Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Man Puts Muscle Into Shark;

Dolphin 56 Is Hungry – Again

Driving into work for my killer day (Tuesday), I passed, of all things, a big white Piggly Wiggly truck, seemingly making a delivery. Boy, did that spark a fishing flashback for me. Anglers who frequent the Outer Banks of North Carolina “Dig the Pig” in the fondest good-times way. When launching vacation time down there, it’s all but mandatory to first ask, “Where’s the nearest Piggly Wiggly?” The Pig was part-and-parcel to my NC great escapes – surfing and surf casting -- dating back to the late 1960s. Piggly Wiggly is a seriously southern grocery chain, in case you didn’t know.

That flashback to fall times past melted away as I exited my truck into damn-near 100-degree air temps -- and an insatiable keyboard waiting for me to columnize. Making matters worse was the lingering pain from losing my entire fishing column last week. It was the longest column I had ever written – and had cool stuff to boot. The beast within my computer apparently knew this. It had waited with the patience of a sniper, possibly for weeks, stalking my every word with deadly intent. It knew when the final syllable had been placed (5 p.m.) and pulled the “meltdown” trigger. The beast then vanished into the computer’s dark innards -- as I writhed on the floor, inconsolable.

“Oh, no. What the hell’s wrong with J-mann?”

“I don’t know. He was rollin’ around at first, now he’s just starin’ into space, whispering, something like ‘Piggly Wiggly.’

“You sure he’s not saying, like, ‘Rose Bud’ or something?”

“Nope, it definitely sounds like Piggly Wiggly.”

I’LL JUST MUSCLE THIS OUT -- AGH!: An angler fishing off NY last weekend was bitten by a blue shark he had just landed. (Note to self: Add to list of “Joys of Shark Fishing” booklet.)

The fish bites man debacle apparently happened during an unadvised onboard un-hooking of the highly annoyed shark.

Seeing it was an unhooking, one would logically figure fingers or hands were at the receiving end of the shark’s clampdown. Oddly, it was the angler’s bicep that was badly bitten, worthy of a Coast guard escort back to port – and a hospital rush.

Hear ye: This is exactly why I discourage fishermen from removing hooks with their bare biceps. Sure, such a coordinated flexing looks damn manly for folks watching from nearby boats -- and I have to admit it does highlight those new tribal tattoos you got this past winter -- but biceps are a lot like balloons, let the air out and they end up just hanging there like draped towels. It’s not worth the risk -- considering what you pay monthly for a gym to get pumped.

OK, all seriousness aside – wait, reverse that -- how can you get bitten on the frickin’ bicep unless you’ve chosen to all but caress a man-eater? Please let there have been a video camera taking in that attack. I live and breathe “World’s Dumbest …”

I will remind folks of a fact that most anglers are fully aware -- but, apparently, biceps readily forget. Sharks and bluefish have eye lenses that allow them to see clearly out of water. Most fish, when out of their watery world, see thing much the way humans do when opening their eyes under water. Out of water, a shark sees the way you see underwater -- with a mask on. Tests have proven this.

“OK, Mr. Mako, how many fingers am I holding up”

Snap! “Yum. Formerly three, sir.”

“Somebody take that down – and hand me a tourniquet!”

Could there be a new directive among sharks – knowing they are, by law, to be caught and released – to target some cool human body part and bite same? Yes, sharks are generally dumb-ass beasts – until it comes to biting. Then, it’s Katy bar the bicep.

By the by, in a somewhat unprecedented move, the U.S. Coast Guard recently sent out a “pompon” for vessels to keep an eye open for sharks. Seems something sinister is lurking down below, based on chopper and boat sightings to our south. I half wonder how many sightings is actually the result of a real decent early-summer abundance of dolphin.

Not such a good thing, shark-wise, is the early arrival of cow-nosed rays. These pizzas with wings can draw sharks in from as far away as Nova Scotia – where the pizzas suck.

PARTY DOLPHIN RETURNS: Dolphin 56 is back. Seen recently in Little Egg Harbor.

The popular marine mammal bears the branded number “56” on its dorsal. That was burnt in back in 1979.

The dolphin, then 12 years old (a tad young for tats, piercings and brandings), must have taken that smoking enumeration as a rite de passage into the human realm. It has, with growing audacity, taken to hanging in the hood with humans. It has also become a boat side beggar, as often as not scaring the crapolski out of folks by popping up suddenly, going “Yo, wazzup?” and gesturing to be fed.

Our buddy Bob Schoelkopf, founder of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, both highlights Dolphin 56 (at http://www.marinemammalstrandingcenter.org) and reprimands folks feeding the alluring moocher.

From that website: “Feeding Dolphin 56 or any wild dolphin is harmful to the health of the animal and may result in the unwillingness to forage for food on its own. This behavior will increase the animal’s exposure to human activities and put it more at risk of incidental interactions with vessels.”

