Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
PYKRETE IS TOTALLY COOL: It’s been pretty well established that this column likes to roam freely in fringe fishing realms – as in, stuff that has virtually nothing to do with angling except my words are located in something called “The Fish Story.”
Well, this week, despite a hot summer sun beating down, I want to make a frozen foray into the world of hard ice – as opposed to not-as-hard ice.
I’m hoping some of you will counter by arguing that ice is ice, no harder or softer.
That’s when I can briskly slip and slide into the subject of Pykrete.
Pykrete is what might be called a designer form of ice. And it’s fascinating stuff. In fact, this story might affect your fishing coolers from here to eternity. Read on.
Pykrete was invented during WWII by a British scientist named Max Perutz, a man after my own heart because of his willingness to explore way outside the frozen box.
As part of a team looking to science to advance the war effort, Max had a grandiose plan – bordering Howard Hughes-esque in scope -- to build an unsinkable aircraft carrier made out of ice, or, more exactly, Max’s Pykrete. You go, Max.
Since Max was kinda low down on the totem of war effort scientist, his invention only used the first letter of his last name. You’ll quickly see where the –ykrete comes in.
While German scientists were going astoundingly hyper-tech in perfecting the brutal V2 ballistic missile, Max went amazingly lo-tech in seeking a way to snub the Nazi subs that were all but ruining the Allied war effort by sinking every vessel in sight.
In a veritable kitchen-level experiment, he combined 14 percent everyday sawdust with 86 percent everyday tap water, then froze the two.
Although a simple recipe, the combining of those two hyper-common ingredients takes everyday ice from an easily crushed material into something so strong you can’t break a square-foot block of it with a sledge hammer. His Pykrete sucked up impacts, including ferocious torpedo strikes, as if they were after-dinner mints. It was, in deed, on par with concrete. And it floated like a champ.
As weird as Pykrete was, the Royal Navy not only found it a candidate material for making an unsinkable aircraft carrier but began to build a prototype, I believe the hull was actually completed, on a lake somewhere in Canada. The ship never went into service due to a huge shift in the Allied effort to target subs. I recall reading that the frozen Pykrete hull took over three months to melt under a summer sun.
Anyway, I bring this up as yet another cockamamie way to make fishing a tad easier – and a ton weirder.
Ask any top angler and he or she will tell you that ice is what it’s all about when keeping bait or just-cleaned fillets super fresh. In fact, fresh bait is the ultimate edge when angling against fellow anglers.
Where a block of everyday un-impregnated ice will melt in maybe a couple/few days in a cooler, a homemade Pykrete block of equal size will last for weeks, royally cooling the cooler all the way to the end.
Oh, I hear you whining about the 14 percent sawdust residue but that stuff is totally organic and easily cleaned away. Besides, how much sand winds up in your cooler? Now that stuff is a major pain, especially when even a few grains of it gets on filets headed back home in the cooler. Interestingly, the sawdust holds sand grains and actually makes it easier to rid a cooler of those grains.
THIS SUCKS: Word of at least three cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) in nearby Burlington County has me a bit edgy – and a little itchy. The problem is this tick-dispersed disease is not on my hard-earned list of self-accrued immunities.
RMSF is a notorious outdoors-based illness common to the South. This disease’s climb onto our neck of the woods might be just a quick-quirk thing, a one-and-done outbreak that’ll hang in Burlington County for the summer then mosey on back to, say, Texas.
I use Texas as a segue into why this ticking clock of an illness has me on edge.
One of the spreaders of this fever is the easily identifiable lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum, of which I’m in close and personal contact every single time I’m in the woods, i.e. daily. Wood and dog ticks are also carriers but I have a sense that the lone star ticks are seriously problematic right about now.
By the by, all the ticks varieties that spread RMSF are larger, easily seen, as opposed to the very small deer tick, potential carriers of Lyme disease.
The lone star tick bears the standout white dot on its back. I would say that 90 percent of the ticks working Ocean, Atlantic and Burlington counties are lone stars. And this year they are plentiful like we’ve never seen them before (see insect-related section). In fact, there’s likely one is somewhere on me right now since I’m fresh out of the woods and weeds.
