Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

We’re One-Upped By Grenades;

Weird Days on Barnetuck Bay

UPPITY ONE-UPPERS: This week, I’m royally ticked off at some come-lately copycats up New England way.

Here we go to all the trouble and creativity to coolly expose some of the oddest and most historically-loaded explosives the ocean could offer -- garnering national attention (and free advertising) in the process. Forward our fabulous dredged up detonator fuses, dating as far back as Teddy Roosevelt days, pumped by the thousands onto Surf City beaches, as part of a federal/state/local sand replenishment project.

Stop and think about it. How cool and creative was that bizarre showing of olden munitions? I won’t even get into what it took myself and a few other dedicated scuba divers to feed those generally harmless fuses into the suction intake pipe, all in the name of fostering a media frenzy with a “Long Beach Island” dateline. All publicity being excellent publicity. Ka-ching.

Anyway, why is it that as soon as anyone goes out and does something odd and different, someone else always wants to run out and do a one-upper?

Well, it sure seems that the tourism-waning area of New Bedford, Connecticut, eyed all the free nationwide media coverage Surf City, Long Beach Island, got via those furloughed fuses and in a profoundly uncreative showing decided to take the very same military ordinance alleyway to fame and fortune.

This week, don’t the workers at the Fair Tide Shellfish plant in New Bedford just happen to find 126 WWII-era grenades in among a batch of ocean quahogs dredged from off the NJ/NY coastline. Yawn.

My bet is someone up there had heard that the fuses from the Surf City beachfront presented little if any explosive danger, so don’t they go and suddenly “find” totally live grenades – still in mucked over wooden boxes. Double yawner. Seen one live grenade, you’ve seen them all. Admittedly, if even one grenade pin had accidentally worked its way out, more than a few quahogs would have become instant baked clam strips. But, need I note, our fuses were of no less than five different war-tested varieties, and, if their gunpowder had been meticulously emptied into say, a clothes hamper or a hollowed out Ottoman, and then lit, dollars to donuts more than a few nearby shellfish and non-endangered shorebirds could have been nicely barbecued.

Of the Connecticut grenade discovery, Fair Tide Shellfish Finance Executive Tom Slaughter said (I’m sure with some recommended verbiage from the New Bedford Chamber of Commerce), “Come to find out, based on what the Navy said, they were live. They were loaded for bear so to speak.”

Loaded for bear?!

So not only are they lame idea-stealers up there but they apparently kill bear in the cruelest manner possible.

“Fire in the hole … make that cave!”


“Crap we ruined the pelt on this one, too, Darrel.”

And they got the media free-firing up that way.

WCVB-TV, Boston, reported that grenades and other munitions frequently turn up along the East Coast. Geez, imagine them knowing that off-hand. But would they offer so much as a mere mention of Surf City, NJ. That would expose their hand. And where did they get those grenades to sneak into the quahog dredges? Hell, all media keep explosive anti-personnel devices close at hand, should disgruntled subjects storm the newsroom. Hell, I have a load of leftoverf WWI fuses.

“Jay, there’s some enraged guys with guns breaking into the building.”

“Try to delay them while I empty the gunpowder out of these fuses. Quick, roll that Ottoman over here!”

PS: I guess I have to throw those New England ordinance-finders a creativity bone since, as a finale to their dredge discovery, a team of naval demolition experts took the grenades to a jetty near the factory and detonated all of them right at sunset. Hmmm. I blew it there. I wonder if I can find antique fuses small enough to get through the reduced screening used in the current Harvey Cedars beach-fix? Do they make mini-grenades?

(See lots more on Harvey Cedars beach replenishment below).

BARNETUCK BAY OF YESTERYEAR: I got the following email -- which I linked into 8 minutes of iconic and ironic cartoon work.

“Hi, Jay. After reading your most recent weekly, …I got on a website re Barnegat Bay, which referred to a short story written in 1937 by E.B. White of New Yorker and Charlotte's Web fame. It was adapted to an animated short film in 1973. I had never heard of this. Here is the URL for the film: http://www.nfb.ca/film/family_that_dwelt_apart. The humor shows that some things have not changed since 1937… James B.”

(Note: If you don’t want to go to the trouble of typing all those underscores onto the address line of your computer, simply Google “Barnetuck Bay.”)

This is a very odd and cool animation, James. Its artisan and director, Yvon Mallette, shows an amazing feel for olden cartooning methods. I vaguely recall when it first came out. I never saw it but it was nominated for an Academy Award.

The near 8-minute carton “film” is populated by crudely crafted folks, oddly reminiscent of Popeye characters. The Barnegat/Tuckerton bay angle is there -- in theory. Per a film reference, Barnegat Bay was “immortalized” by the short story, “The Family That Dwelt Apart." I’d opt for things being the other way around. I do question the cartoon frames that show big New Englandish rocks on the little sedge island, but, artistic license can cover a lot of ground.

The tale’s writer and narrator, the amazing E.B. White, was first-handedly familiar with our region. He surely had our bays in mind, especially the seclusion-esque aspect, as he crafted the story for Yankee Magazine. It was Mallette who made the visual setting for this cartoon a combination of NE and NJ.

