Man o’ Wars Drop In; Stuck on Mussel Goo
MAN O MAN O’ WAR: I’ve gotten a few emails about man o’ wars washing up on ocean beaches -- and even getting pushed into the bay. These are very smaller models of the famed clearish blue stinging sea creatures, maybe a few inches across the cap, though sporting much longer tentacles.
Email: “Hi Jay, I found a small Portuguese man o’ war floating in Liberty Tract in front of Mordecai Boat Basin. Have you ever spotted them around Beach Haven? I've never seen one before. Thanks, Larry.”
I’ve seen these must-avoid floaters now and again, -- maybe once every ten years -- under just the right onshore summer conditions. I do have a bit of history with them.
Oddly, man o’ wars are not really jellyfish but something in an odd order known as siphonophorae. Simply put, they are a zooid made up of a colony of specialized but independent entities. In the case of man o’ wars, there are four kinds of minute, highly modified individuals, each one a master of its tiny domain but fully reliant on the other components being equally masterful. The team is so close they are physiologically -- and inseparably – attached. The tight knit team-up has worked for eons.
My history with man o’ wars is a nasty one. I’ve gotten nailed by them while surfing in Florida. They hurt to high heavens. At first, you get a burning feeling. One time, I remember swinging around to see who the hell left a still-lit cigarette floating in the water. (No, I didn’t) The burn phase is followed by a brutal itch, a deeper down pain -- and awe, as inflammation of an ugly order settles upon the skin.
The initial sting is quite similar in feel to a direct hit by a larger lion’s mane jellyfish. However, a man o’ war’s touch lingers for hours, then days, afterwards. It can take the form of lumpy dermatitis. Oddly, man o’ war dermatitis can continue to spread beyond the point of impact, a little bit like poison ivy. It all has to do with one’s sensitivity to the toxin in the creature’s nematocysts.
“Nematocysts? Where have I heard that word before?” you ask.
Right here, dude. Previously, I had lectured that nematocyst are tiny little poison-injection mechanisms that literally shoot wicked barbs – with astounding speed -- when they are individually agitated. Jellyfish and man o’ war have millions of these minuscule buggers, each one carrying a wallop. Interestingly, jellyfish nematocysts keep on keeping on even after the jellyfish is decidedly deceased – and in a million pieces. The on-their-own nematocysts keep stinging as if all is right in the world. That gives a bit of an insight into that siphonophorae concept of independent parts doing their own things.
The big scare factor from man o’ war is the inordinate number of folks who react badly to the toxin. Those allergic to the man o’ war know it real fast, as they quickly undergo a serious reaction syndrome marked by a rapid onset of extreme pain, light-headedness, hot flashes, confusion and (most scary) difficulty breathing. I can certify all these symptoms.
Years back, while on the beaches of Florida, I rushed in from waveriding to offer first aid to two simultaneous man o’ war sting victims, both young females. It was damn spooky. They both got nailed by major man o’ wars. Big suckers. Six-foot tentacles. The initial pounce of pain had them in crocodile tears.
The first girl I reached had just been pulled onto the sand with pieces of man o’ war still hanging on. I used a shell to literally scrape away some tentacles clinging to her body -- and damn if my hand didn’t get stung to hell and back just scraping the blue goo off her.
The other girl had been thoroughly showered off at a nearby wooden platform but looked like something out of a horror movie, as her skin had grotesquely reddened and swelled to the exact shape of draped tentacles.
Note: They say you should never rinse off a man o’ war victim with freshwater since it activates any unfired nematocysts. You can go with “they” but I swear it’s always better to rinse the frickin’ goo off a sufferer’s body.
In both those sting cases, a huge part of the increasing criticality of the victims had to do with their growing panic, particularly over their difficulty breathing. It didn’t help to have two panicked moms hyperventilating nearby. It also didn’t help that we were on a military base. The sentries – from nearby guard posts – ran on-scene like gangbusters, then stood there and idly watched me and some other passersby administer first aid.
