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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Bright End to Tourism Season; Time to Quit Nursing Fluke What an eyeful in the evening skies over Harvey Cedars on Sunday. That town’s 2010 fireworks display, purchased by the generous donation of …

Bright End to Tourism Season;

Time to Quit Nursing Fluke

What an eyeful in the evening skies over Harvey Cedars on Sunday. That town’s 2010 fireworks display, purchased by the generous donation of residents, exuded a “Take that Disney” feel. The show glowed with the latest advances in fireworks and pyrotechnics, especially near-ground displays, launching forth like world-grade Roman candles. The finale was a single color theme of cascading sparkles starting near the grounds then gradually emanating upward to mid-sky before going high sky into a fabulous waterfall glow.

No, that display had nothing directly to do with angling, short of the countless fishing boats that gathered near the cove where the fireworks were launched. However, I parlayed the look and feel of those incredible exploding skies into a celebratory launch of the arriving fall fishing season. Not such a stretch, really.

Unlike many local residents, I’m not put off by summer crowds, per se. Paraphrasing “Arthur,” fun is the best thing to have – and summerites know how to have it. Of course, I luxuriate in the sudden silence of the lands now that the fun-havers have staggered on.

Coming columns will closely follow Island angling stuff, namely the bait migration and gamefish arrival.

I always hyper-appreciate your help in letting me know what’s what and where. Absolutely contrary to BS’ers in some Viagra-driven chatrooms, I never “burn” a location. Mainly, I’m into catches with odd stories accompanying them. I also live and breath nature observations and academic insights into any and all fishery and nature realms. Cool and creative fishing methods and techniques are among the things anglers like reading about most.

By the by, I haven’t got the column space of summer papers so I’ll be abbreviating things, etc.

I am pondering becoming worldlier. I’ve decided to regularly include air temperatures from around the country. This week they’re 77, 81, 64, 77, 59 and 44.

FLUKING 2010 FINALIZED: I’m closing out fluking season by offering a composite opinion from some of the finest –and longest lived -- anglers out there. Fluking fanatics, some having begun flattie hunting back to the 1930s, swear they have never seen so many fluke – ever! I’m now tallying literally dozens of experts certain they have never hooked so many summer flounder as they did this past season.

I know you might dangle a bit of healthy skepticism over my bringing up this big biomass subject. I have written freely on my supposition that we are seeing a dire overpopulating of fluke, as ravenous a species as swims the seas. However, most top fluke-ist agree were definitely into some soaring fluke numbers, possibly of historic import.

Lest you think it’s just me, when’s the last time you saw PEW issuing a press release like the following?

“Lee Crockett, director of federal fisheries policy for The Pew Environment Group, praised the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's decision to increase the quota for summer flounder by 7.35 million pounds to 29.48 million pounds for 2011 … Twenty years ago, the Mid-Atlantic summer flounder population dropped to less than 15 percent of sustainable levels, due to overfishing. But thanks to a strengthened rebuilding plan, this fish has bounced back and is almost fully restored to healthy levels.”

I stand by my claim that fluke are natural born killers. I’ll readily put them up against the ferocity of bluefish. In fact, bluefish actually bite and run, unsure of what size slammer might be waiting in the wings to take the second bite of the victim. Blues are not full-consumption types. We constantly see forage fish – and even larger fish – with glancing blows from bluefish. A fluke, on the other hand, leaves nothing to slip-away chance. They grab and inhale every corpuscle of a targeted meal. Escape is not an option. That looms large when factoring in the impact of the fluke biomass.

For young-of-year species trying to sneak out of the bay to grow up, it’s often a case of swimming out to sea over miles and miles of what might be called flounder flats, the proverbial shooting gallery syndrome. Dead ducks.

We need loads of creatures in the marine environs. It’s called biodiversity – and we can’t live without it. There is no survival without the whole ecology running on all eight cylinders. When you keep all your fish eggs in one basket, be it fluke or stripers or whatever species you over-protect, very bad things soon happen. Disease and starvation plague any species that gets ahead of itself, population-wise.

