Fishing Takes an Alka-Seltzer
I’m back a-desk at The SandPaper, preparing for my 20th year here.
As managing editor, I get loads of stuff crossing my desk. Some of it I take to heart, the rest I swat at with a rolled up newspaper.
I bring this up since, in penning this column, I often (more often than not) take leisurely diversions to the farthest parameters of the fishing realm, i.e. subjects that need an electron microscope to detect any relationship at all to actual angling. It often comes down to me writing about stuff I think outdoorsmen would find even remotely interesting, be it gerund to our sport or not. Hey, anglers have outside lives, too. Under that roof, I can write about just about anything that comes up (or down) the Boulevard.
With that in mind, I always like to make my first column of the year an appeal for story ideas, especially those that bait the imagination. Two emails to reach me are email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, tune into my daily blogs at http://jaymanntoday.ning.com/.
Before diving into this week’s blog, I want to clarify something of a delusion.
Some anglers are convinced recent announcements from NOAA indicate we have sidestepped needing a saltwater fishing license. Nothing of the sort. All that happened was NOAA essentially extended the deadline -- a bit. At the same time, NOAA has given final approval to a rule creating a national saltwater angler registry of all marine anglers. It now takes effect in 2010. It’s etched in granite. By 2010, either we pay the feds to keep track of our angling caches, or we pay the state of NJ, via a saltwater fishing license.
The only way I see to get off the fishing license hook is if the state ever so graciously agrees to foot the significant annual cost of a registry, using money in the general fund. Odds of that?
Either the state can take a hit to an already ailing budget by covering registry expenses or it can gain a load of hitherto untapped funds by licensing the anglers. Wild guess at what the choice will be.
I am doing interviews regarding this issue and will son have more details – from those closest to the effort. I will note here and now that the big fear of fishermen and fisherwomen is the saltwater license will occur and anglers will see none of their license money recycled back into the sport. That would be unacceptable and grounds for a million-angler march on Trenton.
ALKA-SELTZER STRIPERING: This subject arrives via the “strange-as-it-gets” box. In fact, when I came across it, the other items in that box were trying thinking “This thing is weird.” However, if strange is what it takes to get off the snide when fish aren’t cooperating, then strange it is.
Seems that fish might not be biting because they have an upset stomach, acid indigestion and a splitting headache. Why not offer relief in the form of Alka-Seltzer.
In many areas of the country, both freshwater and saltwater anglers are grinding up effervescent antacid products and jamming them into various openings in plastic baits. Plastics like Fin-S, Assassins and, especially, tube baits already have a big pouch ready for such sparkling drugs.
Upon hitting the water, seltzered baits go ballistic, as the effervescing medicine not only issues bursts of bubbles but causes the baits to gyrate and wiggle like crazy, as the expanding gases literally propel the plastics.
Not surprisingly, it was largemouth bass fishermen down south who discovered this bizarre bubbly bass-taking technique.
Per usual, I have to take pause to ponder how this discovery even came about. Excluding the obvious – that hard drinkin’ southerners might do just about anything after nullifying their final few brain cells – I have to think it was one of those chance happenings whereby a wayward Alka-Seltzer tablet hit the water and something fishy happened, leading to the intentional usages of effervescence when fishing.
And the technique has made it into the mainstream. Check this: “All avid anglers know fish are attracted to bubbles. If you are using a hollow plastic tube jig on your line, just break off a piece of Alka-Seltzer and slip it into the tube. The jig will produce an enticing stream of bubbles as it sinks.” Source: “Reader’s Digest”
Checking with some bassing-crazed Texans I know, the Alka-Seltzer thing is very real down there -- and actually quite controversial. The application they’re most familiar with is the use of tube plastics with Alka-Seltzer pieces (not overly ground) jammed in and held in place by a piece of cotton wadding. The Alka-controversy flares up when the method is used by anglers sight-fishing nesting bass. Guardian largemouths are rarely in the eating mode but they sure as hell are at the ready, defense-wise. I’m familiar with nesting largemouths and pity anything bite-able that gets too close to their digs. Now, imagine an already semi-schizoid bass suddenly having an insanely bubbling and gyrating whatever dropped in its nest. It goes after it with malice and, per instinct, runs it out of Dodge. It’s when the fish is in the process of dragging out the intruder that Alka-Seltzer anglers set the hook. I have to admit there is something unsporting about that concept, even though largemouth bass fishermen quite likely have the highest catch-and-release rate of any fishery on the planet.
Further research on the subject indicates that seltzering (my word) has taken some odd turns.
Unbeknownst to many anglers, carp fishing is a specialty that is huge in many areas of the country. I’ve only done bowfishing but can attest to the fact carp are among our largest freshwater fish. Seltzering is now expanding in that realm, mainly wintertime. A web post reads: “I Have caught fish (carp) by taking a snail shell, inserting a piece of Alka-Seltzer, plugging the main entrance, drilling a small hole for gas to escape and fishing with it.”
The method is also being tried by saltwater folks, including weakfishermen.
And, of course, where there’s a gimmick there’s a product.
Barnes Sense Appeal Inc.’s Crackle Fish Attractant is a Canadian creation. It comes in gel cap, designed to be jammed into plastic baits. Since the skin on these capsules is pretty tough, they can be jammed inside plastic baits easier than Alka-Seltzer pieces. Once plasticized, the Crackle gel cap is pierced; the larger the hole, the bigger the burst. Once activated, a single cap will offer upwards of 10 minutes worth of fizzing and crackling. There is a theory that the sound is very similar to the protective noises made by crawfish and some shrimp. TA Crackle’s effervescing time depends on water temps, cooler waters offering the slowest dissolve time. An eco-advantage of Crackle is the fact it’s fully organic and harmless to fish. Not so for Alka-Seltzer. A single Alka-Seltzer dropped into a fish tank can belly-up all inhabitants.
