Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Black Birds RainDown;
Fear the Ruinousrun-ff
Well, I’m back. Myvacation time was studying, first hand, what bears feel like when theyhibernate. I did that against my will, all but entrapped in my house.
Only days intowhat I had planned as a three-week archeological digging stint, I found myselffacing a solid three to four feet of snow in my backyard.
Speaking of which,there is a huge disparity over how much snow we got during the HolidayBlizzard. For Ship Bottom, I stand firm at somewhere between 24 and 30 inches.My thinking and measuring is buttressed by DOT people who huffily balked at thenotion of a mere 24 inches, as was reported on TV. Old-time plowers agreed itwas the largest snowfall they had seen on the Island, surpassing the Blizzard of1978.
Ship Bottom andpoints north got hit the hardest. The variability maker was the nature of thecoastal storm. It arrived in bands of precip. If you watched theradar/precipitation maps closely, you saw mid-Island getting hit by thosenotorious orange/red radar blobs, indicating the heaviest of snow. One WeatherChannel meteorologist actually mentioned Ship Bottom, by name, as gettingclobbered.
If you want to seea day by day rundown of the storm and its aftermath, check out my archivedblogs as http://jaymanntoday.ning.com/.
IT’S RAINING BIRDS: Far more crazed than brutal LBIweather swings are bizarre wildlife die-offs taking place around the planet.Massive fish and crab die-offs are being seen in Europe. But, more stunning,are birds going psycho. (I’m a Hitchcock fan)
Not that far south, redwing blackbirds and starlings havesuddenly been dropping from the sky, dead as flying doornails. And we’re notjust talking Heckle and Jeckle mysteriously found deceased in the gutter.Within a short timeframe (a couple weeks), dead and dying blackbirds have allbut poured out of the skies over Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee. Near Beebe,Ark., over 3,000 DOAs crash-landed in a matter of seconds. More than a few Bible Belt southerners werea tad spooked by dead animals biblically falling from above.
To rule out a potentially communicable disease being at theroot of the bird fallout, bird carcasses were rushed to places like the Centerfor Disease Control in Georgia for elaborate testing. Doctors quickly came upwith that strangest of medical diagnoses: the birds were all very healthy,albeit quite dead.
On second shake, that healthy-but-dead prognosis is actuallyquite accurate. There wasn’t a single bird showing the presence of any killerpathogens. Not that disease was high on the possibility list. There’s virtuallyno known illness that can cause thousands of birds to die simultaneously inmid-flight. The search goes on for any suicide pact, though that’s also low onthe list of possibilities.
Somewhat oddly, all the tested birds had died of internalinjuries from blunt force trauma. One researcher said, “It was as if they hadflown full-speed into a pane of glass.” And, NO (!), there were no windmillswithin miles. (Don’t even get me started on that nonsense!)
As predictably as PETA asserting some human cruelty causedthe bird deaths, doomdayists rushed to board the bandwagon. They swore up anddown it’s yet another vivid prelude to end times, currently scheduled for late2012. One overly dedicated Mayan calendar worshipper suddenly produced a“primitive Mayan painting,” highlighted by images of dead birds all over theground -- right beneath the date “2012.” It caused quite the media uproar --which rapidly subsided when a reporter noticed the “primitive” artifact stillhad wet paint and all the birds had little “X”s painted over their eyes.
Not to be left out of the doomsday loop, conspiracy buffsare absolutely salivating over “almost indisputable evidence” that it wassecret tests by our government that knocked the birds for a loop, via an LRAD(long range acoustic device), sometimes called a sound cannon or, morerecently, a Tweety Tenderizer. One astuteness-challenged conspiracist evensuggested, “The dead birds should be checked for hearing loss.” Newsflash: Thebirds are dead, dude. They can’t hear anything.
In due respect for those lost blackbirds, I decided I shouldtry to ferret out why flocks of in the pink black birds concurrently kicked thefeathery bucket?
What I discovered on first flush, I mean first blush, wasthe absolute un-uniqueness of such die-offs. Turns out there have been reportsof astounding and instantaneous bird die-offs dating back thousands of years –and right up to the present. Pretty much the entire planet has experienced deadbirds falling from the heavens. The long-defunct B.C. Press of ancient Egypthad the hieroglyphic headline, “Residents Baffled Over Dead Birds Falling FromSky.” That’s the exact headline that recently ran in the Associated Press.
