I caught some heat for displaying that photo of my girlfriend unbelted in the front seat. (Yeah, fat chance that's mine) SO I'll place a more tasteful visual this go'round.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 I cringe and commiserate over the horrible earthquake that ripped apart Haiti, one of the poorest nations on the planet. Fiscally, Haiti is down there with many low-end African nations. The tiny island-nation has also been all but leveled by three Cat 4/5 hurricanes in recent years. It’s just not fair. Hopefully, we’ll all rally to help out those desperately destitute folks. I want to point out one very local, very disconcerting (as in terrifying) aspect of that quake, a 7.3 on the Richter scale. As the gull flies, it was very close -- and easily capable of producing a tsunami of coast-crushing proportions. We all still hold the images of the tsunamis that killed hundreds of thousands of folks in the Pacific in 2004. Samoa has been hit by a tidal wave since then. Many of the places destroyed by the deadly waves were stunned that it could happen to them. We’d be offering the same bemoanings. Scientists swear it can easily happen here. In fact, there is a fractured volcanic island in the Canary Islands that is geologically poised to fall into the sea. It’s not a “maybe” thing, it’s a when thing. That will send a wave directly at the U.S. Eastern Seaboard that, by some predictions, will be over 100 feet high – and traveling between 500 to upwards of 1,000 mph. A few hours time after that island collapses. Alert time before we get wind of the collapsed island: many hours. I can just about guarantee that you, me and that guy over there harbor the same Houdini cockiness over a tsunami bearing down upon us here on LBI and other near-coast locales. We’d adroitly get word of the approaching monster wave and lithely slip inland with tons of time to spare. Hell, we’d even grab our most valued possessions and also notify everyone we consider save-worthy. Well, you can take that high-flight notion and flush it down the toilet. Yesterday’s quake in Haiti proved that. By the time word had even hit the wires of the huge trembler in Caribbean, a tsunami moving between at even a low-end 500 mph would have wiped us off the planet. There was not so much as a peep of warning issued in the wake of the Haiti quake, short of a way-too-late tsunami watch for nearby Caribbean islands. Obviously, we have no organized warning system out there. Hell, even if it a warning system went off – sirens, bells and whistles – what’s the response time for millions of people all panic-abandoning the shoreline? Minutes. Sure this is purely alarmism but it sure hit me that, by the time I first got word of the Haiti quake, there wouldn’t have been a snowball’s chance in hell of utilizing that sneaking escape plan we keep tucked away in our “private-escapes” file cabinet. One other final frigid point. You’ll recall from the 2004 killer tsunami that hundreds of thousands of people saved themselves by swimming or floating until rescued. Can you imagine a 50-foot tsunami washing over LBI pushing 38-degree ocean water? No, there is nothing that can be done to ready us for a tsunami, with the possible exception of a resurrection of the old air raid siren system. However, even with the sirens, the evacuation mayhem would be catastrophic in its own right. HOWEVER (!) – and somewhat oddly -- the best chance to survive a locomotive tsunami is to bolt right at it. If you have a boat near either LBI inlet and can get a few miles out to sea before impact, you’re saved. Hell, dollars to donuts, you could paddle a surfboard, kayak or paddleboard far enough out if you had even a 30-minute head start. A PWC would rule, since you would zip way out and also be relatively out of the water. Oh, damn. It sure sounds like I’m now developing a new escape plan. I guess that proves I’m a true coastal-ite. NOTE: My weekly column is below but is purely pickups from daily blogs, most of which you’ve seen already. (((((((((((((()))))))))))) Winter has meant business, so far. This is frozenly clear via ice fishing on Collins Cove (Port Republic area). It takes some serious coldness to thicken that Mullica River water to the point of walk-atop hardness. I have a small segment below on the white perch angling at the cove. On a warmer note: It’s scheduled to get milder (to much milder) over the next week to 10 days. Bring it on. This column will carry the results of the 2009 Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic. So it’s a bit late. The winners are good until next fall. ANGLERS READYING TO MARCH: The politics of angst-free angling remains the talk of the frozen dock-top walk. The upcoming March on DC, dubbed “United We Fish,” is gaining momentum. Here’s a snippet from a Recreational Fishing Alliance press releases on the march: “In a historic show of solidarity, recreational and commercial fishermen will gather together on the steps of the Capitol on February 24, 2010 from noon until 3 p.m. in an organized demonstration against the unintended negative impacts of