Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report



‘Harmless’ Salps Attack;

Gear Grabbing Felonies



SALPS GET HAIRY:  No sooner do I write about the utter innocence of these tiny gelatinous marine organisms than they attack – sorta.

To date, the media has been newsily writing about the way the floes of frothy salps have been plaguing the entire shoreline of the state. Katrillions of ‘em, give o take. .

While those innocuous little tunicates -- ironically just about the size of the word salps -- may not be stingy or poisonous if accidentally ingested or inclined to use bad language on public beaches, they have begun, in the freakiest of ways, to insidiously assault bathers – yours truly being one of them. It sure seems they’re on a scalping mission, attacking human hair as if the hairs had talked stink about salp family members.

NJ bathers being royally salped has become such a far-reaching occurrence that the DEP, coastal police departments, health departments and even editors’ desks are fielding frantic calls for advice on de-salping, after the little bustards have taken hold. 

I’m actually kinda glad there are so many people willing to confirm the hideous impact of getting salps enwrapped in bodily hair. I am one with a growing sister/brotherhood of salp sufferers.

Get this: On Monday, I chatted with Jeanne Popper, owner of the stylish Red Sails Salon, Surf City. The entire staff there had come to the coiffure aid of an 11-year-old salps victim. The little gal, while swimming in Harvey Cedars, came away with a heedful of intricately enmeshed salps. “Her hair was just filled with them,” said Jeanne.

For two hours the crew at Red Sails counterattacked the salps. Using every hair trick in the book, they got nowhere.

“The (salps) resembled hair extension glue,” said Jeanne, explaining the salps were gooey when wet but hardened into a super adhesive when dried.

The salon even went as far as contacting state health agencies for advice. All they heard was how the problem is now plaguing the coastline – and that more salpy calls were coming in.

Seeming solution: Buzz cut. That’s just about how bad it can get.

For the 11-year-old, the salon’s experts were not ready to suggest a skinhead cut. They recommended a long-term gentle combing out process, a few strands at a time. I figure she’ll be salp-free for school opening in fall. Ouch. 

“She was a trooper but there wasn’t much we could do,” said Jeanne.

In my case, it was my leg hairs that entered into conjugal relationships with salps. They met and mingled as I played with my surrogate nephews and nieces in the shorebreak surf of Harvey Cedars.

I didn’t notice the hair-anchored buggers until I dried off. They looked as gooey and gooshy and disgusting as anything I’ve ever seen wontedly clinging to my legs -- and my legs have been in some weird planetary places in the past.

The only way I could get the overly entwined salps off my leg was to do a full-blown root hair yank job. You ladies now have a truly sympathetic ear when you bemoan annual waxings.

The best homespun recommendation I developed for de-vesting hair of salp-age was hottish water and a strong hair conditioner. Slowly brush out the invaders. Surest method: Clear your calendar for the next day or so then pinch each salp and slowly pull it to the end of the hair strands.

I’ll warn that my fast yank, “Damn the roots” method had me wincing -- and I’m generally a pretty tough guy, though I must admit that when I go for a new, kick-ass gothic tattoo, I routinely bring along my boo-boo bunny.

I’m guessing boo-boo bunnies up and down the Jersey coastline are gonna get a ton of usage during this salps explosion. And with heat waves upon us, avoiding ocean


THE NAKED TRUTH: Chuckler of the week came out of Harvey Cedars, where a sundry groups of guys “from the block” were seen eagerly bolting down the street toward the beach, late-day Sunday. It was a mighty fevered charge. One portly fellow threw a flip-flop, slowed a bit to consider backtracking for it, but half-flopped onward – coming down with an “Ouch!” every time the exposed foot hit the gravelly asphalt.

The sprint was identical to our famed bolts toward a bluefish blitz. But nary a rod and reel was to be seen.

It also had the look and feel of folks rushing to a major whale sighting, per the person who relayed this story to me.  

The naked truth was laughably bizarre – and this is all real as rain.

Word had spread through the manly grapevine that a foxy lady was strolling the beach bare-naked, calmly strutting her showy stuff.

We men have been known to nobly respond to such situations, primarily to offer some sort of covering for the poor gal.

Per another firsthand account, the full-Monty gal was, by all earthly appearances, clearly displaying her upper, lower-middle and rear elements.

I’ll not right here that I wasn’t on-scene. Seems I wasn’t informed of this event in a timely manner, despite advances in cell phone communications. Not that I would have been even remotely drawn to such an ostentatious naturist display. I’d simply respond to gauge any newsworthy angles being presented. (And you frickin guys just wait till I find my very own bare-naked lady. You’ll be lucky to get word of her a week later.)

