Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Playing Chicken With Bait;
Bats Taking a Nosedive
IS IT INDIAN SUMMER YET?: “Jay, … When is it officially an Indian summer? … Carla.”
I thought I implicitly knew the answer to that, i.e. when it’s way hotter than usual, sometime between September and November.
After a chat with the Weather Service, turns out I was a lot wrong. Seems it ain’t an official Indian Summer event if there hasn’t first been what might be called a killing frost. If we haven’t had one of those frost-on-the-pumpkin nights, a fall warm spell merely means it’s just that, no Indians involved.
For an official LBI Indian Summer, I might suggest expand the parameters a bit. When greenheads, black flies and gnats gloriously exit only to suddenly re-show again far beyond their usual tours of duty, that is surely IS LBI. That Indian Summer thing is also in the air when we’re clean into October yet weekend beachgoers are still towel sprawled a-beach, squishing out SPF45 goop and mass splashing in a too-mild ocean – as we try to buggy along and surf fish, as they drift across our lines. For me, I rate an Indian Summer by my shorts. When I’m still out there baring bare legs, when chest waders are the calendar’s call for the attire of the day, IS’ing all over the place.
With la Nina absolutely showing already, I feel the Indians are unrestless, ready to casually summer clear into November. (And, yes, I can liberally call every sky thing the effects of la Nina. Why should global warming freaks have all the fun with the blame game?
SHACK ASTIR: The Causeway Shack subject is seemingly stirring – again. The skeletal remains of the onetime hunting/fishing hovel is that close to miraculously rising from the muddy ashes.
The Shack’s finally-official owner, Chet Atkins, has OK’ed the concept of a rebuild – or restoration, or architectural salvaging, or whatever it’s called when you essentially bring dead wood back to life. Fortuitously, Stafford Township officials and historic society powers-that-be are also verbally onboard, likely responding to the huge public fondness for the markedly defiant landmark. It’s now a case of sloshing through the quicksandish regulations placed by the DEP – and possibly the federal EPA -- regarding rebuilding on wetlands and such. There is surely some regulatory slack reserved for historic sites and landmarks.
As for those covert efforts to drape the Shack -- to make its profile higher than the near down-to-earth look – it surely worked. Be it folks angered over the incongruously gaudy look of banners and flags or others realizing the embellishments were a truly last-ditch effort to draw attention to the beyond-rickety Shack, the odd appeal process worked. “It worked totally according to plan,” said Jim. Y. “It got the attention we needed.”
Now comes the need for funding – real funding, dollars that will go to the immediate revivification of the site. As we speak, T-shorts and brochures are being developed to raise awareness – and money – for the first officially-endorsed fundraising site. It will run through the website www.savetheshack.com, produced by Sundewweb.com.
Per the folks behind the rebuilding, a number of local builders, architects and restorationists have said they’d volunteer for the fix. “Just about everyone I talk to is behind this,” said Jim Y.
Chatting with a fellow who does public relations work for living, he jokingly suggested the Shack be rumored to be haunted. “That’ll get it a huge following. We could do ghost tours,” he emailed. I just couldn’t resist. I emailed, “Right now, a ghost wouldn’t be caught dead in there.”
ODD EMAIL OF THE WEEK: “Jay, Have you ever heard of raw chicken being used as bait? …”
Sure -- for crabs. As for using any type of poultry as bait for the likes of bluefish, I wouldn’t be even remotely surprised if a 20-pound chopper instantly downed an entire turkey wing, should it be cast into the fall surf.
Part of your email (unpublished here) suggests you asked this question based on once seeing an ass-to-the wind angler tipsily hook a chunk of barbequed chicken and dropped it into a bluefish frenzy. It was ravenously downed in a chopper heartbeat. Hey, we’re talking blitzing bluefish here. Hell, word has it that’s how they disposed of Jimmy Hoffa’s body. (Hoffa was, in fact, a fervent saltwater fisherman.) I once saw a crushed soda can fall overboard during a night fishing charter boat on a shoal of monster blues. The damn aluminum can couldn’t even sink. The attacking blues were bouncing it around like a beach ball at a Springsteen concert.
