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A Bobcat Cruises the ’Hood; Maul Congress Your Way ... somewhat crazed column

The Fish Story

(Above: One photo from Stafford)

A Bobcat Cruises the ’Hood; Beach Sinkhole Eats a GMC

I keep getting photos of a big-ass bobcat pussyfooting around Colony Lakes. I’m serious here. These are some through-the-window, clear-as-glass pics of your proverbial bobcat.

My first response to the pics focused on the shots being Photo-shopped images, being done by those community-minded Colony Lakes folks still trying to get back at me for toying with them over … hell, I can’t remember what I toyed with them about. Hells bell, I toy with everyone. I’m an equal-opportunity pisser-offer.

Anyway, assuming the photos are real, there seems to be a jumbo-sized bobcat calmly cruisin’ the ’hood. There’s not a prayer of it being just a big, old, homefront tomcat, although this obviously robust feline sure looks like it has been hand-fed like one.

I can just picture a couple scraggly, cat-hungry coyotes coming across this over-sized bob.

“Check out the size of that frickin’ cat, Lou! We eat good tonight, right? Let’s go grab it.”

“Holy crap! Look at the thing. Uh, you know, Sam, how you been wantin’ to grab a cat all by yourself? I’m thinkin’ this is the perfect time for ya.”

“Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Thanks, Lou, thanks.” Takes off.


That said, this bobcat’s casual and regular prowling of human environs makes no natural sense. In fact, the daytime presence of this generally nocturnal species, its close proximity to homes, and its seeming catty cockiness when cruising thereabouts, just about assures it is, or was, a pet. I’m betting it’s an escapee gone moderately feral, or, just as likely, one of those spontaneously purchased pets that outgrew its welcome: “You know, I never expected it to get that big, Morty. How ’bout we just take it out in the woods and then take off?”

A far a-field possibility: the state has quietly been relocating once-indigenous animals back into the wilds of NJ. Black bears and rattlesnakes are prime examples. Is Big Bob a transplant? A disoriented bobcat, originally hailing from Timbuktu – and suddenly being deposited into Timbukhere – would surely wander around, wondering WTF?

Local residents need not worry, though. When out-and-about, home-kept or even natural bobcats seldom present any threat to humans. The only one I have ever seen in Jersey, near dark in Bass River State Forest, gave me a mainly disinterested glance and was gone before my eyes had fully focused on it. I do have some snapshots of its paw prints. Those buggers got some pretty big feet – no offense or anything.

As to that pet concept, it leads the pack of possibilities. Despite being a pet person, I’m sure not sure about the advisability of deciding on a homebound bobcat. Hell, most cat owners can’t keep up with a near invisible cat presence, much less one pushing 40 pounds when humanely fed. Having a let-out bobcat really expands the notion of “Look what the cat dragged in.” Bobcat owners get very apprehensive when their pet has to back in the doorway with whatever it’s dragging home.

By the by, it does take some serious permit acquisitions to legally keep the exotic likes of a bobcat. However, many of us recall the NJ “Tiger Lady,” who had fairly inconspicuously fostered a veritable menagerie of big cats – as in the biggest of cats, i.e. Bengal tigers.

Get this: Tiger Lady had 24 frickin’ Bengals on her modestly sized farm! Now there’s an episode of “Hoarders” I wouldn’t miss for anything.

Then, one calm day, that 24 count quietly went down by one, after one of the Tiger Lady’s largest cats simply wandered off – and ended up in Colony Lakes. Not true. However, the huge cat did wander, quite nonchalantly, into a nearby planned community.

I was told, firsthand, that the cat’s roam-about led to at least one pants-soiling moment, whereby an older fellow, gardening in his backyard, looked up and was literally face-to face with a 500-pound, living, breathing tiger. “Hey, Helen, the rhododendron bush has great buds. Maybe we should plant a few more near the … Oh, s***!. … I just knew we shouldn’t have left the city. I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!”

I’m a trained survivalist and I can’t recall a single lesson directly dealing with how to properly react when confronted by a backyard, New Jersey Bengal tiger. I vaguely recall something about “Never get outta the boat!” (“Apocalypse Now,” 1979).


