Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

To start this column, I want to congratulate the ocean breezes on doing a stellar cooling job – so far. On a daily basis, the Island’s famed southeasterly summer winds have been kicking in early and hangin’ out late, knocking LBI air temps down as much as 15 degrees from those on the mainland. I know that ocean breeze aspect is nothing new, however, in recent years/decades our Island summers have been damn near as brutally hot as off-Island areas. We’re coolly cool so far – though only one month into the sizzling season.

The ocean temperatures are doing their usual LBI calisthenics. While the nearshore surf temps so far this summer have been mighty mild, nearing 75, south winds have occasionally upwelled all signs of warmth out of the bathing waters adjacent to our beaches.

As I bang out this blog, the bathing waters along the Surf City beachfront are a shivery 58 degrees. However, the water is already stretching for its calisthenics. A light east wind is ushering in clear ultra-mild water, as high as the mid-70s; a near 20-degree hike in a matter of hours.

Uninvitingly, that see-sawing thermometer could plunge south again by late week, when a “hot front” moves through, bringing in hard south winds. While the winds hairdryer in 100-degree temps (mainland), the upwelling action could kill swimable water temps. 

En Garde, Mon Ami!: It might be called payback from below.

Last week, the commercial fishing boat Roque del Águila, (Tenerife, Canary Islands) quickly sunk in calm waters off the Western Sahara.

By all indications and observations, the vessel’s tuna-fishing trip was ended when a huge swordfish gouged a 7-inch hole in the wooden ship’s hull.

The boat had been on a huge shoal of tuna, which were being put-upon by attacking swords.

Despite being equipped with both primary automatic and auxiliary pumps, the billfish-born hole was low in the hull. The pressurized incoming water easily overpowering the entire pumping system.

All the crewmembers safely escaped on a life raft and were quickly rescued by nearby fishing vessels.
The owner of the Roque del Águila said he had been worried about the frenzied swordfish when the tuna shoal fully surrounded his boat in an attempt to hide from the fast-moving predators.


A SOCCER EYEFUL: I know it’s not an angling subject, but how about that ladies soccer match Sunday?

I’ll be the first to admit soccer is not my game. Watching it requires something called patience. I have my own proverb about that: Patience is a virtue best left to itself. 

That profundity passed on, I happened upon the second half, “extra time” and penalty kick shoot-out of the FICA Woman’s World Cup, between the planetarily dominant U.S. and the seemingly sacrificial Japanese team. Amazingly, I actually watched it – only now-and-again remoting over to NASCAR to take in Martin Truex Jr.’s impressive outta nowhere 8th place finish. I have to publicly admit that soccer match was kinda wild, even the shocking ending.

Anyone who knows me will attest to my dedication when it comes to cheering on the “U –S – A!” I always keep red, white and blue body paint at the ready. However, I have to admit that match instilled me with a goodly dose of wow-ness over those feisty Japanese gals. Talk about fighting back from total down-and-outness -- twice. And, yes, the comparison to what the entire country went through not long ago was too obvious to ignore.

Just as much credit goes to the U.S. gals for both super playing – leaving it all on the filed -- and their amazing sportsmanship after the dizzying defeat. That honor in deafeat comes across via this quote from the U.S. goalie: "I truly believe that something bigger was pulling for (Japan)," said Hope Solo. "As much as I've always wanted this, if there was any other team I could give this to, it would have to be Japan."

No, I won’t be watching men’s soccer again any time soon, but combining this U.S.A./Japanese scrap and that time the U.S.A. gal tore her shirt off after winning, I’m keeping a closer eye on the ladies soccer circuit.

CLEVER-ASS DRAGONFLIES: I’ve been observing and photographing dragonflies and damselflies for nearly 25 years, though they’re getting a tad uppity over the lack of royalties.

Not many folks realize these fabulous flying insects are among the most colorful and glitzy creatures in North America. They’re covered by the scientific term Odonata, the order containing both insects. If you’re really cool, you routinely use the shortened “odes” to describe the ones you’ve spotted or photographed. Yes, you can then write an “Ode to an ode.”

Even if you’re not overly inclined to appreciate the flashy pigmentation of Odonta – and screech like a screamer monkey when one inadvertently swoops too close to you -- you really should utterly appreciate their mastery of the skies and their lethal aggressiveness when it comes to devouring biting insects, mid-flight.

Personally, I’m now donning them with having above bug average cleverness.

Be ye mainlander or Islander, you’ve surely noticed the recent influx of countless medium-sized blackish dragonflies. They’re everywhere. Per usual, the biting bug count has plummeted in the face of squadron after squadron of these intense insectivores.

Anyway, on Sunday, I pulled into my front yard “driveway” and was hearing out a good-old Smashing Pumpkins song on my CD player when I caught sight of one, then two, then three of those black dragonflies. Inexplicably, they were frantically buzz-bombing the hood of my truck. You’ve seen ‘em doing this too, right?

