The Fish Story

Eggs of Another Color; Stink Over Sebastian Inlet; Pigeons in Fine Feather With Icy Mist

By JAY MANN | Mar 22, 2017

OF WARS AND HEN EGGS: When we say, eat or order eggs, it’s done with a primal confidence that we’re talking about the eggs of good-old Gallus gallus domesticus, i.e. ye everyday chicken. With the helpful hands of mankind egging them on, chickens rule the planet’s avian roost. Don’t look now, but there are an estimated 20 billion chickens on our planet.

How would you like to be one of those census-takers?

“Ma’am, how many chickens live in this coop?”

“How dare you call this a coop! … Oh, that’s right, it is a coop, isn’t it. Sorry.”

“And the number of chickens within, ma’am?”

“Let’s see … there’s 26 if you count the goat that thinks he’s a chicken.”

“I think we’ll pass on him.”

“Understood.”

Once taken, the count shows there are nearly three chickens for each of Earth’s seven billion humans.

While I’m not overly sure who has my 2.8 chickens, there’s a good chance it’s an American company called Tyson, which brings job security to chicken census-takers by slaughtering about 2.5 million chickens per year, while annually hatching easily that many. The chickens aren’t sure what to think of Tyson.

Chicken tidbit: Our domesticated chicken is a subspecies of the red junglefowl, a bird that will peck you to shreds if you happen upon a particularly ill-natured one – you know, while strolling through the jungle.

That’s not true, though you have to admit the name red junglefowl has that kinda tear-’em-up ring to it.

“And on that wall, my good man – between my Botswana lion’s head mount and the head of the rhino that killed my poor guide, Barabundi – is the beak of a particularly ill-natured red junglefowl.”

“Uh, where’s the rest of it?”

“We ate it.”

“What did it taste like … doh! You set me up for that, didn’t you?”

That lead-in dished out, I’m really here to talk about the ultimate egg man, one Dr. Hugh B. Cott, Cambridge University. John Lennon surely had Cott’s egg-ness in mind when penning the immortal lyrical line … need I even repeat it?

After seeing the nutritional importance of chickens in keeping soldiers properly fed during WWII, Cott looked forward to nourishing future wars by seeking palatable eggs from alternative bird species – just in case a dastardly enemy was to strategically attack one’s chicken factories. While I’m far from a military code-breaker, I’d be highly suspicious of advanced info regarding an impending attack dubbed “Operation Over Easy.”

In search of what might be called the first egg substitute, Cott obsessively collected the eggs of 212 bird species from around the world. (“Goo goo g’joob.”) He then assembled a three-person research panel for a blind taste-off. It was essentially chicken eggs versus the rest of the egg-laying world.

For six years (1946-1951), the panelists were served the world’s worldliest scrambled eggs, i.e. eggs of a different feather. The flavor was rated on a 10-point scale.

To nobody’s surprise, chicken eggs won over panelists’ palates, with a sky-high tastiness rating of 8.8.

It was a very close second-place egg that brought this taste-test closer to home. Coming in only a few taste buds short of a hen’s egg was none other than our own lesser black-backed gull, its eggs scoring a lip-smacking 8.3. Our greater black-backed gull had eggs almost as tasty.

For the sake of science – and for those of you always at the ready to bug out when the nation’s power grid collapses – both coot and moorhen eggs also garnered an 8.3 flavorfulness rating, though with far smaller eggs than the gulls. We have a goodly number of coots in our nape of the coast; not so many moorhens, whatever the hell they are.

Of course, we also have many a duck out there. However, their eggs couldn’t muster more than an “intermediate palatability” ranking, a so-so 6-ish. Upon reading this, our bayside mallards aren’t sure if they should be ecstatic or highly offended.

More toward the rotten egg side of things was an LBI visual favorite, the oyster-catcher. While looking the pretty part, their eggs have a “strong onion-like flavor.” Yuck, that’s enough to drive one from eating any type of eggs.

Among the worst-tasting eggs – and try to be mature here – were those of the great tits, of which there are very few out there. What!? They’re rare!

Worst gastronomic score goes to the eggs of the bar-headed goose, which can easily make a panelist barf. To its credit, the bar-headed goose is famed for having the longest migration of any bird – possibly to get as far away from its own eggs as possible.

By the by, Hugh B. Cott, who passed in 1985, was well-tuned to “I am the egg man … goo goo g’joob.”

OOH, THE SMELL: Angling-wise, it gets no more disgusting than what is now transpiring at Sebastian Inlet, Fla. A story at www.floridatoday.com, by Jim Maymer, speaks of an unthinkable stink taking place in the battle for angling space atop the inlet’s famed fishing pier.

“We’ve had reports of people defecating and spreading it on the rail to mark their territory so nobody will fish next to them,” said Martin Smithson, administrator for the Sebastian Inlet District.

Say what?! Sure, it gets ass-deep in fishermen down there, but what kind of horse’s patoot resorts to using … you know?

“The pier atmosphere has degraded into a state of constant territorial marking,” reports Maymer.

I’ve been involved in some serious-ass territorial to-dos when fishing, including a fishing-rod dueling episode atop a Harvey Cedars jetty. Even in the worst fights over fishing space, I’ve never seen anyone resorting to smearing … you know.

