Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Thursday, October 29, 2015: It didn’t take long for the onshore flow to kick up eight-foot swells. It took about the same amount of time for Holgate beachfront to get totally overwashed by said swells. The Holgate entrance was officially closed – for good reason. As far as I could spot down the beach, the waves were covering the sand and making subtle inroads into its dissection effort, something the refuge is studying, as Holgate’s “migration” westward.
A short time back, I saw refuge scientist (and backup police officer) Vinny Turner heading a group of researchers onto the south end to continue recording the westward-ho of Holgate. While it all sounds natural enough when considering it’s a “wilderness area,” a place where nature has its say and way, I’ve said all along that even the federal government can’t -- as a good neighbor – diminish from the safety and quality of life of the rest of LBI by essentially allowing its property to break away on its own. And, yes, having the south tail of LBI wag its way to freedom exposes the nearby inhabited community – including esquire Richard Shackleton – open to bigtime erosion, vis-a-vis the Beach haven Inlet breakthroughs of the past. What’s more, I have to think there are tourist, aesthetic and quality-of-life issues in LBI losing its lower two miles worth of state-owned wet sand beaches.
It’s during times like these, when the erosion worsens in front of our eyes, that I offer what I think is a win-win to replenishing – or at least somehow saving – Holgate. Firstly, consider the amazing story of the far south tip. It has not only moved west but has also accrued massive amounts of sand. The dunes there just keep growing -- feed me, Seymour. They have likely exceeding the dune sizes back in the nearby Tucker’s Island days. Now, imagine the amount of viable wildlife area that would arise from filling in the badly eroded refuge area to the north – doing all the rebuild toward the ocean side of things. It’s tantamount to a more than doubling of the current refuge size, easily exceeding the acreage it had been prior to the erosion. And the gains would be absorbed into the refuge’s wilderness area. The birds and bees would have a heyday. All I ask is we get to seasonally use the state-owned beach zone.
During this latest blow, the Island fared decently, though the waves rose fast and hard. Tidal waters reached dune fencing in some unreplenished areas. The street flooding remained surprisingly low, short of the usual suspect spots.
There’s no guessing on how quickly the ocean will calm down enough to comfortably surf cast or head out to sea after some fat black sea bass. And are they ever catching some huge sea bass; almost on part with that rush of biggies we saw a decade or so back. By the way, when fish are bigger, you really don’t need the allowed 15 fish (12.5 inches or larger). Tog take goes up to six fish (min 15 inches) on Nov. 15.
I was sent this. It has red flags written all over it for the bay ecology. I responded: “Hmmm. I actually don't like the sounds of this. By the by, it is part and parcel to the LBI Causeway Bridge project.
A BIG CHANGE was announced at a recent dredging forum: the lifting of a wintertime ban on dredge projects in the back bays. For years dredge permits required the suspension of work during the winter months due to the breeding of winter flounder. After determining that winter flounder are not breeding or even living south of Absecon Island (Atlantic City), it was announced that the winter dredging ban would be lifted. Removing the winter ban will allow future dredge projects to proceed uninterrupted, speeding the projects and reducing the costs of mobilizing and demobilizing equipment. Allowing work to occur in the winter months will also mean less impact on the summer boating season.
Right now there are three targets for the boats of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association. With the black sea bass season re-opened, bottom fishing is now a viable option with some nice catches of porgies and blackfish mixed in with the sea bass. The offshore bite on tuna continues to be very strong when the boats are able to make the trip to the canyons with the unpleasant weather conditions slowing action down. Finally, the boats are ready for the arrival of striped bass from the north although the action has not gotten hot yet.
Captain Fran Verdi has been out on the reefs and inshore wrecks looking for black sea bass, and his anglers have not been disappointed. Despite fishing through some large swells, he managed to put some real nice hump backed fish into the cooler for some good eating.
Some of the BHCFA captains have taken advantage of the opportunity to obtain a supply of bonus tags from the state for striped bass. The current regulations call for one striper from 28-43 inches and one fish over 43-inches. A bonus tag enables an angler to keep one striper from 24-28 inches to take home for the table. These tags are limited and can only be used once. Individual anglers can also obtain individual bonus tags from the Division of Fish and Wildlife. If fishing with a charter captain for striped bass, it is a good idea to check with him to see if he has a supply of bonus tags available. This increases the chances of taking a fish home.
