True Believers, 10K Gold Largemouth and Reef Rally
A FOOT IN THE GRAVE: A while back, I wrote a column segment about Big Foot and his family of Big Foots. I got loads of responses, mainly supporting the just-maybe side of things, i.e. folks who won’t discount the possibility that the oddest of hairy mossy plodding near-hominid things are making those proverbial bumps in the forest night. My kinda people, those who believe in such fabulous and mystical maybes.
Oddly, it was the cranky-ish nonbelievers who put a wrinkle in the fabric of my open-mindedness. I quickly realized this is really not a question of whether or not Big Foot is a heavy-heeled fantasy or as real as rolling thunder. It is, instead, a question of being willing to let one’s mind freely hike the back trails of phantasmagoric possibilities. There’s something cool about being willing to buddy up with the implausible, hang out with the improbable, high five the far-fetched. At the same time, there’s something annoyingly spiritless in those folks chronically unwilling to entertain the ethereal, much less toy around within the haunts of the extraordinary. Those mud sticks are a buncha frickin’ bores.
I want to pass on the following in-the-field incident as a metaphor.
I was with the world’s biggest cynic; we’ll call him Ed. We were out on the marshes and heard some shotgun fire as a formation of ducks flew by. We watched as a duck went down. Then, out of the meadow grass, bounds a hunter’s golden retriever fully focused on the downed bird. We watched as the dog reached the water. But, instead of plunging in, the retriever ran on top of the water, all the way out to the bird. It grabbed the bird off the surface then ran all the way back to shore, still on top of the water. I watched in stunned disbelief and utter amazement as the hunter shot another bird and again the dog ran out and back on top of the water. I could all but whisper, “Ed, you see anything odd about that dog?”
Without batting an eye he huffed, “Yeah, it can’t swim.”
COD CELL MEETS BIGMOUTH SCHOOL RING: after I ran a story about a cellphone eating cod, a number of folks emailed me with questions about the, uh, reliability of the tale.
Hey, my motto: Fascinating if true and fascinating anyway.
Of course, my job as managing editor at The SandPaper requires that I make doubly sure all news stories are heavily rooted in reality --, or, in the case of many politicians, a cleverly fashioned facsimile of reality. However, my fishing column allows a load of waggle room when it comes to passing on tales with dangling ends and dubious deductions. In other words, I’m out there fishing around in all waters, even those flowing through the heart of tall-tale territory. I’m the first to admit that the net fisherman who allegedly caught a cod with a cellphone inside might have simply found the phone in his net – not internalized by a cod -- and cleverly realized his Warholian 15 or so minutes of fame just might be calling. Hmmm. Kinda cool creativity on his part. And if the fish really was in-belly? Hey, that’s his story and he’s sticking to it.
Anyway, while I was getting some static on the cod phone, I concurrently got a slew of emails from readers passing on the decently documented tale of a Jonah-esque school ring found in Texas.
This easier-to-swallow tale began in 1987, when graduating college student Joe Richardson went fishing shortly after bidding farewell to the Universal Technical Institute in Houston.
As bad luck would have it, his new 10K gold class ring slipped off and too a flying leap into the deep waters of Lake Sam Rayburn, a monstrous chunk of water that does not readily return objects it has swallowed.
Unlike the fellow who lost his cod-bound cellphone in the surf, Richardson didn’t even give recovery a try. He rightfully couldn’t fathom finding the ring, needing to go back to shore for diving equipment then returning to the exact same identical spot. No way even with the most kick-ass GPS device.
But the ring was not gone forever. In fact, you likely guessed already the ring would be return. And being students of CSI, you even prognosticated that it would be found within a fish -- referencing my referencing of the cod cell phone. So why don’t you just go ahead and finish the damn story if you think you’re so smart?
What you might not have deduced is Richardson’s ring was found in the belly of an impressively proportioned bucketmouth bass, a serious-sized fish. (Some of you were convinced it was found in a freshwater cod (no such thing), right? )
There were, in deed, some significant similarities twixt the two tales.
Much like the cod/cellphone saga, Richardson got word of his rescued ring via a call from a fisherman finder. In this case, a recreational angler was gutting his prized catch and hit gold, literally. Out pops a Universal Technical Institute school ring
This 10K finder actually had a tougher time sniffing his way back to the rightful owner.
The Texas angler, who is unnamed in the various versions of the story sent me, put forth some considerable detectiving effort. He took the school name and graduation year (information on the outside of the ring) and coupled it with the graduate’s initials, engraved on the inside. He then contacted the school, which had to do throw in come complimentary research of its own. The combined effort led to the graduate’s name. The angler then crunched data until he found the owner’s current address. Then, the call and eventual return of ring.
Richardson had an odd read on the finding of his ring within a big bass. He told the Associated Press that he wishes he knew "how many fish it's been in."
I’d like to say the fish was released – with all charges of theft dropped – but in this case, as it was with the cell cod, the tale’s end has a ring of finality to it.
