Homer, Howard and Clint;
Refreshing Flush for the Bay
Lots of environ and angling stuff to saunter through so settle back in that easy chair, put on a good show – and throw my column out. Just kidding. In fact, turn off that frickin’ fishin’ show. It’s demoralizing. Unless, it’s the brand spankin’ new “Hooked” series coming to the National Geographic Channel, premiering on June 29.
Yes, this series sounds strikingly similar to other currently running “Monster” fish shows but, hey, you can’t get enough of hideous looking fish being fought by smooth looking commentators.
Speaking of the look of monsters fish, as a kid hereabouts, I used to use tiny spinner to catch needlefish, maybe a foot long at most. Since I had youthful eyes back then -- quite capable of close-up views without optometric assistance -- I was amazed by the fierce, albeit tiny, teeth on those long skinny buggers. I had no trouble using my imagination’s instant-enlarging devices to picture fish of the same general shape but 6 feet long, massive in girth and baring teeth so ominous women and children would flee in terror – as I chased after them with said hideous oozy fanged woman-and-children-terrifying fish. Well, if the teasers (previews) to “Hooked” are any indication, my imaginary monster fish will be the mere launching point for this new freaky fishing shows. You can check it Out on the NatGeo Channel website.
MULTITASKING FISHING REPORT: Calls and emails remain my prime conduit for angling info. I share most such communiqués in here -- or on my daily website https://jaymanntoday.ning.com/. Please keep ‘em comin’.
I do want to quickly share a unique cellphone call from an angler I know quite well. He’s the consummate gizmo guy. He was a whiz kid dating back to olden school days, when he was the school’s top A/V Aid (audio visual aid) geek, the only person who could thread a projector to show us scratchy films of what happens when you drink and drive. To this day, he’s the (graying) head of his class in high-tech know-how. Hell, he can repair computers just by verbally rebuking them.
Anyway, in the mere minute it recently took me to listen to his fish report, left on my answering machine, I not only heard his angling data but vicariously heard from Howard Stern, Clint Eastwood and Homer Simpson.
The cockpit of this angler’s SUV looks like something out of a Boeing 757.
His hands-free cellphone cradle, surrounded by a series of tiny jerry-rigged external speakers and dual miniature mics, resides on the dash directly in front of his steering wheel. It looks more like a miniaturized sound system. He was delivering his fishing report though this souped up hands free cell phoning device.
On the dashboard near the driver’s side door of his SUV, is an advanced version of the navigational system known as Tom-Tom. Weirdly, his high-breed version allows Homer Simpson himself to ride shotgun, at least vocally. As I’m hearing about “a few two-pound bluefish,” I clearly also hear Homer’s unmistakable voice in the background, commanding, “Turn left at the next light.”
Turns out that the Tom-Tom company now offers navigational devices with directionals from famed cartoon characters. A geek’s dream. If you miss a turn, Homer offers a classic “Doh!” My buddy frequently misses turns purposely, just for a chuckle. A weird lifestyle, likely the result of whatever odd radiation emissions came off of old audio-visual equipment. .
The thing about my buddy’s Tom-Tom toy is the way he unendingly employs it. Here’s a recent usage I actually sat in on: “Pull from driveway. Proceed north for 300 yards. Turn into Wawa parking lot.” Hell, it took him longer to punch in data than to drive the distance. Good thing we had Tom-Tom or who knows where me might have ended up after a whole 60 seconds of driving.
But his call-in fishing report included far more than a Homer voiceover. Seemingly off to the side of the incoming message I could distinctly hear Howard Stern and his hormone heavy blab on Sirius radio. It was oozing from a massive music system embedded in the dash, powering 9 speakers scattered throughout the SUV – in an alignment he designed (mathematically) to maximize the “rebound effect” of one speaker’s sound off another. Hearing Homer and Howard on his message made sense in a backdrop sorta way. It was the aural arrival of none other than Clint Eastwood, that I began losing track of the fishing data. Competing with “I caught two small bass” was Clint menacingly hissing, “Get off my lawn.”
Turns out my buddy has “sunk” a DVD player into the push down armrest between driver and passenger. He swear he only “listens in” on movies as he’s driving along. However, in this case, I have no doubt he was talking to me while listening to Homer on Tom-Tom, Howard on Sirius and glancing over at “Gran Torino” on DVD. The good news: He wasn’t driving while holding a cellphone.
BASSING FAR FROM GONE: Lest you think massive bass are all passed, last week saw a striper in the mid-50s taken up north, Lavallette zone.
That fish was followed by a catch-and-release of an estimated 65-pounder taken on the sands of IBSP. That huge fish created the usual buzz – primarily doubters-and-moaners -- on a popular message board website. I grabbed this my-kinda-response from that site:
“I didn't know this guy until I saw him catch this fish. It was on IBSP. Saw him land it, measure the length and girth. His mother took a couple pictures and then he RELEASED it. He revived it in the surf and it swam away with no problems. Then I went and congratulated him. I've been living and fishing this area for almost 40 years, this was the biggest striper I have ever seen. Bill.”
