Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Balls Out for Spaghetti and Soccer; New Hope for Great White Sharks By JAY MANN |


Photo by: Supplied Photo

I’m pretty sure I’ve been watching the World Cup. I’m sorry but it’s the only sporting event where I actually snap to when commercials come on. Still, I’m the first to admit that this lengthy event is far and away the most celebrated sporting happening in the world. As to what’s being celebrated, I’m still working on that aspect.

To me, watching soccer is a lot like fishing for striped bass with bunker heads. Apparently, there’s a lot to be said for it – and, every week or so, a “Score!!!”

Out of nationalistic necessity, I duly viewed the USA playing Portugal. In fact, I watched it to the bitter end. I must acknowledge the USA/Port match was afive-pounder – an all-time high for me. Huh?

In order to keep my interest in soccer matches, I simultaneously cook spaghetti. When the game gets mind numbing, I get re-energized by running into the kitchen to take in the excitement of seeing cooking spaghetti roll ’round.

By the end of the USA/Port 2-2 tie, I had cooked five separate pounds of Great Value Thin Spaghetti. Now that’s a soccer contest, considering I usually only get through one pound of spaghetti, add some sauce and turn off the soccer to chow down while watching “A Host of Beauty Favorites with Carolyn” on QVC.

Oh, believe me, I got into the Portugal game, now and again – which would be a decent motto for soccer itself. I was furious when that bald-headed U.S. guy pitifully gave up the ball with only a minute to go, leading to a Portugal header that led to a tie, just as my spaghetti timer went off. I even turned off the game in anger. I assume the game ended in a tie since I read where the U.S. quickly severed all economic ties with Portugal, with whom we trade absolutely nothing.

As I often do during World Cups, I tried to come up with some small things that might make the event more, uh, entrancing. How about taking Super Bowl-like halftime entertainment and extending it for the entire soccer match? You could have a raised platform above the entire playing surface, where top-name entertainers would rock out. It would not only give fans something to watch for much of the game but would also offer a little entertainment for goaltenders and those lonely midfielders.

Oh, don’t go getting all over me for dissing soccer. I’ll be watching the frickin’ Cup to beat the band – and more so if the band was on an over-field platform. I’ll also be going balls out for the USA – unless (!) the team from Vatican City advances. Hey, everyone gets to play in the World’s Cup.

Wow, can you imagine a match between Mecca and Vatican City? That would be some weird action.

“And we have a tight one here, Shep? 0-0. The Vatican has the ball and … what’s this!? The Mecca team has suddenly stopped playing and looks to be, what are they doing, Shep? Praying?”

“Seems so, Ross, toward their home town, I’m thinkin’. Oh, but wait. Seems Vatican City doesn’t give a rat’s ass. They’re moving freely down the field … look at the open acreage! And they shoot and … Score!!! I think that went right off the kneeling goaltender’s head, Ross. Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. Vatican, 1, Mecca, zipola.”

Actually, my second favorite team is Mexico – and not just because I did college time down there. The Mexican team has the wildest coach in the world, bar none. That man’s reaction to his team scoring is worth the price of admission. Uh, you do have to pay to watch soccer matches, right? Or, do they pay … oh, never mind.

One more really fun thing to look for when watching upcoming World Cup matches is this guy who’ll come running outta nowhere with a can of shaving cream that he sprays across the ground – sometimes right over the feet of the players just standing there. Now that’s frickin’ entertainment. I’m usually laughing so hard I can’t tell if security drags him off afterwards or what.

So, bring on the next team for the USA. If that bald guy is still there giving away his balls, maybe we better hope it’s Mecca.

STILL POKIN’ AROUND: I got to see another photo of the famed, seemingly arrow-shot sea gull of LBI. Hey, it’s a slow time of the year for fame. It’s lately been seen in the vicinity of south Brant Beach and Beach Haven Crest.

On closer photo inspection, I’m now wondering if the gull has been humanly (not humanely) shot, or was it somehow stricken by a pokey piece of bad luck?

The latest look clearly shows the arrow-like object is too short to be a regular arrow but too long to be a crossbow arrow, sometimes called a bolt. That leaves something stickish and straight – and, maybe, quite natural.

It’s a freaky guess on my part but the goofy bird might have impaled itself on an old phragmites reed stalk – seeing that gulls hang out on the sedges nesting this time of year, where they also fight for territory.

On the up side, the pathetic looking bird remains sturdy and upright – and in relatively good spirits, protruding things considered. That means the intrusion is most likely through its feathers, more than through any vital wing meat. It’s also kinda clear that other gulls are taking one look at old Thing in the Wing and moving off, quickly. I guess it kinda confirms the old scarecrow concept.

Even though all ye compassionate types will be moved by the winged gull’s plight, it won’t help the bird to have even the best-meaning folks chasing it all around. “What the hell kinda thing is this stuck in me that everybody suddenly wants it? This is stressin’ me out, man.”

