Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Waves of Sulp in the Surf;
Save That 100-Year-Old

Loads of this-and-that stuff this week – with a tad more “that.”
A logical starting point is this freaky-warm water of late. We topped 80 degrees in the surf, with low 80s being read by some boats near inlets -- where bay water was pouring out.
The warmest I had ever recorded personally was in the late Seventies, when I took two days of 83 degrees readings in the surf. Interestingly, that warm stretch was ingloriously ended when hard south winds upwelled water down into the 50s within a two days.
This current run of trendily tropical water is thanks to a combination of solar power and ongoing batches of light or onshore winds, primarily out of the northeast. Those onshore breezes usher in warm sun-heated surface water through a process known as downwelling.
As noted above, south winds can blow the water warmth away in a heartbeat, but even with some upwellings (cold water arrivals), we’ll most likely return to sultry water temps that could carry into fall. This could mean yet another late arrival of autumnal stripers.
Bass just don’t like balmy water. And even though some opportunistic stripers will surely arrive as mullet and baby bunker begin moving along the beachfront in September, they simply won’t be as aggressive as when water temps take a tumble through the 60s and into the 50s. One factor that could knock out too-warm water is an early arrival of cool fall air. That hasn’t happened in many years.
And yes, the fluke will surely hang in there much longer, should the water stay warm. Imagine that. The season ending September 4, leaving fluke off limits for our entire fall season. Déjà vu all over again.
A-SULPS ON SWIMMERS: A few salps washed up on the beach this past weekend – a few billion.
And I’m fairly serious about that number.
White clouds of them floated in the shorebreak then slimily washed ashore on mid-Island beaches.
At the end of my Ship Bottom street there were millions and millions of these barrel-shaped quarter-inch blobs. I lost count at 1,879, 333. They were so thick you simply couldn’t swim amid them. I tried to do some jetty laps and it was impossible to grab a breath with them clumping on my face and around my mouth. I did unwillingly learn they are generally flavorless, though I can’t say I took much time to savor the ones that invited themselves in my mouth.
Beach people, both annoyed and amazed by the glowing little globs, were calling them baby jellyfish.

Not only are salps not babies, they’re not even jellyfish. They’re actually more primitive, which is saying a lot if you think about the last conversation you tried to have with a jellyfish. However, they are thought to be the starting point of all vertebrates. You’ll notice that we’re vertebrates. Salps are an odd addition to our big-picture genetic pool. That’s exactly why I’m a creationist. I refuse to picture any of my relative as salps. Jellyfish on the other hand.
Truth be told, every salp is cool. The thing that sets them apart from jellyfish is a small colorful “brain” area, about half the size of a rice grain. When held in the sunlight, a salp’s brain glows brightly. One wonders what it thinks about to get that inner glow. Kinda makes you wonder if being a salp is all that bad.
Technically, salps are tiny filter feeding machines that chow down on planktons, before dying and falling to the ocean bottom.
I bring up that dying and sinking part because scientists now believe these primitive creatures play a huge role in taking carbon to the lowest levels of the ocean. That intrigues scientists to the hilt. The rest of us should find it at least remotely interesting, after factoring in all the current talk about “bad” carbon, as in “footprints” and carbon dioxide overloads.
In an article from “Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography,” scientists are researching the way salps play a heretofore unrecognized role in determining the final disposition of all that ugly “greenhouse gas” carbon dioxide. When factoring in the billions and billions of carbon-carrying salps dutifully dying out there, it seems likely that these little buggers drag tons and tons of carbon to the deepest parts of the ocean, where it stays put. That abysmal placement prevents it from going back into the atmosphere where it can carry on with its dirty-air work.
Last weekend’s insane influx of these jellyfish-ish creatures – and their comely little brains – is just one of those natural things, brought close to home by onshore winds. Cape May got socked with them during the first week of August. They were gone from there in a flash, getting either blown somewhere else (as in here) or drying up on the beach, which they do rapidly, with little if any smell. Our local over-influx of salps was also gone in the bat of an overnight eye. And I never got a chance to thank them for doing their part in saving the planet.
