Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Dolphin Are Getting Dogged,

Holgate Now Going to Pieces

Fishing is still too warm, in an uncool way. The ocean and bay are holding onto summer temperatures. This indubitably means fall gamefish hang back, to the north, and fishing takes a backseat to off-season sunbathing and ocean dipping.

The addition of major surf-age from Igor has added a smash and grab attitude to the wave action, which has been overreaching many beaches at high tide.

I have gotten word of some small striped bass in the roiled surf, mainly at lower tides. See “Run-down” below.

The only folks catching consistently are those with infinite patience. You won’t be converting me to that mindset any time soon. At a very early age I heard -- and took to heart -- that incredibly famous saying, “Patience is the root of all evil.”

I think I overheard my grandmother say it. Of course, at the time, I was trying to put the cat's tail in the toaster so the commotion might have garbled the words a bit but the saying has served me well.

Oddly, I couldn’t find that adage on Google. What I did find out was how many famous life-managing adages Ben Franklin thought up. I should note that Big (Bellied) Ben was an avid fisherman, on the executive board of an exclusive Philly gentlemen angler club. It is also notable that he was famously inclined to steadily sip the sprits while other club members cleaned white perch, the club mascot.

Reading more on Ben, turns out he was far-and-away the heartiest partier in all 13 colonies – though during an important diplomatic mission to Paris he became so immersed in a fine Bordeaux he noisily assured the King of France that there were actually upwards of 29 colonies but we just weren’t telling anybody.

For a budding America, Ben’s high-ness did come in handy on a number of freedom-seeking occasions. In fact, when the Revolutionary War wasn't going so well, Franklin once staggered into the Continental Congress with his powdered wig turned around, hanging over the front of the face. He called it the “rally wig” and suggested everyone else turn their wigs around to root on the waning war effort. This was met with great disdain and ridicule until that very same day the patriots won a huge battle – something like 35 to 10. The following day, all our forefathers had their wigs face-first, looking a lot like a pack of aging sheep hounds. Sadly (for history), our founding fathers – with the exception of Franklin -- flipped their wigs back around to the normal side when posing for those famous post-Revolution victory portraits. A passed out Franklin, beneath the table around which the Continental Congress posed, cannot be seen in most of those portraits. He was later painted in, wig in place.

Hey, this column sometimes takes a little time to offer history lessons.

DON’T DOG THE DOLPHIN: I gotta go Schoelkopf on some of you this week -- as in Bob Scholekopf, cofounder and director of the famed Brigantine Marine Mammal Stranding Center. Bob has repeatedly warned and chastised and ranted over folks interfering with the lives and times of marine mammals, dolphin in particular. He vehemently advises that it is against federal law to harass marine mammals in any way, shape or form, including making them divert from their direction of travel.

I had been among those who felt there was a tad too much drama in the way Bob goes bananas over folks bothering his prefecture. Then, just this past weekend, I saw a sampling of what Bob speaks. A pod of three or four dolphin was working the Little Egg Harbor vicinity. And they were working. These were blue-collar dolphin, not the joyfully squealsy variety that nestle up to boats, wearing little banners that read, “Will do tail-stands for food.” The dolphins I saw were seriously searching for sustenance.

I then watched as folks aboard one boat, then another, and another, noticed the surfacing and diving mammals. The hounding was on.

Be it slow fishing or an overwhelming desire to get close up and personal with wildlife – by whining up to them with slashing propeller blades – everyone dropped what they were doing to rush over and dog the dolphin. It was just this side of a porpoise paparazzi patrol. (Yes, I realize they weren’t porpoise but the “P” alliteration thing begs some poetic freedom of speech, so back off.)

I watched (binocs) as the disrupted dolphin juked and weaved to get through the pestering boats, as the vessels jockeyed and leapfrogged for position. The harassed mammals finally went deep – and bolted.

Admittedly, there are more than a few anglers – none of whom have anything against dolphin, overall – who don’t mind seeing these top-flight fishing mammals forced onward. I’m among legions who have seen a great bite disappear in an instant when dolphin arrive on-scene. Still, this is their ocean – and bay and backbay and inlet. It’s definably unfair to essentially pounce – even out of appreciation – on these cool creatures.

No, I won’t be taking down any registration numbers of dolphin chasers/harassers. This is more like a Schoelkopfian re-request for boaters to curb their enthusiasm when spotting them.

On the other hand, if more humanly inclined dolphin hurry over to your vessel to say “Hey,” enjoy the camaraderie -- though it is technically against the law to feed them – or follow them once they depart. And, yes, it is also illegal to paddle a kayak or surfboard out to mingle with the marine mammals.