It took me a couple research minutes to finally focus in on why the swooping bug-eaters were toying with the hood’s metal surface, which had to be pushing 150 degrees. Turns out they were opportunistically – and I’ll call it cleverly – grabbing the tiny DOA insects that were either stunned or fully squished on the hood. Hey, why chase dinner all over Tarnation when an entire smorgasbord is being served on a huge colorful metal platter? Right on, dragonfly dudes.

Nature note:  The reason biting bugs bug-out when dragonflies arrive is kinda cosmic. It seems the mere vibration of arriving dragonflies gets virtually all other flying bugs heading for the hills.

An exemplary experiment I read about focused on two covered screen cages, one holding mosquitoes and one dragonflies. As the covered cage of dragonflies was moved toward the bloodsuckers, the mosquitoes absolutely jammed themselves against the side of the cage furthest from the dragonflies. There was absolutely no visuality involved. The mosquitoes were mortified -- by the vibes alone.

If you’d like to get an amazing read on Garden State dragonflies and damselflies, track down a copy of “Field Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of New Jersey,” by Allen E. Barlow, David M. Golden, and Jim Bangma. I’ve mentioned this book before but it’s such a beaut it deserves a re-mention.

BOLT ON THE WATER: I had a coolly complex E-question regarding lighting strikes on the open ocean or bay.

W.C. writes, "… That's got to be a lot of current. Any chance fish or other wildlife can get fried when a bolt hits the water?"

With questions like this, I turn to published studies and properly documented observations. In this case, the data is lacking, at least regarding exact collateral marine life damage when a nasty bolt hits water.

It's well known that lighting hitting water transfers outward, far more than it penetrates. Still, military instruction advises the second worst place to be in a lightning storm is in the water -- an open field the only place worse. Centers for Disease Control confirms there have been in-water victims from lighting strikes as far as 100 feet from where a bolt hits the water.

I’m guessing that fish near the surface will surely get a good jolt, a bit like the time you blindly reached behind the couch to plug in a new lamp and inadvertently shook hands with household current. I'll also bet that a big bolt hitting near a pod of surface-clinging bunker will make their day worse than usual. The true losers might very well be smaller, shallows creatures, hanging in the likes of eelgrass beds. At low tide, a bolt will likely fry them.

However, dollars to donuts, wildlife has lightning storms pretty much wired. Those creatures that can readily bolt, know to dive for cover (deeper water) when things begin to light up. Interestingly, that might very well explain why fishing very often takes off in the face of an arriving boomer. Predators have to know that in storms past, bolt-spooked baitfish zip right into their mouths. They commence to aggressive feeding as the skies darken.


The emailer also PS'ed, asking if lighting makes a splash when it hits the water surface.  Assuming that’s not one of those one hand clapping deep in a forest questions, my guess is the 50 mph winds usually running shotgun with most serious thunderstorms will have the splash market cornered at the given moment when a bolt meets water surface.


A young member of my extended family asked if dragonflies bite? Just ask a fly as it’s being juicily devoured by a dragonfly. Under a microscope, dragonfly jaws look like something from 999: Advanced Torture Training.

As for them laying into humans, a dragonfly just ain’t that kinda creature. They sorta like us. However, in my line of “What happen if I just grab this thing?” work, I’ve found those larger blue dragonflies, some of them the size of a military drone aircraft, will occasionally discourage human caresses, via the chomp.

During a dragonfly tagging session, I mishandled one and it took exception to that flap of skin between thumb and forefinger. I haven’t been on the best of terms with that species since then. Of course, they already had a strike against them after I saw one once grab a cute little tadpole right out of a puddle’s edge -- and fly off with it. That was yet another instance where it’s probably best that no other people go where I explore in the outback. The sight of a grown man screaming obscenities at the sky while swinging a branch at a weighed down dragonfly can sometimes be construed as disturbingly erratic behavior. Go figure.

WMIT ALERT: For you big gamers, it’s time to seriously think about the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club’s White Marlin Invitational. It’s only a week away. What’s more, the canyons seem super primed – super-heated -- to accommodate the tuna and billfish needs of the event.

I’m among the first to understand that urge to hold out until the weather begins to distantly hint at what it’ll have in store between the tourney dates of July 27 through the 30th. Still, the late fee is $200 above the $1,000 standard entry fee and, this year in particular, there’s the chance of “missing the boat” entirely, should the event max out.  This tournament is limited to the first 100 paid entries.

Remember, this is the first year the WMIT will be part of the IGFA Offshore World Championship and a tour stop for the World Billfish Series. What’s more, Manasquan Inlet has become an embarkation point, though all fish must be weighed at the BHMTC’s clubhouse.

Chatting with tournament co-director John Fitzgerald, there are already over 40 boats onboard, one-fifth of those are new names, likely drawn by the WMIT’s affiliations with essentially world-tour events. This time last year there were only 18 sign-ups.

Another draw is the hike in prize money. This year’s potential payout, including calcuttas, is 823,000, up from 673,00.

Despite a rapidly growing fame in the big game tournament circuit, John wants the WMIT to maintain its small-town charm – as long as possible.