PETA AND ME: PERFECT TOGETHER: Me and PETA seeing eye to eye? In a pig’s eye.
Well, that pig must be rubbing its eye as we speak because I’m in cahoots with PETA over that bizarre group’s effort to talk a Nova Scotia lobsterman, Beau Gillis, into releasing a mega lobster he caught last week.
Big Beau’s big bug (an expression for lobster) is estimated to be 100 years old – though it claims to be a mere 90-something. How the hell that lobster avoided lobstermen for damn near ten decades is anyone’s guess. In fact, that got me thinking, pondering if maybe the ancient crustacean climbed in the trap purposely, committing something called suicide by lobsterman -- whereby depressed or despondent lobsters, too cowardly to take their own lives by swimming up and biting a passing white shark on the ass, instead take that odd elevator (lobster trap) into the great beyond.
Whatever, I’m still egging on efforts to save the aged lobster. After seeing the ugly here-above, it might be very ready to reconsider how good life had been on that wonderful mucky bottom. Sounds like the makin’ of a moralistic cartoon movie.
Being one with PETA (momentarily), I have to take on their freaky and frothy mindset and come up with a slogan for this Save-the-lobster campaign. Here’s one right along PETA lines: “Would you eat the tail of your great-great-great grandfather?”
Has ya thinkin’, right?
PETA people are now bowing down before me.
SWIM IN PEACE: Email: “Hi. This probably will sound weird but I swim in the Nacote Creek off of Port Republic and swim by myself and now am really scared since bull sharks have been seen in the Mullica. Can you tell me what you think about this and if you are familiar with port and it's beach and Pitney Road Bridge leading into town; if I should be really worried about sharks and what precautions I need to take. I wear a wetsuit but also a yellow cap so I can be seen by jet skiers and boats. Thanks. Hope you can help me. B. K. Yes, I am a girl that is why I am scared!!”
First, I have to partially apologize. I have been commenting pretty pointedly about the bull shark danger, mainly because a number of them MAY be out there -- “May” being the larger part of maybe.
Having been a diver/surfer/swimmer for an entire lifetime -- and even parts of former lives – I’m assuredly more sensitive than most as to what's swimming out there when we're swimming out there.
I probably shouldn’t tell you this – you being a girl and all – but I was once seriously bumped in Hawaii by what was likely a deadly tiger shark. It happened while I was night surfing in the hotel-lit waves of Waikiki. I got rammed and actually had the skin on my leg abraded. That intense little episode instantly ended this glowing plan I had developed to avoid the daytime surfing crowds of Hawaii by turning to nighttime waveriding. Funny how a single shark becomes an insufferable crowd in its own right.
In my recent blogs, I went on a bull shark tear mainly as a way to wave a pastel-hued red flag, just in case someone comes across a shark that isn't playing by the established motto: "I'm a Jersey shark but odds are you don't have to worry about me." My write-ups weren’t really meant to be a Benchley-esque douse of shark scare.
I will now offer a very real addendum to my bull shark alert, one backed by data and input from swim-with-sharks experts: The odds of you being bitten by a shark are so extremely small that you can go out and buy a fifty-year supply of shark repellent with the money you'll have from wining the big state lottery. Simply put, there are better odds of winning that million-dollar lottery than being shark-bit.
Of course, that logic is a lot easier to adopt when you’re standing in line at the Lotto machine, as opposed to times you’re swimming out past the breakers and that “dum-dum/dum-dum” music from “Jaws” begins to come out of nowhere.
In all seriousness, please swim happily anywhere you care to in the wondrous Mullica River, one of the last pristine waterways in the state.
Of course, I recently watched this “MonsterQuest” episode about man-eating/girl-eating catfish, but, hey ….