The story line is so freaky in its own right that it took me some post-cartoon time to invite home any thoughts that there is deeper message in there somewhere. It wasn’t until I re-watched the thing a couple times, getting more and more accustomed to its odd and downright morbid storyline, that allegorical traits began to pop up, animation-style, like wildly colored ink-in mushrooms.

The out-of-control invasiveness of even well meaning humanity, oft driven by media hype and hysterics, is a fine parallel to progress itself, especially progress that kills everything around it in the name of, well, progress. Give it a look and see

By the by, I wouldn’t attach overly erudite inferences to a tale as seemingly sophomoric as this one, however, White was a near transcendental satirist while leading a dual existence as a prized writer of children’s books, like Charlotte’s Web. This little film represents the fine line he walked twixt the two. The final scene, when a lone islander rows back across Barnetuck Bay to “live on the mainland,” has no trouble coming across in the most modern terms, as I can’t even count the number of original Islanders who have made that last paddle outta here.

HC IS BIG ON SAND, NOT ON STRIPERS: Here’s an update both the angling and beach work in Harvey Cedars (HC).

I’ll commence by noting that fishing in HC has not been good. That’s an understatement per some folks, like Bill of HC/Haddonfield, who has fished the same street-end for over 50 years and recently told me he hasn’t seen it worse than the last couple/few years. I should mention that the HC angling hadn’t been up to snuff even before the beach rebuild.

As most Island anglers know, it wasn’t that many years back that HC was so striper-hot it became a veritable Mecca for serious striper anglers, many of whom would come down from up north just to liveline herring off prime HC jetties.

Sidebar: I have to admit I didn’t always see eye-to-friendly-eye with some of those macho Monmouth County men – to the point of one very nasty, potential eye-loss battle (swordfight-esque, with whipping rods) between me and one overly-hyper “striper king.” He had all but stormed the jetty I was on, his cutely bucketed herring in tow. The Monmouth man fully expected to execute an instant takeover of the jetty end, where I had been serenely – and quite successfully -- plugging for an hour prior. Words were exchanged, the last being “En garde!”

With Machiavellian savoir-faire, I won hands down -- but not before a “World’s Dumbest Angler” episode could easily have been taped, had such shows existed back then. It would have been an instant classic. As the sun was just showing, in its horizon silhouette mode, there we were, out on the farthest jetty rocks, whacking away at each other like Star Wars characters. Fortunately, instead of disemboweling the foe, I just disenjettied him. Splash. Loser-man took the long shallow-water wade back to Disgrace Beach. I had the spoil-esque honor of kicking his bucketed herring into the sea.

I have to admit I was being dumb as dirt that day – but it was all so cool.

But on to the Cedars beach redo.

The winter/spring storms that repeatedly whacked away at the replenishment work, has caused a few odd and interesting things to happen. I saw one this past weekend. From roughly 73rd street south for a good 20 blocks, inbound anglers trying to walk across the football field-wide stretch of new beach hit a fairly formidable elongated pond that formed, north to south. It was due to a huge depression in the sand. Though the water in the depression receded in a few days, it could easily collect again.

That trapped water mote pissed off more than a few homeowners in the area. Since there were spots where the water was over three-feet deep, the entire pond demanded a good long walk to get around it, especially if you happen to live on one of the streets aligned with the middle of the waterway. Those folks with kids or pets in tow had a goodly detour to make

Another odd thing to do with this particular replenishment is the way the southern half of the borough is getting what amounts to a double duneline. The original dune does not align with the Army Corps plan. The new replenishment dune is eastward, a solid 30-yards-plus away. You now have this feeble original duneline, then a flat stretch of sand, then these big-ass manufactured dunes -- though the original dunes were also manufactured, thrown up quickly after the March Storm. The dune double-up is really no biggy but it’s an odd look. I’m sure those oceanfronters aren’t thrilled with their new view of a big dune’s backside, but they sure as hell stand protected – in a town that historically gets blasted, occasionally dissected, by storms.

COMBERS LOVE THE HC LOOK: The newly pumped in HC sand, as it gets washed by rain and tumbled by surf, is offering eagle-eyed beachcombers some quite-cool pick-ups. Back are the sand dollars, like those heavily pursued by collectors after the Surf City replenishment effort. These are likely the remains of the common sand dollar (Echinarachnius parma) that is fairly common from Jersey northward. However, these sand dollar remains might be fairly old, based on the dredging depth. By the by, don’t look for sand dollars as large as those found in Surf City. The mesh on the current dredge pipes is now smaller, something about fuses being found in SC. Hey, don’t look at me.

Other collectible dredge-related items are prehistoric sharks teeth. I’ve gotten only four (all Surf City) after many trips trying for them. These are very likely from the late Cretaceous Period, and were washed into the ocean from Monmouth County, likely via the Navasink River. (Check “Big Brook sharks teeth” on Google). While it’s hard as hell to find sharks teeth in the beach gavel, it’s fairly easy to identify the exact shark species of a found tooth. A number of websites offer pics of all the NJ prehistoric shark species.

