Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Osama’s SEAL Meat Supper;
Blowfish Bouncing Around
Even an outdoorsy NJ column like this has to take a moment to reflect on the sudden passing of extremist foe and anti-angling/everything radical, Osama bin Laden. You might have heard, the Numero Uno terrorist with chronic kidney disease recently died of severe complications related to a sudden flare-up of Navy SEALs. Guess who’s coming to dinner, dude?
I’m relatively familiar with SEAL-dom. From its WWII launch, there has been this abiding sense that they’re the turn-to Special Forces folks, especially when our government wants something made into something else, i.e. made from living into dead.
Public misperception places these unendingly trained soldiers solely in watery war scenarios. Big mistake. The truth is in the acronym: SEa, Air and Land. There was thoughts of adding “Desert” – as in SEAL’D with a kiss – but brass would have no part of that.
Even though SEAL insertion teams have been at the beckon call of the White House since the bin Laden Trade Center Attack 1, it was our unassuming President Barack Obama who was more than willing to go gunning for “Terrorist Number 1” (an actual bin Laden identifier.) In fact, I was advised (by very unnamed sources) that President Obama went kinda Compton during the final secret meeting leading up to the de-Osamafication operation.
Here’s a bit of dialogue:
Twelve-star General: “And, Mr. President, if the SEAL team insertion goes as planned and Mr. bin Laden is, in fact, found residing within the double-secret compound what should the response protocol be for the SEALs.”
President: “Straight up. Put a cap in his sorry ass!”
General: “What it were, Sir. Knuckles.”
There’s no euphemistic way around what took place in Pakistan. We sent out a bona fide death squad. Impressed the hell outta the Israelis. It couldn’t have happened to a better terrorist. Point of fact: We had the right president at the right time.
Can you just picture President Hillary Clinton had she been in the Oval Office?
Hillary: “Now, General, I want you to make sure and tell those SEAL people of yours to make a clean arrest and read Mr. bin Laden his rights. We’ll then set his bail very high – and NO ten percent!”
Lady General: “You go, girl.”
Anyway, American anglers can now sleep a little easier knowing the skinny man with towering terrorist intentions is now sleeping with the fishes, so to speak. I just hope those 72 virgins coming his martyred way can hold their breaths for protracted stretches. Imagine drifting for fluke next week and coming across 72 naked virgins treading water.
“Hey, Hank, Check this out.”
“Say, why don’t all ya’ll come aboard and rest a bit? There ya go. One at a time, sweetie. Cold beer?”
Importantly, and seriously, this might be a good time to finally lower the suspicion-dripping glares we’ve been leveling at the loads of peaceable Muslims here in the U.S. While those Mohamed-haling Americans weren’t inclined to join the throngs cheering on bin Laden’s last-minute trip to Mecca, they have to be thankful the deadly dissident has departed. Also glad to see him go are legions of local Hindus and Sikhs (cool folks), perpetually being mistaken as Muslims. (Bitter irony: Hindus can’t stand Muslims and vice versa. We’ll let them work out that peace treaty on their own.)
The one laugher surrounding the de-bin Ladenizing of the planet is the way Pakistanis, even now, vehemently deny having known the 6-foot 4-inch, $20-million-reward fugitive was in their midst – even with 30,000 Pakistani troops, including the country’s top-notch secret agents, living in the very same neighborhood. Gimme a break. Face it, loads of Pakistanis knew full well “the bin man” himself was hanging out there. Officials are obviously lying through their teeth when saying, “That was bin Laden? No, s***. Hell, we thought it was just some skinny guy named Eddie.”
One thing is certain, Pakistan has been taken off President Obama’s Christmas card list.
Finally, another group heaving a solid sigh of relief is the fully nonmilitary mountain people who quietly live on the mountainous border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the entire world was sure bin Laden and his dialysis machines were hiding. No less than a dozen bounty hunters have been caught pretty much aimlessly wandering the deadly mountain over there, intent on shootin’ someone who look Muslimish.