Additional information on the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association can be obtained by going to www.BHCFA.net ;
The Fish Story
LEAVES GO VAN GOGH: We’re not big on fall foliage color hereabouts; too many evergreens overall. What’s more, where we do have a slew of color-changing deciduous trees, we don’t always get a sudden slap of cold autumnal air to trigger a dramatic leaf color change. Beside, Pennsylvania, New York and New England have the “fall colors” market cornered – and rightfully so.
However, I want to devote this section to acknowledging the impressive efforts of the resident deciduous trees along Hilliard Boulevard, connecting East Bay Avenue and Route 9 in Manahawkin. Those imposingly huge oaks and maples are hanging some serious colors out to dry this year, with the smaller sassafras and sumacs filling in the undergrowth areas.
The unusual chlorophyll-free leaf showing along Hilliard might be in response to the drought we’re seeing and the multi-night cold snap we had a short time back. Those are color-change slap factors.
Why “chlorophyll-free,” you ask? How quickly one forgets Botany 101, which I’m pretty sure was an actual course.
And, now that you think about, maybe you do kinda recall it’s photosynthesizing chlorophyll that leads to plant growth and gives a leaf its summer green sheen.
What you have forgotten is what happens when chlorophyll abandons leaves, come cold time. Chlorophyll desertion is the miracle behind blazing fall foliage. The wild colors at the height of autumn are the leaves showing their true colors – or their true chemical constitution, as the overly scientific case may be.
When chlorophyll goes missing, so go its green impacts. Other leaf chemicals, like carotene and anthocyanins, then go color crazy.
But leaf life is short in the bright, chlorophyll-free lane. Seeing color-burst leaves quickly wane, wither and fall proves it takes more than looks alone to survive. That’s the didactic side of deciduous trees.
Anyway, it’s a Van Gogh-ish year for the local greenery. It will likely last – and maybe hue upward – for the next couple weeks. I’d be remiss not to mention a folklore notion that bright autumns mean white winters.
By the by, this is the best time of year to identify many trees, via their fall colors.
If you just can’t let lying fall leaves lie, check out pinterest.com, under “Fall crafts.” You won’t believe the latest ways to go leafy wid it.
SLATHERING CHIGGERS WON’T QUIT: Remaining on an outback theme, this is the time of year I shine – haunting the outback; hiking, biking, running, tracking and treasure hunting. But this fall I remain exceedingly wary of harvest mite larvae, better known as despicable chiggers.
Despite that aforementioned bolt of night coldness not long ago, this year’s unprecedented chigger presence has not backed off one bite. As proof, check out these bites on my ankles … and these ones, along my beltline. And how the hell did this one even make it to … never mind.
As we luxuriate in fall’s invitational coolness, chiggers remain hungrily poised amid grasses, atop foliage and (note well!) within leaf litter. Many a leaf-raker has regretted hand-lifting leaf piles.
When trying to sidestep late-season chiggers, it’s vital to remember that simply covering up in stylish, autumnal outdoor clothing is not a solid solution when it comes to chigger-avoidance. Savvy chiggers will cleverly hitch a ride home on clothing, then jump aboard skin after being conveyed indoors. “Oh, it feels good in here, eh, Sal. Nice and cozy. Now, to find some juicy skin.”
Though I’m no longer a big fan of better living through chemistry – I lost that feeling with the likes of DDT – it takes truly powerful repellents to ward off chiggers. The trick is to spray on nasty-ass repellents – only to clothing! Even then, the instant you get home, go guerilla on even sprayed clothing. If you’re chigger-phobic (understandably), bag the clothing outside (shower) and usher it straight into the washer – for a hot-water and Tide sanitizing. Tip: Tide kills virtually everything living and/or organic. Nasty stuff. I love it.
Advanced Chigger Data: Did you know that chiggers do not bury themselves into the skin, like ticks, which need to be pulled out later – and cut into pieces with an X-Acto knife? Chiggers stay on the skin’s surface and insert this digestive enzyme goo into the upper epidermal regions. They then sit back, smoking a cigarette, waiting for the goo-ed upon skin to fester and melt. If that doesn’t sound bad enough when just reading it, you oughta see it taking place under a microscope. Gnarly!
