Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Mar 02/08, 2016 Weekly column failed to make The SandPaper online cloud edition ... Here it is.

Weekly ... The Fish Story
An Opossum Grows in Brooklyn; Unmanned Aerial Angling Vehicles
By JAY MANN | Mar 02, 2016

I have long had this odd appreciation of opossum, heightened after once seeing one during a daytrip to Central Park.

Returning home, I couldn’t shake the thought of that possum somehow showing up in the concrete jungle. Using some media clout, I put a call into a public works higher-up, Mr. M. I then sat in disbelief as Mr. M told me a mindboggling tale of the city actually ordering up possums, like side dishes.

Back in 2007, a Brooklyn-based “community effort” was undertaken to import a slew of possums … to be delivered post-haste. Say, what?! The possum posse was meant to fight a festering rat problem. Say, what … again!?

As I was being told about America’s marsupials being gang-introduced to the very core of the Big Apple, incredulous laughter flowed freely on both ends of the phone line, which made it easy for me since, as the story went on, I had gotten to the point of using my phone’s mute button to cover my sniggering.

Now, being a longtime possum aficionado, I can tell you with certainty that these slow-movers are not what you’d call accomplished ratters, especially when compared to a feral cat or a rat terrier.

The notion of going cats and dogs on the resident rats paled when a lifelong urbanite suggested that Brooklyn need only stock up on Virginia opossums. Don’t ask. I can only harken back to a “Sopranos” episode where a Russian gangster had been shot but ran off into the woods. It was Paulie Walnuts who said, “Let’s just go. Squirrels will eat him anyway.”

When the call went out for possums, neighboring NJ was more than happy to supply NYC with as many of the kinky-haired, night-cruisers as the city saw fit.

The possum transplanting actually happened, I kid you not. It went smoother than a possum’s tail. What followed got gnarly, very quickly.

But first, I just have to take a quick trip into the minds of these suddenly city-afied mammals. Here they are minding their own snoot-about business, somewhere in the swamps of Jersey, and within hours they’re captured and deposited in rock-hard New York City. “OK, I know we’re good at adapting but …”

Now, let’s pretend they somehow got word they were supposed to eat rats – to the point of extirpating the vermin. Then, imagine as they get their first gander at rats standing eye-high – sporting mean-looking tattoos of mongooses eating cobras.

No big surprise, one look at the mega-rats and the imported possum instantly opted to eat Chinese … and Spanish, Russian, Italian, Indian, Japanese, even Polish – all of which Brooklyn trashcans held in abundance. It was lose an eye trying to eat a rodent or engorge on the likes of a UN dumpster buffet.

Life soon became so good for the city possum that they began populating to beat the Macy’s Day bands.

Can you imagine attending the next Brooklyn community meeting, as the reality sets in that there are more rats than ever – and now accompanied by gangs of oversized possums that have become so streetwise they’re cutting open dumpsters using electric angle grinders.

As of this week, the NYC marsupial occupation is so bad that the NYPD is regularly being called on to arrest the hissing, spitting, playing-dead transplants. So where are in-custody possum being, uh, housed? Yep, Central Park.

You gotta love New York – at least that what I’ve heard in song.

THE DRONES OF FISHING: Over the weekend, I watched a remarkably disturbing documentary called “Drone: Point, Click, Kill.” It hit home like a UAV-launched missile.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or UAV, is the military’s acronym for what the world prefers to dub drone.

I cringed upon seeing and hearing what is being droned out by our military – providing you allow the CIA into the “military” mix.

It seems the usually covert CIA folks homed at the George Bush Center for Intelligence (true name) in Langley, Va., are getting a lot more overt these days. From the CIA folks I’ve known, I wouldn’t trust them with a remote-controlled Mickey Mouse toy much less aerial weapons of fast destruction.

The documentary displayed how enemy – or thought “enemy” – forces could be, often duly, dispatched by mere screen-watchers sitting in the great beyond, i.e. the D.C. vicinity.