One such bounty hunter was from the U.S. Google the name Gary Brook Faulkner. Per an ABC report, the Greely, Colorado, construction worker was arrested in an Afghanistan hotel, armed with a pistol, a sword, night-vision goggles, a map – oh, and also a bunch of Christian literature. Hey, don’t laugh. The Christian literature is the reason he got that far. Everyone thought he was one of those door-to-door Mormons and tried to hide from him.
BLOUNCY, BOUNCY BLOWFISH EMAIL: “Hi Jay, I was in the Barnegat Inlet between The Dike and Island Beach State Park. Jimmy L. and I were moving up to a sandbar on incoming tide. As we moved in we began to pass what looked like snow balls coming off the bar. The gulls were going wild and were trying to make off with them.
As soon as we got close to one, Jimmy yelled “blowfish.”
There must have been 40 floating and more were popping up as we got closer to the gulls.
We could see the gulls diving, hitting the blowfish. But, as soon as they had one, the fish blew up and were dropped. We watched for an hour, then the tide became too high and the gulls couldn’t target them.
As we rounded the bend in Double Creek, on the way back, there they were again. This time it was the cormorants hitting the fish. … I never saw anything like it. I bet there is a massive invasion of blowfish hitting the bay. Amazed, Porky.”
(Nothing signals spring more than emergency-inflated blowfish being played with by buzz bombing gulls and inescapably aggressive cormorants. The good part is the way very few of these puffers seem to gets hurt. More often than not, gulls can’t do squat with the bouncy full-blown puffers. Admittedly, cormorant occasionally have some luck puncturing a blowfish’s belly, deflating them, leading to a swallowable snack. Even then, the fish are hard to digest because of a strong and sandpaperish skin
Also common come spring, is the more deleterious dilemma of beached blowfish. In its rush to procreate up here, the warm-water species often runs headlong into water that is way too cold for their systems to tolerate. Not of a swift-swimming ilk, currents easily beach the sluggards. Once stranded out of water, they’re instantly inspired to go inflationary thanks to gulls. While the blow-up defense keeps the gulls at bay, the blowfish are unable to flap back into the water. Instead, rising tides can push them way up onto the sands, never to return – unless you and I give them a hand.
As to Porky’s read of a fine blowfish batch moving in this year, oldsters like myself always harken back to times past, when blowfish actually ruled the bayside water -- with an iron tooth.
Back in the 1960s, bayside LBI was overswum with blowfish– to the utter exclusion of most other fish species. It was freaky. A tad plaguish. It was probably the result of an ecological imbalance, as pollution-based imbalances kicked in locally. That blowfish explosion, never seen before or since, quickly became a cursed event. The insatiable nibblers took over the bay, then moved into the ocean – by the millions.
Every boomer from hereabouts, has a story of the days of blowfish. The puffers were so plentiful you could catch them on an unbaited hook. Hell, baiting up for other far more desirable species was futile. In a matter of minutes, massing blowfish could divest a hook of even a huge chunk of bunker. Many an angler would lift out a chunk boat and bycatch two or three blowfish that refused to let go.
They even tried to eat humans. Kinda. I clearly recall that blowfish would swarm around my feet when I waded the bayside swimming beach waters off Taylor Avenue in Beach Haven. They would soon start nipping away. Fortunately, toes and the tops of feet were too smooth and rounded for the puffer bites.
Hilariously, my buddy Joe S was vulnerable to puffer attacks. I innocently got him into the water to feel the butting blowfish. However, in nothing flat, he was yelling in pain, then running out of the water, leaving a mud trail in his accelerated haste. I thought he was just kidding until I got to the beach where he was angrily checking out the tops of his feet. Kind of a hairy dude, Joe had a goodly crop of red hair on the tops of his feet. Gospel truth: The blowfish were grabbing individual hairs and head shaking them loose. To this day he thinks I did that purposely.
Finally, back in the days of wine and blowfish, an impromptu LBI tradition-of-sorts arose: blowfish bakes. Once cleaned – via a quick knife cut behind the head and a de-skinning via an exposed nail atop a dockside piling -- the truly detectible tail portions were cooked up every whichaway. Deep-frying ruled the gastronomical roost. Next came blowfish shish kabobs, gluttonously good. Beer-battered blowfish was a biggy. Islanders would run out and buy something like ten cases of beer for a recipe that required one cup of brew. Many a blowfish bake became rowdy and riotous, replete with corn on the cob, coleslaw, potato salad and Uncle Lou falling careening sideways off the dock and into the bay.