The smoldering digestive juices (I added the “smoldering”) eat a pit into the skin’s surface. It’s technically called a stylostome, but my guess is nobody gives a rat’s ass about technical terminology when scratching a frickin’ “chigger bite” down to the bloodline, trying to get a momentary degree of itch relief.
OK, so technically it’s not a “bite” but an acid-etched welt-ish opening, one that allows the chigger to literally put on a little bib and begin lapping up inner skin cells. That’s disgusting.
But here’s the cruelest revenge-lacking cut of all: A chigger’s diabolical itching actually comes after the now-slobberingly fat larvae have left the skin. I know that’s a bit disturbing. Here you attack itchy pustules thinking you’re eking at least some modicum of revenge on the attackers by scratching the chiggers off your body – and to some sort of certain death. Nope, there’s not so much as the ghosts of chiggers around as you energetically scar your skin for life.
Yes, “for life.” Ask folks who have survived cold-blooded chigger attacks and they’ll show the aftermath scars – technically self-inflicted. I have some scars from 50 years back. I was thinking of getting tiny chigger-scar tattoos on my ankles, noting the years of the attacks. “He’s a lumberjack and he’s OK.”
Tip: When in the woods, or upon exiting, rub ultra-strength hand sanitizer on likely chigger gathering points on the body, especially ankles. It will kill those buggers before they commence to oozing digestive enzymes on your skin. What’s more, by going pure alcohol on their sorry asses, there’s that delight in hypothetically hearing their little screams – bubbling forth, as the sanitizer melts their skin away. Ahhh, irony of ironies.
E-QUESTION: “ was wondering and thought you might have an answer. My in laws have owned a house in the dunes for the past 13 years and I've noticed a change in vermin. Since sandy there is certainly less cats more squirrels, rabbits and even a family of raccoons. Is this the case? Has anyone else seen anything like this and how the heck do they get here? Any ideas opinions would help since I ask anyone who is near me when I see any of the above. Thanks.
Good question – and good observational skills on your part. LBI has seen a bit of a wildlife menagerie this year … but it wasn’t Sandy opening the flood gates to wildlife galore.
We’ll start with the feral cats – and the insidious disappearance of same. The number of good-cats-gone-wild has been greatly reduced by a highly successful (almost remarkably so) trap-neuter-release program, actively being done by the Friends of the Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter. TNR is described at alleycat.org.
Face it, any falling of the feral cat population on LBI is welcome; even by many a cat lover agrees. Feline-inclined folks know it’s humanely better to let ferals fade into the T.S. Eliot sunset than to allow them to be trapped and ignobly disposed of via lethal injection. The ultimate “This won’t hurt a bit” lie.
Sidebar: The now immortal “Cats” musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber is based purely on feral cats depicted in T.S. Eliot’s book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. So their 15 minutes of fame is done – at least for one of nine lives.
I might morbidly note that fewer ferals were around after Sandy. It might be ironic that they ended up sleeping with the fishes.
But you can discount Sandy when it comes to having anything to do with our current ultra-showing of possums, raccoons and foxes. They came to LBI via a rock-solid freezing of the bay last winter – so say experts at animal control.
Of all the ice-arrivals, raccoon populations have gone the gonzo-est. Since spring, pest control businesses have become exhausted, capturing Island raccoons by the hundreds. The rascally mammals are then, uh, relocated.
If you’re like me, you hate the thought of kill-captures.
Think about it. If pest control folks are smart, they’ll take all their captured critters just over the Causeway Bridge. Then, come the next bay freeze, the animals will rush back, having tasted the decadence of foodstuffs in our garbage-rich community. Hell, releasing captures over the bridge is tantamount to job security for the pest folks.
During last winter’s hard bay freeze, foxes were frequently seen fox-trotting across the bay, hell-bent to reach LBI. In January, I saw one on the Manahawkin Bay ice as I was driving atop the Big Bridge. I first thought it might be wayward dog. Pulling over at the base of the bridge, I focused my binoculars on the largest, fully winterized (bushy) fox I had ever seen. It was slowly but steadily bee-lining toward Surf City, going from sedge to sedge. I have an affection for foxes so I didn’t mention my sighting to animal control. Actually, I would have liked the fox to know he had a safe house in Ship Bottom – mine.
