Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Let’s Give a Presidential Hoot;
Unappreciative Rattler Bites
I have to go political on your butts this week -- so stand tall and take it.
Just kidding. I simply have to begin the column by answering a fairly significant presidential-y question I was thrown by a respected boat captain.
I should preface my answer by noting the skipper was, at the time, less than seaworthy – a victim of a power-picnic, so-named because it was ball-muscled via barrels of designer beer. By day’s end, the skipper would, without rhyme or reason, erupt with commands like, “Man the mainsail!” “Turn into the wind, Laddies!” “Tighten up that jib sail!”
I know for a fact the skipper has never been on a sailboat in his entire life. He wouldn’t know tacking from jibing. But, this picnic, he had somehow found the ship’s wheel. (Sorry, Cap, but you were wee bit entertaining, sir.)
Anyway, prior to wresting command of the picnic, he asked me if anglers should take presidential elections seriously.
Generally, no -- but “Yes!” in this upcoming go’round.
I really believe the intensifying efforts to Congressionally modify the Magnuson-Stevens Act will absolutely need presidential understanding and support.
At this time, I have no insights into which candidate might be partial to wetting a line now and again. Many of you recall that both Bush the Younger and Bush the Elder were bassbusters of the highest order. And it helped anglers, at least as far as having an open ear in the White House. I’ll await any leads I get from JCAA and RFA, as to which presidential hopefuls would have our angling backs.
I do happen to have some new and provocative insights into who would look best in the Oval Office.
During the recent Republican Presidential Debates in New Hampshire, I knew my sworn editorial responsibilities were facing a dilemma. The presidential debate was squarely (and rudely) in the same time slot as the “Hooters Snow Angel Special, Bikinis in Aspen.” (You noticed, too, eh?)
I took the more righteous and appropriate road. Having said that, I now see no reason why Hooter Emma Cutts, from Nottingham, England, couldn’t be an ideal presidential candidate.
Hey, I’ll have you know I tuned into the Hooters to scientifically determine how well each Hooterer did, technically speaking, in the highly under-recognized discipline of snow angel-ing in a bikini. (Tell me there won’t be some serious scalping of tickets for that future venue in the Winter Olympics.)
A HAND FOR THAT RATTLER: All y’all have surely heard about the rattlesnake bite saga down on Stage Road, near Tuckerton. The media sure bit on the incident. Snakebites are always sexy, news-wise.
Down below, I’m going to throw my daily blog in here (jaymanntoday.ning.com). I had quickly penned it after I got a call from the Bass River State Park about the unusual incident – the second such rattler bite in the past decade at the park.
At first, I thought it was a dry bite (no venom released by the biting snake) but I later read the bitten fellow, Nelson Drinkwater, 24, Little Egg Harbor Township, had gone through the full-blown effects of full envenomation. Nothing dry about that.
The other rattler bite in the park took place a number of years back when a man in canoe tried to hand capture a timber rattler as it swam across Lake Oswego. That bite was pretty much dumbness manifest. “Well, I saw this rattlesnake swimming and I grabbed it by the tail …” Did ya now? The fellow recovered just fine.
This latest fanging has redeeming features, as you’ll see.
But First, a quick word from your sponsor.
Over the decades, I’ve found maybe two dozen “timbers.” I can affirm that the area where both these bites took place is rattlesnake central for the region. For some reason that local chamber of commerce always fails to highlight this attraction.
Anyway, our timber rattlers are generally fairly large for the species, averaging three to four feet long. With the exception of gravid or fully pregnant females, these rattlers are very nonaggressive, even feigning death in lieu of striking.
I once came across one that actually did the roll-over/play-dead ploy, common to hognose snakes. Interestingly, hognose snakes, when not rolling over to feign death, pretend to be rattlers, by rapidly waggling their tails in dry leaves when threatened. I picture the two of them lounging in the sun talking over survival strategies.
Hognose: “But I don’t have a rattle on my tail.”
Rattler: “Doesn’t matter. Just wiggle your tail in the dry leaves. It’ll scare the crap out of ‘em every time. Give it a go.”
Hognose: “Wow, listen to that. I’m scarin’ myself.”
Rattler “Now, tell me about roll-over-and-die thing you guys do?”
