Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Ever think the reports of  millions of rays in a single school is exaggerated? Start counting. 

Splattered Sadness on the Road Ahead;

From Monkeys to Bioengineered Jellies


Alert: Make sure to follow this week’s White Marlin Invitational Tournament by going to http://www.thewmit.com/. I’ll be doing write-ups there and live cams will be working.

ROADKILL SADNESS – DON’T READ THIS: You might want to cover the eyes of more sensitive type folks wanting to read this segment.

Last week, I was trucking along just after dark and saw folks braking and pulling over up ahead. That’s never good, especially when I then saw four or five lifeless white objects lying on the roadway in the opposite lane.

I slowed and considered quick-turning down a side road to avoid whatever the ugly mess was up ahead. But that morbid little creature that lurks inside me egged me on, even though I had that sinking feeling things were not going to be pretty. Oh, how true that would be.

The objects on the ground were definitely no longer moving, though even at a distance I could see disgusting splatters of red. Yuck – in advance.

As I got closer, my fear that an entire litter of lab puppies had fallen on the roadway was mercifully unfulfilled. But it still became a very disturbing scene as I began to sort things out. Barely moving forward, I began homing in on the splotchy messes on the asphalt. Take a deep breath, Jay.

As I clicked on my high beams, I first caught sight of a disconsolate young man, exiting his car and slowly walking back toward the gruesome scene. This was brutal.

My heart went out to him as I realized he was dejectedly shuffling back toward not one, not two, not three, not four, but five (!) street-spattered pizzas.

Gospel truth: The poor guy, assigned to run out to get the pizzas for either a party or a huge family gathering, had apparently left all of them stacked on the roof of his car -- and rabbit-started off, likely to beat out the approaching traffic. The way the road-kill pizzas were spaced, the boxes had seemingly flipped from the roof like paratroopers jumping from a plane. “Go! … Go! … Go! …”

Hey, stop your smiling. This wasn’t one bit funny. Kinda.  Guarantee that poor dude was in for some grueling stares and glares when he showed up back home with, at best, a few slices of road-rash pizza -- with gravel topping.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only passer-by who momentarily pondered pulling over to help the guy. It was a lost cause – though, as I inched by, I did stick my head out the window and eyed a couple/few slices without tire tracks across them. I might sorta consider jumping out and taking a couple bites. “Hey, buddy, here’s one that still tastes kinda good. Here’s another one. Look, just brush that stuff off. No, not the sauce part, dude. Here, I’ll do it. Look, good as new. And it’s not half bad. Try a bite.”

LIFE IS GOOD, ARTIFICIALLY SPEAKING: Per a viral Internet story, brainiacs  at Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology have created life from not-quite-life.

Those scientists, apparently dissatisfied with the number of life forms now on the planet, “bioengineered” what are being called water creatures.

They manufactured life by isolating the heart cells of some apparently very generous rats, then added a dollop of silicone (don’t ask), before zapping the celly silicone with an electric spark, using a very specialized piece of equipment.

I envisioned the jolt coming from a massive, multi-electrode, power-generating contraption with four-foot-tall rabbit ear rods, hosting blue arcing sparks, jumping brightly from one pole to another – and making a cool crackling sound to boot. Turns out they used a couple wires from a nearby electrical outlet.

But life itself came forth from, well, whatever the hell you call a wad of silicone with rat cells all over it.

The jellyfish look of the instant life was undeniable.

At first, I thought that artificially creating living swimming thingies is surely something we really shouldn’t be messing with - cosmically speaking. However, my entrepreneurial mind slapped aside my saner side.

To myself: “Strange undulating manmade life forms; cheaply made and highly package-able. Just add-water. Hmmm, Jay, doesn’t that ring a bell?” 

Sure enough, I flashed back to the cosmically important point in my life -- I was six-something -- when I had earned my very first dollar bill. As if by instinctive inclination, I displayed the purchasing acumen and buying cleverness I would marshal throughout my arriving life. I bought two packets of mail-order “Sea Monkeys.” Gospel truth.

I literally lost kid-level sleep for a week to 10 days awaiting the arrival of my “monkeys.” I wish my mom were still around to corroborate this, the way I began hoarding bananas and apple slices. When the buggers arrived, I was immediately put off a tad after realizing my monkeys had to be put in water and hatched. Talk about throwing a curve toward my pubescent understanding of how primates reproduce.

Upon hatching my monkey eggs (hey, it wasn’t funny for me at the time), all I got were these near-microscopic swimming things. They grew at a rate of about a pinhead a day. Even at that tender age, I began wondering how old I would be before my monkeys were swinging from trees.

