Boom Goes the Bass Baits; Bluefish Says, ‘Let It Bleed’
Mornings have felt 40s for air temps. They’ve had the feel and smell of fall – that odd combination of fresh, pinelands fragrances and the far more distant, but discernable odor of industrial smells from as far away as Pittsburgh. I can pick up steel mill smells a mile away – more like 400 miles away.
Back in the day, such fall air indicators would have me scurrying back to Hawaii for warmth – and to resurrect an underwater business I kept splashing around for just such winter escapes. Nowadays, fall beach buggying, surf plugging, Holgate haunting and Pinelands traipsing have adequately replaced the tropics. This autumn, being stuck here has stood in for Hawaii exceptionally well. What an amazingly Indian Summerized September. Absolutely epic.
While October has thrown open the doors to true autumn, there’s something righteous (old hippy term) about the strangely nostalgic messages within showers and offshore breezes.
CLASSIC LAUNCH: The fall-feel is part-and-parcel to the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic, now in the first week of its eight-week run.
Per recent tradition, the first week of the Classic is more of a stretching exercise. We loosen up by going through the surfcasting motions, knowing the more challenging fish will come – eventually.
There was nary a single weigh-in, bass or blue, over the weekend. A single 34-inch or greater striper coulda been money, so to speak, factoring in the Fisherman’s Headquarters $100 weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) special prize, along with the $35 daily value prize.
I heard an enterable bass was caught on Saturday but the catcher had failed to enter the Classic. Pity. Wanna be equally pitiful? Keep putting off entering the Classic.
We did see Chris Moore bring an 18-pounder to Classic scales on Monday, breaking the ice – in 67-degree water.
CANNONS BOOM ON THE BEACH: May the first volleys ring out in the war between surfcasters and just out-of-reach fishes.
That’s my mercenarial read on what the Surf Rocket is now bringing to our beachfront.
“Que es un Surf Rocket?” you ask in broken Spanish, for whatever reason.
Well, amigo, the Surf Rocket is actually a bona fide surf cannon, designed to add boom to your bait. It’s oddly legal – for now.
Looking suspiciously akin to your friendly, everyday mortar launcher, the leaning tubular device uses compressed air to literally launch your hook, line and sinker into outer space – where you can then leisurely fish for UFOs.
Closer to reality, it truly does launch your bait up to 500 frickin’ feet. That’s over one and a half football fields – with a couple extra points thrown in for good measure. You can also downsize the launches.
Here’s the read from the Surf Rocket’s website: “The Surf Rocket, a specially designed compressed air casting cannon … gives you the upper hand by allowing you to cast your bait into the deep water, past the sand bar, without a boat, right from the beach.”
This new angling item is just plain weird, thus my utter mesmerization.
From my vantage as a mature journalist, the first train of thought jumping into my enquiring mind is, “What the hell else can this bugger launch seaward?”
OK, say we put, like, a frozen Cornish game hen into it – or, perish the thought, a couple of pigeons? Calm down, Dick, there are plenty enough pigeons to go around.
Also, I’m not sure why, but a couple boxes of Green Giant Brussels Sprouts jumps to mind as something that really should be seen, at least once in a lifetime, soaring 500 feet into space.
Less professionally, I can picture some of my surfing buddies sitting in the line-up freaking out as kernels of creamed corn come raining down.
More along angling lines, what about catch-and-release, Surf Rocket-style? Overheard in Holgate: “Guess that last bass J-mann caught was too small. Look at that sucker fly.” (Truth be told, that bass was plenty big enough. I just couldn’t resist.)
The Surf Rocket folks bring up a decent sell point by hyping their launcher as also serving as a high-powered chumming device. Their words: “With our system you can chum any area before fishing. No more chasing tides for deep water or watching birds work on the bait out of reach.”
While I’m admittedly instantly sold on anything that can launch a loaf of stale Italian bread at passing Jet Skiers, I’m far from sold on indiscriminately placing veritable mortar launchers in the hands of oft-cranky, sleep-deprived, caffeine-saturated, fall surfcasters. I believe only the few, the proud, the thoroughly trained – like myself – should be issued, I mean sold, Surf Rockets.
