Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Wednesday, August 10, 2016: Loads of stuff from cougars to ultra-policing of 539.

Below: Kicked off the police force because of his age, Kyle, the once drug-sniffing champion had no choice but turn bad ... 


Wednesday, August 10, 2016: Day got nice but south winds have taken over. Ocean remains riled -- for the umpteenth day in a row. Water temp this a.m. was 73.2. Waves still 2 to 3 feet. 

Fluking is good and will hold at that level right through the weekend, based on what captains are telling me. 

No reports on kingfish. Anyone?

There are some small stripers in the jigging mix, both oceanside and near the Middle Grounds at night.

A gorgeous weakfish, pushing 7 or 8 pounds was caught bayside, south end. Went for a drifted fluke jig. It was photoed and gently released. "That was breeding stock," said the catcher. Nicely done! 

Overall, sharking has slowed bit, likely due to fewer anglers doing the all-night shift. However, the pros are still knocking the browns/sandbars royally. There was even talk of a near-in spinner being either caught or seen jumping. The water is right for those acrobatic sharks.

A SandPaper photog was out surfing with his wife and fell off his board just as she, also on a board, saw a sizable brown shark near him. Nothing bad happened, nor will it with only browns, duskies and sand tigers in the mix. But add in just one bull shark, even a small one, and the entire water atmosphere changes. Not that bulls have been seen any nearer than Cape May. 

While it's hard to tell sharks apart, there is something ominously stubbyish -- as in bullish looking -- about a bull shark. They're actually pretty easy to pick out of, say, a lineup of suspects. If you catch one, you'll likely know at first glance.  

Dusky, bignose, sandbar/brown and bull sharks are all closely related.  

Below: Bull from above ...

Below: Sandbar/brown shark from the side.

Below: Dusky shark ...

Below: Apexer AJ Rotondella photo confirmation of a spinner. Also, a surfer said he had one jump "a buncha times" near him. That's very typical. 


PLEASE read Rte. 539 alert below. They’re repeating the no-nonsense, enhanced patrolling of that full-throttle stretch of outback highway. They did it before and registered over 600 vehicle stops -- with most leading to citations/summons or multiple citations/summons. In a typical turning to the media to vent, my email and phone sounded off.

Over and over I heard “It’s a speed trap!” My response was a non-argumentative but firm “Were you speeding?”  “Yes, but that’s not the point!” That exchange was followed by the inevitable “Everybody speeds on that road.” Bingo. Thus over 600 stops in the last ultra-enforcement stint.

I never heard if anybody fought their Rte. 539 ticket based on, “I was speeding because it’s the thing to do on that road.” If they did, I just can’t imagine a resonating “Not guilty” after that plea.

Now comes my input. Over the decades, I’ve come upon three fatal crashes on 539, two north of 72 and one south. In one case, I was one of the first vehicles on-scene. It was ugly; an ejection. While those were back many years, more recently -- between 2013 to July 31 of 2015 -- eleven fatal crashes and numerous serious accidents occurred on 539, especially along the wide-open stretches. That rash of ugliness led to the current stints of ultra-enforcement.

Since 539 is one of my prime routes to my turnoffs into the outback, I can hear all you 539 regulars saying, “If you go the speed there you get run over,” -- not literally in most cases, but figuratively. You’re absofrickinlutely correctomundo. I’ve been passed while doing 60 (sorry about that extra 5 mph) to where my truck shook from the passing speed of some jackass leadfoot. For that reason, I invite this enforcement showing -- even though I’m as far as you can get from supporting rabid traffic law enforcement of every minuscule law on the books. The 539 show of rabid enforcement saves lives … it’s now documented.

As to hot-rodders behind you on 539, if you’re in a non-passing zone, consider inching right to let them pass. Don’t do some crazed swing to the right -- to where you hit the often gravely shoulder. Hey, during this enforcement thing, if they’re so hot to trot, they likely don’t know there are a dozen law agencies waiting patiently in the bushes just up ahead. Then, be kinda refined … don’t vengefully beep as you drive past them being ticketed. Oh, you can chuckle your ass off all the way to the Island.   

ARE COUGARS A-COMIN’?: (For entire column see http://thesandpaper.villagesoup.com/p/puffer-poisons-overrated-time...). Last week, I waxed poetic regarding the birthing of baby alligator gars to someday feast on invasive Asian carp. Oh, I see you recall. Well, this week, an even weirder translocation news alert got my NJ juices flowing.

