Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

1/20/14: Freeze to come; Blaze on the beach.

1/20/14: The middle of winter finds me hideously busy, but c'est la vie, which is French for “whatever, dude.”

A new volley from the polar vortex is about to strike, though it won't be quite as frigid as the last and won't last as long. Still, I'm getting too old for this s***. On Maui, we could drive up to the 10,000-foot peak of Haleakala Crater to feel snow and bitterness, then descend to sea level to frolic on 85-degree beaches. 


I’m still getting asked about snowy owl in Holgate. The concise answer is “still there.” As many as five were spotted there yesterday, including one with a just-ate face – yucked in blood. Musta been something damn tasty it had just eaten. I was focused (spotting scope) on it and I swear it was smiling, as best an owl can smile.


Holgate clamming grounds are too nasty to drive onto. Here's my truly close call during my one and only drive-on attempt. Hike on and enjoy the view. You likely won't like the look of your buggy being stuck there until it finally rots away. Here's my near panicked escape. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7RQhnrm7SY .

BUGGY BLAZE: I’m looking for more details on the beach vehicle that got stuck – and then some -- on the beach in the township.

In a move I fully understand, the driver apparently tried to power out of the sudden sinkage – in semi-panic, I’m sure. At some point, the saying “Never say things can’t get worse” burst forth.

The bogged down driver began with “Oh, no, I’m stuck. This is the worst.”  However, the revved engine seemed to have bigger plans, along those worse lines. It soon went from “Oh, no! I’m stuck!” to “Oh, no. I’m stuck -- and I’m on fire!!!!!”

Yep, the stuck vehicle went up in smoke, right there on the beach. And doesn't some older gal call in: “There’s somebody with a fire on the beach and that is totally illegal. I want him ticketed.” (Just guessin')

The good thing in no one was charred. That’s truly all that matters in a worse-case scenario -- though the vehicle owner might be less inclined to remain that philosophical.

I have seen folks left in sad skin shape after trying to fight a vehicle fire. Ask any firefighter; vehicle fires are a bitch to extinguish. A couple shovels of sand ain’t going to do the trick once the full-blown blazing has begun – though I did put out a budding buggy blaze in Holgate using, in fact, shovels of sand, as a suffocater.

Anyway, anyone having more info (photos), it would be appreciated.

Closest I came to burning up a nearly new truck was in the pines, near the Quail Fields, off Route 539, Lacey. I had pulled into a field to net damselflies. (Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.) I walked off a bit and through the graces of the winds that day – blowing my way from the direction of the truck – I snagged the all-too-telltale smell of grilling grasses. My hot muffler had nestled amid dead weeds. Thin white smoke had already begun enveloping my Toyota. By the time, I got into the driver seat, there was thick smoke pythoned around the entire truck. I started up – Toyotas are highly reliable starter-uppers – and panic reversed all the way to the nearest dirt road. I rushed back to the now flaming piece of field and stomped it out one good, ruining nearly new boots in the process. Had winds been different, that truck would have surely taken off to truck heaven, charred division. 


The very active Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association will be attending the Southern Regional Fishing Flea Market to talk to anglers who have questions about salt water fishing in Southern Ocean County.

BHCFA will have a booth at the Somerset, NJ Salt Water Fishing Show running from March 14,15 & 16, 2014 at the EXPO Center in Somerset.

BHCFA will also be attending the Travel & Tourism Shows at Ft. Dix on March 18 and McGuire Air Force Base on March 19.  The Show each day will start at 11 a.m. and run through 1:30 p.m.  The Joint Base Dix/McGuire/Lakehurst is trying to let their military and civilians become aware of the things to do in Ocean and Burlington Counties.  Since many people associated with the Base are transferred frequently, and since many are not from this area, these Shows give local businesses a chance to make Base personnel aware of fun things to do.


High dose fish oil treatment linked to healing severe brain trauma

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [CNN] by Tiffany Shepherd - January 20, 2014

It was mild curiosity that drew John Virgin and his son Bryce to the flashing lights and commotion of an accident scene near their home.

In the back of John's mind was his older son, Grant, who had gone for a walk nearby minutes earlier.

He gestured to an emergency medical technician to ask what happened.

"I called him over and I said, 'My son was walking over this way,' and he said, 'Describe him,'" said John. "I said, 'Well, he's 6 feet tall and has hair color just like mine,' and then he pointed at Bryce and said, '...and looks just like him.'"

John looked down at the area that had been cordoned-off -- the pavement covered with blood -- and his heart sank.

