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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Aug 30, 2012 : A Sad Delay for Holgate Reopening; Sailing Off After a Bash-and-Run


By JAY MANN | 

It’s Labor Day and although labors never end here in the newspaper business, they do take on a slightly better attitude as the Island drains a bit.

For a slew of us, this weekend carries the same exciting feel many/most folks get on Memorial Day weekend – and a launch into summer.

For the outdoor sects, fall hosts cool air, free-to-fishing beachfronts, easy get-arounds on roadways and serious-grade gamefish – and that’s all before noon.

As many businesses sum things up, I want to give a sincere shout-out to the heart of our summer work corps – the working kids and collegians. Once again, you kept our wheels of business turning. Without those whirling wheels we’d be up the economic creek, paddle-less.

And I leave you with this thought: Money can’t buy everything – due, in large part, to museums.

HOLGATE DELAYED OPENING: So many of us were fully fired up – to the point of spontaneous combustion – in anticipation of this coming Saturday’s grand reopening of the Holgate beachfront (adjacent to the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge Holgate Wilderness Area). Then we got royally doused by news that the reopening has been bumped to the following Saturday – if then.

Woe is I.

This buggying setback is the result of astronomically high tides and that dastardly, ongoing erosion.

And it’s not like Long Beach Township is happy about this. Parker and guys have worked their asses off trying to keep the access open. They’re literally fighting the sea itself.

For the township’s part, the commission and public works will once again be meeting with DEP representatives – on-scene, at the Holgate entrance. It’s mainly an ironing out process, trying to figure what sand-moving repairs are legally allowable and/or what can be done in an erosion emergency, such as this.

While I’m hardly one to wax optimistic in such situations, I think the government is on our buggying side.

I know, via personal chats with Army Corps manger Keith W., that the Corps is always more than ready to rush in and sand-save the day – albeit after they get officially assigned and funded.

Keith and I fully concur that there is sand, almost beyond measure, right off the tip of Holgate. We call that area the shoals. And that whitewater zone has been problematically expanding for the past 20 years. It could use being brought down to size.

Methinks Holgate will see a DEP-OK’ed quick-fix way before a fed-fix.

Can a fix come in time to save this fall’s fishing season? A quick-fix, maybe.

By the by, there is now a boating sector that wants badly to see a channel form in Holgate, convinced that’s the only way to get water flowing bayside, reopening channels there.

Why the hell can’t we simply dredge the bay’s ICW and transfer the sand onto the Holgate beachfront – allowing all segments of angling to enjoy life?

Talk about a frickin’ war: Boaters striving to get an inlet across Holgate versus surfcasters wanting their God-given Holgate fishing terrain kept available. Let’s not even go there right now – in the name of the late, great Congressman Forsythe.

PADDLES AND FINS: Paddleboarding and water watching are a perfect togetherthing. Just be aware that among the things to be seen when paddling the bay are sharks, including some larger models. This has become apparent through half a dozen e-mails I’ve gotten from folks paddling lazily along to look back and see they’re not alone.

The utter quietness of a traveling paddleboard, along with a draft measured in inches, allows water watchers to glide atop marine life that would bolt even from the quiet likes of a kayak.

But the big perk from paddling is the perch. In a standing position, it’s amazing how much you can see down below, especially when wearing “fishing” sunglasses.

As for those sightings, mainly near inlets, I can assure those sharkacious meet-ups hosted no danger to the paddlers – although all of the sighted paddlers headed landward as fast as their balance would allow.

Along with their blatant curiosity for all things afloat, sharks are also well aware that forage fish swarm beneath floatables. I also credit sharks with knowing that shadows created by the likes of passing paddleboards spook bottom-hiding fish, offering a meal on wheels.

I hope to get some serious paddling in this fall – GoPro Hero 2 “Surf Edition” camera, in hand.

