jaymanntoday

Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Crossing Issue Hovers On;

Bright and Biting Hatches

HOVERING PEDESTRIANS: I had a slew of responses to last week’s column segment on the new stricter stopping-for-peds (pedestrians) statute. It wasn’t so much that folks didn’t understand the long-stop concept, they most often opined on the wicked dangers involved with coming to a sudden stop on summerized Long Beach Boulevard, where the high-speed norm is racing like hell to reach some relaxation point down the road. One emailer offered an understandable read on the statute: “If I’m driving along and see people about to cross, you better believe I’m going to look long and hard into me rearview mirror to see what’s going to plow into me if I brake. Crossers can’t expect two lanes of bumper to bumper traffic to all come to grinding halt. The pedestrians have to use their brains, too.”

Not only do I agree with that fully, but a high ranking officer with the LBTPD said the same in as many words. In fact, he took it a tad further by noting that roads are meant, firstly, for traffic flow. It all comes down to slower safer driving -- and good, common, sober sense.

As a tangent to the pedestrian topic, I had a fun and informative e-exchange with a fellow who semi-facetiously asked if the new stricter pedestrian crossing statute applies to people on Hovarounds, those medium-tech wheelchair-esque transport systems. Are the drivers or pedestrians? I balked and chuckled at his emailed notion. Then, I slowly slid into my “Hmmm” mode.

Despite being among those left for dead by enough Hoveround advertising to crush the average consumer, I grudgingly went on-line to research these contraptions a little further, via Google. Surely, they weren’t roadworthy. And didn’t the very first Google-ized website show a vastly large lady Hoverounding into the drive-through lane of a Burger King, cars in front and behind her. No way that’s lawful, even though some Hoveround websites call the vehicle “street legal.” I don’t know where that street is but it better not be here on LBI. Of course, I know a number of elders I’d rather see on Hoverounds than their current 12-cylinbder Cadillacs.

Of course, after pondering wheel-chairers gone gonzo, I began to wonder if Hoveround creator, Brad Pitt -- no, make that Tom Kruse -- was developing a four-wheel drive Hoveround. Hey, many of us surfcasters ain’t getting any younger. I’m still in full flight mode but I anticipate at least testing out a subdued hover move or two.

I can just picture me someday rolling onto Brant Beach in my 8-cylinder full-sized pickup, then stopping to hobble back to down the truck’s tailgate and loose a souped up well-racked Hoveround, with special fish fighting chair. Fishing in comfort, eh? To bring in a big fish, I just throw that sucker into reverse – head back over the dunes, zipping clear down 39th Street and onto Long Beach Boulevard. Then we’ll see if that pedestrian crossing statute applies to Hoverounds.

PLAY NICE WITH ENUMERATORS: I think there was an old Crosby, Stills and Nash song called “Treat your enumerators well.” That song was maybe about the census – and through cosmic experimenting, the group foresaw the 2010 people counting.

In case you’re not sure what enumerators are, you might know them better as census takers. Why not just call them census takers? Hell, I don’t know. Maybe the word “takers” sets the wrong aura.

Anyway, we’re in the midst of one of the odder censusings I’ve ever seen. It’s part mail-in and part stop-by. When it comes to the government, if there’s a way to make things more complex it’s “Damn it all, let’s give it a go.”

The current phase of the census is geared for those who didn’t take a couple minutes to fill out the census form that was mailed, at great taxpayer expense, by Uncle Sam. Everyday people, like you, me and the other guy, are now going door-to-door asking the exact same questions on the form, though sometimes the words are pronounced a little different.

The odd thing is the way these anxious-for-work folks are getting badly ridden by some countees, i.e. regular citizens with bad attitudes.

While enumerators can’t talk shop with anyone outside the tight-knit circle within the Census Bureau, I’ve been privy to some nasty-ass experiences suffered by enumerators earnestly doing their people-counting job. What the hell’s to be gained by being a wise-ass or short-fused with them?

But there are some big gains to be had by treating your enumerators well.

Say someone was to walk up to your door and offer a way to lower your taxes, improve your quality of life and save you money in myriad other ways. Sure, a knee-jerk trepidation would kick in, hissing in your ear that some sort of scam was in play –or, at very least, an attempt to convert you to Mormonism. Unless it’s a census enumerator. These doorknockers are literally there to save you a goodly chunk of change.

The census decides how much money your region gets from the deep-pocketed feds. In some ways, a census can make or break towns.

Locally, we suffer something awful from seasonal population swings. Simply put: We need every head we can count. In return, we get outside financing to maintain life along the coast. In fact, if you haven’t been counted, get uppity. Demand your enumeration. You earned it.