the Magnuson Stevens Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the federal fisheries law which was revised in January of 2007. Coordinating the march under the flag of United We Fish, rally organizers are hoping to see a large show of force in defense of coastal communities. "The closures keep coming and it's good to see the collective fishing communities and industries, both recreational and commercial, calling for scientific based Magnuson reform," said Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). "We are all in this together." Donofrio cited recent closures of amberjack, black sea bass and red snapper fisheries as examples of what he calls a "broken" federal fisheries law.” That release later notes “This effort is being coordinated by many organizations and individuals including but not limited to the RFA, CCGF, United Boatmen of New York, United Boatmen of New Jersey, New York Sportfishing Federation, Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association and the Fishing Rights Alliance.” Local tackle shops, including the Chum Bucket and Oceanside Bait and Tackle, are organizing buses to go to the march. I’ll be offering march updates at
. ICE IS NICE: The ice is apparently ready to rumble at Collins Cove. Things are looking plenty thick enough for ice-angling corps. However, I take no responsibility in giving a go-ahead to walking out there, regardless of the diet plan you’re on When the first hole-drillers hit the hardwater late last week, perching sucked. However, I’m now getting third-hand accounts that the ice fishing now is, in fact, like it was in the old days, i.e. freezing to hell and back – actually I meant to say super good. Someone emailed me that Scotts Bait and Tackle isn’t carrying fresh grass shrimp this year. Fresh grass shrimp rule when ice fishing. I’m not sure why, but even fresh just-dead grass shrimp won’t convince the perch to bite. Some folks do decently with mini-minnows, the tiniest of mummichogs. I’m always a glutton for frozen punishment when ice fishing. I only jig. I’ll sometimes go for a frozen up-and-down hour before I finally get a hit. However, when the angling is good, jigging can entice the largest of perch – and a slew of sub-schoolie bass. Back in the late-80s, I once took upwards of 30 stripers within 90 minutes. I began with special Rapala jigs, like Jigging Shads, but lost those and switched to Hopkins – and got the biggest fish of the day. That was back before the fyke fishermen began setting up around there. As folks should know, you can’t keep stripers taken from the Collins Cove in winter. That regulation is based on an antiquated law to prevent old-fashioned “jacking” of bass -- even though illegal foul-hooking of balled up winter bass ended decades ago. Screw that law. If you’re able to yank a 28-inch bass out from under the ice thereabouts, you should be able to keep it. ONSCENE AT SEABASS SITDOWN: Last week, I took to my home computer and spent a goodly chunk of time listening to the MAFMC Joint Scientific Statistical Committee/ Monitoring Committee Meeting on black seabass. The meeting was presented in real time through a website called
. And it was quite a trip. I felt like I was right there – wherever “there” was. I think North Carolina. The “gotomeeting” method is a good bit amazing. It allows you and me to listen in on every word exchanged at quite-important get-togethers. With many vitally important fishery meetings soon to come, I sure hope they all use the public-is-invited online approach. Yes, there were people actually at the meeting, though some official representatives used the website to attend. I even got an email afterwards, thanking me for attending the meeting on-line. I‘m compelled to mention the meeting had stretches that were boring as dirt. All that said, I’m still not sure what will finally come out of that fairly lengthy meeting. I do know the MAFMC Joint Scientific Statistical Committee/ Monitoring Committee is going to suggest to NOAA's Regional Administrator, Pat Kurkel, that black seabass quotas revert back to 2008 levels -- based on data that was very questionable back then but was still somehow better science than they used in July of 2009 to suggest leveling the boom on seabass fishing for 2010. If that sounds complex and bizarre, it’s not only because I synopsized it but also because every person sounding off at the meeting seemed mighty uncertain over which data was best – and worth using to establish 2010 regs. I suppose it was very reflective of the ongoing plea for better science. Long and short of it, an effort will be made to rescind measures previously announced for 2010. That, to me, seems to be good news for anglers. I should add, all the folks on the black seabass committee seemed very upbeat about the stocks, based on some insanely good year-classes back around 2002/3. However, there was a discernable apprehension by the MAFMC Joint Scientific Statistical Committee/ Monitoring Committee that its suggestion (which it is, in essence) to go back to the 2008 quota might not pass muster as it works its way up