Anyway, I’m not sure if the Harvey Cedars finest were alerted. If so, I can just picture an instantaneous seniority searches being done, whereby the top-cop officiously exerts his ultimate authority – born of knowing how to safely and judiciously address naked hotties on the borough’s sands.

When the road dust cleared, it turned out this event had quite a punch line, though you had to close mighty closely to register it.

On an up-close and personal examination, the man-magnet was actually donning a skin-colored, two-piece bathing suit. But there’s more. On the front side of the bathing suit was exquisite artwork that absolutely replicated – to the nth degree -- real bodily, uh, thingies and such. So convincing only her hairdresser knew for sure. The rear view was also as perfect a derrière as artistic hands can master. 

Needless to say, the man-rush was frozen in its bemused tracks, many oglers later seen trudging back up the dunes, chuckling out loud. I liken it to kids running to the bell of the ice cream man and finding it’s a frozen-vegetable-on-a-stick truck. Hey, you come up with a better simile.

I’m still wondering if, in our law-drenched realm, this gutsy gal was still breaking some obscure obscenity ordnance.

(If the gal happens to read this, please drop me an email. I think it was hilarious.) 

GEAR THEFT GOES FELONIOUS: I rec’d yet another “theft from vehicle” report, this time from an infuriated angler who lost (euphemism) not only valuable fishing items but personally prized gear, given as gifts.

This wasn’t exactly a local incident but it vividly brings to the fore a scary proposition: We are surely moving toward the leaden age of fishing gear theft.

And this is surely an LBI problem.

If you faithfully peruse fishing website blogs (including mine at www.jaymanntoday.ning.com), you will recall spring and early summer advisories that area anglers had been getting royally ripped off. Admittedly, such roving rip-offs have been slithering underfoot for ages. Locals have frequently been bitten – myself among them.

Squinting through the shady drapes of larceny, we are now seeing our soft-shell days of nonchalantly leaving rods unattended in buggy rod racks are over.

This latest emailer makes it all too clear why thefts from anglers are poised to go big-time, as in felonious grand theft. The toll he suffered included the loss of two new top-shelf reels that cost nearly $650 each, along with two rods that came to a combined $500 loss. Another “rough house” rod and reel, worth a measly $500, was also stolen.

Within those numbers lays the woe factor. Whereas a rod and reel could formerly be replaced with only an “Ouch!” to the wallet, today’s pricey gear can be a credit card crippler. In this case, the angler has no chance whatsoever of quickly replacing what were essentially gifts of a lifetime.

I can easily register the growing cost of being victimized. Nowadays, even a tackle box loaded with new plugs can easily harbor goodies surpassing $400.

I use that $400 number because it’s the legal “grand theft” starting point in Jersey. Making matters worse, eBay and large auctions are clearing houses for stolen fishing gear. Doubly worse, the ill-begotten goods often get top dollar. 

By the by, don’t think for a minute that rip-offs are masterminds. From reading dozens of police reports, I wouldn’t put it by a dumb-ass thief to be caught fishing stolen equipment right in the area where it was stolen. 

DON’T SHOOT ME, I’M JUST THE RENTER: Just because you find your stolen fishing goods in the hands of a stranger doesn’t mean you’ve CSI’ed the culprit.

I was once called to do a story of an angler who came across his ripped off rod and reel being fished by a young man -- on the very beach where the equipment was stolen!

The rightful owner of the gear followed the man back to a nearby LBT house. Shortly thereafter, three burly anglers and myself paid the condemned man a little visit.

From the get-go, the guy began sweating bullets. I was the first to register the suspect was hardly the stuff of criminality. In fact, he was seemingly a pretty cool dude.

It soon came out that he had grabbed the fishing equipment from the garage of the house he was renting.

After accusations subsided, things took an odd swing. We soon ended up inside his rental unit, laughing and imbibing, as the fellow’s Filipina wife made some of the best crab cakes I’ve ever eaten.

As one of guys from our group noted after we left, “And to think I was just going to walk up and clock that guy right there on the beach.” Lesson learned.

We did reclaim the stolen fishing gear. I took down the name of the property owner. Reaching him, it was a bit of a repeat. 

Turns out the owner of the house had bought the fishing gear at a garage sale only a mile away. The stolen $300 rod and reel was garage sale priced at $25. “I know nothing about fishing,” said the frank owner of the house. “I just wanted a rod and reel for my renters to use -- and that seemed cheap enough.”

