Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

DANGER: Weekly column for Nov. 6 -- Hide the children

Stewie's octopus

Towering Dumbness and a Ghostie Coastie

TOPPLED TOWER TALK: There were some boat anglers miffed by the teardown of the once-communication tower at the Rutgers University Marine Field Station (RUMFS) on Old Coast Guard Station Island. They wondered why no public comment was taken since it is state land. Well, actually, it’s university land, albeit a state university. Besides, the takedown was a no-brainer. The base of the huge tower had gone to rust rot, apparently even worse than I thought, as explained to me by some marine anglers who fish that area and had been wondering to themselves if the thing was in danger of tilt-over because of the obvious deleterious decay to the structure’s base. Erosion was also working it’s way in via the very deep channel to the south of the tower.
If you’ve never been out to the Field Station zone, it’s just about as exposed as you can get, chest out to the bay and ocean. Still, that classic former Coast Guard Station has been standing staunch and proud for a long time. Of course, any amplification of the planet’s overall erosional tendencies would strike that area in a big way. I don’t see that happening all that soon.
Important erosional point: Though Tucker’s Island was once within spitting distance of Old Coast Guard Station Island, there was a huge geo-difference between the two islands. Tucker’s was primarily sand, top to bottom, and well below sea level. That is why it eroded in a sandy flash. Old Coast Guard Station Island is a true sedge island. A surface layer of very dense, primarily organic peat-like matter that can extend downward, well below the water level, secures it. Where exposed, this dark colored layer is often referred to as a sod bank. This is not to say sedge islands can’t erode (as is happening to Mordecai Island off Beach Haven) but those sod banks are tough characters and aren’t easily pushed around. What’s more, should push come to erosional shove, sod banks bulkhead amazingly well.
OH MY, DO I FEEL HIGH: By way of a fun sidebar to the above RUMFS story, conservation biologist David N., a lettered (PhD) regular to this column and my daily-updated website (https://jaymanntoday.ning.com/), is very familiar with the field station (from his student days) and emailed me that a tradition went down with the tower. Wrote David, “…It was sort a rite for RUMFS students to climb that tower – guess those days are over.”
I’m glad David hadn’t brought that up before that bugger went down. Being a bit of a tower climber myself, that metallic monster would have been a beaut to bandy about upon, especially on a cool, clear calm night. Of course, under any other conditions the exposure factor – wind and weathery wildness – would have made for an ascent to remember – and a damn daring descent.
Take it from someone who’s been a tad too high on many occasions (perish that transitory thought: I’m a nondrinker and nondrugger), getting back down is a rather large part of scaling “Keep Off” structures. Many a time I’ve gotten to the top of large and teetering things, only to begin my descend and realize (for the umpteenth time) that, unlike an ascent where you can carefully chose where to grab next, during a descent you can’t actually see the exact places to step down. You have to do the foot dangle-groping thing -- as the first emergency vehicles arrive far below and emergency personnel decide they need to carry on an elaborate bullhorn-driven dialogue, while you’re earnestly thinking to yourself, “Hell, maybe I could just live right here; eat birds and insects, drink dew …”
Many years back, I climbed a nasty-high metal erector-set-type tower in South Jersey. It was in very cool weather and I made my move on it right after dark, to avoid the watchful eye of the park rangers. I got up to the top easily, almost too easily as I recall. And it was incredible up there; so pleasant I settled in and had herbal tea from a Thermos in my backpack. Also settling in with me was the gentlest of mists from a nearby lake, carrying intoxicating fragrances of piney waters. Grudgingly, I readied for my decent – and met the mist on more atmospheric terms. It had assumed another form: ice. Just like that, the entire metal tower was coated in a layer of frost. As I stepped down to first beam below the summit, my foot slipped outward across the metal, like I was trying for a one-legged split. I grabbed the support beam for all it was worth. I knew right away I was frosted in.