LBI has a slew of lone-star ticks. The Dike in High Bar Harbor has a greater concentration of ticks than I’ve ever seen anywhere. Important (!): This does not mean LBI ticks are carrying Rocky Mountains spotted fever. There’s a huge likelihood that they are not infected. I’m just giving a local angle on why those three cases in Burlington County are troubling.
If there is an upside to RMSF is its high treatability. Antibiotics can knock it clean out of one’s system. This makes it a lot less ominous than Lyme disease, a god-awful illness that has no definitive cure -- and not even a definitive early-on test to establish if it has been contracted or not. I have a slew of friends direly damaged by Lyme, including a gal whose quality of life went from highlight reel active to sedentary because of Lyme-related joint pain.
As we all should know by now, Lyme disease is spread exclusively via the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis. While there are some scientists who feel Lyme disease may be spread by lone star ticks, the highly steadfast folks at the Centers for Disease Control assert the lone star tick does not transmit the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochete associated with Lyme disease.
Some victims of lone star tick bites occasionally develop a rash very similar to early Lyme disease symptoms, including the famed bull’s eye shaped dermatitis. That skin-deep reaction is most likely a reaction to an organic cement (and anticoagulant) introduced via a tick’s biting parts. It is not the influx of B. burgdorferi.
I will note, in passing (since the danger is low), that symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever include fast-onset fever, nausea, vomiting, headache and appetite loss. Following, in short order, are body aches and a spotted rash that can vary from widely spaced bumps to skin-covering groupings. Fever can approach 104 and is most dangerous to folks over 50.
WHY NOT ME?: The arrival of RMSF means I have to run out and devise some quick self-immunization procedure, the way I seemingly have for Lyme disease. Truth be told, I should be the poster boy for Lyme disease.
For over 40 years of outdoorsing, I’ve intimately entertained more lady ticks than Wilt Chamberlain did groupies. From tiny deer tick nymphs to bruiser-sized wood ticks, I’ve yanked their grubby proboscises out of my skin at every turn. Hey, I refuse to give up the outdoors out of fear of these bloodsuckers.
But why no Lyme disease for me after countless exposures?
I had a top epidemiologist once tell me I may have self-immunized myself, having attained tick vaccine antigens during my travels, possibly as the disease first arrived in a less virulent form. Of course, that same doctor also suggested I may simply be dancing through the Lyme disease minefield.
That dance thing is quite possible, too.
I beyond faithfully “de-tick” after coming out of the woods, always have and always will. I immediately launder all clothing and then myself -- though it’s tough holding my breath through a long spin cycle.
When showering, post-tick exposure, I have long employed a technique of heavily applying baby oil. The all-over oil allows me to feel even the tiniest tick. Ever noticed how you can feel even a single grain of sand when oiled up? Same concept works with ticks a-skin.
There may also be a beneficial aftereffect of oiling up. Embedded ticks breath through their legs. Oil would likely clog up their ability to breath and suck blood at the same time.
One final deticking aspect lies is the fact a deer tick has to be imbedded in your skin for at least 24 hours before the Lyme-causing spirochete can be transmitted. For me (and many others), an embedded tick begins to itch within 12 hours. For a peripatetic naturalist, that slight unexplained itch is a significant tip-off. Instead of doing a generalized scratch, focus in (via mirror or finger tips) to see what’s at the root of the inflammation.
Tick tip: A very significant source of tick bites involves dragged in ticks. In my case, I jump into my trucks where accumulated ticks fall off. They relocate onto my seat covers and latch on when I least expect it, sometimes days later. It’s fairly easy to safely do wholesale spraying inside a vehicle, providing you don’t get back inside for an entire night or so. You might also want to air it out for a stretch in the morning. Use an acaricide or mitacide (meant specifically for ticks and related mites) and not a general-use insecticide, which will bounce right off the backs of ticks.
Of course, using sprays on your clothes and bodies before heading outback is the first line of tick defense. While I really want to use organic repellents exclusively, I have yet to find any natural ingredients even approaching the effectiveness of manmade chemical products when dealing with ticks.
THE SAND DOWN UNDER: In this issue of The SandPaper we have a fine photo layout page showing some spearfishing being done near Barnegat Inlet. Great stuff.
The first part of my career was spent underwater, so I have a soft spot for diving -- both commercial and recreational. For that reason, I openly balk at the few anglers who badmouth spearfishing as if it’s somehow a vulgate form of fish taking.