BASKET-TOP SHARK ESCAPES: During decades of clam treading the bay, other bay boys and I saw many a big shark suddenly dorsal up in the dark waters around us. I now appreciate those sharks were either taking advantage of the turbidity we were creating – to seek small prey – or were high-tailing it across the shallows to escape our bottom-scratching approach.

Of course, as kids we were taught that even a fleeing shark fin meant only one thing: “Shark attack!” And that’s just how we announced any and all fin sightings.

With that shout, we would instantly respond in just about the dumbest way possible. Splashing like crazy people, we would begin to run back toward our oft-far-off boats – though never once letting go of our inner tubes with the metal baskets within. Those were the tough-to-find tools of our trade, plus, they had lifesaving usefulness when under attack.

If our boats were way-aways at the onset of an “attack,” we’d first bolt like muddy bats outta hell, then quickly slow to a dull trod, before coming to a heaving stop. Hey, just try running in mud, through waste-deep water, dragging a basket, with a shark hot on your heels. Even adrenaline finally says, “Screw this.”

It was then we’d resort to Plan B. (This is all gospel truth).

Plan B was the renowned basket climb-aboard escape. You’d push your metal wire basket underwater, then climbed atop it. If it had a load of clams inside, you could get pretty high out of the water. If not, it sunk but the metal basket served as an improvised metal shark cage around your legs.

Since we rarely practiced this Plan B balancing act, it would often take a few tries to properly climb aboard. More than a few of us would awkwardly climb aboard, lose balance and crash-splash back into the water. That was frantically followed by a retry, this time leading to forward face-plant into the water. Had a shark really been attacking…

There were times you’d see a whole slew of clammers all standing atop their sunken baskets, looking around like a buncha nervous meerkats.

There really wasn’t an all-clear to a “shark attack!” Usually the perpetually biting greenheads – impossible to smash when teetering – sparked a fairly quick immersion back to treading normalcy – except in the case of Old Joe.

Old Joe was rail-thin, grizzled and always wore long pants while treading. At even the hint of a “shark attack!” he would lumber atop his basket. There, he’d tap into a cellophane-wrapped pack of ciggies and nonchalantly smoke a Camel down to his tar-coated fingertips. We’d all be back in the water, look over, and see his tall, scraggly, sun-ravaged form, seemingly standing on the surface of the water, all prophet-like. He’s long gone but that image sure lives on.

NEAR DEADLY WAKE UP: This world is weird. Present company excluded. And some of the weirdest of the weird comes in the form of laws. A weekend boating accident highlights a truly insane N.J. statute regarding sailboat collisions.

Glenn Schroeder, captain/owner of the fairly famed 48-foot Abeking and RasmussenJacunda, came face-to-face with this bizarre law – and he’s a hurting cowboy because of it, as is his vessel.

Early Saturday morning, Glenn was moored in Myers Hole, just inside Barnegat Inlet. He was sleeping that peaceful, lightly rocking slumber offered by life atop the bay. At 5 a.m., he received the proverbial rude awakenings, as the bow of a 40-foot, under-power sailboat smashed through the midship of his anchored – and well-lit – vessel.

Remember, we’re talking Myers Hole here, famed mooring area for sailing vessels from around the world. It’s usually as peaceful a piece of deep-water bay as you’ll find anywhere.

Stunned, rustled and rousted from the impact, Glenn looked over to find the intruding stem of the boat’s bow had smashed its way onboard, only inches from where he was lying.

The battering-ram bow had splintered the Jacunda’s handcrafted woodwork, opening a huge hole and sending many of Glenn’s prized possessions flying. Struggled topside, Glenn found the elderly male captain of the invading vessel now gunning its engine in reverse, essentially trying to extricate his sailboat.

Glenn commenced to verbally identifying himself to the other vessel’s pilot – adding some duly heated comments about the situation.

Per Glenn, the captain of the ramming vessel displayed a wanton unwillingness to discuss the collision. In fact, he persisted with his high-rev reverse effort.

