Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Time to Screen for Spring;

Mythical Choco-pet Deaths

SPRINGY SUNSCREEN: If ever there was a topic near and dear to all of us it’s skin, that oft over-sensitive hair-trigger-itchy wrapping that holds us together. Little known fact: Skin is the largest organ of the body -- since egos and attitudes aren’t considered organs, per se.

Recently, the fifth person I know, of my generation, took on some skin cancer. All five folks developed cancers of the easily-beaten variety, though you can’t trust any cancer further than you can throw it. All caught the cursed condition early on, before the disease branched out and baddened down.

Interestingly, every one of those victims was saved via observant spouses, each of which came forth with one of those famed and foreboding suggestions, “Maybe you better get that looked at.” The secret advantages of spouseness. Maybe I better reconsider staying single forever.

“And, Jay, do you take this women to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold and diligently search for skin cancers?”

“Exactamundo, Sir.”

“And do you, uh, Omafulafula, take this Jay Mann to be your lawfully …”

“Uh, excuse me, sir. She only speaks a rare Samoan dialect -- but man does she have an eye for skin abnormalities.”

Anyway, you’ve all read the scary stats on skin gone south from deleterious sun exposure. Well, a doctor I talked to recently said he’s been going through the expected deluge of skin-cancered baby-boomers, who thought only in skin-deep terms, while George Hamilton-ing themselves for decades on end.

What I found interesting in my chat with the doc was his acceptance of a possible/likely correlation between skin cancer prevention and the absorption of vitamins C ands E, taken orally and topically. Skeptics of such claims should realize that such vitamin stacking is a good thing on its own, so there’s no risk. It’s all good.

Of course, the taking in of goodly doses of C and E has to be done in concert with the strictest regimen of sunscreens and antioxidant creams applications -- prior to and after sun sessions.

The good thing is we’re all now finely attuned to the vital need to constantly use sun-protection goops and gobs. Yes, goops and gobs. The idea of a thin, fully effective, barely perceptible sunscreen film is nonsense for those of us into heavy outdoorsing, particularly boat angling on day-long trips or surfcasting under 10 sun-factor conditions. Take it from me, there is no sunblock or sunscreen that doesn’t wear off, often in an elevated heartbeat -- make that a sweat bead. Sweat comes from within. If it’s getting out, it has essentially pushed aside the sun protection. In the ugliest terms, reapply or die – as some skin cancers can be signs of end times.

I bring this skin thing up now since this doctor, himself a surfer and angler, says he sees too many folks underestimating the spring sun – and essentially getting off to a bad skin start, one that’s hard to reverse come summer.

“Truth be told, it can take many weeks for skin to recover (from a burn). Who has a chance to do that during summer? Get a spring burn and you’re already behind the eight ball -- with the worst sun months yet to come,” he said.

While this doctor was obviously opened-minded to prevention and such, he had no quick cure for a sunburn, short of topical relief and no more exposure. Again, prevention might be the only cure, though I still favor a thick Noxema application, especially right before bed.

TRY THIS SUNCREEN, S'IL Vous Plait: Back in my desperate-for-funding days, I ventured to take part in a laboratory study to determine the side effects of para-aminobenzoic acid, soon to be the famed “PABA” in olden sunblock products.

I went into this 20-person test thinking I was going to slosh on some skin lotion and hang out in the Hawaiian sun all day. Easy money – and pass that Shirley Temple Mai Tai.

Gospel truth: Turns out I was part of a group there to taste test the stuff. But, hey, at the then juicy rate of $10 an hour, I was fairly willing to even put odd goop on my lips and in my mouth. Or so I thought.

After the third day, I began getting low-grade stomachaches and a nagging headache. Whatever was in that PABA, it sure wasn’t sitting right with me. I was about to pull out of the test, when the experiment came to a close. Just like that, I felt fine and the sunscreen product was rushed to market.

What a cover-up, I thought. The American public once again exposed to hideous chemicals for the sake of corrupt money mongers. I had a world-class editorial all but written when I was advised (by the FDA, no less) that I had actually been given the sugar-based placebo, composed of sucrose and a few other harmless ingredients. “Less sugar than an after-dinner mint,” I was told.


Oddly, I was feeling all bummed out over my hypochondria -- but felt a tad better when one of the experiment’s scientists threw me a bone by saying I was given the “extra strength” placebo.