The foremost first aid in that instance was trying to apply something very warm to the most inflamed areas. I asked for “something” hot and someone hauled over a big piece of coral that had been baking in the sun. Not quite what I was hoping for.
Knowing an ambulance was on the way, I simply performed calm-keeping maneuvers. I talked the big talk about “Everything will be just fine,” even though I had all I could do to keep from openly grimacing at the sheer ugliness of the growing skin inflation on one of the gals. I swear, had that look been permanent …
In an effort to seal time while awaiting the ambulance, I (for some reason) went into a rambling overly esoteric explanation of how a man o’ war’s nematocystic toxic barbs work. Hey, I figured the gals might want to know what got them. When I looked up and saw all the standers-by listening in gecko-eyed horror, I decided maybe that wasn’t the best subject matter to expound upon at that very moment.
Despite being dripping wet, wearing a wetsuit and openly cursing over the stings beginning to throb on my hand, I had somehow become the lead first-aider. I guess folks figured that anyone who knew how a nematocyst works should definitely be in charge. Kneeling between both victims, my main job soon became fielding suggestions being yelled from those in the now massive gathered crowd. Some suggestions worked: “Keep them hydrated.” Others should have never seen the light of day: “I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to urinate on the stings.” (Truth be told, I had repeatedly heard that same disgusting urine first aid technique throughout my world of travels.)
I’ll redeem the good name of the military base by noting the arriving corpsmen were sharp as urchins, as they quickly and efficiently treated both gals with oxygen, epinephrine, antihistamines and (somewhat dubiously) loads of Instant Ice Packs, to offer some immediate relief. Note: Cold supposedly closes the pores, not allowing the toxins to be essentially sweated out. But, by that point, the instant relief from the ice packs did as much as everything else combined to calm the gals. Since shock was a major problem, that calming factor easily exceeded any pore-deep considerations.
Both victims needed to go to the hospital. I didn’t hear any word after that but I’m sure nothing catastrophic happened.
As for this brief showing of man o’ wars hereabouts, surfers and post-season bathers should keep an eye open – but recognize these are small man o’ wars, not the monsters I wrote about above. If you get stung and it bugs you for more than five minutes, rub some over-the-counter antihistamine cream on the effected area. Anything worse, call the military. Just kidding. Call a doctor.
RFA-NJ TO HOST FISHERIES TOWN HALL MEETING :
Will anglers have to pay to fish New Jersey's bays and oceanfront in 2010? Is a New Jersey saltwater license really inevitable? Is there another way to satisfy the new federal requirements? What about the "free" saltwater registry legislation now being heard in Trenton?
Get answers to these questions and more this Saturday, September 19 at the Jersey Shore Boat Sale & Expo at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, NJ as the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) hosts a Fisheries Town Hall …
"There have been so many public questions and internal debates during the past six months, we thought it was time to bring everyone to the table for a full panel discussion before the boating public," said Jim Hutchinson, Jr., Managing Director of the RFA.
The Fisheries Town Hall starts at noon on Saturday, and features Gordon Colvin from the National Marine Fisheries Service, one of the architects of the new federal data collection program now driving the federal registry.
STICK WITH MUSSELS: I read an interesting report about mussels and how they’re changing the world of stickiness. Yes, there is a world of stickiness, as I know quite well. Many of my art projects, along with angling-related repairs entail the endless use of advanced Cyanoacrylate, i.e. supeglue.
Well, it turns out that the boating realm (builders and repairers) is looking close to home in developing an adhesive that couldn’t care less about wetness yet grabs on like a leech with lockjaw. Get this: Seems good old mussels might hold the secret – and secretions.
If you’ve ever tried to wrest some mussels from their footholds on rocks or pilings, you know they won’t give up the ship without a fight. In fact, a special heavy-duty metal tool, essentially a five-foot long steel rod with a flattened end, is needed to power scrap mussels from their homes. And even then, the shells often break before a mussel’s grip is compromised.
The astounding toehold established by each and every mussel is the result of an adhesive made of DOPA, the very same stuff used to treat Parkinson’s Disease.
