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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

(Donations are graciously accepted -- and needed. Jay Mann, 222 18th Street Ship Bottom NJ, 08008-4418)

Ray’s Excellent Bass Adventure;

Keeping Count of Quirky Casts

Fall has sprung, marked by the taking of a top-shelf striper -- a 57-pounder that stopped by to visit Ray Sullivan (see below).

The chopper blues are finally back in town, slashing their ways to surflines near you. They’re doubly aggressive with the blowing of hard south winds.

That influx of slammers has surged into the LBI Surf Fishing Classic computerized fax machine. That system allows a real-time conveyance of weigh-in data, as the fish passes through the shops.

To get a micro-read on the Classic, go to the Soutehrn Ocean County Chamber’s website http://www.visitlbiregion.com/fish. Above the Classic logo gracing that page, look for a small blue print message: “Click here to view catch data!” When on that data-rich page, you’ll see every fish caught up to the minute.

Up near the top of the page, you’ll see a line of column heads, i.e. “Type,” “Weight,” “Bait,” “Date,” By clicking on the likes of “Location,” every fish will instantly be arranged based on where they where they were caught. Obviously, “Weight” is the biggy. But, try all of them to glean useful catching information. In fact, this week you can see the angling impact of the arriving south winds by clicking on “Date” and noting the way the fishing gusted with the arriving southerlies (Oct. 25).

RAY’S CLASSIC: The new leader in the Classic’s striper division is 56.44. That’s a bit of an ouch for other tourney-ites. However, if ever there was a year when even a 56.44 can be beaten, it’s this year. Makes for a Classic battle.

I talked with Ray Sullivan about his 57-pounder. He told me the hooked fish ran straight out, taking line so fast that Ray helplessly watched his reel drain off to just a few remaining wraps. He knew the only option at that point was to batten down the drag, always an iffy proposition.

Feeling the full-drag line go dangerously taunt, Ray girded for the fish’s pull and even then he was tugged toward the drink. He took his stand a few feet from the water’s edge. Then, in the proverbial knick of time, the hookup came to a grinding halt, assuming a dead-weight mode. Ray coaxed one, then two, coils of line back onto his reel.

The fish’s straight-out run and the odd screeching to a halt had Ray wondering. “I wasn’t sure what I had on,” he said. He knew the shark option was always in play. Even the black drum possibility was in the mix, with 100-pounders known from LBI surf.

Next, the fish did something a bit un-bass-like: It began a protracted beeline back toward the beach. Where Ray had been fretting his line being taken to the busting point of tautness, he was suddenly taking in slack line. “I was reeling in as fast as I could,” said Ray. That phase of a fish fight is a heart stopper -- wondering if the fish is still on or if the hook has pulled.

The length of the fish’s run back to the beach inched Ray further into the what-the-hell mode. Then, about 50 yards from the beach, the fish surfaced and Ray saw that glorious telltale tail shape. It was a striper!

With that bass realization came a rapid rise in Ray’s blood pressure – and a new challenge that would make or break the battle.

After the fish had tailed up, the cow striper began to muscle toward a nearby groin. Many a still-out-there bass has successfully employed that line-cutting strategy when hooked. However, unlike ill-advised efforts by other anglers to walk hooked bass over the groin -- by trying to hold the rod high in the air to get the line over the rocks -- , Ray did something of an end-around. He backed downbeach of the jetty, until he had enough angle to pull the fish away from the rocks. Fortuitously, the fish obliged. It was a winning move on Ray’s part. As he fought the de-rocked bass in, Ray also worked his way back toward it, keeping pressure on the fish while reeling in line. In the end, he ended up almost exactly where he first hooked up.

Both the bass and Ray were totally spent by landing time. “I was shaking,” recalled Ray, who allowed nearby angler Mark J. to unhook the fish.

Oddly, Ray’s constant companion, his wife, wasn’t with him this one time. However, she got word about the trophy bass and was waiting at Jingle’s Bait and Tackle when Ray arrived to weigh in the fish.

As for how much impact the awesome striper had on Ray’s fishing mindset, he was back on the beach angling after the hoopla over his weigh-in quieted down.

OBSESSIVELY CASTING: In my jaymanntoday blog (http://jaymanntoday.ning.com), I often write about the exact number of casts I make each plugging session. I count ‘em all, sometimes reaching over 100-plus casts on one of those days I’m convinced I might even catch something. And I get a goodly amount of ribbing about this seemingly tedious tabulating.

Truth be told, it’s most likely an uncanny manifestation of my part-time obsessive-compulsive behavior. And, no it’s not an obsessive-compulsive “disorder.” My house, now that’s a disorder. To me, arbitrarily placing something anywhere in the vicinity of my house renders it put away.

The count-a-cast syndrome is also a reflection of my addiction to multitasking. To keep my head in the oft-unproductive plugging game, counting each throw offers this soothing sensation that I’m doing some sort of dual duty. When I’m chewing gum at the same time, life is sweet. Counting the actual fish I’ve caught seldom enters into it.

