The Fish Story

As Mushrooms Bloom and El Niño Fades, Time to Let Weather History Speak

By JAY MANN | Aug 15, 2017

The woods are now alive with the sound of mushrooms busting through the earth. You gotta listen real close. Come on, you can’t tell me you don’t hear it.

That highly subtle fungal commotion stems from an oddly early explosion of mushrooms – and could be the sound of crazy cold to come.

Say what!?

My obsessive woodsing has made me a prime seer of emergent fungi, especially with nearly everyone else tick-scared out of the outback. So, take it from a shroom-seer of the highest order: the woodlands are now experiencing furious fungal popups that are most common in October, even as late as November. Thusly, I offer an instantaneous old wives tale: early mushrooms mean a wicked winter.

“Bite your tongue, knave!” ye say, with me in full harmony. But, if weather predictologists can mystically use woolly caterpillar hair length to predict the future, anything obviously goes.

Which leads semi-seamlessly into yet another long-range, icy predictor of the winter to come. This one is based on an AWOL El Niño, as is the case now in the Pacific, where water temps are smack-dab normal, i.e. no Niño whatsoever.

As we speak, folks skilled in meteorology are bandying around bar charts and line graphs showing a compelling correlation twixt absent El Niños and wicked-cold winters for the Mid-Atlantic states and New England. Hey, I don’t want to hear any of this, either, but there’s something oddly enticing in pondering the possibility of a frozen train wreck of a winter to come. The weather can be morbidly fascinating that way.

Per weather data chart makers, non-El Niño winters are also bad news for white-winter lovers in the Mid-Atlantic states. Such winters are remarkably low on snow. The low-snowness has to do with no-Niño jet streams, which keep winter storms to the north of us, in the notorious Alberta clipper fashion.

Alberta clipper low-pressure systems develop in the Alberta province of Canada. Imagine that, right? They are born of easterly-moving moist air arriving from the Pacific. Once spawned, they launch – speeding almost directly eastward, becoming the fastest moving weather systems in North America. These storms were first dubbed “clippers” back in the distant day, referencing the fastest moving ships on the ocean at the time.

For all their speed, clippers are low-precip storms, seldom loosing more than a few inches of snow while speedily passing west to east. It’s what they loose in the way of bitter cold that is far more impactful to the nation down below. Clippers indubitably dangle nasty-ass cold fronts to the south, often extending southward as far as the Gulf States, before moving eastward and well off the Atlantic.

Per Keith Heidorn’s Nor’easters and Alberta Clippers, it is not uncommon for an Alberta clipper to cause temperatures to drop by 30 °F in as little as 10 hours. Often, the storms bring biting winds, only increasing the effect of the lower temperatures.

By the by, there is some snow hope even during Niño-less winters. On occasion, clippers lose their country-crossing steam, dropping energy southward and sparking coastal lows along the Atlantic seaboard. We know where they can go, literally and figuratively. Heidorn writes that clippers “bombing out” before reaching the Atlantic seaboard can cause severe winter weather along the coast as Atlantic moisture is tapped. Snowfall amounts can approach 6-12 inches or more when this happens.

Let’s not go there, even imaginarily.

Obvious, it’s way too early to take a worthy whack at predicting the winter to come, as we technically have about five more weeks of summer. So, for worry’s sake – and you can never have too much worrying, per grandmothers worldwide – let’s move to here and now.

There is yet another possibly more pressing angle of a non-El Niño climate. Just this week, livescience.com reported, “El Niño’s Absence May Fuel a Stormy Hurricane Season.”

“The hurricane season is likely to be extra active this year, thanks to a likely no-show from El Niño.

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center released an updated hurricane season outlook today (Aug. 9). The new prediction ups the odds for a blustery, extremely active hurricane season – and possibly even the most active since 2010.”

Now that I’ve verbally dulled the tan right off your skin, I get to hide behind the ambiguity that is weather. Since the weather seemingly hates being predicted, my icy outlook might just piss it off enough to throw every bit of winter warmth it can muster. Of course, if it thinks I wrote this to trick it into throwing winter warmth at us, it just might … to be continued.

MANN OVERBOARD: Do you know what a druther is? Well, neither do I. But, if I had a bunch of them, i.e. if I had my druthers, I’m picking talk over text. I’ll explain.

Distracted driving, more accurately behind-the-wheel multitasking, has become a freewheeling epidemic on roadways, great and small. It is dominated by cell phoners and texters. Making driving matters worse, it appears these forms of distracted driving are completely incorrigible, drivers balking in the face of any and all anti-distracted driving laws coming down the pike.

Therefore, out of a safe-motoring necessity, I’ve chosen to choose between cell phoners and texters, as to which I must distrust most. I must prioritize as to which will get me the most riled – and which I fear the most.

