Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

There’s Gold in Them Elvers;

Tiring of Macho Rubber Rides



TICK TALK: The tick count in any and all wooded areas remains atrocious. Be on the lookout if you even glance at woodlands or pick up a copy of “Outdoors” magazine. 

While the mild winter played into the early activity of the notorious bloodsuckers, the overall population of ticks is still a cyclical thing – and has been on the upswing in recent years.

That is proven beyond mere anecdotality. A heavily publicized report published last month describes NJ as pretty much tick central.

Per a Star Ledger story, “A researcher who aided in mapping the risk of Lyme disease in a national study released this week, said New Jersey was "loaded."

"Lots of ticks, lots of deer and lots of people," said Durland Fish, a principal investigator for the study, which was funded by the Center for Disease Control.”

So tell me something I don’t know. That’s comes via John Halperin, medical director of the Atlantic Neuroscience Institute at Overlook Medical Center in Summit (NJ). 

“Lyme disease is very treatable and it’s rarely ever a lethal disease," said Halperin. "There are risk everywhere — smoking, car accidents, air pollution, asthma — no matter what you do there are risks. Fortunately this is a manageable one."

Hell, that almost makes me want to go out and coax deer ticks to jump onboard my body.

Oddly, ticks seldom stay with me very long. I kid you not. I’ve watched them explore my skin, take a taste and jump off. I know why. They go in for blood and instead get a load of the energy drinks coursing through my veins. Before they know it, they have this overwhelming urge to go jogging.

EELS OF GOLD: (Please don’t make me regret writing about this. I’d hate to see you doing 90 days or more in the small house, i.e. jail, for illegal fishing.) 

Baby American eels, also called elvers and “glass eels,” have suddenly become caviaresque, so to speak. This week, the tiny see-through eels are demanding an all-time high of $2,200 a pound. They’re fished commercially, legally, primarily in Maine.

Elvers are currently arriving along the Eastern Seaboard, having made an insanely perilous, current-driven drift here from the Sargasso Sea, mid-North Atlantic. That’s the singular breeding ground of the species. 

But don’t drop your day job to go prospecting, “Gold Rush” like, for the large numbers of elvers arriving hereabouts. It is now fully illegal to trap or net elvers in N.J.

However, a mere few years back, Jersey’s glass eels were all the rage, being feverishly taken by fishermen and baymen using dip nets, elver fykes and Sheldon eel traps. In fact, the spring race for Garden State elvers got quite heated, as New England professionals eelers suddenly shouldered into our creeks as if they instantly owned place, including the likes of Tuckerton Creek, an elver hot spot.

I recall those intruders quite well. They had the weirdest accents out there. It was somewhere between French and the sound of bed-ridden aardvarks make. Their accents alone pissed me off.

To address the interlopers, a group of locals and myself tried to, uh, persuade them to cool their jets. Shoves and such were issued. Still, they remained on-scene and fully obnoxious. Police were even called. 

“See. Didn’t I tell you officer?”

“Yep, they really do sound a bit like sick aardvarks.”

“So, are they breaking any laws?”

“Breaking any laws? Son, you’re in New Jersey. There’s nothin’ that doesn’t break some law or another. Oh, by the way, quit resisting.”


“Just practicin’.”

Back then, I could make about $550 a pound on elvers – even more when I was paid in yen. Just try handing those to the lady in 7-11.   

The solid gold interest in elvers has always come from (where else?) Asia. Over there, each individual elver is treated like royalty, being aquaculturally grown for about 18 month. After that, it’s off with their heads and off to the sushi races. A dozen harvested hand-grown eels can cover the cost of a single pound of elvers.

If left in nature, American eels can grow to over 10 pounds and live for 30 years -- before making that fatally fateful mating journey out to the Sargasso Sea, never to return.  

The largest American eels are called silver eels. Smaller mid-life eels are called golden eels. Anglers are most familiar with the smaller black eel phase, the perfect striper attracting size.

As with all things pricey and fishy, Asian demand instantly led to wholesale over-harvesting.

The eco-bugaboo comes with the number of elvers needed to equal a pound’s worth, namely thousands upon thousands. I sure never counted. It was all done by weight -- first weighing a transport container with water in it then gently loosing small nets of elvers into the water and reweighing. Try doing that accurately at 4 a.m. 

The call of the all-mighty Yen led to harvesters voraciously nabbing virtually every elver coming up every East Coast creek. Theoretically, that would eventually leave virtually no newcomers, called recruits, to reach freshwater and grow up.

While a few scientist entwined within the elver industry claim that theory of attrition is faulty, the long-term fact sheet tells it all. Eels are on the brink of endangerment.  That’s utterly amazing when considering American eels once accounted for at least 25 percent of the entire U.S. Eastern Seaboard fish biomass. They were as plentiful as bunker and herring. Something is doing them in.

NJ does have an addendum to its elver-harvesting ban. Should anyone in-state want to get into American eel aquaculture, a designated number of Jersey elvers could then be harvested annually, providing they reach the farm, so to speak.

Oddly, Asian markets have voiced no interest in purchasing Jersey grown eels, should they be grown. My guess: If you grow them, they will come.

Yes, an elver growing empire is yet another of the myriad moneymakers I regularly dream about. Of course, I’ve gotten cynical about dream: If you’re dreams don’t include zip codes they probably can’t be reached.

NO TROUT TUCKERTON: I want to alert anglers down Tuckerton way that Lake Pohatcong was not stocked with trout this season, as it had been in years past.  It has to do with the dam/spillway work currently being done where the lake meet Tuckerton Creek.

