Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

The Fish Story

A Chilly Welcome After 17 Years; Folks Go Blowout Debris Hunting

And might we finally be seeing a steadier flow of spring-into-summer weather? I’m so confident I’ll soon go shopping for my new summer wardrobe. You can always tell the new additions to my apparel by the pieces of masking tape with the sizes scrolled on in Magic Marker.

Old & New Shop

Yes, I’m a denizen of the Old and New Shop fashion center. What’s more, I’ve been playing with house money.

Gospel truth. I once bought a near perfect-fitting pair of dress pants. They were only three inches too long and as many inches too wide – but, hey, $2.

On first wearing, I noticed a lumpish area inside the material of the waistline. I ignored it for a couple wash cycles, and then I just had to probe.

I was confused upon finding there was extra, aftermarket stitching along the waistline. Cutting stitches, I hit the lump zone. Damn if I didn’t find a $100 bill and two $20s. It seemed the entire beltline had been readied to carry hidden cash, though those three bills were the sole survivors.

Exotically sinister thoughts jumped to mind. The pants of a cartel cash mule?

On closer detectiving, that international smuggler angle didn’t pan out. Firstly, who would be smuggling mere $20s? And even if you had a size 60-inch waist, how much dough could you realistically pack into a waistband width?

It didn’t take much research to find out that the sewing in of cash when touristing is actually fairly common – and even recommended.

But how someone wigged out on $140 seemed unignorably odd to me. Of course, had the secret stash been jammed with fun money to start, maybe those bills slid out of noticeability range.

On telling and retelling that story to other auxiliary shop patrons, virtually every hardcore shopper had their own score stories, a few easily out-dollaring mine, mainly with found jewelry items.

So, when you see me stylin’ in some snazzy summer attire, it’s compliments of some former visitor who wore 38x36 pants.

CHILLY WELCOME FOR CICADAS: This warmth-challenged spring is making things tough for the timely emergence of the noisily famous 17-year cicada/locusts. This is their year – and scheduled to be a banner one, once begun. They have an impressively magical genus name: Magicicada.

You’ve likely read these large, utterly harmless insects are about to surface after camping out below ground for 17 years.

How they know, to a month, that 17 years have gone by is the stuff of mind-bogglingness. Weirdest for me is the fact they live in sheer darkness – blind as blind things get – for 99 percent of their lives but when they emerge as nymphs and shed their exoskeleton (skin), they have these huge, bright red eyes. Having chased them, I can tell you those eyes work quite well.

As with most cold-blooded things, it takes some heat to get 17-year-old cicadas to crank it up for life above ground. The soil around them must warm to at least 64 degrees, six inches down. That’s just not happenin’.

This lingering chill at night is keeping the breakout party kinda buried. At the same time, this might very well enhance the suddenness of the cicadas’ onslaughts when warmth begins to burrow deeply into the soil.

Though the Jersey Shore is on the far periphery the state’s cicada epicenter – part of the massive, so-called East Coast Brood – we should be hearing a decent buzz by June, mainly on the mainland.

So many deciduous trees have been planted in the past 50 shoreline years that the cicada showing could hit an all-time high. The big bugs are not at all big on the Pine Barrens.

The East Coast brood can be a buzz bomb when it hits. Studies indicate a full-blown cicada bloom can result in the emergence of as many as 1.5 million nymphs per square acre. That’s over a billion cicadas in a square mile.

Due to the slow movingness of emerging cicada nymphs, they’re essentially dead ducks for any and all predators. It’s the ultimate in an acquired taste. Cicada tartar has been served and savored for millions of years. Their desirability has become genetically instilled. To most carnivores and omnivores – even domesticated varieties – juicy, ground-chilled cicada nymphs are akin to all-you-can-eat lobster tails and those loaded pizzas where you get a second one at half price.

The urge to instantly devour a cicada nymph is so deeply engrained in animals that even Fido has to be thinking, “Why am I eating these ugly things!? Oh, look, another one. Yummy.”

While the fat bugs are an exceedingly good source of pure protein, animals can’t know this. Instead, the irreversible urges to binge on them is nature’s way to bust the bellies of predators. It’s also Ma Nature’s rationale for having broods explode forth in seemingly crazed numbers. It’s technically called predator satiation.