NATURE-ABOUT: Crows must read my columns. No sooner do I write about the fish crow invasion of LBI than they pick up and move over to the nearby mainland zones. I know they moved there because of a flood of calls I received about, well, the flood of crow calls now being heard in LEHT and Tuckerton areas. These are surely the same fish crows that had been hanging on LBI for the last year or so. They have zipped over to roost backbay areas, zones very conducive to the specialized foraging done by fish crows.
Weird sight: An in-flight fish crow in Ship Bottom was being unmercifully attacked by three spitfire grackles. It’s very common to see such dogfights, as smaller birds ferociously dissuade larger birds from dining on their eggs or hatchlings -- which the likes of crows and jays are highly prone to do when looking for a snack. The odd thing about this three-on-one was the way one of the acrobatically aggressive grackles actually managed to grab some crow tail feather. The valiant smaller bird managed to hold tight until both birds began a potentially catastrophic tailspin earthward. The branches of a yet-to-blossom weeping willow tree intercepted then separated the in-flight fighters. I watched as the crow had a helluva time detangling itself, as its smaller attacker was awing before the crow could affect its revenge. Once free, the crow hunkered down on the cap of nearby chimney, where it gathered itself – as the grackles regrouped into an attack formation to resume the harassment.
REGISTRY UPDATE: Here the latest from the Recreational Fishing Alliance:
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that New Jersey's new free web-based saltwater fishing registry went live Wednesday, May 4.
According to the DEP's official release, the registry will allow the state to comply with a federal mandate to collect angler names and contacts for improving data collection at the federal level.
Saltwater anglers fishing in New Jersey coastal waters who've not already registered to fish in marine waters are encouraged to visitwww.saltwaterregistry.nj.gov today.
New Jersey's free saltwater fishing registry replaces a fee-based federal registry that state anglers were required to participate in and which has been in effect since January. All saltwater anglers and for-hire vessel operators will now be able to register through the no-fee state system rather than the fee-based federal system; the DEP said anglers must still register with the state, even if they have already registered with the federal system, although those fishing on a for-hire party or charter vessel already registered with the New Jersey Saltwater Recreational Registry Program are not required to file for an individual registration.
"I would like to thank the Governor, Commissioner Bob Martin, and the Recreational Fishing Alliance for their help in making the free fishing registry a reality. This is great for fishermen, tourism, and the State of New Jersey," said Senator Jeff Van Drew, primary sponsor of the legislation to create a free saltwater angler registry. "This registry fulfills the federal requirement, assists in collecting important data from anglers, and will allow us to best manage our resources with no cost to the fisherman," Sen. Van Drew added. …
RUNDOWN: Bayside bassing is finding new converts. There are good bass being taken on bay street ends where there is any deep water within casting distance. There are even folks fishing from their backyard docks who have never seen a bass taken before -- and they're catching keepers. Quite cool. Enjoy dining on those legal fish. It helps the entire system to reduce the stocks a bit.
The Simply Bassin' registration forms are in the shops. Unfortunately, there is no participating shop on the North End. If things get up and running for the North End boys, they'll come on-broad. For now, sign up at Jingles, Oceanside, Fisherman's HDQ and Surf City Bait and Tackle.
know I give the same spiel every year but this year’s Simply Bassin’ contest is going to see serious bassing throughout the event’s 8-week run. Please join, have some fun, and possibly win some money. By the by, the bay offers legal fishing waters for Simply Bassin'. Of course, you can only fish it from banks or docks. No bridges.
Winter floundering is fair to good. Short days due to bag limits. Nearly all serious local fishing being done in west Barnegat Bay, with a dedicated group also working the ICW near LBI, north-ish end.
I haven’t gotten much info on weakfish – though I first-handedly know a few are out there. These fish are spawners and must be released if there is any hopes of keeping a local stock going. In fact, they should also be handled gingerly if caught and released. A swollen female can easily be internally damaged through rough handling.Drumfishing is heating up. Give it a try, especially inside LE Inlet.