Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Weekly blog: Sept. 26, 2012 -- Huge Spiders Are Our Friends; Surf Users Need to Play Nice

Huge Spiders Are Our Friends;

Surf Users Need to Play Nice

As if this summer hasn’t already shown us some huge hatches of insects, good and bad, we’re seeing an amazing showing of orb-weaver spiders, along with the related garden spiders.

I’ve never seen so many.

These spiders are most easily recognized by the huge, scream-worthy webs they weave. Accidentally walking face-first into one of those webs – some over three-feet across – can send even a hardened arachnologist into a girly, run/scream fit. “Get it off! Get it off!”

Spook factor aside, orb-weaving and garden spiders are the kings of the insect-nabbing web realm. They’ve been dubbed “the dominant predators of aerial insects in many ecosystems.”

Note that well. They’re on our anti-insect side. And, no, they are not insects themselves. That’s grade school science stuff.

A strand cooler is the fact that orb-weavers build a new web every single evening. To begin, it jumps aboard a wind current and glides forth, shooting out silk until landing on a nearby object. It then strands its way down to the ground, climbs back to the starting point to create a “Y” shaped foundation to build (and build, and build) upon.

If you’re kinda science, you should see the way an orb spider hunkers down to some serious silk crafting toward its web’s center. Thereabouts, it creates a stabilimentium, a complex, geometrical crisscrossing of silk. That’s for strength, so it can snag even power fliers, like beetle and wasps. It has taken over 90 million years in perfecting this design.

After a hard night of sucking body juices from snagged insects, the orb spider takes the day off. Toward evening, it returns to the web – and eats it. I’m serious as silk. Whether it does this like an Italian sucking down an insanely long strand of spaghetti …

Anyway, these spiders are big and surely spooky but they’re just not mean or dangerous. The main human injuries from orb and garden spiders are during the above-noted panic romps after folks stroll face-first into a big web. YouTube shows folks falling off steps and porches – or blindly running headfirst into hard objects, including the heads of others.

Personally, I have taken a liking to many an orb spider. I especially enjoy admiring them as they harmlessly crawl from one person’s back to another’s.

SHARK FISHNING NO-NO – OR NOT: Shark fishing is thoroughly prohibited – and also fully allowable.

This past summer, I took a touch of heat from regulatory folks. It had to do with my heavily hyping brown shark fishing in the surf.

Technically, such sharking is a no-no – or not-not.

Give this regulatory shark list – and verbal advisory – a close read. It is from literature titled, “NJ Saltwater Fish Regs 2012 NJ Minimum Size, Possession Limits & Seasons.”

Per the DEP, “It’s illegal to take, possess or land any of these species in NJ or federal waters: Atlantic angel, basking, bigeye sand tiger, sand tiger, bigeye thresher, bigeye sixgill, bignose, Caribbean reef, Caribbean sharpnose, dusky, Galapagos, longfin mako, narrowtooth, night, sandbar, brown, sevengill, silky, sixgill, smalltail, whale and white sharks.”

Doubly note the part reading, “take, possess or land” any of the protected shark species, including browns.

Hmmm. We been breakin’ the law by hauling in brownies, eh? Ain’t that a bitch?

However, and therefore, I will no longer suggest fishing for any of the above-prohibited sharks. You can assuredly gear up and go sharking for other large coastal sharks, including blacktip, bull, lemon, nurse, tiger (not sandtiger), spinner, scalloped hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, great hammerhead. Says so right there.

So, while sharking for the allowable sharks, please try your hardest to not allow your bait to be bitten by brown sharks, or any other prohibited species. I strongly suggest a tiny little waterproof note hanging near the bait, specifically listing which species can and can’t bite the bait. In that way, it’s the fish to blame.

BEACH BUGGY BANTER: The sandbag rampway onto Holgate is astoundingly passable, despite quite the pounding by waves and sand-hungry high tides.

It seems that the theory behind the sandbagging layout is holding water, so to speak. There are also many more sandbags coming to the township, meant to further buttress the current layout and to extend it southward. There is a testy section right past the bags when first driving on. The problem is almost exclusively during higher tides.

I’ve done a couple slow drives along the front beach from North Beach Haven to Brant Beach. Despite all the swells and storms, the entire stretch of beach is a smooth and easy buggy go. Of course, on weekends, there remains no shortage of attitudenous beach sitters, leveling the evil eye at mobile anglers. I always kept it cool and wave, even in the face of ongoing glares and sneers. Much of that gnarliness is something these folks drag around 24-7, beach or no. Just shoot me if I ever get like that.

