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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

The Home Depot’s Odd Stance; Just Say Yes to Registering THE HOME DEPOT’S GAY LINE: I just have to share this, uh, manly -- albeit only distantly angler-ish – news topic. Now and again, things in t…

The Home Depot’s Odd Stance;

Just Say Yes to Registering

THE HOME DEPOT’S GAY LINE: I just have to share this, uh, manly -- albeit only distantly angler-ish – news topic.

Now and again, things in this column take a beyond-weirdish turn. Such was the case this past week when the “Fish Story,” was asked to support a burgeoning boycott of The Home Depot.

Note: I live and breathe The Home Depot and Lowes. Tools are the coolest things ever invented, especially the one that have three-prong plugs, requires protective eyewear and carry instruction that suggest you make certain your health insurance premiums are paid in full before handling the tool. That said …

You may have heard about the absolutely bizarre anti-The Home Depot uproar, which is so seemingly detached from tools, paints, 2-by-4s, and adhesives that no tape measure known to man could make heads or tails of the freakiness factor.

The phone call I got was from a regular reader and a local angler. He began, “Jay, We need your support to boycott The Home Depot until it takes a neutral stance on homosexuals.”

“I see. So, how’s fluke fishing been?”

His riled rhetoric then flowed. “Rather than remain neutral in the culture war, The Home Depot has chosen to sponsor and participate in numerous gay pride parades and festivals. Most grievous is The Home Depot's deliberately exposing small children to lascivious displays of sexual conduct by homosexuals and cross-dressers, which are a common occurrence at these events,” he offered, obviously read off some sort of queue card.

My response was one of editorial merit, educational interest and journalistic objectivity. “Have you totally lost your frickin’ mind!?”

“Not at all. The Home Depot has stepped far outside its bounds.”

“What the hell kinda bounds does a hardware chain have anyway?” I mumbled. I even looked around to make sure I wasn’t on one of those World’s Freakiest Pranks videos, compliments of YouTube.

His rave went on. After a suggestion that I check an action.afa.net website, he concluded his Home Depot homosexual harangue by indignantly adding: “The Home Depot also sells wood from ‘old growth forests.’ ”

That wooden segue threw me quite a bit. Totally against my will, my mind began humming, then all but singing out, Monty Python’s “Lumberjack Song.”

I finally backed out of the call by stifling the “Lumberjack Song” and launching into a damn decent rendition of Meatloaf’s “Let me sleep on it.”

The last thing I could hear from the other end was something akin to “Have you totally lost your frickin’ mind?”

Boycott The Home Depot because of the chain’s sexual preferences? And here I was oblivious to the fact business chains had sexual preferences. Admittedly, I’ve wondered a bit about Old Navy. Still, the utterly mannish Home Depot gone gay? This is surely yet another subtle sign of end times.

Heretofore, the most lascivious displays I’ve come across at The Home Depot were plumbers’ cracks. Now, just like that, I’m nervously toying with the idea that those guys intentionally buy low cut pants with an “Eat your hearts out” attitude. What’s next? Plumbers sporting flowery tattoos flowing suggestively on their lower backs, just above the white zone? It even has me wondering how plumbers buy those perfectly parting pants? Please don’t tell me they go as a group to TJ Maxx to try on quadruple-X pants, then walk out of the dressing room and ask patiently waiting fellow plumbers, “Do these make my ass look fat?”

“Of course they make your ass look fat.”

“Perfect.”

On another hand, this boycott request has forced me to whip out my trusty lithium-powered Stanley Homing In Tool to see if I can find even the remotest reason why The Home Depot is taking such a chest-out stance in the gay pride movement? What the hell do gays build? Closets, I guess. Shoe racks? Signs for marches?

Truth be told, this whole thing scares the pants off me – very figuratively speaking, please. And, heaven forbid, I try to hold my pants up with one of those thick, burly, leather tool belts. I’ve always wondered what some of those extra loops and doohickeys on tool belts were used for. Now, I sure as hell don’t wanna know.

From here on, I’ll be somewhat nervously strolling through The Home Depot, a lot more sensitized to the way every neatly-vested Home Depot employee indubitably asks me how I’m doing. Are they then quietly muttering “sweet pants” under their breath?

Oh, I feel my world somehow collapsing around my Carhart footwear.

Can I even considering doing my casual cruise through The Home Depot wood section, without wondering if, just maybe, there’s something secretive going on behind those stacks of plywood? “If this plywood’s rockin’, don’t come knockin’.”

Hey, Mr. Home Depot, for the sake of manly men everywhere, please take a neutral stance on that gay stuff -- so I won’t have to walk in your store and wonder why the entire paint section seems to be shifting toward pastels.

VITAL REGISTRY PRATTLE: I have gotten more emails suggesting the angler registry “license” is NOT mandatory this year. It’s somewhat amazing that, at this late date, there is still is so much confusion over the legal necessity of having an angler registry card for 2010.

It is mandatory, albeit free. It is NOT optional and free.

