Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Hubbub Over Shark Handling;
Sand Tigers Make Lousy Moms
Boy, was that some seriously superb weather. For those who might be reading this in the distant future, I’m hoping that crystal clear, mild summer days are still around in your globally-warmed world.
I could do without those touches of fall in our early-August night air. Such coolness sparks that odd primordial stir inside of us, as if we have to already start gathering nuts and bolts for the winter.
Closer to fishing, the very cool nights stirred the bay. The inlet areas are chock full of small seabass, blowfish, snappers and other musterers, feeling the first migratory urges welling up. But they won’t be going far. Far larger migratory triggers are still a goodly way off. They’ll include much shorter days, greater sun angle and a steadier chilliness.
That said, I’m betting we’re still going to see some swelteringness before mullet begin to fly south. See “Rundown” below for more on panfish bonanzas.
BUGS BE GONE: For those tapping into the less-than-sizzling stretch of weather by hitting the outback, I stand by my summer-long observation that the tick count is astoundingly low in many naturally wooded areas. I can’t attest to your shrubberyed backyards or recently clear-cut areas, which are always tick bombs in the making. The Pinelands themselves just aren’t tick-thick this summer.
I’ve also been told that, inexplicably, the flea count is way down on the pet front. I might understand that in flood areas, where new rugs (and their chemical oozings) aren’t flea-friendly, however, I have friends deep in the woods who also say the fleaness is fabulously low. Go figure.
SAND STRATEGY: The famed Currituck hopper-dredger, under the employ of the Army Corps, is deepening the deeply-troubled channel off Toe Island, Little Egg Inlet. Transiting was getting touch-and-go for mariners trying to negotiate the markers thereabouts.
What makes this Curritucking interesting is the dredged sand – clean as a sandy whistle, by the way -- is being painstakingly transported down to the ocean sandbars just off Spray Beach/North Beach Haven. It’s an effort to get at least some material into that troubled nearshore beach system. It sure can’t hurt, though it would have done a ton of good if it was placed off the far-closer Holgate beachfront.
TOUCHY SHARK SITUATION: I’ll quickly touch on the suddenly famous (alleged) shark abuse case against lifeguards in Surf City. Borough guards were seen and videotaped manually hauling off, in something of a fun fashion, what they assumed to be a doomed brown shark. The fish had repeatedly washed ashore, per the guards.
A “Letter to the Editor” in The SandPaper sparked a watery firestorm of public indignation – and oddly aggressive allegations of shark tormenting. We’ve come a long way since “Jaws” days.
The fact the shark kept beaching itself sounds symptomatic of a recently caught fish that was likely dying of internal injuries sustained while being unhooked. I’ve oft noted that simply hauling a hooked shark onto the beach or into a boat can lead to bodily gyrations that burst the fish’s bladder or loose metal-dissolving stomach acids, releasing utterly deadly fluids into the fish’s system.
(Below: Now here's some frickin' shark abuse ...
In this lifeguard v. shark instance, I’ll admit I’m sorta heartened to see the public’s incensed response favoring sharks. However, I’ll show my former lifeguard colors here by vehemently defending the guards for simply not knowing how to handle the circumstance. What does one do when a possibly doomed shark repeatedly beaches itself? There’s no manual for that.
Now, allow me to gush proudly. Our Island guards are utterly exceptional at what they do, namely, saving lives and maintaining a secure beachgoing environment. We’ve never had a single drowning on a guarded LBI beach. The ongoing lifeguard races highlight their sheer physical talents.
I just can’t fathom casting derision on the entire lifeguarding community – or even the shark-mishandling guards, in particular – because of a single case of shark mismanagement. If you must, bemoan that isolated instant of arguably poor judgment but realize that, at the drop of a hat, it might very well be your spouse or child who gets rescued by those same guards. The ironic part is how it’s almost always a mishandling of a swimming situation by a bather that demands the guards’ lifesaving response.
In objectivity, I do have to lower the legal boom -- one that Island lifeguards should consider for the remainder of this highly sharky summer. It is illegal – by federal and state regs and laws – to remove a shark from the water, even a semi-dead one. Short of smaller dogfish (a tiny shark), nearly all larger sharks are highly protected. While it seemingly doesn’t make sense to repeatedly throw a deceased shark back into the sea, in theory it will eventually sink and be eaten by scavengers. That keeps the meat, so to speak, in the ecosystem.
For looks at keepable sharks:
SHARKS IN THE SUDS: Surfcasters have done more than Robert Shaw to bring the men in grey suits into the spotlight.
I have gotten two dozen emails and Facebooks regarding large sharks being reeled out of the surf before the very eyes of the folks who had just been swimming in nearby waters.
Each and every surfside shark landing solicits an instant, people-running-to-see public response that sets otherwise lonely and sequestered surfcasters on a “Wow!” pedestal.
The sharkisimo of the casters all but oozes from the dozens of he-man photos I’ve received of casters exultantly posing with their “deadly” catches, a look reminiscent of Hemmingway standing with a rhino kill in darkest Africa.
