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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

The Fish Story: Ball-biting pacu fish; Mason-Dixon Line through Surf City


The Fish Story

Swedes Cover Their Privates; A ‘Wail’ of a Paper Wasp Time

By JAY MANN | Aug 15, 2013

NO NEW TANGENTS: An avid reader observed that my writing often goes a tad astray, as in careening off on tangents. I don’t agree at all, but are you pronouncing “careening” like karening or careeeeening? Anyway, I’ll work on corralling my careening.

Yes, I always listen to the input of my readers. I consider this column to be very much a team effort. As the famed saying goes: “There’s no ‘me’ in team.”

Wait a minute. Look. There’s an “m” and there’s an “e” in team. That makes a “me.” WTF!? When did they change that?

Oh, wait a minute. Somebody in the office just explained the saying goes, “There’s no ‘I’ in team.”

Allow me to ponder. A team can have a load of “me” but absolutely no “I.”

OK, I think I got it. But I really think I’d like to change it so there’s also no “me” in team. Maybe we can try “It’s a taam effort” or “I’m a toam player.”

In the meantime, I think we should all work together to …

Whoa! Stop! Back up. Check out that word “meantime.” What a self-centered frickin’ word! It actually begins with “me” and even ends with “me” – with a first-person “I” thrown in for good measure. It’s all about “me,” isn’t it, Mr. Meantime?

Wow, that’s kinda profound. The stretch of time between now and then, known as “meantime,” is seemingly all about me.

Or is meantime the world’s most troubled word, in a Freudian sense? It’s “me” versus “anti me.”  Look closely.

Wow. I hereby assert that no team effort should ever consider doing things in meantime – it’s just too disturbing.

Here people get on me for careening off on tangents, but look at the vital life information I find out there in, uh, the meantime.

DAMN, THAT HURT!: Touché. My pain hat is off to paper wasps.

I can say that now that I’ve distanced myself from the Saturday attack on my left ankle, which took two ferocious stings after I kicked a piece of old composite piping lying near the sugar sand road I was walking.

As with many sneak attacks, there wasn’t time to think. Of course, I’m not sure if it was them or me sneak attacking.

I clearly recall rolling the pipe and seeing wasps rapid-firing out the end near my feet. But that flight-provoking observation came in lockstep with the first wholly brutal sting, carried out by the guard wasp. That’s the wasp whose job it is to stand guard, alert the nest to arriving trouble before going stinger-out at said trouble, i.e. me. This guard wasp took its duty very seriously – as did I when the vicious, burning pain ignited right above my ankle bone. I kicked off the dastardly guard with my other foot – while jumping upward, outward and away-ward.

I’ve been bitten and stung by the best of them, including scorpions, spiders and centipedes. I’ve learned it’s always imperative to instantly vacate the pain-producing premises. No different in this case. Unfortunately, my frantic first burst of fleeingness didn’t come soon enough to thwart a second paper wasp from driving its sizzling stinger into me, barely above the other sting. The first penetrator had left behind a pheromone scent that acted like a laser beam for the next attacker to home in on. It was a double dose of agony. It had been such a nice day to that point.

I’m sure I offered some sound effects to accompany the stings, but I didn’t hear a thing since all my nerve endings were too busy looking down to see what the hell was happening at ankle level.

Twice bitten, I launched into a bent-over form of running, slapping wildly at my besieged ankle, knowing wasps can sting repeatedly.

Running and simultaneously slapping at one’s ankle is contrary to irrefutable laws of gravity and physics. I wasn’t overly surprised when I soon found myself going head over heels, taking a roll in the Pinelands dust. Knowing I couldn’t let up on my flee speed, I just parlayed my forward-rolling momentum, bounced back to uprightness and just kept trucking. One can become very calisthenically inclined when being pursued by wasps. For any onlooking deer, the sight had to spark some horse laughs.

It was pure speed – and the unplanned drop-and-roll – that ended the attack. Then, for the umpteenth time in my life, I came to the cruel realization that you can’t outrun or outroll pain.

As I slowed to a panting, fast-walk pace, I took the time to rate the stings as frickin’ fierce– an 8.0 on my fairly stoic Mannliness Pain Scale. What’s more, the initial burn gave way to a throbbing toxinish aftereffect that was damn near as rip-roarin’ as the initial sting insertions. The post-sting stinging lasted a solid three to four minutes before slowly falling off to a mere 5.9 “painful as hell” level.

