Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
So Long, Old faithful GMC;
2010 WMIT Winks a Big Eye
SO LONG, OLD PAINT: My gray 2002 GMC extended cab pickup died. Actually, it hadn’t been feeling particularly well for quite some time. Bottles of aspirin poured in to the gas tank just weren’t helping the way it used to.
So, here I was motoring eastward on Route 72 toward the Causeway Bridge complex when my engine grumbled something about feeling really odd. It then grabbed its chest and began making odd coughing sounds. I asked, “Can you at least make it over the Big Bridge?” to which it weakly mumbled something about having a better chance of crossing the Himalayas. It began drifting in and out of consciousness. Soon, it was giddily humming, “On the road again.” This was bad. We both hated that song.
I pulled over, put my arm under the grill and tried to give it some sips of water from my canteen. I knew things were really bad when it switched over to hummin’, “Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door.”
As if directed by providence, I had pulled over in front of the Asplundh car dealership, from whence came my fading truck.
As Old Paint leaked it’s last drips of life – looked like transmission juice to me -- a cheery Asplundh salesman named Jason zipped over to me. Prying my hands from around my done-for truck, he eagerly escorted me to a nearby used truck lot. Whenever I started to look back to Old Paint, he reached up to keep my head pointed forward.
Before I knew it, I was being introduced to a delicious looking, scratch-free, fire engine red, previously owned 2006 GMC full-sized PU, the same species as my former vehicle – but alive and able to cross bridges in a single bound. And quite a looker, I might add.
I didn’t want to mention to Jason that either I bought a truck right then and there or walked the bridges back to Ship Bottom. I sensed that might give him the upper hand, as if dealers don’t have that already. Assuming my finest wheeler-dealer persona, I readily undertook one of those deadly honest exchanges that accompany a used truck deal.
“This truck was only driven on Sundays by a blind priest,” said Jason.
“Same with my trade-in,” I said.
(OK, so maybe I’m just imaging that exchange but, hey, how close to reality are such fantasies?)
Just like that, I found myself inside Asplundh headquarters, hangin out near the dealership’s old-fashioned popcorn machine, buddying up with Woodie and boys. It wasn’t long before I inched into that often surreal, inanely paperesque journey that accompanies buying a vehicle.
I did manage some relief from that indoctrination process by breaking away to transfer the utterly chaotic collection of mixed goods I had in my ex-truck, into my soon-to-be truck. I tried not to look my old truck in the headlights, fearing there might be a little flicker of life in there, sensing what was happening.
Along with a healthy fully-functioning ant colony, I found things in the bed of my old truck that had no place in my memory banks. Where the hell did I get a gold bracelet engraved “To Jimmy Hoffa?”
In nothing flat, i.e. hours on end, I had me a real nice truck. I was pretty happy. I had been dreading the thought of walking over the bridges -- to be mistaken for a DWI repeat-offender.
The new truck, on the other hand, was sweating bullets. It’s a little known fact that vehicles possess a supernatural ability to know when an evil entity is near at hand. In my case, the mint-condition truck, fresh off its former life of cutesy 3,000-mile oil changes, instantly sensed I was a demon of four-wheel driving, a fiend of utter off-roading, a beast of high-salinity Baja-ing. As I left the dealership, I could all but hear my new truck screaming for the other vehicles in the lot to save it.
I quickly came to terms with the immaculately kept truck, knowing my long-term gas mileage banked on it. I openly vowed to be kind, gentle and attentive to ridiculously overrated things like oil changes, tune-ups and gentle accelerations. I was, of course, lying through my off-road teeth but the truck has purred perfectly ever since, though it did ask why I was throwing fishing nets, bright orange baskets and archeological digging tools in its bed.
“It’s just for show,” I assured.
“Oh, how nice. So, I should play along and pretend I’m one of those lowly blue-collar trucks, right?”
“Hey, what kinda road is this with no pavement? Oh, no!”
