It’s that humbling time of the year where I ask for donations to keep this blog up and running. It is a time consuming enterprise but I enjoy it. It’s kinda therapeutic. I hope you find it fun – and functional. I’d also like to take this time to sincerely thank those who email or phone me with tales, fishing reports and questions. It’s energizing. Donations can be mailed to: Jay Mann, 222 18th Street, Ship Bottom, NJ, 08008-4418. Being Type A I don’t always have the time to mail Thank-you note but, believe me (!), your donations are fully appreciated. J-mann.
Hitting the Rocks;
Derby Hits It Big
JETTY DAD DOWN: It’s that strange time of year when men of significant bodily proportions and failing corporal coordination feel compelled to bound about atop rocks slippery enough to send hockey players airborne. It is the annual call of the jetties, those rocky wave-ravaged runways that allow anglers to get just a tad closer to their quarry – as if their quarry is a broken neck.
101: There’s hard and there’s rock hard. Those jetties are rock hard. Rocks are so famously hard that a slew of saying buttress their reputation. Some famous rock-hard adages include “Hard as a rock,” “Rock solid investments” and “Long live rock.”
The rock material comprising our jetties is granite, so essentially – and appropriately – they are, pretty much, unfinished gravestones. Take that to heart when you ponder pussyfooting across them.
The only safe jetty-stone stepping is anywhere tiny black mussels cling. Those offer the only true traction out there. Anything green, brown or generally shiny can take you down -- and then apologize in the same southern accent as that Geico talking pothole. “Oh, no. Your head is all flat and junk. Did I do that? Here let me get my cellular out and call your doctor. Oh, shoot, I got not phone cause I’m a jetty rock. So …OK, bye.”
As for jetty jeopardy, I know of what I speak. I am currently nursing a huge black and blue swath of skin, extending from my hip and onto a portion of my left buttock -- pronounced just the way Forrest Gump says it.
Now, one might foster an initial notion that I went down on the rocks during an angling outing, just like one of those significantly proportioned coordination-challenged individuals who opt to hop across juicy autumnal jetty rocks. And you’d be a chunk’s worth of correct, but not for the demeaning above-referenced reasons.
Truth be told, even at my ripening old age, I’m still as agile as one of those Tibetan goo-tongued toads. And we all know just how agile they are, right? What’s more, my mind is as sharp as one of those tiny pointy things you press into the wall to hold up a piece of paper.
I’m buttock battered and bruised thanks to a fairly heroic effort I made to help a jetty-stricken rock-hopping civilian.
On Saturday, I was driving around the loose sand on the beach end of a jetty end and glanced over to see a portly daddy-dearest wowing his younguns by going way out on the wet rocks. “Now you kids stay right there and let daddy do this dangerous stuff.” I didn’t give it much thought until I noticed daring daddy disappear from sight quicker than Chris Angel Mindfreak.
I saw the writing on the rocks. We had a full-blown daddy-down scenario. I pondered temporary blindness to the scene but upon seeing the kids all trying to slip-slide across the rocks to save the old man, I offered myself one of those “Oh, you gotta be kidding me,” bemoanings, hit my brakes and rushed rockward.
I yelled the kids back, just as dad’s head and shoulders appeared from between two heavily vegetated rocks. All his “just watch what daddy can do” piss-and-vinegar had drained off. He was spooked. I got to him fairly quickly, considering the rocks were truly lethally lubricated by nature – a combination of slime, algae and sea lettuce juice.
“You all right, buddy?” I asked, looking at the surprisingly unscathed, fairly young man.
“Yeah, thanks. But how the hell do I get out of here?”
My wise-ass internal response, “Sorry, you can’t. You’ll just have to live there from now on with all the others who have fallen in among the rocks. You can eat mussels and any edible flotsam that the tides bring in.” Instead, I vocalized words that, upon retrospection, were not fully thought out. “Here, give me your hand,” I said.
Now, my plan was to take his hand, and then, through something of a drawn-out coordinated effort, we’d work to ease him back atop the jetty. I knew he might have to resort to embarrassingly bellying onto a rock top, like one of those bull walruses pulling out for some sunbathing. The best laid plans of mice and Mann.
I don’t know what the hell that guy thought I was made of – or what was anchoring me. I can only guess that in his befallen state of mind, he unaccountably assumed I could effortlessly yank his over cheeseburgered 250-pound body clean into the air and flush onto his feet. He had obviously been around little kids too long.
Well, that sucker yanked me into the air like I was a loose napkin coming out of those stainless steel dispensers at McDonald’s. I literally flew past him and hit hip first on the edge of the only non algae-covered rock out there. Above the initial surge of granite-induced pain, my mind couldn’t help taunting me. “Well, numbnuts, now you’ll have to spend the rest of your life as a rock person eating pieces of washed up plastics and dead loggerhead turtles.” My mind often has a good time with me – at the most inopportune times, much less.
