The Fish Story

Backyard Ginkgoes: Survival Masters; Angler Wins, Loses, Wins…and Breaks a Tailbone

By JAY MANN | Jun 27, 2017

WEIRDEST REQUEST EVER: I need all ya’ll to rush out and buy a ginkgo tree … and plant it one good, in a place worthy of respect and utter admiration. I’m serious – in my own way. Order yourself one – and then buy one for your favorite neighbor.

Ginkgo trees grow well in our climate, which is no surprise since this species has proven adaptable beyond any human, or even planetary, measures.

When your newly established ginkgo displays its seemingly delicate, hand-fan-shaped leaves, admire them as symbols of arguably the greatest survivor the planet has ever seen, bar none. Then teach your children and grandchildren well. “See this-here tree, young’uns?”

This ginkgo admiration segment stems, pun intended, from paleontological research I’ve begun – upon ordering a 260-million-year-old fossiliferous slab of stone. On that slab are ginkgo leaf fossils, the spittin’ image of the leaves soon to flutter in your ginkgo-y yard.

Now, for this segment’s flowering coup de grâce. To reach us, here-and-now, the ginkgo has unalterably survived not one but two planetary extinction events! Holy, survivor, Batman!

Yes, the term “events” is just what science nonchalantly dubs these ruinous planetary mega-catastrophes. So, let me see, there’s a series of fundraising events at the fire hall this month – unless they need to be rescheduled due to an extinction event. “But will you still honor my tickets at the rescheduled events?”

FYI, the great and famed dinosaur-killing Cretaceous/Tertiary Extinction event was hideously impactful – ask any dinosaur fossil. However, it was akin to a glancing blow when compared to the humanly incomprehensible Permo-Triassic Extinction, which hit 250 million years ago.

Called “The Great Dying” by suddenly poetically inclined paleontologists, this event likely killed between 90 and 95 percent of all life on Earth, real fast. It took the planet 30 million years to recuperate – quite possibly led by a good old ginkgo. Talk about some badass vegetation.

Peter Crane, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, is a ginkgo master, fully rating them as among the ultimate survivors of all time.

In a article titled “Ginkgo, The Life Story of The Oldest Tree on Earth,” writer Roger Cohn quotes Crane as saying, “If you look at fossils from more than 200 million years ago, you can see leaves that are very, very similar to modern ginkgo leaves … in the grand scheme of things, they’re not very different.”

And there’s a load of modern ginkgoes to go on, considering they’re now common and worldly, while remaining steadfastly and coolly inimitable. “The ginkgo is solitary and unique, not very obviously related to any living plant,” said Cohn.

My guess is they once looked like many other plants – then “BAM!” and “BAM!” again. It’s growing to hate the hell out of events.

Not that I plan on going excessively academic on the ginkgo matter, but my on-their-way ginkgo fossils will allow me to apply some of the microscopic investigative techniques I gleaned from spending untold hours reading vegetative matter trapped in 90-million-year-old Cretaceous amber I collected for years in Sayerville. While up there, I also collected far larger carbonized Cretaceous fossils from within cliffed sedimentary layers adjacent to the amber digs. That carbonized look will be closer to that of the arriving ginkgo fossils.

Now, back to your kindly growing ginkgo trees.

I might kinda/sorta need a slew of leaves from your ginkgo trees, to compare for slight interspecies variances. Currently, there is some international academic gab that the ever-so-slight difference detected between the oldest ginkgo fossils and today’s ginkgoes might lessen the insane super-survivor status of the plant. “I don’t think so, Sparky,” I offer in a nice academic tone. Here’s my scientific read: If it looks like a ginkgo, walks like a gingko, and quacks like a gingko …

“But, Jay, what does this segment really have to do with us?” you ask, repetitiously…ly.

My answer is severe but relatively heartfelt. “How many planetary extinction events have you survived, reader dudes and dudettes?”

Watch the egg fester on your face after I win the prestigious, “How the Hell Did He Manage That!?” Award for devising a way for all mankind to survive an arriving extinction event using only ginkgo leaves.

ANOTHER MINOR LIFE TALE: I was forwarded an interestingly pseudo-didactic tale regarding an older, but highly spry, fishing fellow I’ve known at a wave-hi level for just about forever. He’s one of those dedicated casters who retired a goodly while back, but, as is the coastal “retired” custom, stays highly busy on a cash-only basis.

