Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Thursday, June 04, 2015: For today and tomorrow, there is no bright news on the weather front.

Baby blue heron... Even the parents are pointing to each other going, "Oh, that's definitely your kid, not mine." 

Thursday, June 04, 2015: For today and tomorrow, there is no bright news on the weather front. Even with some brighter skies by the weekend, these suddenly dominant north winds won’t soon be backing off. I don’t see comfortable boat – or even beach – angling for days, though there could be a slight wind laydown on Saturday … but picking up again by Sunday. That’s not much to go on but we're in an odd weather pattern.

The water temps have inched out of the 50s … barely. However, water temps are no longer that much of a player. Fish are all on the move, in a migratory vein.  

Blowfish:  I have to wonder if the insane showing of blues decimated what had, in recent years, been a decent spring showing of blowfish. A few have been caught. And, and out of those few, almost as many have shown bite marks. Add to that the number of semi-digested blowfish found, as stomach contents, in bluefish, it surely hasn’t been a good annual trip northward for these oddly beloved puffers.

Recalling those blowfish population explosions back in the 1960s, there were virtually no bluefish around. There might have been a link there.

Or, might it be?::::

I’ve gotten no recent word on bassing the beach but I know the fish are out there. Today, I visually checked a number of beaches – on another mission, beyond fishing – and didn’t see a soul casting out a line. It was gusty but not formidably so. I might jig a bit later. I’m thinking about BL. Below: www.airphotona.com


This week's video forecast for NJ/DE Bay fishing - stiff E/NE winds could dampen some spirits, but the incoming morning bite in the wash for stripers on clams, bunker chunks and bucktails could be decent in places. In the waaayyy back, hoping to catch the last hour or so of the outgoing tide around dawn for the summer flounder!

Please check this out ... but remember to come back here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgqf82EVDvc


In NJ, box turtles are absolutely running into hard times, population-wise. That is due to habitat loss and environmental degradation, complicated by a shift of human population to the southern and coastal part of the state.

I bring up that "coastal" angle not only because that zone belongs to us but because, after years of herping, I rate our shoreline -- and inland maybe ten miles (before the serious Pines kick in), as one the most box turtle rich areas in the entire state.

The mix of richer coastal forage/plantlife, freshwater wetlands and -- until now -- wide open areas suited these turtles perfectly. Then, came the buildout and dramatically increased road traffic. To be sure, traffic is one of the primary killers of box turtles in out region. 

What's worse of all for road-crossing box turtles is, ironically, their primordial defence mechanism of rapidly retreating into their shell when spooked. 

Example: Take high-speed Rte. 539 and 72, death rows for so many road-crossing creatures. A turtle will come out of the undergrowth and see the asphalt expanses of those roads, dead ahead. Many turtle will actually stop in their tracks, to perform a sometimes lengthy look-see of the odd opening up ahead. (This is actually a perfect time to help the turtle cross the road for highly observant motorists.)

Anyway, when there is seemingly no danger showing, the turtle-in-waiting will make its move – at a turtle’s clip. For a box turtle, that clip is a proverbial turtle/tortoise pace. To be sure, some turtles can really scoot – for turtles.

When finally atop the asphalt area, very bad things can happen.

Those bad things come down to a spatial thing. The four tires of a hauling-ass vehicle cover maybe 1/20th of a lane – you can up the numbers for a four-lane highway. In the face of an arriving vehicle, a crossing turtle has at least a spatial chance of not becoming dead meat. Still, it is unknowingly playing highway Russian roulette.

So, "Vroom!," a pickup truck appears, seemingly out of the blue, approaching the turtle. Let’s pretend it passs over, its tires missing it by a turtle-hair breadth.

The nerve-racking close call scares the ever-lovin’ pellets out of the turtle. It instantly and instinctively turns primitive and withdraws into itself, all "WTF!?"   

If you've ever come across a box turtle that slams the shell door shut in your face, you know it can stay tightly within its fortress for a goodly time period. Hell, I’ve seen them climb inside themselves for half an hour -- finally opening up, just a crack, before eventually raising up their heads, for a fifteen-minute look-about.

Now, let’s back up to that road-crossing box turtle, spooked by a passing truck. Where we’d be yelling, “Run! Boxey, Run!” it has instead assumed what has saved its species for eons. Yep, right in the middle of the bloody road it has gone indoors. It's now idly lying there in the face of any and all arriving traffic – envision our highways on a Saturday.

Remember those special spatial specifications I gave you? Well, they change to laws of averages, as each chunk of traffic passes by and over. Short of me going on a turtle-saving mission -- that's me jumping out of that first truck that passed over -- the law of lethal averages turns against Boxey.

Below: What it looks like for a turtle with just one truck coming ... 

