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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Wed, July 14 -- Low-wind weekend possible; stingray 101

Wednesday, July 14, 2010: Some serious bed-rocking thunderboomers this early a.m. Rain amounts to an inch. Unfortunately, that rainfall came in less than 15 minutes. While that helps the grass a bit, rain that fast mainly runs off without helping the overall dryness, which is not a drought condition only because we had accumulated such an overage of rain dating back to January 1. The serious side of the gully washer is the way it has rinsed so much petroleum street crud and over-applied fertilizer into the bay, which had been the clearest I had seen in literally decades. Although some turbidity in the bay can be a sign of beneficial phytoplankton, more often than not it’s a bad thing – a sign of harmful algae. The current clarity is allowing the eelgrass to bloom – and even spread a bit. Very good news.

The weather gets iffy from now through early Sunday, but not nearly enough to cancel angling session. Westleries today will be brisk but after that we’re back to those light to moderate changeable winds. Just watch for boomers and gustier winds late in the day.

STINGRAY SEGMENT:

Cow-nosed rays are becoming a hookup possibility on all fronts, including drifting for fluke. I’m sure all folks know that the barb on these potent sting-artists is two-thirds up the tail not at the tip. The animal is very crafty at still throwing around the barb if just the tip of the tail is stepped on or grabbed.

There is no totally safe way to unhook a ray, so not bringing it aboard a boat or not pulling it fully up on the beach is the best unhooking bet. Since most rays are hooked on cheaper rigs, just cut the line as close to the mouth as safety allows.

Boat: If you just can’t stand losing that fifty-cent hook and weight – and you can’t wrist-flick the hook out as it dangles outside the vessel -- net the ray (boat). Clear everyone out of the way of where you’ll be hoisting it aboard, then slowly swing the net aboard. Don’t go flipping the net backwards, like one of those rod tuna fisherman flipping fish into the hold.

Without taking the ray out of the net, flip it over one its back. Throw a towel or the likes, outside the net, over the entire length of the tail,. Use a paddle or gaff (whatever) to hold down the tail area. DO NOT hold it down with your hand or foot. Why risk that close contact?

If you’ve chosen to bring a ray aboard without a net, dangers increase dramatically. Again, alert any crew to stand clear, lift in carefully. Try to flip the ray over on its back, using the line. It will try to right itself. Keep working at it. A ray left on its belly, slapping its tail around, spells nothing but trouble. The fish might soon quiet but as soon as it sees you approach, the powerful beast will come to life like nobody’s business.

By the by, the kill-it-first thing is way overrated. Firstly, you’ve now added lethal implements to the slimy stingy slippery onboard scene. Not bright. Say you do get a few matador-type thrusts, when is that bugger totally dead? You known as well as me that “totally dead” fish can back to life out of the blue, especially when filleting. What’s more, is the mess factor after a kill worth the clean-up?

Surfcasters: If bringing a big ray ashore (not wanting to cut off a large section of mono), DO NOT (and I’ve often seen this) wade out into the swash to try unhooking it, in-water. You’ll get what you deserve for going one-on-one with a ray in its domain. Instead, pull the ray onto the sand with rod and line pressure – using the famed fish-landing back-up move. Reel in line and work your way back to the ray. Stop when you’ve got a few feet of line between the fish and your rod tip. This allows the flip-over move, using the rod. It’s easier with a surf rod than a boat rod. NEVER handhold the mono to flip the fish over. It offers no real control, a head shake can cause hand/finger cuts and when you lift the ray up for a flip, it pendulums straight toward your body, sting first. I’ve seen it a dozen times.

Important: Tell the stupid frickin’ tourists to back away from the ray you’ve just hauled onto the beach. Clueless people toying with a landed stingray on the beach is one of the more common causes of ray stings, as reported by hospitals.

When surfcasting, always return a ray to the water after unhooking. No, it’s not a conservational thing. It’s because rays can live for hours and hours out of water. They indubitably get covered in sand as they struggle on the beach. They become invisible land mines for barefooted anglers -- and clueless passersby.

I have seen guys leave as many as half a dozen large stingrays on the sand: Nebraska Avenue, a few years back. I marked the trashed rays via their sand-free eyes – helped by the fact I had seen the three guys throwing them on the beach earlier. Using a gaff, I grabbed them to throw into my truck for disposal. Every one of them still had tail-swinging life in them.

By the by, it’s a bitch disposing of those buggers. Throw a dead-ish one back in the water and it floats in and becomes pubic hazard. Throw them in beachside or dockside trash cans and it’s both a decay and sting hazard. Place them in black garbage bags (worst idea) and the sting lances through but sanitation workers don’t know the dangers of what they’re tossing around. In the case of the ones I took off the beach, I already had an odd plan for them: burial in the pines, to allow them to desiccate for years, eventually becoming bizarre-looking creatures. Hey, they were dead already. Let me have my fun.