Anyway, one of my favorite features on this truck is the red LED turn signals actually embedded in my side mirrors. How cool is that look? I now drive along for miles turning the left signal on, then the right, then the left, just to watch ‘em flash. Drivers behind me must also think they’re incredibly cool because they start beeping appreciatively when I begin showing them off.
Anyway, make sure to give me a beep when you see me a-cruise in my bright red GMC Sierra. You’ll know it’s me by the shadow geese residing in the rod holders inside the truck’s bed. I also have a yellow high flyer (commercial crab trap marker) bouncing about out of the tilted rod holders. It bounces crazily up and down on flimsy PVC tubing, discouraging anyone from tailgating me.
METHANE MOROSENESS: Thanks (I think) to the assemblage of doomsdayists who, after reading my recent column semi-ridiculing the daily arrival of end-of-world scenarios, felt compelled to fairly arrogantly inform me of yet another doomsday doozie that has leaked forth from the now-capped Deepwater Horizon, Macondo well. The threat has to do with methane gas gone wild. Why can’t I get emails about college girls gone mad or something?
Admittedly, methane is nothing to mess around with. Almost always associated with oil deposits, the gas is also found in many other environments – even explosively so.
Farmers have long dealt with deadly methane deposits, the result of decaying manure and organic matter enclosed in tight quarters, like barns and silos.
I’ve seen methane at its friskiest. In the mid-1970s, I was among those first on-scene at a farm in Texas shortly after a big red silo went ballistic from what was surely a methane build-up and blow-up. Pieces of a red silo were scattered, halo-like, out nearly a quarter mile from the epicenter. Nearby longhorn cattle were grazing with pieces of silo siding on their backs.
“Is it my imagination, Nell, or does the air seem very heavy today?”
“It sure does, Big Horny. By the way, I love your new sunblock device.” (Giggling through her cud).
But those down-home agricultural methane deposits are microscopic compared to what has gurgled from the floor of the Gulf. In fact, those now wayward bubbles have the scientific attention of many experts – and anglers.
Methane loosed in the water column is a damn site deadlier than crude. Being a gas, methane essentially adds bubbles of death to the water column, unlike oil, which adds mere driblets of death.
Although the awful ooze emanating from the Gulf floor has been plugged, there are many who fear the accident has opened Pandora’s box of methane tricks. And that’s where the doomsdayism busts loose.
Seems that the methane in the water column is expanding outward – creating an expanding dead zone. It’ll take some serious research – and big BP bucks – to ascertain just how bad the badness is – and if it’s only marine creatures at risk.
There have actually been emergency plans made by NOAA, should residents along the Gulf Coast need to be evacuated in the face of arriving highly methanized waters. If you happen to be handy with geography, you’ll topographically tabulate that there are a few less-than-tiny towns within that potential halo from hell, namely Biloxi, Tampa Bay, New Orleans.
We’re also talking about the forced evacuation of thousands of littler towns, many with Deep South attitudes. Just my luck I’d be one of the National Guardsmen assigned to roust folks from some place called Backasswards, Mississippi. Can’t you hear it now?
“What chu want, boy?”
“Uh, I’m here to advise you that you have to, like, leave and stuff -- or else.”
“What da …? Hey, Big Patsy, come out an check this feller in a uniform, tellin’ us we gotta leave.”
Big Patsy bulls though a squeaky wooden screen door, drying her hands with an off-white dishtowel, the door slamming behind her like a gunshot.
“This here the guy you talkin’ about, Pa? Jus shoot him one good.” (Pause.) “Wait a second, Pa. Better yet, how bouts I climb under the back porch and get the pit bulls all fired up? They ain’t et since those possum guts you threw under there.”
My response: “I’m frickin’ outta here. Ya’ll enjoy the methane now, ya hear.”
“Look at him run, Pa.”
“Yep. He’s spookin’ up quail all the way down the road.”
“And, Pa, wasn’t I the one who predicted that this methane expansion and extrapolation hypothesis would indubitably manifest in an over-reactionary intrusion of government, including a martial law declaration and an over-officious attack on personal freedoms?”