Spearfishing requires one to fully possess the healthfulness and swimming skill to go into often-tricky waters; to visually locate fish; stalk them until a shot can be taken, dive under in pursuit; make an accurate hit, then fight the fish to a landing point. That’s somehow a bogus form of fishing. No way.
It’s an incredible sport, though admittedly not for everyone due to the physical demands.
In the process of spearfishing, a diver also gets to see the true lay of the bottom – not to mention a myriad of ecological goings on that one never sees from a aluminum chair placed on the dry sand.
As an example of just how much can be learned by going the underwater route, a SandPaperite recently began diving the beachfront jetties and took in tons of underwater details. He worked North Beach.
His first look below offered a quiet jetty with minimal fish activity. That would likely be the jetty I choose, convinced bass are all over it. He then snorkeled a jetty to the north. No sooner did he get into the water than he saw bass hunkered down all over the place. Interestingly, they weren’t doing much. My guess is they were well fed, sort of relaxing and waiting for dusk to begin re-upping on sustenance. Good data. How many times have you wondered what bass do when they’re just, well, hanging out? This diver saw it first-hand. He also spotted a slew of tog along with various rock-related species – plus skates.
Shooting at one of the stripers, he missed the mark. After nailing one allowable daily tog, he went in.
The next day he returned to the same jetty and, lo, he found the same bass -- or spittin’ images of the ones he had seen the previous day. My guess is they were the exact same fish, thus first-handedly proving our sense that resident fish hang on specific jetties for the season. Again, seeing is knowing.
I’ve often put notes in here on what I see when diving jetty areas – or swimming laps between two jetties. The insights offered to improve angling are phenomenal. For those of you willing and able to get into the drink (even if it means a bodyboard for support), grab a mask and look down below, while we have this clear water. By later this month, our ocean water clarity will likely be giving way to churned up conditions compliments of wave action from prevailing southerly winds and tropical storm systems.
DOG DAY MEGA-DOGS: I wanted to alert folks that state records for spiny and smooth dogfish are on the line this summer. I say that because many anglers are talking about catching the largest dogs they’ve ever seen. Don’t hesitate to weigh-in a potential state record-class dog.
For smooth dogfish, the state record is 19 pounds, 8 ounces, a fish taken in 2000 by Michael Latorre out of Pleasantville. To be honest, that might be tough to one-up, though I had two different captains hand-scale smooth dogs nearing that lofty weight.
For spiny dogfish, the state record is 15 pounds, 12 ounces, caught in 1990 by Jeff Pennick, fishing off Cape May. That fish bounced out a slightly smaller spiny dog that was caught aboard the Fisherman’s Headquarters boat while I was out fishing with them in the late Eighties.
Email: Jay, Caught some big dogfish (over 3' and weighing around 25lbs) … out on the Little Egg South reef, which we released. Was wondering if they are any good for eating? Jeffrey T …
(That’s an ongoing debate of international proportions. In many parts of the world – including, believe it or not, the U.S. – dogs are protected due to overfishing by commercialites. The fishmongers are obviously finding a market that adores the dogs. These small sharks are apparently hugely popular as food in Europe. However, I had a very knowledgeable British angler tell me dogfish are NOT the prime species in England’s famed fish and chips, as is often written. The fish and chips honor goes to far tastier cod-type fish.
I have cooked both smooth and spiny dogfish, after proper handling, which begins with gutting the fish immediately after landing. Baking or even BBQ’ing offered a decent (at best) product -- with no one fighting for seconds. However, deep-frying filet pieces, after coating them in a heavy spicy coating, produced a very tasty victual, possibly the source of the fish and chips penchant. Definitely give the dogs a try but remember the indispensable step of gutting them the instant after pulling them out of the water, lest uric acid from burst internal organs within the shark saturate the meat, requiring a milk bath to neutralize -- not worth the trouble. j-mann)
RUN-DOWN: Brown sharks are in and large, mainly watera of the South End. Sharkers have already landed some big sharks -- with those famed and seemingly inevitable unstoppable run-offs thrown in. So what are those run-off mega-sharks? There’s always the chance of a huge bull shark being in the mix – fully unstoppable when maxing out in size. I’ve seen whites even at this time of year. With cow-nose rays now showing – in small numbers – a slew of shark species can conceivably be in the mix.
