Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Weekly blog-about -- May 5, 2010

Rats, Another Calamity;Olden Plugs vs. Fakes

There was not only some super weather out there since last column but also super stripering and near boundless bluefishing. I’m thinkin’ this could be a kick-ass spring, right into summer. Feels good just thinking about it.

On that upbeat topic, I’d like to lead into my catastrophe-defying opening dialogue.

As I graduated high school, I was voted “Most Likely to Not Give a Rat’s Ass.” Since that vote was taken outside official school protocols, it was never officially listed in the yearbook, unable to revel amid the much-ballyhooed – and publishable -- ranks of “Most likely to Succeed” and “Most likely to commit multiple felonies.” Still, I accepted this peer-based bestowment with pride -- and anticipated someday being able to live up to those thrown laurels.

I should also note that quite a few kids voted for Harold Mortowski, over me. I actually called Harold last year, after some 50 years. The conversation was brief, but highly indicative.

“Hey, Harold. It’s Jay Mann from old Homeroom 211.”

“Who gives a rat’s ass?”

“Atta boy.”

Well, it seems I’m now achieving my preordained not-giving-a-rat’s-ass heights. This past weekend I was asked, as various points, about the 2012 Mayan doomsday, the earth-shattering Icelandic volcano, the latest global warming sea-rise stats and the Armageddon-indicating migration of a rare form of subaquatic vegetation (don’t ask).

While I offered properly erudite answers -- to protect my position as the editor of a living breathing newspaper -- these looming end-of-world issues now all but bore me, in a non-caring rat’s ass sorta way. Hell’s bells, if I allowed these dire morosely-ominous things to rock my world, I’d be spending every single perfect sunny day shaking in my waterproof boots – eventually giving in to desperate moments of open moaning and rending of my camo clothing. To what ends? I’m just taking a wild guess but I don’t think I’m going to be able to cap Mount Eyjafjallajökull (Iceland) or to sneak a few more millennia onto the Mayan calendar or even climb up into the ozone with a huge thread and needle to stitch up that hole where all the bad light is leaking in.

Afterthought: In kid times, I used to read Mad Magazine and could never grasp the trademark Alfred E. Neuman quote, “What, me worry?” Now, I get it – in spades. You da man, Alfred. I’m instead aligning myself with a life lived in a fun, honorable, artistic and correctly-punctuated manner. As for that catastrophically climactic cloud everyone is fretting over? What, me worry?

BLOWN TOPS AND SNAKING OIL: I will openly admit that I do occasionally toy with thoughts of worldly matters. In fact, that fume-spewing Icelandic volcano, Mount Eyjafjallajökull, could actually contribute to the downgrading of my always-accurate long-range weather forecast for the upcoming summer. I had predicted that we’d be having a blazing dry and hot summer. However, as the stratospheric ash from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull blazes and hazes its way around the entire northern hemisphere, it might very well be enough to knock down the average air temps hereabouts. That means we’ll have a merely hot summer, one commensurate with, dare I say it, global warming times. On a far cooler note, the suspended particulates from the eruption could leads to some seriously colorful sunsets.

Lest you think a single volcano can’t easily kick the climate around, venture back to April, 1815, when an Indonesian volcano named Tamora blew its top like no other volcano in written history. In size and bang, Tamora dwarfed even dozens of Pompeiis. Inconceivably, it killed 90 million people in nothing flat. It also launched 100 cubic miles of sulfuric acid-loaded ash into the stratosphere. Half way around the world, in New Jersey, it led to the “Summer That Never Was.” From our region northward to New England, mind-bogglingly bizarre bouts of cold weather led to snow and ice storms in June and August. Crops didn’t know which end was up.

Obviously, Eyjafjallajökull is a baby compared to Tamora, however, with all else that’s going on in our wounded sky, its fallout will likely show in this way or that —yet to be fully determined. I’m pondering the possibility of epically savage thunderstorms, as the upper levels of summer supercell storms reach volcano particles, leading to core material for hail. Of course, it could be asserted that the overall cooler air aloft, caused by a lens of volcanic dust, might knock down the chance of supercell formation. It’s gonna be fun to see what Eyjafjallajökull will send us. No, that’s not even remotely doomsday thinking. To me, it’s the fun side of hangin’ out on this planet.

Far down the fun-factor scale – and way up the fear-factor scale -- is the current hideous oil eruption in the Gulf. Ironically, we ogle and awe over the destructive force of an erupting volcano yet a visually unremarkable eruption on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico is incalculably more dangerous. Recreational and commercial fishing has already been halted in the impacted waters. And the problem is expanding even as we speak. The oil slick is on the move, toxically snaking away from the exploded well and slithering toward the Gulf Stream. Once on the back of the Gulf Stream the lethal muck could goo-over the Keys then head up the East Coast to around Hatteras. After that, it’ll then swing out to sea and, believe it or not, attack Ireland. And, yes, Ireland was whacked to hell and back by the fallout from Eyjafjallajökull. By the by, NJ would only get into the ugly oil-and-water mix if a very unusual series of wind events blew Gulf Stream surface water our way.