DOLPHIN GO INSIDE: Interestingly, over the past 5 years or so, Little Egg and Barnegat inlets have seen a ton of dolphin entering and exiting the bay. This is kinda new.

Dating back to the 1960s, I clammed the area from Little Egg Inlet over to the Middle Ground. I never once saw a dolphin inside. Older-than-I types can’t recall seeing one either, dating back to the 1940s. Now, they’re fairly commonplace, even in the west parts of the bay areas.

I’m guessing that the increased human/dolphin interplay has to do with the insidious buildout of the entire seaboard. The marine mammals simply can’t sidestep humanity – so they essentially join them.

However, I believe the local influx of dolphin might actually be the trickle down effect of one famed dolphin, known as Dolphin 56. On pretty much a weekly basis, I get word of good old 56 making friends with every boater he comes across in the bay. He is the dolphin equivalent of a greeter at Disney World. What we can’t see is the pod that Dolphin 56 runs with – and all dolphin have homeys. Sharp as tacks, dolphin surely register when one their own is cruising in hitherto “off limits” waters. Seeing nothing bad has befallen 56, they opt to explore the waters themselves, though not even remotely inclined to get all up and snuggly with humanity.

If you’re a fan of Dolphin 56, go to http://www.marinemammalstrandingcenter.org/main.htm. The home page there has a real-time mapping of where Dolphin 56 is being seen.

DOLPHIN DONWER: On a far drearier dolphin note here’s an email report:

“I was surf fishing in North Beach behind the tennis courts last night at high tide when we noticed a large dolphin struggling in the surf. She was clearly in trouble rolling over on her back in the waves. She seemed to revive and swam back out but within a couple of minutes she was right back in front of us washing up. She remained there with the waves rolling over her and for the next 15 minutes we watched her as she died.

“Officer Keller from the LBT PD responded and she got in touch with the Marine Stranding folks at Brigantine. They transported the carcass down there last night.

“Officer Keller and I measured the dolphin at 9 feet. It took four of us to try and drag her up up above the water line to ensure no sharks got after her. She must weigh several hundred pounds. Magnificent creature...very sad thing to see.

“…She looked so old and weathered that, in our uneducated option, we think she might have died of old age.

“I plan to call the Brigantine folks later this week to learn the results of the necropsy. Packed up my fishing gear and went home after that-didn't seem like much fun at that point.”

(Sad indeed, Tom, but I’m impressed with your observational skills in noting the age of the marine mammal. They absolutely age in the face, same as humans. I read something about the need to “employ” various dolphins for longer running Hollywood movies and TV series because of the obvious aging process displayed by the marine mammal.

I can see why you’d take that experience so personally. It’s very much like trying to save a human, especially when you make eye contact and feel the instant bond. I’ve been through such dolphin rescues and know of no other creatures, except possibly dogs, that transmit such powerful emotion (psycho-communication?) through their eyes. J-mann.)

HOLGATE HAPPENINGS: One can now literally see the sad end of Holgate as we’ve known it. The ocean’s bisecting of the far south end is in its final cutting phase. In fact, it might be a trisecting action.

As expected, the beach zone just north of the former Osprey Next is the largest breaking point. Although the entire front beach area of Holgate is being eaten away, the Osprey Nest area is suffering worst from the cruel wasting disease related to terminal erosion. It no longer has any uplands whatsoever. That is hugely serious. There is now (east to west) the ocean beach, the slightest semblance of a sand dune and then a quick transition – on a downward slope -- to nothing more than bayside meadow grass. (See photo)

By the by, meadow grass is far from a sign of solid ground. It thrives on mud flats marked by tidal flooding action.

The next really big storm will create an ocean to bay gash at the Osprey Nest. It won’t be a 24/7 inlet but, instead, will become a veritable walkway from ocean to bay, possibly holding water during all higher tides.

Seemingly no one, outside some diehard Holgaters, registers that over 200 hundred yards of uplands at the Osprey Nest have disappeared in the past 15 years. The loss was horribly eco-significant. There had been a thriving maritime forest covering a huge chunk of real estate there. That vibrancy is why the famed osprey nest was erected there, almost 150 yards in from the beach. That structure was undermined by ocean erosion last year.

A smaller ocean to bay cut-through point is about two-thirds of the way to the Rip, the far south end of Holgate. Higher ocean tides now wash across to the bay.

The fact that a goodly distance separates those two breaches shows the unilateral erosion of Holgate. This is not a case of a new inlet forming, as it has in the past. This is the total and complete eroding away of two miles of natural wonderland, made wonderful by the way that small area fought off the developmental advances of humanity -- only to die due to human indifference and a vehement refusal by uplands owner, the Forsythe Refuge, to allow replenishment.

Yes, I’m blame hunting.

