Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

This’ll be yet another fishing-heavy column, as a column titled the “Fish Story” should be – sometimes.

On a whole, the fall fishing is doing fine – not exceptional or intense but a very fine degree of fineness. Both blues and bass are showing with regularity, the bass with far greater regularity.

The average sizes of both species remain below recent years, while the fun-hooking factor is definitely above average for both LBI Surf Fishing Classic participants and those less competitive folks just out there lovin’ this also-fine fall.

Weekend beaches and boat launches continue to be packed. There certainly are some fishin’ fools out there. That’s a good thing, in an old-fashioned way.

When boat conditions are ripe, the takes have been very good to downright excellent, especially for folks trolling stretches and, less often, umbrellas.

Headboats have had insane striper sessions; though I’m not wild about the way some mates are gaffing fish and then determining if they’re keepable.

Surfcasting has been swell – often in spite of the swells. Driving the beach for quick stops-and-talks, I’ve come across an unusually high percentage of both successful and satisfied anglers. “It’s been a great fall,” offered a Brant Beach walk-on. “I’ve gotten a couple bass and the weather has been real nice. I sure can’t complain – as long as my boss doesn’t find out.”

And he couldn’t complain that particular day, with the rack of real nice legal bass, being pulled out of the sand by gulls that had unburied it. The fillets once attached to the fish were in a cooler back at his parked car. Smart move.

That brings up a quick question I was asked by an angler who had recently begun eating his catch. His new wife is a “world-class cook.” He wondered if bass should be bled the way bluefish should be?


Bass are an unusually clean-fleshed fish. OK, so that’s not sciencey at all but it still holds true. Not only is its flesh low in oils but also it is very resistant to quick decay (being low in histamines). For that reason, it stores well in the fridge. It also freezes great.

As to that bleeding thing, there is no need whatsoever. However, as the fellow on the beach knew, it is always ideal to clean a fish as quickly as possible after catching. Admittedly, a striper can lie around for hours before filleting and still be excellent eating.

Back to those bluefish, their fillets improve in tastefulness by being left on a fish that is being bled, though bleeding only lasts for maybe an hour, tops. Even when bled white, bluefish meat does not store well.

Back to fall fishing. Bluefish are still in the system but remain seemingly uncommitted to making a huge fall showing – a real letdown for the many folks who savor historic fall bluefish blitzes, myself being one of them. My tackle box of battered and bruised “bluefish blitz plugs” is idly sitting in my truck awaiting its day in the sun. Maybe next fall.

The 2011 Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic is rolling on in fine fashion. There are spurty weigh-in days, when the hooking is intense, accompanied by those typical slow-go days. There have been no skunk days since the very start of the 8-week contest – and most daily, weekly and segment winners are being decided by mere ounces. It’s as competitive a tourney as we’ve seen in decades.

COLLOSAL SHRIMP ATTACK: Huge Asian tiger shrimp are attacking. Eeeks. Or should I say “yum.”

Shrimpers just to our south have begun netting these decidedly foreign-tongued crustaceans, in numbers high enough to indicate an invasion is at hand.

Ostensibly, no good can come of this. It’s an ecological misbalancing thing.

That said, there may be the littlest bit of good covertly sneaking in from having some of the best-tasting and humongous-est shrimp in the world right on our oceanic doorsteps – just begging to be boiled, for being so invasively arrogant, mind you.

Still, this decidedly culinary sidebar to the creature’s invasiveness offers no scientific justification to allowing them to take over – though it would then be appropriately altruistic to rid ourselves of the species by boiling them in a Chesapeake Bay seasoning, then touching their fat juicy tails with tender dabs of cocktail sauce. I like when bay leaves and big, unground pepper pellets are also in the mix.

But stop! Perish the thought that we allow enough of these intruders to remain at sea to then lay kazillions of eggs, thusly increasing our nobless oblige to painstakingly down not dozens but hundreds of colossal steaming fresh shrimp on end – likely requiring us to somehow track down those huge, vintage, extra-large spatter-ware pots to hold all …

Where the hell was I going before I started dribbling all over myself? Oh, that’s right: No good can come of this Asian tiger shrimp invasion.