Even without the oil itself hitting us, this world-class oil leak is hideous news for fishing – and nature overall. We have all seen the kills that accompany spills, thanks to allegedly tipsy skipper Joseph J. Hazelwood, the former captain of the Exxon Valdez.

If I were a born-again pantheist (I’m not), I’d swear the oil rig explosion and accompanying oil issuance was the planet cruelly responding to the contemporaneous presidential announcement that more ocean drilling is needed to keep our oil addiction satiated.

WJHAT’S THE BUZZ: A nature note I’m itching to talk about is actually bad news for we of an outback ilk.

Not unexpectedly, the mosquito showing has gone bonkers on the mainland. It all has to do with the wicked rains of early 2010. The deluges created enough vernal (springtime) pounds and puddles to foster katrillions of mosquitoes, give or take a million.

I know full-well the invaluable guys with the county’s Mosquito Control Commission are surely giving it their all in what is often a quiet generally thankless job. Still, even in their dedicated cases, it’s sometimes more damage control than actual mosquito control. There’s no contest when nature has loaded the deck in favor of insects.

Over the weekend, I tried doing some outback time at a series of spots. The instant I exited my truck, I was greeted by the outstretched legs of loving mosquitoes – blood-loving that is. The insect swarms made my hikes very slaphappy. Ok, make that more slaphappy than usual. At one point, I took to the Native American technique of using a broken off juniper branch to whip biters off my back. I could all but hear the skeeters saying, “Check this guy out. He thinks he’s an Indian. Well, how’s this feel, Kimosabe?”

Ignoring the annoying chides, I tried to imagine what life must have been like for Native Americans, surely swarmed under by mosquitoes un-annoyed by mosquito commissions. I shuttered in flashback sympathy. However, I later researched and found out Native American had truly amazing and complex systems of insect control, including wholesale clear-cutting of massive areas, removing prime mosquito habitat. They even drained wetlands, having easily made the connection between wetness and biting insect hatches. So much for that unshakable “primitive people” label.

In fact, I just have to throw in this parable-like laugher. The implications are kinda all too clear.

So, the Lone Ranger and Tonto are camping in the desert. They set up their tent and are soon asleep. Some hours later, The Lone Ranger wakes his faithful friend.

“Tonto, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."

“Tonto replies, "Me see millions of stars, Kimosabe."

“What does that tell you?" asks The Lone Ranger.

Tonto ponders for a minute. "Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Chronologically, it appears to be approximately quarter past three. Theologically, it's evident the Lord is all-powerful, and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Kimosabe?"

The Lone Ranger is silent for a moment, then says, "Tonto, you dumb-ass, it tells me someone has stolen our tent."

Anyway, there is a sorta upside to this mosquito explosion. The uncountable mosquito larvae now swimming in puddles and ponds will offer fantastical feasting for the tadpoles of virtually every frog species we have. As oft noted in here, as go amphibians, so goes the ecology.

ANY FAKES IN ANGLINGABALIA?: There have been a ton of fishing flea market of late. Relatedly, I got an email asking if there are many fake versions of collectible fishing plugs?

Being a 24/7 collector of everything vintage, I can assure – and warn – that in every collectibles genre, fakes of all sorts eventually crawl out of the woodwork, like cockroaches at night. If something begins to inch up the value wall, someone somewhere will try to replicate it. A somewhere called China jumps to mind.

The good thing is the anglingabilia realm is relatively light on louses hell-bent on faking things up. Still, there are some outright forgeries, especially in the realm of handcrafted wooden plugs.

Personally, I’ve seen a way larger problem created by relatively well-meaning collectors touching up or even totally repainting badly knocked around classic plugs. They often use vintage paint for an authentic matching of original colors. Such renovating would be fine if reworked plugs stayed put within the repairperson’s end-user collection. However, all too often, renovated vintage plugs leak back into the market, offered as having “original paint.” Nowadays, a plug can lose upwards of 90 percent of its value if totally repainted. Oddly, only a couple decades back, such refinishing was all the craze, actually enhancing plug values. The problem arose when full-blown imitations had the exact look and feel of a repainted plug. I’m among the legions of collectors who feel that every knick, scrape and puncture wound gives an old plug a personality that only tons of time (and use) can bestow. By the by, replacing trebles is allowable, providing a plug suffers little or no impact in the process.

A knee-jerk assumption might be there’s nothing fake-worthy in tackle collecting. Oh yeah? I’m thinkin’ someone is already pondering the possibility of crafting a fake-o 10-inch muskie Haskell Minnow, after an original was auctioned for over $101,000 in 2004. The lure’s new owner, Kerry Chatham, was recently offered $500,000-plus for the 150-year-old plug, designed by Riley Haskell of Painesville, Ohio. It was the first-ever articulated lure, receiving patent 25,507. Interestingly, the large lure was meant for trolling and not casting.