I know that non-restocking actually dismays quite a few anglers. A slew of real nice folks faithfully fish the walkway along Rte. 9 on the east end of Lake Pohatcong.

I’m not sure if the lake will be ready for the next stocking period.

OH, THAT’S UGLY: I was alerted by Edmund K. that the Hunter Training Area, Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Area, off Rte. 539 (the turnoff just east of the Warren Grove Gunnery Range) is an abysmal mess. He said it is trashed -- and shot-up to hell and back.

I thought Ed might be exaggeting so I went over to check it out. He was underexaggerating. It is deplorable out there, made doubly so by the fact this area was once pristine and is within the “treasured” Pinelands National Reserve.

The ground there is covered with spent shotgun shells. Paper and plastic trash extends well back into the nearby woods. Anything standing has been blasted.

The area is so damaged by shooters, it begs to be helped -- maybe in the Earth Day spirit of things.

Although I have no real contact with the many area gunning clubs, I’m still wondering if those folks might combine forces to clean up this eyesore area.

I fully realize it’s seldom if ever club members making the mess. Those groups have strict rules about cleaning up after shooting practice. But, who else can make things right back ther? The state? They don’t even empty the couple/few filled-to-bursting trashcans there.

Conversely, if I’m unable to stir up some righteous public assistance to clean up the site, I’ll get the place closed down. All I need to do is invite some state officials – and politicians -- to visit the area and I can assure it’ll be shut down in nothing flat.

TECHNICAL TIRE TALK: I’m riding – but not riding high -- on four news ones. Huh?

The tires on my 2006 GMC truck had barely been holding on. I was warned that a blowout was imminent – if not sooner.

Admittedly, I always find it kinda fun having a good old blowout. There’s that big “Bam!” and the head shaking shutter -- holding on like driving through a 7.0 earthquake. Good fun.

Despite that fun factor, I make a lot of trips to weird and distant places, sometimes beyond Manahawkin. You have a blowout in a place outside Warren Grove and it’s a well-known fact that beavers wait for you to get out for your spare then rush out and begin gnawing at your legs. It’s a bad scene.

“I swear, you guys get any closer and I’m going to make frickin’ hats outta all ya.” So, not wanting to resort to pelt-taking, I bit the plastic bullet and Mastercarded a set of brand spankin’ new tires.

I did consider retreads and even emailed for info. I was sorely tempted by the retread industry’s fact sheet declaring, “Nearly 90 percent of the world’s airlines use retread tires and the Navy’s famous Blue Angel jet precision flying team lands on retread tires. What’s more, over 50 percent of the tires used on military aircraft are retreads.”

My first reaction was “How fast do these people think I drive?”

The retread folks even tried pressing my green buttons by noting that it takes about 22 gallons of oil to produce one new truck tire and just seven gallons to retread the same tire. At first I thought that sounds swell, then I began questioning how much tread I can really get with just seven stinkin’ gallons of oil.

A last-gasp effort to win me over to retreads pointed to the fact that many prisons around the country are now making retreads, thus offering inmates training in a productive field, one that will allow them to leave the big house with a trade – and an enhanced getaway potential after they resume robbing banks and such.

Inmate marketing retread tires: “During my daring daylight heists, I know I can always count on South Carolina Department of Correction retreads to give me that extra road handling I need in high speed getaways.”

Check out http://www.scprisonindustries.com/retreading.asp

Despite that hard sell on reterads, I shunned the urge to help some good old boy in the pen and decided on a set of oil-guzzling brand-name first-time tires. 

Sidebar: I always envision a set as two. (Hey, keep it clean buddy.) In tire terms it somehow means four, as in four times a couple/few hundred bucks. It’s like you get run over by the tires before they’re even on.

Once committed to new tireness, I had to battle the nagging male urge to go for bad-assedness.

In the realm of full-sized pickups (pretty much a man’s world), it’s often all about look. In tires, gnarly chunks of deep, thick, heavily-toothed rubber is a look of, well, truckified manliness. Men are thoroughly convinced women go wild for a man with thick and gnarly tread designs. Women, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about tire tread design, as long as it’s carrying them somewhere to eat.

Torrential treading is primarily suited for rocky and punctureous terrain, i.e. scaling the likes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It’s not only overkill in our flat and sugar sanded environs, but it can “bury” a truck in a bog-down heartbeat. The toothy tread also sucks up gas.

A tire expert and mobile surfcaster once showed me that the less bite a tire has the better it rides atop sand, be it scalding Pinelands sand or LBI’s “sinkiest sand on the planet.” Less bite is what you want on sand.

In the end, I opted for the moderately-priced, performance truck tire known as “The Grabber” by General. I’m not sure what the ladies think of that name. Although it’s meant for smaller trucks, it’s perfecto for larger trucks with heavy-duty beach riding on the agenda. When you air these tires down, they essentially flatten out – in a good way, that is. 

So far, they ride fine on the asphalt, at 35 psi. As for off-roading, I hit some super-soft out-there roads in the Pines and the tires didn’t break a sweat. No aring down needed. However, the true tell will be Island beaches.

Thanks to the real nice (and efficient folks) down at Parkertown Car Care.

By the by, I’m not even remotely trying to sell buggyists on one tire or another. I just finally went the way many truck owners swear they’re going to go, i.e. performance road tires as opposed to high-tech, off-road tires. I’ll keep you posted. 

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