What it becomes for a turtle inside its shell -- in the road:

The above is based on a goodly number of times I've pulled over to save a mid-lane Boxey and then cringed (and cringed again) as each vehicle behind me zoomed over the in-the shell reptile.

I’m giving the details as a way for critter-friendly drivers to maybe gear their motoring behavior with just such wildlife possibilities constantly in-mind. 



New Jersey's 'beautiful turtles' struggling to survive
JUNE 2, 2015, 9:43 PM    LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, 2015, 2:07 PM

Eastern box turtles are threatened by the destruction of their habitat, observers say.

Eastern box turtles are threatened by the destruction of their habitat, observers say.

George Reskakis is proud of them, though he concedes they are not much to look at — scruffy piles of branches that dot Teaneck Creek Conservancy. In fact, Reskakis, who heads the conservancy’s Weed Warriors volunteer group, gets asked all the time why they leave the messy brush piles along the trails.

What the piles lack in looks they make up for in ecological value: They provide vital protective cover for the Eastern box turtle.

The flashy, multicolored turtle, once ubiquitous throughout New Jersey and known to generations of children who fed fistfuls of freshly plucked grass into their pet turtle’s aquarium tank, has been declining in numbers here and in other states, and New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection identifies it as a species of special concern.

Eastern box turtles live from Maine to Georgia and west to the Mississippi, and are designated a species of concern or special concern in a number of states, including Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio.

People spot box turtles more often at this time of year because nesting season begins in late May and early June.

Wildlife experts say homeowners can help by not disturbing the nests that female box turtles might dig in their flower gardens, mulch piles or lawns in the coming weeks. A box turtle will lay up to seven eggs in the nest, then leave. The eggs incubate on their own.

Brian Zarate, senior zoologist with the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, said box turtle habitat often intersects with the suburbs, contributing to the species’ decline. The main threats include habitat loss and fragmentation — the turtles can’t move safely between patches of habitat because of roads, railroad beds, parking lots and other dangerous obstacles.

Another threat has been the illegal collection of these turtles for commercial sale in the underground pet trade, Zarate said. And since they seem like docile creatures, suburbanites who come across them may decide innocently enough to take them home as pets. But that depletes the breeding numbers in an area.

“They are protected by law,” Zarate said. “If you see a box turtle you’re not allowed to take it home with you as a pet.”

Ben Wurst, habitat program manager with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, took an interest in the plight of the box turtle because he remembered encountering them in his back yard growing up.

“They’re one of the most beautiful turtles we have in New Jersey,” he said. The top of their boxy shell is vibrantly colored with mottled patterns of orange, yellow, olive and tan. Males have bright orange or red eyes.

Box turtles grow up to eight inches long, and can live into their 60s or older. They are not great swimmers, and live instead in woodland and open meadows — or suburban back yards.

They are true omnivores — they eat insects, worms, mushrooms, fruits and berries, especially from the sort of bushes and trees people rip out to create more formal gardens.

“One main reason for the decline would be habitat destruction — people removing their food sources,” Wurst said.

Since box turtles have small home ranges — about 250 square yards or less — cutting down a mulberry tree they depend on can be disastrous to a turtle — and to the breeding population of the area.

If removed from their territory, they can die trying to find their way back. Experts say that if you find a box turtle trying to cross a road, don’t take it home — just move it across the road in the direction it was headed.

Like other reptiles, box turtles are cold-blooded and hibernate by burrowing into the ground during the winter. They emerge in the spring, start mating around now, and lay eggs in June and July. The female will dig a hole about three inches deep in loose soil to deposit the eggs, which incubate for 87 to 89 days. The young will stay in their nest and go directly into hibernation, or emerge to explore for a few weeks.

At Teaneck Creek Conservancy, Reskakis, a Manhattan dentist and Teaneck resident, oversees the Weed Warriors volunteer group, which maintains the conservancy trails. They have created butterfly and bird gardens, and reintroduced some native species to the conservancy, including white oak, ash and red buds.

Now they have turned their attention to the box turtle.

During a recent walk along one of the trails, Reskakis pointed out several of the brush piles. “It’s a project of passion for me,” he said. “It’s great therapy and exercise.”

Members of the Bergen County Audubon Society, including Marie Longo, have planted blackberry shrubs at the conservancy as a food source for the turtles.

Box turtle eggs and recently hatched turtles are often eaten by raccoons, foxes, skunks, snakes, crows, coyotes and dogs.

So when trail walkers ask Reskakis why he has left the brush piles, he has a quick, simple reply: “Brush is habitat. It’s a place for box turtles to hang out — and hide from predators.”

Email: oneillj@northjersey.com  

Twitter: @JamesMONeill1


http://www.njanglers.com/ and go to "Forums" ...

