Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Oct. 28, 08 -- Weekly Blog -- Warm Grabs and Fungi

Grab a Warm Fungus

GRAB A WARM ONE: In the current issue of the journal “Science,” Yale University psychologists seem to have our personalities well in-hand. They have discovered the cup of java you’re holding can affect how you interact with those around you. (This advanced study further confirms that scientists – once heavily funded -- have just about the most fun lives out there.)
So, get this: If you’re simply holding (not even necessarily drinking) a cup of warm anything, you’ll be more giving and understanding. Coldly converse: If you hold a cup of something icy cold, you’ll be more recessive -- and inclined to give things to yourself. This is cold hard science, so drink it in.
The warm hand/warm heart concept must surely extend to what you place in your mouth. Hey, I always get emotionally taut when I have a hot fudge sundae. “Oh, this is incredible, the warm chocolate. Here you wanna bite?” Followed immediately by the ice cream hit and a quick-switch to, “You get near this and I swear I’ll bite your thyroid.”
This hot-in-hand premise make sense in other ways, for example, that mellowness when petting a warm lap dog, as opposed to holding, say, a dead roadkill opossum. You see the subtle difference, right?
I bring this up because I’m a year-round cold drink junkie. I perpetually bounce around with a death grip on an icy can of energy drink – downing taurine and thinking what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine. By the same token, I have to admit that easily the mellowest anglers I come across are those folks semi-orgasmically caressing a container of hot coffee, peering placidly over those tiny cobras of steam arising from the joe -- watching their bait rods as they slowly sip away.
I therefore have no choice but to heat my energy drinks. The next time you run into me, the affects of warm guarana should be showing in my demeanor.
FUN WITH FUNGI: The Pines are now in full bloom. A burst of new life is springing forth from the earth. The wow-level growth is enough to make a camera shutter.
No, my brain hasn’t sprung a spring leak. There really is a growth spurt of monumental proportions taking place in the Jersey Outback, despite the first feel of freeze hanging out in the late-night air and ads for Christmas shopping irritatingly sneaking on-scene.
To see the current natural eruption you need to look low.
For whatever cosmically natural reason, it is a mushroom year from some higher level.
There are years on end these fungi blooms barely broadcast their supremely minimalist presence. Then they go ballistic, like now.
FYI: Mushrooms are essentially the fruit phase of fungi. It’s often the only time you’ll see fungi. A fungus is a complex of threadlike filaments, singularly called mycelium, growing in soil, wood. It is barely discernable except when it shrooms.
Unbeknownst to even the more avid Pineys, the Pine Barrens are home to a vast variety of wild and wooly mushrooms. The sandy acidic soil hosts many rare and really radical fungi. Exciting stuff. If you listen closely when hiking, you might hear this odd and echoing hoot after I come across the likes of a Lepiota mannii. I lead an odd life.
With the tick and jigger (chigger) count now dropping way down, it’s an ideal time to get out there and check out the profundity of fungi. The cool thing about shrooming is you really don’t have to get far off the beaten path to sight a slew of species
So, what are you seeing, exactly, when you come across truly astounding-looking fungal finds, i.e. brilliantly colored mushrooms that often stand defiantly perpendicular?
Who the hell knows.
Actually, there are some people called mycologists who study fungi as a profession -- much to the chagrin of their mothers who had hoped for law or medical degrees.
The problem with mycologists is the uncanny way they never seem to be around just when you need them. “Is there a mycologist in the house. We have a sick mushroom in the kitchen.”
Truth be told, you need absolutely no expertise to simply get out there and see how cool and colorful mushrooms really are. You can preserve the observational moment with tons of photos. Later on, you can try to name that shroom by sidling up to a good field guide or an on-line mushroom site.
Of course, you can’t talk mushroom without someone annoyingly asking, “Can you eat that type?”
Since I’ve become an expert on fungi from decades of idly checking them out, my edibility answer when glancing at even the freakiest of mushrooms is always hugely accurate: “You can eat virtually all species of mushroom -- providing you don’t mind dying in an untimely manner afterwards.”
That said, there are legions of shroomers who rush out this time of year to collect fungi to feast upon. And the edibility odds are usually in their favor. The number of killer fungi can be counted on one hand -- though I wouldn’t put that hand near my mouth afterwards. (I’ll also discretely point out that people who feel compelled to repeatedly dine on odd gobs of growth that suddenly pop out of decaying matter are often quite weird, possibly due to ingesting an occasional mushroom that carried them off to peculiar places -- with roadside signs that read, “Timothy Leary Slept here.”)
Not that I’m even remotely encouraging the consumption of found fungi, but there are some super websites offering mushroom ID’ing and dining tips. There is also a load of fine field guides with brightly colored glossies of mushrooms, replete with little symbols indicating a species’ tastiness -- or the words (This is taken directly from a field guide), “Ingestion will lead to liver failure and death within days. No known antidote.” Oh, what the hell, pass me a dish of that wild mushroom casserole.
Personally, I was trained to harvest mushrooms in a very safe fashion, i.e. knowing what the hell I was doing.
General rule: You do NOT go out and pick a load of various mushrooms to taste test. This is bad for digestion and really annoys the mushrooms. Just this past weekend, I could have picked upwards of 30 varieties to munch upon during the World Series on my new high-definition TV. I’m guessing by the 5th inning I’d be flush against the screen trying to reach in and pull loose threads off the players’ uniforms.
Best bet to safely go fungal is to get some serious lessons to mentally internalize all the bad-apple mushrooms while simultaneously memorizing a couple/few totally completely fully safe local species. You learn those good ones inside out –before you invite them inside. A couple of the tastiest types of mushrooms are the most common. Then, you go hunting for those exact good-buddy species, enjoying the astounding shroom showing along the way. If you stumble upon some toxic types, that’s ideal. Nothing is better than getting a good gander at the bad guys. Any doubt, throw it out.