Along with being highly disinclined to bite, timber rattlesnakes are about as secretive as a skitterish Sasquatch. Blending perfectly with surrounding leaf and pine needle litter, they all but evaporate into the environment when not moving. This super secrecy actually put them in dire straights with New Jersey’s Native Americans. The Leni Lenape had a belief that a rattlesnake that didn’t rattle meant it was a coward. It would be killed. If a rattler let its tail do the talking, it was a warrior, and thusly was permitted to live. Tough crowd.
Leni: “Me didn’t hear you rattle, sissy-Mary.”
Rattler: “Uh, you got it all wrong, Chief. I was just storin’ it up. Check this!”
Leni “OK, no squashem this time -- but you better watch your ass.”
Rattler “My thinking exactly, dude.”
Although timber rattlesnakes are state-listed as endangered, based primarily on habitat loss, I’m seeing a noteworthy population burst in Ocean and Burlington counties. Hey, where’ your excitement?
Per a reported quote from the Bass River State Park manager, the area where the bites took place has a “healthy” population of timber rattlesnakes. I also read that the DEP has methodically reintroduced the species into areas of South Jersey.
Here my blog: I got an email about an Ocean County motorist being snake-bit when he tried to help the reptile reach the other side of the road. The man pinned down the snake’s head and grabbed it. Something didn’t go according to plan.
Using surprisingly strong body muscles, the snake managed to wrest its head from the man’s finger hold. Bad written all over that.
Since the snake had established a couple major arm wraps, it had plenty of hold-on time to administer a fanged message to its captor’s arm – before unwrapping itself and escaping into the woods. Yet another case of a creature zipping off thinking, “What the hell was that all about? Wait ‘til I tell Hognose about this.”
The good snake Samaritan turned snakebite victim drove to the nearby Bass River State Park office, where authorities alerted 9-11. The man was choppered to an AC hospital.
As of this typing, I hear the man is alive and trying to return to well.
By the by, I’m not even remotely going into a stern lecture mode, aimed at the rattler grabber. It seems the snake enthusiast was truly trying to help the snake across the road – sort of a good thing, even though it was heading there any way. It should be noted the driver had to do a rubber-laying panic stop just to avoid hitting the not-so-fast reptile. I’m guessing not everyone would be so thoughtful in that situation.
I’ll admit, I’m often among those who just have to touch the wildlife merchandise, so to speak. Big difference is I’ve touched before – including touch-and-show grab-sessions involving huge cottonmouths (Georgia) and absolutely enormous eastern diamondback rattlesnakes (Cape Canaveral, Florida).
I will emphasize that when you do a head grab (I now only do tail grabs, being a student of Steve Irwin), you have to grasp as if your life depends on it. Duh.
Also, you don’t allow a grabbed poisonous snake to wrap around any part of your body. And I should know. I once made a poor grab on a coral snake, one of smallest but deadliest toxic snakes out there. I had been permitted to hunt herptiles on a ranch between Cocoa Beach and Orlando, Florida, i.e. middle of nowhere, antitoxinless zone. After a longish session, I came across the gorgeously colorful 18-inch coral snake – fresh from a skin shed.
To that point, I had been handling a number of monster snakes. My hands weren’t thinking small. In a slithery heartbeat, that little bugger essentially wormed its way out of my grip, a bit eel-like. Making matters way worse, I had purposely allowed it to weave the rest of its short body within my fingers. I did that because this is another reluctant biter -- and very terrestrial. It actually feels more secure – and somewhat calmer -- when it isn’t being dangled in mid-air. I’m such a thoughtful guy, eh?
When I realized the coral snake’s fangy little head was coming out of my grip, I commenced to crazed wrist flicking, as I if I had just noticed a banana spider on the back of my hand.
Nature Note: You never want to notice a banana spider on the back of your hand.
My demented hand flicking apparently didn’t allow the coral snake to accurately aim a bite. I finally managed to send it on what, to this day, was the most amazing flight of its life.
Not that I have to overly worry about folks running out and hand-capturing NJ’s poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes, but be advised it is fully against state law to do so. There is some legal leeway, like helping out a snake in mortal danger of becoming a scaly road-pancake. Of course, even under those Samaritan circumstances, it must be realized that “lending a hand” might be taken a little too literally by a rattler unsure of one’s intent.