And for a sharkcaster’s coupe de grace, he manfully unhooks the crowd-stopping beast and nonchalantly releases it back into the water.
Gospel truth: Half a dozen shark-releasing anglers have fielded genuinely angry rebukes from the gathered peanut gallery. They’re being accused of freeing a “man-eater” back into their swimming grounds. Being good, sleep-deprived fishermen, some casters are responding with a good-natured flourish of obscenities, occasionally accompanied by the bandying about of filet knives. I’m not serious. At most, they’re brandishing bait-cutting knives.
Those beachside Jaws-era sharkaphobes who wanted the landed sharks brutalized are clueless to the fact that brown sharks haven’t wontedly bitten a bathing human, ever. On the other bloodied hand, many a terrified brown shark has, understandably, swung around and bitten the hand that just caught it – and is carelessly groping around to dehook their capture. We’ve had too many on-beach and in-boat brown shark bites to count.
KINDLY UGLY-ASS SHARK: There is one species of shark now being caught that even sharkaphiles rear away from. It’s called the sand tiger. It’s huge and unembellished with teeth almost ridiculously fearsome.
This leads into this segment from my www.jaymanntoday.ning.com where I addressed the following capitalized email blog.
"HUGE SHARK SIGHTED AT THE SEA SHELL AREA OF LBI- 10 WITNESSES SEEN THIS HUGE SHARK- 10FT OR BIGGER WITH BRIGHT WHITE LOWER HALF AND HUGE TEETH; NOT A BROWN, DUSKY OR THRESHER MAYBE TIGER SHARK BUT JUST GUESSING.”
My response: It is neigh impossible to even remotely ID a shark anecdotally. I accept the size interpretation of this blog. Size guesses, when averaged out, are sometimes sorta accurate, minus a foot or two. But, who was actually close enough to see the teeth?
The sand tiger shark -- not related to the man-eating tiger shark -- is very mellow yet displays quite possibly the most ferocious-looking teeth in the entire shark realm. A mature model has savagely jagged teeth stickin’ out all over the place, some even outside it lips, pointing upwards and sideways. If I had been an in-water witness to a Beach Haven sand tiger, the ER folks would just now be pondering removing the IVs from my arm after my heart stoppage.
We have huge sand tiger sharks right flush to the beach but they simply present no danger, short of knocking people out with just a smile. Of course, you toy with it in a “Messin’ with Sasquatch” manner (poking at it) and it won’t hesitate to swing around and make squid meat out of you.
You might recall a fairly large sand tiger being caught by an angler in Atlantic City a couple years back. A couple way more recent sand tiger sightings are closer to home. David Leonetti said, “Had one on, 200 plus, two weeks ago off the dock.” Dave Hershberger wrote, “My buddy landed a 7 foot sand tiger off the beach last night (Saturday).”
FREAKY DEAKY SHARK: The sand tiger is one bizarre-ass shark. And I say that in all due respect, mind you. I picture a copy of this column getting blown into the water and a shiver of sand tigers commence to reading it. “Yo, Gasher, check out what this numbnuts Jay Mann wrote about us. Yeah, that’s the same guy we see kickin’ around in the water off Ship Bottom. Hey, I’m as mellow as the next shark but this pisses me off! Let’s go pay him a visit.”
Closer to actuality, sand tigers are the only shark that comes to the surface to gulp air, which it swallows -- allowing it to hang suspended within the water column, adjusting to where it can comfortably forage. This frequent surfacing is what places it high on the list of “Look at that fin!” beachgoer moments.
But the bizarreness turns pitiless when it comes to sand tigers bearing young.
What a sand tiger lacks in viciousness on the outside, it makes up for in the world’s most ferocious womb.
A pregnant sand tiger holds her live young inside -- within, essentially, a swim-about holding-tank. The little ones, called pups, cruise around having a good old time -- until they get hungry. Within the uterine playground, pups vie for power and sustenance. We’re not talking roly-poly wrestling matches, like playful dog pups at a food dish. The in utero babies begin dining upon each other. Gospel truth. It’s called intrauterine cannibalism. “I think I’ll try Johnny out for supper.” That’s nasty!
What comes out in the birthing end are a couple well-fed, alpha sand tiger pups – either feeling very good about themselves or in need of immediate psychotherapy. Or might it be: What happens in the womb stays in the womb?
"So, you and your brother were the only kids your mom had?”
"Uh, sure, that’s not a bad way of puttin’ it.”
But, if you think about this internal sorting out process, it shows why sharks like this have been around longer than commercials. Say the pups were popped out early, before the insider pre-sorting takes place. The odds are at least 80 percent will be fast food for predators. Allowing the pups to self-prey, the same 20 percent survive but they're kick-ass qualified to board the survival train.
STRANDED STRANDING CENTER: I’m not sure how to get this rally started but I was stunned to hear that Bob Schoelkopf and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center is so strapped for funds that they’re down to one decrepit emergency van -- that has broken down twice in the past week.
