PETA TO MY RESCUE: Thank the heavens above for People for an Ethical Treatment of Animals. When I’m fully convinced my face has settled into a perpetual idle stare, those madcap PETA folks can get me up and laughing, viz-a-viz the Three Stooges, Wile E. Coyote, and that little perverted man in the long coat who used to fall over sideways on a tricycle back in the “Laugh-In” days.
The latest PETA instant-classic took place last week in Seattle, during an American Veterinary Medical Association convention of all things.
Seven PETA people covered themselves with glittery silver paint and wrapped their lower torso in what looked to be painted child-sized sleeping bags, meant to conjure up the image of fish tails -- but more closely resembled the lower halves of hideous larvae creatures intended to someday populate the planet Earth.
The larval-lookin PETAites then laid down side-by-side, a bit sardine-like, to disrupt the veterinarian get-together.
Now one would think that vets might merit at least a hair of approval by animal-loving PETA people. Not in this case. Instead of acknowledging the good done by the hundreds of animal doctors in attendance, the protestors hostilely homed in on an event the sponsors of the convention thought would be an interesting display of a Seattle tradition: fish throwing.
I have to admit that, on first toss, fish chucking seems an oddish attraction. But, until you’ve seen those Pike Place Market fishmongers in throw mode you haven’t truly seen fish on the move. It’s utterly amazing to watch at dockside markets, as fish are flung astounding distances, from one monger to the next. It’s like a bizarre conveyor line of sell-ready fish – of every shape and form – from broker to buyer. It’s not uncommon to see a dressed-out 50-pound tuna take flight, from receiver to receiver, eventually bouncing across the distance of a football field. In fact, many an aging NFL wide receiver spends his later years on the Seattle fish docks – or not.
I guess I should, obligatorily, give the essence of the PETA protest, as reflected in signs carried by other members standing near the dead-fish members lying on the pavement. PETA people held signs with the slogan, "Vets: Would You Toss My Euthanized Dog?"
I’ll allow you a moment to ponder who, in their right mind (or any state of mind for that matter), could come up with “Would You Toss My Euthanized Dog?"
If you’re not laughing with me now, your face is, in fact, forever grim.
The frickin’ weirdest part is that moronic slogan immediately elicited this image of a vet and three female assistants in their white lab coats all laughing their asses off while tossing around a just-euthanized dog. Maybe that’s why a couple of the veterinarians heading into the convention immediately started whistling and looking up to the sky when someone yelled that question at them.
Anyway, the protesting PETAites in Seattle had an impact. Only three symbolic fish throws were made. Unfortunately, the painted protesters were not the “fish” being thrown.
You just have to hear PETA campaign coordinator Ashley Byrne. She was quoted as saying that fish are sensitive and intelligent, and “Their bodies should not be thrown around.”
I really don’t want to traumatize Ashley, a seemingly intensely sensitive person, so I’m going to simply whisper this: THE FRICKIN’ FISH ARE DEAD!!!!! (I sure miss Sam Kinison.)
Those lunatic-fringe protests by PETA actually get my Sixties blood boiling. I swear, this coming winter I’m going to make myself up to look exactly like a big-ass asparagus spear and I’m gonna roll around on the sidewalk in front of a huge PETA meeting. As all those freaky vegetarians walk by I’ll scream, “Asparagus have feelings, too!” Or, “The steam hurts so bad I could cry asparagus tears!” Or, “I’m suffocating to death in Hollandaise sauce, you bastards!”
Hey, anyone with me? I could use someone dressed like an artichoke, looking a lot like a sad green porcupine with a sign reading. “Please, don’t have an artichoke heart.”
SEPERATING SHINE FROM SEWAGE: In the face of some significant wash-ups of garbage after an insanely wet spring, North Jersey’s Clean Ocean Action has approached state legislators with a proposed “Seven Simple Ways to Save Swimmers from Sewage,” i.e. a state-supported system of alerting the average citizen on how to look for sewage while swimming in the ocean.
I don't like it. It makes it seem our ocean is primarily filthy, so every time you go in you should look for the North Jersey overflow crap.
I have surfed and fished in nearly every coastal state in the country and our ocean water is incredibly clean by all standards. Ironically, the filth that washed up a couple weeks ago was from combined sewer overflow from up north -- Clean Ocean Action’s domain.
I always focus first on the astounding progress we’ve made over three decades of ocean repair work. Through organizations like LBI-based Alliance for a Living Ocean, our waters have undergone an astonishing recovery. Dr. House couldn’t have done it better.
And there were some truly dreadful die-offs in the Seventies. I was on the beach for a fluke disaster, during which thousands and thousands of suffocating flounder beached themselves, mid-Island. There were also countless episodes of medical waste washing up. Possibly the most infamous ugliness during those bleak eco-years came in the form of dolphin die-offs. While the fish kills and medical waste angered people, it was the dying of marine mammals that led to utter rage on the behalf of the public.
