Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report



DON’T BE BOLT-BRAINED: In case you haven’t figured this out yet, an impending thunderstorm is not the greatest time to putz around in the great outdoors.

A man was recently lightning struck, mid-putz, while chaperoning a Boy Scout outing in Pennsylvania. Thank heavens, he wasn’t killed – though I guess the heavens were kinda to blame to begin with.

It was a bit of mind burp that almost cost the man dearly.

Being a good scout himself, he quickly recognized that a wicked thunderboomer merited emergency evacuation of the campgrounds. He had the doubly good sense – and sensitivity to future lawsuits – to first get the scouts themselves into nearby vehicles.

But, then, in a dubious effort to “rescue” the camping gear, he made a last-second rush to breakdown the site, tents and all. At some point, he had this brilliant cloud-to-ground flash of intuition that maybe this was not the best of moves. 

My guess is he had neglected to read the fine print in the “Boy Scout Lightning Merit Badge” booklet. Therein, it finely states: “In the face of a looming lighting storm, drop everything and get your sorry ass the hell outta there.” I didn’t actually read that particular part of the booklet myself, so I’m not sure that is the exact Boy Scout wordage.

While somehow sidestepping a lethal sizzle, the scouting chaperone didn’t get off scorch-free. For his direct hit, he suffered a nasty, highly-braggable  exit wound, where the bolt blasted out of his lower torso.

“Hey, check this out. Lighting bolt scar.”

“Damn, dude.”

The bolt not only left a mark on the victim’s body but also on the tender minds of the thoroughly shocked scouts witnessing one of their leaders going up in a flash. Word has it those ex-scouts are now permanent in-house computer game players. Each one warns siblings, “Never ever leave the house.”

As for surviving a lighting strike, there’s now kinda upbeat news – in case you’re one of those extreme types, thinking about running out and dancing through the bolt field. Your survival likelihood ranges from a so-so 70 percent to an adrenaline acceptable 95 percent.

The survival rate for lighting victims has greatly increased due to the increased number of folks taking CPR classes. You’ve got your CPR certification, right? Since lightning often causes heart stoppage, it’s best fought via heart go-age, a.k.a. CPR.

Helping the CPR cause is the fact strike victims are often (until just that moment) healthy folks. Their shock-stopped hearts are all but begging to spring back to life. It’s often up to bystanders, like you and I.  

One of my favorite all-time weird quotes comes via a mantra applied to lighting strike victims: “Save the dead one first.”

Since it’s common to have multiple victims of a single lighting strike, any stricken subjects moaning or saying, “What a rush” asking, are likely over the odds-against hump. They ain’t dead. It’s the person lying motionless, tickerless, who’s silently screaming out to be helped. And, NO (!), a person struck by lighting does NOT still hold an electrical charge. Utter nonsense.

Alarmingly, those optimistic survival numbers all drop like a Hatteras sinker when you’re toying with a storm when on the beach fishing – or coming in from surfing and such. I don’t know the exact odds for surviving beach-based lightning strikes but they’re somewhere between zero and snowball-in-hell. Ugly: I know of no one having ever survived an on-beach bolt strike in Ocean County. 

REAL WORLD: Numerous decades back, I was totally traumatized – and made into an avowed astrapophobic --  when I was too on-scene when a surfer, wearing an old-fashioned metal-zipper wetsuit, got hit on an LBI beach.

Making things worse for me was the way I actually saw the surfer realize something was hideously wrong. He went from a fast walk to running, soon dropping his beloved surfboard -- something no surfer does until end times. I’ve since read that one can often feel a charge building in-body.

Seeing him running, seemingly to safety, I turned to get off the top of the dune where I was idiotically lurking to check the surf.

The lightning struck so close I thought I had been hit. I’m pretty sure I even went down. It was all a bona fide blur at first. I recently recalled experiencing this bizarre almost overwhelming metallic taste in my mouth right afterwards.

As I was checking around to see if I might need to go to hospital, I heard folks running by, yelling about the surfer lying on the sand. My own self-analysis quickly dissolved into meaninglessness. I ran to help. No hope.

As I oft write, I’m now among the first to bolt before approaching bolts fly. Worrisomely, two fellows killed by lightning a few years ago on the far south end of Island Beach State Park were playing Frisbee under a bright sunny sky, with only some black skies fairly showing far to the south. Even I doubt I’d be a-run under those circumstances. 