This group is as close as it comes to pure dedication to the ocean and its denizens. What’s more, they’ve never been busier at saving and recovering stranded marine mammals.
While they successfully nurse sick or injured animals back to health, they also have to investigate DOA marine mammals. That unsavory aspect of their work is vital to saving other animals – and protecting the public.
You and I would be the first to scream bloody murder if the likes of dolphins and seals slowly died on the beach, but who do you think will come running to help if the Stranding Center is dead in its van tracks?
I know many/most organizations are strapped for funds but I wonder if we could rally to help the MMSC, maybe find a local dealership that might help the cause by tracking down the needed vehicle – at cost, of course.
RUNDOWN: As indicated above, sharking has gone other-dimensional. We’re not just talking larger brown (sandbar) sharks but also sharks in sheer numberfulness. I had one surfside angler lose count of his take of sandbar (brown) sharks to 50 pounds.
To fish for these shoreline brutes, you don’t have to go gonzo with gear. Sure, it’ll help to have heavy-hitting tackle should a massive marauder, pushing 100 pounds, come along but even medium saltwater gear will win over most browns. In Fact, the lighter the gear the more fun. I will note that far more serious shark species are fully in the shoreline and boat mix, particularly the aforementioned sand tiger. Unlike browns, which hang near the shore when immature, full-bloen sand tigers come within easy casting distance of the beach, though they prefer hanging just past the sandbar. When there are no sandbars due to replenishment, those big buggers will sidle up to the beach.
Sharking trick: Rig moderate to heavy gear and use a couple/few whole smaller squid on a single hook, or, rig a whole trolling squid. Don’t skin. Sand tigers love this meal. However, a big-ass bass happening into the neighborhood won’t let it sit there very long.
It helps to get such a shark offering out a goodly ways. Despite the hubbub over close-in sharks of late, I think folks are exclusively seeing wounded sharks in the wash. Browns, duskies, sand tiger aren’t overly wild about skirting the swash. Just one shark snubs that theory: the notorious bull shark. They’ll come into fin-deep water when hungry.
On to smaller things, I stopped by the super-fun, often underutilized Barnegat Light fishing pier, west of the parking area at Andy’s at the Light. I’m not talking about the famed jetty rock fishing of BL State Park.
BL borough’s fishing pier is close to 200 feet of railed, waterside walkway that offers serious fishing. Unlike Morrison’s, the fish at this pier can run large, though it also offers panfish galore. It requires a net. Currently, fluking using just-caught snappers as bait is popular.
I have to think that bayside panfishing in Beach Haven (Morrison’s area bulkhead) will soon explode, as in right now. Check tackle shops to gear up for that neighborly fishing experience. Tip: Use small snapper bluefish as bait for larger fluke. Use heavier gear if you go that flattie route off the bulkhead. Also, you will need a net for larger fish, including occasional large weakfish. The channel just west of Morrison’s holds tiderunner sparklers.
When fishing small, please make sure you know what fish species have size limits, i.e. most of them.
Note: All black seabass are off-limits from August 9 through Sept. 26. I bring that up since the bay is absolutely loaded with small seabass.
My night weakies have seemingly flown the coop. Oddly, I had something huge explode on a small mirror-finish surface plug I was using, around midnight. I can only guess it was a major weakie, or, maybe, a huge houndfish that took a liking to my offering. It hit so close in it scared the crap out of me, especially coming after 25 absolutely non-productive casts. Not a peep afterward, even though I emptied the entire tackle box toward the attack spot. I hate that. At least give me a quick look-see at what it was.
Pop’s Pride and numerous other charters and headboats are tapping into the greatest blowfish showing since the 1960s blowfish debacle. Capt. Koegler’s fares were bringing in puffers by the dozens, drawn in by copious amounts of chum.
PUFFER CLEANING POINTS: I’m of the old “nail” method of cleaning blowfish. We’d sometimes clean literally hundreds a day back in the BBQ days. The trick is to slice a blowfish straight down behind the head, but not through the belly skin. Then, hook the top skin of the tail end on a sturdy nail, driven into a piece of wood or atop a low piling. Using the head-in-hand to pull, abruptly yank the head backwards. The super tough skin separates from the tail piece and out pops a perfect filet, a bit akin to large shrimp in shape.
However, the folks at Garbagefish.com have made a helpful blowfish fileting primer video, using one of their grabbers to hold the topside tail skin. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGe316PYjtg, or use YouTube keywords, “blowfish cleaning.”
Kingfish are out there but not majorly. Of course, ten years back we didn’t have any even though the fishery was huge in the 1960s. They can still be targeted in the surf and will become even more so as they begin school up for the fall migration, which runs fairly late (into October) when compared to blowfish, which will bolt pretty much overnight come late august.
Spot are spotty but on fire if you’re spot-on. Double-header hooking can be found in the surf and near inlets. Cook whole for a very tasty meat. No fair cast-netting them. Then, again ...