Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report



BILLBOARD DAYS: I have to admit I like the new digital billboard on Rte. 72 in Stafford. The wonderfully colorful ultra high-def sign changes ads every 30 seconds or so. I like to just sit there and watch it file through the different messages -- until the cops come along and angrily tell me I can’t stop in the fast lane just to watch the sign change.

Unbeknownst to all but a fading few of us, that exact location has played the screen role for a long, long time. The billboard is located where the old Manahawkin Drive-In movie theater screen stood.

As kids, we would hitch over from LBI at night, sneak into bushes surrounding the drive-in, and nervously watch admission-free/sound-free movies. Of course, there were a few distractions, including clouds of mosquitoes and “bouncers” constantly on the look for gatecrashers. We were especially vulnerable to capture when we’d slink out of the shrubbery and into unused stalls, where we’d hold speakers to our ears.

In retrospect, the best part of our covert drive-in experience was bolting from the inept bouncers. I was greased lighting back then. It got to the point where the bouncers would see me and just say, “Screw it.”

It was Ed W. who came up with the cruelest drive-in stunt of all – maybe the cruelest stunt in the history of the drive-in world. We all got us some cheapo flash cameras. It didn’t even matter if they had film in them. We’d then ninja from car to car until we found one (of many) with “backseaters,” usually young folks fully disinterested in what was happening on the big screen. Steamed up windows were dead giveaways. On hand queue, we loosed a series of flashbulbs into the car.

Oh, the cruelty. It’s only now that I fully realize the horror we loosed. Surely, for days, weeks and even years to come, there were couples walking around just waiting for the blackmail calls to begin.

By the by, some of those cameras DID have film in them. And were you a backseater back in the day, Mr. Mayor. The tradition lives on!

ANGLING THE DOOM: With all these frickin’ TV shows and news stories about doomsdays, it’s really got me thinking. After doomsday will there still be Daylight Savings Time? I sure hope so.

I do occasionally watch the likes of Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel. It’s very soothing. It makes me feel so -- what’s the word I’m looking for -- normal, that’s it. It seems it’ll rapidly go from the end of the world and into the beginning of the weird.

I’m not saying those preppers are abnormal, it just seems they come already equipped with toys in their bomb shelter attics. This one prepper says when the world as we know it ends, he’ll resist shooting any trespassers until he sees what they have on them that he can use, then he’ll shoot them.

Is it just me or is it a tad worrisome to think folks like these preppers will be repopulating the new world? I’m half hoping the apes win out.

Oddly, not one of the preppers televised to date has stocked up on tons of fishing equipment. Face it, any trauma that has doomed humanity on the planet will likely put a big dent in the all forms of land-based life forms. i.e. foodstuffs. The prime survivors under the sea. Fishermen will likely be the only hope for nutritional deliverance for post-preppers, unless, of course, they’re relying on me. “What the hell, Jay! We’re sick of eating sea robins. I thought we brought you aboard to be the fisherman.”

“So I lied a bit on my resume. I never said I was a successful fisherman. Besides, I also got those two tasty sand sharks a month back.”

And just my luck I’ll be out fishing the eerily empty beaches of LBI and hear, “Sir, I’m with Fish and Wildlife. Can I see your license?”

“Oh, for cryin’ out loud, we just had doomsday and you’re asking for my license.”

“Do you know how many times I’ve heard that excuse, sir?” as he hands me a still-smoldering citation.

“And I’m guessin’ you’ll be keeping an eye on me now, right.”

“Hell, you’re the only fisherman left. I’ll be sitting up on the dunes – watching.”

Doomsday sucks.

Dogs are some of my favorite people. I’m so close to them I pick up their thoughts clear as day. Take, for instance, over the weekend, as I was surfcasting. I watched a gal beach-walking a canine odd couple: a truly massive mastiff (of some sort) and a fully frazzled terrier.

The mastiff was trudging along with the most indifferent face I’d seen since Lurch on the old Adam’s Family. The terrier, on the other hand, was going psycho every time the gal threw a ball into the surf. She repeatedly tried to egg on big dog, waggling the ball under his nose and then throwing it. “Go get it.” Big dog’s indifferent expression oozed, “Fat chance” whereas tiny tazmo terrier went ballistic each throw, running into the ice-cold ocean.

I could even hear the gal say to big dog, “Now why don’t you run after the ball like Bobo.” Heard, by only me, was the big dog mumbling, “It’s an established fact Bobo was born and fully remains deranged.”

Sidebar: I have some friends who own a similarly laidback mastiff. They once tried to exercise him by going to a dirt road go the dog could run alongside their SUV. They let him out and began driving slowly forward. The mastiff disgustedly eyed the set-up, turned around and slowly began walking the other way. “Gimme a call when ya get back.”

Back on the beach, the gal even taunted the big dog by saying, “Look how good Bobo swims.”

Heard by only me, “I’ll tell you what. Next week when you’re at work, maybe I’ll just see how good little Bobo can swim – in a flushed toilet. ‘Go, Bobo, go. I think you’ve got it. No, wait, you’re spinning around a lot, aren’t ya?  You might want to abandon that doggy paddle and for the breaststroke. No, that’s not doing it either. Here maybe it’ll help if I just throw this ball in.’”

