Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

The Fish Story ... June 5, 2013 -- Death By Beaver (N0, Michael Douglas jokes, please.)

The Fish Story

Beavers Won’t Be Your Buddies; Genetically Engineered to Party

BAD BEAVER, BAD!: What jumps to mind when you hear “death by beaver”? Don’t even go there, dude.

I’m actually talking the real thing, i.e. the famed jumbo rodent, known for endlessly gnawing on trees until it finally dies one day. Well, beavers have gone batty in Belarus. And as the old saying goes: if it can happen in Belarus, it can happen anywhere. It’s a really old saying, before your time.

I was stunned by an international news story of a man being attacked and killed by a beaver. I at first thought it might be a typo, but realistically nothing in the world is even close to beaver.

The doomed man had moved near one to have a photo taken with it. It makes perfect sense to some of us. He was convinced that all beavers were just like Rocky of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame. What? Rocky was a frickin’ flying squirrel, not a beaver? WTF!? Whatever, this fellow had no idea that large rodents apparently don’t take well to the paparazzi.

In more grizzly terms, the animal was on the still-smiling man in nothing flat, biting him at an artery point, and that’s all she wrote – literally. The news story didn’t offer any more info.

It did point out that this attack was one of an alarming rash of beaver attacks, not just in Belarus, but also in surrounding nations. (Below: Only known photo of an attacking beaver._ 

Here’s a snippet from the news story out of Ostromechvo, Belarus, written by Yuras Karmanau.

“It was the most serious in a string of beaver attacks on humans in Belarus, as the rodents have turned increasingly aggressive when confronted by humans after wandering near homes, shops and schools.

“‘The character of the wound was totally shocking for us medical professionals,’ recalled village doctor Leonty Sulim. ‘We had never run into anything like this before.’”

It’s wildly weird. I’ll even allow for theories of leaked radiation from Chernobyl, about 300 miles away, sparking homicidal beavers.

Mutantization notwithstanding, it seems the Baltic region is being savagely put upon by some really bad-ass beavers.

I researched American beavers and repeatedly found the word “gentle” to describe them – like some sort of epitaph: He was a gentle beaver …

I even looked high and low for archived stories of Wild, Wild West explorers ever having to circle the wagons to stave off attacks by ferocious beavers. None. I can assure that would have been a sight not quickly lost to history. Hell, I heard tell that Native Americans even had tournaments where they would grab live beavers by the tail to see how far they could throw them. Maybe.

There was a 2005 beaver attack tale from Maryland. It involved a beaver of a whole other color. Three people were royally beaver bitten while strolling a state park – without beaver repellent. Turns out it was a mad beaver, as in rabid.

My main beaver-based insights come from years of kayaking Jersey rivers and creeks, virtually all of them punctuated with beaver dams, damn it all. I never saw even a hair’s worth of yellow-toothed wrath. However, I did have one stare at me – real mean like – near Batsto. Usually, they instantly slide into the water at my approach. This one soundly held its dam ground, with a gnaw-sharpened branch gripped in its mouth. I thought it wanted to play “Fetch.” I was running late, so I paddled past. Now the retrospective truth comes out: I was paddling through a minefield. (Below: Actual beaver bite.) 

PARTY LIKE A GE SALMON: Genetically engineered salmon are like action figures when it comes to power mating. OK, so even I’m not sure what that means, but the latest studies prove the inordinate horniness of GE salmon. A lightbulb goes on, but it’s not that GE.

Canadian researchers are among the latest think-tankers to document the way semi-manmade salmon aren’t sure what’s what when it comes to spawning. Everything is game to them.

One sure way to tell a genetically engineered salmon from a natural one is during mating season. I’m being highly scientific here by noting gene-tweaked salmon will apparently bop anything in sight. I’m not sure which gene they engineered – or overlooked – that provokes indiscriminate inseminating. GE salmon are particularly attracted to brown trout. (Below: OK, maybe brown trout are kinda sexy.)