“This tourney is one of the best small boat tournaments on the East Coast,” said Fitzgerald.

Whether that smallness – and hometown-ness -- can be sustained is problematic. Fitzgerald noted the population of smaller boats in big game events is rapidly decreasing. Also, the number of local vessels is also limited. “I would love 100 boats from LBI but I don’t think we have more than 35,” he said.

As for tactically handling the influx of fish in what may become a fairly harried WMIT 2011, Fitzgerald is confident in his team. “I will absolutely have the best weigh-in staff.”  With a turn-around time of under five minutes per dockside vessel, even a maxxed out boat count won’t foil the perfected process, assured Fitzgerald. 

Adding to the event’s draw this year is a new calcutta, one that essentially seeks to recognize and reward top billfish anglers who might not otherwise cash in on their hooking excellence. A $500 white marlin release calcutta will reward those vessels that touch the leaders of the most undersized white marlin. In the case of ties in the number of white marlin releases, the earliest touches prevail. As for the policing of the Calcutta, the good old polygraph will be the final decider. The payout percentages will be 25, 25, 50 for the three days of the tourney. 

If you’ve never been part of a big game weigh-in event, it’s very cool – and tasty to boot. In fact, the public is invited to give the 2011 WMIT a try. Tickets are available at $125 for all four night (18 and older), including the Wednesday Captains Meeting. Kids 8-17 cost $70. Kids under 8 are admitted free with paying adult. There are also public tickets for just Wednesday/Saturday and Thursday/Friday.

While the dockside hanging out and the famed fish hoisting is super-cool in its own right, the public ticket includes a nightly buffet-style hot food presentation by Joey’s Café. On Wednesday and Saturday, ticket-holders are also treated to an early evening raw bar, presented by Skipper’s Seafood. There is also a cash bar and BHM&TC gift shop. Add all that up and it’s a damn good deal. For info contact wmit@bhmtc.com.

RUNDOWN: We’re quite immersed in the dogfish days of summer. Maybe a tad more than usual, it’s tough to find much angling action short of fluking. I’ve had spurts of variety at night, including some of the smaller weakfish I’ve seen in many summers. That might be a good sign, though the overall population is deplorably low. I use freshwater “pickerel” spinners and smaller white-head jigs with white plastics to attract after-dark mini-weaks. A few larger sparklers have also been caught as fluking by-catch near The Dike, north end. Though few of those larger weakfish are around, they do like to grab white or pink plastics.

The surf has been going through so many temperature changes – shifting like crazy almost daily – it’s tough to find resident bass or suds-based ocean fluke. It’s no secret that nearshore gamefish aren’t wild about big temperature swings. I don’t think it drives them very far out of the surfline, it simply stymies their desire to eat. Also, upwelling tends to muck up the water, making fish that sight-feed, both fluke and bass, tougher to lay a bait upon.

The skate population has again spiked, despite a noble effort by commercialites to harvest some – mainly the more northerly species. I always offer the spiel that skate are fine eating – and they are. The problem is when you’re fishing for arguably the most top-shelf nearshore fish out there, summer flounder, settling for skate just isn’t the cards. And I agree that smaller skate do not have a ton of meat on them once the cleaning process is complete. Still, I’ve seen tons of anglers clean buckets worth of white perch for filets the size of skipping stones.

 The ray days remain. Stingrays continue to bite – and hold on doggedly -- until they’re landed and duly de-hooked. These ultra-strong marine creatures just won’t settle on being horsed in quickly. It’s quite the fight.

While a ray fight - can add some spice to a slower fishing day, getting one on-line when the potential for gamefish is high, becomes cursingly frustrating.

I’ll re-offer the suggestion that an occasional cow-nose ray be invited to dinner. Clean them like a skate. Check out:http://www.corpusfishing.com/ray.htm.

REMINDER: The “sting” on a ray is NOT on the tip of the tail. It’s way up where the ray’s tail and body meet. If you’ve unadvisedly pinned down the end of the ray’s tail with your arm or leg – thinking you’ve disabled its sting -- you’ve just invited in the mildly poisonous spine. As the fish writhes with its tail pinned, it (very intentionally) will drive the home its loose spine.

Most of the doctors’ reports of ray pokes indicate the upper arm or upper leg as the most common penetration points. That’s exactly where a spine would enter if you’ve pinned just the tail.

I always chuckle at the way even bad-ass anglers are fully intimidated by a sting ray poke, as if it’s something profoundly perilous. It ain’t. At the same time, the same guys will freely put fingers within inches of a chopper bluefish’s mouth when dehooking it. Hell, a mere glancing chopper bite to the hand will make a stingray poke look like a gnat bite.

Ending on a bizarre stingray note, a respected medical website suggests  -- and I’m not changing so much as a single letter – that “(A stingray’s) mouth parts do not cause injury, but a hickey can occur if they try to suck you.”

Don’t believe me? See http://www.emedicinehealth.com/stingray_injury/article_em.htm.

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