The Fish Story

Hermine Was Low on Impact and High on Oddness; Smallest of the Small Shall Save a Plasticized World

By JAY MANN | Sep 07, 2016
Supplied Photo

It’s life after Hermine … and I feel REM-ishly fine.

OK, so we’re still under the outer-fringe wind influences of her. Yes, a her. Some folks didn’t know that. As a woman’s name, Hermine ranks 2,228th in U.S. popularity. At least she beats out Ezgi, a girl’s name that once won weird-name-of-the-year honors. But even Ezgi can’t hold a candle to Candle – a documented girl’s name. As is the name Cheese, out of Great Britain.

“These are my daughters, Candle and Cheese.”

“Oh, may I introduce them to my son, Wine?” Yep, Wine is a given boy’s name.

But back to Lady 2,228th. A number of folks were angered over being spooked off holiday-weekend LBI by early “massive storm” warnings. It’s easy to bitch and moan … after the fact.

At dawn’s early light, there was a “massive storm” potential, as seen through the eyes of some sky soothsayers. Yes, soothsayers. That’s not being mean to the folks who most often bring us spot-on weather reports. It simply alludes to the fact that hurricane forecasting is such an inexact science that even Vegas odds-makers won’t mess with them. Predicting a hurricane is a crapshoot inside a roulette wheel, atop a slot machine.

This go-round, initial forecasts proved a swing and a miss even for the Euro-models, famed for having anticipated Sandy a solid week before she hit. In defense of the Euro models, they were the earliest forecasting entity to notice Hermine was not acting as projected. The for-pay forecasting service departed from U.S. models, predicting she would move farther out to sea. So they at least get a booby prize.

I’ve never been in the evacuation-suggesting market, even in my blogs. It’s akin to telling someone how to raise their kids. OK, so maybe that’s a weird comparison, but abandoning ship is a highly personal call. That said, if you happen to notice there’s a huge storm coming and I’m suddenly writing this blog from atop the Forked River Mountains …

MY GO-AWAY THINKING: I’ve lost my onetime rush of bring-it-on adrenaline in the face of growing storms. I used to egg them on, chest-out, while standing at the ocean end of my Ship Bottom street. At some point, my chest kinda deflated and I found myself more inclined to beg storms away, having come to realize storms indubitably screw up the best laid plans of mice and Mann. I now dread the thought of a “game-changer” storm. I greatly prefer the game I’m currently in, thank you very much.

By the by, my change in storm attitude was not based on Sandy. She was, admittedly, a flood-my-kitchen eye-opener, but she simply wasn’t a wild child, sky-wise. The sneak-attack Great March Storm put her to shame in the kick-assedness category.

It’s actually my ground-level lifestyle that has me dreading sky assaults. I’m among a disappearing breed of ground-level, non-piling dwellers. We’re becoming so rare, I envision my kind slowly devolving into bent-over, excessively hairy-knuckled lifeforms that sulkily lurk beneath raised houses, until finally we’re wiped out by Hurricane Cheese.

What gets me is the indefatigable liveliness many folks, mainly non-coastalites, assume in the face of an approaching storm. Hermine had many folks hopping about, all but egging on a hit worthy of telling the grandkids about.

When Hermine ended up as nothing more than a sender of some decent-sized waves and mere moderate beach erosion, too many folks were remarkably bummed. You could see the let-down all but peeling off oglers who were walking around wanting to see mayhem, at our expense.

In Holgate, you’d have thought they were giving away washed-up gold doubloons, based on the masses oohing and ahhing over the dune erosion near the parking lot. In reality, that was an area experts knew would be erosionally problematic. The beach replenishment project was cut short right there, due to the trickle-up effects of the annual bird closure in the adjacent Forsythe Refuge.

Obviously, I wasn’t a bit let down by Hermine’s low-showedness. I’m betting many an Island aficionado also thanked their lucky storm stars she fairly much fizzled out. We have a tad more at stake than offering post-storm spectacles to goggling aftermathers.