My just-made decision: I go with cell phone-holding drivers being preferable to downward-looking texters, yet knowing both are equally out to get me.

To their dubious credit, drivers chatting on cell phones at least have some contact with road reality. They’re able to keep a forward-looking eye on traffic, despite having mentally rendered themselves clueless to important driving matters to the sides and rear.

That said, cell phone-holders easily win out over the multitasking insanity of attentionless texters – who go road-blind when tapping away. They seemingly put their driving on autopilot.

A recent minor Route 72 accident has sparked me into picking one distracted driving evil over another.

The fender-bender was caused by a pregnant texting pause. In case you hadn’t guessed, that’s my coin of a term.

I know you’ve seen these texting-based pauses, when a traffic signal switches green but a stopped vehicle just sits there, as if awaiting a more agreeable shade of green. As often as not, the going-nowhere-fast driver is in the throes of a pregnant texting pause, having retreated into a finger-based realm, void of any and all attention to driving. By the by, I can assure that police are getting wise to green light pauses, as prime indicators of fully-distracted driving.

Back to that Route 72 mini-accident, it took place at a notoriously dangerous traffic signal. As my right-hand lane began to progress normally on green, there was no normalcy for me. I nervously noticed the adjacent left lane was still stopped dead. I instinctively slowed, worried I was missing something stoppy – an approaching emergency vehicle, jaywalking pedestrians, small furry animals in the road?

Creeping forward, I soon realized I was neck-deep in a dangerous pregnant pause situation, proven when I inched parallel to a motionless, black SUV in the left lane. Sure enough. I looked over to see a young, blond, female driver with her gaze pinned to her own lap. She was also giggling – a known texting comportment.

Wanting to stop and yell over at her, the guy behind became understandably antsy with my inch-worming. I sped up a bit, allowing him to pass. I then did a rearview mirror look-back – just in time to see two cars, which had been pinned behind the texter, simultaneously swing into the right lane to get by her. Bang! They exchanged plastic bumper material; a mere fender-bender, mind you.

Magically, the blinded-by-texting blonde peeled out. I swear she knew what her texting had wrought – and she was getting out of blame’s way.

I half-heartedly went after her, hoping to get some tag info, but she lost me at the last light onto the Causeway. I did a traffic signal turnaround but the bumpees had already departed the contact zone by the time I got there.

If nothing else, that incident gives me real-world ammo to loose upon a fellow I know who recently got ticketed for texting while stopped at a light. He angrily asserts there’s no danger in texting while stopped at traffic signals. Au contraire. Expectedly, his plea fell on deaf judge ears. Now, he’ll get a minor earful from me.

RUNDOWN: Fluking has either flared up again, or, more folks are out there getting lucky – and letting me know all about it. In my 25 years of taking down fishing notes for herein, this is one of the showier, fluke-fishing summers, photographically speaking. Of course, I’ve never had more incoming real-time data arriving, thanks to social media feeds. Thanks, indeed.

Barnegat Inlet remains the go-to fluking locale, especially for those who aren’t into exploring untested waters.

The “new” (1980s) South Jetty, Barnegat Light State Park, is offering easy walk-on access to the inlet flattie bite. Regulars to that jetty are repeatedly saying they’ve never seen better flattie action from the rocks. I show plenty of photo evidence of that at fishlbi.com. I was told of a 7-pound fluke hitting the granite, near the concrete decking. That’s rare for those rocks, believe me.

Boat flukers have pounced on this low-wind stretch to go all over the place, ocean-wise. Standout sites are near – but not atop – the reefs. Those locales play out nicely for those who grab enough flatties for din-din and then seek some take-home variety by going after reefish black sea bass. You can now also easily take one tog per angler per day, until Nov. 15, when it kicks up to a six-fish bag, unless regs change.

Sharking is ratcheting up. Browns are fairly easily found at night – ocean and bay. Bigger browns have also been spotted bayside, all the way up near the Causeway bridges, Manahawkin Bay.

To fish for gray suits, use large chunk baits, circle hooks and heavy tackle. Conventional reels are preferable, especially for longer, drawn-out fights, requiring more exacting drag settings.

A very nice, 90-inch sand tiger was recently caught by Jason Michael. The smile of a sand tiger is classic, sporting the nastiest array of teeth of any shark species, bar none. Despite its formidable dental display, sand tigers are astoundingly passive when it comes to in-water humans. Of course, when dragged out of the water by an angler, all passivity bets are off … should a careless hand get near those choppers.

Striper fishing is fair in and around Barnegat Inlet, at least for the sharpies who know the ways of resident bass. The only clue I can offer is to think late-day flats and plug a bit. Chum bassing on the North Jetty is slow, though.

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