Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

(Note: My other website Webspawner is down. ) 

It’s an Imperfect Record-breaker;

Rating the Stings and Bites of LBI



PICTURE UNPERFECT TUNA: Imagine angling a 90-pound striper and having it end up as a mere afterthought in the annals of fishing history. Such is the likely ignominious fate of an astounding 427.9-pound yellowfin tuna caught off Puerto Vallarta last Sunday.

Weighed on an IGFA-certified scale, the fish instantly became the weightiest yellowfin ever taken on rod and reel. As such, it seemingly qualified for the ultimate heist into the record books. But, yet again, there’s a fatal fly in the record book ointment.

As angler Robert Pedigo was in his 30-minute struggle to land the fish on 130-pound test line, deckhand Danny Osuna so much as touched the rod. That’s all it took to make it an “assisted catch” in the unwavering eyes of IGFA -- and ineligible for the fame and fortune that comes with rewriting the record book brings.

"Yes, this fish is not going to be a world record because I touched the rod while Robert fought the fish,” Osuma told Phil Friedman Outdoors. "We never thought this fish was going to go over 400-pounds."

Regardless of its wilted world record laurels, the tuna’s weighty numbers scream out for worldly recognition.

A couple years back, angler Mike Livingston landed a 405-pound yft, annihilating the existing yft world record of 388 pounds, a mark that had stood for over 30 years. After the Livingston fish, the tight-knit big game fishing community was convinced that any breaking of that new yft mark would be by mere ounces. Up jumps Pedigo’s 427.9 tuna! Utterly stunning.

So will that record-crushing tuna be just an also-swam? In this instance, I’m thinking (and hoping, for both Pedigo’s and Osuma’s sakes) there might be at least a short-termed admiration and an accompanying sponsorship -- if not for the angler’s sake, for the fish’s.

By the by, the fish was kept intact for an official weigh-in meaning its flesh was pretty much out of the top-shelf sushi realm, though worth easily enough to pay the petrol bill. 

OUCH BY THE NUMBERS: Here’s my promised rundown of some of the stingers and biters that await flesh here on LBI. I’m rating them on a 1 to 10 TFH (that frickin’ hurts) scale, roughly least to most. 

Flies are bites we can all rate, though the accompanying itch factor can be hard to add in. Take, for instance, the cursed black fly. Pain-wise it’s a mere 1 to 1.5 if one really bores in. However, after the 50th bite, the pain kinda accumulates to the get up and flee point.

A solid grab by a clumsy greenhead fly can actually be just downright painful, easily in the 3 TFH range. The follow-up itch can nudge the pain to 3.5 in total.

Now, bring on the bees.

I can’t include honeybees here since they’re now a sting of the past. Just go try to find one. However, we have no shortage of big ole bumblebees. These top-notch pollinators are proliferating, much to the chagrin of timid backyardists and bugaphobics.

Essentially mild-mannered and sorta friendly, they do occasionally get up close and personal. Still, the odds of one stinging you are slight to none. Me, on the other hand …

A year back, three or four jumbo bumblers nailed me over on the mainland. OK, so maybe I kinda turned over a log an entire hive called home. They were cruel. In that case, amicability flew out the window – and onto my back. Ouch! It was a solid 5 TFH – times three or four stings. I have to admit that running hysterically while swinging my hands in the air helped remediate the pain, thanks to Mr. Adrenaline Rush – the great pain delayer. Still: “(Pant. Pant) Wow, that wasn’t so bad after all. Oh, wait. OWWWW!”   

Another big-ass stinger is the carpenter bee, a very common Island resident. Oddly, these bumblebee look-alikes often prefer taking a quick nip (via mouthparts) out of a bothersome human, holding the sting back for tougher exchanges. At a volleyball court in B.L., we had a game totally disrupted when a squadron of carpenter bees decided they didn’t like us playing so near their home base. They flew in and bit three or four of us. The nip was a mere 2.5. A female carpenter bee’s sting is a solid 5.

Staying on a stingy theme, let’s hit the surf and rate the lion’s mane jellyfish. Here, too, I have no trouble getting a consensus of pain ratings from tons of experiencers. Like me, most folks would rate the sting anywhere from a highly itchy 1 up to a child-cry 3.5. Of course, if you’ve had an entire strand of tentacles flushed into your wetsuit – a too common surfer thing year back – you can raise the pain and discomfort bar a lot higher. 

Just to make them feel good, I’ll mention free-swimming isopods, a watery version of the terrestrial pill bug. Many a swimmer and surfer have had them latch onto bare skin. It’s a mere 1.5 pain but is has that in-water startle effect going for it.