As I limped back toward my truck, hot sweat toying with the stings, I was feelin’ mighty pitiable – dusty, winded and quietly thankful for my insusceptibility to anaphylaxis.

The instantaneous incident proved a mantra I keep close at mind: When nature wins, it often wins hands down.

I spent the next couple hours rather contentedly limping around a nicely air-conditioned Target, at one point stopping to dustily snicker at a big black can of Raid Wasp and Hornet Killer. You’ll never see such a can in my hands, oh, worthy warriors.

BALLSY OCTAVE READJUSTMENT: This column continues to be the epicenter for every weird news release rolling down oddity lane. The latest is a grimacer of ball-busting proportions – actually ball-cutting proportions, per the people of New Guinea and, more recently, Sweden. I’ll get to that Swedish connection in a bite – make that a bit.

It’s all about the pacu fish, colloquially dubbed the “ball-cutting fish” by New Guineans. The name is based on the pacu’s peculiar propensity to attack, oft exclusively, dangling genitals. Hey, I just report this stuff.

Adding cruelty to the fish’s clampdown capacity is the creature’s human-like teeth – likely meaning it can also smile, should the cruel need arise.

“Oh, that was one great ball bite, Sam!”

Pacu Cheshire smile.

In the case of larger pacus, up to 50 pounds, the bite has the clampdown power of a croc. The nutso fish have actually killed humans and mangled the private parts of numerous others.

Attesting to the fact the pacus are perpetually poised to grab a quick bite below the belt, many reported pacu victims weren’t even naked when pacu-ed upon. They simply offered a gonadic flash. The fish will commonly target in-water folks sporting loose-fitting loin wear (natives) or baggy, surfer-type swimsuits. Face it, these fish are close to voyeuristically fixated.

But why do these oddball creatures go so balls out for balls? If science can be thought of at a time like this, the pacu’s taste for testicles likely has to do with a bloodletting strategy, something near and dear to its blood relative the piranha.

At some admittedly gruesome point in natural history, the pacus’ ancestors found that the quickest way to disable a male mammal crossing a lake or river was to bite off its “danglers,” a term still used to this day by pacus. A suddenly neutered victim surely loses most if its ability – and desire? – to swim on, leaving itself dead meat.

Such a blood-letting also looses the hounds. A mere hint of ball blood adrift and the piranha packs go berserk. The pacu allow their bloody little cousins to slice and dice a target, leaving the pacu perfect little bite-sized pieces.

But how does Sweden enter into the otherwise tropical pacu picture? Get this: Pacu have recently been found in the Øresund Sound off southern Sweden.

Just this past week, experts (of a sort) issued warnings apparently apropos to Swedish bathers. 
“Keep your swimwear on if you’re bathing in the Sound these days – maybe there are more (pacu) out there!” the Natural History Museum of Denmark wrote.

Personally, I don’t know if there is a bona fide pacu danger out there or if bored and dusty museum folks are pulling off just about the funniest thing they’ve ever done.

Nonetheless, pacu have, indeed, been caught thereabouts. FYI: Ball cutter in Swedish isbollen fräs, or more closely “Bollen fräs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“The pacu is not normally dangerous to people but it has quite a serious bite; there have been incidents in other countries, such as Papua New Guinea, where some men have had their testicles bitten off,” said Henrik Carl, a fish expert at the museum. “Its mouth is not so big, so of course it normally eats nuts, fruit and small fish, but human testicles are just a natural target. It’s not normal to get your testicles bitten off, of course, but it can happen, especially now in Sweden.”

And did Henrik keep a straight face when he mentioned the fish’s normal diet is “nuts”? Come on, Henrik, you know you’re smiling like a pacu swimming off a nudist beach.

I know one group that will grab this pacu thing by the balls and run with it: global warmingists. Where they’ve been bustin’ their you-know-whats in failed efforts to get people alarmed over dying coral in East Jibip, they’ll surely have the undivided attention of men around the planet when warning that ball-cutter fish will thrive in warmer water. Do OP and Janzen still sell “baggies”?