Here’s a sharkish email from Joe H.
“Saturday we headed out with the family for a boat trip off BH. Decided to stalk bunker schools instead of fluke fishing. I snagged a pair of bunker and hooked them on 20-lb conventional gear for my wife and sister-in-law. It wasn't long and Maria (wife) hooked up in a big way. She fought the fish for 20 minutes and she started to tire. She wanted me to hold the rod above the reel so she could rest her arm. After explaining IGFA rules saying I couldn't touch the rod in case of a record fish, she threatened if the fish makes another run she's letting go. I reluctantly put the gaff down and lent her a hand. After a few more minutes my speculation of a 60-lb bass disappeared. This fish was fighting much, much harder then any striper I've seen. My suspicion was correct. After getting both hands back on the rod, she brought her biggest fish ever boatside -- a near 6 foot,100lb+ brown shark. We tried to get some photos but after I had the fish on the leader it snapped in my hands.”
The tuna fishing is flourishing. The charter boat Reel Trouble out of Morrison’s Marina, , Beach Haven, had a nice catch of tuna and mahi … It’s one-day tally included four 50# yellowfins and one 115# bluefin, caught just south of Toms Canyon. Sean Rokita of Brant Beach was the angler on the big bluefin. If you offshore folks have angling reports please email me at email@example.com.
Bassing is nowhere near what it has been. Bunker pods should be easy to spot today so maybe some larger fish will get caught and released. Surfside we are really into the resident fish swing of things – and the beaches are so beachgoer drenched that it’s kinda tough settling into a serious relaxation mode, plus, Surf City bans surfcasters during the day.
Recently, the chase for bunker pods adjacent to the beachline in HC had a goodly number of boats plowing all over the few surfaced baitballs. Not only were boats beating up on each other but a few boats came seriously close in, skirting swimming areas, so much so that beach patrol personnel were on the brink of taking boat names and numbers. Fortunately not many swimmers were out there. When boat bassing, please keep your distance from bathers.
Weakfish remain a pleasant surprise, though they are, in deed, surprises since most are caught secondarily to fluking and such. Many of these rogues are the big sparklers slowly exiting the bay, though the arriving over-summer weaks always have a few near-tiderunners mixed in. There is still no sign of heavy incoming spike weakies, the biomass that indicates a summer-long grass shrimp-related bite. M.T. recently took two weakies, both exactly 7 pounds. He commented that they were some of the best tasting weaks he had ever eaten. I’ve heard that before about spawned out sparklers, which have regained body fat through grass shrimp and other sweeter crustaceans. I know I’ve noted this before but small spearing, also on the spawned out weakie diet, are also very low in oils and add a milder flavor to the weakfish fillets.
Bluefishing is there but not nearly as there as recent weeks. If you want them look for birdplay or simply jig the mouth of Barnegat Bay (staying out of the main channel where boat traffic will be astronomical this weekend).
Fluking is where you find it. The reports are all over the place. Some folks arrive home with quite a few fillet-worthy models while others are all but skunked, except for too-small stuff. The Double Creek region has been very decent for keeperage. More importantly, the worth of Spro jigs, when graced with GULP, squid or minnows (or a combo of all), seems to way-lead the pack when it comes to the best rigs for larger flatties.
Blueclaw crabs are making a decent showing and will explode with the waning moon. Most tackle shops are back-loading frozen bunker for the weeks of heavy crabber folk business.
And to those crabber folks I beg (!): Please clean up after yourselves.
I know this falls on deaf ears in here since most of the flagrant litterers are not hardcore anglers (or blog readers) but that user group is far-and-away the worst trash droppers of all. I’m not even sure why. They simply choose to leave crap where it drops. Go to any popular crabbing site and tell me I’m wrong. I especially hate those yellow foam plates and saran wrap that go with chicken necks.
Money for winners of Simply Bassin’ 2007 is in the shops. Go to the shop were you weighed in the bass. It was the largest turnout yet for the event, with a touch over 180 anglers, meaning the prize money was close to the 200-entrant schedule. Thanks to all those who joined in.
