Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

We Were Mosquito Soldiers Then;

Striper Cows Deserve More Leeway





There is the year of the pig, cow, horse, and, likely, wooly mammoth. That’s all fine and good. However, the one year you don’t want to contend with is the one we’re now experiencing: The year of the mosquito.

My editor’s desk has been the landing zone for a slew of calls and emails from folks angrily buzzing about how hideous the mosquitoes have been.

Inexplicably, the complainers always seem to maneuver the problem into my backyard, so to speak. Somehow or other, there are too many biting insects because the media isn’t doing its job – and I, specifically, have failed to address the issue. Say, what?!

Hey, I’m seriously suffering, too. Just yesterday, I was bug-driven clean out of my backyard and into my house, power-slamming the screen door behind me. It was anything but a clean get-away. Not only had a slew of the bloodsuckers followed me inside but there was also a bunch more ravenously bouncing off the screen on the outside, snarling to get in. Yes, mosquitoes can snarl bloody murder. You just need some sophisticated listening equipment to hear ‘em. 

But you didn’t need any extra amplification to hear me going after the hangers on who had doggedly come inside on my heels. Once in, the bloody biters quickly got the sense this wasn’t Kansas any more. Opting to instantly get out of Dodge, they went for the outdoor brightness – and hit the screening instead. A deadly smile crossed my lips. With something resembling fatal fanfare, I ceremoniously thumbed each one out of existence, leaving small coffin-ish dents in the screen. I even left the grisly corpses ingrained, a primal message to other biters -- as if.

All but admiring my killing fields, I suddenly realized I still had biting sensations all over my bitten up legs. Looking down, there wasn’t a single insect on-scene. That’s when my recent obsession with the paranormal reared up. The only feasible explanation for the ongoing biting sensation: ghost mosquitoes!

After millions of years of existence, mosquitoes have perfected a way to go from earthbound to ghostly in the time it takes to squish one. Their disembodied essence was still biting away at me. Ghost biters in the sky.

(Hey, when I’m being bitten to hell and back, I don’t always jog down the most commonly followed trails of thought.)

My only hope against evil spirited bloodsuckers was to run for my ghost-fending herbal sage. I lit it up and smudged the sage’s spirit-chasing smoke all around my person. And damn if that eerie biting and itching sensation didn’t depart.

(Yes, I recently invested in a sage farm but far be it from me to use this column for personal gains -- via a soon-to-be-introduced product called “J-Mann’s Ghost Mosquito Sage Smoke – For Insectivorous Exorcisms and Such.”   

THE WAR TO END ALL MOSQUITOES: I fondly recall those olden low-bite days when we, the human swarms, had the upper hand over the mosquito swarms. Chemical warfare was not only fair – it worked wonders. The days of DDT were upon us.

Against overwhelming insect odds, we boldly fired foggy volleys of chemical compounds into the late-day air. In vaporous waves, we began smoking the enemy – sending them back to bug hell. Victory was in the air.

Attack vehicles were small bizarre-looking trucks, hump-backing creepy containers, hosed and nozzeled to unloose bug-fatal fumes.

The trucks would drive up and down every street, spewing dirty-white smoke in volumes reminiscent of steam issuing from olden locomotives.

Those vintage mosquito wars had foot troops to boot: Us kids -- the children of raw and bite-ravaged legs.

On our daily return from hours of laborious play in the woods, we knew the enemy on a skin-deep level. The oozing mosquito welts on our legs were so populous they would seemingly join hands and become one solid savage itch-land. During rare breaks from our constant-motion days, we’d sit down on the ground, pull our legs up to our chests and attack our bites, old and new. We’d talk random stuff, to a cadence of scratching, gouging, picking and, mainly, bleeding. Our first entry- level obscenities were leveled at mosquitoes.

With biting bugs our sworn enemies, we took to the mosquito wars in an utterly odd way, something akin to fume support.

When we saw the approach of the “spray” truck, we circled our bikes and readied ourselves -- watching in Ritalin-free eagerness as the smoke of battle rose above the houses in neighboring blocks, soon to reach our regiment.

We would strategically prepare by double-checking bicycle chains for proper tightness and micro-adjusting baseball cards to most effectively and nosily hit our spokes as we peddled. One of our assumed roles was enhancing the din of battle.

Once war-ready, we straddled our bikes and offered each other confident looks and nods of commitment. We were about to do our part in the mosquito massacre. This was our time, our war.

As the fuming truck turned into view, it was on. Via an unspoken signal, we simultaneously peddled into a roadside position.  

Timing our merge with craftsman-like precision, we fell in directly behind the slow-moving fume-thrower. The mightier of us would peddle deep within the murky insecticidal smoke – into the famed fog of war.

