Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Dare Devle of a Bass;

Let Shame Rain Down

I have a fairly interesting firsthand fishing report this week, albeit of a just-keeper class.

I was on a combo treasure hunting/fishing run, upriver Mullica. The locale was an unpublishable site, one of the river’s many secretive fishable “banks.” This particular bank, a favorite of anglers seeking spring stripers in the shallows, is stacked high with history, having been heavily used prior to the Revolutionary War. The area was also seemingly involved with military actions during that America-making struggle.

When I got there, I was somewhat surprised to see just one truck on-scene -- and it was pulling away. I got lazy waves from the two guys inside, seldom a lead-in to hot angling.

When anglers are out-and-about thereabouts, and it’s sometimes pretty crowded, I usually first take to some symbolic fishing, then ease into metal detecting activities -- once folks realize I’m one of them. This time the order was reversed. I pulled out my trusty Fisher detector and commenced to looking for that find so rare I’ll never have to look for another. However, with the sun starting to dip, I was a tad too pressed for time to do a decent hunt. After finding a far-from-ancient 1942 silver dime, I decided to nix the TH’ing (treasure hunting) and piece together my in-truck rod and give stripering a go. That’s when I realized I had left my frickin’ plug bag somewhere other than there. Seeing that I’m just this side of a bona fide reality show-grade hoarder, my plug bag could have been collaterally removed along with any number of junk piles I regularly unload from my GMC Silverado, the back of which I can fill in a can’t-live-without-this instant. I’m also helped along by people needing a place to spontaneously drop off donate-able goods the Old and New Shops wouldn’t take.

“Hey, buddy, you want this bag of jumbo-sized grandma panties. They’ll sell real good on eBay.

“Uh, OK. Throw ‘em in.” Score!

Anyway, I was about to stash the rod when I recalled I actually had a couple castables in my dropdown middle console. A few weeks earlier, I had gotten a set of larger vintage Dare Devle look-a-like lures (hereafter Dare Devles), likely of the early 1950s era. Two of them were still on cards (and bound for the collectible corner of my house, i.e. every corner) but the other one was loose and usable. These Dare Devles were pike-sized so they had some weight to them. But what were the odds that a savvy striper would take any interest in such a primitive entry-level lure?

By default, you know the answer already. What you don’t know is the way my first cast took a swipe so quickly I thought I had simply snagged the bottom. Retrieving the lure and finding no indicative crud on the trebles, I recast -- and hooked up immediately. I could feel it was a decent fish and began a fight that duly tested the fairly flimsy rod. I also looked around to see if any folks might be pulling up to take in my hookup. Come on, don’t tell me you’ve never, uh, extended the fighting of a fish so passing buggies or beachcombers can take due notice. And, yes, during high-tension angling, tourney-times, I’ve done the dead opposite and tried to hide the fact there’s a fine fish on. And it’s a helluva site tougher to stretch and yawn as a buggy inches by and you’re holding a rod with line zipping through the drag to beat the band.

When I finally fought my fish through the brisk outgoing current, I was pleasantly surprised to find a medium-girth circa 30-inch bass had come to say “Hey.” It had inhaled the Dare Devle. In fact, I had to reach in through the gill plate to loose the lure. No damage and virtually no blood. I held it up, marked it on the rod (28 inches, plus a couple to spare). I pondered inviting it home for dinner. The fish was saved by the utterly ideal day. It was beyond gorgeous out there so I did a Free Willy in tribute to the overall upbeatness of the weather.

I admired the Dare Devle and how that truly basic artificial had done good, real good. But it wasn’t like it had visually fooled the fish, per se. Fish are incredibly observant; they’re just not the best of thinkers.

“What the hell is this red and white oblong flat metal thing that has writing all underneath?”

“I don’t know. What ya think we should do about it?”

“Uh, bite it?

“Works for me.”

Anyway, by the time I retied the lure, which I had bitten off to carefully pull through the gill plate, the sun was giving up the ghost. I decided to depart on a winning note. Besides, I was actively anticipating some serious after-dark frog counting. For that hyper fun seasonal foray into the wetlands, I readied my large tape recorder/player.