Marriage Saving Jetty Tale
FOR BETTER OR FOR BASS: Ashley and Jamie Cramer both feel a jetty may have saved their marriage from a fate worse than, uh, fishing. It’s one of those fabulous fish tale things. I chatted with them Monday.
Last weekend, Jamie hunkered down for some surfcasting near the family’s Amber Street home in Beach Haven. He is relatively new to surf casting, being a recent convert from boat fishing, which often left him green around the gills. Little could Jamie have guessed that surf fishing could bring its own form of stomach rattling.
Casting out and spiking two new rod-and-reel combos, Jamie had an overly uneventful start to his fishing session. There was nothing happening whatsoever. That day, the acrylic clear water had many anglers singing the catch-nothing blues. No big deal for Jamie. Even without bites, the day was relaxingly ideal and his wife, Ashley, and son were nearby happily taking in one of the nicest days of the season.
Ashley was adding to the day’s ambience by immersing herself in iPod music. She is a total non-fisherperson. “When I’m on the beach, I’m like a sun goddess. I don’t pay attention to anything but the sun,” explained Ashley. For that reason, she was not overly enthralled when Jamie asked her to come over and sit near the rods while he went back to the house for a short time.
With iPod still in place, Ashley shifted her chair over, but left her awareness in the sun and relaxation mode. That approach worked just fine until the Cramer’s 5-year-old son announced, “Mommy, daddy’s fishing pole is in the water.”
As Ashley looked over in near-panic, only one pole was still a-spike. Gone was Jamie’s new $200-plus surf fishing set-up. Gone just as quickly was Ashley.
In the time it takes to throw off sunglasses and de-ear an iPod, she made a dash to the water that would have impressed even the hardest core caster. She went straight into the drink, going the full-submersion route in search of the rod and reel.
“I dove into the ocean with my eyes open and thought I saw it, then I lost it.” She recalled.
There was a good reason she lost sight of it, one most anglers can guess right off. The fishing gear was in full gear, on the move as it were. It was being dragged off into the deeper water. But that reality would play out a bit later.
Ashley, figuring the rod had simply fallen in the water, kept circling and diving where the equipment had likely gone in. Soon, her valiant effort began to draw the attention of beachgoers. Exiting the water, Jamie explained to a gathered crowd that she had lost her husband’s fishing gear. The not-so-subtle significance of a wife losing her husband’s fishing gear permeated the crowd, especially among the women. “Folks were saying, ‘What are you going to do when your husband finds out?’ I thought, ‘I’m dead. He’s going to kill me,’ ” recalled Ashley, adding “Everyone was consoling me.”
Her gallant effort to find the lost gear got a sympathetic angler into the search. “A fisherman told me that sometimes you can find a lost rod using another rod. So he took my husband’s other rod and began casting it out,” said Ashley.
For Jamie, seeing both his rods were out of the spikes, with a stranger casting one of them, was among the first clues that something was amiss as he came over the dunes.
“I came walking onto the beach and I see all these people looking toward me and talking. Everyone looking at me like, ‘Oh, boy, this guy’s gonna be pissed.’ ”
With the bystanders standing around as if watching a salty soap opera, Jamie asked about the rods. “Ash said something to the affect, ‘I tried. I tried. Ask anyone. I even opened my eyes under water.’ ”
Long and short of it: his best surf fishing rod and reel combo had gone sub-Atlantic.
But the “fish” part of the tale was just beginning.
Bemoaning his lost equipment, Jamie walked the water’s edge in hopes of getting a visual on it. That’s when a gal on the beach thought she saw something off the end of a nearby jetty. It was something, for sure. Swirls and tail splashes from a huge fish could be seen on the water’s surface. Jamie immediately knew what was up. He could see the line of his reel wrapped around some rocks. Attached to the line was a major bass – the cause of the rod-and-reel’s rapid flight.
“Now what?” thought Jamie.
The tide was at max high and the odds of successfully mixing it up with high-poundage fishing line and an obviously annoyed mega-bass didn’t favor someone swimming out for a mano-a-mano, make that a mono-a-mano, angling approach.
Spying a kayak angler working the water not far from the jetty, Jamie signaled the paddler to go over to the jetty and grab the fish – and gear. “I kept yelling ‘He’s right there. He’s right there.’ ”
However, distance led to a misread by the paddler, who also saw the swirls and splashes on the surface but took them to be some sort of bass play. He began eagerly casting and recasting into the area.