I recently had one emailer ask if the counting of casts helps devise a pattern of how the fish are biting. My answer, “Yeah, that’s it. It helps me devise a pattern of how fish are biting. Thanks, buddy.”

“Huh?”

QURIKS LIKE ME: In a form of preemptive self-defense, I occasionally reflect back on some of the quirkiest oddities preformed by anglers I’ve known. Worrisomely, I couldn’t come up with a whole helluva lot.

I do recall that one of the best anglers I know -- Jim W. out of Forked River – would pin his bait rods to the bottom with a goodly amount of lead (sinkers), then, now and again, he’d casually walk up to the super taunt line – near the water’s edge -- and pluck it. Gospel truth. He’d twang it like a guitar string, allegedly sending excitatory vibration through the bait, perking any nearby fish to bite. I even think I saw it work a number of times, though he was such a top hooker that he always seemed to have line play.

I tried the twang method on my line and squat ensued, though I noticed it made my rod tip dance seductively, just like a big bass was toying with the bait. I parlayed the twang technique into a higher calling. When things were super slow at the crowded Holgate Rip, I’d lazily walk the waterline, as if netting bait, and clandestinely reach up and twang the lines of semi-comatose anglers. They’d let fly their styorofoamed coffee and go flying for their rods. I could sometimes get the entire platoon of Rip anglers holding their rods in rapt anticipation. OK, so that might be borderline unwell.

A far more obsessive-compulsive angling dude was a Ship Bottom old-timer, now happily in Florida. He was a good buddy of mine, but even so, I never once brought up the way he would hand dry every piece of tackle he’d use. I kid you not. We could be in the midst of an all-time blitz and if he switched plugs he’d meticulously proceed through a veritable litany of drying actions.

He wouldn’t just blow the salty drips off a plug, as I sometimes do with a better artificial. He utilized not one but a series of rags of graduated function. First, there was the gruff first-swipe rag, some sort of thick tightly knit material -- since he hated traditional towel material, which would get hooked too easily. Then, there was some sort of interim fabric, meant to eliminate small drops. Then came the coupe de chamois, which buffed everything, even the hooks.

I’d sit there with my sunglasses on, seemingly looking straight ahead, but my eyes would sneak over to watch him dry even his sinkers, as if he was stocking gold bars on shelves at Fort Knox.

Hey, I know more than a few of you collectors are salivating over the condition of his olden lures – and this old boy is now 90-something. I’m just focusing on the quirkiness of his rigid multi-step OCD procedure. His girlfriend used to tell me he would also buff his tackle on a wheel in the garage.

Not overly quirky but worth a mention is a fellow who leaves some tobacco for every fish he catches. You may have heard of that Native-American custom. I think it’s kinda cool. In fact, I went back and left tobacco the year I caught a 50-pounder for the LBI tourney. After that, I even tried to do it regularly. It was when I began netting mullet and had to buy tobacco by the bale-load that I drifted away from this custom.

“Hey, George, how many mullet in 157 dozen?”

“1,884.”

“Oh, swell. One piece of tobacco, two pieces of tobacco, three pieces of …”

Hey, if you know of any angler oddities, let me know. It might be a fun subject. Oh, in fact, I just remembered the local guy who cuts the otolith, earbone, out of every bass be keeps. Tough job, actually. He mounts them on black velvet. Very cool display, though you have to admit it’s borderline quirky when he whips out his bass ear bone display when guests are eating over.

HOLGATE HAPPENINGS: How about Holgate? After years of actually not faring so well in the Classic, the far south end is kicking double-B butt --– bass and blues. John Bonner, Tuckerton, joined trophy bass takers Ray Sullivan’s (56.44 – NOT a Holgate fish) and (Courtland Foos) 47.63, by hauling in a weekend 40.44. John was using bunker chunks near the Rip.

The entrance is easily passable but a tad precarious in terms of future storms. The public works guys did a fine job after the last storm totally washed away any chance of driving on. However, we’re reverting back to that nasty showing of erosion at the first beach section, owned by Long Beach Township. It won’t take much of a blow to bring buggying to its knees at the entrance.

I should note that Congressman John Adler is very familiar with the disappearance of Holgate. He plans (in theory) on seeking federal emergency money to replenish it – should he get reelected. I’ll be checking with Republican congressional candidate Jon Runyon this week to see if he’s willing to tackle the problem if elected.

As of this week, the Holgate beachfront drive has been very good, though highest tides make it tough for buggies to scoot by dead forest areas.

BUGGY BANTER: From mid-Island southward, the beach buggy beach drive ranges from fair to excellent.

Per usual, oft-eroded Brant Beach zone gets tight during higher tides. It’s still generally very drivable, though jetty ends are getting very chewed up. In fact, the high number of buggies this fall has many beaches looking like a division of Rommel’s panzers just passed by. The trick when driving chewed up beaches is to find a solid track and staying therein. Forward momentum should never be lost when traversing testy areas.

South of Brant Beach, the sands open up to wide and white. Believe it or not, that’s the Surf City beach replenishment sand working its way southward. Time-lapse satellite photos vividly prove this out. With Surf City due for a beach sand re-do in the very near future, the littoral drifting sands should just keep coming – with Harvey Cedars sand joining in well down the road.