The best way to not only count but also locate singing frogs is to spur them on. No, you don’t use tiny little spurs attached to waterproof boots. What you do is blast a professional recording of other male croakers. Every male frog within hearing range – and that range can be a hundred-yard circumference – goes bonkers thinking some massively piped interloper is vocally moving in on his gal(s). Cruelly, I’ll sometimes locate a frog and blast the recorder right near him. You can see him tilt his head sideways, all but thinking out loud, “This guy sounds kinda big,” but always trying to match the electronic croak by going with all he’s got to give. I’ve even had frogs try to amplify so much their croaks break like a singer missing a high note. Then he looks around, all nervous, hoping no one heard it.

As for other bass reports, I’ve only gotten scattered success stories from Graveling and Oyster Creek, though second-hand tales always mention this guy or that gal having a great session.

The spans to LBI are simmering, and soon to bust loose. Bait is afoot near the bridges. I saw the first nervous water of the year, above the shallows just south the Big Bridge. This was likely bunker being driven to the surface by whatever predator is lurking below. I think it’s mainly bass but the weakfish fear factor will soon be apparent, as more and more bait is driven onto shallows.

Speaking of sparklers, we can only keep one weakie a day this year. Somewhat oddly, this Draconian restriction is just now registering with many anglers. I think they heard the first reports of a critical bag limit change and unadvisedly believed something would surely adjust before fishing time. It didn’t. We truly are down to just one weakfish a day. There’s now no amount of moaning that’s going to change that regulation.

I personally understand the near-moratorium move to save these attractive gamefish -- but I don’t like it, mainly because of how reliant many of my bayside charter boat buddies are on this heat-of-summer fishery. Still, I was among the many fishing folks who, in the past, openly questioned the seemingly frivolous former weakfish bag limits -- well over a dozen fish a day, per angler. Now, the conservation piper must get paid. Sensible management back when could likely have saved the day.

Winter floundering, per usual, has ranged from scalding hot to fully frigid. Hochstrasser’s and southern Barnegat Bay (ICW holes) have shone. West Double Creek is in them muster mode.

Out of all the local fisheries, maybe none is more dominated by the sharpies (experts) than blackback fishing. The subtleties needed to consistently take these delectable flatfish are not only varied but just this side of trade secrets.

The most understandable necessity when going floundering is chum, chum and more chum. Also, knowing the traditional gathering holes – or pass-through points, as the case may be -- is huge. Details like tides and bait presentations instantly separate the experts from the also-fished.

Just to show you how out-there some floundering subtleties can be, the best blackbacking day I ever had entailed giving up blessed bloodworms and switching over to pieces of yucked out tapeworm (technically, a ribbon worm) -- while politely tapping into someone else’s chum line, after asking and being granted permission to do so. I began bailing fat fish left and right, while the chummers were moving at a slow pick at best. I threw them a slimy and utterly disgusting three-foot tapeworm, and their action turned up about ten notches. Then, by the next day, the flounder wouldn’t even look at tapeworm, having resumed their bloodworm obsession.

Here’s an interesting tog report taken from the Fisherman’s Headquarters website:

“BIG TOG! Big Don Henriquez of Paterson, NJ, weighed in a 14.54-lb tog. Don is a Fisherman Magazine subscriber so this fish is going to be entered into the Dream Boat contest. Don was fishing aboard the Searcher out of Barnegat Light. He also caught 2 keeper cod and 3 keeper-size tog. All on fresh clam. Don mentioned that he was stoked to catch his big tog on his new Lamiglas rod that he just purchased yesterday. He said that the rod turned out to be a great choice with all the backbone he needed to hook and land today's catches.”

THAT’S WHAT: I was out in front of my SB home being shown a very nice tog, hoisted out of a cooler by a neighbor of mine. A fellow walking down the street looked over at the fish and offered something of a modern mantra. “Now that’s what I’m talking about,” he said with a confident smile and a nod of approval.

“That’s what I’m talking about.” What a totally miraculous line. By simply blurting that out, you’re instantly intricately and intimately involved with whatever in the hell is happening – even if you have never, to that point, actually talked about that which you profess to be “talkin’ about.” My neighbor and I didn’t know this passerby from a hill of beans but, just like that, we had righteously and successfully met his apparently previously verbalized expectations. Oddly, I felt this sense of accomplishment that I was in some way able to accommodate one of this man’s life themes. I almost wanted to take a bow.

