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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Weekly blog-about: Asian Carp Reduced to Pellet Size; Look, a Mola-Mola in the Backyard

 

A very specialized fish-processing factory is about to fire up in Grafton, Illinois. It might fall into the hitherto unknown category, “If you can’t eat ’em, join ’em.”

American Heartlands Fish Products is awaiting the final go ahead – in the form of federal funding – to open a large plant to begin full time slicing and dicing of highly invasive carp specie.

As most folks know, so-called Asian carp have gone out of their reproductive minds in the mud-rich waters of the Mississippi River region. The carp numbers are increasing geometrically – as is the concern over what millions atop millions of these voracious, bottom-slurping fish might do to the native riverine ecosystems.

Not only is resident wildlife at risk but so are humans. Gospel truth: There have been numerous bodily injuries to boaters struck by flying carp, spooked into the air by passing boats. Hundreds of carp have been seen spontaneously launching themselves high into the air, often reaching face-level of boaters. Locals have dubbed it “the Asian air force.”

In retaliation, carp-fearing folks have initiated carp “hunts” and “roundups.” While barely scratching the surface of the carp problem, the oft beer-fueled events have led to some worrisome collateral damage. One hunt consisted of dozens of fully loaded vessels with fully loaded captains and crews literally shooting shotguns at flying carp. It’s unknown how many carp were hit but local hospitals were pulling pellets out of humans like there was no tomorrow.

In the face of a temporary ban on impromptu carp hunts, epicurean-based approaches were tried in an effort to control the carp by hyping the bony fish as exotic menu fare. That didn’t always hit the spot. One diner was pretty much on target when he tried a bite and said, “Where’s my shotgun?”

Now, up steps an industry that thrives off of fish that fail to tickle the human palette. Fish processors can perform miracles on just about anything that swims. Their trick is to royally grind up the likes of Asian carp, then dry the piscatorial muck and make pellets to feed farm-raised things we like a whole lot more, including chickens, salmon, llamas, you name it. I’m thinking the plant might also be sneaking loads of pellets back into the rivers – you know, job security and all.

Sung Yong Carp: “Every time I eat these pellets they remind me of something. I just can’t put my fin on it.”

Speaking of “Soylent Green” (yes, I was), did you know that 1972 movie, from a 1966 book, was based in large part on Earth’s end times brought on by planetary overheating. Cool. I think I’ll Netflix it.

LOVELADIES MOLA BOOLA: Onward to the weirdest report in many moons.

Some folks I know in bayside Loveladies, a.k.a. Loveladies Harbor, responded this week to their dog nervously barking at something in the water.

The damn-observant pooch had eyed a huge protruding fin in the bay. It instantly recognized the need to alert family and friends to the circling fin.

Please add the obligatory “Jaws” bass ostinato.

Gotcha.

No bull here, though. What the pooch had spotted was a good sight rarer than a shark top. It was, instead, the dorsal of a huge mola-mola, the beloved oceanic sunfish that can achieve the size of a small country if left to its own jellyfish-eating devices.

The mola is the largest boned fish in the world. What’s more, lady molas produce more eggs than any known vertebrates. In fact, no creature stays as egg-laden as a mola mom. Of course, you sure as hell never bring up the subject of stretch marks when swimming near one. A pissed off mola can make instant jellyfish outta just about anything she can chomp down on, if you get my drift.

And they do drift. This being the likely means of transport this fish utilized to reach our bay.

Viewed for over an hour, the Loveladies mola – unknown gender – explored the local waters. It was seemingly fit and able-bodied.

Unfortunately, this drifter might need some serious helping hands to point the way back to sea. If anyone out there speaks mola, even broken mola, please step up to bat.

Also, I’ll try to track its whereabouts. If you sight the mola, e-mail me posthaste – if not sooner.

IT’S HERE – SORTA: Just like that, we find ourselves in the guts of the fall fishing season – in a good, gutsy way, that is.

The air and sea are finally adjusting to the calendar, though the ocean water is running a goodly few degrees above normal. Maybe it’s running on global warming time.

Looking at angling logs I’ve kept in the past, we’ve seen ocean temps around 50 for this same date. This past week, I recorded mid-Island ocean temps of 64 degrees.

It’s the bay water that’s hit the skids, egged on by some semi-frosty nights.

