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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Weekly Blog -- Sept. 15 Microbes Save the Oily Day; ‘Cudas Stop by for a Bite PITY ROCKY: I’ve gotten an urgent message from autumn-activating squirrels. They are begging motorists to quit making …

Weekly Blog -- Sept. 15

Microbes Save the Oily Day;

‘Cudas Stop by for a Bite

PITY ROCKY: I’ve gotten an urgent message from autumn-activating squirrels. They are begging motorists to quit making road pancakes out of them.

I know of what they speak. I have never seen so many squirrel squashes. Hey, they’re not bad guys so let’s give ‘em a brake. And, yes, they’re going to climb up to eat your bird food – it’s the same frickin’ stuff they eat!

Anyway, a hot-to-trot squirrel does just that. It trots. Being dangerously arboreal, squirrels seldom blindly bolt anywhere. It’s all kinda calculated. Even when crossing a road or highway, they proceed at a seemingly casual hop, skip and jump. All too evident is the fact squirrels are highly under trained when it comes looking both ways before crossing. The buggers prefer to focus forward before bee-lining toward either home base or a luscious bird feeder on the far side of the roadway.

Driver alert: Squirrels go three routes when crossing a road – be it busy or not.

Firstly, a squirrel will trot, sometimes casually, directly across the road, unmoved by doom approaching in the form of a motorist who is simultaneously speeding, texting, cell phoning, coffee sipping and putting on make-up.

Secondly, a street-crossing squirrel will get part of the way roadward, sense things are looking a tad too uncertain -- deciding maybe those acorns don’t look that red hot. All too indecisively often, it’ll do an about-face and effort a flip-flop back to from whence it just came.

Thirdly, the bushy-tailed crosser will get half way across a road and lose all sense of what it’s doing – stopping dead in its tracks, as if pondering whether it left the water running back home. This last one allow it to become pancake material even on 25 mph roads, like Barnegat Avenue in Ship bottom, where two have been leveled in the past week. I gotta think that’s more of a numbnuts driver thing than a nut-seeking squirrel thing.

Obviously, any one of those three crossing actions could prove fatal – or worse. (Don’t ask)

Be heavily advised, I’m not even remotely suggesting a panic stop -- or a NASCAR accident avoidance swerve -- to save a crazily crossing squirrel. However, a slow breaking process when catching sight of a squirrel acting squirrelly on the road up ahead – especially on back roads -- is all it takes to keep from pancaking the little bugger.

MICROBES TO THE RESCUE: The BP Gulf-side bungle is being eaten to a less-than-feared end. Nature, not mankind, stepped in and said, “Someone has to cleanup after you numbnuts.”

In a scene straight out of “War of the Worlds,” it is the tiny unseen warriors of the world who are saving the doomed day. Naturally occurring microbes have shamed even the most thought-out oil-leak counterattacks by humans, who are still hell-bent on spewing forth chemical dispersants – essentially using pollution to fight pollution. My guess is that chemical showering is surely annoying the masterful microbes.

I might add a very minor “I told you so.” Months back I wrote about the way microbes have long been eagerly eating naturally seeping oil around the world -- studied most closely in California, where seepage right along the beach has been occurring since long before oil addicted humans began sucking it up. Per studies done near Santa Barbara, microbes have been shown to break down astounding amounts of oil on a daily basis. The microbe populations naturally increase and decease based on how much oil has to be eaten. What’s more, these microbes are themselves an integral part of the food chain.

Despite the fine under-publicized job being done by microbes, there is still one huge pollution test to be taken in the wake of BP’s world-class blowout blunder. The unblinking eyes of science are now focused on the Sargasso Sea, located east of Bermuda. That seaweed-based sea is something of a depository for sundry materials transported within a circulating system of currents that traverse the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida straights and the Gulf Stream. Along with as sordid a collection of floating plastics, the sea all but casters to wayward oil. For decades, science has watched tar balls come and go in the Sargasso. However, there has never been a Gulf-source showing of loosed oil like that now moving into the Gulf Stream.

The Sargasso Sea ecosystem has some very significant local tie-ins. First and foremost, every one of our (remaining) America eels calls the Sargasso Sea its birthplace – and deathplace.

