Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Tuesday, September 14, 2021: It’s the old saying: “You can’t get there from here.” Such is the case late at night when you literally can’t drive from Surf City to Ship Bottom. I’m serious. All available roads southbound are closed at Eight Street. In order for me to get to my Ship Bottom home from work, I have to drive west -- over two bridges -- and make a U-turn on Bonnet Island near the Forsythe Refuge. Sure, I could get off at Dutchman’s, but I don’t even mess with that anorexic underpass.
Oh, well, the dark-time heavy digging is all in the name of better flood flow in the future.
NJ Fish and Wildlife blackfish bust: "CPO Szelc conducted an inspection of the individuals as they completed fishing and exited the jetty. A total of sixty-five undersized tautog were located ranging from seven to thirteen inches. The individuals were issued summonses for the undersized tautog as well as over the daily limit. The current penalty for violations involving tautog is $100.00 per fish."
Below: One of my first trips back to Holgate and I come across this stylin' fellow:
I offered the appropriate permit-seeking directions to the Long Beach Township Police Department but before the questioners walked off, I asked what they were driving. All three owned different types of SUVs, none of I rated as adequately suited for entry-level beach driving. By “entry-level,” I meant first-time drive-ons by folks unversed in the finicky nature of LBI sands, some of the trickiest and sinkyist in the nation. One had oversized knobby “mountain” tires. Even aired down, they dig into the sand instead of driving atop it.
It’s remarkable how many narrow wheel-base SUVs are marketed as beach-ready. So very untrue. I’ll go as far as saying your average 4WD vehicle, especially those with all-wheel drive, will quickly leave unskilled owners stuck to the hilt, meaning the chassis.
Counterintuitively, most 4WD SUVs and all 4WD trucks can be finessed into negotiate sand cruising … but not without the driver knowing the ropes, from proper tire deflation to reading sands up ahead … just for starter. Face it, it’s not so much the buggy but the buggyist that isn’t ready for the likes of a Holgate drive-about.
This is not a blanket snubbing of 4WD SUVs, it’s simply a warning that no vehicle, when in inexperienced hands, is beach capable. So, where does one get the proper schoolin’ for drivin’ the beach? Come to think of it, there might be some bucks to be made via a beach buggying school, one where an expert literally takes the passenger seat and nurses a newbie in the ways of beach driving.
However, for those gung-ho to take on thick sand in their 4WD vehicle, there are now a slew of dang decent how-to YouTube videos, found by typing in “How to drive the beach.” I find this Aussie version a fine primer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWoaF3sBlE0. Again, there are dozens more if you really want to cram before an do-or-sink driving test.
For my part herein, I’ll simply offer a list of some essential in-vehicle stuff for intelligently heading beachward:
How do you know when you’re down to a proper 20 psi (or lower) without one? Even if you aired down prior to heading to the beach, the best buggyists often need to readjust tire pressure on the fly -- to meet beach vagaries.
Sidebar: Make sure to screw air valve caps back on. I used to keep them off to make psi adjustments quicker. I learned my lesson after having tires go flat back home, after a couple grains of embedded sand in the valves covertly aired me down overnight. A fully flattened tire can lose its bead, sometimes requiring a service station visit if the flat just won’t take air even after being jacked up.
Sidebar: Way before you hit the beach, study (or research) where tow points are on both the front and back of your vehicle. This is not always apparent, as torn off bumpers from failed tow hookup indicate in a highly costly way.
I’ll note in passing the power and effectiveness of assorted winches, including handheld varieties, like come-alongs. However, those contraptions need very serious user knowledge to be applied correctly and safely.
Here’s a personal video of a successful winch experience. I tend to withhold images of winch things gone wickedly wrong:
You’ll see a load of negatives applied to this video. Those have to do with some fierce feelings about the stuck guy being seemingly thankless when driving off. Facebook had to step in and remove some admittedly unclean comments.
SHOOT IT, QUICK!: I am a pure-luck photographer. I’ll admit it all day long. Recognizing that amateurishness, I fully focus on odd angles, constantly striving to capture some highly personalized/creative view, knowing that full-on photogs have the main looks covered – and in full professional focus.
Oh, I happen to have some of the finest equipment money can buy, thanks to hand-me-downs from work. Nonetheless, I’m still reliant on point-and-shoot … and shoot and shoot. I run with quantity clicking in hopes of nabbing something of pure-luck quality. Digital is my deliverer, as are “Auto” settings, a built-in way to forego learning the mindboggling complex fixture options of any finer camera. At best, I’m kinda good at F-stops, providing internal camera forces agree.
Through sheer determination, bordering on obstinacy, I have lucked into some wonderful images if I do say so myself. Hey, even luck can garner some say-so. Hell, I recently got what I’m pretty sure was a near compliment from a highly qualified for-pay photographer. He praised my Facebook pics for the way I used “angles and artifacts” in a “highly effective manner.” Uh, thanks … I think. He also emphasized, “Never underestimate what an amateur photographer can capture.” Hmmm. Like I said, a “near compliment.” I’m big on fun regional shots placed on my blog at fishlbi.com and Facebook
As to amateurs dominating the day, we’ve all lived through world shaking event brought to life through luck shots by folks looking to take mere snapshots – snapshots being the perfect term for amateur and hobbyist photos.
I have never seen photo times like these. The days of photography by the masses – not to diminish the importance of Kodaks or Polaroid days -- began with modern point-and-shoot cameras, capable of equally the look of high-end photographic equipment. Then came apps, miraculous postproduction aides, able to correct for many a technical mistake by the shooter.