My guess: When being stared down by a Bengal tiger of unknown origin, one should default to the best known technique when facing cougars, bears and Mormons – namely, drop to the ground and play dead. I’m thinking that would come natural for many folks. “Jay, that was so fast-thinking of you to collapse and play dead like that … Jay?”

Anyway, Tiger Lady sorta proves how discretely one could easily, surreptitiously harbor a mere stay-at-home bobcat. Of course, as is the case with most cat owners, even a bobcat cat will eventually become a free-roamer.

“Melvin! Did you let the bobcat out? Did ya hear me, Melvin?”

“Yes, I let the bobcat out! Every night with the, ‘Melvin, did you let the bobcat out?’ The damn animal is big enough to knock the whole frickin’ door down if it wants to get out bad enough.”

Anyway, I’m no closer to knowing if there really is a bobcat presence over in Holly Lakes. I’m sorely tempted to go on a hunt over there. No, I’m not going to hurt the damn animal. Most likely, I’ll simply nab it and bring it in for one of those trap-neuter-release things. The community will be amazed at how quickly the number of feral bobcats goes down after a little TNR treatment.

MAULING CONGRESS: There’s a fairly sick e-poll going viral across America. It’s called (and I’m not making this up), “What kind of wild animal you would most like to see Congress mauled by.” Perhaps you voted.

I saw the poll and was appalled – then remotely interested – and then began voting my ass off.


Being a good coastal soul, I tritely thought of sharks. Boring. If you’ve seen one “Jaws” mauling, you’ve seen them all. With Photoshop, it’s all too easy to place any politician’s face on the body of a half-consumed Robert Shaw.

I drifted away from alpha predators and apex eaters. How about savage primates doing my political mauling, maybe pet chimpanzees? Oddly, the idea of primates mauling other primates seemed all too familiar. It’s pretty much what we call war. Truth be told, war has never even remotely bothered Congress in the past.

I needed to think of a unique mauler that had pizzazz and a coastal flare. That’s when I lit upon an ingeniously simple answer. Why not maul Congress with your everyday poisonous jellyfish? You heard right. Slap Congress with the likes of our everyday lion’s mane jellyfish. The horror. The horror. (“Apocalypse Now,” 1979).

Don’t scoff as if I’m going easy on the Capitol Hill politicos. Tell me a slow, intolerable itchiness isn’t utterly appropriate payback for the slow, agonizing suffering they’re now putting the nation through.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I will, of course, bind all congressional hands and feet to prevent scratching – much the way we’re being bound from soothing the torment DC is stinging us with. And, in a cherry-on-top way, I’ll also drape a large, Portuguese man-of-war over the noggins of each and every congressperson. “I now dub thee, ‘The Biggest Sons of Itches’ any Congress has ever known.”

PS: For the thousands of folks who voted for mauling Congress with a polar bear, that was cold – in a cool way. Still, I have to pan a polar bear mauling. Too risky. Knowing politicians, they’d somehow be lucky enough to get attacked by a bipolar bear. The damn beast gets all fired up to attack, then halfway to Capitol Hill, it suddenly gets all sad and introspective, finally wandering off mumbling to itself, “Hell, maybe this furlough really is my fault.” Hmmm. Boy, would that fit into Congress’s game plan.

A SICKENING, SINKING FEELING: Real bad beach day for me Friday. I was doing my daily (and then some) buggying beach-condition check from SB down to North Beach Haven. I decided to exit through Ship Bottom instead of using my usual, easy-off in Brant Beach. Catastrophic mistake.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kot8jHnXXsI&feature=youtu.be ... no need to watch any further than end of crash.

Unbeknownst to me, there is now quicksand on some beach areas of Ship Bottom, namely off 25th Street and thereabouts. I’m talking covered-up sinkholes, offering the deceiving look of being fully buggyable but able to suck in even a large GMC truck – right up to its chassis.

My truck was not only instantly sucked in but the impact jarred the crap out of me. I have to think the truck was close to airbag deployment. I was saved, bodily, by my seatbelt. I’ll fully admit I seldom have it on when buggying the beach. But to that point, I hadn’t gotten out of the vehicle. Sans seatbelt, I think there would now be a Mann-sized head dent in my truck’s roof. I base that on the fact that anything loose within the cab went airborne, experiencing weightlessness for about a couple seconds. It was a frightening jolt, though my video camera and a heavy bag of fishing gear thought it was great and immediately asked to do it again. Maybe I did hit my head.

