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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Danger -- Weekly column for Sept. 26 2007

‘Good Doggy Creature’ and Heady Seals

I’ve been so Island-locked with Holgate-based trips that I’ve all but abandoned any and all transpontine activities.

(Word help: Transpontine, pronounced trans-PON-tyn, an adjective meaning: Across the bridge(s). It’s a cool word for LBIers – and it’s real verbiage to boot. Check your Frickin Wagnall’s.)

I haven’t been able to go out tracking, as requested, in semi-search of a “huge doglike animal” seen by two different motortists driving Route 539 at night.

“Jay, I never saw anything like this in all my years. It had very long hair and was shaped like a dog but much larger. It crossed the road so quickly I barely had time to register it,” wrote one emailer, a very straight-laced physician -- so elicit drugs didn’t play into the sighting. Prescription drugs, on the other hand. Just kidding, Doc.

An almost identical communiqué by another driver arrived two days later.

Weird.

Sounds like a track-searching mission of the highest order. Hey, I keep seeing Tom Brown down at Holgate. Maybe a pro can go pawing around out there.

One good thing about tracking canine-esque creatures is the fact that, if found, they can’t climb trees, whereas I’m able to instantly harken back to our limber climbing primate days by fully scaling even a shrubbery faster than you can say “Good boy.” It becomes problematic when I get to the top of, say, a bayberry bush and begin confidently taunting the snarling animal only to have the bush slowly begin creaking toward the ground. That’s where the creature changes its snarls to one of those cartoonish chuckles out the side of its teeth.

I don’t want to be over exacting on the whereabouts of these creature spottings. While I impulsively grab a camera for visual confirmation of a huge doglike creature, more than a few folks opt to grab a rifle, seeking a mounted view of the same piece of wildlife.

Over the years, I’ve collected over a dozen reports of big things going bump on the highways of night, including the oft-seen “cougar” of Hilliard Boulevard. However, these current sightings are perfect matches for an identical sighting I had years back, not far from the recent spottings. I saw a huge doglike creature clear a dirt road in something just short of a single bound. I wrote about it in here at least a couple times. I even emphasized the oddly long hair underneath the grayish/brown colored animal, despite it being summertime.

Unfortunately, I’m stuck in the mullet-seeking mode right now. But, hey, that will sharpen me for larger game. Mullet can be very nasty when slinging around their pokey dorsal fins, though not when I’m perched at the top of a phragmites shoot.

In the interim, if any of you get a glimpse of this thing, or have a read on what it might be, drop me a line. I’ll also entertain crop circle sightings now that we’re into the fall harvests.

Come to think of it, I think I might have seen some corn silk hanging off that bounding canine creature I saw years back. Hmmm.

SEALS VS SURFCASTERS: Over the weekend, Mike (Cherry Hill), was telling me an odd tale about his recent trip to Cape Cod.

The bassing was super and the bluefishing was epic. Nothing odd about that.

The utter oddity stepped in via his tale of harbor seals adroitly interfering with surfcasters working shoals of slammer blues.

Here’s how Mike heard it: The seals would get between the anglers and the blues. When a big blue was hooked, the seals would dash to the hooked fish and claim instant ownership. No contest when it comes to rod and reel versus an astounding powerful mammal.

Reluctantly, and angrily, Cod casters have to let line out, allowing the seal to swim off with the intercepted blue.

Now comes the freaky part. The seals will swim out a ways, where they stop and toothfully separate the head (and plug) from the body of the fish. The angler will then be able to recover his plug – with head still hooked.

Hey, a great tale should be aired, allowed to breath as it were, like a fine wine.

After posting that Cap Cod tale on my website (https://jaymanntoday.ning.com/), I got a response from another Cod caster.

“Jay, I noticed the story about the harbor seals in cape cod. This same scenario has happened to me and nearly all in our group over the last several seasons up there. The seal population has exploded to such an extent that they have become a huge nuisance. Most everyone you talk to on the beach has lost fish to seals in a similar manner and would happily shoot as many as they could. They’ve becoming increasingly difficult to avoid. They're just about everywhere the fish are and I wonder what overall impact they are having on the striper population. We've seen them on numerous occasions with surprisingly hefty stripers firmly clamped in their jaws. And they're not shy -- and they're not stupid. Many times we'd swear they were following us as we drove the beach, just to hang out waiting for the easier target of a hooked fish. When you're hooked up to some alligator blue or a nice striper and a seal starts to chase, you can't exactly just horse the fish in. Often your only recourse is to cut the line or risk getting spooled as you'll rarely win once a seal gets on to you. Ron. G.”