"At that point you realize your worst fear," he said. "I knew it was grave."

Minutes earlier, the 16-year-old had been airlifted to a nearby trauma center after being struck by a hit-and-run driver. He had a long list of injuries: a torn aorta, a traumatic brain injury -- including skull fractures and bleeding throughout his brain -- compound bone fractures and spinal fractures. Seemingly endless bits of broken glass and gravel were embedded in his skin.

John and Bryce Virgin rushed home to break the news to Grant's mother, JJ. Then the family hurried to the hospital, hoping to find him still alive.

When they arrived, they were met by grim-faced doctors who offered the slimmest odds that Grant Virgin would live through the night.

Instead of shrugging their shoulders in acceptance, his parents were indignant.

"It's like, how dare you not fight for my son's life?" said JJ Virgin. "It really took us ... getting very aggressive and assertive to save our son's life, because they weren't going to do it.

"They told us not to. They told us to let him go."

From that moment forward -- time and time again -- they would go against doctor's orders. That included trying unconventional, untested therapies -- anything that might help Grant. One in particular involved giving him high doses of omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oil).

Fish oil is what the Virgin family believes ultimately -- dramatically -- altered his life course, and healed his brain.

Weeks before fish oil was even considered, Grant Virgin underwent multiple surgeries, and spent considerable time on a ventilator.

Eventually, his body was stable, but his brain was still riddled with damage. He was in a coma, and his doctors urged his family to "wait and see" while his brain healed.

"The doctor told me, 'OK, now we wait.' and I go, 'We wait?' 'Yes, we wait,'" said JJ Virgin, who questioned that course of action -- "'Surely there's something we can do?'"

The doctor's response, according to her: "'Nope, there's nothing we can do. We just wait. The brain's got its own time schedule.'"

Around the same time, she was receiving a flurry of advice from friends. One suggested trying progesterone to heal her son's brain.

In early studies, progesterone has been associated with reduced inflammation in the brain and improved neurological outcomes after traumatic brain injury. But the data in this area, although promising, are very early.

Despite that, beginning about two weeks after the accident, his mother and father began intermittently rubbing a cream containing progesterone on him. (A leading expert questioned the efficacy of administering progesterone in this way, noting that in studies, it is administered intravenously.)

His family says very soon afterward, Grant Virgin emerged from his coma, and began to speak.

It was mostly a few words and phrases -- "Let's go" or "I love you" -- uttered in endless cycles, but his family was heartened by his progress.

"When your kid is in a coma, and then coming out of a coma, you watch every nuance," said JJ Virgin. "If his eyelash fluttered, 'Oh, his eyelash fluttered!'

"You're holding on to anything that you can see and monitoring everything, every single day. And so it was very clear when the acceleration happened. Really clear."

Another, more dramatic, acceleration occurred several weeks later -- about nine weeks after the accident.

JJ Virgin got more advice, this time from friends who had seen a CNN report about high-dose fish oil used in cases of severe traumatic brain injury.

Fish oil, they thought, might heal Grant Virgin's brain.

"If someone said to me, you know what, you can give him fish oil, you can give him better nutrition, you'll get maybe 5% (improvement), I'll take that," she said.

She got in touch with one of the foremost omega-3 experts, Dr. Barry Sears, who had consulted on the first-ever case of high-dose fish oil for traumatic brain injury in 2006.

It involved a miner, Randal McCloy, who was involved in a deadly explosion in West Virginia. His brain had been badly damaged by carbon monoxide, and his team of doctors was trying desperately to keep him alive.

McCloy's neurosurgeon at the time, Dr. Julian Bailes, describes considering high-dose fish oil in this case, as akin to "throw(ing) the kitchen sink at him."

"There is no known solution, there's no known drug, there's nothing that we have really to offer these sorts of patients," said Bailes, co-director of NorthShore Neurological Institute in Evanston, Illinois, during a previous interview with CNN.

The theory behind fish oil as a therapeutic intervention for traumatic brain injury is at once simple and complex.

Simply stated, the brain's cell wall is, in part, composed of omega-3 fatty acids.

"If you have a brick wall and it gets damaged, wouldn't you want to use bricks to repair it?" said Dr. Michael Lewis, founder of the Brain Health Education and Research Institute. "By supplementing using (omega-3 fatty acids) in substantial doses, you provide the foundation for the brain to repair itself."

More complicated is how omega-3 fatty acids might control inflammation -- or damage -- in the brain. Sears likens it to quelling a metaphorical fire in the brain.

