Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Tuesday, March 22, 2016: Drag-ass day for me. But I wax poetic on marine sanctuaries.

 Tuesday, March 22, 2016: Drag-ass day for me. Working until the wee hours of midnight. I have been able to field some emails about fishing, replen and such.

Firstly, the replen is still scheduled to begin any time soon. Today is the last day of the comment period regarding use of dredge sand from within Little Egg Inlet to cover the beaches of Holgate, providing the thumbs up is given in time for Great Lakes Dredging to do a work-intensive pipeline shift that such a change in borrow sites would entail. If I had to flip a coin, that would be the odds of it happening – though not that long ago there wouldn’t even have been a coin’s worth of chance to utilize that channel sand.

I was asked, by some knowledgeable mariners, how hard it might be for Great Lakes to follow the zig-zag path of the current LEI channel. Simply put, I don’t think they would go that snaked-out route. These guys are major sand players. For them, it’ll likely be a case of simply sucking out a straight-shot channel – or at least one far less wagged out.

Below: In this relatively recent photo, you can see the ideal channel layout for Little Egg Inlet, in red. For now, ignore the north cut, aka Beach Haven Inlet, in yellow. I'm not sure that is in the picture when it comes to dredging.

Not that it's anything more than the remotest of possibilities, but should the inlet-to-beach thing play out and there is somehow not enough replen sand in the LEI channel, pipes could turn to Beach Haven Inlet. That's about as likely as Little Jenny catching a 70-pound bass on her Dora the Explorer rod.

Then comes the larger long-term question: Would a hopper-dredger come by every summer to keep the Little Egg Inlet on-line? Or, maybe, will it only be cleaned every time Zone 6 (Beach Haven/Holgate) is replenished?

I have emphasized to any folks willing to listen that the replenishment sand taken from the LEI area would be fine as freshly-driven sugar. It would easily surpass the sand quality currently being pumped from a few miles out.

While I was only half serious when I talked of treasure ships in Little Egg Inlet, the prospect of “debris” is actually far from a fairy-tale scenario for the dredge folks. Leftover shipwreck pieces can play havoc with pumping gear.

I’ll also note that the remains of Tucker’s Island is in the borrow area, though the exact location of the long-gone island is technically further east, out into the ocean. That’s based on coordinates of where the island was once located. However, when Tucker’s went under, it surely left a veritable trail of junk strewn along the bottom … to be storm-pushed into the current inlet area.

In all seriousness, I’d like to see folks from, say, the Maritime Museum – or maybe yours truly – be allowed to occasionally examine the replenishment's final filtering screens, located on the beach. I believe the at-sea screening allows too-large items to simply fall away and back onto the bottom, sight unseen. Wow, would that initial screen be an eye-opener.

Despite asking around (and I’ll continue to do so), I haven’t gotten a definitive word on where dredged material from LEI would go if not to the beaches of Holgate. I hinted that the entire dredging project might be predicated on the sand being allowed to hit the beaches. Truth be told, I fret over that possibility. I have seen all placement suggestions for so-called dredge spoils being soundly rejected (sometimes duly) by green groups, which won’t allow it to be placed on vibrant banks or bay bottom zones. That leaves the famed Barnegat Inlet solution of placing dredged materials a short ways away, southward ... then coming back for more. It doesn’t take a hydrologist to realize that leaves the sand firmly in the system. It kinda works if you’re willing to annually come back and hopper-dredge the channel.


Here’s a sneak read from my weekly blog-about at https://thesandpaper.villagesoup.com.

SUSPICIOUS SANCTUARY: So sorry but I have to go political this week. It has to do with a major butting of bayheads. I’ll explain.