The straitlaces at the research lab favor calling their sexy GE salmon “promiscuous,” though that sure adds a certain touch of human judgmentalism to something that’s pure instinct to the fish themselves. I sure hope there’s no vicariousness leaking in anywhere.

Of course, even a hearty partier like myself (that’s a joke, son) sees the potential climatic impact when these GE boppers go around spawning like Madonna. She still spawns, right? Hey, I’ve been out of the loop for a long time. Anyone wanna hit Joe Pop’s this weekend?

The fear has long been that GE fish, if loosed into the wild, could throw a permanent wrench into the DNA chain of natural salmon. That apprehension rapidly multiplies if GE fish are so licentious they manage to successfully spread their dubious genes to other species.

Stunned turtle: “I think that freaky salmon is trying to eat me!”

Uh, no, actually …

THEM-THERE BUNKER ARE OURS: Our state’s nearshore bunker fishermen will soon be protected against out-of-state bunker bandits. Our grand governor is expected to soon sign into law a bill prohibiting anyone but Jersey’s own netters from harvesting bunker, the most valuable forage fish on the books.

The bill, unanimously supported in both the state Assembly and Senate, will assure N.J.’ers will get the state’s entire federal allotment, 11 percent of 171 million metric tons allotted for the entire Eastern Seaboard.

This is one of those cases we get to fully buddy up with the commercial guys. Those pros nab the bunkies, rush them to shops (as if the bait is sushi tuna), and we buy them like cold, smelly hotcakes – or something like that. It’s the best bass and bluefish meat bait we have.

Recreationists have long loved the smell of fresh bunker in the morning – and afternoon and night, so much so, that the demand has grown into a trickledown industry worth damn-decent bucks. Although the dockside take is pegged at approximately $3 million, that is greatly enhanced when commercialites essentially hand-deliver the precious products to shops. Untabulated is the added value when the bunker gets sold for bait. One can even factor in the enhanced shop profits by anglers buying other products when attracted to the bunker bait. Just watch shops go into the near-panic mode when fresh bunker runs out. When angler can’t buy bunker, they’re not hot for other stuff.

As demand for angler-grade bunker grows, so does the snootiness of many anglers, myself amongst them. We’ve developed a mightily discerning eye for the best of the best bunker, namely the freshest and, in a way, the sweetest.

No other bait turns “sour,” i.e. rancid, faster than utter oily bunker. The sooner it makes it to market – and onto the hook – the better the chances of wooing a picky cow striper.

Interestingly, the oil within a living bunker is well managed. It is evenly spread. So what, ye ask? Well, it harkens back to that fresh is best thing. Part and parcel to a bunker’s freshness is its body condition when arriving as bait. Plump and perfect rules the angling day. Hey, I told you we’re getting snooty.

Industrial-grade bunker – the stuff taken by factory ships – gets brutally bruised and battered. Each and every bruise is ruinous to the natural placement of oils in the bunker’s body. It causes the balling up, called pooling, of the oils in and around the bruised areas. It also allows oxidization, at the heart of rancidity.

Since factory ship bunker are processed in nothing flat, bruises are not bothersome to the industrial dudes. They successfully suck off tons and tons of prime “menhaden” oil for everything from pet foods to lubricants (WD40) and, oddest of all, numerous cosmetic products, including lipstick.

However, for picky anglers, oil-heavy bruises are vociferously frowned upon. Our commercial netters are well aware of the, let’s say, temperamental demands of anglers and usually go to great lengths to treat the seemingly low-shelf bunker product like a top-shelf catch. We are surely appreciative. And we’re allowed to be a tad temperamental considering it’s not uncommon to walk out of a tackle shop with a bag of fresh bunker costing $10 to $20.

This is why it’s hugely essential that our N.J. guys get the sole shot at the state’s bunker fishery. First and foremost, it means a higher likelihood of quickly tracking down bait to get the freshest fish product possible back to the shops.

LOVE THY VHF: Speaking of communiques, I've been hearing some chatter about cell phones being as good as – or even slowly replacing – VHF radios.

