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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

The Fish Story

What's Below Can Sink You; Bullets Fly in Appreciation

By JAY MANN | Jan 24, 2013

Damn. Cold can be so damn, well, cold. Who’da thunk it?

Even before this cold snap – whatever in the hell a snap’s worth of cold is – I had this sinking feeling I wasn’t properly acclimated for any arriving single-digit wind chills. I had that feeling because I’m still frickin’ here, ain’t I?!

Many years back, I developed a perfect and profound method to both mentally and physically prepare myself for an approaching NJ winter. It’s foolproof.

I’d begin by burning some Nogales sage incense, then put on some George Winton piano music. In a calm and controlled manner, I’d settle atop a lush, afghan rug, carefully assuming a Tibetan “dancing lotus” yoga position. Ohming softly, I’d methodically breath in for a ten count and out for eight; tilt my wholly relaxed body ever so slightly toward the east quadrant of the cosmos; and then, little by little, extend my right arm outward in an arc – and reach the hell over and book a nonstop flight to Maui. Where in bloody hell did I go so wrong?

This weeklong cold crunch should sit just right for all those wrapped in natural, pure fur coats.

No, this is not one of my regular tauntings of PETA people. It’s actually my way of passing on word that the fairly famed pair of minks near the Barnegat Lighthouse is fine and friskying about. They don’t hibernate – nor do they need to, sporting such comely, well-acclimated stoles. I hope to get up there soon to grab some Marlin Perkins-esque footage of the oft-crepuscular (twilight and dawn) creatures.

While on a wildlife slant, I’m not a big believer in wild animals being overly adept at predicting what an arriving winter has in store, though I’m sure they still make hefty bets. And, of course, grizzled outdoorsmen swear up and down that an animal’s fur thickness and food storage foretells the upcoming season’s severity. However, during the last hours of this recent mildish weather, I noticed a sudden, precipitous decline in the presence of virtually all wildlife, which had been fully out and about and enjoying the lack of coldness. It sure seemed they somehow instinctively knew what was right around the cold front corner and bolted back to den, lodge and hibernaculum – even before the mercury hit the skids. At the same time, all you’d need is some chatty possum taking in The Weather Channel through an uncurtained window.

… CAN HURT YOU: What’s down there? I’m talking the bay bottom, many weeks after the storm. No one knows what is a-lurk. And it’s going to be a bitch to find out, until you smash into the sh … shtufff.

There’s no doubt Sandy hauled off anything and everything she could get her grimy, watery paws around. Logic alone would dictate that anything that wasn’t found transplanted elsewhere on land, went into the bay.

Again, there’s no guessing. Remember that wholesale throw-out session after the storm? Of course, you do – now that you’re realizing how expensive it is to replace all that deep-sixed stuff, which has you pondering a weekend drive to Ohio, where they hauled all our storm debris: “Hi. We’re visiting here from Jersey. Any chance you’ve seen a large pile of debris with three pink, plastic flamingoes and a Miller High Life sign?”

Anyway, that frenzied, mass-discard debacle – yes, it was a debacle – trashed any chance of ever trying to semi-scientifically tabulate what made it into Barnegat Bay. There’s no way to check off what was recovered and what took a dip.

It’s a sinking certainty that our boating channels are now a resting place for literally untold numbers of flooded-away objects, some unsettlingly large. There are virtually no sunken items that become nautically inert. Even small things can become prop or intake killers. I can assure there are ugly items dangerously suspended in the water column, just waiting to make mincemeat out of hulls.

Looking ahead to spring’s start to boating, it sure seems likely there will be thousands of sunken objects poised to pose some degree of risk to mariners.

As you might know, our good governor is vowing massive monetary manpower (Does that makes sense?) to essentially drag for debris, though he seems far more hip on doing north Barnegat Bay, first and foremost.

Taking an angling tilt, can you imagine trying to drift for fluke in the bay or inlets? And what about the insane number of items that went seaward, as evinced by the large benches that began on LBI and ended up in Seaside? Truth be told, surfcasting might be the safest bet.

HATE ME IF YOU MUST: What the hell, I guess I’ll be the first muckraker to bring up one of those post-storm woulda/shoulda/coulda screw-ups, committed well ahead of time by virtually every Island and bayside town – and townsperson therein.

You know as well as me there are ordinances on virtually all the coastal community books that prohibit the outside use of unsecured wooden beams, telephone pole pieces, railroad ties, landscaping ties, breakaway trash can holders, wooden walkways – i.e., anything that can float away in a storm and either become a battering ram on its own or join with other ilk-same pieces, conspiring to form hoard-like mats of damaging debris.

Those bans on free-floating wood were totally ignored by all of us – and code enforcement officers, to boot. Predictably, it came back to smash us in the ass.

Fully half of the debris left on my block was breakaway wooden yard junk. In fact, I couldn’t believe how many of those wooden, residential walkways had, well, walked away and found new digs. I had two residential walkway segments, weighing at least 100 pounds each, in my yard. It took me and a strongish neighbor to drag them curbside. Over at town hall, a full-length, free-floating telephone pole – taking a ride down Central Avenue – was the final evacuation indicator.

Admittedly, in our Southern Ocean County case, the debris pound wasn’t nearly as bad as oozy, sneaky, cat-pawed floodwater. However, it was a mere quirk of landfall fortune that we didn’t get hit the way folks did just slightly to our north. Up in Seaside Park, every piece of wayward wood became a wave-driven battering ram.

Not that we fully escaped, even now. How much of the aforementioned storm debris in the bay – comprised of heavy, waterlogged and or sunken wood pieces – will be coming back to haunt mariners for years to come? You better believe that more than a few costly vessels are going to meet up with one of those super solidly-made, outdoor wooden trashcan holders.

