The Fish Story

Bigfeet Will Soon Be Hounded; Clown Around and Pay the Piper

By JAY MANN | Oct 12, 2016

Well, it’s on. After a blown-out start, the weather, waves and water have all assumed a gorgeous autumnal state of mind, though a 69-degree water temp over the weekend was a bit off the normalcy mark. Only a few years back, I took a 52-degree water temperature reading on the same date.

If you haven’t signed up for the LBI Surf Fishing Classic, time has come today. You don’t have to worry about getting your hairdo disheveled. Your entry into the Classic not only opens the door to hooking major prizes ,but helps keep a long-lived tradition alive. You are needed.

BUGGY BANTER: I haven’t written much on driving the beaches due to a certain sand uncertainty in the wake of nor’easters and weeks of side-ass winds. Well, the beachfront is building up and leveling off with the current calm-down. In fact, beaches of Ship Bottom are so dang wide you can land a 757 there. That’s not to suggest you should run out and try it just on my say-so. I can see it now:

Reporters: “Mr. Travolta, what would possess you to land your 757 on the beach in Ship Bottom, New Jersey?”

And me, off to the side, thinking, “Oh, crap. Here we go,” as I snake out of the gathered crowd and hightail it back to my truck.

Anyway, most of our reborn beaches are begging to once again feel the tromping of fall surfcasters. Hey, beaches can feel nostalgic, too. 

SNIFFING SASQUATCH: I’ve never been overly sold on the existence Bigfoots, or Bigfeet, or whatever. Still, a finagling side of me would love to think that, one day, I’ll be merrily outbacking and come across a colossal, hirsute, humanoid-like creature – whom I magically talk into owning its own palatial alpine manor. All it needs to do is offer a few comely poses for me to photograph. If it happens to be a female Bigfoot, the photo possibilities are enormous. “Oh, that’s it, sweetheart … Love the lens. Now, more profile … You’re the queen of the forest! Throw that chest out; think real cold winds.”

This is one of my typical non sequitur lead-ins to an odd new way to find Sasquatch, utilizing the age-hardened concept of: Does a bear you-know-what in the woods?

Off to Asia we go, but not into the Sasquatch-infested Himalayas; instead, we’re heading to Beijing, where we hook up with the Ministry of Public Security of the Central People's Government … whether we want to or not.

In this case, we actually embrace the Chinese supercops. The Ministry of Public Security has agreed to be part of a world-class, ground-sniffing experiment to seek out some of the world’s rarest … scat. Yes, we’ll be getting down with droppings. I’ll explain.

Per an article in titled “… Scat-detection dogs: unleashing a powerful new tool for international mammalian conservation biology,” olfactory-gifted canines are being been used to sniff out “fecal samples” from creatures so rare only scat can confirm their existence. The dogs arrive in China, flying first-class.

According to the article, researchers used these bloodhoundish dogs to locate scat left behind by “three species of unhabituated, free-ranging primates” – along with that left behind by some guy named Wung-ho, who was taking a really long hike and … Well, there goes my free subscription to Nature magazine.

The dogs in this first-ever scat search knocked it out of the park, batting a sizzling .920.

The article stated, “(The) detection dog team had a 92% accuracy rate, significantly outperforming our human-only team.”

I’m likely the only one needing to stop in my tracks and question “outperforming our human-only team.” I’m overcome by this insta-image of researchers, down on all four, noses to the ground … and the dogs lying off to the side, snickering their asses off.

But let’s cycle back to Big Foots, ts’emekwes, Sasquatch, skoocooms, Gigantopithecus, skunk ape … you name it.

Once the scat-sniffing is done in Asia – and before the dogs go France to protest dogs losing jobs to truffle pigs – they’ll have some free time to hit the U.S. Northwest.

About one-third of all Bigfoot sightings are from that corner of America – a very lonely area, I might add. In fact, I can’t help but notice an abiding pattern of Bigfoot sightings aligning with lonely and mountain-mannish places. Can you image the potential sales of my “Scalding Sasquatch Babe” calendar? Hey, there’s no way they can know she’s pushing 50 … and has a dozen Bigfeet grandchildren.

As it now stands, I’ve passed word about scat-sniffing dogs onto the Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” folks. All I asked for coming up with info is I get to go along for the search … as a photographer. Once there, I’ll nonchalantly mention the scientific necessity of first running a “human-only team” scat sniff-about. Can you imagine a Bigfoot peeking around a tree and seeing the show’s cast and crew down on all fours, noses to the ground? That’ll be just the chance I need to run it down – since it will be laughing so hard it’ll keep falling over sideways.

DON’T BE A BOZO: There’s no clowning around in Jersey. If you’re a parent of costumed candy-seeking kids or an adult aficionado of Halloween, you might know of what I speak: an uprising of overly aggressive clown masks.

Personally, I think all clowns should have been banned with the discontinuation of the Bozo the Clown Show – and long before Stephen King wrapped his crazed mind around “It.”  Oh, believe me, the theatrical “It” clown is behind a slew of Halloweenish masks so frickin’ spooky that people put them on, look in the mirror and pass clean out from fright.

But the clown fright we have developing this year is unprecedented.  It is the multi-locale rising of the “killer clown,” the “evil clown” and, perhaps ugliest of all, “Pogo the Clown” – the party name used by mass-murderer John Wayne Gacy, later known as the Killer Clown.

CNN has dubbed it a full-blown clown epidemic, highlighted by hideously masked pranksters jumping out of bushes at horrified passersby and social media threats that killer clowns will be awaiting students arriving at school.

Here’s a Wiki-fied version of the scare essence behind the freaked-out phenomenon.

