jaymanntoday

Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday, October 17, 2014: The westerlies have arrived but they've hardly put a dent into the ongoing wind and (soon) groundswell.

Late-day note: The stupid winds came full-ass out of the south throughout the second half of today. That was fully unexpected. It just added more chop and roil to the surfline -- instead of allowing westerlies to clean things up.

Tomorrow should be a more solid flow of westerlies -- but may be too late to clean things up for the weekend.

We will also need to soon contend with hurricane swells, which I don't think were that prevalent today. For the sake of the upcoming LBI surfing contest (tomorrow), I hope the long-period tropical swells get here with authority -- though those walls might be later in the day tomorrow or, especially, Sunday.  

Also a bummer (that's surf talk), is the new forecast for the upcoming week, which now has what was forecasted to be fall clearness being ignobly replaced by rain and wind swings, i.e. back to what we've had all fall. 

Boy, that hurricane too a path as if it has it in for Bermuda. Very nice island colony. Hope everyone weathers the horrific storm. I had a call (Wednesday) from some local folks who were there and I told them hit the sky -- as in, fly away. They didn't need much convincing. They're now in OBX (or VB) awaiting the tale of their timeshare. 

For terrapin lover, here's an "Ahhhh" look. 

Found today. Late-blooming terrapins ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whDAzfOv0fY

Friday, October 17, 2014: The westerlies have arrived but they've hardly put a dent into the ongoing wind and (soon) groundswell. The wave action has kept the water roiled and a bit off color. It has also made for real tough surfcasting unless you go far south, as I always do at least once a day.

(Above: Similar shape to the plugs I'm using with some success.) 

The only upside to the far south this a.m. was the clean water one the west side -- coming out of the inlet. I plugged an armful and only had three very small blues to show. Like yesterday, they were almost the same size as the Rapala (walk) surface plug I was using. It's one of the plugs with the asymmetrical trailing treble -- one hook jutts way further out than the other two on the treble.  

As in recent days, the minute I switched to diving plugs, I got nary a bump. Surface sashay and/or slash are in -- and I’m still convinced it’s the way to go when seeking any just-arrived stripers or bigger blues.

Which brings up an ongoing sour point. Where the hell are the frickin’ fall fish? It’s a bitch finding larger fish – unless you snorkel down to take them on, mano-a-mano. But I’ll play Johnny Brightnose by sticking with hopes that this weekend’s temp plunges will activate bites by next week.

I found three dead porcupine/burr fish on the beach today. I’m guessing the bay is already getting tough for these tropical to contend with. And they are some slow-ass swimmers. At the rat thy swim, they’ll reach the tropics a few winters henceforth. I figure they get here on south-to-north currents in the spring – and need the north-to-south autumnal flows to get them back to safe and warm harbors. 

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Below: Possibly my favorite plug of all-time. I always heard them called the "02 Redfin." They came in smooth and rough sides.  I saw them catch fish when absolutely nothing else was working. 

Holgate is lookin' good and fishin' lousy. But the drive down is very easy even during higher tides. The helpful part is the well-entrenched tires tracks, marking the upper drive-in/out point. Stay in those groove and it's a smooth, high-and-dry route, coming and going. Take note for all LBI buggying that we have a load of loose sand, especially near the berms -- the mounds closes to the water. I've seen a couple bog-downs by even better beach-driving trucks. 

Loads of raptors in Holgate. Just this a.m. saw two peregrines, one red-tailed hawk and a gorgeous little merlin. 

Below: A merlin ... a smallish hawk. 

Do not go on the beach without a shovel or two -- or three. I have a heavy duty wide plastic composite shovel ideal for moving sand under a vehicle. It's short so it gets under easily and, even more, it's plastic so it doesn't bang or dent metal. 

Below: Similar to the shovel I have. Mine is wider. 

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Mixed martial arts kitten ... 

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Nationwide demand returns for NJ oysters as growers note a renaissance for the state's industry

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Middle Township Gazette] by David Benson - October 17, 2014

Aquaculture farmers in Middle Township are riding the leading edge of an oyster renaissance, a Rutgers marine scientist said recently, and last week independent growers in the area got the vocal support of a federal lawmaker in their pursuit to revitalize a once-great state industry.

On Monday, Oct. 6, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo stood on the shore of the Delaware Bay in Middle Township and grinned as he swallowed an oyster taken just moments earlier from the chilly waters.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” LoBiondo said. “It’s a case of gathering information, with the added bonus of fresh oysters.”

Not long ago, the lawmaker’s office reached out to Lisa Calvo, a Rutgers marine scientist working with eight oyster farmers in the township, and one in Cumberland County. Calvo said LoBiondo wanted to know more about the Cape May Oyster Cooperative, an organization of oyster growers incorporated earlier this year.

“I’ve been interested in oysters on the bay for years and years and years,” LoBiondo said. “It’s important for me to learn more of the real world aspects of oyster farming and what their challenges are.”

The cooperative, Calvo said, brings growers together to share information and best practices.

During the tour of the area, LoBiondo noted that New Jersey’s Port Norris was once known as the “oyster capital of the world,” and that he’d like to the see the industry boom once again the state.

LoBiondo said that the best way to understand the business and the issues the growers face is to meet the people involved face-to-face, and last week’s meeting with the growers aimed to get the lawmaker first-hand information on the difficulties oyster farmers faced.

On Monday, the lawmaker donned knee-high rubber boots, and joined oyster farmers as they gathered near Rutgers Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory on Delsea Drive in Cape May Court House.

“We got started doing this in 1996 or ’97,” Brian Harman said to LoBiondo. Harman is with Atlantic Cape Fisheries, and the company’s “rack and bag” way of farming oysters is the oldest operation in the area.

