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Downright Decent Nor’easter; Predator Pounds the Pines Last column I wrote: The best way to keep the niceness afoot is to pretend it’s not there. As soon as you go blabbin’ about how nice it is --…

Downright Decent Nor’easter;

Predator Pounds the Pines

Last column I wrote: The best way to keep the niceness afoot is to pretend it’s not there. As soon as you go blabbin’ about how nice it is -- you know what happens.

Within days of publishing that column, hellish skies were thrust upon us, via a fully-classic nor’easter. So who went out and began blabbin’?

I must admit that was a mighty decent nor’easter, not quite record-book quality but a rousing rattler to be sure, pushing gusts to a TS-ish 68 mph. The greater gusts chewed electrical wires off at the root and indiscriminately transplanted trees on folks’ homes and cars. Wind-related emergencies also activated every fire department and EMT squad within the sound of this column. (Did I ever mention the truly incredible job the volunteer folks with fire and EMT do? Well, I’m doing it again just to reconfirm how appreciated their efforts are, especially when their volunteerism carries late into the night, as was the case over the weekend.)

The 4 inches of rain that rode the back of those winds enhanced the storm’s instant impact, inundating many streets and adding to the maritime flooding caused by stacked tides.

Tide stacking is when a honkin’ onshore wind drives a way-high tide into the bay then refuses to let it back out again, regardless of how hard it pleads. The next high tide is then stacked atop the former, offering the newly arriving tide a great view of roadways and backyards. The next high tide climbs aboard, getting to look through home windows -- and to smile pretty for news cameras.

By the by, the storm was a “classic” due to its fulfilling the exacting formula for a prototypical nor’easter. It was a slow-moving low-pressure system to the south trying to truck northward but getting road-blocked by an adamant northwest Atlantic high-pressure system. A duly noted mark of distinction for this storm was its eventual retrograde (backslide) from the ocean off NJ/NY westward into Pennsylvania. Very rare, but testimony to just how unbending that Atlantic high-pressure system was.

On Saturday night, LBI flooding was the worst we had seen in many moon years. The Boulevard was closed down from Ship Bottom to Beach Haven, except to garveys. That flooding, while bothersome, didn’t come anywhere close to challenging former high-water markings. Sidebar: Many coastal residents notate historic high tides by marking where all-time highest waters reached on homes, garages, steps or necklines. I keep my highest-of-tides mark on a ruined $300 Lawn-Boy lawnmower rusting away in a garage.

While many folks suffered insurance-tapping damages to property, we actually dodged a bullet – make that an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). Had that storm been snow – and it’s still winter, mind you – we’d be literally neckline deep in over 40 inches of whiteness. Picture foot-an-hour snow with those 67-mph winds. We’d be rewriting the record books in white ink. What’s more, had that been snow, we would have added an extra 6 to 8 inches on Monday, as the second part of the storm sloshed through the neighborhood.

If there’s an upside to this high-pressure dousing, it is the total washing away of winter road salt -- and that salts’ dilution in the bay, thanks to surging ocean waters purging the backbay areas.

Another up-thing of note is the blowing in of relatively warmer ocean water. Those mid-30s of last month are gone and I wouldn’t be surprised to see upper 40-degree waters this week. That could easily spike an early bass bite in the surf, helped along by the bottom churns that loosed crabs, worms and any remaining surf clams. That nearshore diner bell is yet another reason for bass -- those overwintering not that far off -- to move in, post haste.

Oddest part of the storm system was the predawn ice covering for mainland folks. T’weren’t snow, sleet nor ice pellets but hail – an inch worth of the we’ll-rounded precip landed in some areas of West Creek and Stafford. That was compliments of those long-lived thunderstorms booming around much of the night.

DON’T SMOKE SMOKEY: It is my inalienable right – as a card-carrying inalien – to fully, openly and irreversibly oppose the proposed NJ black bear hunt, while explicitly supporting various forms of hunting, namely those disciplines meant to cull the numbers of overpopulated or deleterious species.

I know that anglers are rallying like crazy to help out fellow sportsmen trying to get the bear hunt going. Hunters are all hyped over the prospect of shooting something really big and hairy.

To me, the trophy taking of bear is truly pathetic. Killism at its worst. No sport to it. Ten times harder to shoot birds.

The claim that the bears are now threatening humans ludicrously ignores the deadly reality that the human animal has all but obliterated the population of damn near every species out there, in particular, bears. We are a plague, in many ways.

No, I’m not biting off more than I can chew, by essentially going after the entire human race. We are God’s chosen species. I simply recall that, biblically speaking, we are also the stewards of the land. And, knowing the Bible inside out, I forward one of the lesser-known later-day commandments, namely, “Though shall not kill Smoky Bear.” That would be specifically Commandment 14-C-larger-mammals-NJBBH.

