Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report



Sounding Off Against Deer Hits;

Bass Stripes Lookin Crooked







As the fall foliage of southern New Jersey sneaks past peak color (per the Weather Channel), so roughly goes saltwater angling. We’re just this side of peak autumnal angling. Admittedly, things are running a tad late due to a mighty mild fall and the La Nina factor. 

The main highlight of surfcasting LBI 2011 is the remarkably large turnout of takers. The beaches have been packed out there, after an insanely slow start in September. Proof apparent is the LBI Surf Fishing Classic with a damn decent 829 contestants – and counting. There were fears the economy would cripple the contest.

By the by, there is still time left in this 2011 striper and bluefish challenge. What’s more, the biggest prizes are still up for grabs, especially in the bluefish category, where the biggest fish is a modest 15.19, taken by our buddy Randy Matlock. The biggest bass, 41.56, taken on the first day of the tourney, is holding its own.

CRASH INTO YOU: Deer strikes are running rampant. It comes down to more deer, plus more development equals more impacts.

This past week, I counted five fresh deer DOA hits on the shoulders of Rtes. 539 and 72. There were likely more jettisoned clean out of sight. One DOA doe near Chatsworth had shattered glass all around its body. It looks like it might have been a windshield buster. Ouch, that’s gonna cost way more than the national average per deer strike, roughly $2,600, per MSN Money.

Speaking of windshield strikes, here’s a news story showing how far a deer strike can carry: “A deer jumped into the path of the vehicle, which struck the animal, sending it airborne into the southbound roadway. (A second vehicle) then struck the deer with its windshield/roof area. The deer was sheered in half and entered the vehicle through the windshield area. The driver lost control of his vehicle at that time, as it rotated 180 degrees before coming to a final rest in between lanes. …”


FYI, you must call the cops after you’ve struck a deer. It has to do with insurance claims. Also, the police are always interested in whether there were any, uh, accentuating factors behind the hit. There have been a few cases of a deer-killing driver unsteadily spittling into the officer’s ear, “I think that deer had been drinking, offisher. Just smell its breath.”

You can’t underestimate the criticality of a deer strike. Another AP release from just this week:

“A 21-year-old was killed after hitting a deer with his car Saturday night. Zachary Hawkins was driving with his 14-year-old brother when the deer ran out in front of them. … Investigators said the deer went through the windshield killing Hawkins. The brother was also hurt … Investigators said neither one of them was wearing a seat belt.”

The best way to minimize taking on a deer when driving is to watch the road ahead like a hawk. It’s your wallet -- and life -- on the line. 

SOUNDS STRANGE: I want to offer a deer-avoidance concept you’ve surely never heard – since I developed it myself.

Those increasingly insane in-vehicle sound systems, now fully standard in newer models, might actually bring the deer world crashing down around you, as you zip along Rte. 72 and such. I kid you not.

I’m now heavily into “going green” when out spotting wildlife. In this context, “going green” refers to using night-vision equipment. It references the lime-green hue of the landscape, when seen through night-vision equipment.

It’s been during deer watching sessions that I’ve noticed the disquieting impact of loud vehicular music on dining deer, as they work the shoulders of roadways. I’m mainly talking about highways crossing the outback areas. These are among the worst high-impact deer strike zones.  

At night, it’s astounding how far the bass from an approaching vehicle’s sound system precedes it. When night scoping, I have clearly seen deer stop eating and raise their heads with the first hint of a sound system’s bass pulsing through the calm night air. They hear it way before me.

Eventually, I also pick up the distant  “Whomp. Whomp. Whomp” of an approaching vehicle flying down the highway. There’s something seriously sinister and threatening about that deep cardiac-ish pulse. The deer don’t hear it then casually ignore it, the way they do those fully ineffective deer whistles and such. They stay fully alarmed.

As the sound system reverberation gets closer, deer will nervously drift into nearby underbrush. That might seem like a good thing. It ain’t. You now have large and nervous animals concealed in shrubbery.

With the final approach of the sinister sound, deer tense up, prepared to loose their greatest escape asset: a full-blown bolt.

Seeking safety, a fully freaked out deer can accelerate from zero to over 40 mph in a matter of seconds. If safe haven happens to be across the highway, a deer does not ponder the consequences of going balls out for the other side of the highway – upon which you’re rocking out as you zip toward LBI.