Less bank shattering, but still up there in dollar digits, are the spinning lures of W.D. Chapman. A jeweler by trade, Chapman made incredible metal lures back in the mid-1800s. They’re big money now. I bring up Chapman lures – from among hundreds of makers -- because many of his best spinners made it to Jersey. I know of a Jersey auction house that offered a battered aluminum tackle box with two Chapman lures unassumingly hiding at the bottom. It went for a song, nobody knowing what was what amid a cluster of inter-hooked metal hooks, rigs and lures.

As I researched Chapman, I web-surfed my way to a Jersey TH’er (treasure hunter) who found a Chapman lure -- worth a cool grand. I did some email exchanges with the fellow TH’er and learned he found the metal lure in the shallow water of a Central Jersey lake. The lure’s hooks were rotted away but the top-quality brass blades and beads were in super shape. “I had no idea what I had found. In fact, I had gotten a lot of coins that day so the rusty lure was relegated to a junk box with other useless miscellaneous items until one day I rubbed the back of one of its blades and saw a name and got interested,” he told me.

By the by, the anglingabilia realm is still ripe for the picking, especially here along the coast. There is virtually no attic in older – or even newer -- homes that doesn’t have some slumbering fishing equipment. Gems can be luring at the bottom of grandpa’s tackle box. Older lures are not that uncommon a find for those really putting in search time, at auctions and yard sales. I hate being a stick in the flea market mud but you’ll seldom if ever find a steal in those shopping events. You can find super deals, but no “Dollar Special” aluminum tackle boxes with Chapman spinners inside.

There is no quick-learn when it comes to delving into the collecting of American fishing plugs and lures. A decent starting point is to become a member of the National Fishing Lure Collector Club, via. http://www.nflcc.org/index.htm

Readying for plug collecting commences with loads of Google searching. I really like, http://www.oldfishinglure.com and http://www.antiquelures.com. Then, look long and hard at what’s for sale out there. Obviously, eBay shines there – though the days of killer deals thereupon are also long over.

SIMPLY STARTS: The 2010 Simply Bassin’ tourney is off and angling. Within the first few days, three fish assumed top spots on the 8-fish leaderboard. Gene Slaughter took the elad with a 20-3, caught in Beach haven on bunker. Rich Bergman entered a 18-6 bass taken in Brant Beach on Bunker. Bill Montrey listed a 17-3, caught in Loveladies on Bunker.

Once the board fills out with 8 fish, it comes down to nabbing a fish big enough to muscle onto the board – and vie for thousands on prize money.

This tourney is a tough one to call, as to when the biggest cows will arrive – usually fish over 50 pounds. The first phase of the event – first couple weeks -- allows anglers to essentially warm up, by tapping into the early arrivers on the bass scene. Fish in the 15- to 20-pound category are common, though bass able to stay atop the tourney are not out of the question. Last week, a 40-pound fish was taken just off Barnegat Inlet. Shows early arrivers can include cows.

It’s during the tourney’s middle times, weeks 3 through 6, that the biggest and baddest bass pull in. Fish to well over 50 pounds are a-cruise in local waters. The tourney trick becomes finding such money fish flush to the beach, within surfcasting distance. It’s at this same time that massive schools of bunker ball up in monumental numbers just off the shoreline. That dinner bell effect can actually draw the bass away from the beach. It then comes down to bank and beach anglers displaying patience and perseverance. Helping the tourney cause are storms, which can bust up the bait balls, forcing bass closer to the beach, where the fish grab churned up clams, worms and any tumbled baitfish in the shorebreak.

The final phase of Simply Bassin’ includes the first of the arriving dog days. The bunker pod action quiets as schools of larger striper sink back southward or migrate northward. Tourney anglers can then target resident stripers, which often hang very close to the shoreline. The last days of the tourney can – and have – produced first-place fish, including 50 pounders.

RUN-DOWN: Things have quieted a bit on all fronts. Boat fishing has been has been bounced around by gusty winds, which often come and go at the drop of a windsock. It’s frustrating pushing off on glass to soon motor into a surface churned to froth. Also, I’ve seen winds suddenly go from light and leisurely westerlies to howling frigid southerlies.

The beaches are a better bet during wind times. Simply Bassin’ indicates better stripers are in the suds. However, I’ve taken in a few full-blown skunk reports, when no bait could find a taker. Bluefish have helped save the day for some surfcasters, especially those working mid-Island beachfronts.

I’ve been doing late-day walk-on plugging sessions and have had action every trip, Ship Bottom. Sassies, shades, Wildeyes and plastic eels are the prime fish finders. On loose plastics, I’m using ¾ Kalin bullet jigs for weight. Oddly, plugs are not cutting it for me, though Monday evening I went to a barely moving retrieve of a black Bomber and had real decent tail slaps (stripers most likely) delivered way out. No hookups and nothing in-close.

The black drum fishing has fallen off dramatically, per the drum pounders down Little Egg way. There are a few occasionally being caught on chunk baits but at a pace that it is actually below recent springtimes, despite a very decent start to the bite a couple/few weeks back.

Weakfish are in spawn mode but in weak numbers.

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