One got-your-back scene had a silent seeing-eye drone focusing on the back of an oblivious man fixing a motorcycle. On the all-seeing computer screen it sure seemed as if the handyman was right next door and not in Afghanistan – and suspected of being either a bad guy or such a lousy mechanic he deserved to be “lit up.” Hey, I told you, some of those Langley sorts would “take out” a Disney toy if the urge suddenly struck them.

But enough of the ominous point/click/kill aspect of this show. I mainly want to pass on how the show began with … the tuna drone. This workingman remote aerial device was developed by Alejandro Pita, an Argentinean-born naval architect and engineer. He dubbed it ScanEagle.

Pita was familiar with the use of choppers and spotter aircraft in the tuna fleet. He was certain that an unmanned, fish-finding aircraft would be gobbled up by the industry. Through backers, he pumped out a massive squadron of fish-seeking drones. The nasty-large fiscal venture went sour faster than sushi in the sun. He literally couldn’t find one single buyer for the tuna drone. He was photographed with a factory’s worth of drones going nowhere fast.

Oh, but others saw the device’s more menacing potential. The once-shunned ScanEagles began flying off the shelves, thanks to Uncle Sam and its Boeing contractor. Pita literally got our military into the drone business with an innocent intent to design a low-cost, easily-deployed eye-in-the-sky for the commercial fishing realm.

In a playfully ironic sound bite, Pita was quoted as saying, “We had other fish to catch.” What’s more, the fish were in the desert. His UAVs were rushed to Iraq, although the aircraft had logged only 300 miles of actual flight.

“We went there. We helped (the Marines) in the siege of Fallujah. We’re still there,” said Pita.

I’ll stop short of telling the entire sanguine “Drone: Point, Click, Kill” saga, though I somewhat recommend seeing it on Netflix or the likes. Maybe follow it up with the eye-opener, “He Named Me Malala” – during which you’ll wish you had a couple Taliban-seeking UAVs under your command.

Anyway, I just had to bring up the initial fishing aspect in the birthing of UAV warfare, which will rule our planet for untold military battles to come – not unlike the UAV-riddled skies portrayed in countless sci-fi movies.

But revisiting Pita’s original notion, let’s look at UAAVs, as in Unmanned Aerial Angling Vehicles. There are already drones exclusively geared for fishing. One seen on YouTube is rigged with quick-release devices, designed to carry an angler’s line and bait well out to sea, far beyond any conceivable manly casting distance. Once it has reached sight’s end, it remotely releases its payload, dropping a baited hook into formerly boats-only territory. It’s the revenge of the surfcaster. What I need to know is what size reel we’ll soon be needing to hold line – by the mile!

Also, how does a sand-based angler handle a rip-snortin’ fish so far out at sea? Hell, ocean liners in the shipping lanes might be cutting the line. Maybe we can send the drone back out to fight the fish from above, as we and the gang watch on a Wi-Fi computer screen. Of course, it’ll be tough disguising a hot bite with a drone hauling a huge fish back to shore through the air. “Hey, Hal, it looks like some surfcaster down in Holgate is into huge fluke, maybe a mile out. I knew we shouldn’t have come to fish here in Harvey Cedars.”

By the by, the notion that you can’t solidly hook a fish that far out because of the play in the line has been fully debunked by commercialites. For decades, longliners have successfully used circle hooks on untended main lines.

If anything smacks of impossibility, it’s UAAV-assisted anglers reeling a big, juicy fish in through shark-infested waters. “Wow, Jim, just look at the head on that sucker. If it only had the rest of its body that would be some fish.”

Then, there’s the far more practical side of UAAVs, like aiding and abetting anglers during money tournaments. And that is hardly a pie-in-sky issue. The list of big-name events that have banned assistance from drones is growing daily. The prestigious, big bucks Fishing League Worldwide is among the latest in grounding drones during its fevered competitions.

But what’s to fear from drone usage within the largemouth bass fishing circuit?

While remote flying devices can’t help spot an individual fish, they sure as hell can pick out schools of baitfish, underwater structures, areas of water turbidity and even the secret locales where other anglers can be seen scoring fish. That last one alone is enough to change the rulebooks.