Plain and simple: It is unlawful to feed even Dolphin 56. Of course, it is also technically unlawful to lie on dark green cool grass if there’s a “Keep off the grass” sign there atop.

Sorry, Bob, but I met 56 and that’s a face that’s damn hard to resist. Being a good citizen, I didn’t feed it -- though we both downed a slew of Red Bulls and did tail stands left and right, laughing like idiots.

Serious: Dolphin 56 has no fear of vessels and has now developed the sure-to-turn-ugly trick of popping up ahead of moving vessels to get them to stop.

TOO HOT TO BREATHE: The approaching heat will be downright dangerous. This is the third such furnace blast this year – not to mention an earlier hit way back in May. That pre-summer sizzle only went 90-ish, as opposed to a sure-bet 100-plus again this week.

The big difference with horrific heat indices throughout the rest of summer is the potential for downright dangerous levels of ozone, due to lighter winds – and the protracted effects of a sweltering summer, as plants can’t do their O2 thing as well. Asthma sufferers and those with critical respiratory problems have to treat the hyper-heat and associated atmosphere as a deadly air attack. Truth be told, the best bet for susceptible folks is to hit the beach, where even light ocean winds will lessen the ozone levels. It should also be noted that conditions have, on occasion, reached such dangerous levels that even the best of breathing can quickly be sucking air if doing strenuous activities.

It often comes to the utter shock of many Ocean County resident that our corner of NJ is the second worst ozone-polluted area in the entire U.S. Yes, second worst in the entire frickin’ country, with only a bad section of Oakland, California, faring worse. It’s a wonder the ozone hasn’t got us all shuffling around in gang units, wearing XXXXXL clothing and making up rap songs about “lickin’ off shots” at other gangs.

I CAN’T BREATHE: I unadvisedly did a quick trip to the outback late on Sunday. The Pinelands were under a blanket of heat so thick you needed a Ginsu knife to cut AN OPEING though it. The humdidity was sky-high. Even though I went there at 5 pm, I got an official reading of 106 degrees with my cool high-low Weather Service-approved thermometer – in the shape of the superhero Flame.

Many folks don’t realize that the Jersey Pinelands can become a heat magnet in summer – and a moron magnet in my case, as I walked around thinking, “Somebody could die of the heat out there today.”

The famed pigmy pines and oaks offer a bare minimum of vegetative coverage and very little heat absorption. A huge percentage of the Pinelands is exposed sand. As in a desert, that sand superheats and bounces the hotness back upwards, literally adding reflected heat to the ambient temps. A day like this past Tuesday can easily reach 115-plus above those sandy areas, even though temps in nearby towns may only be registering 95 or so. The sandy ground itself can reach a freakish 120 degrees -- and higher.

I recently owned a temperature gun, technically a Raytek MT4 Mini Temp Non-Contact Thermometer Gun with Laser Sighting. You aimed it at an object, pulled the trigger and a little flag that said “Bang!” popped out. When I located my real temperature gun, I could aim it anything and it told the target’s surface temperature.

Little known fact: The air temperatures given during weather forecasts and such are taken from three to six feet off the ground, sometimes higher. Surface temps are a whole other scalding story. You better believe that black asphalt you’re walking – then running – on, as you come off the beach barefoot, ain’t no 82 degrees, as listed on “Current Temperature” broadcasts.

The highest I surface temps I got in Pinelands sand was blistering 122.

Irony of ironies, my temperature gun got ruint one good when (gospel truth) I left it on the dashboard of my truck, in the sun. The batteries went “Kablooey!” as I reached for the thing. Scared the crap out of me. Lest you think batteries can’t explode, just leave ‘em on your sunny dash.

STUFF LBI-ISH: For the 4th annual Barnegat Bay Day and Go-Green Expo, I’m participating in a symposium on the health of Barnegat Bay. I hope to bring up anecdotal issues, like the shallowing (eutrophication) of Manahawkin Bay and the slow closing off of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) from roughly south Beach Haven down to Holgate. An adequate water exchange in that zone is essential for the daily tidal ocean/bay water exchange, which reaches as far north as Brant Beach, or so.

One would think that since the channel is part of a vital Eastern Seaboard waterway (ICW) it would mandatorily be kept deep and navigable. Not so, Joe. The federal government considers that particular part of the ICW to be purely recreational. It won’t/can’t receive the choice treatment given deeper “commercial” channels, the navigability of which is a matter of national security.

By the by, I got the above insider info from a top-ranking Army Corps official, who then fully agreed with me that sand from the closing ICW channel (along with sand from nearby inlet shoals) would work wonderfully as beach fill for a erosionally dying Holgate Wilderness Area. “It’s perfect material,” he said, adding “Just about the best you can find.” And my guess: it’s fuse free.

