Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

My Flow Is Just Lovin’ This Heat;

Dragonflies Dropped From Above





HOT ENOUGH: It was semi-brutal out there. Sure it coulda been worse. How about Newark at 108, actual air temp? While we live on a breeze-cooled barrier island, folks up thataway live on something called a heat island, an actual meteorological term. It has something to do with the enhanced heat Newark gets via pavements, buildings, airport tarmacs and the sun reflecting off handguns and assorted semi-automatic weapons.

As inescapable as the heat itself is that hackneyed searing-weather expression, “Hot enough for ya?”

Hot enough for me? Let’s see. It’s, what, 104 degrees? That’s just a bit much for me but my pet lava floe is lovin’ it. Thanks for askin’.

Over the weekend, our beloved ocean breezes tried their hardest to protect us. They did a respectable job, though backing down now and again, letting in some mighty sultry triple-digit surges.

I just have to reexamine a bizarre phenomenon I marveled at during a savage heat wave last year. It’s the way 100-degree temperatures actually seemed to attract runners and joggers. I wondered if that insane running with the sun weirdness was just a quirky one-time event, a spontaneous marathon madness of sorts. Nope. Same thing happened this heat wave. You saw them, too, right? Mad dogs and runners, pounding the pavement, spewing sweat like a lawn sprinkler.

I still think it might be that heatstroke diet concept I came up with. That’s where you run like Hades under a brain-gnawing sun until you stroke out. Four days later, when they remove the IVs and release you from intensive care, you’re thin as a button -- and finally ready to fit into those undersized summer garments. It’s Opray-approved.

Anyway, we have yet another swelter coming our way, likely blurring the horizon by the time you’re reading this column.

In your SandPaper column last week, you mentioned the large number of dragonflies on the island this year. We heard that a large number of dragonflies had been purposely released from a plane, over the island, to help control the mosquito and fly population.  Is there any truth behind this? If it's not true, why do you think there are so many more dragonflies this year?
Also, last summer my husband caught a record number of crabs, while this year, he's caught fewer than ever so far. Would you know of any particular reason for this vast difference? Linda H.”



Thanks, Linda, for giving me a bit of a chuckle – regarding that alleged plane-drop of dragonflies. To lighten my work day, I pictured this small plane’s hold, cockpit and lone pilot utterly covered in dragonflies -- the pilot swhooshing the bugs off his face, grumbling obscenities over losing his job as a commercial pilot. Hey, be thankful you got work, dude.  

A lot closer to reality is the growing use of dragonfly nymphs, an aquatic phase of the creature, in the quite-cool realm of integrated pest management. As the name kinda implies, it emphasizes the use of natural predators in controlling an unwanted species, namely mosquitoes.

NJ mosquito control authorities have been actively experimenting with dragonflies of doom (for skeeters). They have loosed loads of aquatic dragonfly larvae – not full-grown fliers -- into watery environments around the state.

Inclined to have a very high survival rate due to their ravenous appetites and truly gruesome jaws, most larvae successfully morph into dragonflies – to the rescue. It should be noted that the nymph loading of ponds is sometimes to the anguish of tasty tadpoles, which occasionally become collateral damage in this battle plan to take a future bite out of bloodsucking insects.  

I’m not saying this year’s dragonfly forces are an integrated pest management experiment. Nobody’s talking, especially the dragonflies – which know it’s impolite to talk with their mouths full of mosquitoes. However, I quickly noticed that just one, somewhat rare, black-colored medium-sized dragonfly species is overwhelming the roost. I’m guessing a human-handed planting of nymphs might eventually manifest that way. Still, virtually every insect species can have an insane hatch in any given year. Such hatches range from mere population bursts to biblical plagues.

About four year back, the population of one of our largest dragonfly, a type of blue skimmer, went batty in the Pines. I have photos of maybe a dozen landing on my feet and legs. The surrounding area of wetlands was literally covered in them. In previous years, I was lucky to see one or two examples of that species.

It should be remembered that dragonflies also migrate, so you may see the impact of a huge nymph hatch the following summer. 

