Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Free Angling Is Very Spooky;

What’s In That Thing, Officer?

TIDS AND BITS: During a recent blowout tide, I saw dozens of herring gulls haphazardly flying around holding blackish globs in their beaks. It looked sorta weird so I grabbed my binocs for a closer look. Turned out, the eat-anything birds were all contentedly transporting bay scallops, large ones. The thin-shelled mollusks were en route to a doomsday drop, as gulls use their perfected technique of hovering – not easy for those lardy birds – and dropping their meal-to-be onto a hard surface below, as often as not a flat section of roof.

Such an in-flight showing of bay scallops is a sure sign that scallop numbers continue to soar in the bay. The population of these totally tasty bivalves has been edging up in recent years but a showing like this gull take indicates the buildup is hitting a higher stride. It is still illegal to harvest them.

Well, it looks like bluefin tuna should spin around and kiss their tails good-bye. A meeting of CITES last week killed hopes of conserving the dying species. Many believe it was political and trade pressure from Japan that blocked efforts to declare the species endangered, leading to an international trade ban in what is surely the world’s most valuable fish species.

As to the importance of CITES not taking up the “Save the Bluefin” cause, below is a quick quote from Charles Glover, a noted campaigner for the banning of the harvest of bluefin tuna, and producer of the film, 'The End of the Line.”

In a lengthy New York Times editorial, he wrote of the CITES meeting, “What followed was not pretty. Japan and the fishing nations inflicted a stunning defeat on the conservationist countries, which had wanted to ban international trade in bluefin tuna. Japan's victory, against the weight of scientific opinion, not only raises the question of whether the bluefin can survive but also whether rationality can ever prevail in preventing endangered species from being obliterated. …”

FREE TO BE: The effort to make Jersey a free state, on the saltwater angling front, successfully stepped out of the Assembly this week. It trudges over to the state senate next.

Here’s a some parts from a Recreational Fishing Alliance news release, which can be seen in-full on their webpage.

“With nine months to go before New Jersey's saltwater anglers could be forced into paying for a federal saltwater registry program, the state's full Assembly today approved a bill (A823) to create a free, state-run saltwater angler registry in New Jersey. The vote by the New Jersey Assembly (54 in favor, 16 opposed, 6 abstain) clears the way for Senate discussion regarding the companion bill (S1122), which if also passed and signed by the governor would exempt all recreational anglers who fish in New Jersey coastal waters from having to pay NOAA to store their name and contact information on file. …

“Both A823 and S1122 have been written specifically to allow New Jersey to apply for "exempted state designation from the federal registration requirements," while also stating that the DEP shall not charge a fee for the required registration program. …

“This is the right thing to for the coastal anglers who fish in New Jersey, both state residents and for those out-of-state fishermen who visit the Jersey Shore every year," said Capt. Adam Nowalsky, Chairman of the Recreational Fishing Alliance's New Jersey chapter (RFA-NJ). …”

MY TREPIDATION: I can’t shed this nagging feeling that NJ might wake up to find itself the step-on state. Hey, if only all anglers were appreciative and trustworthy, ecologically and environmentally speaking. But, the wholesale inviting in of outsiders is spooky, considering many will have never fished here before -- and are out to save a buck. This surely invites a mentality not inclined to give much back. Face it, a huge sector of newcomers won’t give a rat’s ass about what they leave behind. Sure, you might say they want to protect their right to fish freely but I assure you it never filters down like that, especially when a fish grab is on during crowded weekends. Similarly, people who openly love our beaches still leave an insane mess when they depart.

Again, I’m cautiously in favor of fishing free, and will accept the human onslaught that follows, but how in bloody hell are the minimally-manned officers with Fish and Wildlife going to monitor things as the angling population bulges? And how about the undermanned NJ Marine Police? I wouldn’t blame them if they simply circle their boats on crowded weekends -- and hide behind stacks of PFDs.

As for sheriffing the free angling system, I guess I’ll run with the most common solution given to me by other anglers: “We’ll monitor things ourselves.” Just what I wanted to do on a relaxing fishing day.

As to the issue of outsiders offing the fish in our waters, how can anyone dispute the need to save our fish stocks, especially those genetically programmed to come back here to spawn? Also, how can we grin and bear the hit we’ll take when we quickly go miles beyond our allotted poundage in fluke? And will there be any angling advantages to be a state-local, or even a coastal local-local?

I should note that we can run with a year of freeness then begin the long-drawn-out process of pulling the just-emplaced legislative plug, should it become obvious we loosed a plague upon our fishing lands. It should be realized, that getting laws undone is cruelly hard. Importantly, it could take a couple few years to really feel the insidious impact from allowing all outsiders to fish here.