Now onward to bites/sting anglers know best. We’ll go weird first.

The fairly common bottom-feeding stargazer bucks the bite/sting theme a bit by going electrical in its protective measures. On the pain scale, the shock itself is barely 2 but electricity has a way of lighting up the scoreboard. When I was lit up by a huge stargazer, I flew back as if I was shot. Add the surprise factor and the impact is like a 5 TFH. I once had a buddy try it, telling him it wasn’t that bad. He was not a happy camper afterwards. I guess we had different threshold of pain. Wimp.

I’m going to throw in a passive attacker: the barnacle. Interestingly, the initial cut is a lowly 1 to 2 TFH, due to the creature’s razor sharp shell edge. It’s one of those things that actually rises to 3 or 4 when hot water hits it.

That moves up into the crustacean realm, where I have to shoot way up my TFH scale with the caress of a blue claw crab. A large Joey can garner a solid 7 painfulness when it punctures a nerve ending and openly toys – looking up at you to admire the pain it’s perpetuating. Making matters worse is a blue claw’s pinchers ability to move beyond the speed of sound.

“Watch out for the crab!

“Owwww! Son of a …”

Another painfully nonendearing angle of the blue claw is the way it can become a bite that keeps on giving. Even when a clamped on claw breaks off and dies its ghost keeps driving the hook of the claw deeper and deeper.

And we have a slew of also-ran crabs, most notably the infamous toe-grabbing lady crab of LBI’s surfline. While she can occasionally clamp down with a respectable 3 to 4 TFH pain force, what we most often feel -- right before we scream out loud and climb atop the nearest 8-year-old -- is a mere nip, as she fends off human feet as they come crushingly downward. That bottom bite is a mere 2 TFH pain once stripped of the startle factor. It’s when she’s out of the water that a lady crab will nab you one good.

A very small crab that can deal an impressive pain for its size is the male fiddler -- and its one absurdly oversized claw. Every tog fishermen has had a fiddler grab a finger. It can be a solid 3 on occasion. I always like the way we respond to its bite with one of those “You bastard!” -- right before we drive a 1/0 hook clean through its body.

Green crabs are slow biters though able to go 3 on you – if you’re dumb enough to poke its claw just to see if it’ll close.

On the theme of angler biters, the four-fanged bloodworm surely needs a mention. These baity worms can fang you one good – times four fangs. The black fangs are contained within a mouthpart that is essentially launched outward at mach 1 speeds. While small (flounder) bloodworms hurt to a mere 2, I once took a full-blown bass worm fanging to my little finger. Yowza! Easily a 5 to 6’er – with a tad of toxin thrown in.

Another bite a goodly number of anglers can rate is that of a herring gull, more often than not a highly enraged gull hung up on our lines. While it can smart a bit, it’s not as bad as it might seem from such a large bird. Since I’m often the self-designated gull untangler, I’ve taken a dozen of more chomps. Maybe a couple garbs drew blood but it wasn’t that painful at all – though you never know where that flying rat’s beak has been so a super washing is essential. I once got grabbed by a pelican. That hurts.

While I can’t TFH shark bites, per se, I will alert that a spiny dogfish dorsal fin can inflict a solid and lingering 5-grade poke. It’s quite painful and the aftereffect can last hours. I was helping with a study to age spiny dogs by cross-cutting dorsal fin spines when I grabbed a fish with some fight still left in it. I got poked one good. A solid 6 pain -- and it kept on giving. In fact, it was aggravating as hell – and I let everyone around me know it. That made it feel a lot better.

Now to the biggies. Near the top of the local list of biters/stingers is the bluefish. Its bite pushes a ferocious 8 TFH factor. And it can see out of water so it literally targets the hand that caught it. Its swing-and-bite speed is legendary.

With bluefish, pain and damage go hand in hand. Emergency rooms are no stranger to the aftermath of bluefish encounters gone bad.

While even a tiny snapper blue can snap down with a 4-ish pain, by the time a blue achieves a mere cocktail size (say 3 to 7 pounds) its bite can offer a writhing 6-7 pain. By the time you reach chopper-sized (say over 12 pounds) blues, the bite chews its way up to truly catastrophic pain/damage levels – to the point of digital amputation. Adding to the mayhem, bluefish teeth are also among the dirtiest. The pain is often more than just the incision. It’s also the invading grunge.

Drum roll: Topping my pain-bearing list, and maybe somewhat surprisingly, is the cow-nose ray sting. It can easily reach a 9 TFH level, as in dizzying pain.