(Ron, I can see the frustration but I wouldn’t be overly worried about the impact of bass just yet. It takes legions of seals to have an impact, as seen by the sea lion population on the West Coast. Right about now, it is still primarily fishing that is diminishing the population of cow bass while fishery management is allowing the over proliferation of small bass. J-mann)

LOW BLOW FOR MONICA: I have this lingering sense of pity over what befell Monica Oswald, the Neptune gal who caught that insanely controversial 24.3-pound world record fluke.

Yes, I’m calling it world record fluke even though the International Game Fish Association has denied her the honor of having caught the biggest hook-and-line summer flounder all time.

Indications now strongly point to her having done the hooking and landing of the fish, as she reported. There was no illegal fluke handover from her “net-boat fisherman husband.” Note: Her husband has never worked on a net-boat.

Monica unhesitatingly took the lie detector and passed with flying colors. She aced it, in fact.

After hearing that, she was on my you-go-girl list. The world record should be hers – and New Jersey’s pride.

Then IGFA hit way below the belt when they refused the record because she had rested her rod on the railing as she fought it for about 20 minutes.

That’s brutal. How many rods being used to fight world record gamefish didn’t flirt with the railing or gunwales?

I feel like crap for having been among those so hard on the gal – and all I did was suggest a lie detector test to clear thing up.

There is a bit of lesson learned here. If you’re toying with any fish out of the ordinary, you have to go to extraordinary means to keep the entire hookup, landing and weigh-in aboveboard and kosher with the record keepers. The best way to do that is to literally memorize all the regulations and clauses within the likes of the IGFA rules book. (Further below are some of the IGFA disqualification criteria.)

YOU’RE NEVER OFF THE HOOK: Even if you go the straight and narrow route in taking that fish of a lifetime, detractors will instantly come out of the woodwork. I’m not sure why, actually.

Things get even tougher, socially, for folks like myself. I not only fish alone but also I’m often not even near a fellow angler who can collaborate a catch I make.

Year back, I caught a less-than-earth-shattering 50-pound bass that won the LBI Surf Fishing Tournament. Great fish but surely nothing in the hook-up stratosphere.

Toying with the upper end of Boulevard speed limits (50 mph at the time), I got the fish to the scales while it was still very alive. Bruce H. at Bruce and Pat’s had problems hooking it on the scale due to the flapping. Still, word instantly went out that I had been given the fish by – get this – commercial fishermen. Amazingly overlooked was the slight matter of commercial fishermen wanting to chum me up because of my recreational fishing writings and strong conservational stances.

But it got worse – and weirder.

There was this numbnuts angler (a Holgate regular back then) who pulled up right after I landed the fish, shining his buggy lights on the flapping fish as I fought to remove the school bus yellow plug I had used to coax the fish from an insane feeding frenzy, where swirling bass had chased large bunker onto the beach. Despite seeing the hookup, and moronically passing up a chance to work the hyper-loaded waters, he drove off and all but orchestrated those questioning the integrity of my catch. My Type A personality had me gunning for that guy for months afterwards. I never saw him again, thus my lack of any criminal record.

And I even took heat over the fish because I had written down the wrong line poundage I used to catch the bass. It was a pink-colored Ande brand that I had just put on after someone at a tackle shop suggested I try it. I said it was 17-pound test when it was 16 – or the other bleedin’ way around. I still don’t give a rat’s ass. The odd thing was it didn’t even matter what the line-test was being used. Still, my line “lie” became part of the theory that there was also a fisherman on a grassy knoll helping me.

Face it, virtually any winning fish comes under the gun -- and the guns just increase in caliber as the fish works its ways into the world-class ranks.

Here are recent IGFA criteria for disqualifying a fish from world record contention. I picked this up from a state website chatroom. Monica violated the dubious (my word) number 3 rule.

1. Failure to comply with equipment or angling regulations.

2. The act of persons other than the angler in touching any part of the rod, reel, or line (including the double line) either bodily or with any device, from the time a fish strikes or takes the bait or lure, until the fish is either landed or released, or in giving any aid other than that allowed in the rules and regulations. If an obstacle to the passage of the line through the rod guides has to be removed from the line, then the obstacle (whether chum, float line, rubber band, or other material) shall be held and cut free. Under no circumstances should the line be held or touched by anyone other than the angler during this process.