BACK CUT FRACAS: I went to Holgate over the weekend to find a major gathering packing it in along the cut in the back. There were a dozen buggies and five or six boats anchored on the beach. The boaters had a typical beach party going.

Sadly, the two user groups failed to play nicely together. A fairly fevered fight broke out between them, leading to some swings and accusations of sucker punches.

By the time I got on-scene (I had been fishing nearby), the main punches and shoves had been executed but it was still easy to tell the feuding parties, based on in-your-face scream-offs – during which the gals with the boat troops loosed some unlady-like language, provoked by some equally ugly wordage on the part of the fishing segment, consisting of generally younger guns. Some pretty vile verbal volleys were exchanged. I was aghast – as I giddily got my GoPro video going.

The guys on the boat side were seemingly serious provocateurs. In fact, based on a load of trusted witnesses, an older gentleman on the boat side threw the first punch – allegedly suckerish. He was eventually thrown in the drink. OK, so maybe that was me yelling, ‘Hey, keep him in there until I get set up.” Not true. I’m a peacemaker – and a photographer.

The shout-off carried convulsively on as the boat folks slowly packed up and angrily left the beach, noisily.

I GoPro-ed the entire final portion of the wildness but missed that main lip-bloodying attraction. I only got the obscenity-soaked, ebb-and-flow of the post-fight flare-ups. The footage is not real exciting, unless you’ve always wondered what the blipped out words are on reality TV.

I did my small part to lighten the air by trying to joke around – after-the-factish. I’ve seen that “lighten up” peacekeeping method work before, though it wasn’t overly effective this day. More than just riled blood was flowing through veins. Tougher for me, I knew just about everyone on both sides. Still, both sides backed down just long enough to allow the warring factions to separate.

While I had a hard time telling what the two feuding parties represented, it seemed like mainland versus Island and also boaters versus buggyists, even though there were mainlanders and Islanders on both sides. Go figure.

There have been conflicts at the back cut before in the past, but this one somehow escalated.

Here’s where I catch slack but this entire scene, albeit unsavory, was just a case of “folks will be folks.” Mixing it up often occurs when mixers are involved. I’ll always take some socks and shoves and swears over guns and knife gouges. My main distress was over younger kids being exposed to the vile verbal bombs. I’ve always hated the concept of collateral damage. In this case, both sides were free firing upon young ears.

Hey, I might as well get all this unsavory stuff out of the way.

SURFERS v. SURFCASTERS: The month of September has been swell – and then some. There has been wave after wave of waves. And waveriders have been cashing in on them.

As much as fall is fishing times, it is also surfing times. And therein lies a rub – as in rubbing the wrong way.

From now through November, the tenuous intermingling of surfers and surfcasters has/does/will lead to angst-laden exchanges. Let’s hope cool heads prevail – and not as primary targets.

When it comes to waveriders vs. anglers, I’m the essence of that old hippie song verse, “Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together and not kill one and other right now.” (I never did know that song very well.)

For me, I’m plugging between a jetty rock and a hard spot. While I’m an avowed surfcaster, I spent just about my entire life dedicated to surfing – 24/7, in Hawaii. Though retired, waveriding still courses through my veins, still seeking a perfect line-up point to snake waves from “brother” surfers. I’m not the only soul who cruises the beachfront with duel intent. A huge number of LBI-based surfers are also surfcasters – and vice versa.

I’m admittedly sympathetic to surfside anglers having their lines “buzzed” or paddled upon by waveriders. I’ve even been known to yell my frickin’ head off at arrogant paddlers – though it always ends with yelling, even when punkiness is a-paddle.

I’ll be the first to admit there is always the more disruptive “punk” segment within the surfing scene. I know. I was once one. As one unruly generational crop oldens and mellows (as my crop did), a new batch of wild ones paddles out. It’s life, dude. Whadda ya gonna do?

Don’t say it.

To those very few militant surfcasters who might prescribe throwing eight ounces of lead at passing or board-sitting surfers, there will be hell to pay, often legal, should you make contact. Just try to convince a judge you were simply casting out and didn’t see the surfers sitting there.

By way of reminder, surfers have families – often including dads, moms, uncles and aunts who fish. They’re going to know the truth behind any alleged “innocent” casts that clobbered their loved ones. Just like that, you have folks gunning for you. There goes any hope for a peaceful Island lifestyle. All because someone paddled over your fishing line?

