Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
The Fish Story
MONEY WITHIN THE WARMING MADNESS: The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore continues to all but hand rally the ranks of Doomsday Preppers by hyping Super Sandy as a storm of things to come – a glum indicator of increasingly radical skies as global warming whips the planet’s atmosphere into a lather. We’ll overlook the fact that keeping such sky jitters alive and kicking spells job security for storm-chasing Jimbo.
Seeing Jim in action, I realize there’s likely a mint to be made in the hot global warming market. I’ve therefore begun brainstorming among my various personalities. And I think I’ve got a planet-rescuing winner.
You’ve seen all those fear-evoking photos of ancient icebergs collapsing into the sea, right? Well, I believe we’re more than ready for iceberg scaffolding. Roughly speaking, Jay Mann’s Hold-a-Berg: “Your ailing iceberg will stand up and salute my Hold-a-Berg’s system of pipes, struts, beams, buttresses and optional stained-glass windows.”
Now all I need to do is learn a few words of whatever the hell they speak in Iceland. I can only carry a sales pitch so far by repeating “Björk” over and over.
Anyway, the worst iceberg melt sufferers can opt for my Brace-a-Berg Pro. “It not only holds your berg, it cools your berg.”
“Brace-a-Berg Pro’s solar-powered refrigeration coils nestle within the Brace-a-Berg famed scaffolding, reaching an Eskimo-pleasing minus 10 degrees F.”
Per my literature, “You’ll hear your iceberg going, ‘Ahhhh’ as the frigid coils penetrate its soggy, sagging face.”
You snigger and even sneer at my inventiveness. Just wait for some scientist who reads this column 75 years down the line and mutters in awe, “Holy crap. Clear back in 2012 this Jay Mann guy somehow predicted our trillion-dollar intercalating critical iceberg infrastructure containment substratumizing system.”
Damn straight, dude.
SUPERSTORM TECHNO-TALK: I’m under the weather.
Oh, I feel fine enough – all demolition things considered. I’ve simply been steamrolled by weatherish stuff this entire week, including a continuing story line about why Sandy was far more floodacious south of the LBI Causeway.
(Hey, this is important stuff as we wonder what’s on the tempestuous horizon.)
Shortly after our foul floodfest, I had written that north winds had surely blown Barnegat Bay’s floodwaters into Manahawkin Bay, and, gradually, southward into Little Egg Harbor.
In fact, a series of Sandy-related high tide surges prior to her landfall easily overfilled the bay areas north of the Causeway bridges. Then, her Superness’ hurricane-ish north winds essentially forced the water southward, powering through the channels beneath the Causeway bridges.
From there, the former floodwaters of Barnegat Bay took a turn for the worse as they collided with the waters of Little Egg Harbor, which was already filled to the gills.
Little Egg Harbor had maxed out on water from a series of northeast-wind-driven high tides that had started almost two days prior to Sandy’s official landfall. What’s more, large groundswells ahead of then-Hurricane Sandy were also driving water into the bay area west of Holgate and Beach Haven. There was absolutely no accommodation available when the wind-driven floodwaters arrived from the north.
Adding to the mix, for decades the tidal flow of bay waters in and out of Little Egg Harbor has been impacted by the shallowing and shoaling of the waterways west of Holgate. Even the Intracoastal Waterway is essentially closing up. While tidal waters can slowly come and go to the south of Little Egg Harbor, radical exchanges, like those arising during an epic storm, are stymied.
At the height of the storm, the floodwaters of Little Egg Harbor had no way out. The waters took the only path of least resistance: shoreward.
And that explains how the Island’s more southerly areas were so hard hit. It doesn’t fully clarify why brutally high floodwaters ended up destroying bayside areas well to the north, decimating portions of Brant Beach and Ship Bottom.
Up steps my retired Weather Service meteorologist buddy, Jim Eberwine.
He filled in my “trapped water” flood scenario by duly noting astounding height differentials between the south side of the Causeway (Ship Bottom) and the north side (Surf City). The waters weren’t merely inches higher on the south side of the bridges; they were feet higher!
I’m still crunching data, but there may have been differentials well over 3 feet.
The why is, again, blowin’ in the wind.
Some of the highest sustained winds of the superstorm came with the passing of Sandy’s eye remnants. The winds quickly swung out of the south and blew for all they were worth.