As for possums, they – along with otters galore – have always been here in huge numbers, though they are showing a greater population than in years past. They love Harvey Cedars. LBI possums thrive within the Island’s sewerage system. Otters flourish in bayside sewer outflow pipes and around the Causeway bridges.
I should mention that the current bridge work might be adding to the LBI wildlife population – in a refugee way. All the clear-cutting and land-moving work being done on the south end of Cedar Bonnet Island (Forsythe Refuge) has to have displaced a slew of critters from that heavily creatured zone.
But there’s one critter that Sandy did knock for a population loop. Our beloved LBI rats became drowned rats. These weren’t your “Oh, you dirty rat” type rats. Ours were your more respectable wharf rats, which tend to keep to themselves, spending their entire natural history near bulkheads and, sometimes, larger jetties.
Could feral cats have also kept the wharf rats at bay? Not likely. I’ve seen bayside rats so big they only had to toss a quick glare toward even a tom cat to send it scurrying back to fat-cat porch dishes.
RUNDOWN: I hate to ominously state the obvious, but we’re almost to November here and bass and blues are barely specks on the horizon. We did get a few more entries into the Classic, bringing the event’s take to, uh, seven stripers. Hmmm. To get the latest on the Classic, go to lbift.com. It’ll break open any minute now – at least beyond our being able to memorize the entire leaderboard at a glance.
I’m still riding the upbeat train by egging on some bluefish blitzes, like they’ve had up north. However, in decades past, the chopper bluefish blitzes took place early in the Classic/Derby. The bass tend to kick in later – namely, by now.
The ocean remains in the low 60s despite some reports I hear of its being in the low 50s. I’ve taken readings at many an LBI ocean beach, and with the exception of a day in the upper 50s, it’s been 60-ish. Obviously, the bay and inlets (during outgoing) have seen as low as the upper 40s … now low 50s.
You know things are amiss when the one fulfilling bite is coming via sundials, aka windowpanes.
Congrats to The Maximillian Foundation for a fine boat tourney. While there weren’t a ton of fish caught, all that matters is who caught the biggest of them. The winners: First prize of $2,000 – OB1, Capt. Jason Marti, 32.65 pounds, 44½ inches; second place, $1,000 –MarineMax, 26.85 pounds, 42½ inches; third prize, $500 – Lucky Strike, Capt. Mike Greene, 25.30 pounds, 40 inches.
So why not catch a slew of sundials? This species is not commercially viable locally, meaning they’re here for the taking.
So, why is the stripering so slow? I can’t get a grip on the bass lack to this point in the 2015 Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic. Sure, there are already some sweet weigh-ins – and that’s all that should matter in a low-kill event like the Classic. However, we really need to worry about this multiyear lack of autumn bass. It might indicate some sort of overall problem in the striper system.
I’m not trying to rub it in, but they’re having at least a fair (to good) year up off New England, as far south as Rhode Island. At the same time, there are even some gripes about slow bassing in the “wicked” lands.
For a while, I pointed to the lack of surf clams as hurting the surfside bass showing, particularly after onshore blows. Many a storm-based bass had bellies filled with clams. But such ingested-clam findings are a thing of the past in our region. Any clam chunks found inside LBI-taken bass are likely stolen from anglers’ lines.
I next wondered out loud about the impact of the heavy bunker-ball presence just off the beach. Why should bass hang in the surf zone – to chase lightning-fast small forage fish, like mullet, or low-fill tinies, like spearing and rainfish – while big, meaty, oily bunker await a stone’s throw away? But even the baitballs of late haven’t had slews of stripers below them. That’s a Houston, we-gotta-a-problem thing.
Which sorta leaves us with the too-hot-to-touch overall increase in ocean water temps. Might that be holding the bass to the north longer? If so, by the time they make their move this way, the ocean water temps have collapsed, so there’s no need to hang around. I can’t help but stay hot on the heels of climate change as an emerging malefactor in our bass lack. The upside there is how little we actually know about climate change and how it plays out in our oceanic back yard. There’s always the chance that once the fish get accustomed to warmer-water ways, they’ll reestablish themselves in old digs. That adjustment syndrome has played out with fish species in the Pacific.