The Fish Story

Iraq Flight to See Sumerian Angels; Naked Truth About Extreme Birdwatchers

By JAY MANN | Oct 18, 2016
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

ALIEN ASTRONAUTS AND ANGELS: Oh, do I have a world-class freak-thing to pass on this week. To stay in theme, it remotely has to do with Iraq encouraging anglers to fish there. Yes, that’s a desert-wide stretch … but what else is new herein.

Egged on by US big-bucks war reparations, Iraq is building a new airport in its southern Dhi Qar district. It seems that socially isolated Iraq is willing to sell the Kasbah in hopes of cashing in on world commerce – most juicily, the tourist dollars suddenly raining down upon neighboring Iran and Saudi Arabia.

So, how could something as mundane as the airportization of Iraq vie for a full-blown freakiness evaluation? Meet Iraq’s Transport Minister Kazem Finjan – whom, it would seem, might soon be the former Transport Minister, reassigned to shovel duty on the far end of the projected runway.

Last week, Finjan thoroughly stunned guests, dignitaries and reporters at an airport groundbreaking ceremony by verbally blowing the ceremony back to the Stone Age. As the upbeat gathering looked on, Finjan took flight, saying, “Perhaps many of the people of the Dhi Qar Governorate do not know that the first airport to be built on planet Earth, 5,000 years ago, before the Christian era, was built here, in Dhi Qar.”

First airport on earth? Built 5,000 years ago? Before Christians? Over half the crowd exuded an unspoken, “Where the hell is Kazem going with this?”

Well, Old Kazy was about to go where no public official has gone before.

“When the Sumerians settled here, they knew full well that the atmosphere was suitable for flying to outer space,” he went on.

Many of the Iraqis in the crowd began slowly shaking their heads, thinking, “We should never have legalized hashish for personal use.” Others begged, via an age-old saying, “Oh, please, rein in your camel, dude.” Fat chance, Kazy was on a warp-drive roll.

Exuding gravity, The Kaz added, “It was from here that the Sumerian spaceships took off towards the other planets.”

Oh, you can Google this if you don’t believe me.

By now, American dignitaries at the ceremony could only think, “What the hell kinda airport are they building here?!” A couple even began envisioning the vast desert near the runway hosting huge letters, “Welcome back, Sumerians!”

Of course, had I been invited, I would have been the lone voice in the dead-silent crowd shouting, “Hell yeah! … You go, Kaz! … Long Live Jefferson Starship!”

However, even I would have been shocked back to Earth when Freaky Finjan went on to tell a writer from, “All the world’s angels were Sumerian.”

The hell you say! I know for a fact the ones on “Touched by an Angel” are Americans … you heathen somabitch!

Going angel on the crowd, Kaz had gotten in another poke at Christians, most of whom are nothing short of angel aficionados. It’s a poll-proven fact that over 85 percent of Christians believe in angels.

But, his Sumerianizing of all angels also obliquely stuck it to Islam, which holds a belief in angels as being one of its Six Pillars of Faith – non nationalized angels, to be sure.

It sure seemed Kaz’s turban had totally unraveled. Had a crazed official grounded any chance Iraq has of becoming a tourist mecca? Or, to use an Arabic saying gleaned from writer Amman Shakespeare, “Doth his madness have reason?”

After Kaz’s journey-to-the-stars press conference, I dutifully began researching the tons of material on ancient aliens and astronauts. I was floored by the astoundingly large masses fully dedicated to seeking extraterrestrials, past and present.

Then, out of the blue, Finjan’s sheer covert genius hit me like a landing Sumerian spacecraft. What a way to attract tourists! Once Iraq is essentially open to the stars, millions atop millions will crave a pilgrimage to the very birthplace of angels and alien astronauts. Hell, even I’d overcome my dread of flying just to land at an airport built with a special runway for “Only intergalactic landings and departures.” And to simply stand adjacent to a helipad created exclusively for angel air activity … Wow.

A RARE, BARE BIRD: John Weigel and Olaf Danielson are engaged in a frenzied battle of “extreme birdwatching,” hoping to close out 2016 as the new North American champ of the American Birding Association.

The Smithsonian has Weigel ahead of Olaf, but by a hummingbird breath margin of 763-759.

May the best birder win. Or might that be the barest birder? I’ll explain.

I got wind of this high-flying, bird-off battle through my freaky-stuff grapevine – as more and more folks now email me about sundry oddities out there. Thanks … I think.

So, what could possibly be a-freak within the seemingly serene and sane birdwatching realm? It has to do with Danielson’s use of flesh-toned natural camo. Better put, he does his most serious competitive birding in the buff – a bare birder.

I’m not sure how his au naturale birding will fly with the oft-older birdwatchers realm. Of course, many a now-oldster hails from the free-hangin’ hippy days; they might get a gander at Danielson and be nostalgically stimulated to tear off the old L.L. Beans and commence to gamboling through the meadows, sadly lacking the look they had back in the Sixties.

Now, I’m above average in what might be called birdwatching psychology. I’ve developed many a method to ease the fear of birds as I move near. My favorite enamoring move for shorebirds is pretending I have no interest whatsoever in them; moving slowly along, always looking the other way, as if hunting tasty berries and insects. Being fully clothed has always worked when coastal birdwatching. In fact, I can just imagine some of the hungry looks I might garner from herring gulls if I was, let’s say, dangling about.

After perusing all my clandestine bird-approach methods, nudity doesn’t even enter into it. Nonetheless, Olaf is hoping to get a trend on through his book – and don’t jump on me, Madam librarians, since it’s the actual title! – called Boobies, Peckers & Tits: One Man’s Naked Perspective.