It’s pretty easy to envision what happened then. The bloated floodwaters in Little Egg Harbor were driven northward, though far too late to offer any relief to the already flood-stricken bayside areas from Holgate to Haven Beach. The wind-whipped northbound waters hit the chokepoint at the Causeway. They backed up and gushed ashore on both the LBI and mainland sides of the bay.
By the by, a very similar choke-point flooding phenomenon occurred up near Mantoloking, according to the National Weather Service.
Believe me, this is not to say there was no flooding north of the Causeway. It was all-time there, too. It simply could have been even worse if it weren’t for the vagaries of the winds.
DOOMSDAY TOWELERS: Having been mercifully uninvolved with natural disasters, I’ve been speed learning a load of post-disaster particulars.
A survivalist insight hit me at the height of Sandy. Along with everyday storm-survival essentials, like fresh water and a GoPro camera, I was fully schooled on the pressing, nonstop need for towels.
One would think clean and absorbent fabric would all but automatically be an essential component of a flood survival preparation package. Far from it, I learned the damp and shivery way.
While stalking the storm through the streets of Ship Bottom and Surf City on Oct. 29, I took a solid soaking. Scurrying back to my heat-free, office-based survival den, I defrocked and soggedly found one stinkin’ little hand towel. It made it through one eyebrow and a bit of my right cheek before giving up the ghost of dryness.
Note: Despite their reputations for absorptiveness, paper towels and toilet paper are absolutely useless when trying to dry off. You remain utterly wet and soon have tiny pieces of papery matter not only stuck like glue to bare skin, but also inextricably intermingled among hair follicles, etc.
My lowest Sandy point surely occurred as I attempted to dry off by rolling, damn near buck-naked, along the floor while enrobed in a cold, damp, sandy, Persian-design throw rug. I can’t remember if it’s a good or bad thing when the coloring from a rug comes off on your skin – indelibly.
That said, even weeks after Sandy, out of all the goodies offered by rescue-and-relief folks, I noticed that towels were being grabbed like the Golden Fleece.
I can even add a sanguine angle to the value of being toweled up at all times. I had to help a neighbor with a dog that took a nasty gash to a paw pad during a house gutting. When I came on-scene, the owners of the vet-bound canine were pressing a piece of hideous, flood-drenched fabric to the pup’s wound. WTF! I grabbed a white hand towel from my truck – thanks again, Red Cross folks – and took over wound-tending chores. While the pup wasn’t thrilled with my witch hazeling of the wound, I got a “You da man” look when a fresh, clean wrap followed.
In an ER way, that pup could just as easily have been a people.
Note: At the height of Sandy – and pissed that I had nothing to dry off with – I swore I’d write this little tribute to towels.
MORE FISHY FLOOD LOSSES: I had the first of what I fear will be many “I can’t believe they threw away my fishing stuff!” stories.
The now low-on-gear angler had allowed folks (I won’t get specific here) to begin the post-Sandy garage cleanout process. The throwers-out knew where begin began but weren’t real sure where begin ended. Huh?
Fortunately, they didn’t throw away rods and reels; however, three “loaded” tackle boxes hit the highway. The angler was told, “They were totally soaked inside.”
I commiserated with the gearless angler. We fast-factored the loss at easily a thousand dollars worth of fully salvageable plugs, Hopkins, Avas and assorted tackle. I won’t bring up the huge-ticket titanium pliers that couldn’t care less about a flood of just about any liquid matter.
The angler then turned his pissed-offedness toward the “vultures” (his word) who must have quickly scavenged the curbside tackle boxes. The angler got down from the city the following day – and found all his other mounded trash in a fully untouched state.
In a more upbeat direction, I have a few reports of “found” tackle boxes, as people get around to finally sorting through garages and basements unpurged for many a decade.
In one instance, granddad’s fishing gear from the 1940s-’50s was found tucked way back on an upper shelf in the garage. He had essentially hidden it from the kids, obligingly responding to grandma’s terror that “someone could lose an eye” should the box’s hook-ish innards be loosed.
While there was nothing overly valuable in pop’s tackle box, a second nearby metal box indicated he was quite a fan of the ponies. I looked through bundles of rubber-banded newspaper “race results” clippings. Some had particular horses circled in pencil. There were also little, penciled-in notations. One note had a bit of a holiday ring: “I got Christmas covered!” Sounds like a winner, gramps. There were no dates on the clippings, but it has been quite some time since virtually all daily newspapers faithfully carried horse race results on the tail end section of the sport pages.
