Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Tuesday, January 17, 2012:

Tough day with the Captain Jimmy Mears funeral. I want to add an enhanced segment from a previous blog. It’s down below.


I noticed that the Coast Guard had to rescue a couple fishermen off Rhode Island over the weekend. Here’s the initial read on the incident:


“The Coast Guard pulled two fishermen from the water three miles northeast of Block Island after their 55-foot fishing trawler capsized … The F/V Elizabeth Helen overturned at approximately 3:55 p.m. Saturday and the Coast Guard was on the scene by 5 p.m.

“The Coast Guard was directed to the two uninjured crewmen sitting in a life raft by a red flare. A Coast Guard representative said the boat had been listing to one side and when the crew attempted to haul in their catch, the weight caused the boat to capsize. …”


This is not to imply the Mandy Ness (Mears’ boat) might have had a similar situation. Even if so, the Mandy Ness accident was at night. I know it’s not the best comparison but just think of the absolute change of worlds when night angling, as opposed to day angling.



I have to offer some intricate politics for folks into fighting for angling rights, via our federal reps.


After a reconfiguring of NJ’s congressional districts, to lessen the state’s total count by one (population decrease), much of our fishing terrain will move from the 3rd Congressional District to the 2nd Congressional District. CD2 is currently the representative domain of senior rep Frank LoBiondo. That means no more Rep. Runyon. Or does it?


Get this: LoBiondo MAY congressionally run Eagleswood, Tuckerton, Little Egg Harbor, Barnegat Light, Harvey Cedars, Surf City, Ship Bottom, Beach Haven, Long Beach Township and a goodly part of  Stafford Township. However, Runyon MAY represent part of Stafford and Barnegat Township. That almost means we’ll have both those congresspersons on our side.


Sadly, it ain’t that simple – just yet. Our potential new 2nd District congressman won’t take over the job hereabouts until January 2013 – providing he’s reelected. That means that until January 2013, Runyon is our rep in DC. After the next election, should he win, he becomes congressman to part of Stafford and Barnegat.


Hey, it’s winter, you have time to ponder this.


For the above reasoning, I won’t get into the very savvy angle LoBiondo takes on fishery issues. Sufficed to say he is strong when repping both commercial and recreational fishermen. By the same complex token, we sure wanna start snuggling up to Lo-Bo.  Odds are pretty good he’ll be here soon – and I have to admit he has many of the traits (and DC clout) of the greatest rep we’ve had in recent memory: former Congressman Jim Saxton.






IN PASSING: It was very heart wrenching news hearing of the boat capsize death of Captain Jimmy Mears, 51, a Barnegat Light commercial fisherman. He drowned as a result of the capsizing of the 44-foot Mandy Ness, regularly moored in BL.

I have known Jimmy for something like 30 years. He was always a fun-loving and smiling guy, one of those folks everyone liked.

Loses like this crush the tight-knit community in BL. It hit me hard, many miles away. My sincere condolences to Jimmy’s immediate family, friends and his extended family of fellow fishermen.

I sometimes feel personal guilt when a commercial fisherman dies on the job. They’re the folks who feed me. I’ve been a non-meat/poultry person since the mid-1960s – long before such an eating lifestyle was fashionable. For every one fish I manage to catch and eat myself, the pros get me 100s of filets.   

I have written in here on countless occasions how, despite my obvious recreational fishing affiliations, I’m hugely supportive and respecting of what commercial fishermen go through to feed the likes of yours truly.

In the wake of this tragedy, I’m among the many folks wondering how something like this could happen to one of the best captains out there. Conditions were calm. All seemed right with the world. Then disaster.  

I’ve since fielded emails suggesting many scenarios. 

I’m fully aware of possibilities like lethal cargo shifts, which can occur in even calm seas. Based on boat size/type and targeted fishery that seems fully unlikely.

Might it be another case of a tragic hatch failure, or a similar compromising of vessel’s integrity? Possibly. Anything structural that suddenly gives way and allows in water can capsize a vessel. However, we’re talking a fine captain. He and his crew would have detected a taking on of water. Reports had the vessel upright one instant and on its side the next. That’s fast even for a catastrophic structural failure. 

Looming large is the possibility the Mandy Ness was struck by another vessel. It’s the prevalent sense among top mariners, including a number of BL and LBI commercial captains. If so, what kind of captain and crew would hit another vessel and just keep going? I don’t care how large a ship it is, not only would striking another large vessel be felt (especially in calm seas) but most everyone aboard such a ship would run to the railing to see what was struck, if only for their own safety. It would then have to be a intentional fleeing of the scene, a felony of the highest order.

I personally wondered about the possibility of a huge vessel passing so closely to the Mandy Ness that its wake capsized the smaller vessel. Very knowledgeable captains have discounted that possibility, but, to me, it could explain the shutter felt by the lone survivor right before the capsizing -- and further explain a vessel leaving the scene, in that case, unknowingly. Of course, there’s the unsmall matter of ships possessing radar so advanced they can detect the likes of a rowboat on the sea ahead.

Yes, I’m grabbing at straws. It’s natural to want some sort of answers, some closure. I have even gone as far as pondering rogue waves (not a chance) and even whale strikes (mammals with better radar than ships).

Like everyone close to this accident, I’ll await the raising of the Mandy Ness and a possible answer. My dread: The vessel comes up with no marks – or reasons for going down. 

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