The tricky part now – with beloved bass and fluke bounding back – is to study the heck out of weakfish and blackfish. Both of these species have collapsing biomasses despite stricter and stricter fishing regulations. It might very well be a problem with bay water quality in spawning areas but I swear it could also be attrition from over-nursed species eating every young-of-year model out there.

HOLGATE HAPPENINGS: Holgate is up and running. The skinny beach area about 1,500 feet south is real problematic, not allowing easy access or egress until a solid hour or more into dropping tide. Obviously, you can’t go on Refuge property to find solid ground.

There is already some modest “tiny” bluefishing action off the Holgate west peninsula. A few fluke were there prior to season’s end. Sure, the fluke are still there but (did you know?) you cannot legally be geared for fluke now the season has ended. Technically, Fish and Wildlife can cite you if you’re found using an official “fluke rig” or similar set-up. Hey, such citations have been handed out in the past.

Small bass are lurking in the Holgate front beach cuts, going for small plugs or jigheads.

Broken record: make sure to get your beach buggy permit before driving onto the beach. And, duh, you need a 4WD vehicle to drive onto the beach. This is not Daytona, duh-dude. That Daytona thing (the beach there is like sandy concrete) is one of the more common excuses I get when folks foolishly try to drive their sedans on the Holgate sands – allegedly never seeing the decently large “Beach Buggy Permits Required” signs.

By the way, you technically need a permit to even drive through that gate at the parking lot, even if it’s just to pull onto the lookout point. However, that stand-around zone is so popular with non-buggyists (surfers and handicapped) that it’s kinda cool that the cops look the other way when sightseers pull out there. As long as they keep a large drive-through opening for buggyists, I say let ‘em enjoy the view.

Note: The jetty immediately east of the drive-on point at Holgate is called Wooden Jetty. I often refer to it by name and folks aren’t sure where I mean. The angled pieces of rotting jetty wood and scattered rocks about a 100 yards south of Wooden Jetty is called “the submerged jetty,” another reference I sometimes use.

I got an email asking if any organized effort is underway to save Holgate. Short of séances I hold to try to activate the spirits of long-gone anglers, who are surely rolling in their graves at thought of losing the once-beloved south end, Bill Hutson, owner of Lorry’s Island End Motel is steadily pressing politicians to save the sands. Bill refers to Holgate as “One Of God's Most Beautiful Beaches.”

Media-wise, I’m the only fount of frustration over seeing the entire south end eroding away like never before. Yes, that area has been entirely overwashed (March Storm, 1962), returning within months. It has frequently been dissected, by coming and going Beach Haven inlets. But, it has NEVER (!) been unilaterally eroded, north to south, as it is now.

Truth be told, there are not that many of us obsessed with Holgate. There are legions familiar with the famed area -- and inclined to make a stop-by, now and again. As I oft note, it’ll be when it’s gone that folks will rally, realizing how much they miss not having a wild undeveloped area to look or hike upon.

(NEW) BUGGYING OUT: This semi-regular segment will offer insights into how the Island beaches are looking, as fall and winter storms descend upon us. It will also contain info on equipping beach buggies and outback trucks and SUVs. I’ll offer a combination of utter essentials complimented by who-woulda-thunk-it stuff – things that might seem weird until your butt is on the line and all that can save you is a stepped-up hydraulic double-dynamo with an actuated booster.

As a 101 start, I’ll go as sophomoric as it gets by noting that a shovel is not only beyond-mandatory but actually required by most towns before you can even buy a beach permit.

That said, I cannot count the number of dig-outs me and boys have done where the drivers didn’t have so much a kid’s red plastic shovel on-board when they went beach. And I’m not talking only newbies and numbnuts who drive their 2WD vehicles on at Holgate. Guys who have been off-roading for decades – likely convinced their sand-driving expertise will forever prevent them from bogging down – have been found sheepishly standing beside their buried buggies, trying to borrow a shovel from passers by.