PET DEATH BY CHOCOLATE: Regardless of the email service you use, a frantic pet-lover message is burning through it like a Pinelands wildfire. The conflagration is over a product called Cocoa Mulch, allegedly made by Hershey Chocolate Company and allegedly sold at mega-retailers, like Target, Lowes, and Home Depot. The diabolical element: Cocoa Mulch is allegedly killing pets left, right and in-between, as apparently evidenced by literally hundreds of websites offering vivid examples of dying Rovers and Fluffys, felled after engorging themselves on the chocolate-smelling mulch. Every honorable pet owner knows how deadly chocolate is to pets. So, logically and apparently, cocoa shell mulch must by likewise deadly if downed – right?

Here’s just a doggy treat-sized bit of one of the life-and-death emails:

“Please tell every dog or cat owner you know. Even if you don't have a pet, please pass this to those who do. Over the weekend, the doting owner of two young lab mixes purchased Cocoa Mulch from Target to use in their garden. The dogs loved the way it smelled and it was advertised to keep cats away from their garden. Their dog (Calypso) decided the mulch smelled good enough to eat and devoured a large helping. She vomited a few times which was typical when she eats something new but wasn't acting lethargic in any way. The next day, Mom woke up and took Calypso out for her morning walk . Half way through the walk, she had a seizure and died instantly. …”

“The bastards killed Calypso!” I yelled, part way through the lengthy email. I furiously pushed my chair away from the computer and jumped up, looking for a Hershey product wrapper to punch the crap outta. And didn’t I come across an unopened pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups atop my desk. I grabbed the sucker by the neck and was ready to pummel the dog-killing accomplice when the candy commenced with one of those typical syrupy spiels. “Now, now, Jay. Calm the hell down. This is not what you think. You’re jumping to conclusion; barking up the wrong tree, so to speak. Remember the time you read that scary email about the unscrupulous sale of body parts and were convinced they had stolen both your kidneys in the middle of the night? And how many kidneys do you still have? Yep, two. So, just calm down and instead of punching the crap out of something sweet, why not eat it instead. Atta boy. Feel better?”

“Yes, thank-you, Reese’s.”

“De nada.”

On calming, helped along by a 4-pack of peanut butter cups, I switched over to my research mode, a specialty of mine (when high on sugar.) In nothing flat, I found this totally convincing dead-dog mulch admonition was, in fact, a pile of dog stuff. I first realized the email was rubbing my nose in it when I found that Home Depot, Target and Lowes didn’t even carry the cocoa-based mulch. I then headed, cyberally, over to Hershey’s Chocolate. It turns out they quit making the mulch years back – when this emailed-based maelstrom first manifested. Then, I went to the home of hound horrors, the ASPCA. If pets were being even faintly endangered, the fine folks in that group would be hounding the hell out of the hurters. I realized the entire chocolate mulch saga was assuming the telltale traits of pure urban legend when I read, on the ASPCA website, “To date, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has not received any cases involving animal deaths due to cocoa mulch ingestion.” Turns out the part Calypso’s owners forget to mention was their pet just happened to be 112 pounds overweight when it suffered said seizure.

SALMON STYLE: I’m thinking about getting a salmon ottoman.

No, not a salmon-colored ottoman but an actual salmon skin/leather ottoman.

Such things are out there now and snaking their way into the designer furniture market.

A South American company is making pieces, some as large as sofas, out of the heavily treated skin of farmed salmon. It appears that salmon skin, when plied to hell and back, takes on the look of python skin.

That python skin look sold me instantly, even though I have no idea what colored python skin looks like. Still, anything large and scaly works for me, in an accoutremental way.

I see you balking at the notion of a fish skin easy chair. Logical answer first: Of course it’s odorless. Uh, make that, I’m pretty sure it’s odorless. Hell, it would have to be odorless, right? Now you got me wondering.

“Hey, Jay, why is that great looking ottoman out in the backyard?”

Anyway, the salmon-skin stuff is hitting the U.S. via Puro Chile, a New York-based company that imports and highlights a huge array of often wild and wooly products that come from the far sought end of the Americas. And don’t think that Chile is lacking in cutting-edge products. In fact, many Chilean venues, like Santiago (capital), are sophisticated movers and groovers in everything from fashion to wines to cosmetics to freaky things that can be done with the millions of salmon skins that have been peeled from that nation’s multibillion dollar farmed salmon industry.

Obviously, the planet’s environmental stewards and recycling gurus are utterly ecstatic over such resource maximization. I’m kinda of that use-it-all ilk.