Before long, the fish sounded. It seemed it had gotten off or had pulled the gear out to sea. Jamie just stared into the water.
Then, he saw a shadow in the shallows. It was the fish, slowly cruising about.
“I had my shirt off and I’m running into the water at Mach 10. I got in and ran after the fish,” said Jamie.
Nearing the fish, Jamie dove under and got the first close-up look at his hard-pulling hookup. It was kinda big. “I got right next to him and for a split second I thought, ‘Wait a minute. What if it turns attacks me? I might be in trouble.’ ”
Dismissing the possibility of an attack by a toothless fish, Jamie grabbed its tail and hand-fought both the currents and the fish, finally hauling ashore a 46-inch striper. “I looked at the size of it and thought ‘Oh, my God.’” Still attached was the line.
Employing the ultimate in turn-about, Jamie then used a fish to fish for the fishing rod and reel. With the help of the now tuned in kayaker, the wayward line was snagged and the paddler lifted the fishing gear out of the water. The equipment was good to go after a thorough rinse and re-greasing.
It was then just a case of allowing the now large crowd to enjoy the sight of his catch. “I felt like an instant celebrity,” said Jamie.
A few hours after landing, the fish was weighed in at 32 pounds. It was then BBQ bound, filleted and prepared by a neighbor.
As for the Cramers, they give the fish-stopping jetty the main credit “We now say a jetty saved our marriage.”
JUICE AND HARD-FIGHTING CLAMS: As virtually every sport contends with the touchy issue of steroid and performance enhancing drugs usage, I began looking for any such hanky-panky within the often highly competitive realm of sport fishing. The overall condition of many anglers not only thoroughly rules out steroid use but pretty much rules out the adequate use of vegetables and daily vitamins. Hell an angler I knew recently had a blood test and it came back “Coffee.”
However, I did notice one very suspicious growth spurt common in the angling world, that being the speed a fish grows the instant an angler loses it. Exacting studies I’ve done (just now) indicate a just-lost fish gains, on average, a minimum of 30 percent body weight and undergoes a length increase that catapults it into the grouping of anaconda-like creatures.
I can fully relate to the amazing size of lost fish. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to pick the top 10 fish from among the biggest fish I’ve never caught. They’re all neck-in-neck – and those necks are big!
In some cases, it would be better for a grandiose fish to never exit the water -- losing half of its former size upon landing. I’ve told this story in here before but I once fought – to the death – a clam. Not even a live clam, mind you, just the two emptied halves of a clam, clinging together, likely a surf clam cleaned by an angler pulling out the gob of meat for bass fishing.
I was jigging in fairly large surf that fall day. The side currents were ripping north to south along the beach. Not far from shore, my Sassy Shad solidly hooked up. The fight was on immediately.
Even with the punch line of this hookup reveled, you still can’t imagine the intensity of that brawl.
As I pulled back on the hooked clam, the shells must have begun flapping like crazy in the current, dramatically resisting, creating a feel utterly identical to a fiercely fighting fish.
Through much of the short-lived battle, my plugging rod bent over double under the strain. The rod’s tip looked like a seismograph needle during a 9.0 earthquake. Like a kite in the wind, the hook-up would rise up in the water column and careen crazily sideways in one direction than back in the other.
And I was really into it. I assumed top fish-fighting form, as see on the Outdoor Channel. I even inserted a bit of my own, let’s say, body language -- just to enhance the drama of the hookup for surrounding surfcasters, who were already beginning to intensely check out my animated struggle.
My hookup was so significant looking that the casters closest to me began instituting the famed lean-in maneuver – less than subtly moving toward me while aggressively casting as if they had been plugging in that very direction all along.
As I slowly got the upper hand, inching my catch toward the beach, the struggle got more heated in the swash. Outgoing water from the shorebreak, pulled so hard on the inexhaustible shells that line fed off the drag. I stayed calm, though. (Remember, kids, it’s vitally important to allow your drag to do its work.)
Then, as the waves temporarily laid down, I knew I had to make that big move to land my prize. I hauled back on the rod just as the water receded.
With no water to back it, the clam came flying through the air. I just about fell over backwards.
I knew instantly what had happened. My only thought now was damage control.