Harmon’s bay farm has about 8 million oysters in the waters off Middle Township, with an annual harvest of about 1.2 million.

Oyster growers talk with U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo about the future of shellfish aquaculture in Middle Township. As Harmon held up a black, mesh bag about the size of a grain sack, he talked about his passion for farming the waters.

“We started using the rack and bag method of growing the oysters, and it snowballed into a really good operation,” Harmon said. “People all across the country started asking for our oysters.”

Calvo said wild oysters grow on reefs, but that farmed oysters are raised in mesh bags off the shore of Middle Township. Farming oysters, she said, allows growers to cultivate shellfish that are not only uniform in size and shape, but tasty.

The oyster market has exploded across the country, she said, and connoisseurs often use terms to describe shellfish that make them sound like fine wines.

At a website dealing with all kinds of seafood, oysters have flavor profiles such “briny, soft, delicate and full of liquor,” “buttery succulent, minimal salt flavor,” and “complex mild salt, with lettuce finish.”

“This area is a special site that’s close to the mouth of the bay,” Calvo said. “The tide flushes through the area twice a day, producing a nice, buttery oyster.”

Calvo squinted into the sunlight as a cool wind ruffled the waves of an outgoing tide.

“These oysters shine in the market place,” she said. “They’re not part of the shucking market. They’re for the half-shell market, and they’re meant to be eaten raw.”

LoBiondo was impressed.

“I knew we had an excellent product,” he said to the gathered farmers. “But I didn’t know that we’d developed a following.”

Harmon said that while many of his oysters find their way into markets in Philadelphia and New York, restaurants from as far away as Arizona and California seek shipments of shellfish from his farm.

“But it’s a lot of work,” Harmon said.

Oyster farmers have to work the tides in the shallows of the Delaware Bay. Low tide might last for three to five hours, and it can change quickly.

“If you don’t keep an eye on the tide, you can find yourself working under water,” Harmon said.

In those five hours, farmers check each of their bags, separating and moving oysters as they grow, or shifting them to ensure even growth.

Joe Moro, North Cape May, started his farm in May, and he’s the newest grower in the group. Over a period of a few months, Moro invested about $10,000 for equipment that included a power washer to clean the oysters, and about 130,000 seed oysters.

Seed oysters are typically 2 millimeters to 12 millimeters in size, Moro said. The smaller the oyster, the lower the cost. Six millimeter oysters are $12 for 1,000. Eleven millimeter shellfish are $16 for 1,000.

That can lead to a big payoff, LoBiondo noted. At the state level, investing in state’s oyster industry can bring $50 for every $1.

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo swallows a raw oyster taken just minutes earlier from the Delaware Bay. Locally, Moro can expect as much as 56 cents in the wholesale market for each oyster he brings to market size. Direct to retailer prices run as high as 86 cents per oyster, Calvo said.

Yet, raising oysters isn’t quick. Calvo said that growing them from seed to market size can take 18 months to three years.

Moro is hoping that his will be fat and ready for market sooner, rather than later, and expects to harvest at least part of his shellfish sometime next year.

Still new to the business and experimenting, Moro said he selected oysters that were 3, 6 and 11 millimeters. To allow for growth and room to feed, the mesh bags are filled by about a third.

Just five months ago, Moro started with five bags anchored to the bottom of the Delaware Bay. As the oysters have grown, he’s sorted them and moved the oysters into new bags with a larger opening in the mesh.

Moro now has 55 bags to tend.

“What are your biggest challenges?” LoBiondo asked the farmers. “What are the difficulties that you face that I can help with?”

Betsy Haskin is a longtime resident with a farm in the bay. The research lab is named for her father. Haskin told the lawmaker that growers face a tangle of rules and legislation at both the state and federal level.

“There’s confusion and gray areas can cause problems,” Haskin said.

Calvo said that farmers face rules from the federal Department of Agriculture, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Even within the state, the scientist noted that growers could get different answers to questions posed to different officials within the same department.

Despite LoBiondo’s offer of help to cut through red tape, Haskin asked him to wait. The cooperative is still new, and the members are working to identify issues and barriers to the industry’s growth.

“Just let me know how I can help,” LoBiondo said. “I can’t say for sure that they’ll it will do any good, but I can talk to the right people.”

Up until a few years ago, there were federal resources that could have helped the oyster industry grow in southern New Jersey, LoBiondo said. “Unfortunately, the way it’s worded now, all the help is going to the Chesapeake Bay.”

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Comment by Tom Borkowski on October 17, 2014 at 7:31pm

Jay, I have been reading different forums, and it looks like they are catching Stripers North of MI, and from Margate (back bay) all the way down to Cape May. The people catching in the South back bays are say the stripers have sea lice. that means they are ocean fish. As far as I can tell no body is catching off LBI, and they say they aren't catching in the Mullica. So my question is in your opinion how are these fish getting into the south back bays.

Thanks

Tom B

Comment by jaymann on October 17, 2014 at 7:57pm

I shouldn't let this cat out of the local bag but there are folks fishing LBI bay areas at night and whacking bass -- though the largest are just under 34 inches. Also, the netters have taken some huge bass off LBI -- we're talking 40 pounds plus. The thing with bass is the way they can go bay-hopping for part of a night and be three miles out at sea by daybreak. I have also long theorized that we get "ocean" bass this time of year -- fish that have over-summered out at sea a ways, then come in when they know the fall (and spring) bait balls are bouncing around. Of course, right about now we don't have any hookable bass to speak of so it's kinda academic where they'll come from. 

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