Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Gallbladders of Gold Muck;

Herring Days Draining Off


A bear hunt is accompanying the state’s Six-day Firearms Deer Season, now blasting off near you.

This entire week one can bag a buck, a doe and a black deer. If you can do it with one shot, we’re talkin’ “Fish Story” headline material.

I’m fully in favor of the deer hunt. Just make sure the venison feeds folks and isn’t left behind by the chunk-full -- to fatten coyotes and the scavenging likes.

When it comes down to focusing on the state’s controversial bear hunt, I switch hats in an outback heartbeat. It’s a kill-fest with mainly meatless ends – and can become downright appalling when gallbladders enter into it (see below).  

When factoring in the modest number of bears the nation’s fifth smallest state (NJ) holds, the hunt is little more than backyard bloodletting -- a macho-driven trophy taking. It’s shooting ducks in a barrel. 

Hold on, hotshot. Don’t go getting all pissy on me because you’re one of those devout occasional bear hunters. Why don’t you just scurry on over to Montana or Idaho and bag a truly wild black bear. Then you da man. Nearly as manly would entail taking a bear in not-far-off Vermont, which holds an average of 3 black bear per square mile, likely the densest population of any U.S. state. 

As to aforementioned “appalling” part, I’m actually kinda close to that ugly angle of bear hunting. An out-West hunter I’ve known forever recently went down for the convict count when he was caught eviscerating a black bear solely to get at its moronically valuable gallbladder. It was the ultimate in illegal trophy taking. I believe his charges fell under a section called “wanton waste.” He’s now doing three years in the pen – having struck out, after being convicted of two other similar trophy-taking violations.

So, why the frig would he risk it? Mucky moolha, Martha. 

In Asia, the carefully concocted muck from inside a black bear’s gallbladder goes for up to $1,000 per ounce. I kid you not. It is often as valuable as gold -- but tastes way worse.  The demand for black bear gallbladders remains, well, insanely Asian in intensity, i.e. off the charts.

Asia’s solid gold interest in American bears first came about when that entire continent blasted all their bears to Buddha kingdom come. The denuding was done in that continent’s insatiable search for the supposed manliness and sexual prowess endowed on any person sucking down black bear gallbladder juice. Here, try a gulp. “Um-um. Feelin’ friskier already. No, wait. Make that nauseated. Bathroom!?” 

I used to mock the way the Asians seem to be maniacal when it comes to ferreting out countless natural masculinity enhancers. It’s rather well known that they’re already the most populated place in the world. Then, a wise old NYC Chinaman said to me, “How do you think we got so populated, Grasshopper?” 

“Let me guess, Gramps. Sucking on black bear gallbladders?”

“Don’t knock it until you try it, low-population American disbeliever.” 

Anyway, as we speak, many an NJ black bear hunter – in the bush as we speak -- has gallbladder-seeking contacts lurking within the seedy underbelly of Chinatown, NYC – the increasingly heavily-populated underbelly of Chinatown. 

Wait until you read my upcoming blog on killer turkeys. Load your Glocks.

NPR DREAMS: I recently had a chat with a gal who referenced a series of National Public Radio news reports on overfishing and global warming. She wondered if I had heard them -- as I wondered if I couldn’t squelch the chuckley smile I issue at the mere mention of NPR.

Don’t get me wrong. NPR is an oddly cool radio station. In fact, on weekends, I often seek out NPR for world news. I find it somehow soothing to hear vocally focused reports of worldly disorders and looming crises presented in such an aurally antiseptic manner -- spoken as if even the most awful news is well under academic control there at the NPR studios.

In fact, I drift into an almost Zen-like state of mellow drivingness when world news arrives bearing a British accent. The King’s English indubitably adds this air of silly theatrics to even hideous earth-splitting events. The worst of times becomes oddly Shakespearean. “O’ Rioting, rioting! Wherefore for art thou, rioting?” You get the concept.

I’ll be the first to recognize that NPR news anchors and announcers offer a vocal focus missing in harried local broadcasts. It’s audible. Tell me you don’t instantly know when you’ve accidentally slipped onto an NPR station.

