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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Weekly blog-about March 27, 2014 -- Thinking of Spiders as Cuddly; Trout Have a Bad Hatchery Day


Photo by: Ryan Morrill

OUCHY INLET: Barnegat Inlet mariners, take note. I got the following e-alert from the USCG. Throughout spring and summer, it appears there will be only a single lane of boat traffic transiting the mouth of the inlet. OUCH! Remember, this is considered, by many, to be one of the busiest seasonal recreational boating inlets on the Eastern Seaboard. It also has a load of commercial vessels. This all has to do with the about-to-start project to strengthen and slightly reconfigure the North Jetty.

Here’s the communiqué: Hi Jay, I just wanted to let you know the final MSIB is still being finalized. There is still no hard start date. But I do know that the safety zone encompasses the entire Barnegat Inlet and it will be one vessel transiting through the inlet at a time. I will let you know as soon as the MSIB is approved and finalized as it will have much more detailed information to share with you. Very Respectfully, Petty Officer Cindy Oldham, Coast Guard Public Affairs.

Needless to say, the responses, mainly via Facebook, have been just a wee bit disparaging. The main trend has been the doubts that this can be enforced. However, this is the USCG and the federal government, so they have little things at their disposal – like the frickin’ U.S. Marines. Just kidding – or not.

I do know that the USCG is seeking input on this subject.

The MSIB of which P.O. Oldham speaks is a Marine Safety Information Bulletin. It is being developed for rapid distribution in the form of pamphlets and media spots.

SPIDERS FOR LIFE: It’s the perfect time of year to think spiders. Cringe if you must, but I’m here in dogged defense of the eight-leggers – and the interminable beating they’re unfoundedly taking as phantom meanies that go bite in the night. I’ll explain.

Fear of spiders is the king of all phobias. The dread of arachnids is reflected in such infamous quotes as “We have nothing to fear but spiders themselves.”

But from whence springeth this fear and loathing? I have a theory that it often starts in the cradle.

I was somewhere in the vicinity of 14 to 16 months old when the spiders began impacting my life, via a gloating mom, grandmother and three aunts, all of whom would hustle over and, unfailingly, spot spiders on me. They would then go into an odd, ritualistic chant, while tapping their fingers, all staccato-like, on my rotund baby belly. I recall their words as if it were only yesterday: “An itsy bitsy spider climbed up a water spout …” I could only assume my belly was colloquially called a water spout.

But that little bugger didn’t stop there. Based on those wiggly fingers, it slowly progressed from my stomach, over my chest and toward my neck. This tiny spider was elusive – and on the move. Then came the words “Down came the rain and washed the spider out.” I’m sure I was thinking “OK, that damn thing is wet now. Just grab it!”

Instead, that was when things went all haywire. The gals would suddenly commence with bizarre squealy sounds, as they went all crazy, wiggling their fingers all around my tiny sensitive little neck. I couldn’t take it. Kicking my little pink feet up at their faces, I’d conceptually issue, “Stop! Stop! You’re killin’ me here! Now I feel like I got spiders all over me.”

Let me explain that, at the time, I had only two response emanations: Crying and giggling. Crying was stringently reserved for times of hunger and soilage. For anything else, namely those all-too-regular bitsy spider crawl-bys – and the astoundingly aggravating finger and song outbursts around my sensitive neck areas – I giggled furiously in protest. Big mistake. That only solicited a veritable chorus of “Ahhhhhh! Look at him gigglin’. How adorable is that?!”

“Adorable, my snowy white ass! I’m about to pee myself! And this is a brand new diaper.”

But there was no rest for spider baby. No sooner did the first spider get away – and the “Ahhhhh”s and “adorable”s subside – than another little eight-legger would come out of nowhere.

“An itsy bitsy spider climbed up a water spout …”

“Oh, you can’t be serious! I swear, you get your face one inch closer this time and you’ll feel the wrath of these pink feet.”

By 18 months of age, I was thoroughly convinced I was brought into this world only to be tormented by tiny spiders and their sing-song accessories.

Anyway, spiders have been with me since. In fact, they are still within easy reach of everyone – at all times, per spider experts. Get this: throughout your entire life, you are, on average, always within 3 feet of a spider.

If you doubt that, take a second to check under the seat or sofa beneath you. Yep, spiders are just that close. Prowling even closer to home, virtually every bed upon which we’ve slept – and currently sleep – has spiders secreted beneath. Go ahead, turn over your mattresses. OK, there’s one, two, three … and that one makes four. So, you’ve had at least four spiders more or less sleeping with you, night in and night out. What stories they could tell (wink-wink, nod-nod) – or not.

Believe it or not, I bring all this up in a well-deserved defense of spiders. Despite being closer, on average, than most family members, they are actually not the bite-happy ogres phobia-ists make them out to be. In a fine way, they’re housekeepers of the highest order. Think about it: They couldn’t stay alive if it weren’t for the bugs and such they’re constantly eating. Admit it, they keep our lives much safer and cleaner.

Which brings us to things that go bite in the night.

This winter I was told an inordinate number of “spider bite” sagas. Some were truly oozy and ugly, so to speak. At first, I was among those who blamed biting eight-leggers for any sudden, weeping red welts that folks discovered on their winter-white bodies. Dutifully, I went into research mode – where I came up damn near spiderless. Medical doctors and Ph.D. experts on both spiders and bodily bites all but assure that virtually all bites of unknown origin are absolutely not compliments of eight-leggers. I did not expect that.