If you go on the beach without a shovel, you deserve what you get. Fortunately, many of you will fortuitously get someone like me – and my coterie of shovels – helping out before wave action begins testing your buggy’s windows. If you’re of a Tennessee Williams ilk -- and rely on the kindness of strangers -- keep your vehicle squeaky clean, void of such encumbrances as shovels and such – just remember how most Williams plays end.

I give equal gruntation when I come across a badly buried buggy and one guy is digging away while three other passengers stand around watching. Hey, you wanna seriously pack your buggy or not? Two primary shovels and a good old folding Army shovel (to boot) do not take up that much space. They can surely be the difference between life and death for a fallen buggy.

For you advanced buggyists, make sure to carry at least one long-handled shovel. We dig-out pros know that the final step to freeing a buggy buried up to it chassis is digging, essentially tunneling, all the way under the vehicle, seeing light on the other side. Only a long-handled shovel can do that handily – and speedily.

On the odd side: Never hit the off-road without a flare gun. Always keep it secured under the driver’s seat.

I’ve had to use mine on a few occasions. One time, a vessel quickly went down in Beach Haven Inlet (pre-cellphone days) and I fired flares in the general direction until nearby boats quickly came to assist.

In the Pines, I once flared to get help for a critically injured semiconscious dirtbiker I came across in the bushes. That was a truly hairy incident. I didn’t dare drive off and leave the direly injured man unattended. He had just begun to respond to me and was holding onto my hand for dear life. He was “shocky” beyond belief. My series of flares drew in some other very-alert dirtbikers. I could then zip off to flag down some help on Route 72.

You might have read about the Baja-er in the Pines who recently rolled his vehicle, breaking a leg and hip. Flares got a chopper into the area and a spotlight located the man.

I also read a weird tale of a handicapped hiker in upstate NY using a flare gun to ward off a seemingly aggressive black bear.

I probably shouldn’t write this but I was once forced to brandish my flare gun when some totally wasted punks decided to go Neanderthal on an innocent couple using a Pinelands swimming hole, called “Hidden Lakes.” Even utterly inebriated, the young drunks weren’t wild about getting shot at close-range by a flare gun. As they bolted, I had this urge to twirl the gun on my finger and shove it in my belt. No doubt I woulda shot myself one good.

FIERCE FEEDBACK: I had a ranter contact me about last week’s column. Dropping bombs, he was thoroughly pissed off at my segueing from kids catching sea horses into a worldwide effort to conserve the species. No surprise, it was his kids I ambiguously mentioned.

I tried to explain my intent was not to hype the big sea horses but to highlight the public dock fishing area near Morrison’s and to expose the commercial abuse of the 40-some species in this worldwide genus.

Seems this fellow was mainly infuriated that his kids couldn’t read the segment because I went on to use the word “aphrodisiac.” I won’t get into the words the fellow was bandying about except to say “aphrodisiac” would melt to nothingness in their presence. Still, I’m a kids person so I apologize if the young’uns weren’t able to read that small portion of the Fish Story – prior to the “A” word.

As to his rage that I should never have gone on to write about powdered sea horse versus Viagra, I think more than a few of my regular readers would agree I’ve forever been inclined to obsessively follow subject matter to the ends of the earth.

Correction: Turns out the sea horses were being caught in traps dropped off a boat inside Morrison’s Marina -- and not at the adjacent public dock, which also goes by “Morrison’s” moniker.

NOTE TO NEW READERS: This column is not meant for kids, never has been. Regular readers know my writing often carries something close to a PG-13 rating. While I’m surely not raucously raunchy, I'm not Lawrence Welk material either.

I’m also not going off on tangents as much. Though, speaking of The Lawrence Welk Show, have you watched some of those reruns? Those are some scary-ass people to me. Look at ‘em closely. I swear it’s some kinda cult, marked by bizarre over-smiling, chant-like singing and nary a hair ever out of place. Don’t think they’re scary, eh? Just imagine waking up in the middle of the night, turning on the light and finding half a dozen Lawrence Welk disciples standing in the room silently smiling at you. AHHHHGGGG!!!!

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