The only known field test to instantly determine if a mushroom is edible is to ask it, “Are you poisonous” If it says nothing, it’s too risky to eat. If it says “yes, no or maybe” you’ve already been unadvisedly taste testing and should quickly float over to the nearest ER.
SIDEBAR: I hearken back to a survival course I took year back. We were told never to eat little brown mushrooms (known as “LBMs” – I kid you not), ones that had white gills under umbrella-like caps or any mushroom that was drooped and decaying. Then, we were ordered -- and some trainees actually obeyed -- to find some mushrooms and bite off just the tiniest nail clipping-sized piece and swallow it. Then, wait a day. If nothing bad happened, a little bit larger nip was taken. Another day was waited. So on, ad nauseum -- so to speak. What I wanted to say (but didn’t since there were a lot of sidearm being worn around this camp), “Correct me if I’m wrong, but here we are trying to keep from starving in the wilds and after, like, a week or so of slowly nipping away at mushrooms we’ll either be sick as dogs (and probably fed upon by wolves or grizzlies) or so weak from lack of food that some stinkin’ edible mushrooms won’t help at all.” Gospel truth: I faked eating mushrooms and was the only trainee not sick after a few days. “Trainer (on the likely shroom-caused sickness) “There’s great lesson to be learned here.” He then just walked away.
GET-OUT TUESDAY: I am a republican -- or so I’m told when they want donations. And though I’m usually mole-blind when it comes to such things, I’m mighty certain that the imminent Third Congressional District election looms menacingly large for localites.
We had been spoiled – served, nearly beyond measure, by our buddy Jim Saxton, now retiring. Two folks new as daybreak to DC are vying for his seat.
Republican Chris Myers and Democrat John Adler are the prime players.
While Adler has scored some high marks with anglers, he has gone sub-acceptable in his aligning with the oceanfront homeowners trying to undermine effort to re-beach LBI.
Myers candidacy is a complex story. He knows LBI from younger time spent here. He’s no expert, though. At the same time, he has been hand-trained by Jim.
My read: Myers has the only potential (of the two) to carry on the many District-serving efforts Jim has developed over his decades of stellar service. For issues like beach replenishment, the fight for Holgate usage, and saving District military bases, it would be neigh impossible for Adler to achieve those benefits starting from scratch, which is what would have to happen if a Democrat takes over the district.
With a huge turnout expected for the presidential election (I may split from my party politic when it comes to the Commander in Chief), I hope folks look long and hard at what is best for the Third District. The impact is going to be immense.
RUNDOWN: The winds remain the ruiner.
Seems like every weekly rundown I point with angling angst at the anemometer (that’s the thing that spins like crazy and magically tells wind speed). Week after recent week, gusts have traveled above and beyond forecasts. We’d no sooner get a grip on what was biting than brutish weather arms would shake things around, like one of those snow globes.
While wicked winds don’t always kill fishing – we’ve had quite a few Classic weigh-ins despite the blows – it sure takes comfort levels down to the bare bones.
Tuesday was as bad a day as we’ve had in a dog’s age. The fully frigid rain (with snow flakes a-mix), gale-force west winds and wind-chills a la January had their way with our still-summerized bodies. The only up side to this early-week wind whacking is the way it finally ushered in the first consistent offshore (to light) winds of the fall. The accompanying surf flattening should add some order to the autumnal angling.
I stick by my sense that some wild bluefishing is about to bang the beaches of LBI. Afterwards, bring on the bass blitzes – though they might be more mid-November.
Overall: Still some croakers mixing in with small bass and junkfish.
Clams are fairly sure-fire for small stripers but bunker chunks are for players – those looking for major money/prize fish.
Liveliners are showing why spot, bunker and even herring are as sure as it gets when striper seeking.
Obviously, boat anglers have it way over surfcasters when it comes to livelining but those surfcasters in the know don’t pass up a chance to cast out even a small croaker, hake or herring. A bass or blue will attack virtually any struggling species, even one of its own.
Beachfront livelining is most easily done in smaller surf and (most of all) when tides allow a livelined offering be carried out to the end of a jetty.
Surfside livelining, is one of the few bait fishing techniques my Type-A impatience can tolerate. And for good reason. It is very common for a livelined bait to attract a big taker in nothing flat. Also, I’m a pretty peaceful guy when I can stand on rocks and actively watch what type baits are swimming nearby. While simultaneously bait-watching, I’ve allowed a large livelined offering to swim a couple hundred feet out to sea; That takes some staying power on my part – and some luxurious luck on the part of the baitfish.
If my livelined baitfish makes it through its “walk,” it gets carefully unhooked and released. On at least four occasions, I’ve retrieved a livelined baitfish that hadn’t shown so much as surface nervousness when walked only to have it destroyed by a huge fish the instant I released it. Happened just last fall at the Holgate tip (written about).
I have it on first-hand accounts that some 30- to 40-pound class bass are being taken by South End boats, mainly by anglers bringing their own live-line bait – as opposed to snag-and-drop bunker action.
Spot are huge as live-line-ables this fall. Not only are some still around but also many folks penned up dozens (even hundreds) of them after catching (or netting) as many as they wanted in late summer and early fall.
Spot keep astoundingly well, providing you store them in larger pens and are very careful to prevent thermal shock – almost exclusively from heat, only rarely from cold.
Wrecks are fully loaded with seabass and tog. Headboats and charters are often the easiest (ad safest) way to take in that cooler-filling action. Asian friends of mine say there’s nothing better that whole seabass for serving under a thick black bean sauce. I concur – when they make the sauce. That’s one sauce I have yet to perfect the way the Asians rightly make it.