I will absolutely try seltzering when we get back to angling. That’s right up my hyperactive alley. I wouldn’t mind trying Barnes Crackle.
By the by, those of you who winter fish for white perch might be interested in way ice fishing folks up on the Lakes are using larger seltzer balls, dropping them through ice holes where they sink down, creating an ongoing bubble-up effect that apparently draws fish from far and wide.
TOTAL BLOW OUT: That’s low, man. Such were the tides about a week back.
Here’s one of a few emails I received on the subject. The writer lives in Ship Bottom.
“Hi jay. Remember those low tides of a couple of years ago? Yesterday’s low tide beat them by far. It was the all-time low as far as I have witnessed. The exposed area was at least 4 feet more than back then in the lagoon. I could walk in front of my bulkhead. I hope my oysters survive the cold being exposed. I am sure if you were around you saw it…”
I also heard of similar all-time blowout tides over toward Tuckerton Bay. There, a couple old-timers had no doubts they saw the lowest tides of their lives -- long lives. And these guys would know, having been around the bay their entire lives and then some – their last names date back to ye way olden days of the region.
While the furor mongers would scream its global warming manifest, there are a few holes in that ship of thought, not the least of which is global warming is about rising water levels, not lowering.
I’m sticking like industrial-grade Velcro to my theory that the all-time low bay waters have to do with the bay getting shallower.
The shallowification (I’m pretty sure I just made that word up) is due to over-nutrification, a process falling under an expanded definition of the term eutrophication.
You can’t survive coastally without familiarizing yourself with the term – and effects of -- eutrophication. In simplest terms, it’s the unhealthy increase in chemical nutrients arriving in an ecosystem. It can occur in freshwater, brackish and marine environments.
In a marine setting, an overdose of nitrogen is a potentially disastrous aspect of eutrophication.
The pervasive problem leading to a eutrophic condition is nearly always rainwater runoff, which carries manmade materials into the bays and estuaries, leading to potentially out of control algae growth. Exacerbating the problem in a marine environment are the effects of tidal swings and storm stirs. Those actions agitate the water column, upwelling deep-down materials that further feed the algae.
Current studies indicate that Barnegat Bay, Manahawkin Bay and (to a slightly lesser degree) Little Egg Harbor are experiencing alarming, potentially catastrophic eutrophication. It’s all part of the region’s rampant buildup and the pollution
Sidebar: It always amazes me that these big-ass land developers get the bright green light -- from seemingly clueless municipalities -- to go crazy with their high-profit housing developments then stick the residents with the social costs, i.e. policing, schooling, emergency services, pollution control, refuse management. By the time those horrific bills come in, the builders have taken their heavy equipment and moved on profit gouge elsewhere. Former Governor Christie Whitman once wrote that there isn’t a ratable that pays for itself, meaning the tax money gained from a new development indubitably falls short of the long-term costs entailed. She wrote that admonition in what I thought was a remarkable letter to all Jersey municipalities warning that uncontrolled build-out will cost way more than it will ever offer. Apparently many local municipalities chucked her letter, likely having more to gain (personally?) from letting the building go on unabated.
Back to eutrophication. One of the warning signs of ongoing eutrophication is the filling in of shallow water areas, caused by dead algal material settling to the bottom and even an increase in shoreline vegetation utilizing the nutritionally charged water. As I’ve written about numerous times, that widespread shallowing means not as much water is in the bay. Hard west winds can easily blow the water off flats – and out the inlets. Thus the historically low blowout tides.
Being fascinated by this disappearing bay subject, I am also doing some research on the possibility that a lowered water table, caused by massive demands from new development, might actually cause backbay water to sink downward to fill the void left from tapped water. This might seem a long shot at first, until you read about just such groundwater level problems in many other regions of the country. Hereabouts, the layer where saltwater and freshwater meet has sunk dramatically in recent years. Wells are being impacted by saltwater intrusion.
This all points to an urgent need to get out there and stop this obscene destruction of our land and marine environments. Since the municipalities at fault aren’t going to do squat it’s time for an organized efforts by resident. I’m in there, that’s for sure.
MEET ME AT THE MEETING: This coming Thursday (Jan. 8) there is a meeting of the state’s Marine Fisheries Council. As usual it takes place at the Galloway Twp. Branch of the Atlantic Co. Library, 306 East Jimmie Leeds Rd., Galloway, NJ 08205 at 4pm.
This time of year is a perfect time to take in one of these meetings. They always have numerous items of angling interest.
With the arrival of 2009, important marine fisheries topics for the year are often outlined.
Also, most folks don’t realize how extremely open this council is to new issues. The public comment period – final part of the meeting – often leads to the council looking into new issues impacting the public. However (!), there is a time and place to rail against -- or stump for -- working issues, i.e. fluke sizes, tog limits, seabass bags, etc. “Working issues” are those matters already under heavy scrutiny. In those instances, it is best to first work with fishing organizations, like JCAA, RFA and local fishing clubs, before jumping into the NJMFC “public comment” forum with thoughts on those subjects.
Sidebar: If council comments regarding working issues happen to come up during the meetings (even though they might not be on the agenda), then feel free to bring them up during public comment period.
Personally, I feel there is far too little alerting of the council to environmental problems impacting all fishermen, recreational and commercial.