Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report



I really should concentrate purely on fishing for this holiday weekend’s column.


(Disclaimer: The following is based on an actual occurrence, though I may have melted down the hard cold facts a wee bit.) 

I saw this advertisement for a “Hoarders Seminar” and felt professionally compelled to attend. I figured it would be a load of really cool people, all mulling around eating bagels, sipping energy drinks and ravenously talking about all the cool stuff they’ve hoarded. Instead of meeting a gathering of compatriots in arms – a who’s-who or hoarding -- everyone arriving at the hosting hotel quickly and quietly slid into an auditorium, where word had it “the speaker” would soon be arriving. I figured “the speaker” would be some kind of hoarding guru, the king of collectibles, the baron of minutia, the mogul of … you get the drift.

I scurried up to the very front row. One doesn’t see hoarding aristocracy that often.

A hush fell, the lights dimmed (or maybe it was the other way around) and up to the on-stage podium strutted this unassuming, middle-aged, thinking-of-graying man. There was nothing “extrahoardinary” about him, I internalized, mentally nudging myself in the ribs. “Good one, eh?”

This was an inauspicious mental start for me. I shoulda just bailed out then and there – to go see what sorta takehomeables I could gather in the lobby area.

Without so much as a “Hello,” the speaker announced, “Hoarding is curable.”

Huh? What’s your problem, dude?

I looked back to the packed auditorium, expecting to see confused faces. Instead, there was this composite expression of rapt agreement, as if a prophet or a shaman had spoken.

I swung my attention back toward the stage. This was gonna get freaky.

As if there was an air of doubt adrift in the upper rafters of the auditorium, he repeated, quite loudly, “Hoarding is curable!”

After just standing there for a minute, he said, “Now, I want everyone to greet your curable neighbor.”

Just like that, everyone began joyously turning to the folks sitting next to them. A few over-emoted people even hugged each other.

I got nervous. That’s when the fellow to my right, a skinny soul, offered a hand, saying, “Hi, I’m Hal and I hoard gum wrappers and chewed chewing gum.”

Before I couldn’t emit so much as an “Imagine that,” he had shaken my hand and rapidly placed it on my shoulder -- likely feeling around for some Doublemint. He seemingly expected me to pitch in during this freaky meet-and-greet. I could only muster a nervous, “My mother wouldn’t let me chew gum.” To which he teared up and oozed, “God bless her heart for saving you.”


I was all but rescued by a hugely hefty fellow to my left, who pulled me his way. “Don’t pay any attention to gum nuts there. My name is Oscar. I’m a recovering hoarder of dolls.”

I got out “Dolls?” before being smothering by his hug, reminiscent of my massively bosomed aunts from back in the good-old days. My inside voice squeaked out, “Looks more like you hoarded calories.”  

I pulled away, saying I had to jot down some notes – which was true. Note to self: At future hoarding seminars always sit between the gals who hoard chocolate candies and ones who hoard see-through tank tops.

I was actually relieved when Mister Hoardercurer leaned toward the microphone and hand signaled quiet. He then began with what I felt could have been a sidesplitting skit.

“How do you know if you’re a hoarder?” He asked, then paused. Big mistake.

Not realizing it was a relatively rhetorical question, I blurted out “Uh, if you ask the people sitting around you at a restaurant if you could have their uneaten peas and carrots to take home to your collection  … you might be a hoarder.”

Nary a chuckle from the crowd.

Try again. “How about: If you have trouble sleeping at night because your bed keeps shaking from all the gerbils balled up under it … you just might be a hoarder.”

No crowd response, short of a high-pitched man’s voice in the far back yelling, “What the hell’s wrong with gerbils, a**-hole?!”

Feeling the moment slipping away, I pulled out the big guns. “If people constantly drift into your yard because they mistakenly think you’re having a huge yard sale … you might be a hoarder.”

Come on, people, it works for Foxworthy. I’ll bet he hires a redneck audience, dirt-cheap.

The speaker broke in. “Are you done, Mr. … I didn’t get your name.”

In a last ditch effort, I offered, “Which name do you want? I keep thousands of ‘em in crumbling cardboard boxes all over my house.”

The man just stared blankly at me. I was tempted to break into a little of Gaga’s “My Poker Face.”  Instead, I offered my sir name. My big mistake.

“Well, let me tell you something, Mr. Mann, this is exactly why there is such pain and suffering surrounding the illness known as hoarding. People mock and vilify individuals afflicted with the irrational and irresistible urge to gather and collect items -- until their lives become obsessed with seeking more and more. They become fixated, sometimes fatally, often ruling out all other phases of life – including reality.”

To this, the crowd issued odd expulsions of air akin to “Amen” at a tent revival.

The speaker hammered onward. “In hoarding, anything, and I mean anything, can provoke an overwhelming passion, warping into an obsession and finally a lifelong illness. Yes, it can last for decades on end.”

I leaned toward gum guy and whispered, “I’ll bet people who hoard diseases don’t have to worry about decades, eh?”  

“Shhhh!” he hissed, rudely.

I don’t take that from anyone, even a working weirdo, so I leaned real close to his ear, whispering, “Hey, dude, I’m pretty sure there’s wads and wads of gum stuck under your seat.”

