Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
MEET THE NEW ISLAND: In my weekly column, I wax poetic about the new island off Holgate, dubbed Horseshoe Island due to its initial shape. That shape will not persist. Within months it will become a mainly rounded island, based on currents.
As expected, there are those getting snarky over the fact the island has formed from the littoral drift of voluminous amount of sand from beach replenishment. It’s maddening how such mockery ignores the many summers we’ve already gained from the replenishments. Of course, those critics have no vested interest in life on LBI, short of taking it or leaving it --should it go under. Fortunately, wiser minds have and will prevail -- until we can’t squeeze one more year out of living here.
As to Horseshoe Island, I want to add in here that I don’t see it as a major angling thing, though incoming and outgoing currents could attract fluke to the downdrift side. It will very likely be closed to the public throughout summer, though it might be opened in fall for those wanting to pull vessels onto its sand. Might it then offer a boat/surfcasting adventure? If only the fishing were better thereabouts. Still, I’d say that’s a high likelihood.
One already troubling aspect for me is the near certainty that the island will draw fall migrating mullet out to sea, keeping many of them from going around the Holgate tip. I can easily see myself gabbing a paddleboard or kayak and paddling over to load up – though such a crossing could be highly treacherous if the “Rip” currents are running wild.
In my column I only alluded to the fact this island could get gonzo large. I’m talking acreage large. It’s then that a tussle could develop over who should oversee it. Forsythe will likely win out in the end. If not, policing it will become a big enough hassle that anti-island thinking could come to the fore, especially if it gets large enough to hamper mariners. Yes, it could get just that large if even half the sand from replenishment drifts down.
ROAD SMOOTHING COMING: As to life in these LBI parts, the insufferable road conditions on Eighth and Ninth (Causeway) streets in Ship Bottom will be leveled out within the next couple weeks, per the NJDOT. That does not mean the roadwork related to the Causeway project will be put on hold. Island mayors were chagrined to recently find out major digs and delays will carry on, mainly on weekdays. I herein implore motorists to use logic and rationality by slowly the EF down in work zones. I live in Ship Bottom and see numbnuts leadfooting into places where crawl speeds are the only safe speeds. I’m astounded when crazed drivers get all upset and shocked when they get into accidents. And believe me I’m not just speaking of kids, there’s a contingency of older drivers with Karenesque attitudes who think they have some unalienable driving right to blast through work zones. In fact, they keep on keeping on even when they wreck.
WHERE ARE WE!?: Going off on a military tangent, there is a spooky development in Ukraine that could reach all the way over here -- and knock us smack on our LBI asses.
You might have read that Putin has successfully gone after GPS signals in the Ukraine, used by the likes of missiles, to home in on targets, like Russian military vessels. Well, his accompanying verbal threats to come down hard on those countries giving military aid to Ukraine surely includes notions of attacking GPS satellites now circling Earth.
I’m not just shooting from the hip here. Here’s just a sampling of hundreds of worldwide headlines:
“Putin is holding GPS hostage – Here’s how to get it back” (By Dana A. Goward and Rep. John Garamendi)
“Russia is jamming GPS satellite signals in Ukraine, US Space Force says” (By Elizabeth Howell”
“Ukraine may not be able to use GPS,” a Space Force official told NBC.
“Russian anti-satellite missile test draws condemnation” (washingtonpost.com)
“Russia shoots down satellite in weapons test …” (today.com)
I’ve immersed myself in this subject, egged on by telling data. You cannot believe all that will go wrong if Russia takes out even a few satellites in America’s Navstar/GPS system. No need to ponder the entire doomsday scenario, which includes a breakdown of our entire power grid – and the stock market. This is just a mild first alert that our primary navigation system could be at imminent risk. While Russia does not rely on the GPS system, it has its own vulnerabilities along the same satellite lines. Talk about a real life star wars.
RUNDOWN: These winds blow. Boat fishing buddies have seen their spring angling blown to bits, especially those who had looked forward to the April tog-fishing kickoff. They’ve snuck in a couple runs but even those have come with a beating – and only moderate blackfish takes. “A lot of shorts … which is kinda surprising,” said one aficionado who had a banner spring in 2021.
Bassing is also suffering from the sky buffetings, though the bay has offered some protected areas for jigging white shads, paddle tails and such. The flats inside Barnegat Inlet are showing some schoolies, a couple to just keeper size, though I’m hard-pressed to find anglers who still routinely keep stripers for dining pleasure. I no longer keep bass, based on a simple desire to not rock the social media bass boat, which is often manned by a contingency of casters who want bassing to be a fulltime catch-and-release fishery. I don’t agree with them one iota but still choose to steer clear of any angst or intrigue, dare I dine upon such a beloved species.
Truth be told, I’m not overly wild about the taste of keeper-sized stripers (18-inchers rock!), nonetheless, I can cook them up to taste fabulous, though nothing approaching the deliciousness of the state’s saddest fishery: Boston mackerel.
It’s painful to even recall those fun days when we’d go just offshore, right about now, drop down multi-hook mackerel rigs, and fill large containers with as fine tasting a fish as flavor buds can savor. Of course, our main mackerel intent was gathering them for salting or freezing, as bait for the fall fishing season, though strips of salted mackerel also presented as the finest – and most colorful -- doormat fluke bait going.
The Boston mack fishery died in a veritable overnight heartbeat when NJ inexplicably began allowing foreign factory vessels to offload commercial catches down Cape May way. OK, so maybe that’s just my theory after covering the story of the offloading. I recall being immediately suspicions that foreign commercialites might begin nailing nearby US stocks to keep the trip to offloading docks as profitable as possible.
While some world reports have these mackerel as underfished, don’t try to tell that to American lobsterman, who covet them as bait for their traps but find the stocks have dwindled to the point that fishery management is on the brink of taking radical mackerel cutback measures in our EEZ.
Word of Little Egg black drum showing might be premature, per a drum-fanatic buddy, though he has also been held at bay by rough conditions. He closely monitors a couple “first-arrival” spots and has had only one small hook-up -- and has heard nothing down below. I’ve written about his use of underwater acoustic equipment to listen in for the “bleating” of arriving black drum. He is quick to note that drum can be sounding off to high heavens but not biting his specially prepared (flavored) clam bait.
By the by, this is the time of year for truly mongo black drum to be taken in the surf. With the new circle hooks requirement when surfcasting for stripers, drum taken on the exact same baited hooks while offering a rock-solid hookup, based on their mouth shape.
While it’s emotionally tough to release a fish that can come ashore at 100 pounds, photos are thoroughly suffice to capture the size – and glory – of what might be one’s largest fish of a lifetime. Small black drum, under 20 pounds, are fabulous eating. The smaller ones should simply be gutted, scaled, and baked in the round, to gather and appreciate the total meatiness. Be mindful of smaller bones when separating the meat.
Below: One taken in Beach Haven.
I saw a lone photo of a torn-up bunker bait, possibly a bluefish victim. I await my favorite eating fish with bated breath – and an annual look-see at my historic Hopkin’s lure collection. In next week’s column, I’ll do a look-back at the birth of the Hopkin’s and how I accumulated a massive collection as treasure.