How to catch that trophy fluke
How not to lose that trophy fluke by Captain Harvey Yenkinson Vetcraft Sportfishing

Fluke fishermen tend to be a dedicated lot, always seeking that one big fluke they have always dreamt of catching. For some anglers this is a fish over ten pounds, for some anglers a fish over fifteen pounds, and still for some, a new world record. Almost every diehard fluke fisherman remembers the biggest one he ever had on his line and lost. Following are the key factors that can help prevent losing that fish of a lifetime.

Drop back technique

Experienced fluke fishermen understand the feeding mechanism of fluke. These ambush predators constantly reposition themselves on the bottom in bait rich realms. When sighting a target, they arch their backs, dart off the bottom, usually grabbing their baits from behind, and then quickly returning to the bottom where they are less vulnerable to being sighted by their own predators. Once on the bottom, the fluke will move up on its prey and swallow it only after it feels the bait is sufficiently damaged by the conical teeth and crushing nature of its jaws. 
Many baits are ripped out of the mouths of fluke because anglers don’t wait long enough to set the hook. While each day and bite is different, at least 10 seconds should be given for a fluke to get the bait (and most importantly the hook) sufficiently in its mouth. While waiting to set the hook, the angler should keep tension on the line and not let the line go slack. A slackened line can signal to a fluke that the bait is not proper and it may let go. Too much tension, and a fluke may let go of a bait as well. The best technique is to fish with reels in free spool, using your thumb to keep tension on the line as you slowly let line peel off the reel as the boat drifts away. You want to keep just enough tension on the bait so that the fluke feels the pull, which signifies to the fluke that this indeed is a living bait (and not your bait strip). 
Very good fluke fishermen can feel when a fish has grabbed a bait but is reluctant to move up and swallow it. These anglers will keep tension on the line and may twitch it ever so slightly to encourage the fluke to continue the swallowing process. This process may take up to 30 seconds and occasionally longer. The most patient fishermen excel in sensing when the time has come to set the hook. It is always wise to allow extra time if it is uncertain that the fluke has taken the bait fully in its mouth. It is better to allow extra time for the bait to be engulfed as opposed to not enough. This is essentially what a “dead sticked” rod does. It has lots of patience!
Experienced anglers can feel the size of the fish working on their bait by the degree of the initial tug when the fluke first grabs the back portion of the bait. Extra time is always allowed for the fish to fully engulf the bait when a trophy is on your bait. 

Setting the hook

The next mistake most commonly made is an overly aggressive hook set. Most anglers fish with testosterone instead of finesse and love to “cross the eyes” of the fish. While this may bring some kind of primeval relief, it does little for catching big fluke. Astute anglers, instead, will slowly lift the fish off the bottom to sense the weight of a properly hooked fish. 
The hooks we fish with now days are super sharp and super thin, and will easily set themselves. Our braided lines have no stretch at all and the newer graphite composite rods are less flexible then the older fiberglass rods. Often the weight of the fish alone sets the hook when fishing with this newer type of equipment. Some good anglers will give a little wrist twitch to set the hook, as this is the maximum amount of hook set really needed. Monofilament line and fiberglass rods require more of a hook set due to the flexibility and stretch in the system. The problem with a too aggressive hook set is two fold:
1. The larger the fluke, the easier it is to rip a hook out. To picture this in your mind, picture your hook set in a refrigerator size cardboard box. Because the box is heavy and won’t move, it is easy to get the hook to pull free. Put the hook in a tiny box and every time you yank on the rod, the box moves too and the hook won’t pull free. This is why if you are an aggressive hook setter, you may literally pull the hook on every big fish you catch. 
2. Secondly, the tissue of a big fluke is not that much stronger then a smaller fluke. The hook can only grab the amount of tissue between the point and shank of the hook. If this tissue tends to be the flesh inside the mouth, the hook will easily pull free for an aggressive fish hooker, while the finesse fisherman may land this fish. If the hook happens to set in the jaw, bony portion of the mouth, or the tough tissue of the stomach, these hooks will rarely pull free. 

Where the hook has set and how much tissue it has grabbed is unknown to the angler till the fish has been landed. Every fluke that is hooked must be assumed to be hooked in the soft tissue and the setting of the hook done accordingly. Many more fish are lost by an aggressive hook set then by not setting the hook with much intensity. 

