Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Sunday: July 24, 2011:
The fishing has surely not been torrid – or hot – or even lukewarm. I’ve talked to a goodly number of anglers-in-general and flukers-exclusively and most are talking suckedness – and heat and bugs, etc.
If you were on the flatties, consider yourself lucky. If you were on anything consistent, consider yourself freakily lucky.
Here’s a pro report:
Not too much to report on the back bay fluke fishing. We were booked five days this week for our ultralight fluke fishing trips, and the action was definitely a lot slower than it has been up to now. Brian Stahre and sons Jake and Alex managed to land a few dozen flatties with keepers to 21" on Tuesday, but other than that the fishing was somewhat slow. Hard to tell if the slowdown was an effect of the brutal heat wave we're going through, but we've also been seeing water temperature swings from the low 80's on the outgoing to 59 degrees on the incoming. Rapid temperature changes like that can't make the fish very happy, so hopefully things will start getting a little more stable over the coming week.
The real highlights of the week were our daily tussles with cow nosed rays that are all over the inlet and back bay right now. We've had multiple hookups just about every day, and these great fighting fish provide quite the challenge on ultralight gear. We did manage to land a couple, with Lyle Smith on Monday successfully playing a 30 pound fish to the boat and Gene Karamen bringing a 20 pounder alongside on Friday. Quite the accomplishment on the 6 pound test fluke outfits they were using.
Until next week.
Capt. Jack Shea
Barnegat Bay Fishing Charters
Speaking of those cownose rays, the spectacle off the north side of the North jetty, Barnegat Inlet, was a never-seen-before spectacle for Walt P and Don E. Not just thousands but possibly ten thousand rays were finning up on the surface, turning the water stingray brown. I’m not afraid to bandy about that seemingly bloated 10,000 count since schools in the Chesapeake have been estimated to be in many tens of thousands. Per the Chesapeake Bay Program, “one (school) witnessed near the mouth of the Bay was estimated to contain nearly five million rays!”
Rays love the surface of the water. I think it might serve as a way to easily spot predators, mainly sharks. However, I have also stood among schools when they were clearly layers thick, three layers deep and more. That can hike a school’s numbers realm fast.
So what are they doing to the ecology? Real hard to say, despite semi-scientific acquisitions they’re ruining Chesapeake Bay. I say “semi-scientific” because it gets a little too dubiously repetitive when the folks heavily over-utilizing that humanely devastated bay blame everything, including nature, for what man has wrought. You’ll recall it was too many small bass at one recent point.
Admittedly, the rays are master shellfisherthings – and can do a destructive number on eelgrass beds. They can wing-flap the bottom and expose every shellfish and crab, of all sizes. They’re also oyster and mussel eaters.
Can bays like Barnegat stand that high level of eco-pressure? Hell, it can’t stand any additional shellfishing action. The ray ravaging has gotta hurt – and could prove devastating to re-clamming efforts. At the same time, they’re nature. Had we not decimated the bay, it could easily hold rays without batting an eye. For now, it would be nice if folks would give the rays a dinner try.
Note: I’ve heard that rays eat small fish but that has not been shown in nature – only is aquarium set-ups. The entire jaw system of rays is geared to breaking shellfish and crustaceans. There is nothing physiological indicting they can seriously threaten fish.
I was out on the beaches of Harvey Cedars, volleyballing – and occasionally cooling off in the cold suds. The big attention-getter was a very large seal that hung just off the beach (40 yards or so) for hours, seemingly having a tough time breathing. At one point it came into within ten feet of the beach, obviously trying to beach itself to rest -- but relentless beachgoers kept stalking it and forced it back out to sea. It looked like it had an odd-shaped head, meaning it might not have been one of our common harbor seals, which are often here even in the summer. (Winter we see a slew of harbor seals.) The Marine Mammal Stranding Center was notified. I’ll check to see if anything came of that call.