What’s in a mussel’s mucous that leads to an adhesive of beyond those known to man? . Since many of my explanation are too technical, I’ll offer this one I picked up from the Kiddies Science section of the Sesame Street website: “… Recent evidence suggests that bulk oxidation of DOPA residues leads to intermolecular crosslinking of the plaque proteins giving rise to solidification of the adhesive, whereas interfacial adhesion to substrates is generally believed to be due to chemical interactions between the unoxidized catechol form of DOPA and functional groups at the surface of the solid substrate…”
I’ll stop right there as to not confuse anyone. The main thing to remember is the way we’ll soon see adhesives that will bid the entire planet together – and from a lowly mussel.
It’s the ironyist in me that sees how the maritime industry has been plagued for eons by the lack of some ultimate adhesive that works in wetness and only a few feet away from their boat bottoms were mussels holding the secret to the all-time greatest waterproof glue to be found.
BRIDGE WORK NO BIGGY: I’ve gotten some emails from anglers asking about the upcoming long-term Causeway Bridge work. It gets underway this week. Not much to say -- or forebodingly anticipate -- except it is, in fact, a many-months project. A recent meeting was held to explain the lane closures and related traffic pattern shifts during work periods. I should note that any and all upcoming weekends marked by special LBI event (Chowderfest and such) will be roadwork-free. Also, work will be mainly night-oriented to start.
I had a couple folks further ask if this Causeway work is part of the building of a new bridge – a fabled effort conceived of in ancient times (1980s) and reappearing with the regularity of Big Foot and Calendar Year 2012.
Yes, the now-happening bridge facelift is part of a New Causeway – but mainly it’s not. Huh?
Well, the current concrete and cosmetic work is going to be pretty intensive, thanks to Obama’s infrastructure fix-up mandate (and money). The last plan I saw for the proposed New Causeway was to keep the existing bridge as part and parcel to the New Causeway. So, although the upcoming work is technically NOT the commencement of the big build of a brand spankin’ new bridge, it is related in long-run thinking.
As for the impact of the work on anglers heading on and off LBI, it will likely be more significant to the night folks and predawn movers and groovers. Just keep in mind short delays are surely in the picture -- and have a cup of calming hot chocolate near at hand.
Check my daily blog (http://jaymanntoday.ning.com/) for any last-minute problems and bumps in the road that might arise with the work. I have an inside phone line to the DOT, via The SandPaper. All I have to do is make a quick call and work will immediately cease until I give the go-ahead. Now where the hell did I put that number?
RAW REACTIONS: It’s odd in this business of blogging how the least likely of things will stir the public pot. I was semi-stunned by the sushi-esque outpouring I got after pretty much downplaying local species as raw matter. I doubly emphasized that the sashimi potential of nearshore species was qualitatively incredible. Personally, I earnestly enjoy rawing up many of the gamefish I get in the ocean and bay. What I alluded to in my sushi critique was the sneers – and occasional gags -- I’ve gotten when serving raw portions of fluke, bluefish, striper, blackfish, weakfish and seabass to folks who are mere entry-level sushi-ists, i.e. acquainted with tuna and maybe salmon served as sushi at local eateries.
I’ve gotten fully a dozen emails taking me to task – in a friendly way, mind you – about just how incredibly sashimi-able our fave fish can be -- even bluefish, when sliced thin and downed a la sushi.
Here’s mere sprinkling of response:
“I am going to have to disagree on your assessment of two species, fluke and striped bass. I think fluke is one of the least fishy fishes, I find it tastes ‘bready,’ and it is a favorite sushi choice. I also looove striped bass, although most of what is sold as striped bass in sushi restaurants appears to be tilapia. Neither fluke nor striped bass are as strong in flavor as yellowtail, and I always thought that yellowtail was something even novices love… G.G. ”
“I’m one of those people that actively like bluefish – to catch, and to eat, including raw. Immaculately fresh, it is dynamite. Call me nuts….” David N.
