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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Weekly Blog Sept 5. 2007 -- Comments invited

Making Nice and Seeing Things

BE A NICE SURFCASTER: Anymore it seems the summer season stops on a dime – landing right next to the cash register that symbolizes Labor Day Weekend – then re-flares virtually every weekend for the following couple months.

This week the post-season solitude is hanging there for the taking.

Surf fishing is particularly welcoming, with many lifeguardless beaches to be savored -- and parking spots to be had right near street ends. Hey, even the ocean block sick-o driveway watchers -- after a summer’s worth of ruining day-trippers fun by screaming, “You can’t park there, that’s all my driveway!” -- have headed back to their real homes, undoubtedly to sit around looking for things to be bitter about until next summer.

But let’s steer away from that summer stress stuff.

I do want to bring up a couple surf casting etiquette thingies apropos to late summer.

First, there are still a goodly number of daily beachgoers -- and quite a few bathers who no longer have lifeguard flags to confine them. And it sure seems that free-range bathers are psychically drawn to right where we have our lines in the water.

Since fishing lines do present a risk to bathers, it is essentially the responsibility of anglers to alert nearby swimmers to the monofilament hazard. This can be done in perfectly respectful and non-confrontational ways, none of which include brandishing a filet knife.

I prefer to stand near the water and hand signal (not finger signal) bathers to come in so I can explain the danger.

In a perfect world, the bathers will listen, understand and relocate. However, there seems to be a certain haughtiness to post-season swimmers, who apparently believe that all controls are gone and no one better get in their path. It’s then a case of either pulling up fishing stakes or holding ground and hoping lines don’t find skin.

One other possibility in the case of arrogant bathers is to alert any skeleton lifeguarding crews still on duty, especially the guards driving around on quads. They have the legal muscle to relocate bathers for the sake of safety. Post-season, those guards almost always side with anglers, unless you happen to be fishing smack dab in the midst of popular-any-time swimming areas, like off Centre Street in Beach Haven

I know it’s trite but each surfcaster essentially represents the entire sport. Beachfront confrontations only create an ugly riff between bathers and anglers, one that often carries over for the next caster who cluelessly comes on-scene.

BRIGHT LIGHT: One of a few related emails: “I was wondering if you had any information regarding the meteor -- or whatever -- that fell from the sky into the ocean over the weekend just north of LBI. Thanks. Stephen F.”

I had emails from night anglers who saw that “Waz That!?” as it took a glowing nosedive into the ocean north of LBI.

The look was that of a long and arcing “glowing ball” with a vaporous trail, per reports. One fisherman thought he saw it split apart, “But I didn’t have my glasses on at the time and had just come from a party,” he added.

By most of the accounts I’ve read or received, it was more silverish than yellowish -- though some folks along the beaches of Monmouth County saw it with a tinge of orange – along with the twist of lime in their drinks. Actually, that color is significant since whiter or silver colors usually rule out a place crash.

Odds are incredibly high it was a meteorite – or, as one kid suggested, a Klingon Death Ship, which is now issuing millions of tiny water-resistant attack pods soon to wash ashore as gorgeous spiraled shells that beachcombers will take home to place on fireplace shelves where, late at night … you get the drift. The kids a bit odd – but damn interesting.

Since I’m obviously pathologically incapable of letting anything end at its given end, I have to ponder the meteorite impact angle -- and carry it bit further along.

Only last week The Discovery Channel replayed its earth-shaking special about tsunamis and the way huge impacts in the ocean are capable of generating tidal waves of monumental size – and only moderate surfability. The suddenness of that meteorite last week shows the instantaneous nature of arriving intergalactic stuff. Had that been a beefy asteroid or a really large space ship – like the one that overshadows all of D.C. and most of Maryland in those space attack movies – the resulting wave would be on us faster than saying “Geez, what keeps stealing my bait –and what the heck was that bright light? Glub. Glub.

Well, starting soon there will be large numbers of us sitting idle fishing in the dark – in my case, allegedly fishing. Truth be told, hyper-cool cosmic light streaks across the sky make it a lot more interesting.

A BAD FLARE-UP: I can even pull in another newsy note regarding things that go bright in the night.

There was a significant rallying of eyes and ears last week after some numbnut apparently decided to begin merrily firing flares down Holgate way.

Reactive mariners began combing the area for further distress signals. For nearly 24 hours afterwards, the Coast Guard repeatedly asked mariners in the vicinity to keep a sharp lookout for any vessels in trouble.

It was a hoax – and one that royally pisses off a lot of folks.

A fired flare, more often than not, signals the direst of emergencies. It is a call for immediate assistance. Many captains – even those on larger commercial fishing vessels -- will stop whatever they’re doing to immediately respond to a nearby flare. Military vessels are required to respond to any nearby flare. Obviously, the Coast Guard goes full guns when flares are reported. To toy around with these life-and-death signals is truly tantamount to crying wolf in a crowded theater (or something like that). There are even scary legal charges that can come about if you get caught shooting off flares for fun. Despite hoaxes, it is a moral obligation of all mariners to respond to any nearby flares.