As for that paucity of blue crabs, it’s a baffler -- and has foiled a theory I had that a hard bay freeze, which we had last winter, often leads to excellent crabbing the following summer.  However, much like insects, crabs can all but instantly explode in numbers – even within a single summer season. Keep trying.

WMIT READY TO RUMBLE: “The weather is looking spectacular; 2-foot seas and six knots winds.”

That’s the hot lead-in to the famed Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club’s 2011 White Marlin Invitational Tournament, offered by event co-director John Fitzgerald, who, along with his wife, Nicole, is hyper-hyped about this the 42 running of the big game tournament.

Per a boat recently in from the canyons (Canyon Runner), the offshore waters are loaded with yellowfin tuna and billfish. What’s more, it’s alive out there. Bait, birds and

marine mammals all indicate a healthy fishery ready to rock

The WMIT officially begins this Wednesday with the evening Captains’ Meeting. That meet-greet-and-ante-up gathering is when the myriad of tournament-specific particulars is explained to participants. With over $800,000 on the line, it’s more than a bit essential to make sure every angler is on the same page – the page with the rules and regulations.

With the arrival of numerous first-time WMIT entrants -- attracted to the event’s new affiliations with the planetary-grade IGFA Offshore World Championship and World Billfish Series – a failure to familiarize could prove fiscally fatal. (Below: See update about famed Citation disqualification at last year’s Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, NC.)

As I noted last week, the public can be part of this epic offshore gamefishing weigh-in event by purchasing tickets to single days, double-days (Wed./Sat. or Thur./Fri.) or the whole 4-day shebang – food and ogling over huge tuna and billfish included. What’s more, if you’d like to see the real-time broadcast of the event’s weigh-ins on your computer, there will be live feeds. To get all the details and updates, check out the excellent www.thewmit.com website.

NEVERENDING MILLION-DOLLAR SQUABBLE: That famed disqualification of the sportfisher Citation at last year’s Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, NC, remains outrageously immersed in the courts, despite a judge’s ruling in March dismissing the Citation’s lawsuit against the tournament.

Citation’s owners have been doing legal loop-de-loops to somehow get at $987,700 in forfeited winnings, lost by the boat when a tourney-winning 883-pound blue marlin it landed was disqualified because a single crewmember aboard the Citation did not have a North Carolina fishing license – as required by the tourney and the state.

The culprit crewmember had tried to instantaneously order up a license, via an onboard computer, hours after the huge marlin had already been landed. The state saw through the ploy and duly fined him for his obvious violation. The vessel’s owners were livid that they were penalized a king’s ransom over what they felt was an oversight by a crewmember, something out of their control. 

The courts were none too sympathetic. A March 10 ruling by Judge John E. Nobles, Jr., clearly said, “No-way, Citation dudes,” – in more advanced legal-speak. 

The ruling seemingly confirmed the tourney’s correctness in disqualifying the Citation. It also seemingly freed up the near million-dollar forfeited winnings.

The decision also sent a momentary surge of relief through the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament sponsors, who have been sweating out, for a year, having the main chunk of their tournament money hanging in-limbo – and immersed in the ugly waters of a PR nightmare. 

Per the court, the stalled prize money should be bound for the original second- and third-place boats, Carnivore and Wet-N-Wild, respectively.

Adding to the winnings of those now first- and second-place vessels is the tourney’s fourth-place prize money, which Judge Nobles ordered be split between those two boats. The event had no fourth-place entry, another prize-money position. 

The big winner (someday soon?) is the Carnivore, captained by Ed Petrelli of Cape Carteret, NC. That vessel should now get $762,787.50 – the difference between its second-place winnings (already paid out) and the grand prize and fourth-place split moneys.

The total tournament purse was $1.66 million.

But nothing is simple in law or order. Expectedly – and taxingly -- Citation’s owners have vowed to appeal the court ruling. 

In defending their ongoing legal actions, a Citation spokesperson offered one of those lines, “It’s not about the money but the principal.” 

And the money. 

According to Petrelli, he and his lawyer have talked to the Citation owners, offering them “some cash” to settle the matter.