By the by, there are many antiques dealers, consignment shops, auctions and such interested in quality old stuff. Obviously, we’re not talking flood-damaged goods. But from what I’ve seen, many a salvageable valuable is instead being discarded in an odd form of guilt-by-flood association.
RUNDOWN: Bassing is hit-or-miss to the hilt, even more so than usual for this time of year.
Here’s an e-mail reflecting that: My son and I fished the incoming this AM at the end of the north jetty and had a good time with about 9 short bass. He had to return to PA at 1:00 so I went back out to fish the outgoing and could only come up with one bass and a few run offs for 2+ hours of fishing. It was a beautiful day on the water and a good day to pull the plug on the 2012 season. WP
SANDCRABS AT WORK: Sandcrabs are the number one item in the stomachs of take-home bass right now. That means those stripers – obviously large enough to invite home – are flush to the beach. Sandcrabs don’t go any farther out than the shorebreak “swash” area.
Can you use sandcrabs as bait? Absolutely. Back when I used to faithfully fish for big tog off jetty ends, I had days where I had to keep my sandcrab baits literally atop the rocks or the stripers would grab them from the tog. Admittedly, I’ve taken some of the smallest stripers I’ve ever hooked by using sandcrabs. However, I’ve also had bass to 25 pounds going for a lone sandcrab.
I like using a gold 1/0 hook on a dropper loop. I’ve never liked so-called blackfish hooks, which are doubly un-good for taking bycatch stripers.
Since I usually fish tog off heavier line (anywhere from 25-pound to as high as 50-pound test), I tie a 3-inch dropper loop right off the main line, no leader, maybe 18 inches up from the tag end. I then tie a 1- or 2-ounce bank sinker directly to the tag end, no swivel. Talk about fishing clean. That same set-up can easily be used with a much larger sinker, though it sure seems to attract more fish when the rig is rolling a bit, via a bank or cushion sinker. It likely gives a more natural drifting look to the sandcrab.
A fellow I know (inlet specialist) caught a 24-7 bass using a large mantis shrimp, regurgitated from a school bass. “It looked disgusting, half digested, but it wasn’t in the water more than 30 seconds before it was devoured,” he messaged me. I oft write about how those large, lobstery-looking shrimp are killer baits. About the only way to get them is from the stomach of bass feeding near Barnegat Inlet, namely the north end of the Dike. That area must be mantis shrimp central if those stomach contents are any indication.
A couple fellows at church told me they caught take-home bass. One angler had a lone keeper out of “over a dozen” hookups. The other had one of those famed “fish on” events within minutes of first casting out, landing a 32-incher. Then, he had nothing but big skates until he ran out of patience.
Both anglers were using thawed bunker. That might explain the skates, which can smell things going bad from a mile away.
It’s also very nice jigging conditions, even though the water is a bit discolored.
DO A LITTLE JIG: I’ve chatted with a number of casters who were having little, if any, luck with bait, threw out a bucktail (white seems good) to find there were actually plenty of bass out there, just not actively feeding.
It’s always remarkable the way even fully inactive fish will instantly shake off laziness to pounce on a passing jig. It’s that famed reflex thing, common to fish in both fresh and saltwater. That attack reflex has been fully recorded by researchers, especially those devising lures. A bass – striped or largemouth – even when seemingly half comatose, just can’t resist whacking the crap out of something that suddenly comes bouncing crazily into view. It’s oddly similar to a lying dog suddenly seeing a cat go racing by.
Those same, lazy fish will not rise up to high-tail it after a plug swimming on or near the water surface, even a rowdy popper.
That marks the significant difference between plugging and jigging. Each has its place but I’ve long given the edge to jigs to see if fish are even on-scene. Obviously, when fish are actively feeding, the variety and fun factor of fishing plugs give them a solid edge over jumping lead along the bottom. Sinking plugs can cover both bases – the best of both worlds of artificiality. Allowing the likes of an “S” (sinking) model Yo-zuri to fully reach bottom places the plug in that lazy-fish reflex zone. That technique does take some line watching (waiting for it to go limp), or drop-time counting (many plugs have a constant sink rate). The trick is to essentially jig the plug gingerly on the bottom so it doesn’t swim upward and out of the lazy-bass hangout zone.
By the by, I’ve personally snorkeled over feeding bass so obsessed with leisurely sucking crabs off the bottom that only something literally jumping under their noses draws their attention. Again, a bottom-bouncing jig can occasionally do that.