One knee-jerk theory is lightning killed the birds.
There’s no denying that a single bolt can clear a largeslice of sky in a billion-volt heartbeat. However, that flashy possibilityfades in the face of research showing that most investigated bird die-offsoccurred on clear days – often the clearest of clear days. Also, a lightingstrike would surely leave some smoking tail feathers. No such smoldering werefound during the recent die-offs.
All in all, why dead birds get together and fall from thesky remains a mystery – a cool mystery in any ways.
JAY-BIRD THEORY: I’ll venture a semi-educated guessthat those flocks of birds got caught in powerful updrafts, very common in thewinter (and over Egypt) when powerful westerly winds sweep through after coldfronts.
Being rudely catapulted into rarified air by gusts, theyliterally passed out, suffering from something known as hypoxemic hypoxia. Youdon’t stay in-flight long when hypo-hypo kicks you one good.
Unconscious, the birds plummeted to earth, en mass. However,the doomed birds were not dead. In fact, some may have recovered prior toimpact, dizzily flying off thinking, “What the hell was that all about?”
Those that didn’t get the wake-up call, kinda splatted down,explaining the high-impact internal injuries.
Ta-da. “CSI-Birdland” here I come.
Crash Scene Investigator Jay Mann, places sunglasses overeyes, smiling oddly. Break to commercial.
P.S. As for the recent showing of fish and crab die-offs(mainly in Europe), I’ll bet the farm those are related to either weather(thermal shock) or toxins (human or natural). Those causes are easily proven.I’m sure the crabs float-ups in England and the fish die-offs in Sweden are noteven remotely related to birds crashing down in Tennessee.
Now, to have crabs crashing out of the skies, already cookedand buttered?
ROCKFISH RAVE:Well, they’re at it again down North Carolina way.
On January 5,12-year-old Chase Furlough was fishing on a charter boat off Oregon Inlet whenhe hooked up and fought a 63-pound rockfish/striper. It took the lad 25 minutesto land – slowed by dad’s hollerin’ of tips.
When boated, thenofficially weighed, the fish was a shoe-in for a new Tar Heel state record. Thekid was ecstatic – for two whole days.
No sooner had Chasefinished penning his acceptance speech, than he learned angling life could becruel. Up to the scales steps grizzled angling veteran Keith Angel, holding a64-pound bass, caught in nearly the same spot as the kid’s fish.
Keith’s fish had atwist – and one I’m wondering about, record-wise. The angler had apparentlybeen using either a teaser or a separate lure on the same rod. Climbing aboardhis hook-up train was a second striper, a15-pounder. Keith hauled in 79 poundsof rockfish, combined weight. Per a report from the boat Keith was on, otherpatrons went on to catch (and mainly released) over 50 bass in the 30- to40-pound range.
I believe this further proves the bass population is goingbonkers. Hell, the NC state record was broken twice in just a 2-day period.
Part of my ongoing striper spiel focuses on what might betoo big a bass biomass. I’m mainly working to get us a smaller take-home bass,as small at 22 inches. At the same time, I’m realistic on the trophy bass front.I support a slot that keeps bass in (arbitrarily) the 34- to 40-inch rangeprotected at al times.
UPBEAT START-UP:Fisheries-wise, I’d like to start 2011 on a decently upbeatnote. Per a story in the Portland Press Herald (Maine), top fishery scientistshave acknowledged that this will be the first year in “writtenfishing history” that U.S. commercial and recreationalfishermen will not be over fishing a single species. In more technicalterminology, sustainability standards have been met across the species board.
“As far as weknow, we've hit the right levels, which is a milestone,” scientist SteveMurawski told the Press Herald.
Murawski is theformer chief scientist at the NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Hisresearch on sustainability has focused on data and records going back to 1900.
“This isn't just adecadal milestone, this is a century phenomenon,” he said.
While the newsstory hypes a stellar sustainability achievement, it also quotes fishing folkshurt – or ruined -- on the way to sustainability. Many fishermen, from coast tocoast to Gulf, were forced to sell the farm, to allow a balance betweenharvesting and conserving. In New England, there had been 1,200 commercialfishing boats as recently as the mid-1990s. There are now half that many.