If bears are harassing the planet’s chosen people, then why not use the dozens of humane ways to rid an area of the problem? Why should the let’s-shoot-‘em squadron hold governance?

Hey, if you want to protect humanity, and display true hunting and shooting prowess, grab a high-power air gun then run out and skillfully track down ticks and mosquitoes. Blast ‘em back to the Stone Age! Now you’re truly assisting society.

Just imagine a huge highly-polished walnut plaque on your wall, and, in the very middle, centered beneath some sort of magnification device, the head of this awesome colossally-antennaed deer tick. Maybe have the retired BB gun displayed beneath. Now we’re talking a conversation piece, way better than some boring bearskin rug.

“Yep, I first spotted that trophy tick on a pine tree branch. I was stunned. The problem was, he saw me just as I saw him. In a heartbeat, he raised up to make a move on me. I swung my weapon up and damn if my air gun didn’t jam. Something funky with the CO2 cartridge.

“So I’m fumbling around, beginning to shake in my boots, as that massive tick gets closer and closer. At one point, I glanced up and through the sweat in my eyes I could see its pulsating blood-sucking mouthparts juicing up, Lyme bacteria crawling all over the place. I was just about to run for my life when I somehow got the C02 cartridge aligned. I swung the gun up, took shaky aim and fired three pellets right at its head. The third shot was the charm. I got him right in the chest. We hooked eyes for one the last time, as he clutched his chest with all eight legs and fell off the branch with a scream that echoed afterwards. I still have nightmares.”

“Where’d the other two shots land.”

“Right in my frickin’ arm. See the little scars there. Here, use this 10-power magnifying hickey and you can see ‘em.”

“Wow! That’s insane, dude. I’d hate to be a tick around you.”

SIMPLY BASSIN’ RETURNS: We will be running the spring Simply Bassin’ tourney again for 2010.

If you haven’t given this excellent upper-end bassing event a try, this will be a perfect year. I say “upper end” because this contest annually offers a shot at the biggest stripers of the year.

Another motivation to climb aboard the Simply Bassin’ train for 2010 is the winter we just weathered. Those of us who can’t even take time to spell “snowbird” are in desperate need of a winter-relief fishabout. There is absolutely no better way to do that than to hit the beach to savor the first milder days of the year -- though always keep in mind the south wind-chill factor this time of year. The mainland might have 70 air temps and the beach barely 50. Dress accordingly.

I’ll be getting the tourney’s mail-out forms made up soon.

I should emphasize that this is a tackle shop-level event. The Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce graciously supports the effort but the legwork and logistics are handled independently of those fine folks.

The last couple years we’ve maxed out on the needed entrants so getting in early is not only helpful to those running the tourney but also assures a spot.

I will be keeping the leaderboard, which I as it changes, often daily.

As I always point out, this is low-take tourney since once the leading fish are in place, only challenging stripers -- larger than the 8th place bass -- need be entered.

This is fully and completely a beach and bank contest. We very closely monitor any and all fish entered during the annual spring run of bunker-based bass, fished by boats.

I do have some fears about buggy access along numerous LBI beaches. Needless to say, the sands have been rocked all winter. However, I always note how quickly the sands can return after nor’easters. Hopefully, by Simply Bassin’ time, we’ll have a good shot at the sand berming up enough to make room for safe passage by buggies.

IT’S A START: There are bass and blues in Manahawkin Bay, up to the nuclear plant. Causeway bridges are epicenter.

Email: What’s the story of the fish taken near the (Causeway) bridges?

Truth be told, I’m a tad confused on the exact nature of those bridge fishes, mainly stripers. They’re the earliest on-scene in spring and the very last to leave in early winter. It sure as hell seems those bass have some deep local attachments. Part of the nuclear plant population? Not likely, since that power plant biomass remains glued to those unnaturally-warmed waters.

I’m half wondering if there is a resident bass biomass attached to the very deep water around the bridges. What’s more, the first migratory stripers from down south head straight for those bridges to fatten up on the fine forage hanging there, year ‘round.

Many fishing folks don’t realize that fall often finds some of the largest bass of the year hanging within human eyesight of the spans. I realize that Causeway span-zone covers a lot of area. It’s up to anglers to figure out where, exactly, the action reigns.

NO SEAL HUNT AND WAY BEYOND: For my own safety, I think I must be kinder and gentler with PETA, an acronym for People for an Ethical Treatment of Animals. See, I/m already being kind instead of make PETA stand for People Eating Tasty Animals.

It seems that PETA has now found a sympathetic ear with none other than Mother Nature herself.

Unable to manually and legally smother seal hunts in Canada, the oft creepy crazies of PETA somehow convinced MaNa, my own backronym for Mother Nature, to cancel this year’s ice floes in the Gulf of St Lawrence and nearshore eastern shores of Newfoundland/Labrador.