There’s a video with the point of impact – and it was impactful. After the crash, there’s nothing on the video except a close-up of truck carpet, where the camera landed.

I like the message I got from YouTube as I uploaded the video of my crash: “We detected your video may be shaky.” No s***, Sherlock.

Anyway, in a heartbeat I went from fun drive to effed up beyond repair. The situation was dire. I was mercilessly mired in what was becoming a sand and water pit. What’s more, nearby watermarks told me the next high tide would readily reach where I was trapped.

I consider myself one of the closest things to a bog-down expert, so I instinctively cycled through all the given first steps after bow-down, including further airing down and digging out. Even an expert knows when things are hopeless. I wasn’t dealing with everyday sinkingness but a high-breed from of quicksand. I had run headlong into a perfectly concealed sunken lake of sorts. Sand had blown over the watery area, making it look like good old, hard beach sand.

The sandy sinkhole was most likely the result of a mechanical plowing recently done in the area on behalf of Ship Bottom Borough (by Long Beach Township). Heavy equipment had pushed sand over an odd tidal “lake” that had formed from the effects of down-drift sands from the Surf City replenishment project. You might have seen photos of the lake, also called a “lagoon.”

The beach “lake” formed when copious amounts of Surf City sand were carried south by currents, as seen on aerial photographs taken over the past few months. An unnaturally high berm formed along Ship Bottom beaches adjacent to the water. As the migrating sand hit a veritable wall created by the Brant Beach sand placement, it not only stopped but some migrating material actually circled back northward a bit, adding to the ongoing berm buildup. When higher tides overwashed the heightened berm, ocean water got to the lower east side of the beach, filling in low points. The water just stayed there, unable to flow back out to sea.

As noted, the “lake” was plowed over. However, some places held the lakeness, and blowing sand from the nor’easter disguised the boggy surface. That’s when I drove up – one of the only vehicles driving the beach. It was like one of those roach hotel set-ups, where you check in but sure as hell can’t check out. As is the case with any and all trapped buggyists, I got this instantaneous sense of heart-thumping anxiety, even though I knew I had plenty of low tide to work with.

A fellow buggyist arrived as I was trying to dig. Not only did his vehicle almost sink in but when he got out of his vehicle to work with me, he literally sank up to his privates in what was, in reality, quicksand. He got his leg out but had to go arm’s length to reach into theleg hole to recover a shoe, which was pulled off by the famed quicksand suction. Hey, I told you, this was a bona fide sand trap.

You don’t know the feeling of dread and despair when fully fretting that your vehicle is on the brink of meeting a horrible end, via drowning. Hey, many of us are quite attached to our vehicles. That attachment is oft rooted in knowing we haven’t got the means to buy a replacement should we lose the current one. As much as Geico has been a recommendable friend to me, I’m not sure how those lizardy folks might take a customer claiming two drowned vehicles in under a year’s time.

I called the Ship Bottom PD just to alert them to the vehicular and personal dangers from a sinkage zone. They soon stopped by.

Then came my calls for tow truck assistance. It’s essential to make those calls early on, especially if you’re in way over your dig-out head. It can take time for those tow troops to rally. You never want to race a rising tide. It cheats. You lose.

The first call I made didn’t go so well. I was fully shunned by an Island tow company, despite issuing one of those “Uh, I’m kinda in a mess here.” The response: “I can’t come out tonight.” Hell, it wasn’t even night, though his denial ushered in a lights-out sensation for me. The owner got vocally testy when I persisted.

I was now becoming a tad panicked. Truth be told, I felt fully sunk right about then. I envisioned my being sunk until the tide rose – and my newish post-Sandy truck becoming a cover photo on “Drowned Beach Buggies Monthly.” Inexplicably, I pondered doing one of those Curly floor-spinning things – right there in the sand. As I said, maybe I did hit my head.

It was the SB cops who helped me with a number for South Shore Towing in West Creek/Cedar Run.

