Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
NOTE: Traffic signals are back on. This is the insanely hazardous transitional period so keep a sharp eye out even if you've got the green light, especially if you're pulling onto the Boulvard, where Island folks might not yet be fully acclimated to the change.
Outback Shines Brightly;
Angling Goes Chartreuse
OUTBACK GLOWING GREEN – AND SPOTTED: The Pine Barrens outback is in its finest garb. The greens are garrulous, all but shouting out. The laurels are laurelling out loud in traditional whites, pinks and in-between, though it’s kind of an off year for blossom production. Not sure why.
Did you know it’s because of that springtime splash of laurel coloring that whitetail deer give birth right about now? Those hyper-distinct white spots on fawn are a perfect match to blossoming laurels. I have even noticed that a doe, as in mamma deerest, will nap their fawns under small sagging laurels. Nature has a sharp eye for detail.
Note: In last week’s column I ran a couple shots of a fawn I came across. I had a number of people question my caption, asking how I knew it was a “he” and not a she fawn. Simple. I got a close-up gander at the little guy and could clearly see the dimples on its heads, a.k.a. pedestals, where future antlers would show.
Elsewhere in the outback, the Pinelands mosquitoes remain mobile, agile and hostile – and they’re all gals! I decided to go green to confront these biters. I used a fully organic lotion. I felt better almost immediately. No, it didn’t cut back on the attacks whatsoever. It simply attracted organic mosquitoes. Hippy mosquitoes with hairy legs. I only swooshed the biters way, knowing they were fellow Earth huggers.
PREGGY TAILWAGGER: I came across an untagged timber rattlesnake in a Pinelands area where I had found three others in the past 15 years. No, this wasn’t one of my former finds. Each rattler has distinct variations in their patterning – not to mention their very own names, now that I’ve seen them once. Let’s see there’s Rattle-Boy, Missy Hissy, Lady Nasty-Tongue and, now, Big Bertha. Big Bertha has a very old war wound near her tail, likely a glancing blow from a deer hoof.
The coolest thing (for me) about my latest rattling find was the obvious young within this fully fattened gal. Of course, she was quite cantankerous because of the brood, so I did very little to (further) upset her. I took a quick picture and carefully replaced the huge craggily stump she had been hiding beneath.
Sorry, no photos or details on the snake’s location, except to say it’s somewhere you -- and anyone you know -- won’t be going soon, i.e. private property and way off-road. Yes, I had permission to be there, from cranberry folks. Why the serpentine secrecy? Hard to believe, but there are way too many unscrupulous collectors champing at the bits to nab timber rattlers. These herptile poachers are a plague in Jersey, where you cannot legally collect or keep indigenous nongame wildlife, excepting bullfrogs, snappers and paint turtles.
Timber rattlesnakes remain direly endangered in NJ, made so by the above-noted over-collecting, senseless killing by ill-informed humans, wanton destruction of habitat by developers (especially up around Bamber Lakes) and an overpopulation of deer. Deer are a formidable foe of all snakes, especially this time of year when moms are protecting fawns are around and bucks are overly feisty about anything getting near their harems. “You rattlesnaking in on me, buddy?”
MUSHROOM WALK-ABOUTS: By the by, I was not out there seeking snakes when I came upon that rare serpent gal. I was instead doing a walk-about in search of black morel mushrooms, a delicacy of the highest order – and expense. A pound of dried black morels runs $200 and way up. No, you don’t smoke them. But they are quite possibly the most delicious fungal matter known to mankind.
While these saucy shrooms are incredibly uncommon in South Jersey, an old-timer I knew (now timed out) said he used to collect “bags ‘n’ bags” of these easily-identified fungi. He even showed me his prized hunting zone, some dead-wood uplands not far from abandoned bogs. Of course, when he showed me the utterly barren site, he noted, “Theyz outta season now.” Imagine that.
I recall kinda doubting him, as he trudged me through tick-infested sun-savaged sand terrain so I’d know just where to look in the future.
“An ya gotta be here right in time ors you’ll miss ‘em all,” he told me.
“So, when’s the right time?” I asked.
“When theyz here, a course,” he snapped, back all annoyed.
I have searched the same locale for 25 springs running. Never found so much as one morel. Still, I owe it to the old boy to make an annual vernal effort to search his site, even if he’s up there laughin’ at me.
I recently went “chat” on a morel website. And I might have found out a quirk of nature that explains my up-stairs buddy’s morel luck in an area I can’t find so much as a fungal gnat. Seems morels can explode out of nowhere after fires. The area he showed me had ferocious fires back in the day, especially the 1930s and again in the mid-Sixties, when something like 80-percent of the Pine Barrens burnt in matter of a few days. Oddly, that zone has somehow sidestepped all the blazes we’ve had over the past couple decades.