Fighting the fish

Assuming you now have that trophy size fluke on the line, you certainly don’t want to lose it on the way up. Good fluke anglers always know they have a fluke on as opposed to another fish by the telltale way it shakes its head. This innate behavior is a fish’s way of trying to dislodge the sharp object that it feels in its mouth. Fluke and many other species of fish have learned this head shake maneuver to dislodge a sharp object taken in its mouth, such as the sharp dorsal fin of a bait fish or the point of a crab shell. The trick is not to let the fish use this to her advantage.
The best way to minimize losing a fish on the way up is to keep the exact same amount of tension on the line at all times. If one were to put a scale on your line, it should not change at all as you reel the fish up. Obviously, we have no scales on our line, but we have something just as good, the bend in the rod. By keeping the rod bent the same amount at all times, the tension on the fish remains the same, such that it can’t easily throw the hook with a head shake.
It is okay to pump a fish to the surface, but the big mistake anglers make is they inadvertently let the rod straighten as they begin to lower it for the next “pump.” Over 90% of anglers do this and are unaware that they even do it. The trick here is to reel your rod down. 
To understand this, picture you have just hooked the fish. Your rod is 45 degrees off the water and the rod is bent. Keeping the rod bent, now reel down. When the rod is close to the water, lift the rod up. Now as you begin to lower the rod again, immediately start reeling such that the rod never loses its bend. Watch yourself next time you fish, and you may be surprised how you lose the bend in the rod and let the line go slack, particularly with the nonstretch braided line we use. 
Some very good fluke anglers do not move the rod at all when reeling in a fish. By keeping the rod still and only controlling the rate of reeling, it is much easier to keep the same bend in your rod. The only time these anglers will move the rod is when the fish pulls extra hard. Here the angler dips the rod a little so the fish doesn’t exert too much pull on the line where it may possibly break free. Also when it is time to guide the fluke into the net, the angler uses the rod like a wand to guide the fluke towards the net man. 
Often, while bringing up a large fluke, the hole where the hook goes through the mouth has become quite large, sometimes over a quarter of an inch. Just an instant of slack line is enough for a fluke to now shake this hook free. Keeping a constant rod bend and hence a constant force on the fish will prevent the hook from pulling free on a head shake. One instant of slack, and that fish is lost! 
When reeling a big fish, to prevent too much pressure on the fish, you often have to stop or slow reeling when the fish is pulling extra hard. We want to keep the pressure on the fish constant but not an excess so we don’t take a chance of pulling the hook. Be prepared though to begin reeling again the instant the fish stops struggling. Also be prepared to reel more quickly is the fish swims at you. 

Drag settings on your reel

Few anglers actually use a drag scale to set the drag on their fluke reels. Most just use the hand pull method to gauge how much drag they have dialed in. The norm for most fishing is ¼ to 1/3 of the breaking strength of the line. If fishing with 30 pound braid, this would mean a drag setting of 7.5 to 10 pounds which is way too much. For fluke fishing, the lighter the drag setting the better. 4 pounds of drag is plenty whether fishing with 15 pound test or 60 pound test. 
Lighter drag settings mean a longer battle to bring a fish to the surface which is the only downside of light settings. The hook is pulled on many species of fish during a battle because of heavy drag settings and you don’t want to lose your trophy fish because you wanted to get it to the surface too quickly. 
Some anglers set their drags lightly but then use their thumb on the reel to increase the drag force. Let your drag washers do their job and let drag pull when the drag force is exceeded. Patience is needed so as not to pull the hook on that big fluke. 

Fish at the surface

How many times has it happened that you got that trophy fish to the surface and lost it? Nothing is more frustrating after doing everything else correctly. The problem with a fish at the surface (air/water interface) is that the dynamics of the whole situation change. The much reduced density of air compared to water let head shakes become amplified and more capable of throwing a hook out of its mouth or more commonly exerting enough force to pull the hook free. 
When a fish comes within visual range, it is time for the net man and angler to get in sync. The net man must position himself next to and down current of the angler. On a boat, this means the net man is generally further aft then is the angler. In this scenario, the angler needs to reel very slowly and keep the fish a couple inches or more below the surface. You never want the fish to “feel the air” for the reasons explained above. How many anglers skate the fish across the water in the final moments and break the fish off? 
It is best for the net man to be down current of the fish for several reasons. One is that the current will keep the net open. Secondly is that the fish can be led to the net with less force. Thirdly is because if the fish does pull free, the net man has a shot and netting the free swimming fish.

Catch the trophy

Next time you venture out to your favorite structure laden big fluke habitat, keep these principles in mind. Don’t strike too quickly. Error on the side of giving the fish enough time to get the bait fully in its mouth. Don’t set the hook aggressively. Error on the side of not setting the hook at all so as not to rip the tissue from the fluke’s mouth. Keep the same amount of bend in your rod the whole way up. Stop reeling when you need to, reel more quickly when you need to, and remember to reel you rod down so as never to let the line go slack. Get coordinated with your net man and lead the fish beneath the surface down current to the net. Catch that trophy fish!
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