Anyway, I’m sure I’m pissing off many home-and-garden types who love their quaint outdoor accoutrements, but we really should think twice about idly leaving an entire assortment of unsecured wood objects out in flood territory.

FREE FIRE ZONE IN EAGLESWOOD: I was doing some my-time in a wooded section of Staffordville on Saturday when, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop! – the sound of trigger-fast gunfire issued forth. And it was very close by.

I instinctively crouched beside a tree and listened for whiz-bys. Anyone who has ever been around live rounds knows that whiz sound.

Somewhat oddly (to me), the gunfire was from side arms (handguns), being emptied at a fairly healthy rate – unless you happened to be on the receiving end, in which case thehealthy factor declines rapidly.

I quickly deduced these weren’t skin-bound rounds. They were being contained. There’s a subtle but unique sound when fired bullets only make it as far as an earthen backstop. The discharge cadence had target shooting written all over it. In fact, it sounded a lot like a police firing range, though the closest such course was many miles away.

When the firing stopped, after maybe a couple eight-round clips’ worth, my guard dropped a bit. I began moving casually along an old, overgrown Tuckerton Railroad right-of-way. But damn if the bullets didn’t begin to fly again, this time with even greater intensity. Not to worry, this is not a blood and gore segment.

I homed in, aurally, on the source. Somewhat disturbingly, I placed the staccato gunfire quite close to Route 9, just north of Dinner Point Road.

By now, I was firing off my own, “What the hell is this all about?”

And I wasn’t the only one armed with that question. I looked just to my north and saw a young gal, who had been walking a large dog along the old railroad bed. She was now stopped in her tracks, obviously staring toward me.

Unfairly, she saw me holding something – in my case, a harmless metal detector – and evidently assumed I was the noisy shootist. She opted to divert her walk, executing a 180-degree turn and pussyfooting it out of Dodge. I had been half tempted to hold my detector over my head so she could get a better look at it, but, at that distance, I would have likely looked more like some crazed soldier right out of  “Platoon.”

I tried to wait out the noisy shooting but it just went on and on, for over an hour. It got to the point I couldn’t relax and do my thing.

As I opted to drive off to quieter surroundings, I was sorely tempted to first sneak up on the shooters, just to see what was cookin’. However, what’s that word they use to depict covertly working one’s way toward moving bullets? Oh, that’s right – idiotic!

It was until that evening that I happened upon both a logical and highly controversial explanation for that day’s gunplay. Channel surfing onto a news talk show, I found out it was “Gun Appreciation Day” across America. Geez, how did I not know that? I’m certain that free-fire session was a local calibration, I mean celebration.

Apparently, it was not illegal. I’m thinking myself and fleet-of-foot girl weren’t the only ones that had the gunfire trigger a response. So I checked and target shooting on private property – with legally registered weapons in the hands of gun permit holders – most often comes down to the discretion of the town you’re in. In fact, reading complaints, the biggest bugaboo about firing off a load of target-bound rounds, most often comes down noise ordnanceviolations. Oops, now I meant ordinance.

And I sure hear those complaints. Once I recognized the gunfire was under control, the noise factor was actually my only gripe that day. By the same token, I’m not overly wild about folks target shooting in such close proximity to, uh, me.

For a far safer shooting session, let’s keep an eye on Tip’s Shooters Sporting Center, being built on Route 539, just off the south side of the Parkway. The owners are gunning for an early 2013 startup.

BADGERING ME: The following is in response to numerous – and divergent – e-mails I’ve gotten regarding free beach badges for all.

I know this might be tough to compute but just imagine that I found your town attractive for some reason. I come there with some friends, park in front of your house, maybe camp out nearby – and I kinda make a royal mess. It comes with the territory – someone else’s, that is. And then I coyly expect you to pay for the cleanup.

What’s more, I like your place so much I’ve decided to come down every single day – for months and months on end. A mess-a-day, as it were. Also, I’ve decided to invite everyone I know to your area; and they’re going to invite everyone they know.

Now, by the thousands of thousands, we swarm your place and even though we’re kinda careful, there are so frickin’ many of us we now routinely make a totally insane mess – by the minute. Astoundingly, we expect that mess to be fully cleaned up every day and – once again – we expect you to pay the entire cleanup cost, every single penny. And we better not find so much as a dirty baby diaper when we awake in the morning or someone is going to hear about it.

But there’s way more.

So we thousands can feel all safe and comfy in your area, we want you to hire guards, hundreds and hundreds of them. We want them out there every single day, protecting our kids, watching over us, damn-it. And, yes, we fully expect you to pay for every cent of that, too. We couldn’t care less how much it is. Hell, we’re not paying for it.

Oh, another thing: a bunch of our older kids might be partying at night and leaving trash and beer bottles all over the place, so we demand that their mess gets cleaned up before sunrise. Naturally, you can pay for that, too, dude.

Oh, lest we forget, since there’ll be so very many of us using your area, you really need to expand your police force – and definitely pick up the bill. Safety first, you know. And, yes, cops are very expensive but we spare no cost when someone else is paying it.

But, let’s stop here and now – just to realize this IS NOT about Long Beach Island. Remember, this is about what would happen if this befell you – in your hometown. You’re suddenly expected to pay upwards of a million dollars a summer out of your tax pocket to cover cleaning up after me and my friends?! You’d go totally f****** ballistic! You’d storm town hall and take no prisoners. Yet that’s what you’re suggesting we should do. WTF!?

AFTERTHOUGHT: We’re trying our hardest to get things back to normal here. And we are not the millionaires that allegedly swarm all over LBI. We are the majority of Island locals who, like much of the world, are barely making ends meet. Now, virtually all of us have damn-near insurmountable debts because of Sandy. To even suggest saddling us with the costs of cleaning up after tourists and summerites this year is actually sorta sick.

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