Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
(It is that humbling time of year when I hold the hat out for my one annual donation drive. I’m heading toward my 15th year and I promise there are a load of various expenses. Every donated penny goes to covering costs. I also want to assure that I absolutely do not EXPECT donations from anyone. Some folks have annually been kind – and I want them -- and all -- to realize that I’m thankful for past help but fully understand some years are better than others.
Donations can be mailed to: Jay Mann, 222 18th Street, Ship Bottom, NJ, 08008-4418. Also, I can be PayPal-ed at firstname.lastname@example.org. )
Sailboat is Well Grounded;
Coywolf That Isn’t So Coy
SAILBOAT GETS UNWANTED REST: It’s not like there isn’t always something new to see when buggying the south end of LBI, but this past week offered quite the sight. A 42-foot sailboat seemingly decided to park for a leisurely rest on the beach. Not quite that simple. The boat’s captain was put upon by a sudden-arriving fog bank just as the vessel approached the south end of LBI. And I can confirm that the day the sailboat went hard aground, we had gone from high-viz to no-viz at warp speed.
The fog befuddled captain managed to get into Beach Haven Inlet, however, as he approached land, he was unable to see channel markers. He opted to try the famed fog bump-along technique – whereby you follow a channel by literally feeling along its edge using the hull as a feeler.
As foul-weather fate would have it, he bumped inside a small cove near the Rip -- and up onto the grabby sands of Holgate.
Fortunately, it was one of those calm groundings, unlike the numerous fatal sinkings we've had in that same area.
The grounding wasn't an egregious error by the captain, still it was a bugger. The vessel came ashore during very high tides and diminishing NE winds but before tow vessels could utilize the next high tide to pull out the sailboat, absolutely honking west winds knocked the ocean down. Blowout tides left the vessel totally high-and-dry. The owners were instantly in it for the long haul.
Release came in the form of a huge piece of excavation equipment that inched along from the Holgate parking area to the end, being raced along by sea snails. With al sorts of friendly input, a huge holes was dug around the boat, setting it upright where it was then pulled out to sea.
DISTURBING GROUNDING EVENT: In the wake of the boat's freedom, a disturbing tale came my way.
As if the owner and crew of the vessel didn't have enough headaches, it turns out they also had to thwart a theft attempt during their unscheduled stay on the far south end.
Essentially standing guard, two of the men from the vessel were sleeping inside the vessel Saturday night. In the wee-est of hours, they were awakened by the sound of aluminum cans rustling.
The ruckus was actually an improvised alarm system.
The men had rigged their topside motorized dinghy to rattle should anyone mess with it. Seems the men knew human nature all too well. Sure enough, within the black of night someone of the lowest of sea scruples had snuck up to the grounded boat, figured no one was around, boarded the sailboat and went after dinghy's motor. The lowlife actually got the motor off the mount and was moving off-ship when he tripped the canny alarm. The men inside awoke but then had to negotiate their ways out of the heavily a-lean vessel -- no small task if you've ever tried to move quickly on a thoroughly askew surface.
By the time the men reached the deck, the thief-in-the-night realized he had been detected. He dropped the motor, scurried off to a nearby Jeep-type SUV and rattled off. The men were so thankful just to recover the motor they didn't pursue the thief, via a call to the cops.
While it might be said that all's well that ends well, a scummy act like this flies in the face of all Holgate faithfuls. I’m openly hoping the theft try might have featured someone who had seen or heard about the stranded vessel and made an impromptu move on it – meaning it wasn’t necessarily a Holgate regular.
OUTBACK NOTES: I recently saw my first bona fide coywolf -- very close-up and personal. It was near some public sports fields off Rte. 539. A coywolf is part coyote, part wolf.
This past summer, when tracking thereabouts, I saw scat and dramatically large canine footprints. I first thought it was a domestic dog and coyote mix. I also came across four varying sets of coyote tracks next to some puddles on a power line access road. There is obviously a solid population of some big canines in that area. Also, I recently chatted with a rather animated hunter who is on the trail of what he termed “ a huge coyote” living in that area.
I can now confirm that – in spades.
I had climbed an ancient wooden deer in an old tree. I hang there to spot fall raptors that frequently visit a parade of power line poles in the area. It was late and I was about to cautiously work my way down the nailed in 2-bys that acted as a ladder up to the stand when I caught the slightest twist of twig on a nearby fire trail. I fully expected an everyday deer. Instead this coywolf boldly strutted out of the underbrush and rapidly passed right below me. I swear it was twice the size of some coyote I’d seen in recent years. And it had a thin summer coat, meaning it would look even larger in winter -- should it survive until then.