As to a proper and fittin’ rescue, it remains a wait-and-see proposition. If the bird gets weak, it’ll either slow down significantly or even begin to respond to hand feeding, when it can’t scavenge any longer. That’s when the pros will have a shot at it. I’m sure I can get atop it with a cast net but that’s a last resort because the lead in the net can break a wing.

For now, the bird is just going to have to wing it. I am interested in any updates folks might have. Also, if the bird happens to read this column …

GREAT WHITE HOPE: Great white sharks are on the rise. In fact, there’s one behind you right now. And that might just be the case this summer in ocean waters from New Jersey to Massachusetts, where the white sharks hang their summer fins. It’s a very good thing, mind you. Recently, local newspapers and newscasts have been highlighting great white sightings just off our beaches. Did I mention this is actually a good thing? I might even do it again.

Per a ballyhooed report from NOAA, published in PLOS ONE, the much-malignedCarcharodons (sciencey name for great whites) are staging a noticeable comeback, though how far they’ve come back – and from how far down – remains a bit murky.

A small excerpt from the article reads, “… there have been apparent increases in abundance since the 1990s when a variety of conservation measures were implemented. Though the white shark’s inherent vulnerability to exploitation warrants continued protections, our results suggest a more optimistic outlook for the recovery of this iconic predator in the Atlantic.”

The above-noted conservation measures first arrived via enhanced shark protection within Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. More recently, save-a-shark efforts were heightened through our nation’s anti-finning Shark Conservation Act of 2010. The cruelly wasteful practice of lopping off shark fins for the always-odd Asian eating market has left a bad taste in the mouths of conservationists around the planet. Much of the world is now angrily watching out for this asinine practice.

‘‘The species appears to be recovering,’’ said Cami McCandless, one of the article’s writers. ‘‘This tells us the management tools appear to be working.’’

The seemingly remarkable return of great whites, right here in our waters, might be a highpoint for a worldwide fight against shark abuse. However, I’ll play the stick in the ocean mud, as I scientifically hesitate from taking a full-blown “They’re-back!” stance.

My hesitancy problem has to do with NOAA’s shark counting methodology. Not that it cheated or anything. It simply used anecdotal evidence, i.e. visual sightings, which is something the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration balks at in the case of other fisheries. The thing is, that’s the only known way to count Carcharodons. Face it, “One sharky, two sharky …” doesn’t sound all that scientific.

But I have a bigger bone to pick – even though sharks have no bones. While I’m a madman when it comes to the nonsense of folks claiming to know how global warming will play out as far as sea rise and abandoning the coastline goes, I see huge indicators of sea surface temperatures taking off. That, my coastal friends, will hit home far sooner than suspect sea-risings. But what does that have to do with great white sightings off N.J.? Exactly. Huh?

I fear there might be a chance that warming seas have huge predators, like sharks, essentially surfacing more often, maybe even opportunistically preying on sea creatures confused by subtle sea surface temps, which are driving them out of accustomed surroundings. This confusion phenomenon has already been documented in the Pacific, where pelagic species, like tuna, start going all over the place, all but driven batty by insanely fluctuating sea temps.

That said, I’ll gladly walk a mile in the scholarly shoes of those folks who believe the shark population is rising – without that stupid “Duh-duh, duh-duh” sound effect. I’m also hopeful that a serious shark spurt is in the offing this summer.

So do we need to keep an eye on our back when in the water? No more than usual. Hell, I fret as much over stupid calico crabs grabbing my toes. I hate that!

One way we can help the shark census cause is to duly note any sightings, especially any large sharks seen by near shore mariners. In fact, some insane great white videos taken last week by fishermen off Cape May have gone utterly viral through social media and big-channel newscasts. Looking at the videos, the massive Carcharodon is seemingly gregarious – in an I’ll-bite-anything-you-give-me way. Worrisomely, it sure looks as if folks have already been feeding the bugger. That might not be the best thing. I picture an excited looker, leaning over to see the hand-fed shark, and ending up overboard. Shark thinking: “Wow, look at the size of this chunka meat they’re feeding me. Hell, it’s even still moving. How cool is that?! Thank-you very much.”

Nobody has ever said sharks are the rocket scientists.

How can I exit any section on great whites without passing on the totally supportable fact that the 1916 New Jersey river attacks leading to the “Jaws” saga was a rogue bull shark, not a great white.

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Comment by MC on July 20, 2014 at 10:01am

A neighbor in Holgate introduced me to a Herring Gull named Big Louie this week. The bird was calmly perched in a bird bath just a few feet from where we were talking.  Apparently the bird used to have a arrow through him; and he had been hanging around and eating handouts.  The kindly gentleman was eventually able to grab him with a towel and remove the "home made" arrow.  So if it is the same bird, he looks great and is leading a relaxed life now.


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