Here is the exact language from the Division of Fish and Wildlife:

“Under a new federal law, most New Jersey saltwater recreational fishermen are now required to register with the new National Saltwater Angler Registry before they go fishing in 2010. The Saltwater Angler Registry is part of an improved data program to help protect the long-term sustainability of recreational fishing.”

Please note that word “most” encompasses 95 percent of all anglers. Excluded are folks with licenses in other states, those under 16 years old, anglers who ONLY fish on vessels that are holders of for-hire (or charter boat and party boat) permits, anyone holding a Highly Migratory Species Angling permit, or those fishing commercially under a valid license. Again, that’s a very small group.

Please, help all tourney organizers – and tackle shop owners -- by just getting the frickin’ card. Why risk some ugly shi-stuff because you weren’t registered when you caught that amazing, potentially big-money fish?

Get this: If you are suddenly one of the chosen ones and catch a world record IGFA fish here in NJ, it will be disqualified if you are not signed up with the registry.

Hey, I know that’s somewhat overly dramatic but there’s talk that a world record striped bass, when eventually caught, will be worth a mint for the catcher. Hell, promotions and sponsorships alone will be worth six figures and up. Disqualified fish: worthless.

DATA IS ALSO VITAL: Here's a point for the very open-minded to ponder. The one and only way for the federal government and its covey of scientists to become keenly aware of the so-called anecdotal angler data is to gather (and digest) the information sought by the registry. Right now, this insane showing of fluke is going absolutely unnoticed within the management realm. If the feds had all the info from anglers fishing fluke this summer, I have absolutely no doubt we'd be in the pink, as early as next spring, with higher bag limits and lower minimum sizes.

Highly ironic is the fact it was a failures of the federal government to meet its own law that might have cost us another entire year of unscientific, irrationally restrictive fluke regs.

That fed-level snafu was actually made all too clear when Recreational Fishing Alliance Managing Director Jim Hutchinson, Jr., met last weekend with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) director, Dr. Jane Lubchenco.

Lubchenco was visiting fishing docks in the Hampton Bays, New York, where NY Sen. Charles Schumer and key recreationalists were essentially wooing her.

The recreationalists focused on how draconian regs have killed fluke fishing commerce in the Empire State. Anglers vociferously threw their supports into a proposed increase in fluke poundage for 2011.

Hutchison was keen to note that “Dr. Lubchenco claimed to be guided by Magnuson Stevens, yet that federal law required this angler contact information (registry data) be made available to federal fisheries surveyors as of 2009, not this coming fall."

Hutchinson added, “By Dr. Lubchenco's own account, we're not going to see any improvement to our recreational harvest data for at least another year, which means NOAA Fisheries is in violation of federal law.”

RFA believes there's no reason not to allow a substantial increase in quotas in 2011 for summer flounder and scup. “In light of what we just heard from NOAA's chief regarding another season of missing angler data, getting maximum allowable catch is the fairest approach considering the noted lack of improved science,” Hutchinson said, adding “We're bound by a fatally flawed system once again.”

My read: We need that angler registry data to start flowing in. I honestly think the data will benefit, not de-benefit, anglers. The trick is to not let it kill angler interest in saltwater fishing, which might then allow unused recreational poundage allotments to swim over to commercialists.

If you like striped bass and summer flounder fishing, I assure you that data is your best buddy.

Now, don’t go spitting acid at me as if I’m insinuating support for a “saltwater license.” I’m not. Remember, a license is only an optional way to achieve a registry. Another way is to have states realize the tax and business value of recreational fishing and willingly cover the annual expenses of running a registry.

Please note that annual part. States opting to cover registry expenses will be buying into the long-term commitment when going the sponsorship route. That’s why I have some minor, i.e. gargantuan, doubts that NJ will take up the fiscal burden.

Also, for the moment, I’ll sidestep commenting on efforts to totally change the Magnuson late-Stevens Act. I have extreme reservations about slicing open that law. Nobody can be sure what demons might be loosed if the act gets punctured. I see it as a big rubber balloon to start with.

Odd point: When someone like myself reports angler catch data to the feds, it’s merely lowly anecdotal (useless) info in the eyes of management. But when the exact same identical data is told directly to the likes of NOAA, it’s suddenly science. Go figure.

FEARLESS WINTER PREDICTION: La Nina is fully in place. Atta girl.

Now is the time when virtually everyone on the prediction train disembarks to rapidly jot down guesses as to what will be coming down the pike for the upcoming winter weather season.

There’s an air of cockiness out and about. Many private predictors are basking in the total torridness of this summer, hating the heat but gladly taking plaudits for having predicted such a burningly brutal summer.

Of course, those who were most spot-on predicting the vicious summer did so on a sophomoric tabulation, i.e. we just suffered through a cold and snowy winter – one for the snowfall record books – so, based on the pendulum swing alone, the upcoming summer would be severe.

I was among those going facile in calling for a searing summer. Now comes the hard part. The pendulum swing prediction thing can only work for one cycle. In other words, we already did the cold winter/torrid summer swing thing. It’s strictly prohibited to now simply go with a hideously cold winter based on the hideously hot summer. It’s just not kosher (Happy Ramadan to my Jewish fiends).

Now’s when some genuine science begs to steps in – by allowing Nina to take her proper place in the prediction picture.

