Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Dec. 3 -- Weekly column for the world in general

Close Calls and Off-season Ticks

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: When anglers talk about being on a roll, they’re usually referring to a winning streak of fish catching. For a couple mobile anglers down Corson’s Inlet way, a roll nearly led to them buying the fish farm.
The two were driving the foggy beachline at night and inadvertently met up with a covert cutaway – one of those a steep ledges that form when side-ass winds cause currents that eat away at the beach near the shorebreak. The vehicle went over the edge and into the drink.
Per an article, the police received a 911 call around midnight and responded along with Ocean City Fire/Rescue Units, New Jersey State Police Marine Unit and United States Coast Guard. The rescue forces found the buggy in the water and almost fully submerged. One of the anglers was rescued from atop the vehicle while the other fisherman had been dragged out to sea. The article said “200 yards” out. While that seemed a tad too far to survive (imagine two football fields from shore) he was in way over his head, hypothermia always circling like a hungry shark. His rescue was a lot hairier but was successfully pulled off.
I had placed the article in my daily blog (https://jaymanntoday.ning.com/.) and got an email from someone close to the two lucky anglers. It read: “Jay Mann,
I read your story on this and although I wasn't present I personally know both men. They are both lucky to be alive with the conditions that were present at the time -- dense fog, nighttime and cold water. As far as the guy that drifted 200 yards out, he doesn't even know how far out he went. He did say it was a good distance and the water was over his head you would have to ask the rescue team how much rope they let out. He had neoprene waders on and was hanging onto a cooler to stay afloat. The rescue personnel went after him with wet suits and flippers and a floatation device that was attached to a rope that was fed out from the beach. My friend was told by the rescue swimmers that the only way they found him was because he had a head light on and that is how they could see him. The other guy was standing on the hood of the truck until they pulled him in. The man upstairs was looking out for them. (The man standing on the hood) had a cell phone and was able to keep it out of the water and call 911 as soon as they went in.”
CHESTWADER TO THE RESCUE: Not that many years back, I wrote about an experiment I did in response to a widespread perception that all waders, including neoprene, are capable of accidentally filling with water, becoming a deadly anchor, holding an angler down should he get washed into the sea.
Doing a bayside test, I donned neoprene chestwaders and writhed in every which direction, trying to submerge myself through a chestwader fill-up. Short of using all my strength to pull the neoprene away from my chest area -- to allow water in – I couldn’t get into any position where water poured inside on its own. Water pressure kept pushing the wader closer and closer to my body.
Life-and-death note: The more rigid hard rubber waders – including some of the most expensive varieties out there (i.e. Cabela’s top brand), do readily take on enough water to qualify as an anchoring we1ight.
When writing in here about my previous neoprene wader experiments, I sidestepped suggesting that chestwaders might even act as a life preserver -- lest guys go out and get overly gutsy in the surf. However, in the above case, the victim of that legitimate life-and-death struggle seemed to suggest the waders were a lifesaver.
I’m definitely not suggesting one wear waders as a form of drown proofing, but in this instance the form-fitting waders likely helped keep the struggling angler atop water, until help arrived.
And I’m sure not overlooking that cool cooler angle.
The lifesaving potential of buoyant coolers has been proven around the planet, accompanying some of the spookiest sea-top survival tales. The preservation capacities of cooler are especially applicable to boat anglers. Doubly cool is the way they often pop right to the surface after a boat goes down. However, they aren’t even in the same league as personal flotation devices, when it comes to grabbing that extra time needed prior to rescue.

SEAL SADNESS: Some disturbing findings regarding the wellbeing of harbor seals have come out of the Université de Liège, Belgium.
Scientists there have completed a study indicating harbor seals may be the chief victims of occult mercury in the ocean waters. It gets there mainly via fallout (my word) from coal-burning utility plants.
Seals eat seafood at a near nonstop rate. Many of its favorite meals are species heavily laced with methyl mercury. Having a high-flying metabolism, seals need to feed to the hilt. They must keep blubber on their bodies to stave off coldness.
Virtually all their prime food sources are creatures carrying nasty loads of mercury.
Think of the danger in human terms. It is recommended that, per week, we eat no more than a couple/few portion (6 to 8 ounces) of those fish species containing high levels of mercury. Seals down pound after pound those dangerous species -- everyday, year ‘round.
Still, it’s not as if harbor seals wash up bearing all the medical symptoms of obvious methyl mercury poisoning. The negative impacts are insidious, often showing in an animal’s immune system A mercury-heavy harbor seal often shows its troubles through colds, flues and pneumonias.
And more and more seals are coming ashore not feeling very well, per the data from the Brigantine Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
While there are no studies aligning the rash of local seal strandings with the impacts of mercury, it is surely something to ponder – along with ways to keep us from saturating the skyways with tons of mercury.