HEREANDTHERE: This month’s euphuism award goes to NOAA. It has declared the recent insidious death of numerous seals in New England waters an “Unusual Mortality Event.” Whew, here I was worried it might have been a die-off.

Just imagine that expression coming into common usage: “Your honor, I object to my client being called a ‘mass murderer’ when he is clearly nothing more than the source of an unusual mortality event.”

Anyway, the official declaration of an unusual dead seal event allows the federal government to send out additional resources, a.k.a. an “unusual monetary event.” This will speed up investigations into the cause of these seal deaths.

It is spooky. So far, there have been 146 seal strandings reported in Maine, New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts recorded from Sept. 1 to Nov. 3. Other DOA seals have been found since that data timeframe. No guessing why. It’s once again the proverbial: “They’re healthy as all get-out – with the exception of being quite dead.”

This Unusual Mortality Event could impact us in a small way, as we await the arrival of overwintering harbor seals, commonly seen off Holgate. We could see fewer arriving, or they could arrive all happy and healthy, albeit dead.

BUY SMALL: Maybe you’ve heard of “small business Saturday,” happening this coming weekend. It is the second year of the effort to get you, me and the other guy to dedicate a goodly slice of our early holiday dollarage to Ma and Pa shops.

Although that organized effort is a tad plastic, being the brainchild of American Express, it has a ton of merit above and beyond the caveat to not leave home without it.

It sure seems that buying in the hood adds oomph to the close-in economy.

While the teary-eyed, shop small sentiment is kinda scripted by Wall Street types, I adhere like hell to the principal behind it. It’s good to stay in the local loop. I should know. Way back, I took a course in economics and clearly recall an entire picture page showing this “business circle.” On top was this smiling cow eating grass, with a red ribbon and an arrow swinging from it to a smiling butcher chopping meat (hopefully the smiling cow couldn’t see down that far), trailing more red ribbon and an arrow over to a smiling neighborhood mother carrying a large purse toward the smiling butcher. I also kinda remember there mighta been a smiling barn and a smiling farmer ribboning back to the ass-end of the smiling cow. Like economics, it all becomes a tad hazy with time. Mainly, it instilled in us boomers the spherical success gleaned from shopping locally – and in reelecting Eisenhower.

Anyway, from an angling angle, there may be no other pastime that allows one to shop strictly locally more than fishing and outdoorsing. Ye need go no farther than hereabouts when giftizing for the anglers and outdoorsmen in your life. In fact, screw Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s. What have they ever done for us? Besides, they got more business than they know what to do with this time of year. There go my catalogs for 2012.

BALLASTED BLUEFISH E-MAIL: Once many moons ago I was a mate and working slammers on the Ridge right after a prolonged storm. We chummed them up and while they were on the deck they were regurgitating stones. The skipper told me during turbulent storms they swallow stones for ballast.  

Wow, that’s one I hadn’t heard before. Quite cool.

As for swallowing stones for ballast, that seems a tad too advanced for the rationale processing of bluefish.

An utter certainty is the fact bluefish feed off the bottom with the same reckless abandon they employ when ravaging the upper reaches of the water column. When attacking bottomy things like mantis shrimp, lobster, crabs, flounder, tog, sea bass and more, they aren’t overly elegant in their intake methods. If loose rocks compliment the meal, so be it. Once internalized, those rocks could just languish in the belly until the blues find them annoying. Might it be the added weight momentarily aids in keeping the blues down deep? Possibly.

It’s clear that during big blows, the upper part of the water column becomes roiled, foiling foraging. The blues then go bottom feeding – and rock swallowing. While it might seem they’re gathering belly rocks for ballast, it’s more likely just a case of them accidentally sucking in stones when down there. For a short time afterwards, caught blues might still have stones. No doubt they jettison (regurgitate) them once feeding back near the surface.

A SURGE IN SONAR: There’s some big news on the Ocean Acoustic Waveguide Remote Sensing front.