In reality, the inadvertent transposition wasn’t the worst move, though I could have done without the contusion. After fielding some glancing apologies from the still very nervous downed dad, I pieced out an escape route by systemically utilizing smaller rocks between the larger one. He followed me. I opted out of the “Here give me you hand” route, though I’ll bet he could have flipped me clean back atop the jetty. We actually went the better part of the trip back to drier rocks by snaking between the big jetty top-rocks.
By the time we made it to where we could easily step topside, the kids were all laughing. I have to admit that the “Thanks mister” from them made the whole thing worth it – though my hip and buttock thought otherwise for the next few hours.
FISHERMEN’S FRIENDS: Those fun-loving Somali pirating-for-profit folks met with yet another leaden response last week when nonchalantly attacking a couple French commercial fishing boats, 350 kilometers north of the Seychelles Islands.
I say nonchalantly because those Somali goons now blatantly go commando on just about any vessel they come across – in international waters much less. It’s not like they even take themselves seriously any more. But those aboard the targeted French fishing boats sure took the pathetic pirates at face value.
For weeks now, all French fishing vessels in that part of the globe have secreted soldiers on board. Some sinister Somalis found that out the hard way. Aboard their now emblematic cigarette speedboat, the pirates approached the French ships in the dark of night, they were met with Franco greetings -- and meticulously directed firepower. Greetings of this caliber are highly non conducive to completing successful pirating activities.
Anyway, I did a little background check and got word that those onboard soldiers may not be your everyday yawners from France’s main military force – whose main battles are over the way their berets should tilt. Seems these soldiers might have been dispatched from Corsica. That’s the deployment area of the French Foreign Legion. Ouch. You do not want to be on the receiving end of anything Legionaries have to dish out. Those guys have long been thought of as over-trained legalized mercenaries.
The bad side is the Somali prates are dumb as dirt. It’s going to take a quarry’s worth of lead to finally hit home before they’ll register that there’s no easy money in kidnapping fishing boats. If the problem behind all this pirating is a shortage of jobs in Somalia, why can’t those people be normal and simply take the true and tried route to finding work, i.e. sneaking across the Mexican border.
“Hey, captain, I think we have some illegals about to cross the river. What the hell is this? They’re getting in a frickin’ cigarette speedboat!”
OBAMA DON’T FISH: I was chatting with Sharon M. JCAA’s operations manager and got one of those incredulous chuckles when she told be about a very involved letter JCAA wrote to the Obama administration regarding the egregious overlooking of Bruce Freeman for a federal fisheries management seat. I happened to have read the letter and it was poignant and very well written. The presidential response: A form letter explaining how important forests are to everyone. Yes, forests.
I wasn’t a big fan of President Bush but it was heartening to frequently see photos of him skillfully fishing for blues and stripers. If Obama ever went fishing, he would probably need someone to put the worm on his hook for him. What’s more, he would likely appear on 40 talk shows and Mad TV explaining his “strategy” of screaming like a girl when a worm was accidentally dropped at his feet during that same trip.
DERBY/CLASSIC DAYS: With the start of the 55th annual Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic, formerly the Striped Bass Derby, I wax nostalgic by pulling out my trusty 1956 issues of the Long Beach Island Derby News, an early publication covering the event. The publisher was William Douglas and the editor was John Clauer.
Among the hyper-cool old ads that jump out are those for Andy’s Bait and Tackle, Duck Hunting on Barnegat Bay with Charlie Sprenge, Woodie’s Bait and Tackle, George Otto’s Harvey Cedars Bait and Tackle, the Island Civic Players presenting “The Curious Savage,” and Newt Stiteler realty selling “Three bedroom ranch … second from ocean” for $12,500. One of the oddest ads announces in big bold letters: “Wubadiity at Frankie Mayo’s Half-Way House.” Any old timers have any idea what the hell a Wubadiity” is?
A useful insight offered though these written windows into our angling past is the way excuses are made of the exact same stuff we bandy about today, just yellowed and faded a bit. For instance, check out this rings-a-bell Nov. 9 headline: “Weather Still Blamed for lack of Stripers.” The writer (who might well be my mentor Dick Clements) states, “Most fishermen are still blaming the weather for the poor results shown to date in the second running of the Island Striped Bass Derby. The most important thing to look for before the fishing improves and reaches last year’s proportions, include much, much colder water.”
Much, much colder? There must have been a bout of global warming back in ‘56, as water temps into early November were well into the 60s. We’re talking early November, mind you.