Realizing something wasn’t quite right with the captain’s unwillingness to let off the gas, Glenn called the authorities.

Over at the nearby Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light, the emergency horn rang out and the federal boys in blue masterfully mustered – as they always do. At about the same time, the smash-happy sailboater managed to break his vessel free of theJacunda.

To the astonishment of Glenn, the captain didn’t power down to discuss the situation, but threw it into forward. “He just merrily pulled away. He passed inches from my bow,” Glenn said, when I chatted with him after the ugly incident.

In the short time it took the Coast Guard to reach the scene, the attack vessel had nonchalantly motored off. If ever there was a case of blatant hit-and-run, this was it – or so one would think.

Egged on by the obvious damage to Glenn’s boat, the Coast Guard and rapidly responding State Police Marine Division officers managed to corral the less-than-zippy sailboat before it reached the ocean.

When boarded, the 81-year-old captain of the vessel stunned the savvy law enforcement folks by claiming he had no idea what they were talking about. According to Glenn, the officers, both state and federal, weren’t buying it. However, when it came to citing the elderly captain, the “bizarre” side of things set in. Seems the captain had done absolutely nothing wrong by hightailing it from the accident scene.

While both Glenn and I felt that bash-and-bolt aspect seemed the most heinous – and most punishable – angle of the entire potentially deadly incident, there is a N.J. statute that says you can legally sail from a sailboat accident providing no one is injured and you report it within 14 days. “He could be down in Florida in 14 days,” noted Glenn.

Glenn brought up the far scarier aspect. “How could he know that someone wasn’t hurt? He never stopped.”

In fact, a couple days after the jolt, Glenn was feeling aftereffects. He was about to make an appointment with a chiropractor.

And then there were the headaches. Not the physical kind but the fiscal. Potentially, over $10,000 in damage had been done to the Abeking and Rasmussen masterpiece.

The German-built yawl, vintage 1950, was custom-made for the then-CEO of IBM. It has since been perfectly maintained. In fact, it was in mint condition for this truly weird Myers Hole mishap.

Uncertain of the exact dollar damage, Glenn is now looking for top-shelf woodworkers to make an estimate and affect repairs.

To the credit of the stalwart sailboat, its hull was so strong it had actually fended off the other vessel’s bow, lifting it upward. The water integrity of the Jacunda was uncompromised.

I’m told the captain of the other vessel was cited for violations other than the bash-and-run, despite his denial of involvement. Since I don’t have any of that official paperwork, I’m not going to guess at what charges, if any, were leveled. I’m mainly in a state of stunnedness over that simple “crash-and-run – call back within 14 days” statute. I could only imagine Glenn’s state of mind.

“If that (bow) had come in any closer to me, I’d probably be dead,” he said.

BAD MEMORIES: Even though we’re talking totally different scenarios, around here we’re all very touchy about vessels being rammed out of the blue. I’m referencing the hideous and deadly plow-under of the 20-foot recreational fishing vessel Rosie II, struck by the apparently auto-piloted, 60-foot Permission VI yacht, killing three of the four fishermen aboard the smaller boat. Permission VI was being operated by Barry Flowers, 62, Livingston, N.J. That took place in 2000 and still is all too fresh in our minds.

PUNCH US IN: I want all y’all to know that I don’t want a single one of you to leave without taking us with you.

This will be our first winter offering the entire SandPaper on the web, week in and week out. Just go to thesandpaper.net, or Google “The Sandpaper.”

Also, for anglers and outdoors types, I keep a daily blog going through fall, at jaymanntoday.ning.com – or simply type “Jay Mann” into Google.

Through those sites, it’ll be just like you’re here – except you’ll be miles away, wishing you were exactly here.

By the by, via Facebook, I often offer a running account (sometimes minute by minute) of storms and other high-profile happenings here on LBI. To become my friend, type my name in NJ Facebook. You’ll find me. Also, befriend The SandPaper to get those Facebook updates.