Anyway, I was promised my first Christmas present by this NPR aficionado. She joyfully informed me she can download “gift” versions of NPR broadcasts and will be sending some along to me as a holiday fare. Hey, whatever happened to those cash-gift cards.

Don’t try this at home: Get a nice crisp $100 bill. Make a copy of the front on a color printer. No, you don’t then run out and make a zillion of them. Instead, carefully cut out Ben Franklin and the accompanying portrait background  from the color printed $100. (Cutting Ben Franklin off the actual $100 bill would be just plain stupid.) Carefully paste the copied Franklin face and background onto a one-dollar bill. Now buy one of the abovementioned cash-gift cards. You’ll notice the little fold in the card only shows the face part of the bill. Carefully tuck in the Franklin-faced one dollar so the $100 portrait shines through -- mail it off. It should be kinda funny, I guess.

GIVE A HELPING HAND: The following is one of the more compelling emails I’ve received in quite a while. Maybe someone can help this gal out.

Dear Mr. Mann, 

My son was in an accident this year that left his right arm and hand paralyzed.  He is an adult and has enjoyed freshwater fishing and I am looking for a rod holder for a one-arm person. 

I found online the “Strike Fighter”    www.sheltonproducts.com/strikefighter.html   

and  “the one armed bandit”   www.howellstackle.com

Would you be kind enough to ask the many fishermen you know and who read your column if any one has used either of these products and which one is best  -- or if they know of another rod holder. 

Thank you very much,

Sincerely, Susan R.

I quickly went on-line to check out both these items for physically-challenged fishing folks and they’re very righteous (old hippy expression). They’re both inventive and functional.

However, I’m not sure about anyone in the reading audience having ever used one. One never knows so I’ll put this request out there.

What I also want to put out there is an idea far beyond the essence of the letter. It sure would be nice if any fishing industry types would be willing to donate one (or two) of these rod holders. It’s kind of a Christmassy thing. Contact me at jmann99@hotmail.com. 

CLASSIC CLIMAX: The 2011 Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic is over. It was simply super when considering how competitive the contest was on a daily basis. It had 848 anglers in the end.

Admittedly, there was a semi-dramatic lack of jumbo fish but this event goes to the largest fish among those being caught. “Hypersized” doesn’t have to enter into it, just which fish can inch out the others being entered.  (Final winner chart in here next week)

It might be asked why there were so few 30s, 40s even 50s on the Classic’s bass front. It seemed the biggest and badest bass might have gone off with the fast moving big bunker pods, which split about 8 weeks ago, marked by the event’s largest bass entry being taken merely hours (Minutes? Seconds?)  into the contest. The thing is a super decent striper showing, 381, made it the most bass active Classic since 2003. Yes, some of those previous Classics were six weeks long, but even adjusting for that, it hadn’t been so bassy since ’03.

The Classic’s 177 bluefish count was relatively abysmal – relative to 2005, when 692 were weighed in. Still, it’s a few more blues than were entered last year.

By the by, It’s never advisable to take guesses at the bluefish biomass. The species is beyond cyclical, i.e. unpredictable. You just go with the bluefish flow. Should things turn off for a decade or so, maybe a look-see is in order. However, there have been well-documented multi-decade disappearances of blues.

I need to re-note that this is shotgun week in NJ. From Monday through Saturday, it is pretty much folly to randomly head into the woods – unless you’re among the legion who’ll be hunting, be it through a multi-hunter drive or going solo, hanging in a personal deer stand.

SHACK NOTE: Go to www.savetheshack.com if you’d like to contribute to the Save the Shack effort – and it is actually on a roll, with bona fide buttressing plans being worked out by a group of builderS. A quite-cool T-shirt is now available. I know the entire shaky shack subject seems like an ongoing laugher, however, salvation things are in the mix, I assure all y’all.

AT BAY WITH THE DEP:  I’m going to go slow (at this point) on addressing the looming effort to save barnegat bay, via the state of NJ.

Our governeator has earmarked serious dollarage for a series of studies to find out what would best suit the bay’s future health and welfare.

It’s more than obvious on first blush – the DEP’s ten-point Barnegat Bay study plan -- that no matter how you cut the future findings from these studies, the boat angling realm, the shell fishing industry and, far-and-away most of all, the PWC realm are going to get sliced – if not filleted.