A number of states, including ours, are being strongly urged to marshal back cougars. Yes, we’re talking aka mountain lions, the big-ass predatory cats that adore eating deer – and an occasional human that kinda reminds them of a deer.

“Could you get the camping bags out of the SUV, dear?” … and a nearby cougar is all ears.

Below: It's paws alone make it easy to see why a puma/cougar/mountain lion falls under the "big cats" column. 

I’m guardedly gung-ho over importing a slew of once-indigenous cougar – far more coolly called puma, a name that just sounds like something you don’t want rustling the bushes next to you.

For me, any larger mammal, other than another human, might make our comely wisps of wilderness a tad more natural. There’s something motivationally outdoorish about seeing a cougar bounding across the 16th green at, say, Sea Oaks.

“What the hell is that, Lyle, some sorta giant cat?”

“Uh, I think it’s that new goose discouragement project the greenkeepers were telling us about.”

“But it’s running right at us.”

“And, notice, no geese.”

“Oh, yeh.”

This is one of my unpatented segues into tale telling.

We possibly/maybe/perhaps already have a cougar or two in our midst. Talk of puma among us go back to the 1700s. And I’m among a handful of cougar glimpsers. I have absolutely possibly seen cougars … twice.

The most compelling mighta-seen, for me, was a massive cat – pushing six bobcats in length – bounding across a paved roadway in a heavily wooded section of Manahawkin. That was decades ago but I still recall it clear as day, even though I saw it at night in the high beams of my gold Chevy Vega. Hey, it was a damn nice car – before that little under-the-hood explosion episode.

Intriguing follow-ups to my Manahawkin couger-esque sighting were fully concurring sightings by two devout hunters, including a big-game hunting township commissioner, come mayor. All three of us even agreed on slight fur coloration details of the mega-cat.

My other sighting was far fleetier and freakier – and more recent.

I was way off-roading in my Toyota truck, Bass River State Forest vicinity. Slip-sliding down a sugar-sand fire road, I was working my way back to civilization after night catfishing in a defunct gunning and fishing club lake. Then, maybe 100 feet up ahead, something huge and light tan-colored leapt across the single lane. It was clear as day in my high beams – and gone before I could get even the “W” out of a “WTF!” I hit the brakes and, for protection, reached over for my trusty … damn, I left it at home.

With only the afterimage to ponder, I registered the fast-mover as the largest mammal I had ever seen in the Pines.

And don’t try to give me the “deer” spiel. I’ve seen whitetails by the field load, including many a piebald. Unlike the high-leaping gliding motion of a deer, this animal lunged across the road far lower to the ground, it’s head and shoulders slouched. I could even make out seriously thick side musculature. No deer works out that much. It was absolutely the shape and movement of a huge cat.

Once again, there was an odd bit of ex post facto corroboration with this sighting. Locals spoke of seeing the same, low-lunging shape bolting across back roads in the area. One fellow I talked to swore it was a pet puma lost by someone or other a town over.

By the by, those Bass River State Park sightings might even be at the root of the park’s ongoing, not-that-serious “Cougar Night Hikes.” I can’t help but picturing every news channel in the country glaring their camera lights at the leader of the cougar hike, and him, scratch marks all over his face, all, “We never thought we’d actually come across one! … And if it wasn’t for the heroic actions of Thelma Livener and her mace gun even more folks might still be lost and wandering around out there … somewhere.”

Now, back to adding some meat to what are now just the dry bone tales of Pinelands pumas.

A group called the Society for the Conservation Biology is highly suggesting that a number of onetime cougar states should use translocated cougars to, well, save human lives. That definitely could use some serious explaining, especially after seeing the name of a study the society just published, titled, “Socioeconomics benefits of large carnivore recolonization through reduced wildlife vehicle collisions.”

That “wildlife vehicle collisions” thing hits close to home. Per capita, Garden Staters run down more deer than any other state alive.

The study’s subhead, “An ecosystem service of cougars,” is where the rubber hits the road. It bandies about the significantly spooky 2012 data that an estimated 1.23 million deer-vehicle collisions occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, costing more than $4 billion in vehicle damage. There were upwards of 200 human deaths and 29,000 injuries within the deer v. vehicle wreckage. That’s according to State Farm, the nation’s leading auto insurer.

