Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Here a Rescue, There a Rescue;
Tack-sharp Chinese Poachers
I want all y’all to stop what you’re doing and issue a big round of applause for the job our police departments, rescue squads, fire departments and first-responders are doing this summer.
You can’t believe the insane number of (oft-insane) calls they’re getting. Many/most of those responders are volunteers. You gotta wonder when they get time for their jobs. Even our damn-decently-paid cops are earning their wages to the hilt.
Based on my Bearcat and Uniden scanners, I’ve sensed this season was turning into hell on wheels for emergency personnel. Then, I read where towns likes Beach Haven are on an all-time rescue and response roll.
Why such hectic rescue needs? Go ahead and say it: global warming. Personally, I prefer the far more cosmic: It’s just one a them-there summers -- and maybe some global warming.
A recently publicized scientific study on the world’s weather unabashedly accuses climate change for every sky thing known to man, including, torrential torrents of acidy rain, scorched middle earth (Midwest drought), wicked wind-age from all quarters, anvil-headed T-storms with lighting volts off the charts, hail the size of igloos, and multi-vortexed tornados -- each vortex vying for lead roles in the “Tornado Hunters” series. And that’s just in the “Foreword” of the study.
It might be better to nix the meteorological blame-game and just put on a survivalist game face. Short of astral projecting ourselves clean out of this solar system, there’s no sidestepping arriving apocalypto-weather. Therefore, just batten down the hatches, circle the wagons and tie the kids to coconut trees. It could get loud. Of course, being a bit of storm chaser, I’ll be watching with rapturous interest.
WATER, WATER (RESCUES) EVERYWHERE: A load of emergency calls have been water-logged. There were as many water rescues in the past week than we usually see in an entire summer, highlighted by the quite scary after-dark hunt for Sea-Doo riders, lost off bayside Barnegat Light on Sunday.
While most of us were serenely settled in watching the truly exceptional Olympics – I’ve found myself cheering wildly for Senegal, wherever the hell that is -- a dad and his son launched a red-colored PWC to zip out for some late-day kitesurfing near a small sedge island, popular with wind-sports folks. What they zipped into instead was the agitator cycle of a fierce cold-front storm thundering across the bay.
The first reports that the kiters were overdue returning home, triggered an army of rescue folks and equipment. Various agencies began to intensely hunt on land, sea and air.
And they hunted and hunted and hunted -- for hours on end. And those hours were on storm time, as one thunderstorm after another menaced the search zone. An arriving rescue chopper was really hung out to dry, so to speak. Lightning was constantly waiting in the wings. To put it mildly, choppers and lighting don’t mix.
The slew of regional water rescue teams was none too safe either. Employing specialized vessels, they remained on-scene even after the lightning forced the helo back to base.
Search things hit a low-point when the red Sea-doo was located -- but no father and son. That’s often a cataclysmically not-good thing.
I stayed scanned in on the action, while taking calls from folks watching the goings on from bayside homes. However, as it got well past midnight, I hit the hay for an arriving workday. I knew full well that virtually every rescuer out there also had work the next day. Did I mention those folks are dedication manifest?
I woke up pre-sunrise to read the couple had been found. To the supreme credit of the dad and son team, they had taken to a sedge to weather the storm.
Survival point: In most critical scenarios like this, if you’re safe -- even if only relatively so -- stay put. Nothing foils a rescue effort faster than having the rescuees simultaneously meandering all over the place.
THE BIG UNEASY: I got a work call from Surf City bayfront homeowners regarding a five-kid rescue they made late Saturday.
I was actually on-scene for the tail (and tale) of that rescue, as a multi-department gathering of emergency personnel members and assorted vehicles responded.
The story behind the incident had a bit of a Tom Sawyer ring to it. Do kids still read that stuff? Real bad influence.
Anyway, five kids vacationing in North Beach, ranging in age from 15 down to 10, pulled together their savings, literally ran to Surf City and bought a couple feeble, plasticy blow-up rafts. You know the ones: all color, virtually no floatation – an that little pillowy part near the front.
Prizes in hand, they then sorta spontaneously came up with an entry-level plan for their entry-level rafts. Enter bad-influences Huck and Tom. Instead of hoofing back to North Beach, they decided to instead hop into the bay in Surf City – two on one raft, three on another, sidesaddle. Their thinking: The gentle and kindly bay will usher them home – over a mile away. No PFDs or oars or flippers. Their only propulsion was dangling leg power – and five-kid-power confidence.
Mississippi-ish trouble struck quickly. While in the deepwater boating channel off 13th Street, the three-kid raft sorta escaped, as those slippery plastic devils are inclined to do. It then went windsurfing abit, getting gusted well away from the kids.
The flotationless kids began yelling -- not in panic, more in excitement. A nearby PWC’er zipped over, grabbed the rollickin’ raft and returned it to the three.