In response, veritable eco-heroes arose hereabouts, working day in and day out to foster public and government response to the problem. Their tireless work led to today’s ocean conditions, where bathers no longer need to fear refuse every time they enter the water. The idea of a reigning “Seven Simple Ways to Save Swimmers from Sewage” is a face slap to those who saved our seas.
This is not to say there shouldn't be vigilance. However, I believe the onus should fall on the state and local governments to be constantly monitoring the water -- and weather conditions -- to be ready to alert the public on those rare cases where garbage/floatable slicks (highly visible from the air) are approaching. In fact, Tim Hilferty with the LBI Health Department -- unfairly taken to task by certain media during recent wash-ups-- is currently trying to establish a practical means for that department to notify the public when potentially trashy ocean conditions are occurring.
I'm putting forth a concept of a coordinated overflow early warning system, beginning with the National Weather Service. In this system, the NWS would do its usual monitoring of storm conditions but with an eye toward rainfalls capable of generating combined sewer overflow. The reaching of established overflow point markers would lead the NWS to alert the state. The NWS would then watch for onshore winds, a primary component of wash-ups. At the same time, the state would closely monitor the effects and whereabouts of the overflow.
There are already state ocean water monitoring programs in place. However, I do not think they go as far as Weather Service alerts, followed by storm-specific tracking of outflow.
NEARBY NUTRIA?: Email: “Jay, I am 99.9% sure I observed nutria this a.m. Near Morrison’s. I saw 3 small (12-15”) animals swimming toward the dredge spoil and got right on top of them as they ran into the phragmites. Then, on my way home, I saw 3 full size (20-pound) adults on the south tip of Marshelder, feeding on grass or ribbed mussels … then back in water.
I would doubt muskrat in those numbers/salinity. I would doubt river otters with young in that salinity, plus they were quite mobile on the marsh. Not good. Thought you would be interested. Steve.”
(Steve, I've been working on reaching state biologists on this subject. Your sightings are surely not otters, which are nearly sun-aphobic. I have see nutria in the Deep South. The way you describe the animals you saw, it sure sounds like them. We do have loads of muskrats on the sedges but they are rarely so brazen as to eat or swim about in the daylight. Muskrats also prefer brackish or fresh water.
I’ll set-up my spotting scope and look over at Marshelder from LBI.
Since nutria is a highly invasive species, an official sighting will likely lead to strong reaction by the state. I'm not always wild about such a terminal course. Maybe I'll write the state about nutria and skirt the exact locales.
I always thought they’re kinda cool looking to me, part muskrat and part capybara. Now if we had some good old capybaras …
NAME THAT BAY: There is this highly unadvisable effort by well-meaning folks to attach the name Barnegat Bay to the entire stretch of bay area from Toms River clear down to Great Bay. While that is an acceptable demarcation for ecological/environmental/conservation efforts, it can be downright dangerous for navigational purposes. If you suddenly need Coast Guard assistance while in, say, the Middle Grounds portion of Little Egg Harbor, you sure as hell don’t want to radio that you’re in “the south part of Barnegat Bay.”
It is best to keep Barnegat Bay where it is, extending south from Toms River to the bayside area off Surf City and Ship Bottom, where Manahawkin Bay begins. Manahawkin Bay becomes Littler Egg Harbor off Brant Beach, in the vicinity of Egg Island and Flat Island. Little Egg Harbor extends southward (and westward) to the Sheepsheads, which jut out to right off bayside Holgate. On the other side of the Sheepsheads is Great Bay.
If you do a lot of bayside boating, it is very important to learn the names of the sedge islands you’re commonly near. These become vital in a dire emergency when radioing (or even cell phoning) for help. DO NOT overly rely on GPS info. When all hell is breaking loose, just try to punch up info. In a crunch, it’s best to offer something along the lines of “I’m just south of Barrel Island.” That’ll get you the greatest number of folks coming to your aid.
MARLIN INVITATIONAL APPROACHING: A reminder that the 40th White Marlin Invitational, Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club’s nationally acclaimed big game tourney, is closing in like a hungry marlin. There are already something like three dozen boats registered -- and things are lining up for this to be one of the largest tourneys ever.
To follow the event as it builds, go to
I’ll begin to place pre-event blogs on that website -- once I start to get input on what’s what on the tuna/marlin/mahi front. I also want to keep tabs with the Weather Service, as to what the skies are thinking about doing.
WHAT ELSE YA’LL GOT: Email:
I got an interesting email from a fellow up this way (for the first time) from North Carolina, large family in tow, saying, “We’re having a blast here on Long Beach Island,” (Hey, give me a piece of that action), he asked if there are any fish beside fluke, bluefish or bass to catch? Being from the Delmarva, he wondered about red drum, cobia, Spanish mackerel, spadefish (huh?) – Amongst other south-of-us species.
My reply: Well, we have a bit of variety other than the big three: Bluefish, striped bass and fluke.
There is, of course, the weakfish, bigger brother to your spotted seatrout. Blackfish and black seabass jumped to mind since those are very northern specie, though the blackfish is pretty much off-limits. Both tog and seabass are easily targeted.