A Monmouth County group called the Navesink Marine Heritage Association (NMHA) is vying to have a hunka chunka of NJ waterway designated a sanctuary, namely the Sandy Hook Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The NMHA is generally a non-problematic group dedicated to, in their website’s words, “Monmouth County’s maritime heritage through programs that teach wooden boat building and boat handling skills; through preserving the history of Monmouth County’s wooden boat builders and other maritime history …”

Well, in seeking to create a marine sanctuary, the NMHA has sailed out of its non-problematic waters, at least in the red-glow eyes of anglers and baymen, hot over the group seeing a sanctuary as, “… a capstone designation for the very special characteristics of Sandy Hook Bay and the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers and will be a gift from us to our children.”

A recent, too-large-to-contain hearing on the subject went awry up in Red Bank, when an 85-person-capacity library was first filled to the gills – and then greatly overflowed – with folks there to hear and comment upon a presentation being made by NMHA vice-president Rik van Hemmen.

Fishing groups, including representatives of New Jersey’s The Fishermannewsmagazine, had rallied anglers and outdoorsman to attend. And they did. Reports had over 100 attendants being turned away from the meeting room, primarily due to fire code regulations.

During the meeting, Van Hemmen explained that his organization envisioned the Sandy Hook Bay NMS as a “set-aside area” that would add “more than 12,500 acres (20 square miles) of public-use parkland to eastern Monmouth County.”

NMHA believes a Sandy Hook sanctuary would, “Serve as a laboratory and thought leader for integrated man/nature interaction in a rich, complex, diverse, and culturally developed environmental setting.” And also, “Provide local sustainable resource management and improvements to maintain fisheries, recreation, habitation and hunting.”

The association also perceives a sanctuary as a “benefit of all, in perpetuity.”

That “in perpetuity” thing echoed loudly among sanctuary challengers. The last time most folks checked, “in perpetuity” meant a raven-plus forevermore.

Though I’m not familiar with angling way up in Monmouth County, I’ve unequivocally been told that outdoorsman up there feel most everything is currently just fine, thank-you very much. In fact, even the NMHA is not basing its sanctuary quest on anything currently being wrong in those waters

At the meeting, it quickly became obvious that NMHA’s angling- and hunting-friendly principals were swimming against a flood tide. Fishing, boating and tackle industries have long been vehemently opposed to setting aside any bay, inlet, riverine or ocean areas. This sanctuary-seeking go ’round was no exception.

This latest sanctuary effort has intensified the position of many NJ outdoorsman, who, in this case, see full-blown folly in handing state-owned areas over to a federal entity, especially when done under the guise of heightening environmental protection for an area. I’ll note that even state efforts to become all sanctuaryous have been shot down.

From an enviro-angle, I’m among many whom point out that New Jersey is already becoming a national leader when it comes to environmental integrity – and regulations to enforce same. In fact, I see less-strict federal regs as potentially undermining long-debated, trendsetting state and local regulations.

“Quite frankly, the only thing that’s in it for me is the fishermen and the hunters,” Van Hemmen said at the meeting.

He even did a bit of carrot dangling by suggesting that a sanctuary status could mean keeping smaller striped bass within that zone. “Maybe we have a lot of 17-inch stripers, and you might like smaller stripers because they taste better,” he said, alluding to the ability of feds to establish special size limits within sanctuaries.

Angling interests were buying none of that, having been ass-bitten in the past by sanctuaries that moved in and soon tightened the screws on angling, hunting and even general public usages.

Among the most outspoken opponents of a Sandy Hook Bay National Marine Sanctuary – and marine sanctuaries in general – was Jim Donofrio, executive director of the New Gretna-based Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). He was quoted in The Fisherman as saying, “We’ve been dealing with these scoundrels for 20 years. You’re really stirring a hornet’s nest with this idea.”

Above: Jimmy Donofrio, RFA.

The RFA director also confirmed, “What we’ve found is the marine sanctuary regulations are more restrictive than those outside the sanctuary,” adding, “And then there will be some activities that will be deemed completely off-limits, so this is a pretty dangerous course that Van Hemmen’s association is taking.”

I don’t have space herein to get into all the fairly complex/convoluted local, state and federal government angles within this issue – and how local governments might be the lead agencies in the sanctuary-making process.