No ice means no hunt equals no brain-bashed seals. High-flippers all around, right? Not so fast, amigos of animals. Look out for a volley of bitter irony, one that occurs when mankind’s thinking wins the day. Get this: The lack of icy surfaces for female seals to use when birthing their pups keeps might keep the brain-bashing at bay, however, it means equally-dead baby seals. Pregnant mother seals this year are forced to give birth in the water. Such hostile conditions are filled with drowning dangers for the pups. Just as deadly are the voracious predators waiting to eat an entire seal family group in one fled swoop. This is a victory? Hmmm.

The last time the eastern shores of Canada saw a total lack of ice was some 60 years ago. The current no-show is expectedly being pulled toward that massive global warming excuse magnet. We’ll ignore the fact that many areas of the northern hemisphere saw one of the worst winters ever.

I have been an outspoken doubter when it comes to the deleterious dimensions attributed to this planetary hot flash, a.k.a global warming. I’m not saying it ain’t getting toastier out there but I doubt this geological event is cosmically different than meltdowns of the past, all of which took thousands and thousands of years to go the full Monty. What gets me is the way every little daily event is now headlined as a prime example of what amounts to instant overnight global warming.

By the prehistoric by, back in the Cretaceous Era even a few of the planet’s active volcanoes (of the hundreds spouting off) could easily surpass the caustic pollution spewing from every factory on today’s planet. And things melted down just like that, give or take thousands of years.

Don’t go panty-bunching on me. I’m not defending the hideous way we’re stewarding our Earth and skies. I realize we’re ravaging our atmosphere at a doomsday pace. In fact, I’m a veritable conductor on the alternative power train. Solar is sweet. Wind is wise. Fusion is fabulous. Even the high-tech use of squeaky-clean nuclear power is perfect. Just stop micromanaging every detail of daily life by brushing it under the global warming rug. Truth be told, we could overlook something eco-urgent by going blind and impotent until global warming is reversed.

COYOTES AND BUMPS IN TE BUSH: I hit eastern Burlington County woods on Sunday. On the way out there, I found and buried a recent road-kill coyote not far New Gretna. It was a female animal with striking hair, not that ratty scraggly look that many coyotes have. This might have been a hybrid, since the hindquarters had the shading and coloration of a husky. No, it was not a domesticated dog. It was clearly a coyote, about to shed its winter coat. I’ll eventually go back for the skull. Hey, why not allow the creature to contribute to my skull collection? Besides, I found a skeleton donor’s card on it.

Speaking of predators of the Pines, I was hiking pretty deep in the outback and came across a couple guys I knew from a woodsy family. Yes, humans. The family has been living in the Pines for three long generations, dating back to at least the middle 1800s. They work the Mullica River region, building docks and such.

As they leaned on their 7-foot raw wood walking sticks, we began talking coyotes, including a roadkill they had just buried. The youngest boy soon segued into an eerie tale of recently being chased by a “huge” animal. He had been running a trail toward dark and something seriously sturdy began paralleling him, definitely in the stride-for-stride stalking mode. He said it was noisily busting through the bushes not far off at all. He swore it was the hairiest thing he had ever heard back there.

You have to realize these folks live and breathe that Pinelands lifestyle. Hell, they can tell what type mouse is scooting along in the leaf litter. If one of them says something big and potentially bad-ass was on the predatory prowl, bank on it big-time. I bought into it. For the rest of a lengthy outback session, I had my ears camped out in any nearby foliage.

What’s more, it wasn’t like these guys had a slew of such tales to tell. In fact, the older of the two calmly added that nothing even remotely similar had ever happened before – over the many decades the family had spent thereabouts.

And lest you think these were yokels, the family lost its power during the recent storm, which was very upsetting to the boys, who couldn’t study for their advanced college courses.

FUN WITH WIPERS: I spent Saturday driving in the rain to see how well my windshield wipers had survived the frozen assault of winter. I have a wounded rubber-edged solider trying to swipe clean the passenger side. But, hells bells, what does it matter over there? Only passengers look out. Besides, when they see too much they transform into intolerable frontseat “backseat” drivers.

"Do you see that car stopped up ahead!"

"Yes, but I'm trying save gas by never hitting my brakes again.”

“What!?”

Come to think of it, I just might spray paint the entire passenger side of the front window – side window, too. Then, I’ll drive along, all normal like, and suddenly begin screaming and swerving -- just to freak ‘em out.

I’ll bet I can get the passengers to drive their fingers so deeply into the dashboard I can later Magic Marker in the names of those who left marks in the molding. When I’m driving along by myself, I’ll look over and get a good chuckle when I see where “Jim” drove his thumb clean through to the foam when I panic-hit the breaks and screamed, “On, no, kittens! Little kittens crawling all over the road!”

Jim: “Aghhhhhhhhh

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