Thinking smaller, we have/had kingfish, though I think the recently-revitalized Carolina shrimping industry is killing off our short-lived spurt of those. Only easy to target during fall migration southward.
We had a fairish run of blowfish in recent years but they also seem to be biting the dust, quite possibly the result of poor recruitment from Barnegat Bay spawns, due to a poor spawning environment and also likely due to some incessant fishing pressure by anglers targeting ripe blowfish, right before the fish spawn. Blowfish are easiest to target in late spring, when moving in to spawn. Some years they hang around all summer and into fall, when they muster. West Barnegat Bay is prime local locale.
I noted last week that grey trigger fish are in the house this summer. Those are very tricky to target unless you know the ropes of anchoring near Barnegat Inlet jetties and laying out a grass shrimp chum line. Don’t even try unless you really know the appropriate incoming anchor-up tides and the proper back-down anchoring methods.
We also offer bergalls. Don’t laugh. These often over-abundant structure-based bait-stealers are delicious -- and even fighters if taken on very light tackle. They are so underutilized that it isn’t hard to find the largest ones for keeping. I’ve seen them pushing a pound. Still, how can they be happily dined upon when they’re so small? The old story: Cooked in the round, they offer way more meat than you might think. Bergall meat can be gathered for fishcakes or eaten right off the bones, dipped in a savory sauce or even butter.
Likely the oddest targetable species we have is the sheepshead; the state record sheepshead having been caught at the base of the pylons holding up the Causeway’s Big Bridge. With the upcoming tog-a-day summer session beginning, it’s worth a laugh to work those concrete support columns of the Causeway bridges. You’ll likely nab some blackfish and also be open to a sheepshead or two. No tying up to the supports and stay out of mid-channel. Grass shrimp as chum and bait work well, as do you’re more typical tog-attracting crabs, i.e. fiddler, green, blue and blue sheddars.
Out there possibilities for nearshore hooking in NJ: Spanish mackerel (fall, occasional, generally rare), spotted seatrout (fall, occasional), filefish (summer, common), queen triggers (summer, very common), small mahi (summer, rare - in close), false albacore (summer/fall occasionally common), American eels (bayside spring, summer – common if targeted), blue runners (fall, very rare), cobia (summer/fall, rare in close), ocean herring (summer, mainly fall/winter — very common to copious), spot (summer/fall -- very common; often fished in rivers), sailors choice (very rare; common at one known site, bayside B.L.), gar (bayside, somewhat common certain summers), gag grouper (one once taken near Barnegat Inlet jetties), winter flounder (common spring), stingrays (very common in recent summers, into fall).
And dare I mention skate, sea robins and dogfish? They’re there for the taking. Help yourself – and the ecosystem.
RUNDOWN: Still plenty of small fluke near inlets, though fluking is actually going south. Folks who had decent hooking a couple weeks back are running into slow going at some of the spots that had been very hooky. More obvious is the undesirable rise in ratio numbers. A decent drift has a sole keeper per 15 fish. A fellow who fishes purely fluke in the summer says the bigger fish have moved out into deeper water with the warming of the bay. Fluke do not like warm water.
I got an interesting report from a surfside fluker who’s had some of the best beach fluking he can remember. “Not many keepers but it’s fun to have something to go after when nothing else is happening.” He’s using a combination GULP! strip and squid. Makes for long casts, though most of the pickups are right next to the beach -- as beach fluke like to hang right at the drop-off where the shorebreak waves hit.
Yes, fluke down sandcrabs – by the dozens -- as can occasionally be seen when cleaning a beach-based keeper fluke.
Tog note: Both divers and inlet anglers have remarked on some of the monster tog now spawning near Barnegat Inlet. On July 16th , the next phase of the tog season begins, ending at midnight Nov. 15. During that period it is back to the one-a-day bag limit. HOWEVER, I have seen full-blown spawning female tog into August, so please release the obviously expectant gals. There will be plenty of big male blackfish for take-home.
I had some more reports of very fun black seabass fishing on reefs and nearshore wrecks. Sounds good, though (being the chronic stock worrier of the family) the fishing pressure seems through the ceiling on these tasty wreck fish. As is often the case when anglers are in close proximity after similar fish, some folks think that undersized seabass are being kept. I’ll steer clear of that issue except to note (from the rule book) that when measuring a seabass you cannot include the filament that sometimes extends from their tails – though, truth be told, I sure don’t see that filament very often.
Shark fishing is good to very good. Here’s a website out of Texas but has some very good info: http://www.tx-sharkfishing.com.
There are small bluefish in the bay. Nothing dramatic at all.
The state has (slightly) backed off the suggested limits on eating bluefish, based on PCB content of some (but not all) blues. It still comes down to something like a small portion allowed per week.
By the by (important fact): When scientists test fish for chemical contents they do not include heads and innards, as is oft put forth by anglers. They actually buy portions, primarily filets, from “public sources,” including fish markets and groceries. The confusion arise when whole fish studies are done – often concurrently with filet studies – to determine contaminants ingested in nature by predatory or scavenging animals eating the entire fish.