The Fish Story

Boat Bassers Bang Away at ‘Slobs’; New Species Forming in the Galapagos

By JAY MANN | Nov 28, 2017

Our beaches are bass forsaken; yet our nearshore waters are bass blessed. That’s cruel for surfcasters but a bonanza for those who have left their vessels in-water, or are adept at the manly art of insta-launching, per session.

The showing of bass beyond the breakers has gotten scalding hot on occasion. I’ve heard the world “epic” frequently bandied about.

Some water-top fishermen have been hooking to the beat of a fish per drop; mainly sub-keeper-size hookups but punctuated by trophy fish (above 30 pounds) and even ultra-trophy takes (above 45 pounds).

As expected, bigger bass move in distinct circles from schoolie stripers, which strictly pack together.

By the by, a common, less-than-endearing newer term for a mega-striper is a “slob.” Say what?! Hell, I wasn’t all that big on calling them “cows,” though, in a feminine sense, that’s duly appropriate. Female stripers are the biggies, as much as 30 percent larger than boys in the bass band. Back in the day, smaller stripers that stole live herring before the “slobs” could get them were called “rats.”

Obviously, the hot boat hooking has led to some fine keeperage, i.e. bass you put in the cooler, essentially inviting them home to dinner.

Overheard in one cooler:

Fish One: “Hey, Hal, funny meeting you here. Isn’t it nice that they’re inviting us to their home for dinner?”

Hal: “Lyle, you’re an idiot.”

Keeping bass for one’s dining pleasure is an excellent idea, providing the fish is less than “slob” sized. The mega, genetically gifted gals should only be kissed by a camera and released, post haste.

The ocean water is near 50, give or take. However, boats are finding pockets of warmer water temps. Also, a fellow I know said the fish he’s landing are coming up feeling warm. That perfectly aligns with the thermoclinic water layering this time of year, whereby a lens of mild water is trapped beneath the colder surface water.

A second, very nice red drumfish was caught. I believe it was a surf-caught fish. Got no details, just word about it from a passerby, mid-Island.

NEW SPECIES TO-BE: Despite Jersey being the most crowded state in the nation, when I’m in the outback I’m perpetually convinced I might stumble upon some unknown species – preferably a nontoxic species, seeing I’ll be stumbling upon it. I just know they’re out there.

Note: For you sasquatchians, I’m excluding Bigfoot, which has been done to death, despite never having been formally nomenclatured in a Latin manner, i.e. Bigfootius sasquatchii.

By the by, if I run into Bigfoot, you can apply one of those mind-bending mathematical equations to that meet-up: If a man hiking in the woods sees Bigfoot and takes off in one direction at the speed of light, as the Bigfoot bolts in the exact opposite direction like a bat out of hell, how long before their screams reach a camper a mile away?

Anyway, I base my hopes of finding a hitherto unfound species on scientific guesstimates that “millions” of totally undiscovered organisms are still out there – and begging for a scientific name that just might include jaymanni. An amber-digging buddy of mine now has his name Latinized on a unique – and extinct – insect found in 90-million-year-old amber. Hey, that’s one way to get scientifically immortalized.

Just last week, my new-species hopes were heightened by a mind-boggling discovery that every day, run-of-the-mill creatures might be in the process of becoming unknown again. Yes, I’ll explain.

To best understand this old-becoming-unknown concept, we must journey to one of my all-time favorite, never-been-there places: the Galapagos Islands. I’m talking about those celebrated, off-the-map Pacific islands off Ecuador. Yep, the ones you were all hep on visiting but soon found it a helluva lot cheaper and easier to simply go to Smithville instead – feed the geese, in lieu of tortoises.

Last week, the Science News magazine offered a story headlined: “New species can develop in as little as two generations, Galapagos study finds.”

The story explains, “The arrival 36 years ago of a strange bird to a remote island in the Galapagos archipelago has provided direct genetic evidence of a novel way in which new species arise.”

The new Galapagos species was first registered by researchers from Princeton University and Uppsala University in Sweden.

They were helped along by what I’ll characterize as some rather lascivious behavior of local Darwin finches on the small island of Daphne Major. They wasted no time intimately introducing themselves to the arriving newbie. It seems those dang Darwin finches, maybe after eating a load of fermenting Galapagos berries, will hook up with just about anything that blows into town, providing it has feathers and a beak – and isn’t, you know, all that huge.

As I read it, that’s just what happened when the aforementioned, nonindigenous finch-size bird landed on Daphne Major some 40 years back. It apparently lit right in front of a cadre of scientists, which perpetually haunt the unique landscape.

Before the newbie bird could even get its bearings, the locals coaxed it into a little berrying. “Just try these red ones. You’ll feel like you’re back home again … wherever the hell that is.”

Just like that – and maybe helped along by my interpretation of the scenario – the seeds of a new species were sown. Within a few generations, a new, even stranger bird was on the planet Earth.

