Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report


A Lot to Crow About;

Defertilization Times



A CROW GROWS IN SHIP BOTTOM: Nature-wise, we’ve got a lot to crow about, as in crows by the murder-ful. A flock of crows is called a murder. 

While I have a mere five decades under my Island belt, I’ve never seen so much crow activity soaring about the Island. If you keep your ears and eyes open , you can’t miss them. they’re not shy about sounding off with high-profile in-flight calls. They’re as raucous as the reputations that precede them.

Considered one of the brainier birds out here, when landed and talkative, crows can loose an anthology of weirder sounds, often sounds unique to their home territory. Since they’re quite good at imitation, a crow idly sitting atop a utility pole can spurt out some bizarre interpretations of what it’s hearing in the hood.

Don’t mistake our LBI crows as your everyday cornfield variety, a.k.a. American crows, cursed by farmers and gardeners in unison. Ours are technically fish crows, carefully constructed by nature to handle our coarser coastal living. Interestingly, fish crows are DNA-tied to Mexican varieties of crows, namely Sinaloa and Tamaulipas crows. That might be why it’s hard to understand their sounds.

While visually identical to nuisance-oriented American crows, fish crows have a very different primary vocalization, a far cry from the cantankerous  “caws” of mainlander crows. It’s a somewhat nasal-ish honking sound.  

Fish crows are particularly well suited to hopping along the wrack line on the beach, competing with gulls for stranded goodies. At the same time, they’re not opposed to cleaning up the garbage can leftovers from gallivanting gulls. 

Speaking of that gull/crow interplay, these two species, in an oddly symbolic battle of black and white, often go at it, beak and nail. Somewhere in my photo archives, I have an amazing shot of a crow and herring gull, perched on an electric wire in Ship Bottom, and going at it as if one of them had just called the other’s mother “a hummingbird’s butt.” Yes, that a horrible insult among birds. The two held their places on that wire for a solid three minutes, screaming at the tops of their lungs, right in each and other’s face. The funniest part was at the end of the squawk-off, they both turned their backs and very ungracefully tried walk off along the wobbly wire. During their protracted confrontation, other gulls and crows had begun to circle above, as if armying up.

RUNDOWN: I was sure this week’s column would be fish heavy with hooking news, since there are bass, flounder, black drum, perch and possibly bluefish in the house – mainly the bay house. Instead, that potentially publishable action was blown away. Gales have abounded of late. 

To measure the gusts, I want to use some of the most unscientific wind gauges ever publicized – but I stand by them.

My east-facing bedroom window, blocked by a two-story neighboring home, used to shake and rattle maybe once a year, during that one worst-of-season storm. Since January, that study window hasn’t quieted down for more than few days before commencin’ to rockin’.

As I’ve written in prior blogs, the US Weather Service keeps no record of wind-age, per se. It can keep track of its issuances of “small craft advisories” and “gale warnings” but there is no specificity. Nothing is notched regarding the number of days during which 50 mph gusts were recorded.

Amazingly, so far in 2011, I’m up to 12 different weather systems that have garnered gusts above 45 mph. The total number of days seeing winds that hard is much higher, since some wind events lasted for days.

Probably the most unscientific gauge of recurring winds comes via a fellow who, since January, has already blown through two of his outside American flags. “I sometimes get through an entire year on just one flags. We’re only to spring and my second one this year is already getting tattered,” he told me. 

Not only are the winds making it tough to get in some relaxed spring fishing time, they are also chewing up the beaches. Within the past 10 days, howling northeasterlies have been followed by equally honking southerlies, with some serious eat-and-run easterlies mixed in. The beach sands are getting dizzy, before getting current-carried to wherever all our lost sand goes -- most likely off the Holgate end and out to the shoals off Little Egg Inlet. There is now enough sand out there to export to Dubai.

Despite the stubbornness of the winds, I stand by my somewhat scientific prediction that we’ll be seeing low-wind, scalding hot summer. That’s based on the northern jet stream moving far northward, while the southern air currents stay significantly south, leaving us in a no man’s land. Such static air leads to stifling air temps – and ocean water heating to above 80. You heard it here first.