Yes, they can launch lures, providing you have time before the tide rises to reel them back in.
I can picture myself trucking up to surf fishing folks and saying, “Hey, for $20, my Surf Rocket and I will chum this piece of ocean to hell and back. Ten bucks more and I’ll launch your lines for the next hour. Fifty bucks will get you a rocket full of rotten bunker sprayed on those surfcasters who are snaking in on your spot.” Ka-ching.
Scary thought: As hook, line and sinker are Surf Rocketed forth – at who knows how many feet per second – just imagine the line sizzling off the free-spool reel and suddenly getting fouled. “Hey, Dan, check that out: There’s a rod and reel flying in formation with them-there mud ducks?”
READYING FOR FALL FISHING: For my part, I’ve been honing hooking skills by catching and re-catching 2-pound tailor blues, seemingly named that due to the way each one seems tailor made: the same size and shape, one after another.
Throwing only plugs, I’ve caught 50 or more – maybe as many as 100 – of the aggressive little suckers, all on light gear.
Working on lure-throwing techniques, hook-setting strategies and finesse-fighting/landing of the blues, I’m now hopefully tuned for the bigger biters to come.
GIMME BACK MY FINGERTIP!: There was an out of the blue price to pay for toying with bluefish, oft referred to as ocean piranha.
For whatever macho-esque reason, I always opt to bare-handedly remove hooks from highly pissed-off tailor blues. That habit came back to bite me in the ass – though, technically, the ass was my thumb in this case. Huh?
In what was a burst of compassion for a rather skinny bluefish that had taken half my three-treble lure down the gullet, I tried to finesse the throated hook out by pushing the plug a tad deeper into the fish’s throat – hoping to loose the tail treble. It’s actually a fairly common dehooking practice when certain types of fish are throated-hooked. But not a frickin’ bluefish, Jay!
The foul-hooked, foul-mooded fish responded to my kindness – and those sweet, wicked-sharp hooks in its mouth – by (possibly purposely) chopping down with dissection intent on the end of my right thumb and fingernail.
The pain was pretty damn respectable, as in, “You son-of-a- …!”
The predicament that followed was borderline bizarre. The bugger went into one of those famed bluefish bulldog clampdowns. I could see it in its eyes. “When bluefish eyes are smilin’ …”
The fish knew full well it had chomped down on a goodly hunk of human hand meat. Some might say I became the essence of a finger mullet. It had no intention of letting go – ever.
With the pain du moment soaring, I mentally scrambled to recall the charts regarding how long it takes a fish to die out of water. Those mental charts kept blurring as I discovered that bluefish could deliver volleys of enhanced bite-down power, above and beyond utter clampdown.
Between surges of pain, a bit of survivalist brilliance struck me.
I rushed into knee-deep water, lowered the two-pound ogre in and loudly said, “Here ya go, buddy. You’re free to swim away.”
I was, of course, lying through my teeth since the fish still had that engorged hook holding fast. Fortunately, bluefish aren’t the brightest fish in the ocean. Feeling a mere splash of freedom, it disenchomped.
No sooner was I set free, than my heartbeat essentially took over. The sudden de-toothing allowed my blood to throb its way out, quite freely.
Despite bleeding like a stuck pig, I still had a humane chore to perform. With rivers of redness flowing down my arm and off my elbow, I rushed the hooked – and now doubly pissed fish – back to my truck. Grabbing an instantly reddened pair of pliers, I metallically completed the dehooking process.
Yes, I was then tempted to bite it back – hours later, with salt and pepper. Instead, I released the bloody thing. It swam off, no worse for wear – and likely anxious to tell the pack about what it had done.
As I bay washed the wound, I saw I wasn’t bitten all that badly, thanks to my fingernail having had my back. Nonetheless, a decent chunk of my thumb would be sleeping with the fishes that night. I coulda used a couple stitches, but, typically, my emergency stitch-up kit was nowhere to be found. And I wasn’t about to resort to using a sewing needle and fishing line – again. Besides, the gash actually profited from some serious gushing. It’s a cleansing thing, since blues have been known to carry some nasty-ass bacteria in their mouths.