YIKES, STRIPS: Email “Jay, Got my biggest bass of the year while jigging for bluefish. It was 36.5 inches and as fat as I’ve ever seen a bass. It had spearing in its belly. Have you ever seen stripes like this fish had? What about the sore on the belly? L.M.”
(I haven’t seen stripes as crazy as those on your fish but those famed broken lines have long puzzled anglers. There are all these theories on them, none of them definitive. It is known that farmed highbred bass almost always have broken lines. Some folks theorize that the mixing of natural bass from different stocks, Hudson and Chesapeake, could cause crazy lineage. Be assured, it’s just one of those genetic things.
As for that red and raw sore you found on the belly, that is positively a post-hookup injury, most likely from your fishing line rubbing it raw. It’s kinda common. No bacterial problems there. Enjoy your filets. J-mann,)
NON HOLGATE UPDATE: The update on Holgate is there is no update.
I’ve gotten a record number of emails asking how the far south end is doing and when will it reopen.
The reopen part is fairly simple: That will take place on or about September 1. I’ll have the exact day and approximate hour in the near future.
Regarding partial openings, because of lingering birds -- or an extended closure of the clamming flats -- that’s literally done on the last days prior to reopening, when refuge officials and volunteers begin taking down or relocating sign-age.
As for the condition of the beachfront, Stu D. said it looks pretty much the same as it looked when it was closed back in April. Of course, Stu has only been able to look southward from the parking lot. Still, that first one/third -- that can be seen with binoculars -- is vitally important. It’s always a good thing if that zone seems buggy-able. The instant I get info, it’ll go in here.
I hope to get down to the end to fish for those major sharks in and around the inlet. I have a couple 1940s vintage fiberglass boat rods meant for serious hookups. They’re about 7 feet and meant for bear. I think they’ll work.
Walt P, caught a Spanish mackerel near Barnegat Inlet. They’re rare but this could be one of those years we see them. I held that state record for a short time with a Spanish mack I caught while throwing plug in sloppy surf conditions in Holgate. Somewhat oddly, I did not like its flavor. Many folks feel Spanish macks are to die for, dining-wise.
RUNDOWN: Sharks reports are all over the board, as in species ranging from threshers to browns to duskies to hammerheads to unidentifiable. One ‘unidentified” report: “It was maybe 6 feet and had teeth at least three quarters of an inch long and sure looked like a white.” I’ll repeat, as most fishing writers are doing, you shouldn’t keep any nearshore sharks at all, excepting dogfish. Most surprising aspect of the sharks being caught is how many folks are getting them on fairly standard gear, maybe a grade above slammer bluefish material.
I had a picture sent of a thought-to-be sheepshead. Close, but no sheepshead cigar. It was a small (similarly shaped and striped) black drum.
Anyone else picking up large American eels? I have a few stories of them being caught by fluke fishermen. It is about time for eels to begin moving out to the Saragossa Sea, to spawn -- and die right afterwards. I guess world record eels are simply celibate – or have a funny feeling about that supposed “party cruise” to the Saragossa, which no one ever comes back from. Hmmm.
Some Spanish mackerel still around.
Mahi everywhere. Out quite a way, though.
I mentioned scallops yesterday and had two quick emails asking if they can be kept. No. That’s my read on the regulations, buttressed by the fact that baymen are trying to get the state to change the regulation so they can collect a minimal amount of bay scallops for personal use. If you know differently, let me know. I have a call into Nacote Creek to get Fish and Wildlife Enforcement’s read.
Rays remain everywhere, though somewhat oddly, they seem to be in smaller groups than in past years when they would stay in massive congregations.
Surfcasters jonesing for just about anything to reel in have been more than willing to fight a ray or two. Not only does it get the angling adrenaline going – always the chance of a massive bass (or not) – but a midday hookup never fails to reel in beachgoers from every direction. I’ve seen more than few anglers fighting rays suck in their beer bellies as admirers gather. I’ve also seen 50 or more beachgoers circle around to watch the final manly pull-in of a ray.