“2016 clown sightings, also referred to in various regions by names such as ‘clown epidemic,’ ‘panic,’ ‘uprising,’ ‘craze,’ ‘invasion’ and the like, are a series of evil clown sightings … first reported in South Carolina, by early October they had been reported in over half of US states, eight out of ten Canadian provinces, and six other countries.”

Of course, if it’s something weird, it will quickly find some sort of place hereabouts. Last week, a 14-year-old South Toms River female was charged with Creating a False Public Alarm after telling her mother she was chased from a school bus stop by a knife-wielding, evil clown.

After every police force in the county was alerted to the potentiality of a crazed killer clown in the system, the girl came to her senses and admitted to detectives the whole thing was her overactive imagination – albeit one wearing an evil clown mask.

No sooner had one clown been debunked than Toms River PD was alerted to a Twitter posting from “Killerclownfromnj.” The post presented an “unspecified threat” to Intermediate School East, per police. It read, “Some people wanted Toms River Intermediate East Middle School; I will be there at 8:37 sharp on Thursday, October 6th 2016!!”

While that is pretty dang unspecified, anything spoken by a “Killerclownfromnj” should lead to the law jumping up and taking notice.

That “killerclown” sorta-threat was taken seriously enough to hyper-activate Toms River detectives, and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, while leading the region’s superintendent of schools, David Healy, to beef up security in all Toms River schools.

Once again, it turned out to be a high-profile clowning around, perpetuated by a 12-year-old female student of the school system – who doesn’t even own a clown mask, I’m betting. She was also charged with Creating a False Public Alarm.

Lest you think those charges are mere snivelers for the likes of underage kids, it’s the bombshell parent-targeting punishment that can be a horror. Per the prosecutor’s office, “The parents will be required to make restitution for the police services expended while responding to the False Public Alarm.”

I don’t know if you’ve recently checked what cops, especially top cops, get paid. Your kids go Bozo and you’ll be finding that out the hard way.

As to wearing clown masks for Halloween, it’s total instant urban legend nonsense that Congress has voted to ban clown masks and levy fines of $50,000 on anyone caught wearing them, nationwide.

While D.C. is hurting for revenue, I just can’t envision Jamey running home, all “Mommy, these men in a big black car stopped and told me to take off my clown mask. Then, they poured my candy down the sewer and gave me this paper to give you.”

Of course, should Trump get into office ...

TAILWINDED BUTTERFLIES: The recent stint of torrential north winds provided traveling music for population-troubled monarch butterflies. Autumn in and autumn out, these majestic flutterers get blown off their southerly migration course by the onset of our fall west winds. They end up blown way out over the ocean, beating their wayward wings westward to the cadence “Oh, crap. Oh, crap …”

This year, they’ve been able to harvest the north wind, getting blown straight south – so fast they can’t even slow down enough to land and say “Hey” to moth friends in the Carolinas.

This migratory success is music to the ears of monarch-loving folks who have gone the full metamorphosis Monty, raising monarchs from eggs to caterpillars to pupae to golden-winged wonders. Before release into the thermals, many home-bred monarchs get tiny license plates placed on their wings. Here’s hoping those tagged butterflies carry greetings from N.J. to awaiting scientists at overwintering monarch locales.

WINDS PREVENT WEEPAGE: An allergy-suffering Islander also sang high praises to the heavens, thanking the north winds for holding down the annual autumn onslaught of mainland-based pollen, loosed skyward from ragweed, small and great.

The common ragweed is the small one, a couple feet tall tops. Nonetheless, it’s a pollen-spitting baddy on its own. However, it’s the great ragweed, often pushing 5 feet in height, that has an eye-high pollen launch-point. Much of the ragging about ragweed in our area should be aimed at the great variety.

Be it small or sunflowerish in size, a single ragweed plant produces a billion-plus grains of pollen per season – and even more during hard-partying years.

In N.J., ragweed is the cause of over 50 percent of all allergic rhinitis cases from pollen.

But what about those famed, thought-allergenic fall boomers like goldenrod and Queen Ann’s lace? Due to its fall brightness, the drop-dead gorgeous goldenrod is perpetually blamed for fall “hay fever.” Total bunk. Even allergists, who seem to love blaming just about everything for their patients’ allergies, grudgingly admit goldenrod can’t even make eyes water – unless a foot-long stalk is accidently slapped across a kid’s face. Hey, we were kids playing swords with entire goldenrod plants. Mom’s first response: “I told you someone could lose an eye!”

RUNDOWN: Small bluefish are everywhere, but the slammers are no-shows. One way to tell there are no slammers hereabouts is the ongoing showing of the above-mentioned tiny blues. The cannibalistic nature of suddenly arriving slammers will drive off the small blues almost overnight.

While I, like most folks, forgo keeping big-ass blues as foodstuff, I’ve cleaned many a tweener blue (say, 5-pounder) and have found snapper blues inside, confirming the cannibalism. But it might not be full-blown eating of one’s brethren. Those stomached little blues were almost always mixed in with consumed mullet. I’m betting the snappers were more like collateral damage, as mid-sized blues went blindly ballistic after balled-up mullet. The snappers were near the mullet because mullet migrations run the same route with spearing and rainfish, the target of snappers.

Bassing is surely just beginning. I’ll say this until it actually happens … soon.

Weird incident: I was blind-throwing castnet and came up with a net-load of sailor’s choice, aka pinfish. I know these little beauties well, from time spent collecting bait for shops in Florida, where sailor’s choice are beloved for live-lining.

On rare occasions in the past, I’ve netted one or two pinfish in Barnegat Bay, fall-time. But this throw had at least a couple dozen within, all of  them sunfish-sized, likely ready to migrate. Earlier last month, a few of them were being taken on small hooks by folks chumming for blowfish. Could this increase in number be yet another sign of southern species edging north due to sea temp changes? Of course, one netful doth not an ecological swing make.

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