SPECIAL COYWOLF SIGHTING: Got a real good look at a singular, black coywolf I was alerted to a couple months back. It fit the description given me to a T: moderately large and almost totally black, as in jet black. It’s a mix of coyote and wolf.

I found it interesting (almost unique) how low to the ground it was traveling when I saw it, literally running across a dirt road with all four of its legs bent, sometimes called a belly run.

These animals are so smart; I believe this one knows it sticks out in the light of day – but shines at night, so to speak. No seeing that sucker after dark.

As oft noted, coyotes and coywolves are sometimes active in the early a.m. and late afternoon when feeding pups. In fact, coyotes in the wild are often crepuscular, most active dusk and dawn. When living near humanity, they are strictly nocturnal.

Note: Always be very wary of any coyote, coywolf, or even fox out and about in the light of day. Such an out-of-character behavior has illness (including rabies) written all over it. An exception is when it’s trying to divert attention from nearby young.

By the by, Black Coyote (by name) was a Lakota Sioux warrior who seemingly refused to give up his weapon at the Wounded Knee standoff, leading to one of the most heinous massacres in North American history. Although Black Coyote was no saint, he was, in fact, deaf. He didn’t realize he was being ordered to drop his weapon. In Native American culture, killing a black coyote is said to doom a hunter.

RUNDOWN: There is an entire month to go in the fluke-hunting season.

My workload is backing off so I hope to be among the many who are putting up insane amounts of fluke fillets for the winter.

I don’t want to sound penny-pinching (I sure as hell ain’t, as my struggling checking account assures) but it’s astounding how much moola is saved by tapping into a cache of stored summer flounder come winter. It’s damn near a sub-freezing Christmas Savings Account.

By the by, folks are also putting away kingfish for future mealization. It stores exceptionally well but needs very careful packing. Vacuuming is the way to go – with most fish products.

I got some pics of nice triggerfish taken by spear near Barnegat Inlet.

I saw some very nice (eating-sized) black drum hook-and-line caught near the Big Bridge, Manahawkin Bay. I now believe the “striped” fish seen there by snorkelers are mainly drum, not sheepshead. I’m sure there is an occasional sheepshead somewhere near those spans.

As I always note, the state record sheepshead was an astounding 17-pounds, 3-ounces, taken under the Big Bridge by Paul Lowe in 2003. Since then, a few others have been caught there, the largest around 8 pounds (photographed and released).

While on the subject of state records, I always smile when I read the 11-2 pound state record spotted sea trout caught by a dearly departed buddy, Bert Harper – as cool a guy as you ever want to know. He caught that fish in Holgate back in 1974.

I think we might see some spotted sea trout, a.k.a. speckled or spec trout, this year, due to the showing of so many other southern fishes this summer.

I won’t get into the debate over sea trout and weakfish being the same fish. Not only are they scientifically different – weakfish, Cynoscion regalis; sea trout Cynoscion nebulosus – but also they’re actually noticeably different in appearance. The sea trout is far less colorful, i.e. nebulosus. The weakfish lives up to its regalis scientific name, as in royally sparkling.

Overall, weakfishing has gotten a tad spotty but they’re schooling up, so when you find them, they’re ready to rumble.

BLOWFISH BAFFLEMENT: Many folks are baffled over how to get into the huge schools of blowfish now out there.

It’s as baffling as fishing itself.

Be it the luck of the draw – as in, where you stop and chum – or the help of those in the know, a goodly number of anglers are cleaning up (pun intended) on dozens and dozens of big fat puffers. Fisherman’s HDQ even has a little video on how to clean them.

The problem is the puffers are mustering, meaning they’re either belly-to-belly below a vessel, or nowhere in sight.

It often comes down to stop-and-pop. Zip from one hole to another – likely blowfish hangouts – chum some grassies (or whatever) and see what salutes. No show, then go.

Once you hit the puffer jackpot, they come out like slot machine quarters following cherries.

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