“ … I've bravely been eating blue fish (cheek only) sashimi for about 10 years now. It's not tuna, let's not kid, but it's doable. … But, this year's quarry was searobin sashimi. I first had fluke sashimi at the Engleside and have been enjoying it ever since. Searobin stacks up similar to fluke in texture, maybe even a bit firmer, but the flavor is very pleasant. I know purists don't overdose the wasabi and soy but with a subtle dip this fish can be a fine sashimi dish in my opinion.”
Another remark, “Haven't tried skate sashimi and don't think I'll go for dogfish, but what about Stargazer.... huh?”
“Jay, I actually think tuna is too strong tasting – and way better baked. Give me raw striper or fluke any day. However, my wife proves your point. She lives for the sushi bar tuna (at local buffet) but won’t get the near my homemade sushi. She doesn’t know what she’s missing … Bill.”
BAD BOYS, BAD BOYS: Recent meeting of the NJ Marine Fisheries Council was highlighted by a violations rundown to beat the bad-guy band. It was a headliner in one of the local dailies. While that headliner emphasized the tog and blackfish angle – one I had written up just a few weeks back – the fluke violations are the biggy to me.
I bring that up since I’ve oft been contacted about summer flounder violators. As recently as this past weekend. I didn’t downplay the complaints except to say it’s best to let the law handle such thievery. By the by, I got word that the law agrees 100 percent. An off-the-record remark went: “I realize people often have the fishery at heart when they take on violators but I agree fully with what you wrote about not knowing what you might be in for when confronting anyone on the water. Leave that to professionals.”
On that subject, what you don’t catch in general enforcement reports read at NJMFC meetings is the aggression of many violators, even when caught with their pants down. A couple guys were nabbed actually secreting fish down their pants. Down thir pants? Fluke maybe, but a species with fierce dorsals fins? Nah.
Anyway, seems many violators want to let loose on anyone – even the law -- about Draconian restrictions. They are, of course, both right and dead wrong. The regs often seem ridiculously wrong but ignoring them is way wronger. OK, so maybe there’s no such word but what do you call it when something is wronger than wrong?
Just picture the fishing folly that would prevail if every angler took a purely subjective approach to regulations, deciding which ones they feel are appropriate and which should be conveniently ignored. Talks about killing any hope of fishery conservation. That’s like the casinos allowing roulette players to decide which numbers they con tried to get some insights into the DEP Hotline and was told that
RUNDOWN: There were major stripers in major number taken near Barnegat Inlet in the wake of the storm. A nice one from that bass bonanza was weighed Bobbies Boat & Motor Rentals – which carries live spot, the number 1 striper-taker, even above herring and bunker.
The beach bass population is showing in spurts. With the seas settling to dull roar, the a.m. plugging and jigging should take off very soon, starting with smaller fish. Since mullet are a-move, poppers and surface swimmer will give a quick read on whether or not bass are present at a given jetty. However, migrating mullet almost always have hawking bass. Those are stalkers that tirelessly shag the passing pods. That means that an area seemingly void of bass could instantly light up with the approach of shagable baitfish. It’s all a question of reading the water for leapin’ mullet or, more commonly, nervously balled up mullet – unwilling to make a dash around the end of the jetty for fear of what is out there. Place your plug out there.
Fluke are all but blitzing, as we knew they would be. They are being taken on plugs, jigs, bunker chunks, mullet – you name it. Most are being released. Obviously, the above “Bad Boys” section above indicates some are becoming dinner against the wished of the state and federal government.
Bad skies and postseason angler reductions have kept seabassing at a reasonable rate of take. They are out there and catchable.
I was hanging around the Barnegat Lighthouse watching rock anglers flipping green crabs for ??. You tell me. I’m not sure what they were targeting so aggressively with the tog bag at one a day. These guys were hunkered down and equipped for a 20-hour session. I’ll leave it at that.
Holgate is decently drivable. The fishing at the end is mainly small blues and fluke. Small stripers are occasionally hanging in the frontbench cuts. Nothing very regular by any stretch.
Please sign up early for the 2009 Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic. There are not enough hats for any latecomers.