Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Tuesday -- Danger: The Wicked Weekly is in for Dec. 12

Shop-Rite Soap and Jetty End-Times


Before I get into tons of hard-core fishing stuff, I have to pass on one of those why-me incidents.

It began in the produce section of Shop-rite, specifically at the zucchinis. I know that for a fact because of the time I spent staring at those elongated green vegetables as she sidled toward me, heatedly talking to herself.

And she was an eyeful: youngish, flashy and dressed to the max, wearing one of those lady suits made up of a black tailored jacket and tightish black slacks, a pressed white blouse tight to the neck, dark stockings and tastefully high high-heels, black with open toes. Her medium length hair, slightly spiked, spoke executive or hairdresser, the former far more likely. But her demeanor was far from stylishly sheik. She was pissed to beat the band.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me!” she offered loudly and emotionally, seemingly aiming her words at the layers of bagged romaine lettuce immediately in front of her.

I kinda leaned over to see what the lettuce might be doing but short of hosting loose drips from a misty spray issuing forth from behind over-hanging mirrors the lettuce seemed pretty much lacking in any indiscretion.

Under any other circumstances, I would have entertained the notion of sparking up a conversation over the quality of this year’s crop of zucchinis. Instead, I did one of those dizzying side-glance things, keeping my head facing perfectly forward while straining my eyeballs sideways to get a look at the enraged gal, now all but at my elbow.

When she all but spat, “Don’t do this to me!” I realized she was actually blindly consumed in a conversation on one of those sneaky ear-based cellphone. If only the world at large was as observant as I was. But more on that building fiasco in a minute.

My indulgent curiosity faded quickly when she turned to waterworks, imitating the store’s vegetable spritzer. Along with the tears, she began sobbing, making little throat noises, as her breathing got heavier. Things were getting a tad too heavy for me. I flicked my zucchinis back onto the display and, holding my red handheld food basket like a security blanket, I discretely angled away toward the safety of the yam and sweet potato section.

The thoughts of Lady Chatterley were all but gone by the time I got to the fish section. After carefully looking around to make sure no other anglers were within eyesight, I quickly ordered a pound of “Catch of the Day” filets and bolted to the “Express” check out. The line wasn’t living up to it name. There were maybe half a dozen people ahead of me, barely moving. No big deal. For some reason I was feeling real relaxed. In fact, all seemed right with the world. That should always serve as a warning sign.

Glancing toward a magazine cover claiming one of Brad and Angelina’s children might be an illegal immigrant, I sensed someone move behind me. The sound of sobbing sent a chill through my body.

“So this means it’s totally over between us then?” arrived an all too familiar voice.

Oh, sweet Jehoshaphat. Lady Chatterley was not only still at it but she was now behind me in line, and by the sounds of it, a walking talking emotional mess – and broadcasting her woes as if there was no real world around her.

I’m thinking, “This is so damn embarrassing, lady. Why don’t you just go back to your Lexus and mourn there?” Turns out I should have been the one dropping my good and bolting into the parking lot. Things were about to get cosmically weird for me.

(When crap like this happens to me I always hope for witnesses to be around. In this case, I would have been happy with no witnesses, instead of the dozens and dozens in the checkout lines)

“Oh, so now you won’t even talk to me any more, after all I’ve done for you?” the lamenting lady next offered to my backbone.

Hey, what could I do? I just stood there, looking fully forward, as her words began to grab the rapt attention of nearby patrons.

My weirdness began when an older lady immediately in front of me slowly looked around and glared sidewise at me.

“What was that all about?” I’m thinking.

“I all but worshiped you and now you turn your back on me,” I had sobbed my way.

I could tell by her sniffing that the tormented tears had returned. And here my line was moving nowhere, as some lady at the register penned a check as if she was waiting for the ink from each letter to dry before going on to the next. That’s when I caught the young female cashier glancing back at me, and not in a friendly way.

I followed a man’s instinct when people begin unexplainably staring. I looked down to make sure my zipper wasn’t open – or, nightmare time, I forgot to put on my pants before heading out. No, I was clothed and fully, uh, contained.


“Please at least tell me you’ll talk to me,” from behind, and with an emphasis.

The scene was getting so surreal I looked over toward the other lines to exchange some of those “Can you believe this lady?” eye contacts.

Well, I got eye contacts all right; battalions of glares hit me.

I quickly swung straight ahead, now fully thinking, “What in bloody hell … ?”

And like a sledgehammer it hit me: These people didn’t realize this gooned out gal was on an ear cellphone. Sweet lord, they thought this emotionally ravaged publicly ranting woman was pleading with me! I was the lowlife ruthlessly ripping her heart out after all those years; leaving her cold, standing in line at Shop-rite begging for even the tiniest semblance of compassion from … ME!!!!

My first instinct was to do one of those defensive end football things, where the player waves his hands after knocking down the receiver, offering the refs an “I didn’t do nothin’ wrong” signal. Too radical. I even entertained the notion of turning around and consoling the crazed gal – tell her, very loudly, “I’ll take you back, Honey,” to which she’d suddenly focus on me as if I was an in-line psycho and give me some karate chop meant to disable all men in general, undoubtedly to the ecstatic cheers of nearby Shop-rite patrons, including a couple off-duty cops.