That "fire" begins when the brain is traumatized -- as with a profound injury like Grant Virgin's, or milder insults like concussions suffered on a soccer field. Neurons snap, setting off a wave of inflammation in the brain that can smolder for long periods of time -- sometimes weeks or months after the injury has occurred.

"That (inflammation) will continue over and over unless there's a second response that turns it off," said Sears, president of the Inflammation Research Foundation.

The fatty acid that Sears says can effectively "turn off" that inflammatory fire is a metabolite (what remains after the body breaks something down) of eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, called resolvin.

EPA is found in fish oil.

"What we think is happening is, high levels of EPA coursing in the brain metabolize into resolvins, turning down and turning off inflammatory process," said Sears.

Considering that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries occur in the United States each year, any intervention -- especially a cheap one like fish oil -- is an exciting prospect.

But fish oil as a viable and well-studied intervention is still a ways off; for now it dwells in the realm of the anecdote or case study.

There is McCloy, who recovered only a few months after his mining accident.

And a case similar to Grant Virgin's: a teenager named Bobby Ghassemi who nearly died in a car accident before getting a large infusion of fish oil. A few months later, he attended his high school graduation.

There was the case of an 8-year-old girl who nearly drowned after her stroller rolled into a canal. Her head and face were under water for more than five minutes.

Eighty-two days after her accident, according to a case study published last year in the journal PharmaNutrition, she was given high doses of omega-3 fatty acids, after which, "...the patient exhibited very gradual but steady progress in terms of her tolerance for stimulation and activity."

There are seven such cases in the medical literature, according to Sears.

"Maybe the work with Randy (McCloy) was just a lucky break," said Sears, "But we've now done it seven times. So, so far we're 7-for-7 in severe brain trauma."

But there are other cases -- likely many more than have been successful -- when fish oil was tried and did not work.

It could be that fish oil was administered outside the optimal therapeutic window. Or perhaps younger brains are more receptive to the intervention (most of the successful case studies are among young people).

And there is a concern among doctors that high doses of fish oil could cause excessive bleeding.

Those caveats, well known to Grant Virgin's family, did not deter them.

Nine weeks after the accident, as Grant was being transferred from an acute care to a rehabilitation hospital, the Virgin family told doctors at the new facility that he was already on a 20-gram-per-day regimen of fish oil.

In reality, his parents had been sneaking a few grams of fish oil into his feeding tube for weeks, but nothing resembling that high dosage.

Two days after he began at this more aggressive dosage, JJ Virgin got a phone call late one night.

"I get this call like midnight, and I'm asleep, and I wake up the next morning and go, 'Did Grant call me and did we have this whole conversation?'" she said. "I just remember waking up the next morning going, 'I must have dreamed that, that couldn't have possibly happened."

When she arrived to the hospital the next morning, a nurse told her that, in fact, it had not been a dream.

Forty-eight hours after receiving high-dose fish oil, Grant Virgin asked a nurse for a cell phone to call his mother, and proceeded to have a conversation with her.

"Unbelievable," she said. "Unbelievable."

Unbelievable, especially considering that was only two months after Grant Virgin's parents had been told to "let him go."

"We had been told he'd never be able to recognize anybody, he will never be able to focus his eyes, all the grim stuff," said John Virgin. "(They said) the diffuse damage to his brain is so much that he's never going to be Grant again."

Today, 16 months after the accident, none of that is true. In fact, his parents say he is even better than he was when he made that call to his mother.

"We're not expecting Grant to get close to where he was before, he's going to be better than he was before," said his father. "And he's progressing every day."

The Virgin family says that progress would not be happening if they had merely accepted what conventional medicine told them.

"I think one of the saddest things is to get to a place and have someone tell you, 'You should just let your son die,' and you don't have the information to make the right decision," said JJ Virgin.

"There is such hopelessness about brain injury and there shouldn't be."

That rampant hopelessness when it comes to traumatic brain injury is fueling a push by Bailes and Sears to do further studies about omega-3. (Bailes receives research money from fish oil companies, and Sears has his own EPA-rich formulation of fish oil).

They are on the cusp of beginning a broader study to find out if omega-3 can be a useful intervention for some people after traumatic brain injury.

The Virgin family, based on their own dramatic experience, is sure that omega-3 will do for others what it did for their son.

"OK, what if it didn't do anything?" said John Virgin. "It certainly couldn't hurt, but what if you have this kind of result?"

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