Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Grizzlies vs. Pepper Spray;
Power to Boat Fishermen
Lots of fun stuff to type about this week. But, firstly, I need some help. I went out to California for some afternoon wreck fishing and damn if I didn’t misplace that intercontinental ballistic missile I keep in
with my tackle. Anyway, if anyone comes across it, whatever you do DON’T pull
that red string that says, “Don’t Pull Unless the President Tells You To.”
STRANGE SKULL ON THE STOOP: I run an odd life so when I come home and find a strange animal skull left on my steps, I mainly think, “Wow, cool” -- more than, “Now, how did that get there?”
Such was the case last week when I came home after a long day of trailblazing in the Pines to find this beautifully weathered elk cow skull just sitting there smiling at me, so to speak.
From whence arrive-ith such a piece of nature’s finest osteo-art? Hell, ya got me.
It was a quiet mystery for days on end. Then, the answer walked up to me in the form of hard-core outdoorsman Porky H., who had dropped off the skull. Turns out the aged noggin had taken quite a journey. It haled
from big sky Wyoming. Porky had picked it up during a recent hunting trip. Now
to paint it up real good.
And that Wyoming hunt was a biggy for the big game hunter. After decades of trying, he finally managed to draw a permit to hunt for a ¾-curl bighorn ram sheep. That’s a ram whose already huge horns have curled
around into an awesome display. It the gold standard for hyper-trophy bighorn
sheep, roughly equivalent to a 60-pound-plus bass.yes"">
If you’re not up on bighorn ram permits -- and the draw (lottery) that you have to suffer through to even get a chance to bag one -- nabbing that permit relegates the related hunt to “once in a lifetime” status. In fact, you have to wait seven years just
to begin taking part in the low-likelihood drawing process again. Which is a
bit of a hint that Porky’s once-per-life ¾-curl ram eluded him (in that state).
He did spot some ½-curl targets but they would not even remotely make the
grade. An A-grade ¾-curl ram’s mount is worth a small to medium-sized fortune.
Lest you think jacking (poaching) a royal bighorn is not taken seriously in ram country, just ask Roger E. McKean, 27, of Knoxville, Tenn. In Wyoming, he recently pled guilty to knowingly taking a bighorn sheep
without a license and during a closed season; waste and abandonment of a
bighorn sheep; and taking a bighorn sheep from a vehicle.
Being a good-old boy, McKean put his fingers out for a hand slap. Instead he got a minimum stay of 60 days in jail, a violation fine of $5,200, a restitution fine of $10,000 and a revocation of hunting privileges
for 79 years. The thing is he can’t get out of jail until all the fines are
paid in full.
GRIZZLY DETAILS: As I got details on his hunt, Porky also offered some chilling tales of grizzly bears gone wild over there. Sure, grizzlies are always wild but these were tales of brown bears (another name for
grizzlies) that had recently mauled hunters, killing one. Porky didn’t even see
a grizzly – and he wasn’t overly sure he wanted to, though he did have this
really cool state-supplied manual on what to do if 500 pounds of pure fury and
muscle, capable of literally beheading a human in a single swipe, is attacking
Yes, there are apparently government endorsed “official” actions when an enraged bear is bearing down on you -- from whence cometh the expression. One rule I enjoyed reading: Employ grizzly-grade pepper
spray to non-lethally shoo away a violently attacking bear. This “soft”
approach to thwarting bear attacks is, of course, at the behest of sit-at-home
nature lovers and local pepper spray unions.
I’ll tell you what, since I want to stay on good terms with grizzly huggers and also pepper spray factory workers, I’ll officially agree to using pepper spray. Yep, right after I introduce the bruin to five 2-inch
rounds from a Smith & Wesson .50-caliber handgun, I’ll wait until there not
the slightest sign of motion and then run up and blast the sucker in the face with a can of pepper spray --
then take off into the bushes.
Hey, I’m a nature lover but I’m guessing there’s not much lovin’ to be done when your head is swiped clean off and commences to rolling into a ravine, like a hairy bowling ball.
BITE THIS: Per the bear attack handbook, the thing to do in the face of a full-blown grizzly attack is to drop to the ground and play dead by rolling into a tight fetal ball, primarily to protect your vital organs
from a hungry bear.