Astounding catch-and-release -- and an admirable attitude by Bill in confirming the catch.
Closer to home, a 52-pounder was bested in the suds of Brant Beach, maybe Monday (details sketchy). I’m told that fine surf striper had followed in bunker being chased shoreward by dolphin.
Then, today (Tuesday), I got a slew of mails featuring a photo of fish being held aloft in a Ship Bottom backyard. That massive cow weighed in at 58-13, taken aboard the Lucky Strike. Ouch. If the captain of that vessel can give me any inner details I’d be much obliged.
I should also note a great showing of take-home bass in the surf and around the inlets. Once again, these takes are often one-timers, meaning you often have to put in the time to make the find.
Simply Bassin’ 2009 is in its final week (for sure, this time). There is an obvious chance for a 50-pounder to show, based on the fish being taken in the surf. Winners will be finalized next week and money sent to shops for dispersal.
Boat bassing email:
“Jay, went out of BL Saturday 5:30 AM and headed north on a very calm ocean in search of bunker. We finally found some north of the casino pier, and plenty of them. The previous two weekends we were able to locate one bunker school just past the bathing beaches and were rewarded a 35lber for our efforts. With nephew Jason and friend Joe, we all managed our personal best with a 38lber, 44lber and 47lber. The fish were caught between 8:30 and 10:30 AM. We also did see another crew boat a nice fish as well. Sad to say with the lack of bunker pods showing in front of LBI, and now north of IBSP, the bunker could be gone until fall. Let’s hope not!”
VOTERS SPEAK, BAY APPRECIATES: When I go environmental in here, it’s most often straight into the bay – headfirst.
The bay is from whence cometh virtually all of our nearshore fish – and affiliated fishing. The health of our sport is directly proportionate to the health of the bay.
Stretching a metaphor, the bay is the canary in the maritime coalmine. When the bird is hanging upside down from its perch, swinging like a feathery yellow pendulum, it’s only a matter of time before angling goes belly-up.
It’s now clear that Barnegat Bay is in a mess because of rampant overdevelopment along its shoreline. People who live here are pissed, especially after realizing it’s the political leaders – primarily Republicans hereabouts – who are essentially bending over backwards to allow build-out. The May election and the rapid dethroning of the Stafford Township Republican-esque party proved that land-destroying ways transgressions are no longer being overlooked. Mayor Carl Block and his cronies actually ran their race on a “green” ticket (gospel truth), wanting residents to acknowledge, via votes, how well they had preserved the township. Their defeat was stunningly lopsided. Sadly, the damage to much of Stafford has already been done. The newly elected folks don’t stand a prayer of stemming the downward eco-spiral already loosed on the township. However, the election message was clear as aquifer water: the people are fully sick and tired of the wanton ruining of the community they’ve either grown up in or have adopted as their own.
That said, the bay will not be able to even remotely tell a new administration is in Stafford’s town hall. Adjacent bayside communities remain build-out crazy, I’m talking Barnegat Township and Little Egg Township in particular. The trickle down effect of mankind on our marine environment remains ugly. Ironically, it is often those people most offended by build out -- and the damage it does to the look and feel of a community – that try to improve the appearance of the land through better homes and garden thinking. Unfortunately, the runoff from fertilizers is a huge culprit in the chemical degradation of the bay.
HIGH TIDE SWEETNESS: All this environmental chatter on my part is a lead-in to a complex ecological development currently taking place in our bays. The first of the spring deluges washed load after load of bad stuff off lawns and roads and into the marine environment. It looked catastrophically bad to me, as the bay seemed supersaturated with deleterious chemicals capable of fostering algal and jellyfish blooms beyond ecological tolerances.
However, some salvation may have arrived via an unusually long stint of brisk east winds, related to the latest storm systems -- the final one just now moving out.
Those onshore winds contributed a rare flush of the deep backbay, as cool clean ocean water was driven through the inlets and directly toward the mainland. That clean ocean water has seemingly muscled out the very degraded backbay waters. In fact, it might be enough of an influx to save the entire summer – which we’ll be seeing beyond sultry way beginning by this week (and going to who-knows-when. Let’s hope – and I’ll be keeping you posted on bay water wellbeing.
By the by, those late-spring storm systems also did an amazing job of holding down air temps, lessening the chance of algal blooms at the height of the runoff problem. Lucky again.
I’ll quickly translate this into fishing terms by noting clean waters make for better bayside fluking, weakfishing and bluefishing. It also creates optimally good conditions for the eggs and larvae of the scores of species that rely on a healthy bay for optimal survival.
ROAD-TO-NOWHERE GOING AGAIN: The much-used Road to Nowhere – technically the east end of Stafford Road in Manahawkin – has recently been going doubly nowhere.
The popular crabbing and freshwater fishing stretch of dirt road has been closed, blocked by large garbage can-like canisters set up at Hilliard Boulevard. For weeks there had been no vehicular access.