Before finally wrapping the bite, I saw the chuckle-worthy irony that anglers often “bleed” bluefish being kept for din-din. Paybacks are surely a bitch.
I even got another chuckle when I got home, opened my Hotmail, and the very first e-mail announced, “Jay, You can receive compensation for your injury!”
HOLGATE MIS-HAPPENING: Despite the paucity of boats buzzing about over the windy weekend, wouldn’t ya know it, another fracas broke out in Holgate. A lone vessel came puttering into the back cut and the skipper decided he was going to pull in right where half a dozen folks were fishing – and just as many were throwing net, myself among them.
“What are you thinking, buddy?”
In this instance, the arriving vessel was way out of line. It was truly as if the captain was saying, “I don’t care what all you people are doing along the bank, we’re here now. Just go somewhere else.”
The verbal exchanges, as the vessel tried to anchor up – after drifting over fishing lines – got very heated.
One of the vociferous gals on the vessel – where are the gals learning this language!? – screamed that they needed to anchor out of the wind. No s***, Sherlock. You’re out casually cruising around with small craft advisories flying. It was as if we were supposed to pay for their jaunt in junk conditions.
The captain and his cussin’ gal crew anchored a bit farther down the beach, pretty much out of our way. He could have easily anchored that discreetly to begin with. But, no, that one-boat gang wanted to pull up right where everyone was fishing.
Fortunately, we’re just about past the “party beach” period for the Holgate back cut – and not a cuss too soon.
As for the Holgate drive-on, the ramp has been holding its own, admirably. The sandbagged stretch is taking high tide hits but offers access and egress once the tides drain off.
On the beach, the dead forest area – three-fourths of the way to the Rip – is tight to impassable during the highest high tides. There is a slight overland trail near the ex-shrubberies that allows vehicular passage during some high tides. However – take this to heart, or else – if you get up there and the loose embankment toward the ocean gives way, you will roll your buggy.
Fishing at the Rip and back cut is down to small blues and less than occasional stripers.
For more fishing fodder, try www.jaymanntoday.ning.com.
A WARNING – OF SORTS: I want to end this column on a preemptive note, as much for all y’all as for myself.
I just got word that over the weekend a tragedy befell a cockroach-eating contest in Miami.
I assure you this is all true. I don’t kid about cockroach-eating contests.
Edward Archbold, 32, West Palm Beach, died after acing the biggest cockroach-eating contest the Sunshine State has to offer.
Out of 30 apparently insectivorous contestants, Archbold bugged out on dozens of the live and kicking bugs, beating out the second-place finisher by something like a leg’s length.
The Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach, an area fairly well known for top-grade edible insects, sponsored the contest.
While I have visited Deerfield Beach many times for volleyball, I simply never had spare time to try any of its six-legged fare – unless you count the three gals I had on my co-ed team.
Anyway, I think this a wake-up call for the many of us considering competitive cockroach swallowing for both fun and extra income. At the same time, I’m encouraged by University of California Riverside entomologist Michael Adams, who was quoted by Associated Press as saying, “Unless the roaches were contaminated with some bacteria or other pathogens, I don’t think that cockroaches would be unsafe to eat.” He added that he has never heard of someone dying after consuming cockroaches.
I appreciate Michael’s expertise, but did he – or anyone at the contest – explore the potential impact of the types of cockroaches being downed alive? We’ve all seen those Southern cockroaches? Hell, just one of ’em can knock you clean off a stool, then shove you around, claiming you tried to trip him. Downing a mere dozen of those suckers and then have them team up inside your stomach?
I suggest that those little swallowable cameras be added to upcoming cockroach-eating contests. They might show us a whole lot. I know I’ll pay extra to see those YouTube videos.
Sadly, the trickledown effect of the Deerfield Beach digestive disaster has led to (again, gospel truth) Six Flags Great America canceling all the cockroach-eating contests it had scheduled nationwide. Admittedly, that sounds like a bit of an overreaction, but, hey.
(It’s news stories like this one when I begin to truly believe that those of us living in Southern Ocean County are, indeed, clueless to the true goings-on in the world around us.)