Barnacle Bob Reprieved;
Baitfish to Munch Upon
SORRY FIRST: Last week, in captioning a photo of a boat being hauled of a shoal, I mistakenly reported the boat as Star Fish. My naming was based on some info I got handed me, since I couldn’t see the transom of the boat when I took the photo at the Rip. The boat being pulled off the sands was actually the Sea Horse, out of Tuckerton.
Apologies to boat owner Carl Sheppard for any ribbing he and the various Star Fish captains took because of my stupid snafu.
It won’t happen again or my name isn’t Star Mann.
Also, make sure to schedule Star Fish for your next trip. Get me out of hot shoaly water.
LUCKY AND LUCKLESS LOBSTER: You might recall, a while back I wrote about a massive 21-pound, potentially 75-year-old, lobster that was on the shopping block after being trapped by commercial fishermen off New England. The bug (lobstering slang) was so big it was named. Barnacle Bill was chosen, possibly because the old sea creature was covered in barnacles. As for the Bill part …
Well, some Jersey folks got wind of the supersized crustacean, bought it and invited all their rich friends over to drink Dom Perignon champagne while gluttonously slobbering down epic pieces of claw and tail meat.
The excellent Garden State folks couldn’t bear to see such a majestic chunk of unbuttrered beauty reduced to mere meat stuff. The Erich Walsh family bought the lugubrious lobster for $187. Then, Erich himself swam the creature into the ocean off Cape Cod -- for a release, by hand. At first, the crustacean turned around and swam back toward his human benefactor but after lengthy assurances by Walsh that everything would be fine, the lobster waved a big-clawed farewell and swam off. (Reality: The first release try saw a large wave tumble the lobster back toward shore. The second try took.)
Weeks back, I had suggested the ancient animal might have actually been depressed and intentionally jammed itself into a lobster trap. How else could it have survived all those millions of trap years without falling for the bait? Now, hopefully, the creature will have rethought his initial self-destructiveness, especially after getting wind of what befalls the average trapped lobster.
By the by, a lobster take about five years to reach a pound in weight. Then, fattiness comes slowly, with a gain of about a pound every three years. However, as with all creatures, a lobster’s attained weight is as much a question of genetics as longevity. One thing is certain, it’s good to have Barnacle Bill out there adding big-tailed offspring to the system.
On the total other side of the news menu, there’s a tail, make that tale of a load of live lobster that couldn’t catch a break to save their shells. They were aboard a truck driven a tad too quickly around a sharp curve on a New England road. The truck went wheels up -- and caught fire. Despite the cab being totally engulfed by flames, the lobster section somehow survived the inferno. One would think the traumatized creatures would get some sort of reprieve. No such luck. Health officials checked the jostled lobster and said they were good to go. Another truck took them off to once again face the flames. When your number is up …
HOLGATE HAPPENINGS: Mobile fishing in Holgate keeps going from bad to worse --and back again.
Over the weekend, the trip down to the Rip was simply as bad as it gets – even at low tide.
The incessant eating away of the wilderness beach area has assumed an odd cycling effect. Recently-living small trees and shrubberies are undermined by wave action. That nearly uprooted growth essentially goes from being part of the dunes to being an uninvited part of the new beach – as erosion moves westward daily. Soon, all that disenfranchised vegetation stands, skeleton-like, in the only line of travel available to buggies. Getting by this graveyard of deceased vegetation is hideous, as buggyists must stop and wait for the water to recede after a wave before accelerating past the jumble of tree trunks and branches.
What happens next is the section of dead forest finally get fully uprooted and is rolled away. The ride for mobile fishermen is temporarily only “bad,” as in not “worse.” However, every storm gnaws away at the new vegetation line and the process begins again. Someday it will all end – when Holgate is no more.
As of today (Tuesday), the trip down to the Rip is tough but doable; at least for those who know how to time receding waves. Hard offshore winds this week will really help the cruising cause.
Fishing includes bass along the front beach and small blues toward the Rip.
A BIT ON BAITFISH: The fall mullet run remains severely substandard – to the point of hideousness. I’ve been doing somewhat decently only because of some lucky-ass casts into balled up schools. I have also stood for hours peering into mulletless waters, to no net avail. You stare into moving water long enough and odd creatures start to form before your eyes, more often than not trying to get you to switch car insurance providers.
I sure hope this mullet malaise – the second year in a row – isn’t symptomatic of some sort of over-harvesting or climatologic changes.
How can it be over-harvesting since the millions of migrating finger mullet aren’t molested by anything but gamefish and a few cast netters?
Well, it turns out that Philistine Floridians have been banging the bejeezus out of mature mullet; something to do with selling the roe to tapeworm-infested Asians. Hey, how else can they be perpetually ravenous for most anything that moves?
What does that Deep South stuff have to do with us way up here? Firstly, we don’t call mullet “fatbacks” they way they do down there. Also, our mullet begin with their mullet.