Clue: Any action meant to simply protect your vitals organs from being eaten first seems a tad futile. As for the playing dead part, that would come easy for me since just the sight of an attacking bear would give me
However, Porky told me a bizarre “I shouldn’t be alive” story having to do with just such a drop-dead escape scenario. (This is a true story.)
An attacking grizzly super surprised a hiking hunter. The bear’s attack was so sudden the attackee couldn’t even unholster his pepper spray.
(Note to self: Practice speed drawing holstered pepper spray, just in case you get lost in the Pine Barrens and end up in Wyoming.)
The ambushed hunter was forced to employ possum-like drop-and-die theatrics. And damn if didn’t work. The bear apparently stopped dead in its attack tracks.
The hunter couldn’t see the bear but I clearly picture the gargantuan grizzly slowly standing up and nonchalantly rolling a cigarette with one paw – staring like a hawk at the maybe-dead hunter. Leaning over and
lighting a match on the hunter’s boot, the bear lights up ands leans back on a
big pine, slowly puffing away while still staring bullets at the lifeless form.
If only the half-assed hunter had simply remained doornail dead until he heard the finished butt hit the ground and the bear smash it out with a monstrous paw, before moseying off. Instead, he decided to ever so
slowly reach for his holstered pepper spray can. Nicotine high notwithstanding,
the bear went ballistic upon seeing the movement. It instantly lunged at the
hand reaching for the can. Its fully ferocious canines buttered through the
man’s hand and drove deeply into his thigh.
Now comes the weird part.
On the way to deep-meat territory, the bear bit the can of pepper spray. Remember, this is a highly specialized can of pepper spray. It’s, well, loaded for bear. The pressure and contents are maxxed out.
Upon being bear bitten, the can literally detonated. Spray meant to issue forth in a calm collected manner, exploded into the bear’s mouth, face and eyes. Needless to say, the once-and-future apex predator
instantly met its match. The temporarily blinded, permanently mouth-burnt bear
stumbled into the bush. Talk about a meal leaving a bad taste in its mouth.
So, a happy ending for the hunter -- short of that festering bite into the thigh?
Get this, the pepper spray was loosed in such volume that the hunter was also overcome by it, to the point his lungs were extensively damaged and he contracted pneumonia. He didn’t die but for this year’s vacation
he’s cautiously targeting a regional knitting bee in Pasadena.
For me, it comes down to pondering that drop-and-play-dead move. Just my luck, I get rattled by the attack and instead do a drop-and-roll. Tell me a bear wouldn’t love that.
SASSY SWANS: Not directly on the fishing path, I had a gal call about two huge swans majestically gliding across her lagoon, bayside LBI. It was one of those poetic a.m. visions worthy of a
Tchaikovsky composition, i.e. “Swan Lagoon.”
She was wondering how amazingly rare these swans might be. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the goofy things are found aplenty toward the mainland. In fact, come winter, you
can sometimes find dozens of them quietly cruising the west side of Manahawkin
Bay, just north of the Causeway.
Truth be told, I‘m not a big swan person. They’re goofy as a goose, times three -- in both size and attitude. In fact, they’re just about the goofiest most aggressive birds you
wanna stumble upon, this side of emus or ostridges.
Gospel truth: I’ve been stalked, chased, obscenely threatened, and bitten on the back by swans.
In fact, there are a couple doubly unadorable swans that annually nest off the south side of the Road to Nowhere, right near Straight Creek, Manahawkin. When I commence to fishing too
far down Straight Creek, the cantankerous male swan will casually mosey toward
me, as if mumbling, “Oh, I’m just a big friendly swan, dining on pieces of
grass as I walk along, stopping now and again. Don’t mind my getting closer and
closer to you. I’m just easing to a point where I can -- bite the frickin’ back
hairs off at the root!”
I realize he’s just doing his manly duties of territory protecting but I’ve actually had to fend him off with a fishing rod, as he carried out his patented soundless full-blown charge --
running part of the time and low flying the rest. And that’s quite the sight
for any anglers or crabbers driving by on the dusty Road to Nowhere, seeing a
huge wild swan, its 5-foot wings fully spread in an attack posture, and me, in
my chest waders, doing a Zorro-like parry with my freshwater rod – my one arm
appropriately tucked behind my back.