GET THE LEAD OUT: While on the topic of insidiously invasive metals, I want to make a quick mention of lead. This malicious mind-mangling metal fortunately lost much of its toxic luster when lead-based fuels and paints were banned. However, it has crept back into the news (and into the populace) via an unlikely source: venison.
The deer meat nearest the resting place of the shotgun pellets used to kill a deer has what might be called a blow-over effect. Lead particles, often microscopic, reach the meat that reaches the plates of both venison lovers and very poor folks.
Yep, very poor folks.
A huge chunk of highly appreciated deer meat is donated to food banks by hunters. It’s a great gesture and one that should not be lost to leaden fears. In fact, I don’t bring up this subject to jump on what has become a bandwagon of worryism but to encourage states looking into lead in venison (NJ being among them) to find a away to par away the problem while leaving the meat in good mouths, as in those who need it most.

ORNERY OUTBACK: We’re rapidly approaching the firearm deer season (Dec. 8 – 13) – and we’re already well into bow and muzzleloader and seasons.
This is not only a very bad time for deer – and, vicariously, any other form of wildlife within firing range – but not such a hot time for outdoorists to be doing their things. Despite regulations meant to protect preservation and park areas, one shouldn’t feel overly secure even in so-called “Safety Zones,” i.e. no hunting zones.
I have learned from innumerable firsthand experiences that many hunters take massive liberties when setting up to hunt deer. If you’re going out woodsing for the next month or so, wear safety orange and do not, for any reason, allow dogs to run free.
Do not take this as a condemnation of hunting. The state’s annual deer hunt is fully necessary. These seemingly mild-mannered creatures, when over numbered, do horrific eco-damage. And I’m not even remotely referring to the gripes and whines of hideously invasive homeowners whose lawns are being gnawed. (Why the hell did you even move into a once-wooded area?). The abrasiveness of deer to the delicate fabric of the Pinelands ecosystem is palpable, as they ride roughshod over many struggling plant and animal species.
Back to the hunters, I just want to emphasize that the majority of them play by the letter of the NJ Fish and Wildlife law. It’s that semi-renegade element (often younger folks) that push the envelope when it comes to hunting outside the realm of rules and regulations.
I WANNA GO HOME: I was recently told one of the funniest tick tales I’ve ever heard. Sure, there are hundreds and hundreds of sidesplitting tales of ticks and other bloodsucking creatures.
Anyway, this past fall over at Fort Dix, training was being given to visiting Puerto Rican officers.
Not surprisingly, bilingual training can be a problem, never more so than when the visiting Caribbean officers first spied one of the many large warning signs scattered around fort’s heavily-wooded training area. Across the top of the signs is the word “Warning” in red letters. Covering the entire left side of the sign is a giant image of a deer tick. On the right side, paragraph after paragraph offering involved details of the dangers the ticks present – how the creatures were very common thereabouts and, with daily regularity, would latch onto humans and suck blood for all they were worth.
(This is the Gospel truth) One of the training officers noticed the Puerto Ricans were reading the sign with growing consternation – soon bordering on panic. The officer was a bit put-off by the seeming whimpiness of the visitors. That was until he used a translator to better understand the problem. Turns out the Puerto Ricans had never seen a tick. Get this: It turns out they thought the sign showed ticks true to size -- that insect-like creatures the size of Rottweilers were all over the place just waiting to clamp on and begin sucking blood.
(Real world stuff like that cracks me up.)
TICK, TOCK, AROUND THE CLOCK: Ticks, like rust, never sleep. They can go temporarily comatose during the coldest of cold snaps but they seemingly sleep with one eye open. They hold their poised-and-waiting position even as the teeth of winter chew all around them.
In the case of ticks, blood is thicker than ice. They have some miracle chemicals within, allowing them to undergo a deep freeze, falling into a cryogenic stupor. During that down time, they can't quite make nerve-endings respond. However, even the slightest show of sunlight is like the handclap of a hypnotist. They awake in a heartbeat.