To get a good read (and likely follow-up) on things, check out thefisherman.com. Sign up – and tell Jim I sent ya.

Below: Jim Hutchinson, Jr.. The Fisherman magazine. 

Sufficed to say, our local anglers are in lockstep with them-there northerners when it comes to being highly suspicious of going all federal with our beloved fishing domain.

HOLGATE HEEBIE-JEEBIES: Sanctuaries, as a concept, are nothing new to me. While diametrically different than a sanctuary, the Holgate Wilderness Area has shown me the federal power of restricting, as in access refusal. Admittedly, the Sandy Hook sanctuary effort has a National Parks emphasis to it, meaning it would allow full-blown public usage. The Forsythe Refuge’s Holgate Wilderness Area is ruled by a far stricter – sometimes Draconian – dictum, namely the National Wilderness Act of 1964.

Below: Dyed-in-the-wool surfcaster and buggyist Edwin B. Forsythe ... way back pic. 

The Holgate exclusiveness comes to bear next week with the April 1 onset of so-called “bird closure” times. All nonessential human usages of the Holgate Wilderness Area and the adjacent state-owned beaches are prohibited until September.

The “bird closure” takes place at the height of the summer tourist season, when the maximum number of Americans would like nothing more than to access the Island’s south end. It shows the power-over-the-people capabilities the feds can bandy about. As to our state agreeing to allow our Holgate sands to be made off-limits, I see it as an example of what we need fear when feds are even in the neighborhood.

By the by, I’m not saying the closure is unlawful or even unwarranted. A wilderness area is partially defined as, “an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain … an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.”

Of course, on a more human-usage level, the Wilderness Act also deems its appointed lands as places with “outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation … For the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them for future use and enjoyment as wilderness.”

Below: Map of United States displaying location of wilderness areas.

Again, I will make it doubly clear that the Holgate arrangement is only very-distantly related to the contested effort for a Sandy Hook marine sanctuary. A sanctuary status invites, enhances and encourages public usages. Along those lines, a real and present danger of a sanctuary is its being prominently placed on the National Parks map. Nowadays, that invites it to be swarmed upon. It is being said, “We are loving our national parks to death.” I’m betting that leaving a humanly overrun sanctuary is hardly the gift “from us to our children” that the good folks at NMHA had in mind.

Below: NMHA does a lot of good work. 

Back to basics, I duly have a Holgate-related anxiety that any area dropped into the laps of D.C. (and friends) can be manipulated at the whims of the feds, even flying in the face of promises made when acquiring an area.

In fairness, it is neigh impossible to do something as rash as offing (selling) national parks areas. However, changes to public usages – should a rare yellow-bellied mud-oozing whelk be discovered within the waters of the Sandy Hook Bay National Marine Sanctuary – can come instantly and without local debate. The feds deal in mandates far more than debates.

With my support given to hawk-eyeing any and all federal marine sanctuaries within state waters, I now instantly change hats and stand ready to back the ongoing state effort to adopt a “Barnegat Bay Protection Act.” It establishes a Barnegat Bay Protection Fund, dedicates a portion of sales tax on fertilizer to saving the bay, authorizes the sale of a special license plate and provides for donations, likely on annual tax forms.

Below: Barnegat Bay is big and beautiful, as shown by activerain.com


Keith Thomas to Black Talon Plugs

Over the last few weeks I've been working on perfecting this glider, and holy shit I freaking did it !

By far the best plug I have ever built, it's one of those plugs that will change on how many people build theirs and fish them.

The hook is held in place by a earth magnet on the center of the back. I've been trying like hell to knock it of by casting and ripping it through the water and it won't budge.
When you hook up with a fish, the hook will swing free of the plug...

See More
Keith Thomas's photo.
Keith Thomas's photo.
Keith Thomas's photo.
Keith Thomas's photo.
Keith Thomas's photo.

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