While it hasn’t got the bluefish’s damage thing going for it, the ray’s delivery is a toxin-fed, viciously painful attack on nerve endings. What’s worse, the rhythmically throbbing pain settles in as if it owns you. And that can often be just the beginning. I know of half a dozen serious ray stings that required later hospital treatment due to “unresolved complications,” sometimes days later. One case, I believe it was a lifeguard, included a form of blood poisoning. I once had a mere nick of a ray stinger and the damn thing would flare up, message-like, for months. I can’t imagine taking a ray sting up to hilt, as deeply as two inches in.

WE’RE ON A CLOUD: Well, The SandPaper is on the cloud. We’re in cyberspace, big time.

“Anyone see Jay? He’s not in his office?”

“He’s probably up on the cloud again. He likes to go up there and drop pieces of Wawa soft pretzels down on cars with out-of-state tags.”

The new SandPaper look can be reached by going to the sandpaper.villagesoup.net or, easier yet, Googeling the sandpaper.

From the opening page, you’ll see colorful stories slowly crawling through the main box. There are late-breaking items in the left-hand column. Scrolling down  way will get you another read on top stories.

As for what you’re really here for (columns), those can be found on the task bar near the top of the page. Oddly enough, they’re under something called “Columns.” Click on that and you’ll run headlong into business, fishing, history and surfing column.

Read away. Then, if you just can’t get enough of “The Fish Story,” go back to the top of the page and on the left side you’ll see past columns.

Things will get even cooler as we craftily implement our website’s expanded features. For instance, we’ll be able to have a load of photos online. Video clips, too.

In here, I’ll eventually be able to hook up with tackle shops and photo-happy anglers to place a compendium of pics in my column.

The main thing this high-profile cloud presence will convey is a year’roundness between  The SandPaper and our huge seasonal readership. Wherever in the world you’re at, there we are.

RUNDOWN: The stripers are here and will stay. That short-lived period of freaky heat won’t change things. Actually, cooler weather will be moving in for protracted stay. That’s ideal. In fact, this entire week looks decent on the wind and weather fronts.

Look for surf fishing to pick up, stripers and blues. Bass will be in resident number, i.e. one or two beach/jetty and that’s it for the day. Sizes in the suds will push keeper-grade.  Make sure to check bayside areas for night action. Check with shops. I’d rather have them offer exact locales – it’s their business.

The best Causeway fishing bridge (Hochstrasser’s) remains unlit at night. That’s ruinous. I’m checking with DOT to see why. Hopefully it’s not being blacked out just to keep anglers away.

Blowfish are showing big time. I’m hoping folks will let them go spawn but keeping a handful won’t hurt things. Right now the puffers are in the surfline but will easing into the bay when the resident spawners arrive. Blowfish return to the same spawning areas every year. The ones now moving north along the surfline might be heading up toward New England. 

You’ll know blowfish are pecking away out there when a spiked rod gets a nervous tip – as bait is pecked away to nothing. To target them, use a lighter rod, small gold hooks on dropper loops and smaller baits. It’s often best to hold the rod when blowfishing -- and ever so slowly retrieve. That gets the blowfish eating faster – and onto the hook. I’ve never fished blowfish with a circle hook but I can’t see that shape working well with their incisors. I think I’ll give it go. Maybe let ‘em hook themselves.

By the by, fishing in the bay for blowfish is an entirely different ballgame. You chum (grass shrimp or mashed mussels) and bail fish. It’s ducks in a barrel once you have them in the chumline. They’ll even take bare gold hooks.

I had a fairly amicable chat with a fellow taking herring from a mainland creek. I told him the new regulations and he did one of those “I’m new to the area” things. He was swimming them in a half-filled bucket for eating. He tried to release them but they were goners. I think he was just clueless.

I ran into a plugger I hadn’t seen since fall and he’s been doing fairly well plugging the surf this spring, though not lately. He’s gotten into making his own plugs – kinda. By his own admission, “They’re not looking so good just yet.” We both settled on his having perfected the “wounded and malformed” look. I’ve never seen so much bucktail forced onto a tailing treble hook. On retrieve, the things look like a white-tailed deer bounding blindly through the forest. 

Drumfish are a big question mark. After a few banner years, last year was way off. Since this species is very lightly harvested, there are no easily discernable pressures on them, thus the possibility of drum in the 100-pound range. Hey, I saw one of that size not that many years back. A few decent drums have been taken so far this year, up to 25 pounds, but we’re not into the full swing of things yet.

Every spring I wonder if any red drum will begin taking notice of the overall global warming, and inch up here from North Carolina. As I often note, Hatteras is mere one-day swim as the crow flies, had it been swimming (or something like that). Remember, red drum had a huge local population in way-distant times.



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