Running with that territorial-marking concept, one must factor in the 80,000 annual visitors to Sebastian Inlet. While there’s no mention of what percentage of those visitors are territorial-markers, I’m betting it doesn’t take more than one in a thousand to create a bad angling atmosphere atop the pier. Also, it’s been proven that once a territorial marking is placed, those that follow are instinctively compelled to add their marking. Wait a minute, maybe I’m thinking of dogs. That tells you something, eh?

There are also more traditional flingables flying about in that air battle for Sebastian Inlet fishing-space superiority. It often surrounds the ancient rivalry ‘twixt boat anglers and pier-ists.

Authorities say pier anglers “hurl lead fishing weights, lures and other objects at folks fishing from boats.” A few hurls have been on target, resulting in injuries, per Maymer.

“There’s been two that I know of in the last six months where people have been treated and gone to the hospital,” Smithson said.

Under Florida law, targeting mariners by bombarding them with lures or sinkers is a second-degree felony, hosting as much as 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

But there’s more madness thereabouts. Sebastian Inlet is also known for its amazing waves – right near the pier. Surfers have also been flung at by “furious fishermen.”

AN ASIDE: When it comes to sinker-based bombardments, we’ve seen our fair share on LBI. It’s most often sinker slinging by surfcasters irked at nearby waveriders. I’d like to think the slinging is done more to warn than to contact flesh and bone. Of course, I’d also like a four-wheel-drive, off-road Maserati.

While I don’t know of any direct bodily hits hereabouts, I got a thirdhand report of a Hatteras sinker coming so close to a surfer it imbedded in his board, somewhere in N.J.

I oft write about a number of surfer-versus-surfcaster to-dos I experienced back in the day. In one incident, I was surfing Cedars at daybreak. I had just paddled out to the waveline when I was so narrowly missed by a surfcaster’s 5-ouncer that his line actually came to rest across my surfboard. That irked me a tad.

Picture, if you will, me rushing out of the ocean, screaming every four-letter utterance known and/or newly invented, while charging up the beach, fully wet-suited and frothing at the mouth.

As to the culprit surfcaster, let’s just say he no longer needed the caffeine capacities of his Styrofoam cup of coffee – which he threw into the air, before taking off running for all he was worth. He was all too awake as he was being chased off the beach – and down Bergen Avenue, toward the Boulevard.

Hey, I couldn’t close in on him all that fast. Just try running encased in neoprene and holding a surfboard under one arm, leash noisily slapping the board’s bottom with every step.

Cops interceded and calmed thing down. The guy tried to tell me it was all accidental, not realizing I was a lifelong surfcaster and fully realized his true “accidental” intent.

Back down Sebastian Inlet way, the ugliness has gotten so bad there’s talk of ratcheting up the police presence, a prohibitively costly gesture. There is also the option of closing the pier at night. After dark, it’s mainly one furious pier angler versus another, culminating in the territorial use of … you know.

I have friends there keeping me updated.

I must now put in a good word for N.J. anglers. Last spring, the Barnegat Inlet South Jetty was crowded beyond any historic reckoning, yet virtually no serious skirmishes ensued – despite multiple crossed lines with every slammer bluefish hookup. I was duly impressed with the peaceful coexistence, knowing the fierce angler interplay in other places.

Speaking of last spring’s BL jetty bite, here’s hoping that insane showing of vernal blues will do a repeat performance in the not-that-distant future.

DANCES WITH PIGEONS: During last week’s frigid drizzle, I was comfortably driving about when I noticed dozens of pigeons perched on the topmost electric wires. They were all leaning into the icy onshore flow of wind. It struck me as odd, the way they were choosing to lean face-first into the frigidity. I pulled over.

I had this ethereal urge to check them out closer – through my windshield, that is. This urge was partially due to my having just cleaned my classic Zeiss binoculars, usually focused on far more majestic forms of wildlife.

Despite the commonness of pigeons, a harmlessly invasive species, this stop became semi-profound.

On a truly dismal day like this one, humans spurn the crappy conditions. Not so with pigeons. This was immediately apparent as I focused in on them

I’m not claiming to be some sort of pigeon whisperer, but, as I moved from one bird face to the next, I swear I could make out highly contented, beakish smiles. Ironically, the looks were something humans often exude on a sunny beach day, while facing mild, summer onshore breezes.

There was no telling if these pigeons were simply rendered goofy by the cold or if there was more in play here. Does it show that over-sheltered humans are missing out on some of nature’s secret gifts?

With the spirit of drippy pigeons coursing through me, I felt compelled to hit the nearest street end, where I rushed to the top of the dunes. I stood there, defiant and pigeonesque, facing the icy, drizzly ocean wind. Damned if I didn’t instantly feel something intensely fresh and frostily magical about communing with the soggy ocean-seasoned mist.

It lasted for roughly 10 seconds. It was somewhere between the time my eyes began stinging from the salty mist and my eyelashes became weighed down with drips of magical mist that I realized this crap is for the birds.

Bolting back to my truck, I got inside and cranked up the heat. That was plenty enough pigeon empathizing for the day. Nonetheless, I did ponder how nature offers each species its individual moments in the sun … or drizzle, as the case may be.

I drove off thinking, “Bring on the spring sunniness.”

CORRECTION: Last week, I inexplicably – and highly incorrectly – blamed the Army Corps for removing the navigational aids in Little Egg Inlet. Obviously (hopefully to most), it was the U.S. Coast Guard that took up the markers. Sorry, Corps.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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