By the by, it’s not just head-banging music that can pulsate through the night air of the outback. If it has volume, it has spooking capacity.

It might sound outlandish but I guarantee keeping a vehicle’s sound system below a dull roar will help lower the chances of a deer strikes, especially when making the long hauls to or from the shore.

SOMEONE SAVE MARGARET!: Virtually all of us must live and breathe the web-based lifestyle, lest we become cyberly illiterate, falling through the electronic cracks of modern times. The only things moving forward faster than mind-boggling gigabyte advances are Internet scams. 

Among the scummiest of scams is the notorious “mugged abroad” money appeal. It’s an odd replay of the fairly famed plea of decades back: “Send lawyers, guns and money!”

The scam’s set-up, albeit worldly, remains the same. A bunch of us get an urgent email from a close fiend who has fallen on some awful times – in frickin’ Timbuktu!

Although we saw said person only a few hours earlier at Wawa, he/she somehow zipped off to, say, London, where a band of hooligans – as always, bored sick by soccer -- have taken to attacking tourists between corner kicks. The foul kickers put upon our friend and stole cash, credit cards, jewelry, you-name-it.  The plea is palpably pathetic: I’m totally screwed without your help. 

Does this ring a bell? Please don’t tell me it sure does because you immediately sent money.

Anyway, just today, I got an alarming heart-wrenching email from one of my favorite LBI tackle shop owners. And wouldn’t you know it, she had just gotten mugged in Europe. I’ll let you read the email yourself:

“Good Morning!!

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, my family and I came down here to Madrid, Spain for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed, all cash, credit card and cell were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.

We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in less than few hours from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills, I'm freaked out at the moment.


Margaret? Our Margaret? It must be. It’s obviously her email address sending this. 

Never mind the fact we’re at the absolute apex of fall fishing season on LBI -- a time that makes or breaks a shop for the year. Margaret apparently decided to take a quick jaunt to, uh, Madrid? Maybe selling tons of bunker by the pound simply became too much.

For a reflexive instant, I haughtily muttered, “When are people going to learn not to go messin’ around in parks in Madrid, Spain?” It then hit my, I wouldn’t know a Madridian park if I fell over it. What’s more, what’s up with that frickin’ hotel manager “holding” an entire family in lieu of payment? Let me at that bastard! And how long does he have in mind? Is this secretly the whereabouts of all those people on milk containers?

“Have you seen this person? Dial this number.” (I’m always tempted to dial the number and just say, “No, I haven’t. Sorry.”)

So, my workday is thrown asunder by assuming the personal role of rescuing Margaret from Madrid. Fascinatingly, nowhere does this low-level hostage note ask for cash. Reread it. On our very own – and as a demonstration of having deep insights into the ways of the world – we surmise that rapid-mailing money is the solution to saving the dia. All I have to do is email back and find out where, exactly, to wire the cash.

No, I wouldn’t dare call the tackle shop to see if Margaret might be right there, right now. I already know for an e-fact she’s in Madrid -- besides, who knows who might answer the phone at the tackle shop. Those Spanish hotel managers’s can change their voices. I’m told.

Chuckler: I called the tackle shop as I got ready to put this column to bed, just to put this e-nonsense to rest. I’m told, “She should be back later.”

Hmmm. How much later, amigo?

(Just kidding, Gene.) 


EMAIL:  “Jay, I caught and released a 29-inch bass that had crooked lines on one side and totally straight normal lines on the other. Are those broken lines because of a previous wound or sickness? …”


There is always a slight chance the anomalous lines are the result of a very-previous injury, dating way back to pup times. More than likely, it’s little more than a near-meaningless genetic quirk.

Theories abound on why certain bass possess noncontiguous lines. I have photos of bass with truly freaky stripes. They look like geological fault lines after major earthquakes.

On the anecdotal side of things, some anglers believe the crooked/broken stripes underscore bass from the Hudson Bay biomass. That has been thoroughly debunked by marine biologists netting loads of crocked lined Chesapeake Bay bass, some fish sporting amazingly misaligned stripes.  

It should be scientifically noted that hybrid bass most often (nearly always) display line pattern variations, including breaks. That’s a whole other animal, so to speak. The stripe variations in wild bass are far more dramatic and fully unpredictable.