I can assure that ticks can climb aboard your body at any time of the year. Last week, while deep woods hiking during freezing (and below) air temps, I retuned home with two ticks attached to my clothing. In among the trees, the sun beating down was easily enough to get them into the grab mode.
As I’ve been doing my usual daily outback time, I’ve come across holiday-ites tramping the bush, looking for decoration material. That’s cool, providing they're just grabbing a branch here and a bough here.
By the by, it is technically unlawful to remove plant life from the Pinelands, without a permit or being specifically told that a certain area can be harvested. Still, there are many non-Pinelands wooded areas that will offer more than enough pine or holly to make a household look -- and smell -- like Christmases of olde.
There is one rub to rounding up free-range greenery: Ticks and jiggers,
Those comely branches and boughs often have riders. Barely active ticks and chiggers love the warmth when brought indoors.
To rid pickings of pests, simply give a good hard shake. All but the most obstinate critters go flying.
I know some folks who even give trimmings a squirt of (organic) bug killer. I hate that concept, if only for fragrance reasons. Here you're inviting in the finest smells of the forest then adding insecticide scents.
If you're not totally convinced of a shake off of critters, a very quick hot shower will work..
Oddest hitchhiker I’ve ever had among my seasonal boughs was a smooth green snake. It made absolutely no sense since that critter should have been hibernating well below the ground at that time of year. Still, there she was inching atop the cuttings, kinda dazed and confused. I had to keep her in an aquarium until the weather warmed up. (I know that’s contrary to strict NJ regulations prohibiting the taking of any herptiles, short of bullfrogs and snapping turtles, from anywhere in the state – including your private property. Still she made it with me and was placed right where she had hauled out of nature.)
STRIPERS ON ICE: Bassing has been a barnburner, weather permitting. One charter boat captain put it: “Striper fishing if off the wall, beyond belief. I can’t ever remember the striper fishing being any better.” This came after trips of bass bailing almost exclusively on the troll, using Magnum Mann’s Stretch 30 +.
Turns out there has been a much higher keeper count than I was first led to believe – by listening to radio chatter and such. Not only have there been plenty enough 28-inch-plus fish to go around but there have also been a goodly number of bass in the 20-pound range.
With schoolie stripers flying left and right, it’s easy to see that anglers enjoy eating them. I heard many folks talking about putting fish in the freezer for the winter.

Striped bass does, in fact, freeze exceptionally well, on par with fluke, the all-time most freezable filet.
There aren’t major tricks needed when freezing bass. Per any freezing process, fillets should be cut and sorted into similarly sized portions, 6- to 8-ounce units are ideal. Plastic bags still work best when string frozen fish.
Stripers should not be frozen in large elongated fillets. This is because the thin part freezes and thaws faster than the thick part, not a good culinary thing. Never double over or scrunch up filets – too much air enters, making an ideal atmosphere for freezer burn -- the worst taste to befall any fish product.

Unlike catfish and some other made-to-be-frozen species, it is not a good idea to add sauces or spices to about-to-be-frozen fillets. These are often salt-laden. Salt is a fast-acting desiccant, meaning it draws moisture rapidly out of the fish flesh. The drawn out moisture gathers inside the bag before the freezing process sets in. This leaves a dehydrated filet and a chunk of frozen fish juice.

Best way to thaw bass (and most fish fillets) is to take it from the freezer well before usage. Allowing it to sit in the upper shelf of the fridge overnight lets the ice crystals to slowly melt away, minimizing the damage to the flesh and leaving the closest thing to fresh you can get after freezing. Travesty: Using thaw cycle on microwave.
Emergency thaw: Place bagged proportions in a pan or bowl filled with water. Place under a faucet and slowly run water into the container. This greatly cuts the defrost time and leaves a decent product.

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