“Yes, Ma’am, you did, however, you have to admit my point is still gerund: a simple but emphatic optional involvement policy—enhanced by Powerpoint displays highlighting degrees of actual danger overlaid with lethal dose parameters – would have sufficed, while allowing perfunctory public activities to more naturally interplay with the perceived threat level.”
“Indeed, Pa, indeed. Now, come on in. I’m finishing up a nice toffee soufflé with organic bananas and lime ice cream.”
There’s a semi-panic developing over some – if not many – sunscreens and hidden dangers they may present, including greatly increasing the chances of contracting certain cancers and possibly knocking your sex hormones for a loop.
The two ingredients causing hoopla in laboratories are Oxybenzone and – who’d a thunk it? -- Vitamin A.
Getting my instant attention is a study strongly indicating that the common sunscreen ingredient Oxybenzone is a hormone disruptor, coyly labeled a “gender bender.” I’m not sure what that is exactly but I have this disturbing vision of some fellow surfers rubbing on sunscreen and, halfway to the beach, getting sidetracked by a window display of the latest G-string bikinis.
“Hey, Josh, how do you think I’d look in that yellow number?”
“You? I’m the one with the figure for that.”
“My ass, you are!”
And they chuck their boards onto the concrete and go bulldogging into the store, getting stuck shoulder-to-shoulder in the doorway.
The Vitamin A findings are double disturbing because, well, it’s a frickin’ vitamin. Who ever heard of a carcinogenic vitamin. However, the watchdog group Environmental Working Group, http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen, is homing in on the possibly deleterious aftereffects of slopping on Vitamin A then going outside. Its website gets aggressive with Vitamin A, writing. “Recently available data from an FDA study indicate that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions (NTP 2009). This evidence is troubling because the sunscreen industry adds vitamin A to 41 percent of all sunscreens.”
I’m not even remotely suggesting sunscreens should be nixed -- or a return to those golden Hawaiian Tropic Tanning Oil days of sloshing on clear oils to increase sun skin penetration by about ten-fold. It’s simply time to follow those scientists doing some serious research into what’s swirling inside the sunscreen pot – a pot that has somehow sidestepped FDA preview for something like 30 years.
Far an away the safest sunscreen regiment is draped in pants, shirts, sunglasses and hats. I’ve referenced this before but the lowest skin cancer rates in the world are found in desert regions, where they cover up like nobody’s business. I recently ordered some long-sleeve shirts scientifically designed for outdoor summer activities. I just hope like hell there’s no Oxybenzone intertwined in the material. My string bikini days are long gone.
WMIT 2010 WINS AGAIN: I did the blogging for the 2010 White Marlin Invitational Tournament, held Thursday through Saturday. Per usual, it was quite the event, although it had the slowest start ever seen. Not a single vessel was willing to go one-on-one with last Thursday’s forecasted 25 mph winds and pop-up thunderstorms – which took the “pop” part very seriously, offering street flooding on LBI, power outages on the Island and mainland and utility pole fires.
That unanimous day-one pass meant the entire 70-plus boat entry-ship would be making a dash for the cash on Friday and Saturday, both days allegedly containing super fine weather.
What Friday brought was a borderline debacle, as the predawn flotilla heading offshore ran into some of the worst conditions ever seen in the tourney’s 40 years. From roughly 15 miles out – and worsening by the mile – seas and winds went ballistic.
Per my blog of the event (www.thewmit.com): Steady NE winds and a rapidly building short-period 6- to 9-foot swell became so hostile a number of smaller vessels did a strategic 180 degree turn and high-tailed it back home. Those boats opting to challenge the beastly conditions, rocked and rolled onward, to be rudely greeted by waves so large that it was impossible to see any further than the arriving wave, which blotted out the horizon. The short-period waves meant that there was virtually no relief from the rampaging seas. For a vessel, it went from teetering at the peak of a wave to rapidly dropping into a black trough – and back again. Trolling was not much better, even when switching to a trialing sea now and again.”