With the apparent eutrophication of Barnegat Bay – a scientific way of saying shallowing – it doesn't take a ton of night chill to drop the water into the 50s, even lower in the shallows.

Bay waters play a large role in angling potential in and around inlets, as dropping tides usher out water as much as 15 degrees cooler than the ocean it’s pouring into. That rapid change can knock the mick out of forage fish, leaving them slowed – and sitting ducks for gamefish, which take thermal swings more in stride.


SHOWLESS SURF CLAM: As clams are showing potential – and Classic success – as striper bait, I’ve been re-asked about running out and grabbing a load of washed-up surf clams along the beach.

Sorry, but such shoreline showings don’t happen the way they have in the past. Go figure.

Don’t mind if I do.

I know for a fact the ocean clams are still out there. Unbeknownst to many, our little state is far-and-away the leading source of both surf clams and ocean hard clams (quahogs) in the country. Crafty harvesting practices have kept this industry up and pumping. That management success puts the kibosh on theories that over-harvesting is the reason for the no-show of washed-ashore bivalves.

While it’s hard to prove why surf clam wash-ups are now so few-and-far between, I’m betting it all comes down to stormage – and the recent lack of same.

It takes some kick-ass sand movement to loose large surf clams, which thrive a good distance out at sea. It then takes further kick-asseness to drive them onto sandbars and finally ashore.

Don’t look now but we’re in a low-storm run going on 20 years – knock on driftwood.

Sure, we’ve had this brutal storm and that ferocious gale but to see surf clams exposing themselves along the beachfront, you have to hearken back to the beach-busting series of stormy winters from the late 1980s into the early 1990s. That was the last time we had a tsunami worth of washed up clams.

Below: Fully artistic Indian summer design ...

 

WHAT’S A-COMIN’?: While I’ve heard we’re surely in line for a wild and wicked winter, storm-wise, I have to rock the snow boat by disagreeing. I just don’t see any pretentious, upper level air patterns – Jet Stream or otherwise – suggesting we’ll see protracted wintry wildness here on LBI – especially after factoring in the very weak influences of a barely-showing El Niño. I will allay the fears of skiers by saying I do see some potential whiteness for ski-resorts, mainly New York and New England.

That said, don’t unbatten the hatches or cut down the hedges. Logically and mathematically, we are dead due for a 10-year, 20-year or even 30-year storm event. It could be a down-and-dirty doozy.

However, there is nothing known to science that can foresee a single rock’em/ sock’em storm, short of those laws of averages, a.k.a. the we’re-overdue syndrome.

 

CIRCLE THE HOOKS: I got an e-mail asking if there is such a thing as circle hook trebles, for plugs.

I responded by first noting that a circle hook is the greatest thing since sliced bread – though I’m not really wild about sliced bread.

I can assure there is no way to incorporate circle-hooked trebles into a successful plugging routine. Oh, the fish will love it. That alone should tell you something.

I’m not badmouthing circle hooks in any way, shape or form. They’re the greatest things since oxygen for anglers with hyperactivity disorder. Those of us with the attention span of a ferret who just found an open energy drink, can now coolly throw out a bunker head bait then quickly walk the hell away from that insanely boring chunk rod – to go frantically barking after sea gulls. With circle hooks in play, a solidly-rooted sand spike and a perfectly set drag can allow me enough time to stop making sand angels up on the dunes and composedly run back to an active rod – to land a pre-exhausted, prizewinning fish.

By the by, there are now jigheads with circle hooks. In reality, these are just heads with circle hooks, because you sure don’t want to add any serious jig action, which is the worst possible motion for circle hooks.

HOLGATE HAPPENINGS: While the sandbagged rampway onto Holgate continues to hold its own against tidal assaults, the region I’ve dubbed the Dead Forest – about the 7,000- to 8,000-foot mark – has been gnawed to the bone. The resultant look – with craggy, pithy, protruding tree carcasses gravely looming – is like that mythological land where small trees and shrubberies go to die, something out of either Tarzan or the Tunguska event.

For buggyists, anything but a low-tide drive to the Rip is now blocked by branches. It’s such a pinch-off point that there is no getting by – coming or going – once the higher tide has overwashed that zone. If you get caught south of that pinch point, you’ll have no choice but to wait out the tide down at the Rip – though I could easily see my hyperactive self simply assuring my truck I’ll be back someday and swimming for Beach Haven.