I imagine we’ll soon have to eliminate the possible usage of drones in our local fishing tourneys. Organizers of offshore contests have already taken action, many clubs simply adding language to the existing ban of spotter planes. Just last year, the Manasquan River Marlin & Tuna Club added to its rules: “Use of spotter planes, drones or any other types of aerial surveillance is also prohibited.”

As to the likes of the famed Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic, I know the event’s committee has mentioned that drone use is out of the surfcasting question. I’m not sure it has officially made the rulebooks. I’d be far more worried about UAAV’s carrying out baited gear than simply fish spotting, though using sky-vision to track down a close-in school of bunkies or mullet would sure put a Wi-Fi angler on the action.

It seems the weirdness button on life been pressed.

BRING OUT YOUR OLD: Dust off your fishing past – folks wanna see it.

The NJ Maritime Museum in Beach Haven Maritime Museum is poised to set up a surf fishing display. Seeing it’s a museum and all, the display needs to be filled with smells-like-old-stuff stuff. That’s where you step in. No, not because of your oldness odor but because of those olden things you might own.

As I see it, owners Deb and Jim are looking for items that all but ooze the area’s surfcasting past. Not to worry, the items would be there on a loaner basis. In the case of paperwork, it could simply be photocopied.

To kick things off, the museum already has a couple brass sand spikes. That rules out my many-dozens-or-so vintage brass sand spike collection. Of course, there is the one that’s engraved “Property of Zane Grey.” I’m just not sure where I put that dumb thing. Oh, well.

A focal point of the display will be Van Campen Heilner’s book The Call of the Surf, which refers to LBI surf fishing “back in the day.” Know of any other rare books that host words about fishing the LBI suds, as in way back?

As to what goes into a Jersey-ish surfcasting display, I see plugs as one eye-catching section.

Many surfcasting plugs are eye-candy, historically speaking. Famed Creek Chub Bait Company saltwater lures, of sundry shapes and sizes, date back to 1916. We’re all familiar with Bob Pond artificials; maybe not by name but his 1945 Atom Manufacturing Company’s wooden swimming lures are legendary. I enjoy the way-back J.&H. Tackle Company, founded by John Gamsby and Howard Ladig in 1947. Then there’s plug-making artistry [JM1] of the Surf Tackle Company of NYC. Of course. What would an olden display be without an original Stan Gibbs 1947 “Cast-a-Lure” prototype?

You get the plug idea. The more they’re attached to some LBI usage/history, the better they look.

Fanning out, a surfcasting display would come alive with paperwork and images that date back to who-knows-when.

I’m already looking for old newspaper clippings. Hopefully, reporters wrote of LBI surfcasting all the way back in the 1800s.

Photographs should abound. In fact, it’ll come down to which pics tell a story – and then some. It is often the things in the background … or an accompanying family story – that sets a photo above the rest.

Minutia from the early years of the Striped Bass Derby must make an appearance. I’ve heard that an angler or two have buttons and forms going back, nonstop, to the tourney’s beginnings. If anyone has all the derby/classic window decals on a buggy I’ll help remove the entire window. I’ll also supply the Saran Wrap for the vacated window opening.

Rods and reels can be real historic, Island-wise. However, rods in great numbers might be a tad too space intensive, though how can there not be an LBI slit bamboo surf rod in the museum mix? Old bait-casting reels, with Bakelite side plates and reel nobs, are small and offer a great throwback look. A photo of grandpap surf fishing in Ship Bottom with a museum-displayed reel brings things to life.

For me, anything Holgate-ish rocks. Surf Fishing thereabouts dates back to Tucker’s Island times, when Bond’s Beach was a mecca for fishing folks throughout the tri-state area. Much of the Island’s south end lands, purchased by the James Holgate family, were truly the land of surf fishing.

For more info, call the NJ Maritime Museum at 609-492-0202; e-mail Deb@NJMaritimeMuseum.org or call/text Deb’s cell phone at 609-226-3838.

I can also pass on info, via jaymann@thesandpaper.net or messaging my Facebook account, under my name.

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