If you want a genetically feasible reason for warped striped bass lines, first focus on the fact that the stripes on a bass are a form of camouflage. Way back, striped bass might have actually been splotched bass. Through survival and selectivity, fish with aligned splotches somehow fared better when escaping, say, Paleolithic anglers flinging around nasty fish spears. The surviving splotches joined hands and became solid lines -- as the Paleolithic people made noises questioning where the hell all the splotched bass had gone.

That genetic tale is remotely scientific. Variations in the lines of today’s bass might very well be a genetic throwback to primordial splotchy times.

By the by, I have spent decades reading old papers on North American fishing, dating back to Colonial times – and even some literature referencing accounts from prehistoric days. Striped bass are continuously mentioned, as both a popular gamefish and a survival food. However, I’ve never once seen a mention of bass with weird stripes. It might have been such a common thing it didn’t warrant any ink, or, contrary to my genetic evolution theory, it might mean the broken and crooked lines are a modern phenomenon, possibly yet another pollution impact thing.

Importantly, I’ve never seen or heard of bass with broken stripes being sickly. In fact, it’s often just the opposite. When anglers see the odd line look, they’re doubly inclined to examine the fish closely. Virtually all freaky striped stripers seem fit as fiddles – meaning they’re totally edible. 


RUN-DOWN: This year’s peak fishing is fair to good. In fact, this past week was our best bout with bass since spring. However, the average size per kept striper is oddly down, as much as 5 pounds per fish.

I get that average weight by taking weigh-ins from previous LBI Surf Fishing Classics – same time frame -- averaging the weight per fish and comparing it to this year. It’s simply a smaller than usual year for striper weights.

This lowering of the bass bar, as it were, shouldn’t be immediately alarming. As recently as last fall – even last spring – the bass were far more bodacious. However, there have been caveats flying around that way too many cow bass are being yanked from life – often merely for show-and-tell – in recent years. That jacking of the jumbo bass has been almost exclusively via drop-and-pop fishing beneath bunker baitballs.

Face it, that new style of stripering beneath bunker schools – and it was unheard of as recently as 15 years ago – might be way more biologically damaging than we know. Again, a single season tells us squat.

At the same time, there remains a legitimate glut of small schoolie stripers, the ones we’ll be having fun with throughout all of December and even into January. Look for an unusually high number of keepable (28-inch) bass in those schools. 

The bluefish is slow. It now seems we won’t be seeing anything resembling the famed fall blitzes of killer gators. I don’t know what to make of the no-show slammers. If you recall, we had one of the thickest snapper summers in recent memory. There has to be breeding stock out there somewhere.

Bunker remains the killer bait. Eels are common with boat fishermen. A buddy had great results trolling an umbrella of plastics. It’s been slow when casting swimming plugs – though I see one tourney bass went for an artificial.

I’ve been doing decently using jigs and plastics. I’ve reverted to “sand eel” Fin-S Fish on 1-ounce Kalin jigs. They really need to be fished with newer conventional reels and not spinning reels. The hopping action offered by conventional reels rules. Wildeyes work better with spinning gear.    

It’s officially tog time. Enjoy but don’t think you have to max out just because you can. The fishery is suffering horribly. That’s not to say we should forego keeping the fish that are rightfully ours. All our scrimping and saving – limited to one fish a day for months --earned us the right to keep a number of blackfish when the season allows. However, it surely helps to reflect, “That’s plenty for today,” before everyone on board gets six blackies each – with help from some friends, so to speak.

I will note that I’ve had great luck with freezing tog. That’s because almost all my recipes use tog meat as filler. It’s blackfish lumps that work best in fish stew, bouillabaisse, fishcakes, pasta sauce (incredible) and, a personal kick-ass favorite: cold tog salad, Tog salad recipe: Lightly stir-fry tog pieces (w/ Old Bay seasoning), let cool and mix with cold (real) mayo. Add lots of minced celery, celery seed, very thinly sliced green onions. Now add a few drips of liquid smoke essence or 1 TBS sesame oil (not both), 6 or so finely minced designer black olives and very finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional but incredible). Very gently turn. Don’t go mushing it all up.

Serve as dip or on just-sliced semolina bread.


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