I say “Poppycock!” – although I am profoundly clueless as to what that could possibly mean. I just heard it somewhere and find it’s curiously fun to say out loud and authoritatively. It’s also operative when suddenly shouted out as a retort.

“The project will ruin my view of the ocean.”

“My ass it will, you buncha poppycocks!”

The poppycockness of nixing VHF radios is palpable. Folks a lot more expertistic than I warn that a cell phone should be considered the merest of backups to a base or handheld radio.

I’ll go back to basics by reminding one and all that when it comes to on-water safety and survival, a VHF radio is the only known way to simultaneously reach others – within a 25-mile radius.

By the by, flares pretty much suck as a singular alert system, though they are hugely effective when part of an emergency package.

With VHF radio communications, aid and assistance is a click and a shout away. In an instant, an entire fleet of potential rescuers is alerted. If folks start going cell phone-only, radio shout-outs will have fewer and fewer hearers.

By the same token, cell phoners pretty much bank their lives on the one number they’re calling, which might be the only number they can pull off if things are sinking fast.

Sure, the Coast Guard is always on call for cell phones, but it’s totally geared to radio communiques, via the Channel 16 VHF, an international distress frequency.

The VHF system has saved an uncountable number of lives. It’s true, tried and tested.

In the word of the Homeland Security’s USCG: “Before you purchase anything else, make sure you have a VHF marine radio. A VHF marine radio is the single most important radio system you should buy.”

A further word from Boat/U.S.: “VHF radios are essential for emergency situations, and are monitored 24 hours a day by the Coast Guard. All boats should be equipped with at least one and should stand by on Channel 16 (for emergencies, distress calls, safety alerts and USCG Notices to Mariners) and 13 (for vessel bridge to bridge communications which often give crucial information).”

RUNDOWN: The bassing has gotten big, even though the hooking frequency has gotten small. I see 40s and 50s – we’re taking pounds here – have shown along the N.J. coastline. We are surely of the coastline, so get chunking, trolling, livelining and plugging.

As of today (Tuesday), the water is gorgeous. It’s clean and LBI blue-green. The 2- to 4-foot south swell is keeping a nice stir in the surf, ideal for angling for bass and smallblues.

If the winds go more offshore, as forecasted, things will smooth and the surfside flukingwill be the call. Finding flatties in the suds has recently been as good as I’ve seen it in many late springs. Surfcasters are nabbing some astounding fish to 5 pounds.

Baited jigs are working well. Grace jigheads with GULP, flavored plastics or squid – anything to assure the fluke will hold the jig in its mouth. Jigging always has a gap time between the pickup and hook-setting procedure. If sudsing for flatties, keep those jigs hopping, not jumping.

Bay fishing for fluke shows volume south and doormats north.

Near Barnegat Inlet, some flats to over 5 pounds were taken. Bigger fish are up this way.

Little Egg and adjacent waters has had non-stop hooking for those folks battling the big breezes. The good part is the decent number of keepers. That’s good for the fish – in an oddish way. I have it on solid anecdotal evidence that when folks are regularly catching a decent spattering of take-home fluke among the many shorts, they tend to be a tad gentler when dehooking and releasing the throwbacks.

No fish – other than (somewhat surprisingly) sharks – are more easily hand damaged to death than flatfish. I constantly warn of handling fluke gently. Who else speaks for the fluke? And I do it pro bono.

I can’t fully agree with some scientific studies suggesting as much as 60 percent of all caught-and-released fluke die of bodily damage inadvertently – and sometimes purposely – inflicted by their catchers. However, even a 25 percent collateral death rate – closer to reality – is totally unacceptable since it’s avoidable.

The big killer is the squeeze. The first secure hold-it point a hand slips to when grabbing a flapping fluke is the squishy body cavity. It then gets pressured to where internal organs are disengaged. Many anglers know this deadly pressure point and still squeeze harder than they should. It’s your future fishing, dudes. Don’t come crying to me with those slimy, death-dealing hands when the regs squeeze the life out of fluking because of population declines.


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