FLUKE LADY UPDATE: There is a likelihood that the fluke lady, Monica Oswald of Neptune, will take a lie detector to assure her 24.3-pound fluke was taken fair and square. Her mind bogglingly big fluke is a shoe-in for the largest summer flounder ever caught, providing it passes muster with the International Game Fish Association.

The superheated controversy engulfing her fish like a pyroclastic flow is causing a serious stink in the angling realm.

The furious, often ferociously mean-spirited hubbub surrounding Monica’s monster summer flounder has equaled and likely supercedes the chaos following Al McReynold’s world record striped bass. The Internet is definitely the source of the feeding frenzy surrounding this fluke. Chatrooms and private websites have run rampant with some truly disgustingly aggressive commentaries regarding the fish. Accusations are flying over the look of the freshly caughtt fish. Its tail was all torn up and the gill section was cut clean out, along with a solid two or three ounces of added weight. What’s more, the fluke is no longer with us, in its fullest form. While in Monica’s garage, it was apparently dragged from its cooler by either a cat or some other form of wildlife and was chewed to pieces. However, Along with photos and official IGFA weights and measures taken at Scott’s Bait and Tackle in Bradley Beach, there were a slew of folks at the shop who saw the fish right after it was brought in. There’s no doubt whatsoever that it existed. And at last one off-the-record viewer told me it looked no different than any other fluke “just larger.”

Although the fish arrived at the tackle shop battered and bruised, due to difficulties in transporting a fish that outsized coolers and carriers, shop owner Scott Christensen, an inexperienced weigh-ist, performed properly in taking measurements and weights. That part of the world record equation is golden. Scott also felt it was not a dragged (commercially netted) fish, as is a standing allegation from naysyers.

The brutal hubbub over Monica’s fish has driven her into hiding. That is exactly what played out after the McReynolds bass.

As I’ve noted in here, I had a long, friendly and informative sit-down with an exhausted Al, right at the height of the hoopla over the veracity of the catch. I talked with him as the last of his fight was draining. He told me he couldn’t field the lies and innuendos fast enough – yet, the lack of instant response over every single inane allegation was taken as an admission of guilt by his detractors. They were all wrong in questioning the fish. It reached the height of insanity when Al received a series of lightly-veiled death threats, essentially warning him never to go out night fishing alone or he might end up sleeping with the fishes.

Regarding Monica’s fish, there is nonsense being bandied about that this is an issue of sex discrimination. This was fostered in a recent front page Star Ledger story. The writer suggested that the hammer is coming down on Monica because a woman bested a manly game species. That, to me, is the most absurd of many utterly absurd angles on this controversy. I believe it was contrived to boost the sexiness of the news story. I have been around this business for a long time now and I have never seen anything but positive feedback and genuine approval whenever a woman bests a big fish. In fact, I think there is a constant effort to highlight fish caught by woman anglers.

Monica’s case is far closer to an example of the hazards of life at the top.

Is it a case of jealousy, regardless of which sex caught the fish?

Absofrickinlutely.

It could have just as easily been a fisher-man who overlooked the absolute need to care for a world record fish as if was a winning lottery ticket that can’t be bent, folded or mutilated.

In an upcoming column I’ll go over some of the procedures needed to bank a state- or world-record fish. In he interim, uh, don’t catch one.

LOT OF THESE: While we’re seeing a disturbing shortage of croakers and kingfish (after recent banner years to beat the band), there are some marine life forms that are off the numbers charts for 2007.

Oddness first.

Commercials guys are netting massive numbers of starfishes along the nearshore bottom. There is also an increasing showing of these invertebrates near jetties. This biomass burst likely means starfish wash-ups will go through the ceiling later in winter when storms and colder water have their way with these low-mobility creatures. Thousands can wash up along the beach.

Another marine creature having a damn decent year of it is the seahorse. In fact, they may be staging something of a comeback after going south for a couple decades. They are showing in seine nets pulled through most bayside shallows. They are even being found attached to backyard crab traps, where they wrap their tails around the wire mesh and pick off bits of bait that go wafting by.

It’s always a bit dodgy announcing even a modest return of these astounding alien-looking creatures. No sooner will they show a biomass burst than commercial collectors will net them to dry -- or mold inside a Lucite cube – to sell at Shell Shops. Just the other day I was in a shell shop with a bin filled with hundreds of tiny shellacked sea horses. There had to be hundreds in there. What a monumental waste.

However, that novelty market wanes when compared to the dangerously eccentric demands of Asian herbal market – seemingly a bane to virtually all planetary life forms.

Chinese herbologists have powered, make that powdered, a market which accounts for 20 million seahorses being commercially captured each year. The hapless creatures are ground up, coupled with other herbs, and consumed to fight impotence. (Oh, not again.) To hear all the herbal brews Asians take for impotence you’d think there was never a baby born over there – or, perish the thought, maybe there’s something effectual in all those concoctions (no pun intended).