the management line. If it does get through, we’re in like fishing flint for seabassing in 2010. LORAN-C LAID TO REST: In case your communication system hasn’t heard yet, a notice in the January Federal Register indicates that the nation’s Loran-C equipment will cease to operate by October 1, 2010. The Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Coast Guard has jointly determined the 53-year-old radio navigation system has fallen from favor, shouldered out by the far hipper – and more colorful – Global Positioning System. Punctuating the shutdown is the discontinuation of federal funding to keep the fairly costly Loran-C transmitting stations up and running. That funding stoppage means there is little room left for protest or debate. “Live with it,” I was told by Homeland Security spokesperson. It wasn’t said meanly, more in the vein of “We’re just going have to live with it.” I should add that there is a potential backup to GPS, one that looks and feels like Lorna-C. It’s called the eLoran system, and even uses the same transmitting equipment as the old Loran. However, that possible contingency radio navigation plan is tucked deeply away in D.C. cabinets, not even on backburners. Methinks there is also a Homeland Security angle to the eLoran. In other words, I don’t have high enough clearance to get the full scoop on it. GRITTY E-QUESTION: “What will the beach fill do to the surf fishing in Harvey Cedars?” That question – along with the sister query, “What will happen to the surfing?” – was somewhat answered after Surf City’s beachfront was replenished. Not only did the fishing and surfing survive in Surf City but also it didn’t take very long for much of the beach sand to assume its assigned rule of filling in the ocean bottom profile off the beach. The jetties came back in shorter order than expected. Obviously, a lot of that Surf City sand also went tripping southward, filling in Ship Bottom beachfronts. Thank-you, very much. Considering the fierce beach dynamics of Harvey Cedars, the sand scouring there is going to happen in double-time. It’s gonna all but fly south. J-mann. BASS COUNT A BIT OFF: A significant striped bass survey related to the Chesapeake Bay stocks indicated a slight downturn in the young-of-year count for 2009, though not nearly enough to cause any alarm. The annual Maryland Department of Natural Resources netting effort captured 7.9 bass per haul, down from the long-term average of 11.7. "These numbers may be slightly below the average, but it's well within the normal range of expectations," DNR Fisheries Service Director Tom O'Connell told the publication Chesapeake Bay Journal. "The 2001 super year class, followed by a robust year class in 2003, should project for a healthy, sustainable population." The Maryland study is super significant not only because of its read on the Chesapeake Bay stock of stripers but also because the state has been collecting seine data at the same 22 sites for 50 years. I don’t know of any such research dating back even remotely that far. By the by, this seining effort is not just for stripers. This year’s survey netted 35,000 fish of 49 species, including 1,039 young-of-year striped bass. That 49 different species thing is very impressive, though many species were just token showings of rarer tropical fish that got washed in as larvae last spring, much the way we get them in places like Barnegat Bay. NEW SLOT TRY: Word has it that the NJ Marine Fisheries Council will be asking the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to allow Garden State anglers to take one bass as small as 24 inches (or larger) and a second one of 32 inches or up. The overall population of striped bass is through the ceiling. I cannot conceive that our keeping a smaller slot fish could put a dent in the striper numbers, especially when factoring in the catch-and-release rate of anglers who are more than willing to let larger bass go when they have meat in the form of smaller better-to-eat stripers. Checking with anglers in our vicinity -- and also on websites like BassBarn -- I see a vivid often-unfriendly line being drawn between those in favor of the slot and those against. It’s a damn touchy issue, an instant replay of former slot fish debates. Per usual, there is absolutely no waggle room. You’re for or against. Pick color. A broadening issue this go’round is the effort to preserve top-stock stripers, the bigger fish that pass on prime cuts of DNA. As noted above, I think that allowing folks to keep a slot will surely mean a greater tendency to release the far less edible trophy fish. Just as timely an issue is the insidious removal of other cooler fish from charter boats and headboat patrons. A slot bass could placate many a fare unable to keep other once-take-home species. Sadly, Methinks it’ll once again come down to the likes of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association doing one of its “membership votes” and panning the slotfish concept. That happened before, to the utter aggravation of many a pro-slot angler -- after JCAA reported to the state Legislature