Good thing big dogs never follow through on what they’re thinking during beach walks.

SEEMS BIG TO ME: I was invited to be part of a study group of baby boomer professionals.

Hey, I warned them they had the wrong guy but they still wanted me to take part in a question-session about boomer life. One of the prime questions had to do with the biggest changes and developments we had seen over the past half-century. An  answer came to me almost instantly. I proudly jotted it down.

I was a bit put-off when folks came up with answers like computers, cell phones and lasers.

Then my answer came up.

Procter: “Mr. Mann, I see here that you feel the biggest thing in 50 years is the way pistachio nuts have changed from bright red to beige.”

Damn straight.

A mumbling sound misted through the group. I figured they were embarrassed about the way I had one-upped them.

Even though I wasn’t invited to the next meeting, I just know there’s some sort of cosmic significance to that pistachio change. I’m checking with some Mayans even as we speak.

RUNDOWN: I was half hoping this week I could launch into serious fishing chatter but short of a few shorts it’s not all that bubbly out there on the angling front. I saw a picture of a keeper bass taken on a drift, bayside, toward the Mullica.

Graveling Point and Pebble Beach have allowed action-hungry anglers to see a rod twitch now and again. Per always, it’s very hard to pick a tide and place. Late-day is traditionally prime, but it more often comes down to winds. Love those honking southerlies. Our buddy Scotty – and crew – keeps his finger firmly on the Mullica pulse. Cheack out  http://www.scottsbt.com/fishing/report.htm.

A bit of a spring tradition for me is to hit the Mullica’s many upriver banks, landings and bridges. With this stretch of near 80-degree days – way, way colder right along the shoreline – the Mullica headwaters will likely become unheard of warm by next week’s first full week of spring.

If you’ve never fished small bass off the upper banks, it’s downright weird to be plugging what is often nothing more than a creek and have decent-sized bass blasting artificials clean out of the water.  I’m pretty sure you need a freshwater license to fish that far upriver.

On that topic, there is some obvious confusion over who needs a freshwater license and when. The main problem seems to be a misunderstanding of the “Senior” fishing license schedule.

Unless you’re 70 or over, a “Senior” license comes with a cost – and paperwork. It costs $12.50 if you’re an in-stater and between 65-69 YOA.

Fish and Wildlife cops constantly hear “I’m a senior. I don’t need a license.” Again, that ONLY applies to fishers 70 YOA and over.

If you’re between the ages of 16 and 64, you need to purchase a $22.50 license.

A trout license costs $10.50 across the board, except for those 70 YOA or older.

NJ National Guard members may be eligible for free licenses. NJ military vets with service-connected disabilities are in free.

A person in the United States armed services is eligible for a NJ resident license.

BETTER ACCESS IF NEEDED: The NJDEP is in the final run toward what it terms “substantial changes to public access rules.” This might have some impacts on the north end, specifically North beach and Loveladies.

One of the more angling applicable proposed changes includes “…Fishing access and associated amenities, including parking that accommodates night fishing.”

Don’t even venture to ask me what those “associated amenities” might be. The first amenity I’d like to see entails scantily clad beach waitresses, straddling quads, and balancing trays with ice-cold energy drinks and pupus (the Hawaiian word for snacks, since I see a Hawaiian theme to the waitress thing.)  Hey, what’s an amenity anyway?

Closer to reality, there has long been a suspicion that North Beach and Loveladies try to squeeze out the average beach-goer, via a goodly showing of “No Beach Access” and “Private” signs on beachward roadways/driveways. I’ll understate the reactions of those homeowners to any and all interlopers by saying they’re a bit vociferous in asserting their property rights.

The worst exchange I ever had (North Beach) just about led to fisticuffs – and it was with renters, not even the landowners. I’m half wondering if those owners leave an instruction manual for renters, describing how to best fend off beach crashers. The manual is so inviting, more militant renters say, “Screw the beach” and anxiously hang out to ambush passersby. (I’m not serious. “Same to you, buddy!”) 

Despite my never-ending dedication to making sure everyone has access to an incredible time on LBI’s sands, I’m on the fence when it comes to accessifying North Beach and Loveladies -- and I’m not just saying that because I know all the secret ways to sneak onto those beaches. Even if more accesses were made accessible, there’s really no parking room thereabouts.

What’s more, those two northern sections of Long Beach Township don’t reflect LBT’s true access-friendly nature. The township generally has an impeccable beach admittance record. Every street end for miles on end is groomed for safe passage. It also keeps a goodly number of buggy accesses up and running.

That said, I’m sensing this access effort by the DEP will become a testy issue for LBT. In fact, even surfcasters on the north end will complain about being kept at bay when trying to get to the ocean. 

One other thing, marinas can sigh reservedly) as the new DEP access rules remove the burden of keeping their facilities constantly open to public access – as a means for everyday folks to reach/see the bay. However, should a marina expand, the expansions much be geared for all folks, great and small.

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