Sure, we realized this was not the brainiest thing to do, but back then our brains often had minds of their own.

By parental high command, we could only take the battle so far – no further than Jennifer Lane, roughly at Mrs. Gentile’s wrought iron fencing -- with spearheads atop each metal post, allegedly meant to skewer children trying to get at her apple tree. We burrowed under it.

But in the throes of the mosquito war, few of us ever made it to Jennifer Lane. Far short, one-by-one, we’d woozily veer from the fumes, cross-eyed, giggling oddly, crashing into gutters and curbs. We’d usually fall on our sides, legs still valiantly peddling in place -- until passing adults would right us, offering mocking remarks about our “idiotic” involvement with the war. Hey, if it weren’t for us …

I do have to admit, we were never sure why our fume-sucking participation was vital to the cause, but, as mosquito soldiers, it was not ours to question why. Georgie Herbert, wise beyond his years, actually came up with the rationale, “It is for the greater good.”  It sounded good to us – whatever the hell it meant. Georgie would never know.

Personally, I never suffered any significant developmental problems by power-inhaling pure DDT. Sure, there was that phase when I’d always put my shoes on before my pants. That quickly vanished – sometime in my late teens. And, admittedly, an inordinate portion of our gang went on to join the stony Hippy generation. Hmmm.

As for the war to end all mosquitoes, one day the spraying just stopped. No treaty. No explanation. Only rumors of some woman -- and dead birds. That was also right about the time our bikes got too small -- and those passing adults began looking at us with different, more-concerned eyes.

In the fiercest form of re-purposing, our training in nebulous warfare was now actually being called upon. Just like that, we went from fighting mosquitoes on the home front to fighting an enigmatic enemy in a place called Vietnam – somewhere way past Jennifer Lane. Georgie went. He managed to write us one time, warning that the ******* mosquitoes were everywhere – and not to come over for any reason. 

FIN TIMES: I had an email about folks seeing shark fins breaking the ocean water's surface. That's utterly rare, i.e. it makes perfect Hollywood sense but not much shark sense. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the men in gray suits are down in the water column. That same percentage applies to how often dolphins and flotsams are misidentified as shark fins. The exception is when something dead is floating – or, dare I say it, floundering -- on the surface. Then, shark fins break the surface right before taking a taste test. 

TOUCHY COW SUBJECT: I got the following email from Eric Svelling.

I usually don’t use full names in here but Eric and his past/present family members were founding commercial fishing fathers on LBI. I’ve long been able to chat serious commercial and recreational fishing topics with him.

“Hi Jay, last winter in The SandPaper you shared a link on YouTube showing striped bass that had been killed by commercial fishermen. I am sending you a link that shows a giant "Cow" bass killed by a sport fisherman. The commercial guys were probably fishing for some other species and by law were not allowed to keep the fish they caught and released them back in the water, dead or alive.

The sport fishing guy was following the law also, only he got to keep the fish and get his picture posted and celebrated. I don’t condone otter trawling per say, but to me a dead bass is a dead bass. There is the difference, though. In NC, there is a minimum and a maximum size limit; cow bass are off limits.

Most sport fishermen (including me) dream of catching a 50 lbs bass. Cow bass produce up to 2 million eggs per spawning cycle. If 100 "Cow" bass, over 40 lbs, get caught off the state of NJ this year, that would be 200,000,000 less striper eggs that get spawned out next cycle. I guess my point being is this: How can the killing of these giant stripers be the goal of every sport fishermen when it is so detrimental to the species?

It is way too easy to point the finger at the commercial guys with out taking the time to point out the problem with targeting these egg-bearing fish.

I am not, or do not want to be seen, as anti-port or pro-commercial on any fishery related issue. I just don’t like what I perceive to be a double standard as far as conservation goes. …”

My response is rote:

Eric, You're preaching to the choir. I'm in lock-step with your thinking.

If you read my columns closely, I just as often go after fun fishermen -- as often as the commercial.

I have both the enviable and unenviable position of being solely for the fish. Once they're properly conserved, both social sectors in the "fishing " realm can prosper. 

I was one of the first people -- if not the first person -- to coin the phrase "commercial fishermen fish for the entire nation."

The abuse of the wintering bass biomass off the Delmarva -- at the hands of anglers -- is unconscionable, considering the low edibility of those prime DNA-gifted fish. The by-catch killing of thousands of bass is equally insane. It's a lose-lose proposition.

I'm sure I can count on you when we go for a slot system sure to protect larger "genetically-gifted" bass.