In this issue of The SandPaper, writer Pat Johnson will be addressing the DEP loves Barnegat Bay subject in a journalistically objective manner. Being a proper managing editor, I’m not going to loose my read in the same issue. However, I can say that everyone who loves using Barnegat Bay – in this case extending from Toms River down to Beach Haven -- needs to watch what’s ahappenin’ (old baymen expression). 

My problem as an outdoorsperson, bayman and avid angler is the way I might have to alienate some of my cohorts when push comes to conservational shove. I deem the bay in need of some asavin’ (old J-mann expression).

While highly-restrictive conservation zones along the entire LBI bayside is a big tad too much, keeping boats at “No Wake” and fully excluding PWCs are fully befitting moves when applied to a (very) few more sensitive sites.

By the by, there is absolutely no talk of stopping fishing, crabbing, sailing, paddleboarding, kayaking and other similar low-impacts usages in conservation zones. Again, more on this in future columns. And, yes, there will be lots of time to offer your opinions to the DEP.

HERRING DAYS ARE DRAINING: Those less than glorious early-spring days of anxious baitmen plying creeks vying for river herring may soon be drying up.

The entire river herring fishery is in such a tailspin that is could be drawing to a total halt in harvesting. 

National Marine Fisheries Service just announced a “90-day finding for a petition to list alewife and blueback herring as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and to designate critical habitat concurrent with a listing.”

The petition points to immerging data that the combined alewife and blueback herring fishery, lumped under the “river herring” category, is bleakly bottoming out.

I mulled over the catch charts related to this petition and it is, in fact, truly spooky. Looking at the graphic lines, river herring, something of an historic American mainstay, have fallen off the biomass map. They’re barely showing.

Truth be told, I was observationally aware of the doomsday drop in stocks just be checking certain mainland creeks that I’ve checked for herring going back to the early 1970s. At one nearly unreachable locale, I climb onto a big-ass branch that hangs over a pristine herring creek. ‘Twas a time I could gaze lazily down into the crystal clear tannin waters and watch nonstop flock-like waves of herring slowly tailing upstream. They extended fairly evenly across the entire 20-foot wide creek, albeit in a very disenfranchised manner – and for good reason. These were not buddy-buddy type fish. Most were about to fiercely vie for the affections of herring of the opposite sex.

Last spring, a balanced atop my pet branch at the height of the spawn and saw three herring in over an hour’s time. I went back twice more and saw zero. In the Seventies, my river herring tally was legitimately, “too many to count.” And, no there hasn’t been any major development up stream – something that can obliterate a river herring run by changing the chemical signature of a given creek, something herring must be able to read to find their way to the spawn.

Speaking of that chemical disruption thing, part of the petition to list river herring as “threatened” carries a need to research environmental changes that could be leading to the collapse of the stocks. That includes a study of what damage any future building might inflict. However, it’s when a species becomes “endangered” that it’s Katie bar the door. Any and all building must show absolutely zero impact to the environment in which the species resides.

Sour point: New Jersey was long famed for it adherence to the Endangered Species Act regarding the incomparable Pine Barrens treefrog. Then, mystically, the building industry convinced the state that the frog should no longer be considered endangered. Poof. Despite a verifiable decline in their overall numbers, the Pine Barrens treefrog magically increased enough to be delisted, becoming only threatened – a far more lenient rating for developing woodlands and wetlands. Despicable. 

If you have something at stake in the herring fishery, email comments may be submitted, identified by RIN 0648-XA739 via Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov.

Important: Do not mistake ocean herring, abundant beyond belief, for river herring if contacting the NMFS. 

HOLAGTE HAPPENINGS: It’s opened. It’s closed. Take your pick.

Last week we got in a few South End fishing days when the access road was touched up enough for buggy entry/exit. However, I doubt the LBT fix-ups will carry on now that the Classic is over – and a harsh little nor’easter zips through the area this week.

As for the drive to the Rip, it’s a fairly easy go once the tide is down. Again, that’s rather meaningless if you can’t get off and on.

I’ll be monitoring the entrance throughout December. Check at www.jaymanntoday.ning.com or simply Google “Jay Mann” for both my websites.


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