As of last month, the new species is sporting 30 members, all of whom are egging each other into hiking their new-species’ presence – while forbidding the kids from patronizing with the creepy local birds.

“The novelty of this study is that we can follow the emergence of new species in the wild,” said B. Rosemary Grant, a senior research biologist, emeritus, and a senior biologist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

“…We were able to observe the pairing up of two birds from different species and then follow what happened to see how speciation occurred.”

Speciation: The formation of new and distinct species in the course of evolution.

It’s totally astounding how quickly a bird of a different feather can genetically fly forth. When fast-tracked, evolution can be faster than a flying finch – a hard-partying, flying finch.

Flashing red lights on the tail of a Galapagos blue-footed booby, a pulled-over finch nearby:

“Uh, is there a problem, officer?”

“Yeah, you’re all over the sky. Let me see your paperwork.”

“And where in bloody hell might you suggest I keep paperwork!?”

Soon, the inevitable.

“Now, tilt your head back and touch your wing tip to the tip of your beak … while reciting the alphabet … backwards … alternating between Latin and Spanish for each letter.”

Seeing it’s the Galapagos, they’ve evolved some of the weirdest under-the-influence tests seen anywhere.

Which, mercifully, bring us back to my hikes in the outback – since I was beginning to stray a bit there.

COYMANNI: If I can’t actually find a new species, maybe I can simply wait for one to form before my very eyes. And I saw the perfect candidate over the Thanksgiving vacation.

With visions of Darwinian finches in mind, I predict the emergence of a new species arising from the ongoing coalescing of wolves and coyotes. Such a mix is colloquially and conveniently called a coywolf. It’s far larger than your everyday, oft-scrawny coyote. It’s not quite up to wolf snuff.

We have coywolves here in Jersey. In fact, the northern part of the Eastern Seaboard is coming alive with this wolf/coyote concoction.

Over-sciency folks will argue that wolves and coyotes are both well-established canids; nothing new to see here, even when mixed.

Not so, amigos. When you cross a coywolf with another coywolf, for generation after generation, it’s Katy bar the DNA door. It has new species written all over it – in Galapagosese. Coywolves would rapidly claim their very own genetic signature, producing a unique finch … with fangs and fur.

SNOWLS ON THE WING: Some near-record warmth this week shouldn’t be enough to stave off a projected in-flux of snowy owls, as projected by owl soothsayers.

One recently touched down in the Holgate erosion/overwash zone. It’s hanging low, about 2,500 feet in from the parking lot – give or take a thousand or two feet, i.e. the buggers move around.

I’m hearing these beloved big-eyed birds of prey are starting to show in droves just to our north.

I guess you can call them droves. They’re definitely not flocks. A flock implies a modicum of partnership and pleasantness among flockers. Snowies can’t stand the sight of each other, especially when one of their own is seen sitting all cocky-schmoky-like on the sand.

During the last outbreak of snowls on LBI, I’d watch them expend way too much energy dive-bombing any roosting members of their ilk. It was mainly a display of air advantage. They weren’t nearly as hostile when it came to getting embroiled in land-based fights. They are very reluctant to go talon-on-talon, atop the sand, knowing that’s exactly how one loses a golden eye.

The first arrival of snowies in Ocean County has nature photographers issuing “Keep back!” warnings to the hoi polloi, mainly those sporting cell phone photo-shooting devices. The hope of the issuers is to give the comely birds loads of leeway. I agree … but not nearly as wholeheartedly. Hawk-eyed owls know perfectly well when it’s high time to take to the skies, should a pressing-in public befall them.

I’ll even go renegade by venturing that it’s better for owls to sharpen their intermingling-with-man skills. The sooner these owls – and many other wildlife species – adjust to humankind, the sooner they’ll be able to comfortably settle in for some long-run survival. I’m serious as buildout. Modifying and adapting to humanity makes life far more feasible for creatures living in a 7.5-billion-person world.

In the same vein, it’s incredible the way humanity marvels over snowy owls. They are a form of great whites; a terrestrial sort. These white owls act as high-viz ambassadors, twixt wildlife and humankind.

Owl appreciation is akin to mankind’s ocean-based reverence for dolphins, whales and sea turtles. Such an attachment by we folks fosters a highly protective, almost familial human mindset, which can then extend to all things wild and feathery.

The last irruption of owls brought more folks into the birdwatching fold than had ever been seen before. Google stats proved that. What’s more, it led to humans showing interest in enhancing lemming populations in the Great White North; lemmings being the high-impact foodstuff of nesting owls. Proving, again, it’s good to be on the good side of humans.

Should a showy showing of snowies show this winter, you can lend an eye to my blog, fishlbi.com, to see where on LBI they’re a-roost. I burn exact locations, meaning I’ll direct you to where you can gain a gander, albeit at-distance.

All that bonding stuff put forth, I encourage a controlled and owl-considerate rush-in for snowlfies: selfies with snowy owls. Get only close enough to go acceptably gaga over the perched beauties – without going all goofy on them, assuming we’ll have more than one.

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