If you have a hankerin’ to hunt morels, we’re down to the final days of the season, which begins around Mother’s Day. Yes, ‘shroom keep track of Mother’s Day. Hey, spores have moms to, you know.
Actually, it’s pretty much coincidental that the morel season begins then. That purely American holiday has simply become a target point for those wanting to make sure not to miss the minuscule window of opportunity for morel collecting. In some rainy springs, they can be collected into early summer.
Lest you fear picking some stupor/coma/death-inducing mushroom instead of a morel, perish the thought. You can Google “morel” and you’ll see there are virtually no other mushrooms that look like morels. In fact, they’re the only mushrooms I fully trust myself with, even after I’ve graduated from mycology classes.
A favorite morel site of mine is http://thegreatmorel.com. There are literally dozens after dozens of morel and mushroom websites.BIG BASS SHABANG: Why not take spring boat bassin’ to the competitive level?
This weekend marks the running of the 6th annual LBI Cup, quickly becoming one of the premier spring boat bassing tourneys in the state. It is run by the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club.
To get in, you might have to turn it up a notch. You have to be signed up before 9 p.m. Friday, May 28, 2010. That’s the time of the Captain's meeting, which will be held at the BHM&TC’s clubhouse, 420 North Pennsylvania Ave. and Bayfront in the Queen City. It’s $200 a boat – easily covered when you win the grand prize.
This tourney runs from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. It complies with IGFA, state and club rules.
What I really like about this tournament is its healthy boundaries. It covers the state’s hottest spring stripering territory, extending from the Seaside Heights Ferris wheel to the Atlantic City inlet. Making life easier for North End anglers is a weigh-in station run by Basil and boys at Barnegat Light Bait and Tackle. By the by, that northern scale is BHM&TC certified so it’s identical to the club scale in Beach Haven.
Trolling and jigging is the focus. No wire and no snag-n-drop are allowed. I’m thinking more than few bunker spoons will be dragged.
The awards ceremony will be held at the clubhouse and well worth attending, as is the case with all the club’s events. The BHM&TC always does things up real good.
The event has a great website with all the details. Check it out at http://www.lbicup.com/
Next week I’ll be hyping the upcoming 7th Annual Spring Tournament, a surf and beach event, run by our good buddies over at the Berkeley Striper Club. It takes place from June 4 to 13 and encompasses the waters of Ocean and Monmouth counties. This is purely a beach and bank event.
SPOONING HITS THE BIG TIME: The huge buzz within the bass trolling community remains Tony Maja’s highly customized stainless steel spoons. They’re amazingly tuned and toned. They’re also a double-tad pricey, running from $25 to $35. What’s more, these spoons are very tricky to run off wire, i.e. they’re easy to lose. Still, they’re flying off the shelves.
The bunker spoon’s claim to fame seems to be the way usually wary cow bass will attack the spoons. And it’s not just the flash of reflective metal since the Maja line paints over the flash. It’s surely the swim.
CHARTREUSE RULES: Not surprisingly, the straight-up chartreuse spoons by Maja are hugely popular. I say that’s not surprising because chartreuse has become the secret hue of sharpies.
I believe that odd light-green seemingly unnatural tint look began with plastics meant for weakfish. The thinking was, first-and-foremost, to find a highly visible hue for lo-viz baywater conditions. Early chartreuses were so glowy they were sometime referred to as “neon.”
When the color successfully flashed onto fluking and bassing scenes, it became clear that it might not be the high-viz look alone that provokes fish into nailing the bejeezus out of chartreuses. The color worked in even the clearest of waters. But why would fish go nuts over a tint that is most common in chemical glow sticks and lightening bug butts? It seemed a tad mysterious to me until I realized the only things in the marine environment that mimicked that eerie color – and it’s seeming glow – were bioluminescent creatures, particularly plankton.
Glowing plankton are found in every marine environment on the planet. Chartreuse is the identical look of a panicked baitfish fleeing through waters thick with bioluminescent creatures. But, taking that further, how can a subtle green glow occur in bright daylight – when most fishing is done? First, that’s thinking in terms of human eyes. Fish not only see in spectrum colors but also in the far more complex infra- ranges. What’s more, the chartreuse spectrum look, identical to that of a bioluminescent glow, will trigger fish – before they have the time to rationalize, “Hey, wait a minute. It’s daylight so why is that baitfish glowing?”
LBI-ISH ISSUES: The vintage fuse show in Surf City has not totally blown its wad. A winter and spring worth of fully fierce storms have stirred the swash zone. Last week, a local metal detectorist found quite a few of the now-fuses. He was detecting in wet low tide sand. The Army Corps’ post-replenishment sifting effort couldn’t properly work that soggy sand area.