IMPORTANT: As you surely know, Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers are asking for NJ angler registry cards. This is seemingly not a push to bust non-papered people but is done routinely during violation stops, safety checks and catch checks.

I must alert folks that the federal-level NOAA registry card – even the one you paid DC to get – DOES NOT work in NJ. Notice that’s a “NOT.”

You must have the NJ registry card/paperwork with you when fishing, otherwise you will be cited. And the “ticket” is big money.

This is not official but I believe a printout of the registration form suffices. It has the registration number an officer can feed into the computer. I know for sure that “Don’t have it on me” will likely flounder in a big way – though I think an officer could track down your status by name alone. Still …

RUNDOWN: What a heat-up in hooking, as we gun toward the largest weekend of the year.

Shortly after I blogged a few negative reports, some damn-decent ones arrived -- along with scalding hot reports from the canyons.

I only periodically bring up fishing in the canyons since my column is primarily surf casting and nearshore boat fishing. While I’m a massive fan of big game fishing, it’s a tad exclusive, though not in an exclusionary way whatsoever. In fact, captains that take fares to the canyons are among the best seaman and coolest fishing folks around. It’s just a costly proposition getting out there, though one that is almost always well worth the money. 

Currently yellowfin tuna are so a-swarm that some vessels have iced out before they’ve fished out. Two different captains told me they simply didn’t have enough ice to accommodate the allowable catch. I’m guessing that’s not the worst problem to have.

Email: “Hi Jay.  The Reel Trouble caught 8 nice yellowfins (tuna) in the canyon.  Local old timers Tom Hamilton and Bill DuBois, Sr., caught the first and second place heaviest tuna in the BHMTC tuna tourn yesterday. Tom's yellowfin weighed 93.5# and Bill DuBois, Sr., fish weighed 84.5#.  Old guys rule!  The canyon was alive with whales and dolphin.  Billy.”   

Another glowing go-out: The No Limits fishing team ventured offshore in Bob Percopo’s 33 Hydra Sport on Sunday looking for yellow fin tuna with a three man crew of Bob Percopo, Jeff Barnhart and Don Tepfer. Shortly after lines were in the water at 8:15, four rods went down and the team was successful in boating three yellow fin tuna up to 70 pounds – with rainbow spreader bars the lure of choice. Back up on the troll the way way back bird and green machine was hit by a white marlin that was successfully boated and released.  Staying in the same area between the Lindy and Spencer with water temperature at 73 degrees, the crew hooked up again with three yellow fin, successfully boating two up to 60 pounds. …”

With the BHM&TC’s famed White Marlin Invitational nearing, it would be real nice if the hot bite could hold on.

Closer to shore, the inside action has also gotten hot. Talking with Pop’s Pride and a couple other charters, the middle zone, 30 miles out, has been real decent, once you find the hot zones. Along with grizzly bluefish to 16 pounds, some major blue fin tuna are in the trolling mix. Look for that zone to heat up further in the next couple/few weeks.

Fluking remains finicky but doable. We’ve returned to effortless catching -- and piss-poor keeping. The beachfront flatties are also once again out in force. Odds of grabbing a keeper there seem even worse than from a boat. Worse than worse, eh? Still, surfcasters are far more inclined to enjoy anything that grabs hold – sometime a tad too much so. A beachcomber came across a “foreign” couple who proudly displayed a cooler with “I don’t know how many” undersized fluke and a couple tog. The fact they were so excited and willing to show their illegal catches assures me they were simply clueless. They were also sincerely stunned to realize they were in violation of regulations – times a dozen. 

There are resident stripers on many fronts, including beachfront rocks, inside Barnegat Inlet and around that inlet’s jetties. There are also night bass in the bay. Some snag-and-drop bass/bunker sessions are still being had, though sharks are also continuing to show down below, where bass had reigned supreme. Still, it’s always worth it to go after bunker pods, --  as will surely be the attraction this insanely crowded July 4th weekend.

Weakfish are showing to the south -- Grassy Channel, Tuckerton Bay, even in Little Egg, toward those various sedges know for summer weakfishing. I guess the spring spawn is over, though I once went to a weakfish lecture where the speakers explained that spawning weakfish could arrive in ongoing waves, well into the summer. Personally, I’ve never seen that but the researchers had studied the trends long and hard. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there are enough weakies left to fill even one good spawn.

As I do annually, I try to talk people into a calmer state of mind for the upcoming weekend insanity. Face it, all the hotspots – and even lukewarm spots -- will be capped with boat anglers. There’s no beating the crowd monster -- and never a better time to think in terms of laidback relaxation. Why not go where few boats have gone. No, not some exotic out-there place, simply somewhere no boats are hanging as you motor around.

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