A quick beach replenishment note: King Connors, Surf City’s despotic mayoral ruler, is openly bragging about not having paid the town’s fractional portion of the beach replenishment project costs. This is yet another wrench in the wheels of the overall project – just as significant as holdouts by easement owners. He, of course, has a slew of self-righteous beyond-convoluted reasons for his welching ways. Through lifetime of politics, he has perfected smoke and mirrors.

As it becomes more and more difficult to get further funding for LBI beach fixes, it sure doesn’t help our Congressman Adler to have such defiant and numbnut remarks floating around. Long Beach Township should be particularly attuned to Connors arrogant end-around. Brant Beach is likely next in line for a repair. That portion of LBT might very well be the last Island section to climb on-board for the long-term beach repair program. Hey, why not take Surf City off the list and replace it with Beach Haven? Pay to play.

CROSSING OVER: The new stop-for-pedestrian statute is in full bloom, as the trial period is supposed to be over.

I’ve done a careful study and, at this point, 70 percent of LBI drivers are either oblivious or uncaring, 20 percent stalwartly abide by the law and 10 percent are undecided.

I’m a 20-percenter, though I’ll admit I’m stumped by the statute as often as I’m satisfied that I’ve complied with it.

The statute has enlightened me on some little-known aspects of human pack behavior. I’m now profusely aware that folks heading to or from the beach are often a disenfranchised lot. For instance, I dutifully hit the brakes and throw on the flashers for a small group of roadside pedestrians, standing at the ready to cross. However, they don’t respond to my statuted stoppage. Turns out that the stop-causing group is only part of the package. They are, in fact, the speedsters division, often kids, running ahead of the pack. Yet to reach the crossing point are the ‘tweeners, still down the block a ways. Then there are the trailers, way down the block -- and not closing fast.

I even hit the brakes for a pack of roadside males – holding bright red plastic cups against their shirtless bulging bellies. Turns out they were using the road shoulder to just shoot the inebriated breeze. My stop drew beer-balled glares and even a “Whadda you lookin’ at?”

A real testy issue with the statute is bikes. I’ve figured this one out on my own. If someone is peddling a bike, or even stopped but straddling the bike, that person is essentially a vehicle. It is already established, per law, that bicyclists are supposed to obey all rules of the road, including stopping at traffic signals, riding with the traffic flow and, in the case of crossing the road, waiting for a safe opening to cross. No statutory stop needed in that case. However, if a bicyclist dismounts, the peddler instantly becomes a pedestrians. A statue stop is required.

FOR ME?: Christmas came early for me recently. First, I got a CARE package from master plug-carver T.W. I found them left in my mailbox at work, where “good” surprises seldom arrive. He took pity on me after I lost some plugs he had given or traded me.

The bad side to losing a T.W. plug is the fact fine folk art has gone to sleep with the fishes. The good side is the fact that those plugs really attract the heavy hitters.

I still laugh out loud when I see “Return to Jay Mann” inked on the bottom of each new plug. Now, to get the damn fish to read.

Next, a fine lady from Little Egg gifted me with a mint condition Rutter, Sr., bufflehead decoy.

Rutter, Sr., was a postmaster in West Creek for ages. He carved some of the finest duck decoys anywhere. Now in his 80s, his artistic woodcarvings are sought after – and usually out of my league.

The decoy one I got is of heightened rarity. (That’s what I’m talkin’ about.) Rutter hand-carved his signature onto the bottom. By the artist’s own reckoning, that’s a real scarcity since he was one of the first carvers to “burn,” a.k.a. “brand,” his signature on decoys. The branding process has become the industry standard. However, with the current high-dollar interest in decoy buying, many modern artists /carvers are going back to engraving or ink signing their signatures. It can add a ton of future worth.

Sidebar: Many older decoys were unsigned. Hell, they were hardworking birds, meant to throw in icy water for hours (maybe days) on end. They were hardly things worth signing, except to show ownership -- just in case any decoy-nappers were in the hood. Decoy absconding was quite uncommon back in the day. Hell, everyone knew everyone else – and also knew everyone else was armed with shotguns.

What’s amazing about unsigned decoys is the way aficionados in the hobby can all but glance at a mystery decoy and tell who made it, out of hundreds of famed carvers.

“Oh, that’s obviously a July of 1959 Parker, made when he had that cut on his left hand that made him feather the tail slightly to the left.”

Those same decoy experts instantly know when, say, a Sprague head is on a Shourds body,” meaning a decoy lost its head at one point – either shot up or busted off by folks carelessly picking decoys up by the head – and the nearest carved head was jammed on, just to get the duck working again.

Sensible solution to the statute: Drive slowly, be hyper alert (can’t be done while on a cellphone), respect humans (and animals) ready to cross (hey, that could very well be your family out there) and don’t become some sorta crazed statute enforcer – going ballistic when others aren’t obeying the new law the way you are.

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