Even though the practice of insane and unsustainable seahorse harvesting became unlawful under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), the Asian markets seem invulnerable due to the profit margins surrounding the trade in hocus-pocus health products.

There is also high demand for seahorses by aquarists.

Live-caught seahorses are trendy among aquarium-keepers. There has even been some effort to aquaculturely raise them.

Note: Seahorses cannot be kept alive in your average fish tank, much less a fish bowl, as some unscrupulous pet stores try to promote. Due to a very sensitive immune system, they suffer stress-related diseases if water quality dips below ideal – a water quality that very few tank keepers can maintain. What’s more, they’re slender snouts only allow them to suck in small food items. While they can at first survive on pieces of dry flake foods, the lack of small living food organisms seem to mark doom for captive seahorses. It’s best to just leave them in their natural environs and rent some DVDs about seahorses of the world.

TOO CLOSE FOR CONTRIBUTIONS: I am a huge fan of fire companies and EMT services so it always with great reluctance that I go even a little bit negative when talking about anything those fine volunteers do, but, I just about bought the farm as I was driving eastbound on Route 72 on Monday and, for the sake of safety, I need to vent about a dubious fundraising practice that takes place along Route 72.

I had pulled onto eastbound 72 from a dirt road, heading home to LBI. I was just east of the new Paramount Escapes, near he Stafford/Barnegat line. And I was a tad confused on why westbound traffic was nearly stopped that far out.

There had been two separate fatal accidents on Route 539 in recent weeks and I feared yet another. Then, I was suddenly the one feeling the cold breath of highway super-death toying with my neck.

I was doing the allotted 55 with no traffic in my lane for miles ahead. Suddenly, from between two stopped cars in the westbound lane – part of the massive backup – appears the side of a cranberry colored sedan, pulling onto my lane, apparently out of Ocean Acres.

One of the westbound cars had signaled it across and the sedan driver apparently never gave a thought to cars going full-speed in the eastbound lane. Like me! It was just some nifty (if I do say so myself) steering and swerving on my part that allowed the three people in the car to live. I would have T-boned it to hell and back. Also, having a raised truck, I got a slightly quicker view of the instantly-arrived sedan. I absolutely guarantee most drivers would have not have been able to avoid a certain-death accident right then.

Now the distasteful part. I was to find out that westbound backup was the result of a nearby fire company, as its members stood on the shoulder of Route 72 soliciting funds from passing vehicles.

I swear I want nothing but the best for that great little fire company but that fundraising method is a tad too hazardous. Maybe rethink it; go back to the old days of that big bull’s eye target. And I do contribute.

RUN-DOWN: Holgate had small blues and some herring. A few mullet mulling about.

A few more large kingfish being caught, though the fishing pressure is still very light.

More stripers showing along the beachfront and near Barnegat Inlet. Nothing of size but it’s fun to see them re-showing after a lengthy absence.

Big bluefish in the Surf City area. Slammer pushing 12 pounds moved in, taking chunk bait or thawed mullet. Loads of cocktails still all over the place. Tiny snapper moving out of backbay.

Beginning this week, the surf casting will pick up drastically -- and it’ll be easier to read the bites. With nice weather on tap, it should make angling more inviting once the stirred up water clears up.

Bridge fishing slow though picking up (night).

No croakers.

A couple small black drum, south end vicinity.

An insightful summer rundown e-report: Hey Jay, That was the shortest summer ever! Had a great spring with bass; 533 up to 27 lbs. All on artificials. Switched over to bucktailing fluke when the bass bite died in June and caught over a hundred keeper-size fluke up to 5.5 lbs, all in the surf. 
Summer bassing was pretty much non-existent even though I gave it a shot almost every morning with plastic, plugs and poppers until switching over to bucktails for fluke. 
Last summer I had bass on a regular basis, this year I got 2 for the whole months of July an August. The fluke bite died back to a pick after the early August full moon. The small blues always kept things interesting. Got a few weakies in the surf on zooms and a few more around the back of the inlet, but I really didn't target them much. Kingfish and croakers have been a bust, still holding out hope for some fall croakers. Took my 3 year old Grandaughter over to the Barnegat public dock with her new "Princess" pole yesterday and using small pieces of peanut bu
nker on the bottom she got a fish every cast. Tons of juvenile weakfish and black drum. Never saw so many baby drum, good sign for that fishery. The juvenile weakies were a little larger than usual for this time of year and there are a lot of them. Getting in the bass mood and mode now. Always sad to see summer end, but now that the crowds depart and the island lifts up 3" from the lightened load the best beach times are still ahead. Hoping the mullet run brings some fish down, but with the warm water they may get a free pass through here again. Maybe we'll still be plugging schoolies in January again! TJ from Barnegat.”

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