There are also some very interesting artifacts mixed in with the dredged sand. I have to be ambiguous on this because those looking for these “very special” items would use them on me if I offered too many details.

Hunting note: If you think you can just walk along at a brisk clip and find goodies, you won’t be needing very large pockets to carry home stuff. The trick is to find intense gather points – shells, gravel, marls pieces (the smooth gray/green rocky material in myriad shapes) – then do some serious stooping over -- or even some stoppin’ and ploppin’, literally laying down amid the shelly stuff to get a close-up gander.

RUNDOWN: It’s already getting kinda wild out there.

I have half a dozen boat reports (mainly out of Barnegat Inlet) of damn-near nonstop bassing and bluing. I’ve even suffered through the “my arms were too tired to fish any more” rub-ins. I seldom get to that point of appendage exhaustion. Maybe I simply have solid iron arms that never tire.

The bluefishing is approaching phenomenal. From bay to banks to bridges to ocean, the blues are eagerly accommodating anglers, and not just in a “cocktail” role, i.e. 2- to 3-pounders. There have already been chowed-up choppers to 15 pounds. The slammers are grabbing everything from chunk baits cast into the surf to squid spoons trolled by boats seeking stripers.

To show you just how insanely the blues are breaking on-scene, I had a mere half hour (before dusk) to cast metal on Monday. I street-ended it and with my first toss I began a 5-fish hooking session. All were three-poundish blues.

I reluctantly released them all, since I’m not sure where my jerky drying unit is currently hiding. Have I ever mentioned I’m a hoarder? All top-quality hoardibles, mind you – except, maybe, those hundreds of dried mullet tails that were destined for an art object I intended to craft. Unfortunately, the tablet with specific diagrams regarding my mullet tail artwork is somewhere among a mountain of paperwork I call “Vitally import stuff – Do Not Lose!” Hey, I didn’t lose it … per se.

Back to angling. I’ll reconfirm that this year’s battalion of spring blues are pleasantly plumper than the last, say, 50 spring times. I’m sold on my own theory that the increasing restrictions on commercial bunker harvesting is allowing overwinter blues to either grab forage fish throughout the leaden cold months or are able to instantly begin chowing down the minute they come out of their winter stupors. I’ll also allege that the current bluefish plumpness is no thanks to the commercial herring and Boston mackerel harvesting of the 1990s. Our absolutely kick-ass springtime Boston mack fishing – once a preseason headboat mainstay – was totally annihilated when Russian commercial processing ships parked off Cape May to buy absurd amounts of herring and mackerel. I realize we export a lot of seafood but I think, in that case, those fish, well within the EEZ, are the property of we Americans.

I should offer an oddish mackerel mention. Last week, Beach Haven anglers found themselves ankle deep in beach-hugging baitfish, driven to dry sand by the above-mentioned blues. The black balls of bunker were no big surprise. What did raise some angler eyebrows were loads of struggling Boston macks, either stranded out of water or panicked into just a few inches of swash water. This could mean that there are some macks to be had nearshore? Doubtful that the macks are back, though.

There have also been plenty of bass in the various venues, mainly surf, inlets and nearshore. If you’re street-end is missing the striper mark, it simply got the short end of straw. The streets on either side are likely offering a take-home bass or two. Go a bit mobile.

On a whole, most bassing folks are finding hookin’ where they’re lookin’. Below is part of an email, most of which is top-secret, my way of saying the writer requested the finer details of the hooking remain nonpublic material.

“Jay, … I’ve had five keeper bass in four days. That’s the best spring I’ve had (at my street end) ever. I haven’t had any luck with plugs the way others have. … I still think the best way to cook bass is simply baking it with salt and grinding fresh pepper right before eating.”

The 9th Annual “Simply Bassin’” LBI Surf Bass Tournament is about to commence. It runs from May 1 to June 27. The event seeks the eight largest bass taken by participants.

The registration forms are in participating shops. A mere $20 entry fee gets you in on the 8-week contest. The eight cash prizes: $1,000, $800, $600, $500 $400, $200, $150 or $100. Only one prize per contestant.

NO SHARK FISHING – APPARENTLY: New Jersey is under the moratorium gun. The state is very much out of compliance with federal law and it could mean no shark fishing for much of 2010.

Here’s how it read at 04_27_10 _July_30_Shark_Moratorium_Notice_75_FR_22103.pdf :

“In accordance with the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act (Act), NMFS, upon a delegation of authority from the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), has determined that the State of New Jersey has failed to carry out its responsibilities under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (Commission) Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Coastal Sharks (Plan) and that the measures New Jersey has failed to implement and enforce are necessary for the conservation of the shark resource … A Federal moratorium on fishing, possession, and landing of all shark species identified in the Commission Plan is hereby declared and will be effective on July 30, 2010. The moratorium will not be withdrawn by NMFS until New Jersey is found to have come back into compliance with the Commission’s Interstate Fisheries Management Plan

for Atlantic Coastal Sharks.”

I’ve seen this play out before and often an eleventh hour rescue takes place. We’ll see

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