SHARK MAIL: “My husband faithfully reads you column and when I told him I wanted to email you about any danger from sharks he said you’d downplay any real dangers. M.H.”
Not on your life. I won’t downplay shark dangers because there are none to downplay – at least when logically juxtaposing shark attacks with the dire dangers that we face just walking out of the house – and right into the mouth of something Steven Spielbergish.
Just for a “bite” comparison, the odds of being fatally attacked by a shark are one in 300 million. The odds of dying from a mountain lion attack are one in 32,000,000. The odds of dying from being bitten by a dog are one in 700,000. The odds of biting your tongue …
As for just steeping outdoors, the odds of dying from a bee sting are one in 56,789. The odds of dying from hot weather are one in 13,729. Biting the big bullet in car accident: One in 6,500.
Gimme those shark-bite odds any day.
That said, I’m just waiting for a report that an angler has been bitten when dumbassedly unhooking a shark. And I don’t exclude myself from that dumbassed lot. In my case, I hate cutting loose a shark with a hook still in its jaws. I realize that, out of all the denizens of the deep, sharks can readily survive in the face of sharp and deeply embedded objects.
Still, I’m an avowed dehooker, knowing full well that sharks have exceptional out-of-water vision and will purposely and all too accurately level a layers of wicked-sharp teeth at whomever has it pissed off. In fact, take some surfs through YouTube and watch the on-boat videos of shark-bites-angler calamities.
As to you wading safely in the water, M.H., remember what an Australian shark expert once wrote: For every shark you think you’ve seen, hundreds have seen you.
Wait a minute, that’s not real consoling, is it? Did I mention the odds of being bitten by a shark?
How about this ongoing whale show? A couple emails and phone message indicate there are multiple whales very near shore, two seen off south Beach Haven and Holgate.
I was asked if these near-in whales could ever be dangerous to humans. Very seldom – though you more than know it if that “very seldom” comes down on you like tons of bricks. Obviously, when a mom is protecting a newborn calf, all bets are off the “very seldom” table. You-Tube also vividly shows some seemingly unprovoked attacks on boats by male whales. In that case, it could very easily be a showing of whale macho, a pent-up exasperation with humanity in general (Moby Dick syndrome) or even a bizarre bit of horsing around – in a teen whale way. Best bet is to follow federal law and steer well clear of whales.
RUNDOWN: I gotta wax bad this week. If you did good fishing, join the noncrowd. I received suckacious reports from surfcasters, boat anglers and even charter captains. It’s been just piss-poor for most fishing folks. It’s almost as if the low-hooking dog days got here too soon.
The fluke front has been a story of tiny microbursts of insane hooking, followed by macrohours of zippo. There are stretches where even undersized flatties won’t come out to play. That’s kinda odd.
The bluefishing is so sketchy it can’t be counted on to save a bad day. Inlet areas are the best locales to catch flair-ups of cocktail blues.
The stripers have become standoffish. Sure, some sharpies are still managing successful snag-and-drop sessions atop bunker pods. More and more, sharks are now hungrily hanging under the bunkies.
I managed a take-home bass, plugged near the outflow from the Surf City beach fix. Speaking of which, I got a report that anglers had taken some major cows in the run-off from the replenishment project. The dredged water is turbid – and rich in tidbits, like busted up clams and such.
The beach-refix is already approaching the north end of the borough. It’s on a roll, that’s for sure. That pumped in sand is being essentially filtered at both ends, firstly, when forced through screening as it is being sucked into the dredge pipes, then, again, when it comes out. That final screening is watched closely by experts. So far there have been a mere two “pieces” of fuses found. While there will surely be no danger from archaic explosive items hitting the sands, the much smaller screen grade means that cool things like sand dollars and even Indian artifacts won’t be making it through – the way they did first go’round.
The black seabass are not showing well at all. I swear the annual recruitment of this failing species is being annihilated by so many fluke along the bottom, where the little seabass must pass to reach the ocean come fall. The same fluke fate awaits tog and even winter flounder. Face it, the bay and inlet bottom is all but bricked in fluke. Baby one species and throw the others out with the bay water.