Beginning as Sargasso Sea eggs, then larvae, eels eventually grow large enough (glass eel phase) to begin the long swim back to their genetic homelands, primarily fresh and brackish waters of the eastern Seaboard -- though it’s obvious to angler that eels are also very inclined to cruise into the salty bay regions. Once in their mainly mainland homes, eels then settle into a maturing process, going from brown eels to silver eels. That maturation can be as short as 5 years or as long as 40. Instinct eventually calls them back to the Saragossa where they mate – and die.

The eco-condition of the Saragossa Sea means everything to the success of what is essentially a spawn to die for. It’s now a question of how a torrent of tar balls might impact the spawn success of this already-hurting species – down to less than five percent of its historic population/biomass. Overfishing and habitat destruction have be the kisses of death for the essential species.

By the by, for those of you who (like myself) enjoy catching and eating triggerfish and filefish, they also hearken from Sargasso Sea hatches, at least the ones that we see in the summer.

RUN-DOWN: I was thinking this week’s run-down would be pretty much the same-old/same-old, as we try out hardest to speed up the arrival of fall fishing – to no avail. Then, the barracudas arrived. You read right: Ba-ba, ra-ra, cu-cu, da-da (You old enough to remember that funny car commercial?)

The first ‘cuda’ I heard about was caught in the Harvey Cedars surf. It was solid two-footer, as savagely toothed as cudas come. The hooker has Florida roots. The next was a slightly smaller model caught in Holgate on Monday. Then came an 18-incher from the Loveladies suds (taken Tuesday morning). Add to that a phone message I got about a “huge needlefish” (no location given) that led the boat fisherman to simply cut his line. “I’ve never seen a fish like that before,” he said. All were caught on metals or plugs meant for small blues.

As to whether or not you’ve caught a bona fide barracuda or only a mutant needlefish from Oyster Creek’s waters, there is a test right under your nose. A needlefish, sometimes called gar, smell beyond belief. Ask any cast net thrower. One knows when even a tiny needlefish is in among the mullet because of that fully bizarre cucumber-ish smell contained within the fish’s slime. Hold a needlefish for hook removal and your hands will be sending you olfactory message for hours to come.

Barracudas are not exceedingly rare hereabout. During my seining days, I took dozens of tiny ones (6 to maybe 10 inches) in the bay. I’m pretty proficient at identifying marine life so I can assure these were cudas all the way. However, I seldom hear of one the size of those being taken in the surf. My guess is the highly aggressive fish migrated northward from the Carolinas, via the Intracoastal Waterway. They were likely spurred along by this year’s superheated 90-degree bay water. Please, if you get one get a photo for me. No need to kill it.

Kingfish are out there but being a tad koi -- make that coy. A few experts are finding them in the surf. Size is a problem with many kings being way too small to keep.

The trick to seeking kingfish is to not only find what beach areas they’re feeding that day but to home in on where they’re gathered in relationship to the shoreline. I’ve taken them from as far out as I could cast (lighter gear) to just off the drop-off at the swash – and drop-offs in-between.

I like to keep the small-hooked baits moving slightly, using a bank or cushion sinker. A sidearm fluke-fishing type slow retrieve also helps find where the fish are mustering. Bloodworms, fake-o worms and (on occasion) clams are top baits.

Nearly all accepted kingfish rigs use small floats, usually red or chartreuse, though yellow has been working lately.

Croakers are fairly thick in the ocean off Beach Haven, as they return from spawning. Some areas, maybe 20 feet deep, are all but overloaded with these members of the drum family. In fact, among spot, weakfish, red drum and back drum, the croaker is far and away the loudest croak issuer.

While some fishing folks want these ravenous drumfish to come into the surfline, I’ve seen them ruin a scrumptious kingfish bite. You won’t hear me say this often but croakers are not one of my favorite seafood substances. I need them deep-fried to like them. As any chef knows, deep-frying is essentially exchanging the taste of a fish for the taste of the cooking oil.

Bluefishing is picking up right on schedule. Snappers are giving way to cocktail blues, though flat-sized blues (say, ten inches) were the main pick this week.

Striper fishing is either picking up or there are simply more guys trying. Small plugs are taking small bass, sometimes in decent number per jetty (a.k.a. groins – though nobody uses that bizarre expression). I haven’t heard of any keepers being taken except in Barnegat Inlet.