THE NEXT TUCKER’S, COME ON DOWN: I should add that a new Tucker’s Island is forming, on Holgate.

The Holgate landmass toward the inlet has gained significant acreage, primarily dunes, which have quickly become grass covered. Refuge border signs, which had been near the beach just north of the Rip last year, are now well back in among large building dunes – or are completely buried by the building sands.

That makes geological sense. While much of the sand from an eroding Holgate is going out to the shoals between Beach Haven and Little Egg inlets, a decent amount of grainage is gathering at the south tip. I foresee that area becoming much larger, as the northern part of Holgate erodes away. Only replenishment can save the day.

If only Jim Saxton was still congressman. That man could have had dredging replenishment equipment down there in a week’s time.

GOING BUGGY: This is part of my ongoing about coolly properly equipping a good beach/outback buggy.

First, I had a buddy question my assertion that larger more powerful vehicles do best on the beach. He brought up frisky little trucks and how they seemingly scoot over sand. Well, take it from a former owner of three CJ Jeeps and 2 small Toyota trucks, those shorter wheelbases and 4-cylinder lack of oomph had me straining for sand survival more times than I can count. Since going full-sized pickup, with a much wider wheelbase to essentially disperse the weight, I have never been stuck, even when driving the beach fully aired. Had I ever tried running street psi in my smaller vehicles, I would have been DIS (dead in sand) in an instant.

On to more goodies for the nicely-equipped buggy.

Keep some serious insecticide on hand. We’re not talking insect repellent, which is an obvious must for a well-equipped buggy.

Insecticide is an end-times spray, needed for more than just repelling bugs. There are times when creepy crawly creatures -- with real bad intent – come on scene. Personally, I was avoid needlessly killing creatures but, believe me, I’ve come across some suckers that need to be sent into the great beyond.

Admittedly, industrial grade insecticides are enough to also down a human. However, when used properly, they can ready a camp zone for tent set-up or neutralize a recluse spider in its fangy tracks. Do not use these in a confined space unless you have loads of time to allow for an air-out.

Now, onward to one of those oddity items to make your buggy a better place to be.

Even the hardest core outdoorsman might not know about the Solder-It MJ-300 Micro-Jet Automatic Ignition Torch - Refillable Fuel. This palm of the hand tool converts an everyday disposable lighter (butane) into a torch burning at 2,400 degrees! How hot is that?

Looking a bit like a very small aerosol container, this little bugger is a total gem, be it as a survival tool or a million-uses flame source.

The two-step ignition of the my model Solder-It does take some practice to master but once that flame is burning blue you can light even damp material. Hell, you can melt lead with it. It’s like a thousand matches going off at once. Winds under 50 mph are meaningless to this flame. What’s more, the flame is highly concentrated so it can be perfectly aimed at a location, even upside down. When the fuel runs out, you just plop in another tiny lighter canister and it’s back to honking heat. You’ll thank me for alerting you to this goodie. I got mine at either Lowe’s or Home Depot. They’re even cheaper on-line.

RUN-DOWN: Big angling news is a very hot seabass bite. Here’s just one of numerous boat reports of exception seabassing. It comes from Capt John K. of Pop’s Pride. “We had a wonderful trip. Went out to one of my favorite wrecks and somewhat to my surprise apparently no one had fished it in awhile. It was loaded with seabass. We had a great day seabassing. Then my crew decided their stomachs and the ocean swells didn’t like each other so we went in and fished for croakers and weakfish. Not sure why but they were so small.”

John noted that Pop’s Pride has openings for the coming weeks.

Very small and skinny snapper blues are in the bay and around inlets. They are mainly good for kids and older anglers messing around with ultra light freshwater gear. I’m among those funning around for sub-snappers, using pickerel gear.

Dogfish remain a pain. Not many sea robins for some reason.

Scattered stripers are in the surging surf. I’ve caught three since last column. All three were 24 inches on the nose. I took mine on vintage Rebels. Some folks are having luck bassing with smaller poppers. Poppers with rattles seem to work well in murkier conditions. Another way to coax surfside bass is plastics on jigheads, bounced near the bottom. The fish are definitely lower down in the water column, feeding off their number one foodstuff, crabs.

Kingfishing has gone from potentially good to fully lousy. That push of nice kingfish a couple weeks back has been reduced to an occasional kingfish – of small stature. The pounding surf could be playing a role, making it tough to target this top-taste panfish.

I haven’t written about it much but apparently it was a banner blue claw crab year, from a commercial baymen point of view. For one of the first times ever, NJ will be exporting our best-there-is blue claw crabs to Florida. I know Maryland is the state oh so famed for blue crabs but when that state imported our Garden State crabs to cover for a decline in the Chesapeake crabs, even Marylanders admitted crabs get no better than NJ’s.

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