Unlike the 25 or more coyote I’ve spotted in the past, this awesome canine (light gray in color) lacked the perpetually nervous, almost panicky posture of most Jersey coyote. It was the first coyote that hadn’t sensed my presence. Of course, it might have easily detected me and simply didn’t give a rat’s patoot.
In the past, I’ve had this urge to jump out on a tracked coyote – just to show I had fooled it. In this instance:
“Yah! Boo, coyote!”
“Eeks, my heart! Oh, that’s really funny, dude. Now maybe we’ll just keep the laughs coming by seeing how fast you can scramble your sorry ass back up into that tree!”
(Hey, I’ve seen those “Messin’ With Sasquatch” TV commercials.)
Anyway, while this coywolf’s size and swagger might point to a crossbreed, possible a German shepherd DNA input, it’s long snout and down-turned tail posture indicated it was from wild canine stock.
Not that most coyote present much of a danger to humans, you sure as hell wouldn’t want to come across this animal in a dark alley – and also owing him money.
Nature note: The scat from all the coyote in that area has been dominated by loads of large seeds of some sort. All vegetable matter. Virtually no hare, possum or deer hair. Real weird.
FALL EVERYWHICHAWAY: Fall might be the freakiest of the seasons -- no disrespect intended (lest it kick my butt). From year to year – even decade to decade – autumnal skies can carouse all over the weatherboard. We’ve already had a couple record-breaking warm spells, wild bouts of wicked windage, flooding rains and even long uneventful stints of just-there weather. Appropriately, the arriving week will see an odd mix of mildness, tropical downpours capped off by a short round of coolish night temps– though no freezes in sight. Then, a week to ten days of made-in-mold days, a la Nina trait.
Of prime angling importance is this unshakeable too-warm-water syndrome. And it is a syndrome. Warm fall ocean water creates an entire series of symptoms, the most serious being a dearth of super-sized stripers and bluefish.
Another syndromization is the way kingfish are still holding their place in the surf, allowing savvy surfcasters to continue cashing in on arguably our finest-tasting fish product. However, rowdy conditions in the surf make kingfishing tough. It often takes subtle fishing methods to score kingfish – light to medium surfcasting gear working well. I recently did my fall feel-out of the tog populations on LBI beachfront jetties/groins. Tog traditionally take to the beachfront jetties before moving out to sea to overwinter.
I employed a 1/0 gold bait hook on a dropper loop, a two-ounce bank sinker simply tied onto the line’s tag end and baited up with a just-dug sandcrab. The surf was way too testy to go out on the rocks so I stood on the beach and cast out alongside the south sides of a couple jetties.
My very first cast raised a mongo 5-poundish blackie. I was psyched to catch-and-release a bunch more. But, then, there were none. Not so much as another peck. There is a high likelihood our way-warm water has the blackies backing off their fall jetty runs. In the past, I’ve taken huge tog off jetty ends well into November.
By the by, togging off the ends of jetties is the top catching method. Waves permitting, you simply slip out and flick hooked sandcrabs into the deep water next to the jetty ends, where the largest rock-hugging tog hang out.
For now, only one blackfish can be kept daily, until Nov. 15, when 6 a day is the limit. Even with those strict regs, the population of this fish is in a tailspin. Annual recruitment is failing miserably. I firmly believe it’s the overabundance of fluke, which scarf down virtually all Barnegat Bay young-of-year tog trying to get out to see come fall.
The usual clouds of fall spearing (Atlantic silversides) are still no-shows.
At the height of a recent mullet surge, I inadvertently threw on a ball of the largest striped anchovy I’ve seen in over four decades of cast netting and seining. My 3/8-inch mesh cast net came back absurdly loaded with these sparkling elongated baitfish. Every frickin’ hole in the net held a hopelessly foul-hooked anchovy. They had to be four inches long – and needed to be individually hand yanked from the net.
Striped anchovy are somewhat similar to spearing but possess absurdly large mouths, when compared to the fish’s overall body size. They are almost identical to the more common bay anchovies. Anchovies are collectively called rainfish.
For those who like to know what’s what in the fishing realm: The striped anchovy has a far more elongated snout compared to the bay anchovy’s blunt snout. More importantly, striped anchovies have a far more pronounced stripe, easily seen when the two species are side by side. Also, when alive and reflecting light, bay anchovies are tinted greenish with bluish reflections while the striped is markedly yellowish-green.