I saw one fellow keep a ray a week back. It was fine by me and we shared the best way to clean it for dining. I talked the big talk, since I do, in fact, know how to best get the meat off the corrugated cartilage that run through the wings. However, I fully fibbed when I described the ray’s taste. I based my ray read on the flavor of skate, which I’ve eaten a dozen or more times. I also recalled a contest down in the Chesapeake where top chefs developed delectable recipes for preparing rays, showing rays are palatable.
An couple interesting hookups. One came via Mike Saulle and his 32-6 cobia, caught while fluke fishing Aug 15 2009 in 40 feet of water, caught on a piece of bluefish. Then, a 28-pound cobia was caught by another angler, 1/4 mile off the beach on a Hopkins dropped under a pod of bunker. Both of these reported by Margaret at Jingles.
COBIA ASIDE: Do you like catching cobia? Who the hell knows, right? This is not one of those species where you wake up thinking, “ I’ll go catch me a tassel of cobia today.” They are loners to the hilt, though they will congregate around prime feeding areas. And that might be why cobia catching has become somewhat commonplace of late.The species is fairly famous for following stingrays around.
That at first might sound a tad odd, since sharks aplenty are also out there following rays and it wouldn’t seem prudent not to prance around in that that shared space. Well, turns out that cobia are also famed for following large sharks around. Those freaky people who “study” sharks by taunting them have documented shark-trailing cobia on numerous occasions.
Seems cobia are the ultimate moochers. Around sharks, they opportunistically grab low-effort meals in the form of either terrified baitfish or shark scraps. When hangin’ with rays, cobia nab mollusks and crustaceans the stingray uncover. Hey, anyone remember that Whimpy guy in old Popeye cartoons? Just wonderin’.
Anyway, the familiarity factor cobia develop with other species might be why they are so seemingly intrepid around boats. Cobia will swim right up to a vessel to check it out – and even hang around. I’ve even had small ones come up to me while I was sitting on my surfboard. No, they weren’t pilot fish, which are way more colorful and more commonly hang out around surfers.
Further south, cobia are sight fished by anglers using brightly colored plastic on jigheads. Around here, it’s purely luck of the draw, unless you happen to spot one coming up to visit your boat.
Divers working the Tower off the end of the North Jetty, B.L., had no trouble finding one allowable tog. Nick got a 7-pounder. Plenty of small bass thereabouts, with a few to 28 inches. A thresher shark seen very close to the inlet entrance.
RAYS HAUNTING BAYS?: An interesting bayside report came via an angling buddy who was down at the swimming beach with his granddaughter on Sunday. First he saw baby bunker tornado-ing in very shallow water. That’s a sure sign they had been spooked to hell and back.
Then, an even odder thing.
As Walt was pulling the little one on a kiddy board, he began feeling lumps on the bottom, all over the place. Feeling around, it turned out the bottom was all but covered with bay scallops. In nothing flat, he grabbed dozens.
The fact the bay is loaded with scallops is not news. This summer the bay is hosting more of these highly mobile crustaceans than we’ve seen in decades, maybe even half a century. What’s weird is the fact the scallops at the bathing beach were also heading onto the shallows for all they were worth. By the by, scallops can propel themselves with serious bursts of speed that help them elude predators by putting a lot of ground between themselves and any danger zone. The fact those scallops were coming into shallows, which are way out of their comfort zones –diving gulls and all that – shows they were joining the baby bunker in hightailing out of channels and holes further out in the bay.
My guess is the bay has stingrays, which will ravenously eat clams, scallops, mussels and crabs. Clouds of cow-nosed rays have been a huge part in preventing shellfish from returning to the depleted Chesapeake Bay. As fast as conserved shellfish form, the rays devour. It’s amazing to watch the rays at work. They get close to the bottom and use incredible suction from their flapping wings to remove sand covering shellfish. Yes, rays will gladly dine on baby bunker and mullets, though it’s more likely the baby baitfish spooked onto the bathing beach panicked at the mere sight of such huge fish suddenly showing up.

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