DE-FERTILIZING BARNEGAT BAY: I heard a question regarding our region’s new trend-setting fertilizer ordinances, banning the use of all but a few varieties of low-impact growth-enhancing materials. An eco-minded gal was wondering how fast the benefits of dramatically lessened fertilizer usage would trickle down to the benefit of Barnegat Bay.

That’s one of those overloaded question.

Firstly, there is decades’ worth of damage to undo – if it can, in fact, be undone.

Decades of nitrogen buildup have led to ecological imbalances (sea nettle explosions) and algae blooms in the Barnegat Bay Estuary System, which includes Manahawkin and Little Egg Harbor. Over nitrification has led to serious eutrophication.


Out of the many definitions of eutrophication, my BNF, Wikipedia, has one of the best :  Eutrophication is the addition of artificial or natural substances, such as nitrates and phosphates, through fertilizers or sewerage, to an aquatic system. In other terms, it is the "bloom" or great increase of phytoplankton in a water body. Negative environmental effects include hypoxia,  the depletion of oxygen in the water, which induces reductions in specific fish and other animal populations.

One thing Wiki’s definition misses is the impacts of petroleum byproducts as a “bloom” enhancer. Unbeknownst to many, oil products, even when refined, are highly organic. Obviously, we have no shortage of petroleum byproducts being washed off the highways and byways.

The amount of bay-bound crud arriving on the wheels of summer tourism is incalculable. It’s an ugly leave-behind that isn’t factored into the cost of doing business hereabouts.

Obviously, there is also the year-round oily ugliness of buildout in Ocean County. That alone is a burden for Barnegat Bay to bare all on its own.

Currently, there’s nary a penny being spent to ease the hurt that tourism annually places on the Barnegat Bay Estuary System, even though the death of the bay could end tourism – the state’s Number One hirer.

Emerging science is forwarding water purification techniques like water purification via filter-feeding bivalves, including clams, mussels and oysters. Placing huge numbers of corralled (or even free-range) bivalves into the bay for the summer season could fully filter even seasonally stressed waters. 

Communities along the Barnegat Bay Estuary System should align to seek federal, state and local funding to work on ways to fight the ongoing human damage. Yes, it’s a itch getting funding but in cases where the bottom lines, i.e. jobs and taxes, are impacts, money can be gotten, especially through D.C. For now, it helps to get involved with ReClam the Bay, see www.reclamthebay.org.

I realize this doesn’t quite hit the question about the de-fertilization of the bay, but it touches on the furthest reaches of truly trying to save the bay.

ROGUE, TSUNAMI OR WHAT?: And email questioner asked, in far more words, is a tsunami and a rogue wave the same thing?

Not even remotely. In fact, they’re kinda opposites when it comes to how mariners run into them. 

As is oft noted in this column, a tsunami is created by geological upheavals, leading to water displacement and an accompanying generation of what is, in essence, a fast-moving change in sea level.

Tsunamis are barely discernable as they travel through the ocean – sometimes at over 300 miles per hour. They only make their lethal presence known when they impact shorelines.

During both the Indonesian and Japanese tsunamis, vessels only a few miles from shore didn’t even realize a series of calamitous tsunami waves had passed beneath them. In fact, there are astounding stories from Japan of coastal shipping companies needing to all but instantly decide which of their vessels to save in the face of the approaching tsunamis.

One of the more terrifying scenes in the disturbingly vivid NatGeo special “Witness: Disaster in Japan,” involved a larger vessel that had tried to make a run for the open ocean. Bad move. Deadly move. It instead got caught right in the tsunami impact zone. Footage shows it miraculously clearing the first monster wave. You can’t help but get this sense of cheer-worthy relief – and begin feeling very attached to the crew, “Deadliest Catch”-style. Then, pretty much at the same time as those on the vessel, you see these absolute mountains of un-survivable water bearing down on the ship, dwarfing the first wave in size. Be it by editing or an end to the videographer’s bravery in the face of the arriving waves, the scene ends with the fully crippled craft just sitting there, doomed. By the by, that NatGeo episode get re-aired and is also available on iTunes.

A rogue wave is dead opposite of a tsunami, speaking nautically. Whereas a tsunami is caused by a single geological event and is indiscernible on the open ocean, rogue waves only strike out at sea and have a mishmash of causative factors. No true rogue wave ever reaches the beach. In fact, studies now indicate rogue waves may be very short-lived, lasting less than a minute in some instances. 