By the by, the above scenario is based on an ugly “Cast at my kid, will ya!?” incident that went very badly for all families involved – with Hatfield-McCoy hatred still lingering decades later.

My suggestion: Be ye surfer or surfcaster, go ahead and get mildly pissed over infringements on your surf space, then let it slide out to sea. F*** the concept of getting even. T’aint worth it.

FISH CHATTER: The September bluefish presence is about normal for this time of year, showing mainly snappers and tailors. The one thing that makes no sense is the thinness of the tailor blues. I’ve caught dozens and they’re not nearly as chunky as they should be with all the bait around. My guess is the 70-degree-plus water temps have their metabolisms going a mile a minute. They’re burning off fat as fast as they down mullet, spot and spearing. The cooler the water, the slower bluefish burn off fat.

But why so many fat slammers in the “offshore” bluefish biomass?

Easy answer: The big blues ravenously feed in the warm surface waters then descend into very cool, deeper waters to slowly digest. Even hyper bluefish occasionally hunker down, mainly during deepwater times. There is no cool, deep-down water in close.

Holding to that subject, striped bass have slow metabolism rates, however, they also need to venture to cooler waters to oversummer. They either go north or slide into deeper water off the Delmarva.

LOOKING METABOLICALLY AHEAD: One has to wonder if the unprecedented warm water now camped off New England could impact our fall bass run. Did northbound bass go even farther up, past Newfoundland, looking for comfortable quarters – meaning they’ll arrive here late? Also, might the bass be much thinner than usual when they get here, having dealt with fat-burning, warmer waters? Then again, with the glut of forage along the coast, might arriving autumnal bass be bursting at the seams? Last week, a slew of striper hookups off New England show massively chunky stripers, though the first keepers hereabouts have been long and lean.

Yes, I get a tad excited about arriving bass seasons. You should, too. Then run out and join the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic. It’s fun and keeps one of the last Island traditions alive. Go to http://www.lbift.com/ or check participating tackle shops: Surf City Bait & Tackle; Fisherman’s Headquarters; Jingles Bait & Tackle Shop; Oceanside Bait & Tackle.

The fluking continue to falter, both boat and beach. Again, it’s positively not over for the flattie presence. It’s conceivable they’re filled to the gills on mullet, rainfish and spot. Those being caught are even fatter than they had been a few weeks back. I use the filleting technique that removed an entire side at a time. Please watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZioI3b5KBQ – though I’d slow it down to avoid some of the meat missed by not following the bone structure a little closer.

A SHIRT OF SUPPPORT: I’d like to take a minute to urge all to buy a T-shirt to support the effort to build a Fishermen’s Memorial in B.L. It’s essentially in memory of a longtime commercial fishing buddy of mine, Jimmy Mears, who died last January in a tragic capsizing of the scalloping and monkfishing vessel Mandy Ness.

The Coast Guard investigated the possibility that the Mandy Ness was swamped and capsized by a large commercial vessel passing nearby. Tracking down the only large vessel that had been near to the Mandy Ness, Coast Guard officials (using a chopper) boarded the vessel in question off Virginia but couldn’t conduct a thorough investigation. That led authorities to Houston, Texas, where the vessel docked, allowing investigators to look for any signs of a collision.

Unfortunately, a near miss – a passing close enough to capsize the commercial fishing boat – would not leave any telltale markings on either vessel.

Although the final report on what the USCG believes caused the capsizing of the Mandy Ness has been issued, it had not been openly released to the public.

Regardless of those findings, the loss of yet another fisherman – in this case one so well-liked by so many in our area – has bumped the West Atlantic to the top of the deadliest list of fishing grounds, exceeding even the Pacific’s “Deadliest Catch” zone.

The memorializing effort for Jimmy, being carried on by family and friends, seeks to place a monument in the state park area of Barnegat Light. It has been given the green light by the state but the need to raise big money now rises.

Please show support for all commercial fishermen through this effort.

T-shirts are in, available at Viking Outfitters, Inlet Deli, Barnegat Light Liquors and Lighthouse Marina, Barnegat Light. It is $20 for the shirts. 
Donations can be made in person at Lighthouse Marina, 6th street and Bayview, Barnegat Light. Seehttp://fishermensmemorial.wordpress.com/.

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