Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Sunday, July 01, 2012: Real nice day even with the simmering “heat wave” skies.
I’m guessing this entire coming week will be somewhat angler heavy. I know July 4 will be a crazy-busy fishing day. I can’t get a read on how much fishing pressure to expect on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. I know tons of fishing folks are taking this coming Friday off.
How about the bunkies in the bay? I have to think they’ve been bounced from the backbay areas by the runoff. Hard to say if they’ll return to the creeks. I’m guessing the larger bluefish now in the hood might convince them to scurry back to the shallows. Very poor initial showing of mullet, now well past larval stage – though I’ve only seined a few backbay locales. I’m starting to entertain the notion that a solid population of mullet grows in the creeks and shallows of the sedge islands closer to LBI, areas like the tweener creeks of the Sheepsheads, south end.
I was surprised to see a fellow leaving the beach this a.m. (upper mid-Island area) with his two allowable striped bass and two larger bluefish. We chatted and he’s a Montauk area regular but visiting locally for, of all timely things, a big backyard BBQ – today much less.
He had been at it since before light. That early start is as common in Montauk as hereabouts. He nabbed both his bass – identical cookie-cutter 29-inchers – in quick succession, just as the sun was showing its colors. The bluefish followed closely on the bass heels. The near-shoppers finished off his bunker bait.
His bait was a bit of a story in its own right. Prior to fishing, he places his bunker chunks in GULP! essence. The fishing club he belongs to purchases massive amounts of Berkeley baits. He collects the goop in the bottom of GULP! “bins” so he can sloshes his cut bunker chunks in it. This a.m., there were no other anglers very near where he was fishing so there was no way of telling if his slosh technique was winning the day or if he had simply found a honey hole.
Fluking was fair to good from most reporting areas. I gleaned that wading through tons of scanned radio chatter. Per usual, some fluke fishing waters shined, while others had anglers sorting through small stuff to inch-out a few keepers. One boat reported a 20 to one ratio. I also heard of numerous “doormats” mixed in with throwbacks.
Despite a seeming downturn in the surf fluking, I’m going to give it go in Ship Bottom toward dark. I want to try the new “see-thru” plastic “sand eels” -- in roughly Fin-S Fish shapes. These aren’t flavored so they’ll need some hop or a sidearm jerking action during retrieve.
Newbie tip: Fluke most often grab on the stop, so make sure to have some serious hooking action during the upswing when jigging or jerking.
If you’re jigging the suds and constantly getting short hit – and that can drive you crazy when fluking -- you can’t always blame your technique. There are days when those buggers just won’t commit. It’s better to switch to a full-on bait presentation at those points, though it’s still always essential to keep fluking bait constantly in motion – both to feel the pickup and to keep undersized fluke from fatally swallowing the hook.
By the by, the exact same bait rigs used for fluke when boat fluking work when casting bait from bank or beach, though sinkers should be as light as possible in the surf, unlike on-boat, when a massive lead presence is essential to hold bottom. For the surf, I like a 1- or 1.5-ounce cushion sinker. Remember, the huge percentage of surf fluke are lurking in the swash zone right near the beach. No heavy casting needed.
BIG GAME SURVIVAL: A fellow web blogger asked about the survival rate of released offshore billfish. I offered the oft-arbitrary numbers I’ve read in assorted studies, which run from a low of 50 percent clear up to a 90 percent survival rate.
While the survival numbers are significant, I explained it’s just as important to understand what can kill a big fish, even when release is at hand.
The real killer is exhaustion. Virtually every landed fish was just in a fight for its life. When finally fully landed, it has often given up the ghost – and wishing it had updated its will to exclude a couple family members it was no longer wild about.
Believe it or not, a creature – even a human creature – keeps on giving up even when it turns out the end isn’t as near as it first thought.
Sticking with big game fish, a broken spirit can linger even after the hook is removed and the fish is technically free-and-clear to swim off. Oddly put, it just doesn’t get the fact it’s actually not dying.
However, no amount of explaining can surmount the dire physical aspect still attacking an about-to-be-released fish: exhaustion -- potentially irreversible exhaustion.
Exhaustion is doubly deadly for fish. You gotta go human to get at least a distant sense of what a fully-fought fish must contend with. Most of us humans have, at some point or another (for men, it may have been military times), run ourselves to the point of exhaustion. It’s that bent over, gasping air, can’t take another step, wouldn’t mind vomiting point when something like suffocation seems imminent. Out of dire necessity, we suck in extra air like it’s life itself – huge gulps of aerated survival.
Now, imagine being run ragged but being fully unable to usher in massive amounts of 02. Such is the plight of a fought fish. It just can't bend over to catch its breath.
In fact, a fish can't take a deep breath, per se. No Lungs. Enter gills. While these are damn decent for allowing dissolved oxygen to enter a fish’s blood stream under normal circumstances, they’re slow suckers, so to speak.
I won’t get all technical except to point out there are 210 ml of oxygen per liter of air we breath. A fish gets a measly 5 ml of oxygen from a sucking in a liter of water. No need to look for your metric conversion chart, simply recognize we get 40 times more oxygen when we take in a liter of air. What’s more, our lungs essentially expand to allow for larger emergency intakes. We breathe our asses off when winded. No-can-do for fish. They have one-speed gills.
And there’s even more bad breathing news for a just-landed gamefish. It gets its humble oxygen needs met by moving through the water. When pulled boatside and held in place? Not only can’t it get its mandatory everyday oxygen in this position but it doesn’t stand a prayer of sucking in the immense amount of additional oxygen required to compensate for the heart-pound and physical demands of a fight – one that may have lasted for hours.
Right about now, it’s easy to see why a bested gamefish is quite inclined to ignore anglers explaining, “Everything is going to be OK.”
But the anglers are, in fact, dead serious. It’s right at that last-gasp point when all honorable big game anglers faithfully administer the now universal revival/ resuscitation techniques.
Virtually every captain and all the crewmembers aboard a gamefishing vessel go to often-extreme means to fully revive a landed gamefish before releasing. Most often, a fish is manually assisted in catching its breath. This is accomplished by essentially forcing water into the fish’s gills, most often by holding the unhooked fish alongside the boat while moving it back and forth in the water. Many savvy captains will slowly accelerate the boat forward to allow a super surge of aerated water to hit the gills. And, boy, do gamefish respond when soothing words are accompanies by great gulps of oxygen. A fully revitalized fish, when released, can once again easily outswim opportunistic predators, like sharks – which would otherwise victimize any improperly released gamefish.
This pretty much worldwide revitalization and resuscitation of landed gamefish leads me to believe that the survival rate for big game releases is way toward the upper end of the success charts. Such tireless conservation constantly breathes life back into the sport.
Matt Christensen catch