Hey, anyone with half a grain of bird knowledge knows Olaf’s book title is playing on actual bird names. Now, whether or not the author is playing with a full deck …

While I’m not overtly opposed to naturalism – which is basically nakedness with an apparent purpose – I worry that aligning birding with bare-assedness might attract a whole other flock of birdwatchers. While that sudden popularity might be a boon to the binocular-building industry, it could add an in-field confusion to shouts like, “Look, a couple great tits!”

(The great tit, Parus major, is a passerine bird in the tit family Paridae, indigenous to Europe. How one might be loudly announced hereabouts, I haven’t a clue. … Or do I?)

BUGGY BANTER: It’s a high-tide bitch out there. Those a-drive on LBI’s sands know of what I speak. The ongoing large swells from a far-off H. Nicole, and an especially potent fall full moon (Oct. 16), have  wave water overwashing the beaches at every turn. The result is pondings; some ponds being a block long and well up toward the dunes. While they dry up with dropping tides – which are also running astronomically low – the sand within can be horrifically sinky, i.e. bog-down territory. My self and others have been digging bogged down folks out at a decent clip, most being newbies failing to air down their tires. Once sand pitted, it’s often too late to let air out since a buggy is sitting on its frame/chassis.

Buggy email: Jay, what do you mean when you say ‘beach buggy’? Kate.

It means I’m a traditionalist. Back in my dad’s day, a beach buggy was usually a well-worn, jalopy-esque vehicle, exclusively meant for 4WD sand-driving duty. It shined in the off-season – and slept, unused, for the hot months.

While there are still a few folks who keep a well-worn 4WD vehicle tucked away for limited heavy duty, sand-only usages, the huge majority of us use our everyday 4WD trucks – and, less often, SUVs – for double duty, i.e. both on and off the beach.

While doing dual-duty officially knocks most vehicles from the ranks of those wonderful, old-style “beach buggies,” it’s still a bit of flashback fun to dub them “buggies,” at least during those times when they’re throwing around sand.

In other words, Kate, when I see any vehicle driving the sand, it’s a perfunctory “beach buggy.” However, when a 4WD vehicle is cluelessly driven on the sand without airing down, or, when a 2WD vehicle hits our sink-fast sand in the name of Daytona Beach, these are relegated to “stuck things.”

CLASSIC AND MAXIMILIAN: Why haven’t you signed up for the Classic yet?! I can tell by the sign-up list that many of you are dilly-dallying.

The heart of the contest is arriving, so it’s the ideal time to climb aboard. There was already a case of a bass worth a load of money and prizes losing out because the angler hadn’t signed up.

I’ll note for the umpteenth time that your participation keeps this LBI tradition alive … and there are very few such longtime traditions left.

And I need you boat fishermen to get registered for the Maximilian Foundation 2nd Annual Striped Bass All-boat Tournament and Fish Fry fundraiser at the Manahawkin Elks, Nov. 4-6. This is a multi-day event in two parts – the boat tournament, which runs from Friday, Nov. 4-Sunday, Nov. 6, and the Family Fish Fry on Nov. 6. Folks can buy tickets and attend the Family Fish Fry whether or not they are entered in the fishing tournament. For more, see

BENT BY IMPATIENCE: A bunch of my Facebook “friends” have been showing so-called “straightened” hooks, leading to lost fish. That “straightened” part is a bit overstated. At most, the hook is bent outward a modest amount. Since most hooks are made solidly, a hook bending outward is usually a drag – literally.

I’m as prayerful as the next guy when fighting a big fish. I begin with the initial, “Just let me get a glance at it … then I won’t care if it gets off.” That is soon followed by, “OK, just let me get it into the shorebreak, then it won’t be so bad if I lose it.” Finally, “Just let me get it onto the wet sand … and then it can throw the hook.” Gotcha!

All those steps require patience – and pleading. Get too muscular and you’ll get to find out if you really don’t mind it getting off – thanks to a bent hook from too much pull or too much drag.

Here’s a weird parallel: I used to regularly drive across the country. And it seemed that every time I looked down, the “Low Fuel” warning light was blazing. Making things even hotter, roadside signs indicated gas was a goodly distance ahead.

Down to fumes, I had to contend with that famed fuel strategy: Do I slow down to conserve fuel … but take that much longer to possibly run out of gas? Or, do I speed up and burn more fuel but cover more ground rushing toward the pumps?

I always ended up taking the lead-foot route … and soon began routinely carrying a couple spare gallons of gas.

Now back to the monster fish on the line. While it would seem a slow haul-in would mean a greater chance of running out of luck, it’s actually the pedal-to-the-metal approach that leaves you high, dry and fishless in the long run.

RUNDOWN: I’m likely being a bit overly dramatic by saying bassing is busting out all over but it had been so slow that getting a slew of striper reports from both boat and beaches constitutes a dang-decent upturn, egged on by water now down into the mid- to lower-60s.

The beach bass take remains very rogue-ish, as in one-and-done, though I heard of a total of seven cow-grade bass from the surf, overall. All but one taken on bait. Need I repeat that a 30-pound-grade Classic bass was caught on a bucktail? To read about that jighead fish and the other Classic weigh-ins, two by Cortland F., go to

Small bluefish just won’t grow up. A one-pounder looks huge compared to the 8-ouncers ripping bait apart both in the surf and also in the bay. Ship Bottom bayside is loaded with small blues, fishing pier and the like. These small blues are so small that the filets are too thin for smoking.

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