Hey, it’s good to know this stuff – or not. .
There are still very large young-of-year pompano in the surf. Some are hand-sized. A blind-throw of a cast net (into deeper holes) often nabs a few of these gorgeous tropical-looking fish – arguably the most sought-after food fish in Florida.
I spent many a glorious hour surf fishing (huge rods) near Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, seeking marketable pompano. It was not only profitable (I had a license) but what a challenge, first casting, then hooking, then fighting, these insanely strong fish. I got eight bucks a pound so you can guess what the fish cost at the market.
Odd angle: pompano fishermen has absolutely obliterated the sandcrab population along much of the Central Florida eastern coastline. I used to cover all my traveling expense reaching Florida by bringing along a jumbo cooler of living NJ sandcrabs – and were anglers glad to see me. “The sandcrab guy’s here! The sandcrab guy’s here!”
FLOWERY NOTE: Those aggressively attractive white daisies you see all over LBI are often called Montauk daisies. They could just as easily be called LBI daisies – or duly named after any of the thousands of mid-Atlantic locales where they all but overly blossom in autumn.
The open-to-names distinction of this plant arises from the fact the true name of the flower is Nippon daisy, thus its scientific name, Nipponanthemum nipponicum. However, I’m told that name bombed after the attack on Pearl Harbor and has never made it back. It a bit similar to the way Americans switched exclusively to the term hotdog during WWII, in a hasty effort to nix German words, like wiener and Frankfurter. Speaking of that, one War Years term that mercifully returned to its original name was the hamburger, which was called freedom steak through the conflict.
Wow, from daisies to freedom steaks in nothing flat. I’m on a roll – of some sort or other.
Jay , Am I getting older or did it get colder. I had to bust out the chest waders Thur. for a chance at the blues on 34 st mid island. It was worth it ,as the cocktails up to 4 Lbs took to the mullet being offered. No sign of leftover Fluke and for some reason no Kings on fakies. Question,if I have time to run to one side of the Island ,should I drive into or away from the wind to fish the ends of the Island for stripers? Ie;Wind blowing North drive North and fish Barnegat light due to the warmer water from the inlet heading North and the Stripers liking the colder waters South . Any thoughts? JIM WARETOWN.
It’s a given that winds in the face means bigger bass and blues. It’s also a given that winds to the back means relaxatio n and casts that go on forever. The trick is in the reparations.
CLASSIC HEAT: While this year’s Long Beach Island Fishing Classic isn’t breaking any hookup records, a goodly showing of bass, and even a few slammer blues, are winning money and gifts for those able to find better fish.
It is well worth checking out not only the fish already weighed in (http://www.visitlbiregion.com/fish/) but also look at the “Prizes” pages. If that isn’t enough motivation to get you into the Classic – still seven weeks to go – take further note that the big $1,000 prizes won’t be decided until the last days of the eight-week tourney have drained off. Climb aboard – and get fishin’.
I managed to confirmation that there is at least one larger bluefish cruising our waters. I was popping a smallish silver mirror-finish Creek Chub production popper and damn if a major slammer didn’t inhale it. I saw it first swirl on the artificial, then annihilate the lure. I easily set the hooks but knew the writing was on the water. The blue came furiously out of the water, tail-standing, offering one of those gaping mouths common to the big-boy gators. The fight was on – then off. No contest. It parted my 12-pound test mono in nothing flat. In fact, I told Tony C. about the hookup and he noted, “Bluefish 1, Jay 0.” I agreed, adding, “It wasn’t even as close as that.”
HOLGATE HAPPENINGS: The next effort to thwart the aggravating erosion plaguing the access road onto the Holgate beach will be the making and placing of geotextile sandbags. Some are already in place where the road meets the sand, arranged in a specific pattern to break wave action.
This work-intensive type of erosion rectification is the most the state will allow when taking on wave action. Hard structures, like rock breakwaters or concrete seawalls, have been banned for over decade. And for good reason: They drastically increase erosion in the long flow of things, as rushing water hits the hard stuff, bounces off and intensifies the flow.
The textile bags have already been used on LBI – with moderate success. The jury is out on how well they will work against a very aggressive erosional scenario, like the entrance to the Holgate Wilderness Area.
With the next bout of king tides about to rush in -- the highest occurring on Oct. 27 -- those bags will soon be sorely tested.