BUGGYING OUT: Onward to the next mandatory piece of beach buggy equipment: an air compressor. Some towns also require this item be onboard before they give you a permit.

Truth be told, an air compressor does not rate ultra-high on my list of buggy survival tools – yet it can be utterly useful. I rate a compressor high on the mandatory list as symbolizing the need to properly air down before going on the beach.

Airing down is not so much a thing as a do. Still, no other do matters more than tweaking tire pressure before (and sometimes during) buggying.

Oddly, this is the one instance where I fall way short of perfection. I’m hideously guilty of blowing through vehicles because I all too often toy with an engine-straining 24 psi (pounds per square inch). Don’t follow me there. That upper end poundage is me (lazily) wanting to keep tires low for beach while still allowing roadway driving. And this is why my vehicles often suffer costly collapses.

I think that somewhere between 18 and 21 psi is fine for driving the likes of Holgate, in newer buggies.

Note: “Buggy” is just an expression for any vehicle taken off-road. Nowadays, some buggies, when back on the road, miraculously revert back to their $75,000 brand names.

Contrary to logic, the smaller a buggy’s engine, the more air needs to be let out of the tires. When push comes to shove, it’s power that saves the day when buggying. By the same token, the larger, big engine buggies, once bogged down, aren’t going anywhere fast. Most common cause for bog down: improper air pressure.

Finally, getting around to that compressor, it is most important when exiting the sand. If, through plan or emergency, you had to lower your tire pressure to the danger zone – when the tire itself is in danger of coming off the wheel – find solid ground and get that ass-saving compressed air back into the tires. Driving asphalt on critically low tires can literally ruin a buggy in less than a mile. I’ve seen it. Some folks might recall the newbie who arrived at former Jack’s Service Center having shredded all four of his tires -- and the rims -- after trying to reach town on what must have been 10 psi. The damage was damn near the value of that newer vehicle.

Now to the small. Ten times more important than a bulky air compressor is a humble tire pressure gauge. This is a beyond-indispensable item – so don’t scrimp when buying one of these. Go industrial-grade.

Virtually nothing is more fundamental to proper and happy buggying than homing in on the perfect tire poundage. The only way to know that point of pressure perfection is via a gauge. From first letting air out to (more impotently) tweaking tires once on-beach, the science within that tiny gauge tells it all.

And it is not one pressure fits all.

If only all beaches had the same sturdiness or sinkiness. Perish the thought. Not only do different beaches have vastly different degrees of sand looseness (and sinkage) but the very same beach can change drastically within hours. The greatest known example of the sand switching its temperament is the entrance/exit to Holgate. On a busy weekend, you can be one of the first buggies driving on and the sand it so solid you can just about get by on 2WD – which I’ve done accidentally on occasion. Within a single tide, so many vehicles have come and gone that getting off requires full-blown deflation and some serious experience in negotiating torn-up exits. A tire gauge allows a strategic deflation of all four tires.

Again, a good tire gauge is a must and a buggy-saver.

SURF FISHING WORLD SERIES: The 64th annual Long Beach Island Fishing Club’s “World Series of Surf Fishing” is right around the corner. On September 25, the action will run from HC beaches -- and up and down the sands for miles on end, including North Beach, Surf City and Ship Bottom.

For this prestigious fishing event, I always like to alert single casters that there is room for lone wolf anglers who want to take part in the tourney.

This year, the beaches themselves will have the event facing the oddest issue in its entire history: replenished beaches. The good news is how easy it’ll be for buggies to drive the borough. The down side is how insanely tough it’ll be driving beaches of nearby unreplenished towns.

I should note that Harvey Cedars borough has lost a third – if not more – of its sand job, completed last May. That means jetties (groins) should be making a reappearance for the tourney. I don’t have to tell savvy surfcasters the importance of any and all structures during the fall fishing run. My favorite example is the old pilings in the ocean off Beach Haven. I can’t count the how many great fish have been taken near those bare minimal structures.

By the by, during the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Club’s event, there are timed location shifts, during which various teams (and individuals) pick up and head off to another section of beach. This fosters “hot beach/cold beach” fairness by allowing participants to work various sites.

Contact Info: Bob Burstein 843-388-0228. You can also get details via the town at http://www.harveycedars.org/HCcalendar.html. Any extra info on the event, please contact me. And, please, don’t forget to get me the final results!

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