Our summer finger mullet presence commences with mature mullet spawning in deep waters off the East Coast, primarily to the south of us. Fertilized mullet eggs hatch within 48 hours. Then, the larvae move our way as part of a complex chain of oceanic influences, among those prevailing northward then westward currents that whisk them along. Localized meteorological and oceanographic factors deliver the to-be mullet into our bays.
That leads into that climatologic change suspect.
What if something supremely subtle at Earth level is taking place in those ocean current zones that carry eggs and larvae?
Here I’m perpetually mocking the insane blaming of everything on global warming yet I’m coming damn close to assigning a mere two bad mulleting seasons to said climate change. I gotta call Gore. “Sign me up, dude.”
What’s more, I even have my suspicions about our mullet swooning under the press of a different type of imbalance.
Doing my Sherlock routine, I’ve deduced that the mulleting has gotten steadily worse since commercial bunkering was discontinued in the state-owned waters of NJ, out three miles. The bunker have comeback like gangbusters, including a young-of-year showing in the bay that has peanut bunker ruling the roost – a roost shared with mullet. What if baby bunkies are somehow powering out mullet?
This is the stuff that keeps me awake at night – and glaring daggers at every bunker I see.
Far more significantly -- and a lot more likely the cause of missing mullet – is the always-present cycling of virtually everything in the maritime ecology. Dating back to Neanderthal fishermen, there have been good years and bad years for catching. (Hey, whatever happened to that caveman guy who kept his head underwater and caught mullet in his mouth? He was cool.)
FORAGE FISH SIDEDISH: Unlike the lagging mullet run, the migratory spearing showing is through the ceiling.
Atlantic silverside, the technical name of spearing, are excellent eating when battered and fried, whole. Our current ocean-run spearing have purged themselves of all bottom material and other gastric goop. They are perfect for a fry-up.
The smaller the spearing the better, though just about any silversides from around here is very much within a prime size range. Rainfish also cook up well. In fact, the term whitebait – meaning tiny edible fish -- covers the likes of small herring, smelts and other forage fish. Whitebait has been around for ages, dating back to olden Europe.
But it’s not just ye olde Europeans that down dainty marine delicacies. In Hawaii there isn’t a local grocery that doesn’t display bag after bag of assorted dried or fried forage fish. They’re not disguised to look like anything other than what they are: tiny forage fish, complete with heads, eyes and entrails. It is better to eat them under low lighting.
In the Pacific, the eating of even the minutest of fish is mainly Asian in origin, though Hawaiian entrepreneurs have added a Polynesian flavor to the mix.
The spices used to tweak the mini-fish is so varied that it’s not unusual to see dozens and dozens of choices for sale. I can’t count the number of times, while living in surfer houses on North Shores, that we’d hung out at night watching something like time-delay Monday Night Football fully munching out on 20 different types of spearing-based delicacies.
As for savoring spearing, try them covered in a very spicy flour mix, flash fried in a very light olive oil, not extra virgin or the likes. I have dried them after marinating them in the same secret sauce I use for my bluefish jerky.
WIND POWER AND FISHING: OK TOGETHER: Just in case you missed this significant news release, three companies in the running to place wind power devices off the Jersey Shore have assured the state’s regulatory commission that they’ll have no problem with commercial and recreational fishermen doing their things around those structures. The regulatory commission in turn reported that to the Marine Fisheries Council.
Within just 10 years, 3,000 megawatts of power will come compliments of the nearshore winds turning turbines. Obviously, there will be bumps in the road to natural power but this test run could rock the energy world, eventually.
I assure you that hundreds of years in the future the residents of the world will marvel, negatively, over the fact the people on planet back in 2009 had the means and know-how to use renewable natural energy sources but blindly buckled beneath insidious pressure from oil-producing nations and oil refining moguls. “What were those morons thinking?” will be a sadly appropriate epitaph to our feeble capitulating to tycoons and such.
I’d pontificate further but my Super 8-cylinder GMC truck needs to be topped off with high test.
RUNDOWN: Bassing is good to very good on many LBI beaches. Fish to over 20 pounds have jumped on bait or plugs. Jigs are also working. Right about now, odds are pretty good you’ll attract a striper if you put enough early morning effort in.
While cobalt blue Gibb’s Polaris and other big name poppers are working well, it often comes down to simply getting an artificial that casts through the constantly carousing conditions, especially when the surf is stirring up the place. The best popperists I know do a much slower retrieve then the average angler. One top plugger lets his slow-moving popper throw a small and steady stream of water ahead, no real popping action.
The other day a fly fisherman I know showed me a series of incredible saltwater poppers he tied for this year’s striper season. The artist in me said screw the stripers, these things should be framed. Each one had an amazing look and color complexity. I once saw a large framed canvas that was lightly airbrushed in blue with fishing flies arranged in a swirling patterns, based on the prime color of the flies. It could have displayed at any gallery in New York City, it was that alive.
Kingfish are out there, though conditions have been less than favorable to target this light-biting species. Yes, a king can give a good tug but when you’re in league with 15-pound blues and 25-pound stripers you won’t find a kingfish hit on the highlight reel.