IF SINGRAY STUNG: If poked by a stingray, you will experience fierce pain, that’s a given. Be alert to red lines emanating from the wound site, this could be a sign of blood poisoning, possible with any puncture wound.

It is usually not necessary to seek hospital care if you are poked UNLESS (!) any form of internalized physical or psychological changes take place, that includes wooziness, nausea, disorientation, vision changes – pretty much things that would alert one to a bad reaction to the toxin in the sting. Importantly, the fear and pain factors from being stung can obviously exacerbate previously existing heart conditions.

The pain from a stingray poke is worst from shortly after impact until 2 hours after the sting. It then slowly recedes, taking many hours, all tolled. This is your body reacting to the protein-based toxin. That toxin is rarely, if ever, fatal, except during rare reactions, as noted above.

Due to the folks not knowing where a ray’s barbs are located, stings often occur way up the arm or leg, which is way sensitive – and tough to treat.

The trick to lessening the pain from a stingray sting is to apply as much heat as the area can take. This breaks down the protein in the toxin. I’ve heard of improvising folks heating wet towels in the engine compartment of the boat. Flowing hot (not scalding) water is best. It is obviously out of the question to apply any sort of open flame to the sting, though the sufferer might actually invite it over the throbbing reaction to the sting.

Repeat: If there is anything more than a “This hurts like bloody hell!” reaction, head in immediately. If you’re out a goodly ways on a boat and things worsen, alert the Coast guard. If you can readily reach port, CALL AHEAD for emergency help. It is definitely a 9-11 situation. First responders can be waiting when you reach dockside. Paramedics have the necessary treatments for most sting reactions.

By the by, not everyone gets the full Monty from a stingray poke. In some cases, the animal might not inject much toxin (though the animal does not control that flow the way a poisonous snake does), or, more commonly, the barb does not penetrate deep into the tissue or muscle. Obviously, taking a sting deep into muscle or at tendon/ligament junctions is the worst. I have even been told be a lifeguard who got poked two years ago that the sting region of his upper arm has not been the same since. That hints of possible scarring of ligament ends. I took a good shot by a ray and it hurt like hell. The death of Steven Irwin was a totally utterly completely bizarre injection of a massive dose of stingray toxin directly into the heart cavity.

Pro reports:

The boats of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association are fighting the hot weather with a mixed bag of black sea bass, fluke, and bluefish. Captain Fran Verdi of the “Dropoff” reports decent fishing for keeper sea bass. He has been filling coolers from the Garden State South and Little Egg Reefs. He had Rob Weaver and son out for a half day trip, and the son did most of the fishing for a total of 10 keeper sea bass along with several blackfish that were released. His best action was a calm day when he traveled further from shore to 80-feet of water. That day’s final tally was 29 keeper sea bass and one nice fluke for George and Don. Junior mate in training, Dilon Kelly, did a great job for his first trip of the year, reported Captain Fran. Captain Dave Wittenborn of the “Compass Rose” out of Beach Haven reports fish around, but he has to work hard to put numbers in the boat. He found steady action on sea bass at the Garden State South Reef along with a 5.4 pound blackfish but picked up no fluke. After catching a few small blues along the beach he headed into the bay where he managed one keeper fluke. He reports the water temperature at the reef was 74-degrees. Captain Dave reports he could have stayed at the reef all day and loaded up on the sea bass, but he was fishing a local inshore tournament where fluke were the target. Captain Carl Sheppard had the “Star Fish” out last weekend with groups of 11-12 anglers. Each day they found large numbers of bluefish in 30-40 feet of water that responded well to metal on both the jig and diamond spoons on the troll. Offshore Captain Carl found black sea bass and fluke on the wrecks with better fishing in the deeper water. The numbers were good, but keepers were hard to find at times. Captain John Koegler also had the “Star Fish” out for some reef fishing. When that fishing slowed, he found very good action on 1-pound bluefish while trolling about 1.5 miles off the beach. Additional information on the Beach Haven Charter fishing Association can be found at their website at www.fishbeachhaven.com

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Fluke continue to be my target and fluking has been great! Although we are in the heat of the summer and have seen air temperatures reach or exceed 100 the fluke fishing has followed the weather. Yesterday's trip broke my boat's record for the number of fluke landed. I can honestly say we had 100+ fluke during the trip. Several made into the box and the light tackle action was crazy. It was a trip to remember.

Capt. Alex Majewski

Lighthouse Sportfishing

Barnegat Bay, NJ

609-548-2511

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