unfortunate that they are misrepresented. There’s that inherent fear, but that’s why it has that rattle, to let you know it’s there. You really have to pester that animal for it to protect itself. When they’re confronted, the first thing they will do in an encounter is leave, then they will warn you. The last thing they do is attack. They don’t want to waste their energy or venom on something that’s not their prey.”

He adds when hikers pass rattlers, the snakes normally stay hidden and hikers wouldn’t even know it was there.

Robert Zappalorti is the executive director of Herpetological Associates. He was associate curator of herpetology and education at the Staten Island Zoological Society and then founded his own firm in 1977. The two-headed snake is now under his care and they will see if they can get it to eat.

“It’s quite rare. To my knowledge, this is the first time a two-headed timber rattler has been found in the Northeast. Several years ago, an adult two-headed timber rattler was found in Alabama. That snake managed to survive in the wild,” Zappalorti explained.

In 2018, the Wildlife Center of Virginia took in a two-headed eastern copperhead found in Woodbine, Va.

According to Zappalorti, it’s hard to say if this snake will survive. It will have to shed its skin soon, but the scientists may be able to help it along. The snake will be observed for science.

There will not likely be any battles of the gods, end of days or local villages eaten.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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