I didn’t make any effort to track down that garage sale house. I just knew it would be renters who sold the stolen goods then cleared out of town. 

The best theft defense for anglers is to micro-watch gear. Also, place some secretive identifying markings on everything. That’s huge if you bring police into the investigative picture. Plus, always keep those receipts when buying items. They’re golden in court. Without identifiers, trying to get back stolen gear comes down to mere finger pointing. That never ends up well, regardless of the finger you use.

SAY WHAT!?: I have a habit of alienating friends. I seemingly distanced one not long ago when I escorted a gal friend to her 20th high school reunion.

Sitting at a table, I couldn’t help but notice she kept staring at a drunken man, alone, busily downing drinks at a nearby table. I asked her, "What’s up? You know that guy?” 
"He's my old boyfriend,” she said, forlornly.

She then added, “Right after we broke up, he hit the bottle and I hear he hasn't been sober since." 
And I’m the first to admit I shouldn’t have then blurted out, “Geez, that’s one helluva celebration.”

RUNDOWN: Fluking is fast, furious and even reaching bag limits – per action on the south end. LEH and its Middle Grounds have loads of flatties. The better fish are coming from nearer the LE Inlet, where the keeper count ranges from decent to impressive. While limiting out is tough, most flukers I talk to are marveling over the thickness of the back fillets from the keeper fish. “My wife and I were stuffed on just one fish,” wrote Hank M. Of course, that one fish was 22 inches, taken near the Fish Factory. 

I don’t know if I’m simply not getting updates but I haven’t heard of any decent fluke keeperage off the north end of LBI. I’ve chatted with skunked folks, aplenty. However, it’s often the sharpies that are quietest about their exploits. Makes sense.  

What’s more, the summer flounder horizon is so bright we gotta wear shades.

Here’s an excerpt from the newswires:

“Summer flounder are back, a National Marine Fisheries Service report shows, and the recovery is considered a fisheries management success story. …
”The latest assessment shows the summer flounder stock is no longer overfished and that overfishing is not occurring.
“This is truly a fisheries management success story,” said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City. “Both commercial and recreational fishermen did their part through regulatory restrictions to bring the stocks back to where they are today.” 

I hype this summer flounder report in hopes we start getting serious about thinning out the ravenous species -- so the young of other less-lucky species can make it past their first years.

I have no doubt that weakfish, black seabass, winter flounder, kingfish and even American eels cannot recover as long as eat-everything fluke literally cover the entire bay and inlet bottoms.

Speaking of blackfish (tog), you ain’t seen nothin’ yet when it comes to cutbacks.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is calling for a 56 percent reduction in the coastwide harvest of blackfish, effective Jan. 1, 2012.

If you’re a tog aficionado – and I can place myself therein – you can jump up and down, while screaming bloody murder and spitting nickels over the cutbacks but I’ve studied tautog stock numbers with a fine tooth comb and the species is truly done for. If it were a more beloved gamefish, like striped bass or fluke, a long-term moratorium would be soundly declared.

Despite dangerous levels of illegal harvesting of tog – for the live-fish sashimi market – the above-noted overprotection of stripers and fluke is the main culprit. Predation is dooming blackfish, not illegal harvesting.

Now, speaking of stripers, they’re nowhere to be found – in big numbers, that is. That is fully expected, as ocean water temps, even in deeper depths, are heating dramatically. I foresee 80-dgree waters if this sultry summer proceeds in the tracks it has already made.

You can still easily fool a smaller striper or two in the early a.m., near jetties. Plugs, including poppers, can work on those one or two resident bass. There is an occasional night striper taken near the spans. I had one.

Oversumming weakfish are here but not feeling very well, numbers-wise. It’s a sad and lonely collapse of arguably our most handsome nearshore gamefish. I know what’s killing them. Enough said. 

On a surfcasting note, fluke are thick in the shorebreak. They seem very inclined to hang near the jetties, especially the northern sides. Bait presented fluking-style is the way to fish. Jigs will draw tons of swacks but the short hits will make you crazy.

Kingfish are balled up just off the beach. They can be seen if you snorkel the nearshore waters. And we’ve had some very clear water for diving, once you get past the salps. This is one of the few species where a rig with its namesake, i.e. “kingfish rig”, works better than anything you might jerry-rig. Top kingfish anglers swear by fake-o baits, even over live bloodworm pieces. I say use both baits – nearly all kingfish rigs have two hooks --  and make your own call

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