Still, in open-minded respect to the unexplored zones of saltwater angling, the effectiveness of various meats as bait has yet to be fully explored. Go for it. A day may come when entire sides of buffalo meat or chirping chicks (for livelining) will be routinely found in those fresh bait coolers near the checkouts at tackle shop.
In fact, you now have me wondering about a recently-acquired vintage miniature Budweiser can fishing lure. You’ve seen ‘em. Can you imagine “Budweiser can” listed under the “bait” heading for the leading bass in the upcoming 57th Annual Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic?
And you better start thinking seriously about getting signed up for this epic surf fishing event. Your participation is truly appreciated – and needed. Raw chicken can be used as bait.
MULLET ON THE WING: Here’s an email closer to bait reality: “Watched a mobile fisherman stop at 2 jetties throw out mullet no weight or anything else and he caught 3 bass. Two keepers and shorts. South end of island. Bill.”
Bill, That had been a favorite technique of mine. It’s especially effective when standing atop the jetties. You’re email has inspired me to use it again. With the mullet running huge, I can see livelining an 8-incher -- plenty big enough to get major bass salivating. Your observations are also very informative, when considering how many anglers are throwing out chunk baits to fully no avail. My guess is the bass are all balled up on the lee sides of jetties, totally focused on migrating mullet. Those mullet pods are already being muscled up against the rocks by millions of snappers. A wounded (hooked) mullet would make total sense to bass picking away at bluefish-bitten forage fish.
BAT ARE UP: “Hi Jay, my son and I were out LE Inlet and had a bat come flying along and go after our lines, the little bugger just kept darting around and around the power pro. We were about 1/2 mile off the inlet at about 9:40 am. I am always amazed at what nature will show you if you look. Bill B.”
Same exact bat scene recently took place in Holgate, midday. In that case, the fluttering rodent seemed a bit disoriented but was very active, soaring all over the place. It sorta seemed on the hunt but wasn’t scoring any bugs.
Obviously, a bat out in the daylight is a very bad omen – for the bat. Be it the current scourge of white-nose disease (see below) or, more terrifyingly, rabies, nothing good brings a bat out under sunny skies.
Importantly, one should never try to help or befriend a day (or night) bat, even one that seemingly lands nearby to chat. Although bats are actually very clean mammals, they can transmit rabies, sometimes via spittle -- an exposure you likely wouldn’t even notice. Among the few human deaths from rabies, bats have transmitted very few. Still, when a bat comes calling, it’s best to steer clear – or, if you’re in a boat, simply dive overboard and hold your breath underwater until it flies off. (Tell junior I’m just kidding, Bill.)
Bat’s are dropping like flies. They’re dying by the caveful. And, yes, that’s a sad thing. A single bat can down thousands of mosquitoes, per night. What’s more, night mosquitoes are females on the prowl for blood, meaning every single biter devoured by bats neutralizes thousands of to-be mosquitoes.
The potentially catastrophic die-off of U.S. bats is due to something called white-nose syndrome, caused by a common fungus known as Genomyces destructans.
Weirdly, the exact same fungus harmlessly rolls of the backs of bats regularly exposed to it in Europe. But here in North America, the hitherto harmless fungus has gone batty, so to speak.
The unusual part of the G. destructans fungus is how it covets the cold. The fungus becomes reproductively aroused at below 70 degrees -- and goes lethally reproductive as temps drop -- even as low as freezing. Since those are the same temps that spark bats to hibernate, the poor flying mammals exposed to the fungus hang helplessly, for months, like living Petri dishes.
The white-colored fungus ostensibly thrives on the noses and wings of the sleeping mammals, giving them something of an old appearance.
But the visual fungal presence alone isn’t the white-nosed kiss of death. Instead, the foul fungus diabolically slaps an infected bat out of its essential winter sleep, fatally kick-starting the flying mammals.
When a bat is wide-awake, an astounding little dynamo instantly revs up inside it, powering one the highest metabolic rates in the business. It requires massive amounts of fuel. In the case of a bat, it’s nutritious insects.
Snapped awake by the fungus, the flying mammals take off like bats outta hell only to run into snowflakes instead of insects. Midwinter bats starve in nothing flat.