Email: “Jay, I read your blog about using regurgitated sand eels to fish with. I got about a dozen from a bluefish I cleaned on the beach. I threw a few out at a time and had fish almost instantly. Bluefish. Pretty impressive bait. Bites ended when I had to go back to the last of the stale bait I had. Boy does fresh bait make all the difference.”

(You got that right. Fresh is always the first choice. However, I’ll be the first to note the admirable success rate of thawed bait bought at tackle shops that carefully and individually quick-freeze just-arrived bait.
Your word “stale” is a perfect choice. That includes bait that has thawed and sat too long or – cringe – bait that was thawed once, wasn’t used all the way and was refrozen.
The most putrid bait, even worse than rotting fresh bait, is that which has suffered freezer burn. The same way you can actually taste the hideous effect of freezer burn on, say, ice cream, gamefish can smell that awful unnatural stink that freezers instill upon poorly kept material. J-mann)

TOURNEY TALK: Perennial top-taker Greg O’ Connell., Mays Landing, went park (after dark), besting a bountiful – and tougher-yet to beat – 47-2, using bunker in B.L. No added details on the fish just yet (please contact me, Greg) but the timeframe of his take is consistent with a Island-long showing of rogue mega-bass.
In fact, we are smack dab in the midst of the rogue cow bass season. That’s my delineation of the angling when smaller seasonal bass are being taken at a relatively regular clip only to have a sole mega-striper crash on-scene.
This one-and-done scenario is being perfectly portrayed by the Classic.
After Scott Law’s 36-15 on Wednesday (way ahead of all other bass weigh-ins), Larry Weidner landed a 34-11 on Thursday, once again way larger than all other weighed fish.
On Saturday, Greg’s tourney-leading 47-2 take was double the size of the nearest daily contender. Then, on Sunday, Richard Di Martinis, Jr., bagged a 30-3 cow, using bunker in Spray Beach and easily outdistancing all other bass entries by a mile.
The rogue fish syndrome is a great thing by my reckoning. It levels the playing field, since that one big cow might show at any beach at any time.
The rogue fish concept is a pole apart from the blitz or hot-bite times. Those brisker bites are easily seen at the weigh-in scales when dozens and dozens of bass arrive in quick order, weighing everywhere from entry-level right up to 50 pounds plus. That onslaught of stripers is almost always in association with bait bursts moving near the beach. It often comes down to the luck of the cast as to who wins the day.
I have to admit that rogue bass fishing often demands the most skill and insight by anglers. I know because I suck at it. In a blitz, I have a fighting chance.

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Comment by ellymay on October 29, 2008 at 6:44pm
Um, did you mean me? I'm warm and nice.
Comment by jaymann on October 29, 2008 at 7:31pm
Of course I meant you, elly-girl.


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