So, I just stood there suffering the outrageous slings and arrows of public loathing, ever so eventually working my way to the front of the line, to have my bag of groceries all but thrown at me by the glaring checkout lady.

Fully expecting to hear a round of boos and catcalls as I left, I bolted out to my truck, sat back and thought to myself, “How much weirder can my life get?”

That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. No emails, please.

CONSERVE AND CONQUER: A recent study entitled "Taking Stock: The Cure for Chronic Overfishing," is a scathing assault on the do-nothingness of federal managers. Penned by the Marine Fish Conservation Network, the study essentially levels the boom on the National Marine Fisheries Service for allowing regional fishery management councils to have the final say in how much should be caught.

While it isn’t advisable to side with the group that did this study – since it also has us in their crosshairs – the data in its 16-page study is compelling – and depressing. The concept of fishing heavily hile simultaneously alleging the targeted species will recover is indeed bogus, which is the accusation of the study. Hell, it’s easy to agree with that hypocrisy. The same can be said in our own backyard of fishing.

Does that mean moratorium stints are the only way to go?

No, it might simply be time to go glaring honest.

Let’s just drop the BS and admit that fishing at both the recreational and commercial levels is too valuable to destroy, even in the name of conservation. Admit that the concept of full and rapid recovery of fisheries is too damaging and dangerous to humans. Admit that recovery plans must be adjusted for very long-term recovery (lets call it insidious recovery) and drop the crap that managed species are speedily getting better, even as we speak.

Let’s bite the bullet and admit that fishing is still whacking the bejeezus out of most important game species and, sure, it has to stop, but only eventually.

Like some deep and deadly addiction, overfishing should be stopped gradually or the patients will die.

Forget the moronic guarantees, “In just five short years all will be right with the species.” Just fess up and say we cannot afford to go overly crazy with cutting back on fishing quotas or livelihoods and beloved pastimes will be lost.

I’m serious as sin here. An insidious recovery of this fishery or that fishery by, say, 2020 or beyond is facing reality in a big way. Truth be told, it might actually be the better ecological way. A gradual recovery scheme might avoid the imbalances created by speedily bringing back certain species and not others.

By the by, I hate the very concept I just offered – I’m a frickin’ moratorium type at heart -- but the bitterness and bogusness and end-arounding common in what now passes for fishery management is an insult to intelligence. Getting real might mean some real progress can be made – albeit slowly.

UP SIDE OF JETTY FSHING: Email: A winter question for you. Is one side of the jetty better than the other for fishing?

I have to offer yet another yes-no-maybe answer.

First, I can offer a fairly educated opinion when it comes to plugging jetties. Jetty fishing has surely been my main focus for many moons. The same can be said by many sudsers. The difference is those other guys have likely come up with some singular – and maybe accurate – reads on what side of a jetty is the right side.

Well, I actually disagree with any notion that the “right” side is, well, the right side. Give me the left side, every time. That would be the north side of the jetty, looking out.

With LBI’s littoral drift primarily from north to south, it seems to me that the stirred up north side offers a far better bite than the south.

While there is a commonly held belief that the far south side of a jetty end is where the big bass hide surreptitiously awaiting bait schools turning the bend from the north side. It’s not that easy. In fact, actively feeding bass most frequently pin bait on the north side “corners” of jetties, where they swoop in and attack. This is most obvious during mullet migration, when those baitfish huddle in what I call the coffin corners of the jetties, next to the beach.

With that said, there are a few times when the south sides shine, primarily during south winds.

Elusively, if I had to pick the positive best “side” to a jetty, it would actually be the end side, if there were such a thing. The far end of most jetties is the place to plug. It obviously includes casting both south and north, essentially covering the whole gamut, all from one stance. Skillfully holding that stance is the trick when working a jetty end. During end fishing times, standing on the rocks furthest out is often wrought with wave risks, not to mention the rock-solid hazards of sideslipping into barnacled crevices. There’s also the unslight matter of walking in a larger hookup – trying to maintain line pressure on the fish while simultaneously negotiating slippery rocks back to the beach. And that last step is often a killer, when you have to leap off the jetty, keep the rod end up then lithely land on the sand for the final pull-in. Hey, you know you’ve worked for a fish when you go through all that.

By the by, I hereby relinquish any and all responsibility for injuries or damages accrued while attempting to a plug fish off jetties.

RUNDOWN: This rundown is like the less-than-occasional schoolie striper being taken by boat fishermen: Too small to matter.

On a far larger scale, I’m getting together my end of the year rundown of Angling 2007 for next week’s final 2007 SandPaper. I have all our nearshore fish species fully covered but have very few insights into how the offshore fishing went as a whole. If a couple of you big game folks could drop me an email with an appraisal of the offshore year in review, I’ll slide it in that final review with proper accreditation.

Back to the beach, here’s a typical report, this one coming from regular contributor Joe Handley.