By the by, hearing of large fish consuming everything from a school ring to a cellphone is not even remotely surprising to many anglers. Even Richardson’s comment on “How many bass?” has a ring of reality. Something as shiny at gold might have been scarfed up by who knows how many fish, -- all of which realized the ring was too big – or the wrong school -- for them and up-chucked it. As for that cod, I’d still like to think the big fish was swimming by, heard the Shania Twain ring tone of the phone and liked it so much it ate it to listen to later.
Hey, remember that dog that walked on water? Ya never know.
REEF ROIL REHEATS: The effort by recreational fishermen and scuba divers to ban commercial fishing pots/traps from state’s artificial reefs is flaring – again.
As you know, last year’s somewhat concerted effort to power through legislation to ban commercialites from harvesting fish on the reefs feel short, despite powerful lawmaking support in Trenton. Recreationalists assert that they along with recreational divers, paid for building the reefs.
This year, the reef rallying has the potential to as much as double the effort, as more fishing groups get involved, both as a further conviction to the effort and a message that they weren’t pleased with the failure of the legislation to get passed last year.
Not that I have much sway, but I support the Save the Reefs effort. Firstly, the ocean bottom real estate allotted to the artificial reef program is very small, in terms of what’s left out there for commercial fishermen to ply.
As noted above, all the money to build the reefs came from recreationalists.
Importantly, the number of commercial fishermen working the reefs is very small, though capable of doing a deadly number on the reefs’ fisheries. I’ll take a moment to note that I am one of a number of recreationalists who strongly support sensible commercial fishing. My goal is to get all fisheries big and healthy so everyone gets to handsomely harvest them.
The artificial reefs enhance related fisheries to the nth degree. What I refuse to accept are accusations by commercialist that the reefs create hiding places for the fish they are targeting. Bill Figley, the man behind the creation of the state’s artificial reef program, demonstrated (through detailed follow-up research) that the biomasses and marine ecosystems that rapidly occupy newly built reefs are fully related to those specific structures, i.e. the reefs formed their own complex highly vivacious ecosystems. They weren’t hiding anything.
Sidebar: I had a commercial fishermen say to me, “You’re telling me fun fishermen (recreational fishermen) won’t wipe out the fish on those reefs?” He referenced the massive flotilla of anglers atop the reefs much of the year. His point is both well made and yet another reason why I support the ban. Recreationalists maximize the utilization of the resource. Infinitely more fishermen get to enjoy the fisheries via angling the reefs than a few commercialites dropping traps, letting them soak, then collecting them. The trickle down effect to the economy of the recreational fishing realm is monumental. This is not to say the commercial fishermen don’t also contribute greatly, as their harvest works its way down to stores and restaurants. However, in the case of the reefs there is no debate: The value of reefs and the resource is hundreds of time greater when anglers utilize them. That said, I also fear the concept of overfishing by anglers. However, fishery councils -- and the enhanced enforcement of rules and regulations -- best control that threat.
The 2009 effort to keep traps off the reef is being spearheaded by New Jersey Reef Rescue (email@example.com).
Here's a rally message from Capt. Pete Grimbilas, Reef Rescue Chairman, regarding an upcoming rally:
Date: April 17, 2009, 7:00 pm to 10:30 pm
Where: Martell’s Tiki Bar restaurant Pt. Pleasant boardwalk.
What: Buffet dinner, drinks, door prizes, 50/50, auction.
Who: Hear from the organizers that started this effort, the legislators who continue to fight Trenton for it and the fishermen that need it!
More info: www.njreefrescue.com, www.njoutdooralliance.org. or call: 973-454-0315.
SHRINK WRAP SOLUTION: Long Beach Township will recycle your shrink wrap. Yep, there’s now a way to stay ecological when ridding yourself of that unwieldy mega-wad of pulled off polymer (polyeofin) plastic film used to protect boats, car and recreational vehicles being stored overwinter.
You may drop your shrink wrap at the LBT public works yard, 7910 Long Beach Boulevard, Beach Haven Crest between the hours of 8 pm and 2 pm. There will be a container marked (of all things) “Shrink Wrap.”
Note: Please make sure it’s purely shrink wrap and no other ropes, vents, or strapping.
Ever wonder why some shrink wrap is blue and some white? The blue is made for areas with ice and snow. The darker color allows for faster melting – solar attraction and all that. Why no back? Actually there is black wrap but, problematically, it gets a tad too hot on milder winter days or those times when transitioning from season to season, meaning more venting requirements. (Venting is essential to shrink wrapping, though I see tons of folks not doing so. The seal of a shrink-wrapped boat is unforgiving. It can’t breath. The environment within can get downright lethal, especially if fuel fumes enter in. I like the new solar- powered fan vents. Quite cool, literally.)
WE HAVE A WINNER: Last Thursday saw the first Graveling Point keeper bass weighed in at Scott’s Bait and Tackle, winning that shop’s traditional $100 in-house gift certificate.