By the by, those branches and stubs can inflict serious dent damage to buggies if you hit them wrong.

Warning: We have exceptionally high tides this week. That could mean real big buggying headaches.

LET HOLGATE SPLITISTS: There is a growing boating segment that actually wants to see a new inlet form though the Holgate Wilderness Area – in unsubstantiated hopes that a dissection will allow them to bypass the badly shoaled channels on the bayside of Holgate – and also save them some time and fuel getting out to sea. Those boaters would like to see an instantaneous inlet form as close to the parking lot area as possible.

Their thinking is beyond pie in the sky.

Sure, an east-west dissection of Holgate will, indeed, create an inlet – of sorts. But, who says it’ll be navigable? What’s more, such a break-through will river in tons of oceanside sand, fully closing off the already skinny bayside channels.

In the distant past, inlets have formed near the parking lot area. They even became deep enough to navigate – and be named, i.e. Beach Haven Inlet. However, this go’round, an immediate inlet will run into bulkheads and man-made formations, thwarting any prolonged sea-to-bay opening. As an inlet, it’ll be about as reliable as a long-range weather forecast.

On the books, former Beach Haven Inlets have immediately migrated southward. Geology says they’ll always move rapidly south in just such a manner. Hardly a long-term inlet fix.

The through-and-through breaking of the Holgate Wilderness Area would be all bad.

Admittedly, one might think the Forsythe Refuge folks would see a break-through as a chance to truly separate the wilderness area from humanity. (I’m not saying they’re thinking that, I’m just imaginin’ out loud.) But, thinking that through – and tapping into historical precedent – a southwardly migrating inlet would cause a swath of utter habitat destruction along the way. That just can’t be an ecologically good thing, by any wilderness standards.

But it gets trickier – quickly and legally.

What about the sands as they built up north of the moving inlet – as they’ve always done before? Who now owns that reformed real estate? The refuge was technically cut off and took off southward – and right off the map, once the last stretch at the Rip goes under. Does it get to hurry back and claim the newly formed Holgate as theirs? I sure would hope so – but courts aren’t always big on hope. It’s tangibly spooky for a Holgate fan, like myself, who wants it to remain forever wild.

Ironically, the absolute surest way for the Holgate Wilderness Area to retain its ecological worth – and potentially gain back its now mostly-gone original size – is a massive sand replenishment of the beach. Not only would it save – in the knick of time – the remaining vegetation but it would also, and instantly, offer new land for vegetation and wildlife to expand upon.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is some way-future scenario. It’s not. In fact, within the next couple/few years, it’ll all begin playing out. Mark my words.

BUGGYING ABOUT: I’ve had a couple e-mails asking about the driving conditions along the whole of LBI’s beachfront. Simply put: It hasn’t been this good in decades. It’s smooth and easy buggying from north to south, with only the Holgate Wilderness Area offering iffiness.

Admittedly, the recent hard, south winds left behind some very steep and dangerous cutaways caused by wave action. You can drive the dry sands above the drop-offs or hit the wet sands below then toward the ocean. You just want to avoid, at all cost, the sheer five-foot cliffs. You better know what you’re doing and where you’re heading if you drive the beaches at night. One slip and you can be going over the falls, so to speak.

RUNDOWN: As of this typing (Tuesday), nine bass and one bluefish have been entered into the LBI Surf Fishing Classic. Top striper is a 28.88, caught by Bob Vallone, LEHT. He caught his fish in Loveladies on a bunker chunk.

Striper things will soon be heating up like crazy. Get signed up ASAP. Tell them I sent you and you’ll get a nice Classic cap. You can thank me later.

I did want to make special mention of that somewhat startling, 16-pound slammer blue, now entered into the Classic by Randy Swartley, Manahawkin. It was taken in Surf City on a bunker chunk and weighed in at Surf City Bait and Tackle. Here’s the shop’s info:

“Congrats to Randy Swartley from Manahawkin weighing in a nice 16lb, 2-oz bluefish. Many were here to see the fish still jumping when it hit the scale, and then off for a quick release! NICE FISH!”

It is the lone blue weighed into the Classic, so far. It set the starter bar kinda high. But that’s just the type of chopper challenge the Classic seeks. Let’s get to work besting that beast of a blue.

For way more on fishing, go to www.jaymanntoday.ning.com.

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