No, “Shhhh!” this time. I watched his upright profile, as he stared staunchly forward – for maybe five seconds. Then, he leaked his gaze downward toward his seat. Soon, his left hand left the armrest and I could feel his body going more and more askew. In no time, he was all but bent over, both hands groping around below. When he finally sat up, he had a frightening odd smile. He glanced over toward me, threw me a half smile and a little nod of approval. I felt a surge of nausea, when I noticed he was now chewing away on something.

Stunned, I looked forward and realized the overly-observant speaker had caught me in the act.   

“OK, Mr. Mann, since you’re obviously trying to hoard attention, how about you serve as the Guinea pig for the hoarding test? Tell me, do you indubitably keep single unmatched socks?”

“Damn straight.”

“And why?”

I saw him weaving his hoarder trap and went pious on him. “It’s biblical, dude,” I said, semi-confidently.


“Think of the missing socks as prodigal. Someday they’ll realize the folly of their ways and return home. If prodigal socks return and find nothing waiting, it could cause a rip in the tender fiber of the universe. Uh, amen.” 

He and I both knew I had pulled that out of my you-know where but I still looked left and right with a righteous little smile.

“You know, Mr. Mann, I’m glad you’re here today just to demonstrate the absolute denial a hoarder can have.”  

“I’m not in denial. I hoard it all. Let God sort ‘em out.”

“OK, then, Mr. Mann, pick a favorite item you, uh, collect.”

 “Fishing lures. They’re hanging all over my house, inside the crawlspace, in my truck, in my neighbor’s garage …”

“And how many of these lures just don’t work; are useless for catching fish?” he asked.

I couldn’t tell a lie. Well, actually I could, I just didn’t feel like it. “Hell, hardly any of the damn things ever worked,” I said in seriousness. A mist of light laughter finally spread throughout the crowd.

With that, Mr. Houseofhorders launched into an impenetrable tirade on the horrors of hoarding and the deep psychological reasons why one “transfers life’s stresses into an illogical, often absurd, gathering of comfort items, meant to compensate for an internalized hatred of one’s own self and further exasperating self-loathing by forcing victims into an reclusive hells.” 

“Hells bells, what are you talking about?” I self-offered at tirade’s end.

Mercifully, we came to a long lunch break, during which absolutely no one wanted to be near me. The little brownnosers were all hoarding around Mr. Hoardhounder. So, I went back into the auditorium.

Sitting there, I eyed the speaker’s brief case. It somehow seemed to be beckoning me, like a vaporous image coaxing me forward with an enticingly motioning forefinger. The crowd was emballed outside, so I snuck up to the case. It was locked. That lasted a quick penknife wiggle. Upon opening, a smile the size of Montana crossed my hoarderiferous countenance. I made a quick grab inside, closed the case and scurried back to my front row seat. 

On return, the speaker homed in on me again. I was ready.

As he singled me out as all that’s wrong in the hoarder-rescuing realm, I held up a balled hand, which contained my briefcase score.

“And what have you there, Mr. Mann? A fistful of denial?” 

“What, these little things? Just some crap I was getting up to throw outside. Here, take a gander.” 

I approached the stage and opened my hand.


His briefcase held enough paperclips to supply Staples, nationwide. As I figured it, he had mountains of them back home.”

“These look familiar, dude?” I sneered.

 “Mr. Mann, are you totally out of your mind!?”

“Well, at least I don’t live and breathe paperclips. In fact, I can freely and easily go and throw these suckers outside -- into the rain, the cold, rusty, paperclip-hating rain.”  

“Don’t you dare! I will hurt you, mister. Do you hear me?!”

Short story, long, I was escorted out of the seminar – having thrown the paperclips up on stage, where Mr. Hoardaholic frantically rescued each and every one. “Did that crazy man hurt you, Thomas?”

Despite my boot into the lobby, I went into my “Last word” mode. I snuck to the auditorium doorway and yelled in, “Holy crap! Look at all the filled dumpters they just put out down the block!”

I zipped out of the hotel laughing, until I got slapped by this cold sinking feeling. What if there really were a buncha filled dumpters nearby? Holy crap! I ran to my truck.  

BULL SHAKRS NO BULL: Did anyone see Jeremy Wade’s River Monsters on Monday night TV? It was fully and graphically sharkified.

Extreme-angler Jeremy hit the east coast of Florida to seek proof of a growing population of wickedly unpredictable bull sharks. He was working the exact Indian River area I used to haunt during visits down thataway.

What made this show enticingly freaky was the fact the famed angler was bank fishing for upriver bulls. He even wore a fighting belt, essentially being chained in to the rod. There’s a great idea when standing at water’s edge fighting 1,000-pound sharks. Hey, it’s all about ratings.

Jeremy hoped to prove, once again, that borderline psychotic, people-tasting bull sharks are very inclined to hang out in freshwater. He had already done so in South African freshwater lakes.

Bull sharks are the only maneaters capable of tolerating freshwater, thus the utter certainty that the culprit in the beyond-famous “Jaws” saga was a bull and not a great white. Jeremy noted this fact in his dialogue. 