Anyway, this treasure hunter (TH’er) actually pocketed a couple of the fuses.
“I knew they were live but, come on, they’ve been laying out there for how many years?”
Now, I know as well as anyone that these fuses, technically “boosters,” are live but stable as all get-out. It would take a prefect high-impact “pin” hit to activate them. However, carrying them around in my pocket? Uh, I wouldn’t be inclined to even carry tiny live .22 bullets in that delicate zone.
And he could have pocketed plenty more.
“There were more of them there,” the TH’er told me. He just didn’t want to go to the trouble of digging up large rusty items when he was looking for coins and rings. When I asked him how many more he detected, he just said, “Plenty.”
When he was done his detecting, the TH’er gave the pocketed munitions to the local police, who then alerted the Army Corps. Corps folks quickly contacted the TH’er, asking for exact locations. “They were polite and everything. But, they just really grilled me,” he said.
Staying on the beach replenishment theme, Harvey Cedars is going to get an instant re-do of the north end of that borough. That means work might go on until July 1, a goodly tad past the previous end date of federal/state/local-funded project.
If you were here through thick, thin and wind this past winter, you’ll easily recall we had back-to-back-to-back kick-ass storms that chewed away sand as quickly as the contractor could pipe it onto HC beaches. Much of that counterproductive stormage occurred in the early phases of the beach fix. Now, the Corps has decided to zip back to the north end of the town after finishing up work on the south end. That last-phase work is going on as we speak, un-plagued by sand-hungry wave action.
It would seem the extension, will bring the project dangerously close to the jugular of prime tourism season, namely the July 4th weekend. Despite a gritty June for those living on streets being re-re-done, there are going to be some ecstatic HC summer beachgoers – who will find massive swaths of mint-condition sand on beaches that had been down to their dying breaths just last fall. And I’ll be among them. Every summer weekend, the volleyball gang and me set up a beach court on the town’s north end. For the past few years, the beach has been so anemic thereabouts that the court would be on a slant, as the last piece of beachfront tilted toward the water – which clearly explains my lousy play. Things will be large flat and perfect this summer – way too perfect for me to play properly.
RUN-DOWN: The boat bassing remains wham-bam. Those who hit the “wham” are lovin’ life. The also-rans glare at me for writing about super sensational stripering -- after they just spent many hours and goodly loads of fossil fuel to end up skunked to high heaven. Still, the bass are out there for boaters and the odds are still very much in your favor if you want to spoon around for them.
Note: This coming holiday weekend will require infinite patience if you’re boat angling. By the by, brandishing weapons and filet knives is NOT a display of patience.
Firstly, fluke season will commence with a deafening roar. It’s damn near, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” That rumbling rush to bang flatties will continue nonstop until the season stops, which might be earlier than the regs now state (mark my words).
There will also be a major bass event (see above) combining with the already massive stripering flotilla. The trick is to put blinders on and go find your very own school of stripers.
Surf fishing for stripers is succeeding at a very decent clip. I have a dozen or so reports of one or two fine table fish, going for either clam or bunker. That’s not to say huge bass are bountiful. In fact, the 2010 Simply Bassin’ tourney is only getting a dribble of folks muscling onto the leaderboard. Still the event has many weeks to go and the biggest suds fish are yet to arrive. Sign up and cash in on that 50-ponder coming your way.
Here’s the leaderboard, as of May 25:
1) 38-lb 06-oz - Todd Callan
2) 35-lb 13-oz - Shawn Taylor
3) 27-lb 08-oz - Greg O'Connell
4) 27-lb 02-oz - Pat Phillips
5) 26-lb 02-oz - Dante Soriente
6) 25-lb 12-oz - Russell Short
7) 23-lb 07-oz - Kerrey DePierro
8) 22-lb 06-oz - Rick Pumphrey
Bluefishing simply can’t get any better in springtime. Be it choppers near inlets or cocktails far back in the bay, the hooking is hot and heavy -- once the fish are found. Many times, the blues are staying put, so much so that you can find them day after day. I always like to use plastics on jigs to locate the blues. Obviously, the sacrificial plastic gets brutalized but, then, the switch to metal on metal can take place – and it’s on.
Being a full-baked bluefish epicure, I have to mention one of the most sumptuous “inlet” meals I ever ate. A Le Cordon Bleu chef I once worked with – I was, like, a mere Cordon – took bluefish and fluke I had caught and performed cuisine magic. He took the fluke filets and wrapped them around a stuffing made of wonderfully spiced bluefish flakes (cooked), fresh mango, finely sliced celery, an unusually large showing of cilantro and an olive oil mayonnaise. He then covered the fluke in a Hollandaise sauce and baked. Unbelievable.