In a well thought out effort to spike their growth, I began dropping sizeable pieces of bananas in the water – unbeknownst to my mom. After about a day in the sun, I was convinced I could smell them growing. The water was now too murky to actually see the monkeys.

The story turns tragic from there -- the commode burial ritual and all -- so I’ll skip it to avoid flashing back.

Which bring us back to these new tried-and-tested manmade jellyfishish artificial life-forms. Tell me that the millions of boomers who went for the Sea Monkeys won’t get oddly nostalgic and use their last welfare dollar to buy a couple packets of, uh, Creation Monkeys. How am I not yet a millionaire?

I want to throw in a good word for upcoming Polly’s Dock Fluke Tournament, happening this Saturday. 

It’s a best-two fluke fish event, which always make it more interesting – and helps display which vessel has what might be called combined catching skills – though one large doormat can still take the $$ cake.

For more info, go to http://www.pollysdock.com/tournament.html. And while on that site, take in some of the fun music, which can often be found live at the famed down-home dock.

NEW LOBSTER LOOKS: Seeing how many lobster aficionados there are around here, I have to mention the rapid increase in lobsters of a different color now being trapped off New England -- and edging down toward our deeper waters.

Per an Associated Press story out of Maine, lobsters of color – namely orange, blue, green and variants of same – are climbing into commercial lobster traps in numbers never before seen.

I can’t be the first to suggest this surge in freaky-hued lobster is fully consistent with the current surge of acidity in the ocean. It could also come down to the chemicals in the water, as the marine creatures build their exoskeletons, i.e. shells.

One thing that immediately responds to pH swings is the colorations of plants and animals relying on something called chitin, a complex celluloid. It’s best to know chitin on a superficial basis, unless you like to dawdle with stuff like: the N-acetylglucosamine units that repeat to form long chains in β-1,4 linkage.

Simpling down even further, pure chitin is clearish. Any coloration comes from either pH impacts or assorted chemicals hanging around as it’s being formed. Sudden changes in water chemistry can surely cause a rainbow of color variations. 

Oddities in the oceans -- be it freaked out lobster shells or crazy showings of certain species – now seem to be surfacing left and right. Unsurprisingly, many folks blame the thermal and chemical conditions now going haywire around the planet.

I don’t know if I’ll run with that global haywireness as it might relate to creepy colored lobsters. I’ll simply adhere to that famed adage to never eat the yellow lobster – or is that the yellow snow? Whatever. 

Closer to an angling angle, there are theories that watery chemical quirks are why some/many stripers display broken lines. One of the more convincing studies I read backtracked those line disconnects to spawn time -- in areas of the Chesapeake and Hudson bays where creepy chemical swings are rampant.

SORRY, NO MUNITIONS, MA’AM: I was chatting with the Army Corps and was a tad surprised to here there were absolutely no deep-sixed munitions found during the entire Brant Beach replenishment project. That sand came from the exact same place as the famed Surf City “arsenal” sand, which was loaded for bear, so to speak.

You surely recall that CNN-worthy Surf City incident, during which thousands of antiquated explosive devices were unknowingly pumped ashore with the sand. The devices, some apparently still “live,” had been secretly dumped (deep-sixed) in the ocean by the military, many decades back.    

By the by, there was no chance of munitions ever reaching the Brant Beach beaches. That possibility was eliminated with the use of finer screening along the pipeline used to power the sand beachward. The odd part, there were literally no munitions found even out at sea, trapped by the screening.

Apparently, the sand being pumped from the borrow area is now being taken deeper and deeper down. The source is well below the munitions layer.

Interestingly, the sand dollar showing has gone sky high in the pumped in sands of Brant Beach. Those echinoid skeletal remains hale from many hundreds, if not thousands of years back, when warmer waters reigned hereabouts.

BLUEBERY BLUES: And when I got there the bushes were bare.

I’ve suffered the most suckacious blueberry harvest in the long history of my blueberry bog. Still harboring visions of last summer, when blueberries flowed like wine, I can’t believe I’ve been fully skunked. There is nary a single berry on dozens and dozens of vintage plants.

The antioxidant void left by the berrylessness, forced me to try something I had only recently read about: blueberry leaf tea.

Blueberry leaves also contain important substances that can help protect and promote our physical and mental health. Drinking blueberry leaf tea is a simple and refreshing way to benefit from these natural substances.