Per a study done by Prof. Nicholas C. Makris, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Ocean Acoustic Waveguide Remote Sensing is a valuable conservation tool for rapid imaging and enumeration of large scale fish populations over thousands of square kilometers to effectively monitor and manage the national fish stock.”

I hear ya: “Why in bloody hell should I care about that?” asked in that immutable curmudgeon manner that has made you such an annual hit around the Thanksgiving table. Well, grumpy, this OAWRS thing is the biggest breakthrough in accurate fish counting since sliced bread, or something like that. It is a hyper advancement in sonar technology, a wide-screen view of massive stretches of the ocean.

This super-sized sonar system could be both a boom and bust for anglers and commercial fishermen. It’s well known that both segments of the fishing realm have made careers out of abusing and undermining every piece of fish data that comes to light.

Although chronic badmouthing of any-and-all data might still carry on in the face of the fiercely scientific findings of OAWRS, Congress could soon be blessing the system as a way to accurately count the fish. It would then be tough to sway the boys in D.C. by jumping up and down on the data. The blue/green environmental groups, keeper of the ocean eco-flame, are eyeing OAWRS with delight.

The first OAWRS efforts will be the tracking and counting of herring. If that proves doable, the ocean becomes the limit.

PLUGGING IN AT 60: I am almost 60 and I’ve been away from the surf for far too long. I feel time slipping away and I have to start the ball rolling. … I thought I’d ask the best way to rig up for striper plugging. I am on a limited budget but I’ll go all out as far as line goes but I’ll probably only be able to afford a few plugs. I still have to buy slugs for deer season. Anyhow, any advice would be greatly appreciated and I really enjoy what you are doing here on your site. Todd V.

I use non-exotic, thin diameter 20-lb test mono, Todd. I haven’t adjusted to braided line just yet.

I often part with the experts when it comes to tying one on for plugging. I refuse to use any hardware, be it clips or even the split ring sometimes placed on a plug by the manufacturer.

I realize that those split rings are there to allow more sway and swim. The thing is you can get that same exact effect by tying a plug on with a loop knot.

Quick loop knot primer: Tie a common overhand knot about four inches from the tag end of the line. Let it hang loose. Run the tag end of the line through the plug eye and then back through the initial loop. Then, tie a second overhand loop and take the tag end through the first loop. Pull tight. It’s easier to do than explain. Give it a shot.

Using this loose-loop knotting technique, you can create a large, medium or small loop fronting the plug. I most often use medium-sized loops. This allows the plug plenty of sway but the knot doesn’t stick out so far it becomes a target for a second fish, should bluefish be on the attack. With some plugs being worth over $25, being bitten off at the knot by a frenzied blue is painful.

Anyway, I always do a fresh tie during plug changes. I often use the hyper-fast, simple clinch knot, twisting it at least six times. I will sometimes use the improved clinch. The only problem is the improved clinch is NOT a fast untie, like the simple clinch. However, there is a substantial knot failure rate with a simple clinch, especially when four or fewer twists are used. There is virtually zero failure with a well-twisted improved clinch – but it has to be clipped when rapidly changing plugs. Check out http://www.netknots.com/html/fishing_knots.html.

If you can buy only one plug in the world, it should be the black Bomber. It’s simply a workhorse – far more than a finesse presentation.

To home in on finicky fish, it always comes down to having a quiver of artificials on hand, just to see what the fish will salute.

By the by, I, too, have had frugality thrust upon me. However, you can’t believe the plug bargains you can get at garage sales and real-time auctions – not as much so on eBay any longer.

Remember, many thoroughly shabby-looking plugs are simply dirty and, most often, desperately in need of new trebles. Using purple Super Clean grease remover, Whink rust-off fluid, split ring pliers and new treble hooks, you can take a seeming throw-away plug and get it shining like a new dime in nothing flat. I often throw an exclusive plug-cleaning party. It’s just me and a big buncha dirty plugs invited. I’ll Super Clean soak a dozen or more at one sitting, dehook then rehook, hand buff and all but fill a tackle box with resurrected artificials – all while watching football on TV and listening to metal music on Rhapsody.

Hey, let me know how your hooking goes, Todd.


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