On a lightly related topic, the people of our planet have been fighting rising and falling seas since “In the beginning …” Now, a newer louder voice of ocean-rise doom has erupted from World Wildlife Council. There must be something about people getting too closely involved with wildlife that leads all involved to immediate mind loss and spontaneous freakiness. Well, I have to share the following published excerpt about those who chose not to abandon their homes and coastal lifestyles and instead begin fighting to fight nature’s move.

ITCHY CLOUDS: If you were outside on LBI late Saturday afternoon, you had the enchanting experience of running into fiercely biting no-see-um gnats – in number you don’t wanna run into. Hideous. They were so thick you could see-um; tiny clouds around the necks and heads of hapless folks walking about. Mosquitoes weren’t biting because they were too busy slapping at no-see-ums.

I’m not being over dramatic when I say the no-see-ums were showing in biblical numbers. In fact, I clearly recall the passage, “And it came to pass that in the days of Caesar Romero, a plague of no-see-ums lit upon the land in this-book proportions. And the people were set upon in such a manner that there was great slapping, scalp itching and rending of any clothing still left after the rending done during previous plagues. There was also some grinding of teeth. The no-see-ums were so great in number that even Billy the Exterminator fled. …” That’s all I can recall off the top of my head, which is itching me even recalling the no-see-ums.

Methinks we will see many more aggravating hatches of biting bugs, compliments of our dripping spring.

COLORFUL INVASION: One of the odder spring invasions, of sorts, is this year’s super showing of largish brightly-colored butterflies, known as red admirals (Vanessa atalanta). They’re all over LBI and coastal NJ.

These primarily warm-weather butterflies are arriving in number heretofore unseen by even the oldest butterfly watchers I interviewed. OK, so maybe I didn’t actually interview any old-time butterfly watchers, but if such people existed I have no doubt the millions of red admirals flitting about the Jersey coastline woulda stunned them.

The local population of these striking dark brown, red and black wing pattern are all but mesmerized by the purple blossoms of by backyard chive plants. There were times over the sunny weekend when I hosted an admiral per chive blossom. I clicked pics, as fights broke out when an interloping admiral tried to tongue-in on an occupied flower. Pollen and wing dust flew. The winner of the turf tussle would often let out a fierce victory yell. Special microphones and sound intensification equipment is needed to hear those victory whoops, though I noticed my neighbor’s dog would ear up and offer a weird head tilt after each victory whoop.

Anyway, since old-time butterfly watchers are hard to come by, I talked butterflies with Mike Crewe down at the Cape May Bird Observatory. I called there knowing those fine New Jersey Audubon Society folks are always watching winged goings on. Turns out they, too, were focused on the admirable arrival of red admirals.

Mike even took a shot at why the population was going hog wild. He began by explaining that this butterfly species is a southerner at heart. However, come spring, they travel around like retirees in a new mobile home, often getting well into New England. Once way out of their home range, they hang out until winter sets in – and they begin to shiver uncontrollably, often getting into hairy arguments over whose idea it was to go so bloody far north. They then pretty much die – and can often be found frozen solid but still pointing fingers at each other.

In response to such die-offs, nature eventually takes over. Through a complex communication system, which entails the use of eons of instincts and an elaborate arrangement of orbiting satellites (or not), word gets back to the red admirals in the south that massive reinforcements will be needed to travel north in the spring, “Where billions of blossoms await and the skies are not cloudy all day – sign up now and get a free toaster.” The northward surge of fill-in butterflies sets off in April or May.

If you need one of those boring scientific explanations for the northward surge of red admirals after a die-off winter, begin by realizing the species can – and often does -- survive milder winters up north. During those good years, admiral butterflies moving up from down south hit already occupied air space. They run headlong into gnarly local admirals. The northward surge is essentially stymied. However, die-off years leave a veritable northbound boulevard of un-emptied blossoms, thus the floodgates are opened for admirals galore, as is the case this year. Here’s hoping that next winter is butterfly-friendly.

RUN-DOWN: The famed angling “yo-yo effect” is in full up-and-down mode. One day, fishing folks are talking “greatest angling ever.” The next day, at the very same spot, they’re bandying about tales of “totally skunkedness.”

While such swings reflect the truest nature of fishing, the current catching pattern resembles on of those old-fashioned sinks with separate spigots for hot and cold. This hot and cold concept has been most apparent with the bassing north of Barnegat Inlet. That zone is now epicenter for all East Coast bassing. Every boat fisherman known to man has converged on the nearshore zone from the IBSP Swimming Beach up to, say, Ortley Beach. Plugs are working surprisingly well from boats, as are flashy (bunker) spoons at a slow troll. Live bait and even chunks seem to solicit the sauciest stripers.