Though I’ve oft seen him fishing his usual three rods on the beach, I more recently recall him from his, let’s say, fevered interest in the numbers – in his case, legal lottery numbers. He is, make that was, a wee bit lottery-obsessive; not that he was unique in his scratch-off, pie-in-sky devotion.

While working quick-win numbers, he was a no patterned, highly aggro lottery ticket scratcher. I’d see him outside his favorite convenience store, sitting in his 4WD truck, scratching away at lottery tickets as if they were fresh mosquito bites. Scratching done, he’d most often assume a loser’s drooped-shoulder posture. On occasion, he’d get more animated, utilizing the highly functional – at least for me – slamming of losing hands on the steering wheel response.

There were also those few good-scratch days, when he’d perform the “small winnings” waltz back into the store, converting successful tickets into yet more tickets. Not that I ever hung around the store very long, but I’ll bet he could spend a solid hour parked there, cycling through cruelly small but highly Pavlovian winnings.

Anyway, it recently hit me that I hadn’t seen him for quite some time. I asked the store clerk, who had grown to know the man quite well, where he had been. The clerk cocked his head and raised his shoulder in an unusual manner, likely more common in India.

It turns out, the lottery-loving fisherman had actually hit a decently large ticket, pushing past six figures, pre-tax. Then – and scout’s honor – less than 24 hours after winning, he slipped while scaling concrete steps holding celebratory groceries. He absolutely annihilated his hip and tailbone, leading to a long hospital stay and delicate hip-replacement surgery.

Now, I can only go on what the clerk told me, but the uninsured portion of the angler’s hospitalization and surgery was so near the exact amount of his lottery winnings that, as the clerk said, “It was almost the same amount … to a penny.”

Upon that, the clerk and I shared one of those slow, internationally recognized, can-you-believe-that headshakes. I was the one to pour out the obligatory glass-half-full gibberish. “But just think how in-debt he’d have been if he didn’t win that lottery.” Both of us stood there, very still, letting that concept try to sink in. It didn’t. We allowed it to crawl off with its tail between its legs. I then had a fleeting notion of bringing up health care in America but my icy bottle of Pure Leaf Unsweetened Tea was already sweating and easily won out.

Now, I get to pass on a potentially upbeat parting part of this tale.

I went on to find out the freshly rehipped angler, needing a load of hands-on recovery and therapy, reconnected with a distanced sister in Florida. As we speak, he’s apparently recovering rapidly – and lovin’ life while fishing near Sarasota, as a red drumfish postcard from Lido Key indicates. He has also forsaken rabid lottery ticket buying, “Except maybe the Powerball,” are his written words.

All said, I can’t help but feel there’s a touch of didactics in that tale … somewhere.

Afternote: Egged on by this tale, I was compelled to investigate lottery winnings. If you somehow feel that your Powerball odds look damn decent at a one-in-292-million chance of winning, be advised, Mr./Mrs. Winner, the feds can voraciously take 35 to 39.6 percent of your windfall. Oh, forget about it then. What the hell am I going to do with the remaining, measly $252 million? Life can be so unkind, even in the winner’s circle.

One more thing – a chuckler. It comes from within a NJ Department of Taxation law, N.J.S.A. 54A:5.1. It reads (I put the bold lettering in), “All gambling winnings, whether they are the result of legalized gambling (casino, racetrack, etc.) or illegal gambling are subject to the New Jersey gross income tax.”

Overheard during visiting hours at East Jersey State Prison, spoken by one Joey Bones to Inmate 826798. “Tony, Tony, Tony. I truly understand you wanting to be a good, upstanding, Italian-American by declaring your, let’s call it, additional income … but, Tony, what were you thinkin’!?”

THANK AN ANGLER, AMERICA: On this, the most crowded angling weekend of the year, I’d like to dangle this data – just to offer a fiscal sense of what recreational fishing gives back.

Per the latest NOAA stats, 2014 saw 11 million saltwater anglers taking 68 million fishing trips – this includes beach-fishing jaunts. Saltwater anglers generated nearly $61 billion in sales impacts, $35.5 billion in value-added impacts, $22 billion in income impacts, while supporting 439,000 U.S. jobs.

I know those “impact” terms sounds wtf-y but they’re simply the technical way of saying worth. In other words, we’re worth it billions of times over.

I’ll fish to that.