If you believe such questions are absurd or easily addressed, email me. I’ll appreciatively publish then right here. If, on the other hand, you have your own questions on the advisability of being the only free state on an overcrowded seaboard, I’ll put them out there for perusal.

WHAT IS THAT THING?: I had an odd incident on Saturday — one sullenly indicative of the changing lifestyle in our land of the brave.

I was metal detecting near Route 9 in New Gretna, working a heavily-cedared area. Not that far off the highway, I came across a large brand-new black knapsack-type bag, maybe three feet long and filled to gills with something. But what? The top-brand piece of sift luggage was zippered tightly shut. It didn’t have so much as tree dust atop it, so it was a recent deposit.

There was a time I couldn’t have resisted unzippering such a find to discretely check out the innards. Instead, from a goodly distance, I only stood and stared at the big bag -- as if a heretofore unrealized X-ray vision would eventually penetrate the quality canvas covering -- revealing?

My X-ray vision converted to $-ray vision. I began envisioning wads and wads of cash, jammed in there so tightly it would take all night and part of tomorrow to accurately count – after rolling around in it for an hour or so. Somewhat oddly, my newfound fortune solicited visions of Snickers ice cream cones in numbers gone mad.

But, from whence cameth such a frolickin’ fortune?

Since I couldn’t keep something like bank-robbery loot, I conveniently drummed up a seedy scenario wherein a mega-valise of unmarked cash is chucked asunder by some dumb-ass drug dealer being hotly pursued -- and opts to off the incriminating green for later retrieval. Works for me. Or, how about some eccentric millionaire who routinely has his valet, Wedgwood, drive around in a limo depositing bags of exactly $1 million, small? Works even better.

Standing there, all but hallucinating, I was drawn forward. Then, maybe ten feet from the bulging bag, I hit the brakes. Before my X-ray/$-ray visions, a distorted face began to appear – the face of our post 9-11 mindset.

In a raw cruel twist of the worm, I began to mentally compute how much all that alleged money space would translate to in terms of waiting-to-be-detonated explosives. I kid you not. Sure, I hear a couple folks saying, “I woulda just walked up, kicked it a couple times and opened that sucker.” My butt, you woulda. Hey, you had to be there to stare at that unblinking black bag. I actually began to breath softer, just in case it was ready to blow.

After another pondering or two, I turned around and walked away; glancing back a time or two in the direction of what might have been my financial salvation.

The entire incident shot to hell my treasure hunting desire. I zagged the foliage back to my truck. That’s when the water broke on the pregnant afterthought process. Loosed were these ancillary naggings, “You, idiot. Just walk the hell up and unzipper the stupid thing. It’s probably just some clothes left by a homeless person. Then, you just close it and leave the poor person’s stuff alone.” I quickly self-retorted, “And how many itinerants carry their meager things in a costly designer bag?”

The colliding voices got so nerve-wrackingly tedious, I defaulted to the old stand-by, “Screw this. I’m outta here.”

Then, out of left field, what pops forth but the civic duty side of things. What if there’s even the most minuscule chance that something awful resided inside that bag? And what if kids come across it?

Just to show how crazily critical this whole incident became, I actually flagged down a passing state trooper. I verbally explained what was going on and he looked at me with a stare just this side of “I knew I shouldn’t a stopped for this guy.”

In what seemed to be an equal mix of not wanting to get his immaculate uniform exposed to stain-ful nature and a bona fide curiosity, the trooper got out of his cruiser and very edgily followed me into green briars and damp soil. We quickly got within staring distance of black bag. And we did just that.

Co-staring, neither of us said a thing. The staring thing was new to him. I was a little cockier, in a Round 2 sorta way. I even took to shaking my head ever so slightly in an “Ain’t this just the dangest thing?” manner. I finally broke the stare-fest by offering, “You know, if you think it’s nothing, we can just leave it at that.”

To that, the trooper nonchalantly spoke words that were a sweet vindication. “I’m sure not going to open it,” he said, with nary a grin. So it’s not just me.

I’ll likely piss off many folks by admitting I have no ending to this story. I began the blog in mere hopes it would reflect the intrinsic change in the American way of thinking about disenfranchised luggage. In something of tag-you’re-it, I left the trooper with his overheads flashing and making phone calls -- to whomever one calls when a large utterly mysterious bag sits in a wooded area, begging an explanation but unwilling to offer so much as a hint as to what hides within.

Of course, there is a legal stipulation that if there is a fortune in that bag, I’m technically the owner after 30 days, providing no owners show. I left the officer my business card. Maybe I’ll be counting cash yet. I’m not quitting my day job.


I got an email asking if there are many fake versions of collectible fishing plugs?