OK, so maybe I read that from a queue card, but the stuff is good for you. The blueberry leaves contain significant amounts of antioxidants, per the "Journal of Medicinal Food." The Highbush Blueberry Council (yes, there is one), hales the health benefits of blueberries. They improve memory, prevent some cancers, improve digestion and a offer cardioprotective effect. The Lowbush Blueberry Council (imaginary) claims the blueberry bush benefits include greatly enhanced sexual prowess. There are loads of Asians on the Lowbush Council.

Personally, I’m now forced to run with the blueberry leaves doing at least something or other.

After picking pounds and pounds of leaves, I dried them and tried them as tea. They tasted pretty much like the leaves I used to get in my mouth as a kid, when rolling around in street gutters in the fall. However, I’m pretty damned sure I could also taste a bunch of radical antioxidants, which fizz a bit. I’ll write about the long-term effects – unless this column just abruptly ends.

“It’s gonna be a long recovery, nurse. Worst blueberry leaf overdose I’ve ever handled. Notice the bright blue coloration.” 

Don’t ya still just love “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”?

POLLY WANTS A FISHERMAN: I want to throw in a good word for upcoming Polly’s Dock Fluke Tournament, happening this Saturday. 

It’s a best-two fluke fish event, which always make it more interesting – and helps display which vessel has what might be called combined catching skills – though one large doormat can still take the $$ cake.

For more info, go to http://www.pollysdock.com/tournament.html. And while on that site, take in some of the fun music, which can often be found live at the famed down-home dock.

RUNDOWN: I see where grass shrimp sales are perking up. Obviously this has to do with the still-arriving schools of weakfish. I’m guessing folks want to nostalgically fish for sparklers, since you really can’t take home more than a mere sample.

I want to put in my annual hype for chum fishing with grassies. Whadda way to learn the bay – inside out, as it were.

The variety pack of species drawn to a shrimp chumline is a veritable what’s-what in Barnegat Bay. And the light-tackle action goes from now into October, peaking in September.

I’m really anxious to see if the bay is holding that huge showing of kingfish that swept along the beachfront a short while back.

As for the spot deluge, those small croakers can actually play spoilers. They can down gallons of grassies and dominate hook action so severely you have to move off to seek a less spotty site. Still, the fun factor of chumming shrimp is an ultimate family fishing affair.

The fluking just keeps keeping on. It remains so damn decent that folks aren’t gabbing as much about good days – those days have become the norm. And I don’t think this is solely because of regulations decreasing the minimum size. The keepers have been well over that new minimum.

Simply put: Fluke stocks have fully recovered, even by way-back standards.

No, that doesn’t mean they’ve returned to Leni Lenape levels, i.e. pre-whiteman times. Bringing them back to that Woodland Period point -- without allowing every other species, great and small, to concurrently recover -- would be catastrophic.

As I oft write, I believe we’re already toying with a destructive eco-imbalance, as we hand-nurse fluke and stripers back, far beyond ecological sensibilities.

To me, it’s weird that even scientists and fishery managements folks are scratching their collective butt and wondering why the recovery of other bay-spawned gamefish species -- like weakfish, winter founder, and tog -- aren’t improving, despite the strictest of regulations being fully in place. Hint: Any gains from keeping anglers from the fish are being devoured as young-of-year, often before they even make it out of the bay.

As for weakfish, it sure seems we’re suddenly up to our chestwader tops in them. It’s a very impressive showing of these midsummer arrivers, especially within Barnegat Bay – a known Mecca for spawning sparkers.

Per recent studies, spawning weakfish have historically arrived in Barnegat Bay in waves – up to half a dozen separate arrivals. That was back in the day. The thing to remember – and fret over – is the ongoing absence of what might be called the prime breeding stocks, true tiderunners of ten pounds and up. That genetically gifted stock included an amazing spring big-fish fishery, one that has all but died. A similar fall run of larger weakfish has been reduced to a one-and-done squirt of small sparklers. That fall run of weaks (1980s) was so strong, and the fish so sizeable, that the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Tournament/Classic had a division for them – drawing in numerous weakies over 10 pounds. You will likely not see a single tiderunner this fall.

The burst of weakfish we’re seeing now – though admittedly an always-good sign – doesn’t amount to a hill of sea beans if it doesn’t end up adding to the stocks, via a successful spawn. Problematically, many of the “spike” weakfish aren’t sexually mature so they can’t help even if they wanted to – though a few of those little buggers are still willing to give it a go. 

Small snapper blues are in play around the inlets. These are the little sub-one-pounders, easy to catch when around – though you need a goodly few to make a meal.

Unoccasional stripers along the beachfront. Jigs work well, late day. 

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