“Jay - How do south winds trigger the fall fishing................by lowering the water temps?”

Not really. As nearly as I can figure, it stirs the pot right when there are tons of foody things available to enter the frothy mix.

During calm offshore wind conditions, baitfish get to migrate in an orderly clam and collected near-beach manner, usually with clear water offering tons of lead time to eyeball approaching predators. South winds add churn and roil to nearshore waters. It also eventually dirties things, adding turbidity to the increasingly topsy-turvy swash. Where baitfish had the upper fin when things were clam, the big boys (actually girls, in most striper cases) now sense the momentum of the water is shifting in their favors.

Gamefish are utter masters at reading even the most ultra subtle changes to their watery environment. Bass, especially, known when the increasing winds are gearing to move sand. For them, a side-ass or direct onshore flow of wind (and related wave action) is a dinner bell of sorts. Where they had been feeding on fishballs well off the beach, the call of the crashing waves is too much to resist. Bass use the churn to their crab-eating advantage.

Proven: Crabs are the number one foodstuff of bass. Of course, to maintain their “opportunistic feeders” fame, they’ll entertain just about any other edible that rolls into view as they chow down on crabs.

As for south winds and bluefish, slammers love the chaos of a good nearshore surf churn. Pounding waves – and that includes the exact impact zone where waves grind the sandbars -- make perfect cover, allowing these savage feeders to attack the shallows, hell-bent on annihilating anything unlucky enough to get churned into the mix, including snapper blues.

That’s a good segue into a long-standing misconnection regarding fishing for fall bass and blues, namely, the best way to target fall gamers is to search for deep water cuts and swaths. Admittedly, darker and deeper water is far-and-away the easiest (and sometimes the only) set-up for anglers to comfortably fish -- without lines being ripped sideways down the beach via currents. However, the fish taken in those much sought-after cuts are almost always heading to and from sandbars (shallows).

In fact, big blues are famous for continuously zipping across whitewater shallows, willing to swim into water a foot or so deep. Bass also zigzag across shallows, as popper fishermen who successfully plug pure whitewater know.

Admittedly, bigger bass are also famous for sidling up to the drop-offs on the lee side of sandbars, waiting for disoriented baitfish or uncovered crab, clams and worms to wash their ways. Even then, the real fishing action is where the whitewater flows freely.

One of the biggest jumbo-slammer blitzes I’ve ever seen – dozens of blues averaging upper teens to 20 pounds -- took place halfway down Holgate, in a couple feet of water, right next to the beach. In fact, that year’s LBI tourney winner, Tony C., hooked the tourney’s largest blue (20-pounder) and had the massive fish swim out of maybe 18 inches of water and right onto the beach.

C-UP: A quick word of warning about some bugs in the air – and they’re not just some gnats taking advantage of this Indian summer. I’m seeing folks dropping like flies to a nasty preseason cold/flu/whatever. Symptoms have been all over the board so it’s hard to say what’s ailing folks, exactly.

I bring this up in here because coming down with a bug this time of year sure can put a glitch in your fall fishing giddy up.

This is surely a year to muscle up for a flu shot. You might also want to go big on C vitaminization. Personally, I’m sold on those sickness preventive vitamin fizzes, most notably that teacher-invented Airborne. There are now a load of seemingly identical knockoffs of Airborne.

Interestingly, it’s what you touch that can come back to bite you. Hand washing and slatheirng on hand sanitizers is a key to countering the spread of flu and colds.

Stay healthy, my friend.

SEAHORSES FROM SPACE: Email: “… I saw the story about the woman who caught a rather large seahorse and I wanted to let you know that seahorses apparently show up in Barnegat Bay from time to time. My grandfather (Bob Cranmer from Beach Haven) used to catch them quite decades ago. My husband, as a child, recalls tonging once with his father and also snagged one – that would have been in the 60’s or Seventies. …”

I recall not only the seahorses but also your dad/family.

After lengthy research, I’ve discovered an uncanny correlation between the bay’s annual population of sea horses and gravitational nuances within the Horsehead Nebula. I’ve yet to have that research peer reviewed.

There are summers when I’ve seined herds of sea horses, enough to start a farm. Then, as if called from afar, they take off for years, sometimes decades, only to return with tiny indentations on their faces that I deduce come from wearing oxygen masks during the long journey back from the Orion constellation.

Most of us recall the duly disturbing days when we’d happily walk into any seashell shop and there, within giant glass jars designed for penny candies, are thousands of dried seahorses. And, yes, it took me years to realize they weren’t, in fact, a confectionary.

“Do you want them in separate bags, son?”.

“No, I’ll be eating them right away.”

“Huh?”

That fully undeserved drying of tiny seahorses is not done any longer. And the planet should be grateful. We do all these horrible human-based warlike actions on Earth, enough to unbalance the universe, and here we’re about to get wiped out by Orion warships, poised to swoop down upon us for drying and selling their ambassadors.

(Hey, you have to admit that’s better than most answers about how many seahorses are out there.)

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