So, I did what any self-respecting angler would do: I stomped the wet sand in fury, wailed out loud and gnashed my teeth -- you know, the stuff common to losing a huge fish in the wash.
There was then the slight matter of a clam hooked so solidly on my jig that it needed pliers to get it off. I just clipped my line and tied on a plug. No more of those jigs. The fish keep getting off.
I’LL NEVER TELL: On the subject of the one that got away, they are the stuff that keeps the sport fun – and frequently fictitious.
Here’s a totally true tale that offers the birth of a family fish tale.
Not that many years back, I was boat fishing with a family that was fairly new to the sport. Anchoring up just north of the North Jetty at Barnegat Inlet, I showed them how to drift grass shrimp by letting the incoming current carry the unweighted bait onto the submerged rocks – and eventually into the inlet water.
Early on, one of the younger daughters outdid my instructions to keep letting line out. As I was helping other family members get set-up, I glanced over to see she had all but emptied much of the line on her reel. Her grasshrimp was out on a world tour.
I was just about to tell her to reel in the line when her rod almost jumped out of her hands. Per instinct (over instructions), she began reeling for all she was worth. Her adrenaline level was in the stratosphere. The rest of the family followed suit.
I immediately knew something was very funky about the hookup. It was ripping the rest of the line off her reel as if there was no drag in play.
A glance toward the inlet told me the other side of the hookup story. Her line had gotten wrapped around the prop of a passing boat. She was fighting what looked to be a trophy-sized Grady White. I didn’t have the heart to say a word, as the entire family cheered on the girl. I also knew the fight would soon be over. And it was.
A loud snap and the rod bolted back into shape. The girl and her family let out a synchronized groan.
However, not all was lost. That hookup instantly became that quintessential pass-me-down tale of the one that got away. I have since sat in on numerous retellings of the story. The got-away saga has grown more and more spectacular with each passing fish the family actually catches. In subsequent years, the dad landed two bass approaching 40 pounds. Every giant fish actually bought to the boat, spurs talk of the one that got away and how frickin’ big it must have been when compared to mere 40-pounders.
OW! NATURE NOTE: On the theme of larger-than-life perspectives, last week I mixed it up with some usually friendly insects – and lost in a very pointed manner.
I annoyed a goodly number of bumblebees that became exceedingly miffed at my uncovering their hangout.
So I don’t further an already abiding distrust of these very chubby stinging insects, I have to point out that I was quite in the wrong. I just never realized how quickly bumblebees are wont to point out someone’s transgressions.
I was coming out of swampy area in Bass River Township and came across a huge rotted stump. It was more of a volcano-shaped mound of disintegrating woody tidbits from a once huge tree of some sort. Rot had royally wrought itself upon the stump. Being a beetle aficionado, I stirred the decayed wood in search of a fun-to-find insect known as a patent-leather beetle, Odontotaenius disjunctu. This large exceedingly shiny wood-eating beetle makes great listening. When you hold one, it emits a bizarre squeaky sound. When you hold maybe a half dozen of them within your cupped hands and rattle them a bit, it sounds like, well, a handful of squeaking patent-leather beetles mainly. Quite cool.
As I disturbed the large mound, I was neither adequately looking nor listening. If I had been on my observational A-game, I would have seen a steady flow of bumblebees issuing forth from a lone hole in the mound.
I eventually saw them and turned to my usual bumblebee mode, which is one of “Hey, how’s it hangin’?”
These wide-bodied black-and-yellow bees are usually so mellow you can go up and touch them lightly on the back as they suck nectar from a flower. Once in awhile they’ll slowly look around in a sort of “Yo, knock it off” way. I have even carefully cupped a nectar-sipping bumblebee in my closed hands, walking up to nearby folks and coyly offering a nonchalant, “Check this out” – loosing the big buzzer and indubitably panicking everyone. I get a good great chuckle, especially when the confused bee gets pissy upon release and buzzes the closest moving objects (as I stand bolt still).
Anyway, I found that bumblebees aren’t as laid back when you come knocking at their door. Within seconds of arriving at their nest uninvited, I took a major sting to the lower leg. And it is major sting -- that may have been twice inserted since this type bee doesn’t loose its sting after one use.
That mildly poisonous penetration is what we in the animal-watching business call a message.