From close calls I’ve had while surfing and scuba diving around the planet, I’ve oft rated the bull shark as the planet’s worst of the worst  -- easily out worsting the great white and hammerhead. In fact, many an attack attributed to whites and hammers have been bulls. I’ve seen small ones, three footers, trying to bite confused waders in Florida. In one case, a lifeguard ran up, grabbed a psycho bull shark by the tail and threw it seaward in a hammer-throw manner. It was back in ten minutes. 

Making matters worse, bull sharks are infamous one-biters, as this show indicated. There were some “Viewer Discretion Is Advised” photos of attack victims, bitten once in a taste-test manner.

One segment of the show perfectly demonstrated how psychotic a bull shark could be. Years back a six-foot bull prowling in very shallow water – as is very common with the species -- attacked a young Floridian boy. The fish was busily munching on the lad’s arm when the dad ran out, grabbed the seemingly unconcerned shark by the tail and dragged the fish -- and his attached son -- onto the beach. The fish still wouldn’t let go of its meal. 

The lad’s arm was fully severed by the time a group of men had disenfranchised boy and bull shark.

I’m not being overly insensitive here. The boy was airlifted and survived, albeit by the skin of his teeth. As for his astray arm, an onlooker on the beach took on the still flapping shark and actually pried the arm out its mouth. It was rushed back to its rightful owner, where doctors somehow, i.e. miraculously, reattached the limb. The boy, now a teen, has fully recovered. 

I was a graphic example but it proves bulls can be some crazy-assed fish. 

By show’s end, Jeremy caught a small bull shark in fresh/brackish water. No real surprise.

Ironically, the shark he landed paled in ominousness next to a truly horrifying 400-pound grouper he first caught in the river. That monster could kill a snorkeler on looks alone.

The program actually offered some good tips on night sharking, which was once hugely popular hereabouts -- when Holgate (pre-Refuge actions) was open throughout the year and huge browns and duskies roamed the Rip. A few boat anglers still go summer night sharking around Little Egg Inlet. It’s tough to outdo battling 400-pound sharks from the beach.


LBI CUP IS UPON US: This is the weekend of the 8th annual LBI Cup (May 25-26), part of the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club’s ultra-full schedule of fishing happenings. The public is highly invited, though you’ll hopefully read this in time to get out there and sign up. Captain’s Meeting is Friday, 7 pm, at the clubhouse.

Winnings are $1,500, $1,000 and $500 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  That’s based on 25 boat entries. The total payout in 2011 was $12,780. The more entrants the merrier the money.

For more info, quickly go to http://www.lbicup.com/, or call Phil Heller at 609-685-3399.

RUNDOWN: The black seabass season is underway, though the wind and swells have made it tough to work places like The Tires a tough go.

We can keep 25 fish providing each is 12.5 inches long. As you likely know, tail filaments are not part of the length. The season pauses on September 3, resuming on Sept. 23 to Oct. 14, when it closes until Nov. 1.

I’m a tad surprised at that 25-fish bag limit. That won’t cut it, conservation-wise but we just do as we’re told, right?

Fluking remains as iffy as the weather. Even when the skies cooperate, the average bayside and inlet drifts are seldom coming up stellar, even though was all know the fluke numbers are there. That said, there have been some biggies, to six pounds 

By the by, despite the ultra-mild winter, spring has been not just normal but has also been punctuated by some seriously chilly nights, including frost in the Pines late last week. That’s vitally significant to bayside fluking. The cooler water moving into the bay through estuary systems keeps the bigger fluke inside, even on the west sides of the bays, which can be superheated by now.

Stripering is just not itself. Could it be too much action in the early spring has led to the big bass more closely following northward bound bunker schools? Could big bass have felt the warmer-than-usual ocean water and sulked southward toward the over-summering holes off the Delmarva? Are the fish simply spread far and wide, responding to mixed messages from the weather?  Or, is everything perfectly normal out there but the fishing pressure hasn’t homed in yet on the hottest spots?

As for this upcoming weekend, the weather should align nicely with massive angling effort. The bays will surely feel the angling armies. The canyons aren’t a huge draw, especially with bass events absorbing the interests of many LBI offshorers.

How about that huge sheepshead taken off the beach (much less) this past week? See the nearby photo, compliments of the Jingles Bait and Tackle website. That’s the second huge sheepshead I’ve heard about this spring. The other was caught from a boat beneath the Big Bridge, a few weeks back.

As I routinely note, sheepsheads were very common in our waters about a century ago. That tells me they could someday return. What a great replacement they would be for closed-out summer tog. The bite and fight between those two species is almost identical. Taste-wise, I might even give the edge to sheepshead, i.e. top-shelf.

Bluefish are assuming their usual role of saving many an angling outing. Those perfect eating-sized blues have been accommodating boat and bank anglers everywhere. This is not to say it’s a sure-shot every time. That wouldn’t be fishing. But you can just about bank on a few blues if working inlet water. Go with plastics on jigs to assure hookups.  

I heard about shoals of kingfish to our south – and coming this way. But, I haven’t gotten a single report of any yet reaching here.

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