No sooner had the Good PWC’ing Samaritan buzzed off, than Christine F, a bayfront home owner watching from her deck, saw things once again slipping astray for the kids.
“We looked out and couldn’t believe it. They didn’t have on life jackets,” said Christine, who believes the boys had likely told the PWC’er they were fine. “They weren’t fine,” she added.
Her and her husband fired up their boat and headed out to check on the nonrapid rafters.
At the same time, other bayside residents eyed the odd raft train and immediately called the Surf City Police Department. Soon after, fire sirens activated and numerous emergency vehicles arrived on-scene.
When Christine and her husband reached the two rafts, the clearly floundering kids weren’t overly anxious to admit they needed help. (Now, that’s definitely a boy thing, even when a girl is also a-raft.)
“They might have thought they were fine. I think they were too embarrassed to ask for help,” said Christine. “We told them, ‘Guys, out gotta get in (the boat). Do you hear those sirens? Those are for you.’”
The kids were transferred to a police boat and safely deposited on a small piece of beach. An appropriate sprinkling of “Do you know how dangerous that was?” met them –and launched them on their now-walking ways.
I told Christine I would also put forth her concern that folks too often don’t realize how the dangers of the seemingly serene bay. She was preaching to my choir. Anyone who thinks the bay can’t kill should ponder the long list of those “Lost at Bay.” Maybe there’s not an official list but I know I’ve reported on at least a half dozen fatalities.
STRIPER LO MEIN MAN: I was inundated with emails about the Bridgeton Chinese Restaurant owner, Jian X. Shao, who was captured while poaching last week in the vicinity of Fortescue Creek Bridge. Division of Fish and Wildlife enforcement nailed him at night, as he and some friends were throwing cast nets for striped bass -- and doing quite well, thank-you very little.
Such bass netting is illegal in many ways, as Jian was about to find out – as if he didn’t already know.
The Fish and Wildlife raid caught him and his buddies with 11 undersized stripers and a cast net. His friends were freed when Jian took the fall. They were last seen, still running, up around Nantucket. (Not true.)
It didn’t take authorities long to figure Jian might just be using the fish at his Fuleen Meng Restaurant. Sure enough, a search there netted 77 undersized bass in the freezer.
All bass tolled, he faces fines of up to $19,000.
It'll be interesting to see if this Jian and other Chinese poachers will get the message. Very few culprits of a similar fish-poaching ilk have gotten the message –regardless of what language it arrives.
It’s well known, that these Chinese fishnabbers are sharp as Ginsu knives, using a mixed Asian metaphor. They've perfected the concept that it's easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
More apropos to this case, they have also mastered a subject fairly alien to Americans, something known as mathematics. As nearly as I can figure, that has to do with numbers. Jian knows full well that he has already made mounds of money via ill-begotten striper meat, sold in restaurant portions. The gain have easily exceeded capture compensatory coefficients, i.e fines. No abacus needed there. He couldn't care less about upcoming fine, he’ll make mincemeat out them – and sell it as a early bird special.
What’s more, to defend himself, Jian will actually nix any mention of his devious, nightlong acts of striper sniping. Instead, he’ll play on the guilt stings of the court by weepingly, yet powerfully, apologizing for having so horrifically dishonored himself and his family name -- to where he must now be forced to carry out a radical and terminal act upon himself, “As my culture has dictated for thousands of years.”
The poor-at-history judge will go to pieces over such a self-assigned, self-destructive penalty. “Now, now, Mr. Jian, please calm down. We’re only talking about some stinkin’ fish here. I see no reason to get all self-destructive. I see all your grandchildren starting to weep back there.”
His Honor will then go soft tofu on the poor, culture-burdened fellow, reducing his penalty to stripers already served.
(Get it? Restaurant manager. Stripers already served. Time already served? … I guess you have be there.)
Of course, back beyond the tearful kids in the back of the court, Jian’s entire family – including those rushed back from Nantucket – will be covertly exchanging low-fives, marveling over Jian’s performance – helped immensely by the fact the judge had no idea that it's actually the Japanese, not the Chinese, who commit hara-kiri and such.
Hell, Jian is already out there looking for another striper creek. I get caught doing something like that I’d soon be casting written messages between jail cells up at county.
ALLEGED LBI STINGRAY STING: I’m not sure what to make of the alleged stingray “sting” reported last week on LBI. I wish I had been there. I could tell in an instant if it was a bona fide ray sting (very unlikely) or just one of the hundreds of random pokes you can get when splashing around in the swash, especially with pieces of horseshow crabs bouncing about in the mix.
With a ray sting, there is, firstly, a distinct red impact/insertion point, quickly followed by an expanding pink/red inflammation zone, half-dollar size and sometimes larger. Then comes the onset of pain, which can sometimes be a bit delayed, though it usually comes on pretty quickly, beginning in a few minutes, and intensifying rapidly. The escalating pain is capable of sending even a tough guy running to his mommy.