One of the more compelling stories I read on the subject was “The Surprising Cause of Most ‘Spider Bites’” written by Douglas Main in LiveScience.com.

“Most so-called spider bites are not actually spider bites, according to researchers and several recent studies. Instead, spider bites are more likely to be bites or stings from other arthropods such as fleas, skin reactions to chemicals or infections, said Chris Buddle, an arachnologist at McGill University in Montreal.

“I’ve been handling spiders for almost 20 years, and I’ve never been bitten,” Buddle told LiveScience. “You really have to work to get bitten by a spider, because they don’t want to bite you.”

Spider bite analysis proves spiders have downward-facing fangs, technically chelicerae, suited to nabbing small prey, fully unsuited to imbuing chunky mankind. As to the proverbial climbing into the sack with a bedded spider, even if you were to roll over on one, that action presses the fangs away from one’s body. It’s actually the spiders, not humans, offering, “Hey, get off me! Somebody get it off me! Slap it!”

As to insect bites and everyday scratches being blamed on surreptitious spiders, there is a veritable battalion of emergently hostile bacteria constantly hanging around us, even in the most sanitized home. Talk about dangerous. Those aggressive micro-buggers will instantly squat on any scratch, sore or insect bite terrain – offering victims the sudden burning sensation of having just gotten bitten to hell and back. “It could only have been a stinkin’ spider that bit me” issues forth. Nope. You have been bacterially bitten.

Just so we stay on a professional spider level here, I will acknowledge black widows and brown recluses as vilely villainous fangers. But they want absolutely no part of humans. I’ve handled female black widows – the more toxic sex – and when not riled, they are slow and way laidback. Very unaggressive. Recluses are much faster and surely not to be kept as pets. They’re bad-asses. However, one bad-apple spider shouldn’t be allowed to ruin the barrel.

TROUT TOLL: Being a fish person – and an angler far more inclined to protect the fish before fostering the fishing – I was surely chagrined to hear that 114,000 brook trout being raised at the famed Pequest Hatchery, Warren County, had to be euthanized. The fish were bade farewell through the introduction of carbon dioxide into the water.

The trout had contacted a form of furunculosis from the bacteriaAeromonas salmonicida. The disease causes ugly – and potentially fatal – boils and lesions on the skin of fish. It also attacks internal organs, showing as small red spots.

“Weighing all the factors with this most recent outbreak, it is in the best interest of the hatchery now and to safeguard the 2015 stocking program that the 114,000 brook trout that tested positive for furunculosis are euthanized,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Chanda.

It is believed the disease arrived from bird feces. Although the hatchery takes huge measures to protect its water from “bird infiltration,” s*** happens – and leaks into the otherwise utterly pure waters, pumped in from pristine aquifers below the hatchery.

Currently, anti-birding efforts include the stringing of 6- to 8-foot-long metallic streamers along wires over the trout waters. The streamers look like flashy, extra-long kite tails blowing in the wind. Also, air cannons – just as they sound – offer some “kabooms!” now and again. The cannons don’t drive the birds away instantly, but it annoys them to the point they finally say, “Screw this,” and fly off to quieter vicinities.

While streamers and booms deter most birds, ospreys apparently aren’t overly awestruck. The large raptors are frequently found mulling around the hatchery, nabbing the easiest meals in the state, while also doing their dirty business. This is not to say the ospreys have an easy meal of it. So-called biosecurity at Pequest is always on high alert and ready to humanely shoo the trout-nappers.

Since the hatchery grows over 600,000 trout a year, this recent hit isn’t fully devastating but confirms that fish farming, i.e., aquaculture of any sort, is always astounding iffy, especially when fecal-based bacterial diseases (from above) drop in.

In the wake of this unpleasant euthanization, the Pequest people are making huge efforts to banish the bacteria. Post-euthanization efforts are well under way to cleanse the infected holding/growing tanks, known as raceways. “We continue to thoroughly test and treat fish in all sections of the hatchery and are taking all precautions necessary to contain this disease,” said Chanda.

The infected raceways have been drained and will get a thorough disinfecting. The aforementioned biosecurity will be upped a notch or two. The production of rainbow trout, which are more resistant to disease, will be increased, while the more common brook and brown trout will be vaccinated – though it can be a bitch to keep them lined up in row and get them to roll up their sleeves, with all the whimpering and such. Hey, a little hatchery humor never hurts.

I have to put in a huge good word for the 31-year-old Pequest Fish Hatchery and all those associated with it. I’ve been up there (Oxford, N.J.), and it is beautifully run and manned. In fact, it is often highlighted as a hatchery being done right, as is its final product. The trout are released into nearly 200 ponds, streams and lakes. The family fishing angle alone is worth its weight in tasty trout.

Some of those Pequest trout even make it down this way, via spring stocking in places such as Lake Pohatcong in Tuckerton. Admittedly, the furunculosis outbreak has thrown a wrench into the giddy-up of this year’s statewide trout stocking schedule. When the trout finally reach the state’s recreational fishing waters in a couple weeks, the fish will be good to go and hot to trot – seeing the fish feed like crazy upon release.

Per the NJDEP, it is important to note that no human health risks are associated with this bacterium and that it is not transmissible to humans or other animal species.

jaymann@thesandpaper.

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