As to what causes a rogue wave, scientists are now battling it out, bandying about concepts like the liner or nonlinear interaction between waves at sea. There is even nasty debate on “random superposition” versus “bad lenses.” Go figure.

What is coming out of fairly frantic research is a growing certainty that these killer hull-busting, ship-sinking horrors are much more common than originally thought. This is not the best of news for mariners.

Not surprisingly, open ocean areas already a-stir with wild storms or crazed winds have a far greater chance of going rogue. What’s more, certain sea zones known for intrinsically strong currents apparently pop out more rogue waves. All this points to the collision and/or combining of waves as being the cause of rouge wave.

If you want to get immersed in the subject, begin by brushing up on the Schrödinger equation, then study the applied physics behind random superposition involving two Gaussian  waves as opposed to two sinusoidal waves. No, not two suicidal waves? Oh, forget about it.

If you’re not hip on the frantic physics enrobing rogue waves, you can create your very own rogue, albeit in the simplest of terms. I’m serious. Take your pickup truck, place a 50-gallon cooler in the back, lid open. Fill the cooler half way with water. Now, drive along a bumpy road or the beach. Videotape the cooler.

On layback, you’ll first see highly aggravated water in the form of multiple waves being formed by bumps. They begin bouncing off the sides of the cooler -- and back again. Watching the splashy goings on, every now and again you’ll see a super slosh. Way higher than all the others.

Even though we’re at kindergarten-level experimenting, world-class planetary physics are working, the same as if a-play out on the open ocean. Wave energies, known as amplitudes, have combined to hike a small section of water sky-high. By many theories, that cooler super-slosh is a downsized version of a rogue wave.

Finally, there is no chance of a rogue wave hitting the beach, like a tsunami.  There are likely thousands of rogue waves -- maybe tens of thousands -- per year. Remember, that peak point is often achieved for less than a couple minute, possibly only a matter of seconds. It's only when a vessel or the likes of an oil rig is at that exact flash point, as it were, that the rogue wave is experienced. Hell, there are probably ocean birds, like gannets, that have seen rogue waves form and dissipate with regularity. 

I'll add a novice opinion by saying that it is rarer -- though far from imposable -- that a rogue wave will form under calm conditions. Sure, folks will tell stories of a night as clam as it gets and a wave busting out windows on a huge ship. That tells me there are current sin play, yet another seeming stimulus for rogue wave development. It's actually simpler to see the rogue wave potential when water going one way hits water going another. In the open ocean, an opposing current works very much like bottom resistance does, as with a sandbar or reef. The energy of a moving wave has its circular dynamic interrupted, leading to the famed jack-up effect as when a wave hits a reef. Add to that the opposing current filling space, not only does the wave rise as it hits resistance but the lifting of the current being over washed has the potential to double or triple the size of a wave that is already jacking up. There's an explosion a collision and things back off rapidly as the wave expends its energy and the apex of the colliding currents backs off. Yes, zones where the current meet is a veritable garden for growing rogue waves. This is now being seen as certain oceanic areas are so prone to rogue waves that shipping lanes steer around them

RADIOACTIVE EMAIL: I had an email question regarding radioactive fish. Seriously. It reflected one of those trickle-down fears when disasters like Fukushima occur.

Hypothetically melting down our Oyster Creek Generating Station, the writer wanted to know if, in a meltdown aftermath, you could remove radioactivity through cooking affected fish or seafood.

I saw the PCB logic leaking in. There are, in fact, some heavy metals and ugly things, known as persistent organic pollutants (PCB, DDT, dioxins), that get into the fat of fish and can be cooked off, to some degree.

Adding to the confusion is the practice of irradiated foods, which are bombarded with ionizing radiation meant to mangle the DNA of organic food spoilers, like bacteria. Yes, it’s odd that the public dreads the thought of radioactive material sneaking into the food system, while companies actually bombard pure foodstuffs with radiation.

Mark my glowing words, there is no way to cook off the likes of Cessium-137 within effected meats or seafood. As for such radiation arriving from Japan, our FDA is currently better equipped to test meat and fish for radiation than they are for pathogens, including some deadly bacteria. Feel safe.

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