I can recall that I shook my head slowly and said out loud “Why does this stuff always happen to me?”
In retrospect: Here I was in the dark, illegally climbing a communication tower, after surreptitiously tunneling under a ten-foot cyclone fence (with barbed wire topping) with “Keep Out” signs all over it, and I’m asking why this always happens to me. Clue, dude: You’re an idiot!
I should let the story end there to discourage any childrens who might be thinking about going climbing in unsavory places but I’ll offer my rather ingenious escape tactic – mainly because it was back in those proud days when I could actually think on my feet.
In a move that had all-or-NOTHING written all over it, I hooked the toe of my one thick-soled shoe and pried the other shoe off. I could hear it fall and fall, bouncing off beams for hundreds of feet down. Gulp. I toed off the other shoe. This accomplished two things. It nixed the slippery-ish soles of the shoes, which obviously has no prayer of holding the icy beam surfaces. It also accomplished what I had hoped for: By lightly settling my socked foot onto the beam below, the warmth quickly melted the thin layer of ice. What’s more, as I lowered onto a beam, the spot where my foot had been melted the ice allowed a handhold. The melting capacity of the socks diminished a bit as they became wet – and my feet itched for an hour afterwards as they thawed -- but the concept saved me, greatly helped by the fact that about a hundred feet down I hit the frost line, only dew below.
Yes, I found my shoes below, although one of them had caught up in the barbed wire atop the fencing. I’m not an adrenaline junky by any stretch but there is something very cool and fulfilling about walking away from a happening like that.
RUN-DOWN: You see them then they’re blown away. Once again the bass made some inroads and were apparently driven away by winds, though it often the anglers themselves who are turned away.
The Classic ended on Sunday, amid hard onshore gusts and a realization that it was far-and-away the lowest bass take (110) since 1992 , when there were half as many contestants and tougher bass regs. The blues made up for lost hookup time. There were a healthy 358 slammer taken, with a very steady weigh-in showing through most of the contest. The Classic was hugely successful with many winner just being at the right fishing spot at the right time. Lots of first-time money winners.
For full details on Classic stuff, along with the impressive list of gift winners, go to http://lbift.com. Big winners are listed in this column.
Boaters off the South End have seen some bass bursts. Trollers working the Red Tower (B.H.) had a very high percentage of keepers during recent jaunts. The Star Fish had 6 take-homes out of 10 fish. John K., aboard that boat, also had one of those hyper-hookups; a mongo bass that had him thinking gaff instead of net. “When I say it’s a monster … I saw it and was going to gaff it,” said John, adding, “It got ten feet from the boat a few time but I couldn’t get.” For dimensional perspective, John noted, “When it opened its mouth it looked like you could put your whole head in there.” I think a gaff would work better, John.
Speaking of nearshore water, an angler working the nearshore waters said the ocean is “bait city.” Sand eels are a big part of the picture. “There are a lot of same eels. The fish-finder lights up from top to bottom. The sand eels are mountains.”
Oddity of the week focused on a photo from Stew D. It was a pic of the large octopus he found in the shallow water of Holgate. When I first heard about the 8-legger, I thought it might just be a squid but the photo shows it is a full-blown octopus.
BAROMETRIC BASS NOTE: This year the stripers seem to be responding to the barometric pressure. While that mercury-level thing is a famed freshwater fishing phenomenon, it usually doesn’t apply to coastal catchiness. Still, the bassing has very noticeably picked up right before the weather goes dramatically south.
GHOSTIE COASTIE: At church Sunday, I hooked up with an executive member of the Long Beach Island Fishing Club who assured me I’d be getting info on the club’s goings on, especially tales and details.
I was instantly intrigued by a mention he made regarding the ghost within the club’s famed building, located on the Boulevard in HC. The site was formerly a Coast Guard station and may have a long-gone Coastie still lingering within, per club members.