And I really got the message, followed by another similarly burning one delivered to my back.
That one threw me into my Loony Tune mode. I began running around in circles, screaming incoherently and swatting aimlessly as a veritable brigade of bumble bombers, each one of them using the latest laser-tracking technologies, homes in on me.
I took a third strike to my shoulder before the bees’ instincts apparently called them back to home base.
Even after things quieted down, I was so heavily into my survival mode that a tiny moth flittered near me unannounced and I dread dove sideways as if a flying Tasmanian devil was after me. It made the moth feel like big stuff.
As for the stings – yowza! We’re talking significant pain-age, way above and beyond mere honeybees and even beyond the perpetually ill-natured yellow jacket wasps.
The stings continually pulsed pain for a fairly long hike back to my truck. Fortunately, some dabbed cortisone brought quick relief.
As noted above, I hold no grudge regarding the entire rapid-fire affair– and was sincerely bothered that during the height of the battle I instinctively slapped one of the bees, possibly sending it off to bee heaven. However, I’d strongly advise making a reservation before barging into a bumblebee quarters.
RUNDOWN: Well, we may be slippin’ into the Dog Days already. Spring feverish fishing is giving way to the summery trends.
Among the trends fishing folks are most hoping will hold the course this summer is bunker pod bassing. This snag-and-drop method entails of finding bunker bait balls then snagging a big bunkie and dropping it down to the big bass hawking forage fish from down below. This past week there were some twists and turns in that fishery. The waters off Barnegat Inlet (up to the Swimming Beach of IBSP) went bunkerless. However, out off Little Egg Inlet there were enough baitballs to keep every boat captain happy, times ten. I guess that’s just the quirks of any given fishing week. No doubt bunker pods will move back north with time.
Here’s a very apropos e-report: “Jay, My report for Saturday: We began trolling Stretch 25's along IBSP, like all the previous weekends. This was the first weekend that did not produce as much as a hit, though. No blues, no bass, no bunker. As we had killies and GULP! aboard as a backup, we picked up and ran to the bathing beach. In the warm, almost turquise waters there I got a 19" fluke within minutes, which would be our sole keeper. The balance of the day was short fluke, and largish sea robins. Great day to be out, though. I feel the spring fishery has transitioned to the summer fishery, and am thinking of chumming sparklers in the bay within a week or two. Tom.”
The sparklers (weakfish) of which Tom speaks are a big question mark. Those are the over-summering weakies that aren’t nearly as large as spring spawners but make for a super-fun time of it when attracted to the boat through the chumming of grass shrimp, or even mussels and clams. The problem has been the downslide of that fishery in recent summers, after a few years of dynamite hooking. We’ll know in the next couple weeks if the weakie stocks will return for summer 2007. Any info you can send me will be very helpful.
Fluking is a bit weird in its own right. Where it seemed the small stuff would make for very frustrating summer flounder season, there have been multi-day stretches where the keeper rate has been huge, even inside the bay. This doesn’t mean the arriving stifling heat won’t drive keeper fish into deep ocean water, but it assures some early-on freezer stocking.
Black sea bassing has become highly unpredictable, after a number of amazingly catchful years. Hit-or-miss best describes it. Headboats and charters seem to have the extra sense of where the “hits” will be. I can emphasize enough the family fun of adding a day of headboat fishing to your LBI stay. Boat ads are found around this column. Check out the Carolyn Ann III for combi fluke/seabass sails. Go to www.carolynanniii.com
Bluefishing makes no sense – in a good way. The blue biomass should have exited our area many weeks ago but keeps making its presence known is big way. Gators are showing left and right, anywhere those bunker abound. The cocktail blues are also hanging in there. It seems as if they’ll be around all summer, mainly near Barnegat Inlet. Make sure to check out “Half Nite” bluefishing aboard the Doris Mae IV, www.dorismae.com or day trips about the Miss Barnegat Light, (609) 494-2094. \
Speaking of the Miss Barnegat Light, Doris Mae IV and Carolyn Ann III, they’ll all be doing fireworks cruises. What a fun time! Get your reservations in early.
And I always like to put a plug in for the Miss Beach Haven and their bay and ocean trips. Call (609) 978-9951.
No signs of kingfish. Not a good sign at all.