However -- andthis is purely my take -- there would be absolutely no fishing left if theindustry (and I’m including the angling industry) had continued at the deadlyfishing pace it had achieved. I’ve been taken to task on this self-destructionpotential within the fishing realm. Many commercial fishermen believe theindustry has a form of internalized controls that prohibit the annihilation ofthe resource. A local fisherman told me, “If we take too many fish there’s nomoney in it and pussies bale. The serious fishermen weather it out andsurvive.”
Pussiness factornotwithstanding, there are areas of the world where commercial fishermen have,in fact, been left to their own self-regulating devices. Instead of internaleconomics saving the day, massive areas of the ocean have been left utterlybarren of marketable fish – an unproductive wasteland that may never recover.
Coming close toterminal barrenness: the once-fish rich waters from Jersey north to theCanadian Maritime. It wasn’t stock failure and fishermen abandoning ships thatsparked change. It was purely management and conservationism. And, per thissustainability achievement, it might just have worked.
Sidebar: Do nottake this segment as a condemnation of commercial fishing on my part. Thoseguys feed our fish-loving nation – and me. In fact, I feel guardedly good aboutthis sustainability thing. I’ve always said that keeping enough fish in thesystem is the best way for all fishermen to tap the resource.
RUINOUS RUN-OFF: What do all these snowstorms do to theenvironment?
Very bad things.
For simplicity’ssake, we’ll conveniently overlook the element of mercury always arriving inmodern-day precipitation, though that deadly heavy metal could someday be thedeath of us all.
More immediately,the big eco-hit from snowstorms leaks in via runoff of chemical salts,including brine (“liquid salt”), now being used by road crews to melt ice onroadways. Each year, the U.S. uses over 25 million tons of rock salt to keeproads clean. Who knows how much table salt gets used.
A problem we oftenhave locally is a fast melt-off, brought on by heavy runs when deep snow isa-ground. A quick melt gags the bay with way more salt than it needs.
Biivalves,minnows, winter flounder, and, most importantly, eelgrass are all in jeopardyWhen salinities suddenly go crazy. Super swings in water chemistry can kill.Let’s hope that new efforts to save Barnegat Bay eventually address salinityassaults.
BEET THESTREETS: I just have topass on some beetier news. No, not beefier. Here’s an excerpt from a “MotherNature Network” story:
“… Combinations ofbeet juice and rock salt are being sprayed on streets and highways by thetransportation departments in DC, Missouri, and Ohio and in cities scattered
throughout theMidwest and Northeast. The mixture is reported to have a lower freezing pointthan salt alone and stays on the road longer, reducing the number ofapplications. The Ohio DOT says it’s currently testing a beet-salt concoctioncalled GeoMelt in 9 of its 88 counties.”
Per sketchyreports, the deicing capacity of processed liquid beet byproduct came aboutwhen a farmer noticed the pond where he drained beet juice never froze. Soundsjust weird enough to be true. And ice skating on that beet red pond is realrisk – fall through and you’re tainted for life.
Now, should weexchange over-salted bay water for beet red water?
Not to worry,there’s nothing off-color about GeoMelt. By the time the organic beet liquidhits the road, all the redness is gone to wherever redness goes when removed.
Unfortunately, Ishould have read that color-free part of the story before I rushed out
and poured a bunchof half-used jars of pickled beets on the snow bank behind my truck. Shortlyafter I employed the beet ice-melt method, a passing police cruiser slid to asideways halt. The officers saw the hideous redness in the snow and wereinstantly convinced I had been digging snow and my heart had exploded clean outof my body.
Oh, great, nowI’ll get charged for their five years of “sick leave” recovery time! (Justkidding, guys!)ODD SNOW TALE:An LEHT resident was digging deep snow away from the entrance of a drift-buriedunused doghouse when three terrified feral cats exploded out, blasting upwardthrough the fluffy snow. In unison, the untamed cats launched themselves highinto the air before landing, then disappearing, beneath the white. Making somesub-snow progress, the cats soon rocketed back out of the snow a few feet away-- staying airborne for a couple seconds, then hitting down and going backunder for a short sub-snow stint, only to burst skyward again, a few feet down.This Animal Channel-worthy snow escape carried on all across the yard andonward into the white landscape. Now, I’m not a cat tormentor, per se, but itwould have been a blast to noisily chase after them until a cyclone fence camealong. “Bonk! Bonk! Bonk!”