3. Resting the rod in a rod holder, on the gunwale of the boat, or any other object while playing the fish.

4. Handling or using a handline or rope attached in any manner to the angler's line or leader for the purpose of holding or lifting the fish.

5. Shooting, harpooning, or lancing any fish (including sharks or halibuts) at any stage of the catch.

6. Chumming with or using as bait the flesh, blood, skin, or any part of mammals other than hair or pork rind used in lures designed for trolling or casting.

7. Using a boat or device to beach or drive a fish into shallow water in order to deprive the fish of its normal ability to swim.

8. Changing the rod or reel while the fish is being played.

9. Splicing, removing, or adding to the line while the fish is being played.

10. Intentionally foul-hooking a fish.

11. Catching a fish in a manner that the double line never leaves the rod tip.

12. Using a size or kind of bait that is illegal to possess.

13. Attaching the angler's line or leader to part of a boat or other object for the purpose of holding or lifting the fish.

14. If a fish escapes before gaffing or netting and is recaptured by any method other than as outlined in the angling rules.

RUN-DOWN: I have to note that the net boats seen off Little Egg Inlet were after croakers, not weakfish. I had figured that but was passing on what boaters were telling me. My apologies to the net fishermen after those croakers – not weakies.

SHOP TALK: Barnegat Light Bait and Tackle is offering the first reports of steady bassing, including any number of take-home to 30 inches, with a few 20-pound models. The bass are early bird specials or closeouts (last light). Popper and plugs work well though live-lined offering take the cow cake.

The weakfishing is hot. Myers Hole is a great stopping point while the inlet waters (at night off the rocks and public walkway) have large weaks going for live mullet. Fishing pressure can be a bit heavy at prime sites.

Bluefishing is everywhere at the North End.

“Did you hear about all the bluefish?” was the way Barb at Surf City Bait and Tackle jokingly put it. The shop had customers shouting the praises of big blues, into the teen of pounds, that would come in blitz form or as lone hook-ups.

Fisherman’s HDQ also talked of bluefish of all shapes and sizes. The surf was also popping out croakers and kingfish, according to shop regulars. “The full moon should mean the bassing will pick up,” was the word around “Fishheads.”

Margaret at Jingles bait and Tackle listened to exhausted customers telling of fighting slammer blues in the suds. Full-blown blitzes have flared along the South End for the past week and seem to be picking up. The shop also got word (as I had) of huge bluefin tuna so close in that we could see them jumping from the beach. Folks like Chris P. jumped in boats and zipped out to tempt these giants into taking trolled or live-lined offerings. And there may have been a conquering. Margaret had heard of a bft actually being brought in for weighing.

Polly’s Dock is directing folks toward some of the funnest fishing out there. According to Ixny, he’s loading rental boats with bunker chum and sending patrons on the short run to the deep holes outside the docks. There they quickly have an astounding grab bag of fish species taking squid pieces on small hooks. The take included bluefish, croakers, kingfish, fluke, black seabass, weakfish and even some “exotic species,” like rarer forms of triggerfish. “Every single time they drop a hook they’re catching something,” said Ixny. He is also making bobber set-ups to fish the chum slick.

MORE-RUN-DOWN: Beyond shoptalk, the kingfish are scattered but running large when found. The bay still seems to be holding more of them than the beachfront or inlets. I saw 5 jumbos caught at Holgate. The odd thing was the way they were taking large pieces of mullet.

The croakers are being a bit stand-offish. They are thickly schooled in maybe 40 feet of water and for some odd reason are reluctant to make the move into the surf and swash, where they have been regular visitors for the past 5 or 6 years – though seemingly growing rarer each year since that near bothersome peak a few years back. Night is a good croaker-seeking time.

Speaking of night, spanning (bridge fishing) in the dark has been very good to excellent, mainly weakies but a few stripers thrown in.

The bassing is slowish in Most areas but I have to put in this juicy report out of Fisherman’s headquarters. It shows good bassing can be had.

