Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Even when caught in a fail, eagles know how to look cool ...
Here's to the Queen City for having one of the only striped bass Christmas decorations anywhere (Were you originally behind that, George G.?):
Thursday, December 07, 2017: While the west winds have cleaned things up in the surfline, the shift away from south winds has ended the dang-decent beach bass bite we had. I see no returning southerlies through the weekend or even into next week – which will be post-Classic.
Today, the swell remains a factor, though the waves are down to 3 feet, with some larger sets. I bring that up since I saw some folks trying to plug the surf (high tide) this a.m. and were getting mighty wet working the wash area (mid-Island).
Ocean water temps are ranging pretty widely. I’ve taken everything from a 47 up to a 52, depending on near-beach eddies -- where two water types mix, due to shifting winds. The two waters can usually be seen as brownish for one and cleaner for the other. The cleaner water is often slightly warmer.
While that recent run of weigh-in bass went exclusively for bunker, clams are often a prime bait as the surf clears – along with the bunker.
Back in the day – and it t’weren’t that long ago – any side-ass blow loosed loads of surf clams, sparking the bass to take a hankering for anglers’ clam baits. To say we have suffered a loss of surf clams near the beaches is an understatement. They’re gone to the point of zero washups after storms.
I should mention commercial clammers, in a highly regulated industry, are doing just fine further out as sea, suffering absolutely no surf clam declines. It’s exclusively along the LBI beaches that something has gone direly wrong. For you older folks, you gotta remember as kids we could easily tred surf clams out on the sand bars. They were everywhere, underfoot.
Not to overplay the surf clam loss, but it began happening well before Sandy, though you’re welcome to blame her … and even blame the follow-up replenishments, if you’re so inclined -- since complaints won’t be bringing them back any time soon. I will go a bit more radical by hypothesizing that the wretched striper drop-off we’ve seen in recent fall times does, in fact, align with the loss of surf clams.
Hey, why not guess at it? Everyone is already wracking their brains trying to comprehend why autumnal bass no longer come into the LBI surfline in any great numbers, especially when compared to the nearby bass bonanzas being seen by boat anglers. Hell, we surfcasters have become chopped liver, even when compared to surfcasters up Island Beach way -- though even that famed stretch of beach hasn’t rocked the rafters with stripers this fall.
I’ll reiterate my other theory that, more than a loss of clams, the quantum increase in nearshore bunker, due to conservation, is a likely cause of bass forsaking our suds. Theory only, mind you.
Below: Snag and drop ... On The Water
Since I’m on a bit of a pissy role – in the midst of my worst surf plugging fall, ever -- the crab count in the near-beach sand zone is also bottoming out, referring to lady crabs (sometimes miscalled “calicos”) -- one of the most important foodstuffs for local bass. Lady crabs have been the number one stomach content item in a number of previous striped bass studies. That lady crab loss might very well be due to replenishment. At the same time, sandcrabs are doing decently to above-decently – exploding in some post-replen swashes and wet sand areas. I’m reading where sandcrabs are being found in many beach-bass bellies. I’ll bet the barn the bass came in for larger crabs and had to settle for the small stuff. They won’t be sticking around for just sandcrabs.
Just as an aside, Island beaches with coquina clams – never around when I was a kid – have seen a steady rise in their numbers, even after replens. For whatever reason, Harvey Cedars is coquina clam central. I’ve yet to hear of them in bass bellies though they’ve been found to the hilt inside kingfish.
Harvey Cedars will be getting another replenishment at the end of January, as will Brant Beach. While north Surf City is also on the replen schedule, the borough has yet to pay its share of the owned state/county/local costs of the sand they’ve already received, dating back to the first, famed munitions replen. There is a chance the Army Corps might say enough is enough and bypass the delinquent paying town.
Anybody notice it's the Year of the Starlings on LBI? (Surf City)
Top 5 day out to sea...
5 striped bass today. All 5 men on boat took home dinner!
Back in the day, the season of giving was a bit different at Spencer Gifts, Atlantic City.
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. has been awarded the contract, for $18.4 million, to clear shoals from Little Egg Inlet, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection announced on Tuesday. The sand dredged from the inlet will be used to replenish the southernmost beaches of Long Beach Island.
Following an extensive environmental review, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the DEP, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit on Nov. 6 to dredge the inlet, which is a major thoroughfare for boat traffic between southern LBI and Brigantine.
Long Beach Township officials stated that mobilization at the site began late last week.
According to the DEP, the contractor aims to complete the project by March 1, 2018, prior to the next boating season, and at a time of year that takes advantage of natural wave action to push additional sand onto the beaches.
As a DEP press release states, the contract “is designed to dredge 700,000 cubic yards of sand, with an option to dredge an additional 300,000 cubic yards if needed. The DEP is paying for the project using funds from its Shore Protection Program.”
Sand will be placed along beaches and dunes from Ocean Street in Beach Haven and south through Holgate, repairing areas that sustained erosion as the result of storms since the Army Corps completed a beachfill project that encompassed much of LBI.
“The contractor will focus on the area from the terminal groin to Pershing Avenue in Holgate and the areas just south of Nelson Avenue to Kentford Avenue and just north of Holyoke Avenue to Belvoir Avenue in Beach Haven,” the release adds.
“This important project will provide additional protections to the southern LBI area by replenishing beaches and dunes that have lost sand due to erosion from storms since completion of a major U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach fill project last year,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “At the same time, it will greatly improve boating safety in the heavily used Little Egg Inlet, which has become virtually impassable for most boating traffic due to shoaling."
The removal of sand from the inlet will clear a navigable boat channel one mile long and 24 feet below mean sea level “to accommodate the numerous commercial and recreational fishing vessels, private boats and other craft that use the inlet to access Barnegat Bay, Great Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway,” says the DEP.
Little Egg Inlet is one of the widest ocean inlets in the state, and is extremely dynamic. The federally marked waterway has never been dredged, until now.
The DEP says the project is designed to have negligible to no impact on the nearby Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, or migrations of fish. —J.K.-H.