Jay, I fished the entire weekend all over the island from SB to the rip in Holgate. Used fresh clams and the last of the fresh bunker I found. Not a sniff on bait. Went to plugging. Threw everything and the sink as well. Not a touch. My casting arm is still sore. We put in major time---big disappointment. I might be done for the 07 season in NJ, unless those fish off Island Beach want to visit the LBI surf. I'll probably wait for my shot over the Holidays when I head for Hatteras.

The stripers of which Joe speaks are part of an interesting bass biomass that annually hangs along that beachfront until the last possible move-out-to-sea moment. Those buggers have frustrated us for decades by never drifting across Barnegat Inlet and into our range. I’ve been told that those fish eventually move straight out to sea and hole up there over the winter. That, of course, is a tad inconsistent with a bass’ adronomous spawning nature, whereby they head into freshwater rivers for the spring mating. However, small fish are not part of that upriver move, plus those bass could hunker down for a short time in deeper water then, come late winter/early spring, move out toward estuary systems.

I should note there was a burst of bassing along the beach on the South End over the weekend. It seemed very wham-bam but it points out the chance of finding a sweet spot throughout December. Just don’t even remotely bank on it – or call be griping about skunks.

FROSTIE – THE HAKE: I had a question about “frostfish.” That lead to my rethinking the type hake we get right near the beach. What are sometimes called red hake -- which I have long been told is the type hake we get right past the breakers -- are more likely silver hake, a.k.a, whiting, and a.k.a frostfish.

Red hake is a deeper water species

Back in the day (as in 50 year back -- and counting even further back), the hake/whiting were so abundant they would occasionally get stranded on the beach on bitter cold winter nights, freezing on the spot, thus the “frostfish” colloquialism. Some LBI accounts have residents picking them up by the hundreds.

Why did they beach themselves? You’d have to think that something very scary chased them ashore. Offshore cod zipping onto the shallows after them? Bass coming in from deeper holes to dine? Coldwater sharks?

Something like 40 years back, the whiting numbers fell off the maps, damn near obliterated, over-fishing being the likely culprit.

While the days of frostfish are apparently gone, recent years have seen an ultra-modest resurgence of silver hake right near the beach. I’ve taken a dozen or so while kayak fishing off Brant Beach in winter (milder, low wind days). I caught them using a dual-hook bottom rig spiced with small squid strips. Hake are very much nibblers, so small hooks and a quick response come in handy when drifting for them.

Silver hake are the proverbial coldwater bottomfish look and taste. When lightly baked they offer white flaky meat and a very mild taste.

COYOTES VERSUS MANKIND: As we reach the height of whitetail deer hunting season, I once again here a slew of hunter cursing coyote for killing so many deer, in their words, “Ruining our deer hunting.”

That’s a mighty bizarre claim for a number of reasons.

First, hunters killed nearly 57,000 deer during the 2006/07 season. That doesn’t include this fall’s whitetail tally, which will fall into next year’s count. Another 5,000 to 7,000 (possible far more) deer were struck and killed by motorists. There are also a couple nasty diseases killing whitetails.

Now, how, exactly, are a few thousand coyote, statewide, destroying deer hunting when juxtaposed to the above stats?

What’s more, deer are far from a coyote’s preferred foodstuff. Yes, during whelping season a female coyote will surely run down fawn if the opportunity arises. I’ve seen it firsthand. But, even a pair of coyote won’t risk being mauled or killed by a full-grown whitetail when there is more than enough easy eats and dead stuff out there.

Sidebar: If you don’t think deer are dangerous look at the stats on how many hunters are seriously hurt or killed by wounded deer or deer in rut.

The main reason coyote are proliferating across the U.S. – an amazing feat in its own right, as most other species are being devastated by pollution and overdevelopment -- is their scavenging excellence. A coyote’s main foodstuff consists of rodents, rabbits and most of all roadkill. Ironically, all of those edible items are associated in varying degrees with the proliferation of mankind.

What’s more, aren’t deer hunts meant to control the state’s congested deer population? So, here we have a form of wildlife – and, yes, coyote are indigenous to New Jersey – controlling the deer in a natural manner yet hunters claim the wild canines are ruining the hunting. That’s just plain weird thinking.

And those make claims of too many coyote?

Truth be told, if any creature on the planet is overpopulating the place, it’s mankind. You tell me how much coyote are impacting deer when compared to the building over of once-forested areas?

Simply put, there is a place for coyote out there. And I have a feeling there are more than a few nature-appreciating – including many hunters -- who would like to think there are more than just people with guns and whitetail deer in the woods.

Afterword: Don’t think for a minute I’m opposed to deer hunts. I have seen the horrific damage too many deer can do to the ecological balance. The impact of deer on other rarer forms of wildlife is a subject I often write about. For whatever reason, bucks seem to have a hatred of snakes.

Culling of the deer population is essential.

The impact of too many deer of humanity is vivid. Some 150 people die each year in more than 1.5 million traffic accidents involving collisions with deer, according to an insurance industry-funded report. Already this year, seven people on motorcycles have died in collisions with deer. Nationwide, vehicular damage from deer strikes is a staggering $1.1 billion. More insidious is the spreading of Lyme disease. Deer are the primary transporter of ticks bearing Lyme disease spirochetes.

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