And this rings a bell within my entrepreneurial innards – and this time it’s not simply a gastric anomaly. Just imagine how much more patterned and dye-able striped bass skins would be. If you’re like me -- and randomly collect pieces of skin from striped bass -- the stuff never dies, so to speak. I’ve even written in this column the way striper skin makes leather look lame when it comes to endurance and impenetrability. I’m already seeing striped bass vests –maybe highlighted by long, Mardi Gras type necklaces made of large striped bass scales. Hey, imagine tackle shops all having a drop-off point for striper skins, the way the Elk’s Clubs have drop-off points for deer hides. Then we could make hide of them -- and find some way to pass profits on to either the abjectly poor or me.

In case you’re thinking in terms of purchasing a salmon skin couch, it’ll set you back maybe $2,500. A python skin couch? Priceless.

SEALED FATE: The baby harp seals off Labrador are momentarily ahead of the game – though their asses are still on the line.

Harvesters are hammering away at baby seals serenely sitting atop the limited ice floes off southern Labrador. The slayers slaughtered about 55,000 seal pups during the first week of the annual hunt.

This year, harvesters will be allowed to redden and deaden 330,000 seals – if demand permits. That allotted number reflects about 30 percent of recently birthed seals.

There is a huge question over where that many sacrificial seals – meant to keep the population in proper alignment with the ecology -- would go, once clobbered. How much they’ll be worth is an even more pointed pecuniary question. Demand is itself being hammered. While the new European Union trade ban on all seal products hasn’t killed the industry, it may have sealed its fate, long-term.

There is a lot more to a seal hunt than meets the compassionate eye. You and I might academically understand the need to cull the seal herds. I, more than most, understand the Native American connection to taking seals as a form of livelihood. However, this hunt quickly comes down to courting the court of public opinion. While commercial fishermen might be vehemently in favor of culling the seals, that doesn’t mean the fishing industry can get all defiant and uppity with their customers.

The reason the seafood trade is now at an all-time high is public acceptance. Face it, the public has gone gonzo on seafood. While rigorous regulations have boggled the minds of fishermen, they remain big business – and they are businessmen, even down to the deckhands. Face it, seal hunts leave a bad taste in the mouths of literally millions of seafood-eating customers. In fact, well over 90 percent of seafood customers loath seal hunts. It’s so distasteful that, push comes to bash, they might even turn against fishermen -- and seafood. That old standby premise of the customers always being right needs to be applied here.

As for the seals ruining the comeback of oceanic fishing stocks, remember who knocked the stocks so low they can’t even take natural predation. Tweren’t the seals.

The seal hunt will wind down next week.

RUNDOWN: We’ll begin with bluefish – all over the place. Chubbier-than-usual springtime tailor blues have been bolting from Great Bay all the way north to Barnegat Inlet and further up, to Sandy Hook.

If there’s a distinctive angle to this year’s run of spring blues it’s their aggressiveness, even in the ocean. Per numerous bay, boat and beach reports, the blues are blasting the crap out of metals, plastics and various plugs, including poppers. Such saucy attacks on artificials if fully associated with spring action the bay – where such splashiness is also going on. However, it’s a tad odd – and super fun -- to have them going ballistic in the still-chilled beachline – and outward many miles.

The bass are showing in near epic numbers, for spring. Schoolies and just-keepers are also just about everywhere. However, there are now major heavy-hitting stripers in play. Per the Fisherman’s HDQ website, “Bob Kenney of Sherer's Boat Basin landed a really nice sized striper this evening jigging just outside of the Barnegat Inlet. The bass went for Bob's Hopkins metal.”

It should be noted that it’s still no sure-thing to score a keeper bass. Still, odds are pretty good that some time well spent will offer a goodly number of hookups. Make sure to try a slew of artificials until you match the hatch. Plastic or GULP! tails work very well, when jumped off the bottom slowly, or swum erratically further up the water column.. Faux eels work very well right about now. Swim the slowly at various levels in the water column.

Blackfish out there in abundance, as the season drops from 4 fish a day to NO TOG a day, from May 1 to July 15. Pool-winning hookups on headboats and charters are often over 10 pounds. Charter boats, like Pop’s Pride, have had high-hooking sessions that allowed fares to pick and choose what went into the cooler.

Registration forms for the upcoming 9th Annual Simply Bassin’ spring tournament will be in shops this week. It’s going to be a kick-ass event, as weather and baitfish are coming together in a positive way.

The Stafford Township Vol. Fire Co. will be holding its annual Fishing Flea Market this Saturday, April 24. It’ll take place at the company’s Manahawkin station, located at 133 Stafford Avenue. That’s the road that goes on to become the Road-to-Nowhere. The market runs from 9 am to 3 pm. It costs $3 to get in. Save some change for the 50-50.

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