Since the start of the white-nose pandemic, millions of little brown bats, once healthily common, have succumbed to the disease.
While there isn’t an overload of bat appreciators out there, enough folks realize the essential eco-role the night feeders play.
That brings us to saveourbats.org. These are good folks fully committed to figuring out what ails our mosquito-eating bats. If you can throw them a buck or two, you’ll be helping to save a super-astounding animal -- while enhancing nature’s debugging efforts.
FLIP AND THE GANG: There has been an impressive showing of bottlenose dolphin regularly roaming from Little Egg Inlet. They’re making some very close-in showings near Holgate’s west peninsula. They’re sometimes less than 20 feet from the beach.
Stopping now and again for feeding sessions, the marine mammals are likely delighting in the millions of tiny snappers appetizers thereabouts. Bluefish are a dolphin favorite. Per Bob Schoelkopf at the Marine Mammal Standing Center the dolphin routinely fatten up on bluefish, fluke, mullet, “Any fish they can find.”
It’s hard to peg what, exactly, dolphin are downing right then and there. Unlike diving birds, which come to the surface with their just-caught foodstuff on display, dolphin don’t readily offer any indications of their meal when coming up for air – though some younger dolphin will bring a food item to the surface just to play with it, until Slap! “Quit playing with your food.”
I suppose dolphin also eat bunker but a fellow who was feeding a famed Barnegat Bay dolphin, threw it a bunker and it knocked it away with its nose. When the boater then threw a peanut butter/jelly sandwich, the dolphin scarfed it down -- and pleaded for more. I’m thinking that might not have been the best indicator of what wild dolphin generally eat – and it sure isn’t to the liking of Bob. People-fying a wild dolphin may be the stuff of water parks but it’s surely not in the best interest of the dolphin.
By the by, you surely recall the oversized seal that hung out on LBI beaches much of the summer. I had gotten a load of ecstatic reports about the way it would flap its flippers on its sides when beachgoers clapped at it. Turns out we over-humanized that clap-flap interplay. Per Bob, that flapping is an anger response by a seal. Here everyone was thinking the huge mammal was joyfully playing along with public when, in reality, it was taking the claps as challenges to it territory. It was pissed off that these puny human creatures might have a thoughts of mixing it up over who owned that piece of beach.
SURFCASTING ALERT: The north Brant Beach area of Long Beach Township is scheduled for a beach replenishment between 31st Street and 57th Street. That could begin anytime before December, i.e. fall. Yes, it will cover a couple famed jetties.
While the contract for the fix hasn’t gone out to bid yet, only a couple companies vie. It’s assured that the winner already has loads of LBI beach-replenishment experience, so things can get pumping very quickly.
The work will doze under any thoughts of angling right where the work is being done – though it moves along quickly. The project could also block buggy traffic for a short stint, though similar beach fixes in both Surf City and Harvey Cedars allowed for a goodly amount of concurrent public usage. As to the overall impact on angling, it all comes down to exact dates. The later, the better.
Obviously, when work is done, the Brant Beach beaches will be highly traversable in buggies. As to how fishing will go, the lack of jetties won’t help at all. However, but the run of replenished beach, extending well out beyond the adjacent beaches on Ship Bottom and south Brant Beach, could act as a jut point, possibly intercepting fish moving further off the beach, vis-à-vis, a big sand jetty.
RUNDOWN: Bass are playing coy. A few here, none there, a few more down thataway. Top of the tides seems best. Plugs and livelining is beating out chunking, though that can change on a dime when bigger bass move in and big bunker donuts are to their leisurely liking.
Bluefishing remains snapperish, to a negative degree. Bait meant for larger blues or bass is relentlessly removed from the hook by piranha-type attacks by eight-ounce micro blues. Some cocktail blues, to three pounds, are showing near the inlets. No slammers on-scene.
The most pervasive surf bite – along with the nonstop snapper blues – centers on kingfish by the loadful. I can say that because Saturday’s World Series of Surf Fishing was dominated by kingfish, per one of the judges of the event. Small blues were next in line followed by trash fish and a black drum.