that its membership was “unanimously” against the slot. JCAA never once informed the legislators that the actual vote among individual members of JCAA’s composite clubs was anything but “unanimous.” In fact, more than a few club members felt JCAA fudged the final numbers to tip the 50-50 scales in favor of what the JCAA hierarchy wanted. I DID NOT agree with that – but was put off by the persistent “unanimous” language it used to defeat the slot fish effort. It’s purely wait-and see, especially when any changes to striper laws have to be made through the Legislature, which has repeatedly sided with JCAA. Of course, the woes with fluke, blackfish and weakfish bag limits might shift some support within JCAA toward a slotfish for 2010. I’M REGISTERED TO SALTWATER ANGLE: I did my civic duty and signed up for National Saltwater Angler Registry online at
. It took maybe three or four minutes to complete. I then got this email: “You are now one of our 12 million angler partners in the National Saltwater Angler Registry. Here is your temporary Angler Registry card that can be printed and used as proof of registration until the official registration card is delivered. The official registration card will be waterproof and tear resistant and should be delivered within 30 days of registration to the address entered during registration. If you do not have immediate access to a printer, you can simply write down your registration number to use while fishing. You will need to present this to law enforcement should they ask. PLEASE NOTE: If a state license or registration is required for your fishing activity, you will need to have that license or registration in addition to this federal registration card.” I then went back to the site and took in the tons of information the feds offer regarding the program. Yes, I should have done that ahead of time but who has time to be ahead of time? Anyway, it was actually a very interesting read, though nothing therein boded very well for anglers. I do want to forward this significant read from the website: “HOW WE COUNT FISH AND FISHERMEN While it’s impossible to ask each and every one of America’s 13 million anglers about their fishing habits, NOAA Fisheries and state agencies can survey enough anglers to gather the needed information to make sound fisheries conservation policy. Just like polls that predict such things as Presidential elections within a few percentage points, NOAA Fisheries has developed a survey program that can determine total catch by surveying a few thousand saltwater anglers. Sampling is based on mathematical probability theory, which may sound complex, but the basic concept really isn’t. George Gallup, founder of the famous Gallup Poll, once described sampling with this simple analogy: he said sampling a population was like taste-testing soup; one spoonful can reflect the taste of the whole bowl, if the soup is well stirred. In other words, a sample can accurately reflect a much larger population so long as the sample is representative of the whole. When it comes to surveying saltwater anglers, NOAA Fisheries selects sites in proportion to the expected fishing activity at those sites. This broad representation is what “stirs the soup.” In addition to being representative, the sample size also has to be large enough to derive the most statistically accurate estimates. Because we’re not counting each angler and every fish, it is inevitable that there will be some margin of error associated with estimates (as is the case with all surveys). The key is to keep it within a statistically acceptable percentage range to ensure the most accurate conclusions possible.” INSIDER INFO ON REGISTRY: Don’t read this if you’re not an insider. There is currently a very well-organized effort to minimize the pain anglers will have when the New Jersey saltwater angler registry comes down to dollars and cents. (The effort may be lottery-based, though I’m not supposed to let that cat out just yet.) First, let it be known in no undue terms, the state itself will NEVER allow the feds to be the lead angler licensing agency within NJ. The state is already champing at the bit to get at 2011 registry bucks. However, they might be beaten back. A new – soon to be legislative -- effort will strive to hold down the price of saltwater angling well into the future. Already, states with saltwater licenses are bandying about price hikes, based solely on anticipated income from licensing. Holding licensing costs way down aligns with my belief that a NJ “saltwater license” does not have to be $25 or $15 or even $10. Even that low-end amount would lead to an intake greatly exceeding what is needed to run a registry. Those upper-end amounts are a flagrant tax on saltwater angling. This arriving cost neutralization effort – hyped by a top angler organization -- may get the annual saltwater license amount down to a couple/few bucks – or even zero. It could also lead to major bucks for fish, wildlife and conservation programs of all sorts. For now, keep it on the QT -- but just stay ready to jump in and back the effort.