RUNDOWN: The ocean has cleaned up nicely after a muddled stretch of browness and iciness, with water temps upwelling into the mid-50s – after hitting the low 70s just a couple weeks back.

Starting soon, we could see an extended stretch of summer-typical calm a.m. winds, slowly building – usually starting in the early afternoon – into highly honking late-day southeasterlies. The warmer the mainland, the honkier the afternoon SE winds can become.

Stormage throughout this stretch should be relatively low-grade, though pop-up T-storms always love a brothy afternoon atmosphere.

Fluking is highly hit-or-miss, more so than usual. Bayside channels and holes have offered nice rogue flatties. It’s now fluke changeover time, when larger flatties, sucking air in hyper-warmed bay waters, move into the cooler inlets, where there are already tons of smaller flatties taking advantage of the existing dining pleasures of the inlets.

While flavored plastics on jigs are working well when seeking out occasional doormats, we’re also moving into natural bait time – even if that “natural” is only some nice, long pieces of trolling squid, hooked in among the bucktails and GULP!-grade plastics. Yes, GULP! is a plastic, in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) form; same PVC modern house piping is made from. The PVC formula for GULP! is a common recipe, while its famed fish juice is highly proprietary, meaning top secret.

Along with the photo of a huge stingray you’ll see with this column, I’ve heard of up to half a dozen other non-cow-nose rays taking anglers’ baits – and taking said anglers for a reel ride. Two massive rays, likely southern rays, were recently taken in Manahawkin Bay.

While the vast majority of our anglers want nothing to do with time-consuming stingray hookups, fishermen in other parts of the world target them for fun and meat. I’m told larger rays are rather tasty, more so than cow-nosed types.

Southern rays are among the world’s most famed winged-ones, due to a penchant for getting up-close and petable with bathers. There are many videos of humans caressing them in Caribbean waters. And these aren’t always penned-up rays. Many of these people-tolerant stingrays have the open-water option of heading straight out to sea – where any petting is done by swimmers in gray suits, rays being a shark delicacy. With those in open-sea mind, I see their high tolerance of human affections – and tasty handouts – being steeped upon them.

Oh, don’t even think about stingray caressing up here. Even though their toxin is very weak, ours just aren’t all that huggy-wuggy. And a hooked ray is absolutely in no mood for sting-free cuddling.

Sharking is taking its good old time to get started in the suds. A few better sharks have been caught by boat anglers, mainly those knowing the sharking ropes. But as to the more clueless catching by LBI surfcasters, that hasn’t turned on. It will, though, big time. Mark my words, the brown, dusky and (most popular) sand tiger biomasses are increasing exponentially, with no chance of them losing their regulatory protection any time soon.

If you think you might even accidentally catch a shark from a boat or in the suds, you must absolutely commit to memory the exacting descriptions of the following protected species, all of which must be released immediately after landing and unhooking – not even allowing time for an extended photo op: Atlantic angel, basking, bigeye sand tiger, bigeye sixgill, bigeye thresher, bignose, Caribbean reef, Caribbean sharpnose, dusky, Galapagos, longfin mako, narrowtooth, night, sandbar, sand tiger, sevengill, silky, sixgill, smalltail, whale and white. Google: “Shark ID Placard NOAA Fisheries.”

Bluefish still abound. In a long-run way, it might be better than last spring, which was amazingly good.

Medium-sized blues are just staying put hereabouts, often stymieing efforts by anglers going for striped bass.

It has been a quite-slow bassing spring, turned summer. If there was a bunker-based boat bite, I sure didn’t see it explode forth for any sort of extended period, as it had done in recent springs. There were a few, mind you – so I don’t hear it from those luckier boat bassers who scored during a couple bass-on-bunker flare-ups.

Of note for surfcasters, low-tide sandbars have been spoilers at a goodly number of LBI beaches. Even lifeguards generally OK with fishing outside the flags simply can’t allow surfcasters to walk out on the bars to fish, lest monkey-see bathers follow their lead. I really can’t blame them. I saw it in Harvey Cedars. An angler walked out and within mere minutes, he had followers, seemingly family members. Guard whistles duly screeched.

While on the subject of major sandbars, there are adjacent beaches building into impressively wide stretches of sandy beachgoer real estate, looking as large as back in the day, circa 1950s. Some of these same beaches are destined for more dredge sand this fall. Hmmm.

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