That’s not to say GP (Graveling Point) has been on fire, bassing-wise. In fact, it remains kinda iffy, though that region is increasingly marked by bite bursts, as was a case published on Scott’s website (http://www.scottsbt.com/fishing/report.htm.) Scott reported: “I received a cell phone call from an angler who is on Graveling Point and is catching STEADY BASS. He had an almost a keeper; missing by just half an inch. It's the same conditions; low tide was around five and the incoming tide is bringing bright silver linesiders in off of the ocean. This is the shoulda been here morning we have been waiting for!”
Scott then got this email from the same angler, " FYI, both tides work.
I'm still on the point and plan on giving it another hour or so, but so far I'm at 11 fish with 2 keepers, 29 and 32 inches. Both released. Saw one other keeper leave the beach and 4 to 6 other shorts caught. Guess I'm in the hole. Actually very few guys fishing."
That tide factor backing a bite gets fully crazy down Mullica way. Many bites are absolutely related to a specific tide point. The crazed part is the way a solid week will see frantic fishing at, say, low rising then thoroughly switch to high, dropping. Maybe the sharpies down there have those subtleties figured out but I find it easier just to do a quick about-to-head-out check as to the best tide for a given session.
While I have yet to get an official report of any LBI beachfront bass, I know there are bass in the bay, including Manahawkin Bay. Nothing dramatic by any stretch but I know of a couple fish taken in the dark on (I believe) small jigs.
BLACKBACKING PICKS UP: Winter flounder season so-far is seeing a fair showing of blackbacks going to those folks willing to offer a steady long-term flow of chum. The prime zones will be BB, BI, 40, Harvey Cedars and (to a diminishing degree as time ears on) the channel near Hochstrasser’s.
By the by, “chumming heavily” an expression oft used to describe the need to really work to draw winter flounder to the boat, does not mean releasing immense amount of chum into the water. Going crazy loosing loads of bait can actually over-fill the feeding blackbacks so they mosey off all dizzy with gluttony. Heavy chumming is best done by using additional chum pots, which release teasing smells and only tiny bits of mussels or clam. I still like big-ass burlap bags of crushed mussels. It maximizes the release of oils, minimizes the loosing of edible-sized pieces and the burlap is a natural smell.
Conservation note: Winter flounder stocks are in deep decline. It’s maddening the way tighter and tighter restrictions on bag limits and even commercial catches are seemingly doing squat to stop the slide of the species. I’m still firmly convinced that the over-rebounding striper and fluke stocks are annihilating baby flounder in the bay, allowing low to no recruitment. We are pampering some species to death – the death of other species.
There is a better than even chance we’ll see a full-blown moratorium of winter flounder, possible in 2010. I believe that’ll be the first NJ moratorium since striped bass.
HERRING HEADACHES: Bad news for local herring folks. First, the dredging of Mill Creek seems to be going on full stream. It won’t take long for the work to end but the aftereffects will linger, including a different chemical signature for Mill Creek -- meaning the spawning fish won’t recognize their natal creek “smell” and won’t go up it. Nevertheless, the big news about the herring is a very harsh new herring rule reducing the bag limit to just 10 fish. I assume this only means anadromous blueback herring (and closely related species) and not ocean herring – which we now allow foreign countries to buy from local commercial fishermen by the tens of thousands of pounds.
Here’s the email I got from Jim H. about the situation.
… I attended a writers workshop by the state on Thursday and picked up some interesting info. One upcoming proposal I think would be very interesting to you, especially if you have not heard of it. The state fish and wildlife commission is going to put forth a proposal to cut the daily bag limit of herring from 30 to 10. This would also be the possession limit. In other words, if you caught 10 today and used 5 for bait, keeping the remaining 5 in a live car, you would only be able to add another 5. The only way you could have more than 10 in your possession would be if you had a dated receipt for the herring from a state licensed dealer. This proposal will be made public in late April followed by a 60-day public comment period. After that, late summer or early fall, the Division will convene to hold hearings and take a vote on the matter…
FLEA MARKET UPCOMING: The Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club is having its public flea market on April 25 and still has tables for non club members. This is a fine event and is a perfect chance to sell off the extra tackle and stuff. And we all have loads of extra stuff, this I know). If need be, buddy up with guys from your own fishing club and grab a few tables. Also, how about some of you plug carvers? Flea markets like this are a great way to get known and show off your artwork. You might even get some offshore guys interested in those cool cedars you carved.
Here’s the details: 2nd annual BHMTC Flea Market, Saturday 4/25 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. Call Tim irons to reserve a table 609 744 3230
(A new environmentally friendly antifouling paint is scheduled to hit the market this spring.
Pettit's Vivid ECO bottom paint wards off marine growth - and does it in bright colors, according to John Ludgate, Pettit general manager.
The copperless coating, which will be offered in an array of hues (including white), uses the new growth inhibitor "Econea," manufactured by Janssen PMP. "We have seen results as good as those with a 65 percent copper paint," says Ludgate. "It's a good choice for regulated waters where copper-based paints are not allowed."
Extensive testing of Vivid ECO was done in Long Island Sound and waters in North Carolina and California, says Ludgate. The paint is a two-year ablative coating. It's solvent-based. Ludgate expects a water-based version in about a year. Contact: Pettit, Rockaway, N.J., (800) 221-4466, www.pettitpaint.com.