I’m fully into the entire ghost and supernatural sightings thing – thanks in full-part to the Sci-Fi channel series “Ghost Hunters.” I’m debating get another tattoo with the show’s tongue-in-cheek motto, “Dude, run!”
Truth be told, my days of blindly bolting from hovering haunty things or oozy materializing forms are over. In fact, if any departed souls regularly read this website, please give me a call or drop a line. Maybe hold off on the visits. I have to admit I’m not yet fully into one of those wake in the middle of the night from a deep sleep to find grotesque apparition hovering inches from face things. Still, I’m open to disenfranchised souls who want to meet at some prearranged location to talk story.
Hey, spirits have to love cyberspace. I’m told that’s there energy level. Beside, you remember that little girl in the movie, who looks into the TV and says. “They’re here.” Electrical proof. And how about that insane “Maze” craze on the Internet. It proves that hideous creatures lurk just inside your monitor screen.
Oh, I asked for more details on the fishing club sightings. Hopefully they’ll be reaching me in one form or another.
Hell, I’ll even sleep there some night just to check it the place’s spiritual essence. Of course, I will bring along a blowtorch for protections.
One time a buddy and I were camping in a deep-woods cabin and were awakened by slow truly ominous sound of plodding boot steps slowly approaching the front door across the wooden porch. Being trained to modify and adapt to any dangerous situation, I drew on my pit bull-like agilities, hopping out of the bunk to find I couldn’t quite get out of my tightly wrapped mummy sleeping bag. I had to hop across the cabin floor like a leaping slug. I was headed for a handheld propane torch we had used to light the fireplace.
Well, if you’ve ever tried to fire up one of those suckers when it isn’t in the mood, you can picture me in a semi-dread state first trying the one of those spark tools to no avail and finally holding the entire torch end in the fireplace embers hoping something would ignite.
Hell, by the time I got the damn thing lit, whatever was at the door had lost all interest and my buddy had fallen back to sleep. Still, it seemed like a potentially a very hot ghoul deterrent device. I’ll practice lighting it for my stay at the clubhouse. I hope they have their fire insurance bill paid up.

BIG BLUES TO SAVOR: Email: “Is there any ediblity to larger blues?” While, popularity-wise, chopper blues are generally ultra-low on the dining desirability scale, there are ways to satisfactorily (as in, safely and super tastefully) prepare these savage-toothed titans.
Prepping a slammer-sized blue for eating purposes comes down to meticulous cleaning, trimming and preparing. I liken it (a slight bit) to preparing the famed poisonous fugue fish of Asia.
No, bluefish flesh isn’t instantly toxic, nor do you get a mildly psychedelic rush from eating them (like fugu), however, a bluefish of 8 pounds or over has very likely accumulated some nasty stuff, like PCBs and dioxins, into its fatty tissues. The larger the bluefish, the higher the potential hazard from absorbed chemicals.
These decidedly dangerous chemicals work their way up the biosystem ladder when blues (and stripers) eat forage fish, particularly bunker and spearing, which live and bottom feed in estuary systems loaded with industrial waste. It’s called bioaccumulation.
Though major moves have been made to end the madness of discarding industrial waste into waterway, the legacy of decades of dumping lives on in the form of a lingering, non-biodegradable, chemical presence.
Not all forage fish acquire a load of chemical toxins. The baitfish coming out of, say, the Mullica River Estuary System are relatively clean, chemically. However, bluefish are wide-range eaters, constantly traveling high-and-low to dine. On average, virtually all blues end up taking on a toxic load.
There is no way to determine how much bad stuff is in the flesh of a given slammer.
According to the many scientific studies done on the filets of big bluefish, the presence of nasty chemicals is fairly constant among tested blues taken from along the entire eastern seaboard.
By the by, there is a misconception that scientists, when testing fish for chemical adulterants, grind the entire fish -- head, skin and all. Not true. They literally buy portions right off the shelves, assuring they’ll be testing the same product the public consumes.