Enter the concept of killer cougars to kill the killer deer. The study indicates, in both monetary and lives-saved terms, that deliverance could rest firmly in the jaws of carefully placed pumas.

Per an nj.com article, NJ could possibly save $2.4 million and avoid 24 injuries each year caused by deer-vehicle accidents. Scientists came to that conclusion by analyzing factors including “starting deer density, final deer density.”

In case you missed the subtlety there, “starting deer density” is pre-cougar and “final deer density” is with roly-poly pumas fully in place.

In the same article, Jeff Tittel, president of New Jersey’s Sierra Club, tabulated the state has 432 square kilometers of cougar-friendly terrain, representing two percent of the state. Per Jeff, that two percent could support about 8 to 15 cougars. One of the top cougar maybe-zones is my pet Wharton Tract in the Pinelands.

Possibly with outbackers like me in mind, the study fully acknowledges that a human or two might be collateral cougar damage – it’s that “dear” and/or “deer” homonym thing. But, when factoring in the deer v. vehicle savings, it would apparently be a damn decent trade-off. I’m not making up that tit-for-tat trade-off. It’s in the study.

As for NJ’s reaction to becoming a cougar-ready state, it’s not so big-cat friendly. “To put a cougar into those residential areas ... makes absolutely no sense,” said Larry Hajna, a spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Protection, adding “You’re never too far from somebody’s home.”

Hey, that means you got somewhere to run, right?

More on this, should pumas emerge.


ALERT: Route 539 is, in many ways, angler highway; so many off-Island fishermen use it weekly ... 

The Rte. 539 detail will run from Friday (8/12) to Sunday (8/28).

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato today announced his Safety/Enforcement Initiative to address the rash of eleven (11) fatal crashes and numerous serious accidents that had occurred from 2013 to July 31, of 2015 along County Route 539 will team up again to remind drivers to drive responsibly. The detail will run from Friday (8/12) to Sunday (8/28).

Prosecutor Coronato stated, “Last year’s initiative concluded with over 600 vehicle stops and zero fatalities for the 32 day effort. The great news is that we have continued to see zero fatalities to date. We want to not only celebrate that success, but use the detail to educate drivers of the wonderful end result of driving responsibly.

Last year’s CR539 detail managed to raise significant awareness among the motoring public regarding the safety issues along CR539, but more important it led to coordinated efforts by Ocean County Law Enforcement, Ocean County Engineering and Road Departments to take important steps toward making commuting along CR539 safer.”

Prosecutor Coronato continued, “The many partners involved in last year’s effort want to build on that success with this visible reminder that the responsibility of driving safety never ends. Though the coordinated enforcement element will conclude the end of August, policing agencies along CR539 will continue to make CR539 patrols a priority. Now that the partnership logistics and plans have been worked out, the coordinated enforcement element can be quickly reinstituted in the event of increased reports of accidents or dangerous driving behaviors.”

The safety/enforcement initiative on CR 539 between Tuckerton and Plumsted Borough encompasses seven (7) municipal jurisdictions traversing 38 miles of roadway in Ocean County from Milepost 0 - 38. The road crosses through the towns of Tuckerton, Little Egg Harbor, Stafford, Barnegat, Lacey, Manchester, Plumsted and Jackson. This two-lane highway runs southeast to northwest through Ocean County and is frequently used by local seniors, commuters traveling to the Trenton area, tourists looking to vacation along the Jersey Shore and a large amount of commercial trucks.


Below: Dennis Gore 

240# core - decent meat color with a little fat


Get's no more colorful that an enraged mahi

Below:  Andy Nabreski 


Below: It would be nice to take advantage of those prices ... Of course, that would mean you're now pushing 100 years old.  


Joe Handley Jr
Day three of ten...nice blue marlin caught with my good buddy Chris Closson in the Spencer Canyon a few seasons ago.


it's nice to be the angler and not the guy driving once in a while. went 2 for 3 on these guys yesterday


Brett Taylor 
Two trips today - keepers were biting a little more.

First, I had Eric Haase with his brother-in-law Craig Fordyce and girlfriend Caitlyn Tornes on a 4hr Bay Fluke trip. With primo conditions (wind/tide), I kept the three using the S&S Bigeye tipped with either fresh, live, or artificial baits and it paid off. We worked from spot to spot, and the trio ended the day with 4 keepers (18, 18, 18, 19.5). Caitlyn lost a nice fish early which would have made it 5 total, but still a good day on the bay. Nice job!!