This is all a lead-in to my annual (oft-unheeded) warning that LBI is among the worst possible places to mess with lightning. This year, our skies are already flashing on a regular basis. What’s more, we’re in for sizzling summer -- and ultra-hot T-storm activity.

With early weather warnings now as close as your sidekick cell phone, why not let real-time advisories and local Doppler radar images be your daily guide to flash-free beaching. Bolt before the bolts – and remember, that top of the dune point, right as you think you’ve safely made it off the beach, is one of the worst places of all. You’ll see me running across that high point like a crouching soldier keeping his head down – even on sunny days.   

TRICKY TRAFFIC SIGNAL HIGH ALERT: I have to offer a serious motorist alert for anglers driving northbound toward Barnegat Light on Long Beach Boulevard. There’s a new traffic signal on the south end of Harvey Cedars that’s a killer – hopefully not literally.

It’s fully cycling – red, yellow, green -- at Bergen Avenue. Yes, it looks quite odd there, after forever without one. It even has some pedestrian-related crossing accessories, including a flashing hand symbol warning slow moving crossers of the seconds left before the light is going to change to red. 

Take it from me (a slow driver), when you’re coming out of the divided roadway through North Beach, you can get a pretty good head of steam going as reach the Harvey Cedars line – and that traffic signal. I found that out  – almost in a crunched metal manner. Shortly after dark, I obediently stopped at the new light, looked in my rearview mirror and saw a small white sedan approaching at just below mach speed – coming in my outside lane! Alarmingly, another vehicle was next to it, in the slow lane. It was properly slowing but meant the sedan had nowhere to go – except into me! I was forced to accelerate into the oncoming lanes (no traffic there, very fortunately) or that sedan would have turned into accordion material on my full-sized truck bed. 

After literally passing me at full-speed, the young female driver saw the red light and made a minor effort to hit her brakes, giving up almost instantly and blowing through the intersection. No east west traffic or things would have gone ugly. She flew through the intersection and just kept going. The now stopped driver next to me laid on his horn but she just kept going. I had a fleeting notion of contacting the HCPD but realized she was just a creature of habit – and stopping there wasn’t a habit, just yet. 

I have to say I’m not sure that signal is the best idea, right there. I double-fully understand the need for a light to put the brakes on the aforementioned North Beach speeder. In fact, I’ve been among pedestrians trying to cross the Boulevard to reach the Bergen Street beach. Totally insane. But even now, I’m not sure I would rely on an east-west green light assuring that speeding double-laned Boulevard traffic will be stopping on schedule.

By the by, there are county digital signs warning of a “Traffic Change” up ahead but I, for one, had no idea that meant a sudden traffic signal.  

Anyway, those of you who head north to go angling by boat, charter, headboat or in the surf, please be highly alerted to that somewhat secretive traffic signal.

RUNDOWN: While the world refused to end on schedule last week, I think a mass loss of common sense did occur. I base that on the utter madness on LBI over the holiday weekend. Sure, the forecasted human tsunami occurred as expected. What wasn’t expected was the behavioral goofiness that pervaded the Island, especially the roadways. From bicyclists mindlessly zipping every whichaway to pedestrians as much as playing in the traffic -- as if laws of physics don’t apply on holiday weekend -- to just plain goofiness, the masses seemed senseless. What a way to break into summer.

The fishing was fast and furious, though tame by comparison to the antics of the hoi polloi.

I’m going to backasswards by first putting in this reality check report from blog regular Walt P. “ … Headed out after the rain stopped and traveled to the bathing beach (off Island Beach State Park). No visible bunker up and back, henceforth, no visible bass to bring home. Got fogged on the way back but once we hit the monument we tried artificials on the North Jetty, to no avail. WP.”

Reality check out of the way, I’ll note there has also been insane bassing sessions, coming and going, just that quickly. Take, for cow instance, the vessels that had four bass over 40 pounds! That matched similar catches last week.

Then, there were striper skunks galore. The bad-time bassing continues to be doubly insulting as skate and dogfish steal bait and get angler hearts needlessly pumping with gamefish anticipation.

LBI CUP: A perfect microcosm of how bassing is running – or not -- can be clearly seen in the very successful 7th Annual Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club’s LBI Cup, held Saturday. 

With something like 40 boats plying the waters from off A.C. up to the Seaside Ferris Wheel, a solid percentage of competitors bought nary a fish to the scales.

Then there were the winners.

The boat James Gang took overall first place (and a sweet $7850) with a combined fish weight of 80 pounds. The contest scores the two heaviest weight fish.