Every year I point out that the early years of the derby/tourney had about 2,000 entrants. With bass abounding and anglers even more so, you’d figure fish would be flying out of the knotty pine woodwork. Well, in 1956, the first four weeks of the Derby saw the biggest fish in the sub-humble 20-pound range -- with very few fish entered overall. That was when virtually any bass could be entered. In fact, here’s a fun Derby Committee note to anglers: “Enter all fish you catch – sizes don’t matter for the unknown weight award.”
As for the spurtiness of stripering even back then, here’s a blitz-ish blurb from November 16 issue: “… Almost as many fish were caught in the past five days as have been caught in the entire four weeks of the Derby to date.”
Also, I found confirmation about “locals” not being able to win First Grand Prizes in the earliest derbies. By the by, those prizes included new 4WD vehicles and top-of-the-line boats and trailers – prizes well worth $35,000 today. Here’s the official rule: “No resident of Ocean County is eligible for the First Grand Prize.”
Another oddity for me has to do with the boundaries back then. Per the rules, the boundaries extended from “Barnegat Light to Beach Haven Point.” That Beach Haven Point is a new one on me. I’ve heard of Beach Haven Inlet and even “the point,” referring to the Rip at the tip, but not combined like that.
CLASSIC CHATTER: The Classic is off to nearly too-fast start. I thought the Kenny De’s 36-11 set the bass bar high, now our buddy Mike “The Judge” Kane has taken things to heaviness heights seldom seen in the first days of the tourney. He used a bunker head to best a 53-inch, 44-11 cow that had been casually cruising North End waters. It was apparently the only fish taken in very large zone thereabouts, meaning it was the definition of a rogue bass (see below). I hate to do it but I’m hereby charging Mike with Contempt of Classic for being so aggressive from the get-go. Ah, what the heck. Charges dropped. Congrats to Mike, who puts in tons of time. Now, it’s up to us to knock the lead out of him. Late report: The gals are also stirring up the striper sands. October 13 was far from unlucky for Joanne Sullivan. Using bunker in Loveladies, she bested 29-3, 41-inch cow at midday. Another angler who combines know-how with time spent. If only I had that thing called patience. Maybe I’ll check Wal-Mart.
My theory: This could be a real important stretch for surf casting mega-bass. When the seas settles and the water cools, big bunker balls will form well off the beach. We’ve seen these dinner-bell baitballs draw stripers from the suds and into the deeper water – where boat anglers nail them, as we look out longingly – and cursingly.
On the other upbeat hand, we might be in a Classic that lives up to its name. Of course, this means I have to resort to using bunker heads. Yawn.
In other Classic news, this year the participating bait and tackle shops are in charge of electronically submitting weigh-ins. This is a super thing in the long run – though there may be glitches at first (not yet – knock on teak). The best way to see what weighing, go to http://lbift.com. Once there, click on “Click here.” That will take you onto another Chamber of Commerce page, where you then click on “Click here to see a list of the fish.” That’s the weigh-in tally to date. The weigh-ins will be kinda stacked in a largest-first manner. That’s different than in the past. Eventually, we’ll achieve the old look – as close as possible.
ROGUE? “… When we were talking on the beach you mentioned rogue bass. After you left it hit me that I wasn’t sure what a rogue bass that was. J.L.”
Actually, it’s a word I coined out of convenience. Hey, it’s better than “smartification,” a word I developed when describing folks who could use some learnin’.
A rogue bass is a marked loner. It arrives on scene pretty much by itself. Michael Kane’s Classic-leading striper is a perfect case. That 44-pounder was the only fish caught for miles. No one else, including Mike, had any action prior or after. That offers the image of this bruiser being a strict recluse. In fact, virtually all the leading bass now being taken are the sole hookup of the day. If the main bass biomass, the large body of migrating bass, were on-scene, everyone would also be seeing action. That could start fairly soon. I believe rogue fish can often mark the outer parameters, the vanguard, of larger biomasses
Rogue bass are not related to resident bass. Resident bass are the ones who break away from the big-ass biomass – usually in spring -- to settle in a small area where the eating is pretty good. These stripers will hang thereabouts all summer and offer some localized bassing even under a scalding summer sun. These are almost always smaller fish.
For me, I try to emphasize the wayward nature of rogue bass. When I write about delectable big-ticket hookups in my weekly column and daily blogs (http://jaymanntoday.ning.com/), frenzied folks will rush down thinking it’s on out there. It ain’t! Take this past holiday weekend. I wrote about half a dozen banner bass but the number of folks skunked to tears was through the ceiling. More so than usual, if you happen to be one of the chosen ones, life is good – for that rogue moment.