BE WE SOUTHERNERS?: I read where there’s some sort of Mason Dixon Line celebration going on. Mention of the famed boundary twixt Maryland and Pennsylvania – and later used to differentiate the warring North and South – indubitably incites some debate here on LBI. Wannabe rebels are hellbent on extending the Mason Dixon Line eastward, until, lo and behold, ya’ll, it is forced to pass through LBI.

The latest claim is it cuts across LBI near Beach Haven Terrace, though it has long been thought that Surf City was where a Mason Dixon Line Toll Plaza should be erected. I’m sure Mayor Connors would love that.

Of course, we all know that the Mason Dixon Line’s run through Surf City is why the street numbers first go down in the borough, as in South Third, South Second, South First, and then the mysteriously political “Division Street,” before heading back up as North First, North Second and North Third. Yep, that’s the Mason Dixon line effect – and also why Beach Haven and Barnegat Light have eyed each other suspiciously for many years.

OK, I realize all y’all locals aren’t that gullible, but I better let visitors know the above-revealed Mason Dixon Line road tactic in Surf City is infinitely untrue. That means we still continue to happily have no idea how the hell that colliding north/south street layout came about, short of some dumbass rednecks having been in charge at some point.

Obviously, it’s frivolous speculation anticipating what happens when you drive due east from the Maryland/Pennsylvania border with the Mason Dixon line attached to your bumper. I like the way a website called “West Jersey and South Jersey Heritage” views the extending of the Mason Dixon Line’s latitude line.

“The latitude line N 39º 43' does pass through New Jersey just as it does through West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Japan, North Korea, China, Tibet, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, the Nakhchivan exclave of Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Italy, Sardinia, Mallorca, Spain and Portugal!”

Now that would make for one hell of a civil war. I picture at least half that war being spent trying to teach the rebel yell to folks in the Nakhchivan exclave of Azerbaijan.

“No, no! Stop, y’all! What the hell is that screechin’ sound you’re makin’ with your tongues? That s*** hurts my ears. Hell, men shouldn’t even be able to make sounds like that. What part of them-there sheep ya’ll been eatin’? ”

Anyway, I guess there’s some pseudo-academic merit in knowing the Mason Dixon Line runs across LBI. But I better not hear about folks south of the LBI Mason Dixon Line startin’ to attend family reunions to meet women.

RUNDOWN: We’re in the dogfish days of summer. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other fish to be had. Hell, there are skates and rays all round. Not a dang thing wrong with hooking so-called garbage fish – per myself and the far more dedicated folks athttp://www.garbagefish.com/. Give that website a look-see and commit to memory the best methods to clean the likes of blowfish and even sea robins, the latter a major ingredient in European bouillabaisse.

Our resident summer stripers are not present in numbers large enough to target unless you have a hot groin, a.k.a. jetty. For whatever subsurface reason, certain beachfront rocks hold seasonal stripers more than others. To see if hot-season bass are on-scene, I still swear by a ¾-ounce white jig – lead, plastics and bucktail all white. Jump that subtle offering near jetties and even keeper bass will salute. If things seem active, you can utilize craftier artificials or bait (boo).

The bay off Harvey Cedars is absolutely jam-packed with spot. Not only are kids going wild hooking them left and right, but I threw a net off a couple docks and had large spot every throw. No, I didn’t keep them, though they were similar in size and even shape to winter white perch, which we know can be fried up for a delightful meal.

There are some large croakers near Little Egg Inlet, though their presence is patchy. After that huge showing of croakers maybe 10 years back, we haven’t had another major look at these larger panfish since. They tend to show thickest from now into October. Despite their close relationship to tasty spot, Atlantic croaker meat is only so-so, but it takes to battered deep frying.

A few folks are griping about fluking this year. There, you folks got your mention. Overall, the goodly number of beefy, near-doormat fluke is making up for any slow keeper counts. Tackle shop photo boards are brimming with wide-smile anglers holding not-so-smiley trophy fluke. The surf fishing for flatties, though down a bit, will re-launch any day now – and go bonkers in September.

Runoff woes: The 3-inch downpour on Tuesday could impact bay fishing for the entire week. An overload of freshwater – highly fertilized, to be sure – is going to hit the bay hard. Affected waters will move eastward with west winds. As I oft note, that freshet impact can make west bay fishing very iffy – and even impact over to LBI, as runoff-related chemical changes in the bay water expand. It’s not catastrophic, just something to adjust for if fishing the bay this week.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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