It doesn’t take a math degree to average out the Gang’s two bass. The boat hit ‘em ahrd. As did the second place Donuts, with 73.6 pounds (worth prize money of $2,530). Sea Dog took third with a combo of 68.3 pounds ($1,520).

The winners obviously “stepped in it” yet the event saw some of the best anglers around totally missing the meat.

As we drift closer to summer, that hit-or-miss syndrome looms larger and larger, as many bass masses move northward.

For more on the LBI CUP go to: http://www.lbicup.com/

Whale watching has been very good on occasion. I’m not talking about that dead juvenile humpback that was floating off the North End of LBI, then onto Island Beach State Park beaches.

On Tuesday, just about the entire SandPaper office emptied out to hit the 19th Street beach, Surf City, to look for a pod (family) unit of whales, reported moving north from Ship Bottom.

The leviathan eventually showed. It looked like four or five to me. I thought they looked like sperm whales but a call to the Brigantine Marine Mammal Stranding Center had me questioning my call. Hey, they’re the consummate pros on such ID’s. I sent them some pics.

As much fun as it is to watch whales leave the water in breaches, it’s almost just as cool to see their more subdued blows, or spouts. The passing pod on Tuesday blew out some super geysers. Seen through my Zeiss binoculars, they were Old Faithful quality.

I’m required by Bob Schoelkopf law, he’s the founder and leader of the prestigious Stranding Center, to punctuate any marine mammal stories with a rigid warning that is fully unlawful to harass marine mammals in any way, including purposely boating toward whales. In fact, it is technically unlawful to intentionally cause a whale – or dolphin or sea turtle or seal -- to divert its intended course. Just enjoy them from afar.

Fluking is, expectedly, very polarized. Per usual, there is absolutely no trouble finding flatties. I think there may be too many of them, overall. But,  hitting fish pushing the 18-inch minimum size is often brutally aggravating.

That said, I just got this email: 

“Jay, I don’t give reports often but I had to write you about the mugging we did on big fluke (over the weekend). We heard of an unfished hot spot, went there and my son and I had ten take-homes including my biggest flatty ever, 7 pounds. We left them biting to go to a BBQ where we cooked up part of the catch. … ” 

This angler gave me other details that offer a little too much insight into where that small drift zone was located. I can say that I’d probably would not consider going that far west to look for fluke, especially with backbay water temps now near 80 – on the surface.

Back to a fluke reality check. “J, The state has its head (you know the rest). We caught fish (fluke) all day and had one lousy take home. I spend all this money on gas and gear only to be told I can’t keep any of the fish that I pay for with taxes. …” He estimated he caught 50 undersized fluke.

He was the angriest of the flotilla of flukers who couldn’t buy a keeper, though I listened to a lot of radio chatter and it seemed a solid few folks had “a couple in the cooler.”

The black seabass season got off to a decent start. A fair amount of fish but still nothing near what we saw about 5 years back. Some boats ran into commercial trap markers.

Bluefishing remains very decent. I get some conflicting reports about how decent. Some folks are finding them freely, others aren’t. And, yes, there are many fishing folks that faithfully include blues in their daily targeting regime.

A fellow I was chatting with in Norm’s C.’ tools and collectible shop on Rte 9 says his wife gets most excited when he brings home smaller blues, even over bass and fluke. I hear her.

FAST, SPICEY AND SAVORY: My latest chapter in cooking small bluefish fillets is to cover them in a very light coat of sesame oil, then rub/sprinkle the upside with a Cajun or Caribbean spice mix. Jamaica jerk is great. Don’t go crazy with the spices first go’round.

Preheat a tough “well-seasoned” pan (iron or the likes) at max high.

Once pan is quite hot, quickly lay bluefish fillets down and (important) cover the pan with a tight lid. Note: There is often smoke leakage even with a tight lid, so get the kitchen fan going or open all doors and windows.

“Eating-sized” bluefish fillets are thin so “hot” cooking occurs in under 90 seconds, or until down side of fish is slightly burnt. The top side curls up. Try not to over cook.

Remove pan from burner, take off lid (hot steam and smoke warning) and, if desired, flip fillets for just a very fast hit of heat to top side. This flip is most needed when fats have oozed a bit to filet’s surface.

Serve darkened side up. It scrumgolious!

A great presentation – and taste combination -- is the steaming filets served over a thick bed of cold homemade coleslaw.

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