“We were willing to give them a little money to avoid the delay and legal fees, but they wanted us to give them 85 percent of the winning prize money,” Petrelli was quoted as saying. “The Citation people said it was not about the money, but they told us they would ‘Go away’ if we gave them (85 percent) ...” he added.

PONDER POINT: Could a NJ tourney winner be disqualified if he or she hasn’t signed up with the free NJ saltwater registry? Absofrickinlutely!

Is anyone checking? You got me.

I will play badass by saying there will be no sympathy from me if someone has to give back tournament winnings because of a lack of being properly registered. Fishing folks fought their butts off to get a free angler registry for New Jersey. If someone is too damn lazy to do what amounts to maybe 3 minutes of computer work to sign aboard, skewer ‘em.

I will once again add one HUGE caveat – that means warning. Folks with bona fide 2011 federal angler registry papers may think they’re legal in NJ. They’re not. Those same folks are likely oblivious to the hideously painful fines that come with being caught fishing in NJ without being registered in the state.

Also, out-of-state paperwork/licensing is meaningless in NJ.

RUNDOWN: The hottest bite out there is as close to undesirable as it comes. Cow-nose stingrays are literally stacking up along the Jersey Shore. They unreservedly bite anglers’ baits – and won’t let go any time soon.

And their numbers are getting insane. A recent ray display off the north side of the North Jetty, Barnegat Inlet, was a never-seen-before spectacle for Walt P and Don E. As many as ten thousand rays were finning up on the surface, turning the water that stingray brown. No they weren’t, uh, fouling the water. The rays get so thick, so stacked, even crystal clear water seems to take on Crayola color #587Z, a.k.a. “Stingray Russet.”

I know that 10,000 number sounds bloated but cow-nose ray schools in the Chesapeake have been estimated to be into the hundreds of thousands. In fact, per the Chesapeake Bay Program, “One (school) witnessed near the mouth of the (Chesapeake) Bay was estimated to contain nearly five million rays!”

During the day, rays love the surface of the water. They aren’t eating up there. I think it might serve as a way to stay warm and also to offer a vantage for quickly scooping approaching predators, mainly sharks. However, I have stood among schools when they were clearly layer upon layer, three layers deep and more, sometimes to the bottom. That can hike a school’s numbers real fast.

So what are that many rays doing to the ecology? It’s tough to say, despite semi-scientific accusations they’re ruining Chesapeake Bay. I say “semi-scientific” because it gets a little too dubiously repetitive when folks down there – who are themselves heavily over-utilizing that humanely devastated bay -- blame everything, including nature, for what man has wrought. You’ll recall, they’ve already blamed the bay’s problems on too many small bass, too few menhaden, too many freshets desalinating the water, too much fertilizer … ad infinitum. So why not rays?

Admittedly, stingrays are master shellfisherthings – and can do a destructive number on eelgrass beds. They can wing-flap the bottom and expose every shellfish and crab, of all sizes. They’re also oyster and mussel eaters.

Can the likes of Barnegat Bay stand the added pressure of a ray invasion? Hell, our bay can’t stand any additional pressure. The ravaging by rays has gotta leave a mark. It sure won’t help human re-clamming efforts. At the same time, rays are nature. Had we of a human ilk not decimated the bay, it could easily hold a million rays without batting an eye.

Is there any way to fight back the rays? Yes. Bite back. Give the rays a dinner try. The Chesapeake states are introducing all these stingray recipes. Go to Google and check out a few.

Note: I’ve heard that rays eat small fish but a ray’s physiology debunks that. The entire jaw system of rays is geared to breaking shellfish and crustaceans. Their jaws present little if any threat to fish – except in an aquarium set-up, where tameness and hand feeding transcends a ray’s physiological boundaries.

In more immediate terms, it is very unlikely the rays are impacting the like of fluking, which has turned piss-poor. The two species simply travel in different eco-circles. I have no doubt the fluking is suffering because of the wild swings in ocean and inlet water temps. In fact, begin looking for big fluke in the deeper nearshore ocean waters.   

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