When virtually every single belching predator can’t eat so much as one more stinkin’ cicada, the buffet table is then set for the true purpose of the mass emergence: successful mating.

When every predator on the block is unconditionally gratified, out crawls wave after wave of later-day nymphs. Whereas the early bird historically gets the worm, the early cicada gets devoured. The later ones get, well, laid. It’s kind of a thumb’s up to sleeping in.

(Below: Prime cicada zones. Not sur what that one is doing in the middle of the ocean.)

I’ll be watching and listening for the big bust out of cicadas. If anyone has a full-blown backyard blitz of ’em, email me. I’d hate to miss this chance to video this year’s epic emergence.

LOW GRAB-AND-GO: What do you get when you link a full moon – a drop-dead gorgeous one at that – with howling, offshore winds? Correctamundo. You get an insane, blowout tide, as we saw over the weekend. The beach line had sandbars to beat the band, able to dryly hold a 64-piece band in some places.

The bayside took the blowout by displaying muddy shoulders seldom seen above water. That bottom’s up showing was opportunistically met by some Holgate folks. An interesting Facebook entry by Jon S. spoke of improvised debris-seekers nabbing, “ … Two bikes, beach chairs, pieces of siding, wood debris, wires, fans, records, many records, CDs, fences, walkways … trees, pipes, vents, and some Lennox (a vase intact with hearts on it, I think, and other matching pieces) …”

Such near-shore tidying up is huge, considering how many of the items yanked from the muck would surely have posed threats to waders during the busy summer season.

I heard of similar pickup efforts taking place at other LBI bayside venues. I’m not sure how the likes of air conditioners and a stove made the muddy shallows. Sure sounds like some folks despicably offing stuff into the bay, post-Superstorm.

LOWNESS WITH A MESSAGE: While that bout with an ultra low bay was just what the cleanup doctor ordered, I’ll be the stick in the bay mud by also warning the tidal low-blow was further evidence of the ongoing eutrophication of the Barnegat Bay estuary system. The famed bay is undergoing an insidious filling in process. Much of the increasing bottom gunk is from the over nutrification of bay water, mainly by fertilizers and petrochemicals washed off roadways. I’ll bet you didn’t know that decaying petroleum products can actually create a richer, organic environment.

In overly rich waters, algae and other phytoplankton can grow, i.e. bloom, way too quickly, even crazily. When a-bloom, they can present suffocating problems for other marine life, and even become a bitch for bathers. Even after they die off, they do damage by sinking down, adding layers of detritus to the bottom. In fact, that’s the very essence of eutrophication.

Extreme Shallow Snorkeling - Mordecai Island, NJ

I’ve heard from old-timers and vintage baymen that the past 10 years have offered some of the lowest bayside waters ever seen. The Ship Bottom bayside zone, including the Bonnet Island area, has been particularly inclined to expose its bottom like never before. That makes science sense. By my tabulations, the Manahawkin Bay section of the Barnegat Bay/Little Egg Harbor estuary system will go bottoms up first, as it gets essentially undermined by sediment overload. That bay zone is furthest from any bottom-scouring action that inlet-based tides might offer.

Extreme Shallow Snorkeling - Mordecai Island, NJ

Why sedimental fill-up of the bay ushers in epically low tides is fundamental. The less water there is atop a rising bay bottom, the more quickly it gets blown out to sea. What’s more, during prolonged offshore winds, the refilling of a shallower bay is a tough push for the tides. The recharging of the bay with ocean water also becomes tougher.

Conversely, you can put the sneaker on the other watery foot. A shallower bay quickly fills to holding capacity when storm waters are blown in. With nowhere else to go, they nose up through our sewer system and soon come knocking at our doors.

Worrisomely, there is no quick fix to a shallowing bay; nor is there a long-term cure.

Perish the thought of mechanically deepening the entire bay. The Barnegat Bay system covers something like 42 miles. You’d have to literally dig out the entire existing benthic ecosystem to gain even a fraction of an inch difference in water depth. We’re lucky we can dredge tiny channels a few feet deeper.