WIND WILDNESS: Where the hell did those winds come from on Monday? The shutters were fully a-rattle this early a.m. as 40 mph west winds fired in on the shirttails of a massive storm off New England.
A huge low-pressure system up north took what is misnamed a “retro” course, seemingly moving backwards (east to west), opposing planetary rules that require systems in the northern hemisphere to move west to east.
What actually happens in a retro-storm scenario is a low detonates, meteorologically speaking, off the coast, as warmer ocean water hyper-energizes the system. However, in a retro storm, the center seldom shifts
very far west. What happens instead is an intensification process essentially
fattens the storm, causing outer fat bands of wind and rain to expand
outward, moving counterclockwise. This gives the illusory look and feel the
storm is moving west to east.
I note this recent storm and its retrofication (my word – obviously) since we’re in the general birthday zone of the 1991 Perfect Storm, a.k.a. Halloween Storm (preferred) and also the No-Name Storm (sucks).
The Halloween Storm was, far and away, the largest storm I’ve seen in my 45-some years of serious weather watching. And, yes, the Halloween Storm dwarfed the Great March Storm and even the hurricane of ’44. In
fact, you could fit both the March Storm and ‘44 Hurricane inside the Perfect
Storm and have plenty of room for the next four or five largest systems. A
satellite view of the Halloween Storm’s coverage area shows it took up most of
the Northwest Atlantic. Unprecedented.
Fortunately, 90 percent of the system remained offshore.
Having been a wave person my entire life, I can also add a mind boggling scientific perspective to the Halloween Storm. I direct you to a highly accurate buoy (located at 42°16′N 62°00′W / 42.26°N 62.0°W / 42.26;
-62.0), which reported a wave height of 100.7 feet on October 30. Yowza.
I’ll belabor this large NE storm just a bit more by noting that this fall/winter has seeming adjusted to a La Nina-related oscillation pattern. While milder and wetter winters are common in NJ under this
big-picture weather set-up, it is also marked by a shift of major winter storms
from off the Delmarva to off New England. Obviously, a single storm is not
enough to go on but I’m among the many who would rather see the rainy winter
and let New England have the honors of all-time storm-age.
RUN-DOWN: We’re at the height of the fall surf-fishing run -- and things are far from Ethiopian. The slowness is not simply centered on weather and winds. The suds are just not kicking
The sense of angling slowness is enhanced by the AWOLness of bluefish. There are barely 80 blues entered in the Classic. That’s the worse showing in 10 years. However, Dick C. knows there are some slammers skirting
the suds. His 16.06, taken last Wednesday, took the lead in $1,000 bluefish
category. As usual, it’s not the number of fish but the quality that rules the
leader board in years like this.
The bassing remains fairly bogus for surfcasters. That said, we had yet another stellar 50-pound trophy striper added to what has become a huge (size-wise) Classic.
Joe Kovacs took a 51-3 bass on November 4th in Beach Haven surf on bunker. Joe is from Lumberton, N.J. That’s the 3rd 50-pound-plus bass on the Classic’s leaderboard. Exceedingly rare.
Congrats to Joe for becoming a member of the Surfside 50-pounder Club. Hey, maybe I’ll get some shops to spring for special hats to denote membership in the Surfside 50-Pounder Club. Only folks with documented
50-pounders caught in the NJ suds, via IGFA rules, can apply? Shop or
tournament documentation is acceptable. Sorry, boat-based 50s aren’t permitted
in this exclusive angling association. Maybe a hat for the boat bassers.
Back to bassing. While things are brutally slow for many surfcasters, the bass are burning brightly for many boat angers, especially those geared to working inlet areas. Little Egg is hot all the way into Great
Bay. Barnegat Inlet, you need to get outside and head north. A tad iffy,
weather-wise and fish-wise.
Many boaters are using eels as a prime attractant. However, smaller stripers are being suckered in with clam gobs fished on the drift. J.M. emailed that he took a 22-pound and an18-pound bass on a “bare” all-white Spro,
being softly jigged (slow, fluking-like rise and drop) during a fast drift.
With the paucity of blues, plastic tails and lead-inset jigs (Wildeyes and
such) can also be used for bassing.
Bridges have some bass action.
Black seabass are now legal to catch. I’m not sure when weather will allow going after them.