For many (myself included), Nina covers just about the entire prediction canvas when she’s as assertive as she has become.

First blush: Historic maps clearly show we should be in for a mild winter, especially when compared to last year.

However, I have access to really cool computer models that have followed the skies a lot closer than your average Old Farmer’s Almanac. When inserting this map, overlaying another one and simultaneously watching Ghost Hunters on the SyFy network, I came up with a fascinating line in the snow, so to speak. Based on that line, we are that close when it comes to hitting or missing big snows this winter. Central Jersey could get socked with snow while South Jersey gets soaked with mere rain.

I know that sits horribly with school kids and snow lovers but each year the collected weather data gets more and more telling, thanks to computers.

The last La Nina of this sort – when coupled with a load of secret but essential data, including the gross national product of El Salvador – indicates LBI will see a mild to very mild winter, albeit typically stormy and beach erode-y. Again, we’ll be ever so close to massive snow amounts. The slightest swing and things and whamo.

What snow we’ll see will most likely be of the couple/few-inch variety, following a post-storm cold front.

Possibly oddities will include some weirdly mild days, midwinter, and the possibility of crippling ice storm, mainly mainland areas.

As for the cold, there will be some short deep-freeze sessions, possible even early winter.

DEATH FROM ABOVE: You might have read or heard about the recent massive die-off of peanut bunker down near Cape May. The DEP is (rightfully) suggesting either a mass stranding due to predation or a die-off due to low dissolved oxygen levels.

I can easily see both being a factor.

The astounding number of dead bunkies indicates they were packed in like, well, sardines. That was quite possibly due to them being forced into cooler aerated water – way out of their comfort zone, survival-wise. Now, instantly introduce some nasty-ass predators. For the poor bunkies, it’s a case of be eaten there-and-then or take a suicidal swim into shallows to slowly suffocate. “Two dead ends and you still gotta choose.” (Tom Watts)

What would have been on the attacking side of things? Anything from bass to blues to dolphin to sharks to (even) whales to (yes) rays to pelicans, etc.

If it had been any other species besides bunker, the die-off would be a horrific loss. Even hundreds of thousands of bunkies going belly-up is quite literally a drop in that biomass bucket, fewer than a fractional net load from a factory ship haul.

OUR BAIT: That recent NE blow and related ground swell did absolute wonders to oxygenate our bay areas. It has also most likely loosed the young-of-year mullet and bunkies from the far backbay.

By next week, all the mullet muster points near inlets (clear up to New England) will see those young-of-year forage fish assuming their posts, prior to migration. They’ll hang there for a couple/few weeks, feeding and making mock rushes toward the ocean. Throw in a cool night or two and the baitfish will make short runs into the ocean, mainly zipping from one inlet to the next closest inlet, where they’ll settle in and eat until the big bust-out takes place in September.

RUNDOWN: There isn’t much dog day angling action to talk about once I’m done mentioning the fluke bite, which has dropped off a bit in overall numbers but has picked up on the keeper front. There are still enough flatties out there to walk on.

Panfish are showing, a bit. Kingfish and even a croaker or two are being taken by folks going small on hooks and baits.

Very small snappers are in the bay. Bobbers and squid works best.

It’s getting toward that ideal time to take the kids out to fish bayside bulkheads near deeper water. Small baits and small hooks can attract a variety of species that’ll have even an angling dad wondering what the heck the kid just caught.

A large sheepshead was taken off the North Jetty. This is consistent with a goodly number of them being taken inside the bay this summer. Sheepshead can look a bit like small black drum, however, an immature drum has wider less pronounced stripes. Also, drumfish have barbels while sheepshead have a narrow front facing mouth with some ugly teeth. Black drum are sorta tasty while sheepshead are top-shelf.

I have read that some anglers are going large on brown/sandbar and dusky sharks, caught in sometimes-secret locales, most often near inlets.

Most tackle shops will set up – and properly direct -- anglers wanting to go after the men in gray suits.

The two shark species most often being caught by recreationalists working the inlets and adjacent bay regions are the brown Carcharhinus milberti, a.k.a. brown sandbar shark, and the dusky, Carcharhinus obscurus, a.k.a. They’re’ tough to tell apart. Since neither can be kept, call your catch one or the other and let it go, gently and quickly. In fact, release all non-dogfish sharks.

Sharkmail: “Jay, I’ve heard there might be bull sharks near the beach. Is there any way to target them when surf fishing?”

Sure, dangle your legs in the water.

From my years spent underwater, I now look on bull sharks as one species I wouldn’t mind seeing totally transferred to Japan, where they’d find something scrumptious about these short-fused full unpredictable attack-inclined ogres.

You have to realize that bulls are relatively rare hereabouts. Even if you were to chain up and toss out a big chunk of sirloin, odds favor more innocent sharks arriving on-scene first.

Still, the way to catch huge sharks is to go heavy on the blood and guts (chum) and then go absurdly large on the meat (bait). Even then, a couple 8-foot brown or dusky sharks can obliterate even side of beef in nothing flat.

And, yes, it was a bull shark that led to the “Jaws” saga. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

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