Personally, I have seen -- and felt -- cases where the worst pain from a sting can be sorta time-released. I found that out after once taking a poke and soon thereafter offering the most unadvised words anyone should speak after getting poked, bitten, stabbed or stung: “Hmmm, this is not that bad.” Wanna bet, dude?
By the by, I have never seen a ray sting just “clear up” after a poke incident. If a poke gets better fast, it t’weren’t no ray.
It is truly rare to accidentally bump into, much less step on, a ray. I’ve gone out amid thousands of cownose rays and tried my hardest to simply touch one. Fat chance. They are so frickin’ fast and elusive.
That said, all this warm water could have attracted any number of ray species to our wave region, including those not as inclined to school. Loner species are more likely to hold their bottom ground -- and possibly be bumped or stepped on.
RUNDOWN: Weakfishing remains on a hotness roll. I have had no trouble attracting them after dark, throwing spinners or jigging small clear plastic off bayside street end.
Thanks for the reports that many legally caught weakfish seem spawn-ready. And believe me, the one-a-day take is not putting even a chink in the biomass we now have out there. One captain said he simply loses track of how many weakies are taken and released on his boat, while chumming.
Fluking also keep rolling on. It sure seems the bay action for flatties has gone a tad flat, though there are countless small ones for those who know the right spots. The ocean drifting for fluke is good but finding those just-right days – weather- and wind-wise – is always tough.
Angling for small stripers in the surf and near inlets is improving but our near 80-degree surfline waters repel bigger bass – though every now and again a hoist-worthy model hits shop scales, most often going for bait chunks.
Kids and un-picky surfcasters are still finding kingfish in the suds, particularly south end.
More and more of those bizarre-looking smooth puffer fish. These are often three times the size of our standard northern puffere/blowfish.
Weird crabbing tale: Kids throwing twine lift-up crab nets bayside had one of their nets utterly ravaged by something astoundingly toothy. Kinda easy to guess what it was. It ripped away the trap’s bait bunker -- and tore the net up real good.
Imagine lazily standing around crabbing, passing idle time between pull-ins, and suddenly look over to see the tie-line attached to a crab trap – and wrapped around a bulkhead -- suddenly go straight out and straining to busting point? Uh, fish on! (Thanks for that tale, Len.)
BLUEFISH FEARS: Once again, LBI lifeguards pulled swimmers out of the water –Loveladies area – because bunker pods haad been driven onshore.
The guards figured it was bluefish on the butts of the bunker, even though dozens and dozens of dolphin were also in the mix.
I’ll bet the dolphin caused entire fuss -- though, admittedly, bluefish is a dolphin favorite, while bunker are so-so at best. As for blues being thereabouts, if they were they were not thinking about biting but about being bit. But, hey, as a former guard, it gets real boring sitting the planks. Anything that shortens the day, especially via a push of excitement, is well worth the effort.
FLUKE FINDING 101: As has always been the case, bigger fluke seem to run in bundles, so to speak. Loads of fluking reports talk of repeated drifts offering only small stuff when a veritable burst of keepers show up.
That hot-stretch phenomena is why all serious flukers keep drop markers near at hand, ready to be thrown overboard to mark keeper-heavy drifts.
Growing up, our markers were quart-sized Clorox bottles -- with maybe 20 feet of waxed twine attached to it and weighed down with a lead decoy weight. It was high-viz and marked the hot spots perfectly. Back then we weren’t thinking in terms of recycling and repurposing common household items, but in retrospect …
There are now a slew of hotsy-totsy markers, thanks to enterprising folks wanting to thicken the pages of Cabela’s Saltwater Catalogue.
Though the clouds of spot croakers aren’t as pronounced. Still, they could be a baitfish factor as serious striper times draw closer.
I got an email asking about the potential of hooking a spot, switching to larger gear and chucking it out to live-line. No doubt, if there is a bass within a half-mile (slight exaggeration), a live-lined spot will draw it in. Unfortunately, we’re not overrun with half-mile bass right about now.
However, for folks who have advanced beyond small fluke and want to go doormat hunting, try livelining smaller spot along the bottom. Use the same rigging as you would a squid/minnie rig but nix the curved hook for something like a gold 2/0 beak. Also, add a bit more lead, cushions or bank sinkers. You might want to think about steel leader since bigger sharks will not pass on even a small distressed spot.
I have a half a dozen reports of small brown (sandbar) sharks, some to 50 pounds, taken from the beach. However, I’ve also gotten some legit reports of larger sharks in the mix, pushing well over 100 -- and in one break-off instance a shark was estimated to be pushing toward 200 pounds. That break-off was likely not being a brown. The state record for brown shark is 168.8 and was taken off LE Inlet in 1987.
Dusky sharks, which come right into the suds, can exceed 500 pounds. The state record dusky is 530 pounds, caught off Atlantic County in 1987.