As of now, we’ve reached the point where ubiquitous cellphones can fast-grab images on par with those captured by the finest camera equipment. It has never been a more tantalizing time to run around taking photos. What’s more, said images can almost instantly be sent out to the entire world. You know that’s not an exaggeration. Hell, I was reading about the perpetuation of cellphones among some of the most thought-primitive societies on Earth.
This is all a lead-in to the season of astounding images: fall. Be they photos of fishing, surfing, birding, leaves, or a personal favorite, people, autumn rocks the F-stops when it comes to capturing the looks and intrinsic feel of Ocean County.
I’m always looking for looks to I include in my blogs. If an image is drop-dead amazing, it might even make it into The SandPaper, recognized statewide as a veritable compendium of top photos.
RUNDOWN: The bay is still divvying out blowfish by the bucketful. What’s more, the puffers are now being caught in many areas of the Barnegat Bay Watershed, which extends beyond what is technically Barnegat Bay, north of Manahawkin Bay.
I saw the blowfish presence in a small way, literally. Making some test throws of my cast net, I was nabbing as many as half a dozen three-inch puffers per pop, all released. Can’t say I’ve ever seen that many, dating back decades to when I seined instead of throwing net.
On the kingfish front, I’ve gotten steady reports of surfside kings, though only a few mentions of jumbos.
There is a knack to targeting these sudsy panfish, beginning with special rigs named after the species. Baits should be tasty bits, either natural or GULP-ish. The main knack, albeit seldom mentioned, is keeping the rig rolling along the bottom by using a bank or pillow sinker and a using a slow cast and retrieve. Test out the technique and watch how you’ll out kingfish static-line anglers.
I’ll use this kingfish point to bring up the fast-approaching 2021 67th Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic -- and its second year of including readily available kingfish for hooking into a $500 grand prize. These panfish attract a whole different skillset, based on lighter gear and subtle presentations. What’s more, there’s a tendency for kingfish to be available when surf conditions are calm and other Classic money fish are a touch AWOL.
With the Classic in mind, I’ll hint at the not-so-distant possibility we might see some chopper blues entered in the event this year, after the contest tallied a bluefish goose egg last year.
Admittedly, it’s a risk to even hint that slammers might once again cruise our fall beachline. However, as we speak, there are somewhat larger blues plying Barnegat Inlet, including some to seven pounds or so. Anything over 28 inches is Classic material, capable of garnering a $1,000 grand prize.
That said, there is no doubt the showing of smaller blues has been kick-ass all summer – and right up to now. Boat fishermen and Barnegat Inlet jetty fishermen have been making hay with this showing of what I’ll call schoolie blues. Yes, all bluefish travel in schools, but I’ll use the word in more of a striper sense, referring to huge schools of frisky smaller fish, what rank as “eater-size.”
Stripers will be thick and nonstop starting soon. These over-popular gamefish have shown they can make a super surge back when Draconian regulations are in place. Since the Classic can only take legally keepable fish between 28 and sub-38 inches, anyone who joins the famed contest can win big money, with a shot at three (count ‘em!) $1,000 grand prizes. The slot has actually leveled the playing field for all entrants. Jump in, the water -- and prize money -- is fine.
I’m hearing of some XL Atlantic croakers in the surf. They can be caught in unison with kingfish.
Spot, known in some circles as Lafayette, are showing beachside like they haven't shown in many decades. These are yet another delectable pan fish, though not all that meaty, thus the need to cook them whole, skin and all, and pick away at the so-fine meat.
Here's a pic from Jingles website:
Just because many have left LBI and Barnegat Bay for the year, the fish do not subscribe to our calendar. With falling temps, shorter days the baitfish are getting ready to push out of the bay and head south. The bay is under 70 @ 69 for the first times in months. Predators with be hot on their tails, get it?? Mullet have started to school and my prediction lots will exit the bay on the next moon. Peanut bunker will follow a few weeks later. And man o man, the bay is loaded with nuts. Fluke season has a few days left. Fluking has been tough lately because of water clarity. The last hurricane swell dirtied up the water. Plenty of nice size weaks around if you chum grass shrimp. They should get easier to target with live nuts on a three-way floating jig head rig. Schoolie bas are already dialed in in the marsh. Had lots blowing up on bait my last two times I targeted them. I’s only going to get better. Inlet holding some keeper bass but big live baits needed. Some monster blues showed up, 8-10 lb. plus variety. These are what I like to call “mullet run” blues. Historically they showed up like clockwork this time of year. Not so much in years past. I just got news from an extremely reliable source of some croaker on steroids of the beach. Still trying to get what depth. Been years since we had a good run of hard heads. Great eating but can be a little boney.
On the nature side of things: before technology birds were tracked by netting and putting legs bands on. The only way to know where they went is when they were recaptured. Not the best success rates. Plus there were lots of data gaps. For example, where were they in between. Now a days gps tracking devices have come into play. The artic tern was always known to be the longest distance flyer doing a 25,000 mile round trip in the Atlantic. But that was not thinking out of the box and making a poor assumption that it flew in a straight line while spending about ten months over the open ocean. And it weighs only 4.2 ounces. Recently, a tracked tern did 42,000 miles in one year as if zig zagged while travel for the south reaches of the southern hemisphere to the far reaches of the north hemisphere. Isn’t nature amazing.
Now retired and guiding full time, one of the only full time local guides, I have lots of dates available and often available for last minute bookings. It is still best to schedule a dates. Fishing is good to great and only getting better.