Second, I had return client Chris Pacione of Pittsburgh, PA with his two sons (7yr old Enzo and 10yr old Leo) and his brother Jeff of Boston, MA on a 4hr Bay Fluke trip. The winds really kicked up out of the south for the late afternoon trip, so we were pinned to work only a couple of areas with the tide. The foursome did a great job in really tough conditions (wind/tide) and landed a respectable 24 fish keeping two for the table (18, 20 inches). It was a pleasure to see the boys again, and looking forward to getting them out next year.



What a week!!! Sandbars, the season’s first Dusky, and we even saw a Spinner! We fished six out of seven nights last week and it started off with a stormy night, where we fished in the pouring rain (and lightning). We had some good action and closed out the night with a 6’+ Sandbar. This is a classic example of our “if you wanna go, we’re gonna go” policy. Just be ready to get wet.


Dave McFadden enduring the elements to get it done. He certainly abides by his #1 rule: “There’s no crying in fishing.”

Speaking of which, allow me to briefly stray onto another topic for a moment.

Shark Photos:
As you may already know, high quality photos of you and your catch are already included in your Apex Anglers experience. Our goal has always been to keep the shark out of the water two minutes or less. Less being better. For larger sharks, please be ready to get wet, as these fish WILL be staying in the “splash zone”. Meaning, every incoming wave will submerge them. In rough surf, you will likely get fully drenched. Personally, I find it to be exhilarating! You are welcome to take your own photos, but not if it takes extra time. (for example, I cannot take photos with my camera, then run to put it down, dry off my hands, grab your phone and take another photo).  This is where having a larger group is advantageous.

A basic rundown of how each release will go:
Leader > Dehook > Photo > Release
Depending on hook placement, this can be done in under a minute.

All I ask is that we all work together to get the fish swimming home in as little time as possible. While this is a fun activity, the safety of the sharks should be our number one priority at all times.

Moving on…

The Sandbar action has remained good, but we’ve been putting a lot of time in for the bites. A few nights have given us a bit of a scare, but eventually we got them going each night. Don, of Silvernail Web Design, who is responsible for building the very website you are reading, came out and landed the years very first Dusky. And our neighboring fisherman, Doug, landed the first Spinner we’ve seen this year soon after, which made for a very interesting night!


Dusky Sandbar Comparison

Dusky Sandbar Comparison

Two common sharks that confuse fishermen and biologists alike are the dusky and sandbar sharks, Carcharhinus obscurus andCarcharhinus plumbeus. Because proper identification is vital to the success of our tagging program, we have in the past provided information that separates these two species from each other.

The sandbar and dusky sharks share many characteristics. The teeth are similar in number, size, and shape. Size of eyes, gills, mouth, and nostrils are also similar, as are most body proportions. There are differences in the shape, size, and location of the fins, although these features are subtle. The dusky's fins are proportionately smaller and swept back, whereas the fins of the sandbar are broader and the first dorsal is higher and originates further forward. The two sharks are easily separable when the skin is viewed through a 10X hand magnifier. The scales on the dusky shark are overlapping and shingle-like, while those on the sandbar shark are separated and more like cobblestones.

Sharks, like other animals, change shape and appearance as they grow and mature. Their bodies thicken, fins become relatively longer and distances between the fins appear to change as the sharks reach maximum sizes. As a consequence of these changes, young sandbar and dusky sharks look very similar even though the adults look quite different. The smaller sizes (3-4 feet total length) are most similar and nearly impossible to tell apart in the water. At 5 to 6 feet, the dusky is a trimmer shark than the sandbar, with sickle-shaped fins and a longer, lower caudal fin. The first dorsal fin on a 5 foot dusky is further back and more rounded than on one of 3-4 feet. The overall shape of the sandbar shark is less changeable with size, although the fins become slightly broader and the girth is proportionately larger than a dusky of the same size. Otherwise, sandbars keep the same husky shape from juvenile to adult. The maximum sizes reached by these species can also help to identify them. Sandbar sharks mature at 5-6 feet and rarely reach 8 feet or 200 pounds. Dusky sharks mature at 8 feet, reach 10-12 feet and several hundred pounds. Consequently, a 250+ lb. shark is definitely not a sandbar shark; it could be a dusky, but it should be keyed out in the Anglers' Guide to Sharks or other literature.

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