“…One night this past week, Alex Field fished the Barnegat Light inlet jetty all night. He was working a jointed black Bomber for the first 2 hours after dark. This resulted in landing 12 bass; 8 of which were keepers to 43 inches. He lost the plug to a large fish near the rocks, "just couldn't land her". Switched to eels around 11 PM and landed 8 more through sunrise. This time the largest going 48 inches. Mostly a top water bite with the eels, as fish would grab the eel and make commotion when it hit the water. The fish were fighting for it when I found a pod of bass. Alex had an incredible night.”

The offshore bite has been maddening. One amazingly successful chunk bite in the canyons will offer absolutely nothing to boats the very next night, on the same numbers.

For those of you who don’t get out canyoning much, here’s an insightful report from Joe H.

“Jay, My weekend started early this week at 2pm Friday when I left BH for the Lindenkohl Canyon with four friends on a 53-foot Hatteras. We arrived at the edge around 6pm in flat calm conditions. We started to troll and we hooked up immediately. We caught two skipjack tuna in the first 10 minutes. Right before dark we had a very brief encounter with a small white marlin.

We set up to chunk right after dark with about 50 other boats. With all the activity on the troll with bait and squid everywhere we were expecting quick results. Well, after the lights were turned on we saw ZERO for hours. No hits. No squid, bait, tuna, nothing. Finally, around 1am the butterfish I was drifting in the slick takes off. I put the 50 (pound-class) Penn International in gear and the fight is on. The fish screams off about 100 yards of line and the circle hook pulls. I'm sick.

According to the radio, everyone else is seeing nothing -- no bait, no fish. Best reports are 1 YFT (yellowfin tuna) boated, or a break off or two. A far cry from the last night or two.

Most crews call it a night and go to sleep. The radio goes silent after 1am.

I got a buddy aboard who's a first-timer at the edge---day or night, so I'm really disappointed thinking we're going home skunked. Our crew, dead tired, jokes about the 3am bite that will turn on. I go for a bite to eat around 2:30am. As I walk back through the salon to the cockpit I notice the VCR clock reads 2:59am. As I walk out the door the deep rod screams off line---fish on! Unbelievable.

We boat the first tuna, an 85lb yellowfin. We get a few up behind the boat in the lights and hook up. Over the next hour, we boat 3 more tuna in the 65-90lb range. Satisfied we have 4 nice tuna in the box after a disastrous start, we thought the bite was over. The deep rod takes off again. We hand the rod over to the owner/captain and he's off and fighting. Forty-five minutes later, I sink the first off two gaffs into a 110-120lb fat yellowfin. We slide him through the transom door into the box. We get a total of about 10 bites losing two at the boat and a few bite offs. As I'm sitting on the swim platform, I notice a single squid leaping out off the water heading towards the boat. By the speed of the squid something was in hot pursuit of him. The squid heads right under my feet for protection of the platform, and I now notice why he's running. There is a 4 foot+ wahoo coming at him like a missile. The fish swims right under my feet, under the boat never to be seen again. With 5 tuna on ice we head for the barn at daylight. Best reports at dawn were 1 or 2 fish. We were happy with our effort, considering how slow the bite was. Sea conditions were perfect.

WORLD SERIES OF SURF FISHING: One of the oldest surf-fishing tourneys going will take place this weekend.

Here’s a release form out buddies at the Long Beach Island Fishing Club

Our 61st annual ‘WORLD SERIES OF SURF FISHING TOURNAMENT’ is scheduled for Saturday September 29th, 2007. We will again, this year, be offering both team and individual competition.

Registration: Will be held from 5:30am to 6:30am in the meeting room at our club in Harvey Cedars, NJ. Coffee and donuts will be served during registration.

Beach Buggies: We will be using North Beach, Surf City, and Ship Bottom beaches again this year. A limit of two (2) vehicles per team will be permitted and a $5.00 per buggy one-day beach driving permit fee will be charged.

Fishing Time: 7:00am to 9:30am and 10:00am to 12:30pm

Entrance Fee: $50.00 per team or $15.00 per individual (lunch included). The $5:00 per beach buggy fee will be collected at registration

Food: A hot lunch will be served at our club after the conclusion of fishing, followed by our awards ceremony and numerous door prizes. Six (6) meal tickets per team and one (1) per individual will be in each registration packet. (No guests can be accommodated.)

Please send registration checks payable to the Long Beach Island Fishing Club, and mail to the following as soon as possible:

John Castrati, 520 Bowling Green, Moorestown, NJ 08057-1617

or notify Bob at (267) 994-7423 prior to the tournament date.

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