With that dark side of big bluefish in mind, there are ways to make larger bluefish safe to eat, especially when juxtaposing the benefits of eating fish with the threats from chemical dangers.
The first filet cuts should focus on what might be called the back meat. To do that, begin filleting behind the gill plate (as usual) and penetrate to the backbone. The trick is to cut more shallow toward the stomach, since the meat around that stomach area usually contains higher levels of bad stuff.
Never cook bluefish with its skin on. it prevent the fats from draining off, something you want to do since risky chemical are stored in the fatty tissues.
Once you have the fillet, skin it. If you’re decent with the blade, go slightly above the skin.
Beneath the skin you’ll see the dark meat in the form of the lateral line and some other scattered dark veins. That brownish red meat is the fattiest part of the fish. Removing that greatly diminishes the chemical dangers, often reducing the riskiness down to very acceptable levels.
The main dark meat zone must be V’ed out. Using either the end of a fillet knife or switching to a very sharp paring knife, cut inward along the edge of the dark line at a 45-degree angle, following the edge of the dark meat line. Don’t be afraid to include some adjacent white meat. The trick to get all the dark meat.
Go to the other side of the line and carve in at the same angle.
Then, lift up either end of what is essentially a wedge cut and with a slight blade action fully cut under the wedge while lifting lightly. With a bit of practice you can remove the dark meat in a single V-shaped strip. This very functional lateral line removing process is routinely performed when cleaning many other fish species, including stripers.
Once the main channel of dark meat is removed remove any other section of darkness by using light surface cuts since those dark areas are very superficial. That light hand during skinning the filet often leave the dark patches attached to the skin.
At this point you have bluefish meat with a greatly reduced presence of bad chemicals. But there a way to removed even more adulterants.
Cut the filet into pieces. I essentially chunk it. This allows the maximum amount fat cook off.
Cook it high, allowing the juices to drain off.
I guarantee you that th meat by this time is so low on bad stuff that you can savor not just the super flavor but the benefits offered by virtually all fish products.
The flavor is sweet. A use for larger blues, mainly used by LBI’ers, is bluefish salad. After cleanly cooking the bluefish meat allow it to cool and prepare it the way you would tuna salad. It’s incredible, especially when enhanced with the likes of celery seeds, fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, fresh basil, Dutch red or orange peppers,
IMPORTANT: Despite the incredible reduction in adulterants this method offers, pregnant women should NOT eat any fish high in PCBs and dioxins, regardless of special preparations.
NO REST FOR WEARY TUNA: In a single news update from the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club, via its newsletter “Fishy News,” one gets a sense of how pathetically incompetent planetary efforts are to control over fishing.
After its meeting in Turnkey, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) stunned virtually the entire planet by totally ignoring what is approaching the total collapse of bluefin tuna by keeping things totally status quo for 2008.
Not only won’t bft cuts be made for next year but ICCAT has totally ignored huge overage this year by a number of main-player fishing nations.
Environmental groups and even commercial fishermen in the U.S. and many other countries are blasting what is being portrayed as total incompetence on the part of CCAT.
Canada and the U.S. had proposed a total moratorium on the fishery to allow a year of recovery.
“ICCAT has proved itself to be entirely incompetent, and has failed again in its duty to sustainably manage our common marine resource," Sergei Tudela, Mediterranean's head of fisheries with the World Wildlife Fund, was quoted as saying.
Greenpeace’s Sebastian Losada said, "The northern bluefin is on the road to extinction, and this meeting has not even reduced the speed limit."
In another “Fishy News” segment, the headline from a NOAA story reads: “Japanese whalers begin humpback hunt.” Quoting the BBC, NOAA writes, “A Japanese whaling fleet has set sail aiming to harpoon humpback whales for the first time in decades. The fleet is conducting its largest hunt in the South Pacific - it has instructions to kill up to 1,000 whales, including 50 humpbacks …”
It’s all just pathetic. It also shows how incredibly conscientious the U.S. is when it comes to conservation.

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