Here’s a kingfish email: “We had about 6 or 7 of our regulars working hard at the kingfish this weekend. It wasn't as good as last weekend but they are definitely still around. One of our regulars, Bob Warner out fished most everyone this weekend Over the three days I would say he took at least 25 or 30 kingfish. I got two on Saturday, none on Sunday and three today, Monday. As the winds picked up today (Monday) most everyone fishing gave up the ghost as the SW winds were really honking by early afternoon and the bite waned. Bob T.”
Interestingly, those honking southerlies were in advance of a cold front and arriving hard west winds that will smooth the ocean in nothing flat -- despite a full moon that can often mean larger waves. That smoothing will allow for what might be the last look at migrating kingfish. Lets hope this current super showing of kingfish manages to survive the shrimping boats down south – to return next summer to spawn royally in our bays.
Blowfish are out there in low to fair numbers. Barnegat Bay “creeks” had been holding them. Also, the deepwater zones near Grassy Channel (and thereabouts) had some fair numbers of these intensely edible panfish.
Croakers are showing now and again, mainly south end. Very hard to target, per se, though they often show on baits mean for bass and such.
This is a real late mention but the blue claw crabbing was very good this summer. I usually report on them throughout the summer but crabbing updates fell through the cracks despite some banner reports. And that’s not to say the catching is over.
A buddy went out on one of the local headboat’s offshore tuna trips – always great fun – and cleaned up on mahi like nobody’s business. I mention that since it was a supreme mahi summer. Of course, not every big game fisherman is sold on this smallish offshore, midwater and even nearshore catch but mahi often saves the day, much the way loved/hated bluefish save nearshore fishing sessions. By the by, mahi are damn near the fastest growing pelagic species on the planet, thus their supremacy in ocean fish farming. On a more practical front, conservation efforts, including the protecting of spawning areas for larger pelagics, often mean mahi takes advantage more quickly, in a growth-spurt way.
Fluke are still stacked on the bottom, meaning the piss-off bycatch rate is through the ceiling.
On a large whole, anglers are obediently capitulating to the closed season. And some aren’t.
To those less obedient folks, I’ll note that Fish and Game officers are now scooting around in very low-profile vessels, like the one that recently landed on the Holgate peninsula (bayside) to chat with Stu and the boys fishing there. As was told to me: A small boat beached near the fishing area, as many pleasure craft do. Before anyone really registered, enforcement was among them -- just to chat and talk weather.
I actually have a vicarious read on the clandestine keeping of illegal fish. I’m no angel when it comes to my mainland treasure hurting activities. If an area of land isn’t posted, I’m in there metal detecting and digging around. Hell, the law is on my side when no signs are seen. However, the fun is so diminished as I constantly look over my shoulder that it’s just not worth it. I think that has to be the case with sneaking illegal fluke, i.e. any and all fluke. Is it really worth the stress for a few filets? It just can’t be.
Cocktail blues are all over the inlets.
Here’s an oddish bluefish tale. A fellow I met in Holgate years back dropped by to show me an epic slammer he got on the beach last week. It went for a bunker chunk. It was tourney-winning sized, likely pushing upper teens of pounds.
I really didn’t question why he kept the low-edibility mega-blue but he offered the unusual reason. His son is going to veterinary college. “He told me ‘If you get a huge fish bring it back so I can dissect it.’ This fish is going to college,” said the angler – who just saved $100 by not having to buy a fish in formaldehyde from the school store.
To me, that fully qualifies as a damn good reason to keep a jumbo bluefish. And it really helps to have a larger round fish for dissecting, as I know from my biology lab days. Good luck to that collegiate.
EYE-POPPING POPPER: I was sent a “Rhode Island Acrylic Popper.” I had never heard of these before. I was duly impressed by the transparent red brightness that all but glowed from within the three-inch artificial. It looked sweet enough to eat, thus it’s nickname “striper candy.” They come in as many colors as acrylic allows, meaning the rainbow is the limit – though there are something like a dozen hues.
Side note: Please don’t think just because you send me a new plug I’ll write it up. Ha. Of course, it helps if you double check any spelling you send along with it. I don’t want to write it up wrong.
Anyway, I couldn’t wait to watch my “Rhode Island Acrylic Popper.” splash along the surface, i.e. pop. Well, I’ll be waiting a long time before I see that bugger pop. It’s a sinking popper. Go figure.
I didn’t put much time into working this great looking artificial. I felt somehow out of the loop. It’s going to take some time learning how to essentially “pop” a foot or two down – out of sight and, in my case, out of mind. It’s like using a jig but with a larger lag time, as the plug sinks much slower than a leadhead after being popped. I’m guessing you need to keep a fairly taunt line at all times just to detect a hit. Sounds like a lot of stuff, like concentration, is needed. If anyone is skilled in the use of these sinking “surface plugs” clue me in. Again, I sure like the looks of this acrylic material. It has me thinking my bakelite might be crafted into a good non-surface popper.