Damn, my stomach is begging for Dramamine just hearing about it.
BAD TO WORSE: For the WMIT vessel Akutan, the outward bound trip to the canyons seemed plenty bad enough compliments of the weather alone but nature was about to throw the damn-near unthinkable at it. Under as much power as conditions would allow, the boat was suddenly – and unavoidably -- fronted by a huge sea turtle, described as the size of your average picnic table. Absolutely no chance for evasive maneuvers.
The impact was catastrophic for the turtle and direly damaging for the Akutan. The strike killed the turtle (most likely a loggerhead) and did severe propeller – and possibly shaft -- damage to the boat.
The boat’s fishing day went down with the giant reptile. The vessel began a long windblown limp back to port, unable to reach any decent speed due to vibration from the prop wounds.
Crewmember Kurt H. said everyone on the boat was instantly and obviously concerned for the boat but everyone also felt awful for the turtle.
Back at port, the damage was found to be primarily to the prop.
When asked why he didn’t jump overboard to swim under and see what damage had been done, waterman Kurt said, “I wasn’t jumpin’ in there.”
Geez, unwilling to go into blue-black water in huge seas with great whites and bull sharks always on-scene. Where’s dedication gone?
WEIGHING IN: It’s always a blast to cover the WMIT’s weigh-in sessions but man is it exhausting. Of course, I have no room to talk when compared to the obvious fatigue on the faces of the captains and crews pulling to the docks after two consecutive competition days offshore.
This year saw four white marlin (two hatchets and two regular whites) making the scales. However, only two passed minimum-size muster, 68 inches. The didn’t-make-it fish made for headshaking letdowns for the boats bringing them in.
The big winner on the marlin front was Last Call.
As that vessel pulled in on Saturday, there was still a negative feel in the air from a previous marlin weigh-in that wasn’t large enough to qualify. However, Last Call Captain Gary McCulla and angler Randy Jones were conspicuously confident about their fish’s length. And for good reason. Their white marlin – a true white – came in at 69.5 inches. It was also thick, tipping the scales at 67.5 pounds.
This captain and crew got to explode in celebration and high-five-ness. It was easy for the tourney’s weigh-in crew and even media folks like myself to get into the spirit of the moment. I couldn’t resist exchanging a few slimy high-fives since I knew the folks on the Last Call. The fish wound up being worth $72,708.75 in winnings.
Before the slap-fives had dried from the Last Call catch, a subtle buzz began issuing forth as the vessel 4 Play eased up to the dock. A not-so-subtle holler went out for a larger set of scales. That got me hurrying over to glance down into the 4 Play, where I saw a zippered fish bag that looked all but pregnant. What the heck was in there?
I backed off a bit to allow the scale change and the hoisting procedure to carry on.
I, like many docksiders, enjoy the slow exposure of a weigh-in, as a fish as it is being hoisted upward from the boat and slowly comes into view. What was winched into sight from the deck of 4 Play put a jolt into the crowd. A 276-pound big eye! Utterly awesome fish.
If you need some perspective on how big a fish that is, simply register that a serious NFL lineman weighs in right about there. The only padding on this sucker was fatty meat.
I got dribs and drabs of info from the captain and crew, who told of having the boat spun round and round by the behemoth tuna, in a fight that went from 8:30 to 11:30.
Added info: Sam Leeper, owner/captain/angler of 4-play, was at the helm when the rod in the t-top went off. He reached up and touched it. At that moment, the hookup technically became his. Something called hook and hand is banned in virtually all big game tourneys. That’s when one person hooks the fish and hands the rod to another.
No worries aboard 4 Play. This hookup was in good hands. With crewmember Bruce Sinclair taking over the wheel, captain-angler Leeper took on the massive tuna – for a three-hour cruise. Essential to the take were gaffer Matt Lucas and leader man Captain Ken Juillet. Along with the fish’s potential value at market, the big eye won 4 Play $89,906.25.