The best way to fight the good bay fight is to stop eutrophication in its deleterious tracks. We got a great start this year when the state enacted the nation’s strictest laws regarding fertilizer misuse and over use. Admittedly, adherence won’t lessen our sky-high propensity for flooding but it will help keep things livable hereabouts.

SECOND CHANCE AT THE CUP: A quick notice that the rescheduled LBI Cup run by the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club is on for this weekend – and you can still get onboard. Early indictors show a much better weekend of weather coming up. Of course, it won’t take much to be better than this windblown weekend past. For more info seelbicup.com/.

GLASS EELS OR WHAT?: We had us an oceany mystery last week. I got word of it from three sources.

Clear, elongated, few-inches-long thingies began washing ashore, mainly mid-Island, described by one finder as looking like small strips of cellophane. “Then when I picked it up it started moving in my hand,” he said. He even brought me a cell phone video of a stranded whatever. Close examination revealed small eyes and some miniscule internal organs right up near the front of the creature.

At first blush, it sure sounds like wayward – and likely doomed – glass eels, the larval phase of the American eel. But I also had to bandy about the possibility of it being a young American sand lance, a.k.a. sand eel. Those famed forage fish also have a developmental phase where they look a lot like glass eels. Of course, sands eels are not at all related to real eels.

Wavering back and forth, I finally and confidently settled on it positively being a glass eel. Or not.

Though not highly mobile, glass eels somehow manage to travel currents all the way from the Saragossa Sea to the Eastern Seaboard, where they work their way into bays and eventually into freshwater, where they’ll live for upward of 20 years.

The latest studies show the current-carried glass eels reach the coastline in a random way. That looms huge when you consider a couple U.S. states still allow commercial harvesting of glass eels, which means they’re stealing from the entire ball of sand eel wax.

“Eels really behave like nothing else on the planet,” says James Prosek, author of Eels: An Exploration from New Zealand to the Sargasso of the World’s Most Amazing and Mysterious Fish.

“They are the only fish that spawn in the middle of the ocean, but spend their adult lives in freshwater,” he was quoted as saying in the Bangor Daily News. “They are born as orphaned fishes, as their parents die after spawning, and they make their way to the Gulf Stream and then distribute themselves randomly along the whole coastline, overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They can even cross over land and climb up a vertical, cement wall if it is even a little bit damp.”

Exhausted glass eels, after traveling up to 1,000 miles through predators stacked atop predators, sure as hell don’t want to get washed up on some suffocatingly sandy beach. The thing is, they usually don’t. If they routinely washed ashore on places like LBI, we’d see them stranded every single year. This is the first glass eel strandings I’ve ever heard about.

One has to wonder about bay things still being out of kilter in the wake of you-know-who. On an upper angle, maybe it’s such a banner year, now that most sensible states have banned glass eel harvesting, that there is an overflow of elvers, the more scientific name for glass eels.

For an amazing documentary on American eels, check out this PBS website:http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/the-mystery-of-eels/video-f....

RUNDOWN: A lot light on fishing stuff, due to a significant downturn in the bassing action. Here’s just one of a number of similar reports:

Got out this am with my son. No bunker to be seen between the north jetty and the CG station. Saw quite a few boats 2-3 mile out and north of seaside. Water temp was 51-52. Tried the jetty again with plastics, no results. Some guys were fishing with what looked to be spot, also with no results. Tried fluking in back of the dike with no touches. There were 6-7 boats back there and I saw nothing landed.

Dante S., after a couple rare skunk sessions (after major success runs in recent weeks) actually offered a no fish/no pay for a charter.

Even the fluking seemed to get iffy, though it wasn’t the numbers but the size. We’re back to tabulating the ratio of keepers to throwbacks. I had one 1 in 20 keeperage, south end.

Surfcasters have been dealing with low to no water at times. Striper weigh-ins are down but a couple bass in the 30-pound class were taken on bunker over the holiday weekend. It’s still very much worth throwing out some bunker or clams.

Plugging and jigging for bass has been fair to good, occasional out-catching baiters. With water in the low 50s, it’s still best to go slow with surface retrieves, especially at first light. Jigging works best with small hops off bottom. Use as much white on the jigs as possible, including white plastics. No teasers.

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