According to the DEP, the state had secured the area for some repairs. The work should be done this week, per a spokesperson.
Some folks actually trudged over a mile down the dusty roadway to reach the freshwater impound and, eventually, the backbay waterways, where the burned out bridge marks the end of the road -- smack dab in the middle of bay meadows.
By the by, the Road-to-Nowhere was built by the same folks who build Beach Haven West. It was a lead-in to the second phase of that high-impact development of bayside meadows. Through profound luck – and essentially boredom and in fighting among the development’s investors – we have wilderness area where there easily could have been a development even larger than the current Beach Haven West. Can you picture 10,000 lagoon units on the north side of Rte. 72, facing the Causeway corridor to LBI?
MATES FOR LIFE: That super Junior Mates Program run by the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association is back in session for 2009, beginning this Thursday (June 25) and running for 10 week. Note: Juniors.
The boat mating material taught in these classes was heretofore only available to a captain’s close fiends or family members. It was downright secretive stuff. To have it out there for the taking is rare indeed.
While it always helps to take in every lesson in this program, there is some waggle room so if you sign up ASAP you’re still in for a world of learnin’.
What’s more, if you shine as mate-material stuff, you can quickly graduate to hands-on learning.
Had I had that opportunity back in the day, I’d be a captain on my own huge charter boat, maybe on Maui or down in Coast Rica. I’m currently relegated to second-mate on a one-man kayak.
Lesson are held 7 p.m. at the Maritime Museum, Beach Haven. Captain Adam Nowalsky chief instructor
For more details, go to www.beachhavencharterfishing.com.
BARBS BEGONE: Email:
“…I crush the barbs on all my hooks, remove any center treble and
replace any rear treble with a dressed single. It makes releasing a fish
much quicker and easier on the fish (never impaled on multiple barbed
hooks). In three years I have yet to miss or lose a fish as a result.
Fishing is sport, after all, so we don't expect always to win the fight.
Anything we can do to improve the survival of our worthy opponent is worth a
try. I am not sure how barb-less would work with circle hooks, since I only
fish with lures. It should work if one is paying attention, though, since
all that is required is to keep a tight line. Given the mortality figures for released fish, eliminating barbs might be a good conservation measure. What do you think?
That hook switch routine is not just sporting but practical, for the exact reasons you offer. By the by, I have known many a basser to totally forego the tail hook (keeping the center and forward trebles) as a way to target under- and side-attack bass over tail gunner bluefish.
I have to add my own somewhat related after dark experience, when I threw out a new plug and took a series of savage hits but couldn’t hook a thing for the life of me. It was beyond frustrating – as I cursed toward the overheard stars, as if they were somehow the snickering cause of my missed hookups. It wasn’t until the next day that sunlight-based insights indicted my problem just might have been the fact that the plug had clear hard-plastic hook protectors on the trebles. Hey, one of the best anglers I know, our own Mark J., did the same exact thing during a blazing blitz. And if you’ve ever seen how he acts when missing a nice fish …
I’m one of those last-second plug-hook modifiers. In the midst of, say, an all-time bluefish blitz, I’ll be the sole non-fishing angler – standing at the back of my truck frantically trying to remove a plug’s tail treble to get that single trailing hook on, as those frickin’ split rings fight and bite every millimeter of the way. And why do I wait until fish are frothing the water to undertake such high-intensity field switches? Firstly, I’m perpetually and pathologically procrastinatory. It’s oddly akin to the guy who doesn’t fix a leaky roof when it’s not raining since, hey, there’s no blitz going on – or something like that. Secondly, it never fails that the very first slammer I get during a blitz undergoes the famed “lockjaw” hookup, when a plug’s treble hooks simultaneously imbed in both the top and bottom jaws?. It’s not like a clench-mouthed blue isn’t tough enough to get to open up. Those hopelessly hooked blues are the ones you see thrown up on the sand with clipped off plugs still dangling from their mouths.
As for rendering a circle hook barbless, I don’t think that’s the best idea. It might be a tad too sporting – short of placing a hook guard around it. Plus, the barbs on circle hooks are specially designed to secure the fish while thwarting the tendency of a circle hook to, well, circle right back out when in a fish’s mouth.
Circle hooks have an astounding 90 percent lip hook rate. They make for a survival rate so high that NMFS is pondering mandatory circle hook usage when targeting a species that requires more releases than keepages. Fluke fall under that category. There might be (in the very near future, in fact) a way to finagle some extra recreational fluke poundage (management-wise) if circle hook usage is mandatory when targeting them. I don’t think that’ll fly only because the shape of a fluke’s mouth is more resistant to circle hook penetration than other species. I have used circle hooks for fluke with no problems, though. I have also had very good luck using circles for tog, a fish with a narrow mouth. In fact, any species that has a special hook shaped specifically for it (fluke, tog, winter flounder, Boston mackerel) are not quite as vulnerable to circle hooks. This is not to even remotely imply they won’t work with such odd-mouth species, these fish are just a tad better at sidestepping the jab of a circle.