However, it wasn’t the actual fishing I was hearing about most. It was the maniac boat count. “I’ve been fishing this area my entire life and I’ve never seen anything like this. The boat count was in the hundreds and hundreds,” I was told by a Seaside local I’ve known forever. He also offered some disparaging words about the antsy sometime antagonistic attitude that accompanied flotilla followers. However, a couple other striper savvy boat folks said they were actually impressed by the behavedness of the masses of mariners. I guess it depends on what side of the bed you wake up on.

Why such crowds? It’s wholly the coming together of the popularity of spring stripering and the irreversible fact NY and NJ are two of the most crowded places in North America – and angling is humungous hereabouts.

As for the hot side of the sink, bass have been showing in memorable numbers. The keeper count has been way up there, though schoolies have not been strangers. The number of 15- to 25-pound fish seems to correspond to large year-classes (Chesapeake zone) some 14 to 18 years ago. I heard chatter indicating a few 50-pound bass were going for snag-and-drop offerings. I saw no pics of same. I hope not to see any hanging in tackle shops.

I want to include this bass-mail, which has a bit on scary ending. “Jay, worked (the Pier) and had maybe the best striped bass fishing I’ve ever had. It helped to having my new boat. She got us out of Barnegat Inlet and up to Seaside in half the time of the old girl … We had live bait (bunker and herring) with us so we quickly got right down to it and had a fish on within seconds of the first drop. Even though there were boats so close you could just about jump from deck to deck, I really think we (father onboard) out caught everyone in sight. I swear it’s the special live well I had installed. The extra bubblers really keep bait lively… Unfortunately, I got home to find my (military) marching papers. Might be while before I enjoy my new boat again.”

(Keep your head down – and I’m thinkin’ you won’t have to worry about keeping your ammo dry where you’re goin’. Folks like you make it possible for the rest of us to fish free and easy. Many, many thanks. J-mann)

As for the cold side of the striper sink. Here’s a report from the famed “next day.”

“On Sunday I got as far as the south end of Seaside looking for bass. Trolled in close and out a mile. Nada, and also not a bunker to be seen from the inlet on up to Seaside. Saw no other fish come up on the boats nearby. Boats were still heading north from there but I was not going to make the trip … Walt P.”

Walt went on to score bluefish in Barnegat Inlet, an area that has been totally torrid with blues, everything from cocktails to slammers. I have to think the nearshore bluefish stocks are cycling upwards, after maybe a ten-year drop-off in numbers. The mix of springtime blues from a couple pounds clear up to teens of pounds is a sure sign of sturdy stocks. However, the fall run is the major biomass indicator – and there’s no telling what that’ll be based on the spring run. Admittedly, recent falls have not shown a resurgence of slammers.

I had recently blogged on what seems to be another wave of black drum in the vicinity of LE Inlet. Afterwards, I had a stack of emails asking for angling details, mainly from LE Inlet/Great Bay folks. That zone, while often an incredible fishing realm, also suffers from letdowns and slowdowns when bass and blues move slightly north. Mega-drum offer a hardnosed angling opportunity – one that rarely move much further northward.

To those emailer, I offered some sketchy hows-and-whys. And, rarity of rarities, a couple of them went out and actually scored big time, using big chunks of clams -- sometimes three clams blobbed onto a 7-0 hook. Unfortunately, one boat couldn’t resist keeping a huge drum, though they released two others.

Bycatch fluke are showing. Remember, you cannot legally even be rigged for fluke, i.e. curved hooks with spearing and squid strips. Sure, you can try claiming you’re after other specie with such rigs but it likely won’t fly with Fish and Wildlife, who’ll go the long route to check every nook and cranny in your craft.

The surf of LBI is a tad quiet, after a nice push that put some leaderboard bass into Simply Bassin’ 2010. There were also a few 30-pound-plus bass borrowed from the suds by non-tourney anglers.

Here’s the current leaders of Simply Bassin’ 2010. There are still many weeks to go with this spring striper event. Stop by a participating shop and make your next mega-bass a big-money fish.

1) 35-lb 13oz -- Shawn Taylor

2) 27-2 -- Pat Phillips

3) 25-12 - Russell Short

4) 23-8 -- Dante Soriente

5) 22-6 -- Rick Pumphrey

6) 22-6o -- Andrew Lepteff

7) 21-5 -- Kevin Maher

8) 20-3 - - Gene Slaughter

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