Ah, what a relief it was reaching them by cellphone. The gal there was understanding and said she’d get a truck out there right away. “I love you, ma’am … seriously.”

Feeling somewhat saved, I then made a call to my buddies at Fisherman’s Headquarters, just to explain my predicament and to tell them to warn other buggyists about the pitfalls of driving Ship Bottom. The reaction I got from there was fully unexpected. It was as if I had alerted the frickin’ cavalry. Within seconds, they sent out not one but two trucks with HDQ’ers at the helms.

Arriving in nothing flat, the HDQ guys showed the same urgency I had in mind – with some added energy to boot. I was kinda spent by then, having dug in quicksandish vain for a solid 30 minutes straight, not only losing ground but actually gaining puddles around my rear tires.

Craftily negotiating around the sinkholes, the boys got close enough to my truck to tie on a towline. Almost immediately, they had me hooked up and pulled out of what seemed a truly hopeless hole. Unreal.

I can’t thank those guys enough. They’ve also instilled me with the drive to continue helping other bogged-down buggyists dig out, as I’ve always done in the past.

I’m also utterly thankful to South Shore Towing, who, upon the extraction of my truck, I called to advise I no longer needed a tow. However, I’m still sending them a stipend just to show my appreciation. Their phone number is (609) 597-9964.

CLASSIC CHATTER: With much nicer weather inching in – and the ocean slowly inching down in size – the Classic just might have itself a winning week.

Three bass have been entered to date. See http://lbift.com/. Click on “Fish Log” to go to weigh-in list.

With the big-ass nor’easter stir churning the bottom, stripers will surely be flush to the beach – in perfect surfcastable position. Plugs have already won over winners, including an awesome 42-pound boat bass taken by Jason Marti (below) on a small Yo-Zuri plug. Clam gobs are already besting a bonanza of smaller bass. I hate to say it but bunker heads might single out the bigger bass.

Can’t say what the bluefish will be doing with our ocean water remaining so warm. Still, from here on in, the choppers can bite their way in at any time. I like thin steel leaders to allow for both bass and blues.

The first choppers to cruise our suds will be the equivalent of rogue pods. Even though we usually catch only one fish at a pop, those pods can run from a few fish to maybe a dozen, tops.

On clear water days, I’ve watched those fairly ominous looking pods, as I plugged from jetties. They move in very close order until an individual fish breaks away for a look-see at something interesting, as in tasty. If the breakaway hits something, the others instantly move in. If not, the explorer zips back to the pod and they move on, tightly.

Surprisingly, those chopper pods are not overly frenetic. They move briskly but totally under control, disputing the theory that they’re unendingly crazed and agitated; they’re actually cruisers – though they turn on the terrible when moving in for a kill, going from slow to blindingly savage in an underwater instant.

Note: Bass and blues caught from any Island beaches – bayside, inlet or beachfront – are eligible for the LBI Surf Fishing Classic. But, please (!), find witnesses to any weigh-in catches made at any out-of-the-way fishing sites.

I’m part of the weigh-in confirmation committee and we do check all Classic weigh-ins, closely. Such scrutiny makes the event that much more precise.

If a serious fish is seriously suspect, we have a polygraph expert on-call. This device is commonplace at all tournaments around the nation, from freshwater largemouth bass events to offshore big game tourneys.

By the by, the polygraph presence could also allow the Classic to consider hiking prizes way up in the future, soliciting greater participation.

You likely know that in the early “Striped Bass Derby” days (predecessor of the Classic), grand prizes included fully loaded, brand new vehicles like a Jeep Wagoneer, the equivalent of $50,000 SUVs today. That might explain the 2,000 signups back then.

While vehicular grand prizes might be a while in catching up to the modern Classic, I’d like to see sponsorships that could heavily hike the cash prizes. Again, this is all predicated on you and every angler you know getting involved with the event.

By the by, Viking Outfitters in Viking Village is now an official weigh station for the LBI Surf Fishing Classic, though you can’t sign up there. That northern venue should help north end anglers who are hauling in big bass and blues from fishing areas like The Mast, the New South Jetty, High Bar Harbor and Loveladies.

All LBI front beaches will be reopen to buggying this week. Of course, the highly suspect closure of the state’s beachfront in Holgate continues.

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