Being a 24/7 collector of everything vintage, let’s say 1970 and before, I can assure – and warn – that fakes indubitably crawl into virtually every sector of the vintage collectibles realm. Nowadays, counterfeits come climbing out of the woodwork like cockroaches at night. If something even begins to inch up the value wall, someone somewhere will try to replicate it. A somewhere called China jumps to mind.

As for fingering a fake, I can fully assure that looks alone are intentionally deceiving. In the case of older more valuable items, rip-offs will go so far as burying a fake for a few years to give it that final look and feel of non-fakeness.

Sidebar: There have been museum pieces worth tens of millions of dollars found to be fakes – as often as not after the originals were stolen and replaced with truly fabulous forgeries.

I recently read this web-tale chuckler about a 15-year old lad on a high school trip to a big-name museum. He patiently tolerated a hallowed hall tour of old artwork, knowing he was working toward the real reason he had taken the trip: an up-close and personal look at a painting of the upper torso of a comely scantily-clad young lady. The boy had taken a very keen, if not fully artistic, interest in the classic.

Reaching the oil-on-canvas lady, the student became a tad disturbed. He questioned the tour guide as to why the slightest section of, uh, cleavage wasn’t showing on the museum’s painting. Seems the lad had very closely studied an art book photo of the canvas, a book he had with him. He pointed out the museum painting’s shortcomings. The guide saw his point.

Turns out his pubescent questioning of shortchanged cleavage led to the discovery of a switcheroo. The fake had fooled experts on end but couldn’t pass muster with this young art aficionado. Shades of The Who’s “Pictures of Lily.”

There are relatively few fakes in the fishing memorabilia line. Most reels are simply too complicated – or not valuable enough -- to invite forgeries. Plugs are a bit trickier. However, even that specialized anglingabilia realm is not awash with fakes. There are, nonetheless, a goodly number of foreign plugs that were originally meant to mimic famed American lures. Those overseas models can date back to the days of the authentic models, i.e. over 75 year ago.

A while back, a buddy of mine bought a major selection of great old wooden plugs. The minute I saw them I was thrown. Many of them were overly wild – and unfamiliar. They were surely quite old, but like nothing I had ever seen. One had six sets of trebles on it – 18 hooks in all. It didn’t take long for me to realize they were from Europe – and were anything but mimics of American models. I’ll wager they’re worth a goodly sum.

There is no quick-learn when it comes to delving into the collecting of American fishing plugs. A decent starting point is to become a member of the National Fishing Lure Collector Club, via. http://www.nflcc.org/index.htm

Readying for plug collecting commences with loads of Google searching. I really like, http://www.oldfishinglure.com and http://www.antiquelures.com. Then, look long and hard at what’s for sale out there. Obviously, eBay shines there – though the days of killer deals thereupon are long over.

Then, there’s the number one way to intelligently take on any collecting discipline: smartification. It begins with real-time reading of books and literature -- not simply glancing over short web-based segments of same. There are dozens and dozens of books on fishing tackle – and the related history. Many are big and costly. That’s why I always check in at Amazon.com and price “new and used” copies of the more expensive books.

To me, the absolute finest way to get into the very craw of antique fishing gear is to get old fishing catalogs, to see epic lures before they reached epicism. Nothing is cooler than to have an original tackle catalog, going back 50 to even 100 years -- that smell of oldness, the delicacy of the pages, the off-color whiteness of the paper, the old artwork. In fact, such “paper” fishing memorabilia is a major part of the entire plug-collecting realm, Catalogs are often worth as much as fine plugs. The more affordable route is via reprints. Again, you can find those via Google or on eBay.

For the history of fishing, the websites seem endless. I’d start at http://fishinghistory.blogspot.com.

My strong advice when just getting into collecting vintage (or even not-so-vintage) fishing items is to quickly home in on a specific genre. There’s just too much out there to simply begin buying anything in sight. In the case of plugs, it comes down to specializing in a particular brand name. Heddon is huge. As are Arboghast, Pflueger, Creek Chub, South Bend, Shakespeare, Moonlight, Keeling. The Keeling line is something of a sleeper.

As to how to go about buying plugs, that’s where the work begins. Auctions, garage sales, thrift shops and estate sales are the last plug-finding bastions.

And if you’re wondering if there are any anglingabilia items capable of bumping you into another income level, a few years back a Haskell Minnow sold for over $100,000 at auction. After that sale, come-lately buyers offered the new owner amounts above that. At a more realistic level, lures of W.D. Chapman, a jeweler by trade, who made incredible metal lures back in the mid-1800s, have been dug up, literally, in Jersey. A treasure hunter found one worth a cool gran.

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