I then began to imagine having that line at hand when, say, Albert Einstein was introducing his Theory of Relatively. As Einstein finishes an insane display of symbols and equations on a blackboard, a stunned reverent silence befalls the hall of elite scientists -- until I blurt out, “Now, that’s what I’m talking about.” And Einstein, like all scientists in desperate need of peer acceptance, excitedly grabs on to the remark and says, “Thank-you for your support, Mr. ??”

“Uh, Mann. Jay Mann.”

And here I was in the lecture hall because I got faulty directions to the bathroom, while on campus trying to pick up some Princeton gals.

The next day, the New York Times reports that the Theory of Relatively, as put forth by Albert Einstein and Jay Mann, could change science forever.

World Globe reporter: “So, Professor Mann, do you align with the proposition that motion is absolute or do you believe it’s relative?’

“Uh, it is what it is.”

Reporter jotting down notes, in awe, “ ‘It is what it is.’ Wow, that is truly brilliant, Professor Mann.”

“I hear ya. Hey, where the hell are the girls dorms anyway?”

PIRATES NEVER SLEEP: There’s an old adage: Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

While those words have been translated into just about every language, it seems to have been lost in the Chinese translation. This week, the fifth Taiwanese fishing vessel in as many years has been captured by Somali pirates. It is now being held for ransom.

In the past, I’ve gone tyrannical on those murderous goons from Somali, who constantly ply the ocean looking to hijack – and ransom -- every ship in sight. I’ve been most bent by the murderous ways of that anarchical nation – the only nation on the planet without a government. Now, as is my righteous right, I’m all but reversing my option -- readjusting my thinking and sympathies.

Firstly, I’ve been advised -- in no undue terms, by world conservationists -- that a massive fishing fleet is now “raping” the ocean off western Africa, devastating fisheries with impunity. It’s an ugly irony that fishing boats are being hijacked off lawless places like Somalia yet among the most ungovernable actors out there are commercial fishermen attacking every edible species in that part of the world. What’s worse, they’re essentially stealing the fish from some of the poorest countries known to man – while not paying a single penny of remuneration. Obviously, I’m drifting off the Somalia thing and into deeper waters of international law and human decencies.

Still, even in the face of that moral and environmental lawlessness, I hate the forcible takeover of ships by anarchists and terrorists. There’s no getting by the fact that Somalia is controlled by warlords willing to rape, pillage and otherwise ravage those unfortunate enough to live there – impoverished people with no option of either flight or fight.

But a whole new “Shame on me” set of criteria is arising with the ongoing Somali pirating. If these fishing boats are now dense enough to still be out there -- and allowing themselves to be militarily boarded by pirates -- then they better know how to get themselves out of hot water. Sympathies are now fading fast for those not willing to get out of harm’s way.

I also want to reference a recent BBC report featuring a phone interview with a 25-year-old Somali pirate. Talking from central Somalia, proud pirate Dahir Mohamed Hayeysi said he’s seen as something of a national hero in Somalia. Part of that comes from his high seas exploits and part from the big bucks he now bandies about in the wake of three successful ransoms.

“I used to be a fisherman with a poor family that depended only on fishing. The first day joining the pirates came into my mind was in 2006. A group of our villagers, mainly fishermen I knew, were arming themselves. One of them told me that they wanted to hijack ships, which he said were looting our sea resources. He told me it was a national service with a lot of money in the end. Then I took my gun and joined them,” Dahir was quoted. He added, “Now I have two lorries, a luxury car and have started my own business in town.”

The pirate also noted an uglier side to the entire issue “Illegal fishing and dumping of toxic wastes by foreign fishing vessels affected our livelihood, depleting the fish stocks. I had no other choice but to join my colleagues.”

Though he wouldn’t comment on how much he has made so far, his goals have a worldly ring, “My ambition is to get a lot of money so that I can lead a better life.”

Dahir’s end goals are a tad less conventional. “I only want one more chance in piracy to increase my cash assets, then I will get married and give up.”

To his credit, he also knows the folly of anarchism. “The only way the piracy can stop is if [Somalia] gets an effective government that can defend our fish. And then we will disarm, give our boats to that government and will be ready to work,” he said, adding a foreboding, “Foreign navies can do nothing to stop piracy.”

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