MEDIA WAS A BIT MUCH: In the face of what were some mighty scare-tactic rants, pre-Hermine, I just wasn’t sold on her Cat-1 potential. I quietly balked at many outlandish storm-path and intensification predictions – replete with wild loop-de-loops off our shores. At the same time, my blogs ( never downplayed the danger. I did go balefully sophomoric by saying, “If you can’t swim, you might want to steer clear of floods.”

I think many Islanders were put off by the now-predictable storm oversell marketed by The Weather Channel, as its storm-chasers stood on sunny N.J. shores and solemnly warned, “This is not what it seems” – with families walking by while applying high-SPF lotions.

Hardest to register were numerous slapdash prognostications of “potential worst storm ever” or the modern go-to, “worse than Sandy.” I shook off those shock-and-awe reports, knowing technical studies have proven that approaching storms can produce a measurable dopamine surge in humans. I’m guessing that surge renders some folks a bit batty. That will likely never change, chemically speaking.

In defense of such dopamine surges, many warnings are issued in the name of safety and concern for the public welfare. However, there’s that proverbial cry wolf effect, whereby high-profile near-misses, like the Hermine hubbub, will dilute the integrity of all-too-real warnings. A standing fear is jaded folks will fail to duly bolt in the face of sure-kill future storms.

While I approach storms with far less fanfare and foreboding than most folks, I constantly have advance antennas out for anything that even resembles a “big one.” Despite my past history of staying put on LBI, I’m actually as ready as the next outta-here guy to flee in the face of an epic storm rearing up. Of course, that’ll need to be one helluva storm.

Overall, Hermine was a sheer baffler – and not just because of her erratic moves over the ocean. How in bloody hell wasn’t there serious street flooding on LBI? It makes no sense, considering the winds were blowing easterly for days, directly into the bay. That has always spelled Boulevard submersion in the past. Finally, into the fifth day of Hermine effects, we’re seeing some typical road overwash. Now it’s me being dramatic by saying we should be gill-deep in road flooding by now.

Beach erosion is moderate at worst – and slight at best. Final look-sees by the Army Corps of Engineers will determine if any response-worthy erosion has shown.

The ocean will need some time to lie down. Ongoing waves are being powered by the remnants of Hermine, along with the possible arrival of some new offshore storm systems.

RUNDOWN: I won’t even venture a guess about post-Hermine fishing. We’ve had a solid week layoff. I will offer an educated guess that the ocean influx into the bay will be a very loud starting gun to migratory baitfish, namely mullet. However, the rewarming air temps for the rest of this week will surely have mullet exiting home-bay areas, running the ocean for a short stint, then pulling back into the nearest bay to hold tight – and feed – until the warmth passes.

Here’s some recent weakie input from Capt. Dave DeGennaro, Hi Flier Sportfishing: “Thankfully, Hermine was a lot more timid than was forecasted. We fished right through Saturday and blasted the weakfish Thurs, Fri, and Sat. Chumming with live grass shrimp on the east side of Barnegat Bay was the best for quantity and lures tipped with shedder crab on the west side of the bay, behind Waretown, gave up some of our biggest fish.

“Either tide is producing, as long as it’s moving. Anything from 12 to 21 inch fish, but mostly 12 to 15 inch fish. There are fluke in the mix, though it is rare to catch a keeper, most of the flatties are 14 to 17 inches. Snapper blues, sand sharks, juvenile sea bass, blowfish, hickory shad, silver perch and more species visit our shrimp slick every day.”

DOUBLE-TROUBLE DREDGE DELAY: Our governor’s unyielding moratorium on NJDOT projects has apparently put the imminent dredging of Double Creek Channel on hold. Work was supposed to begin “in the fall.”

Barnegat Light Councilman Ed Wellington said of the dredge project, “It is tied up in the government moratorium until the transportation trust gets resolved.”

The delay worries Wellington since the contract for deepening Double Creek and nearby waterways was won by Great Lakes Dredging, famed for its federal work, most noticeably the replenishment of nearly all LBI beaches. Might the famed dredge company pull out, legally so, based on this delay?

I sure see that as a worry. When Great Lakes finishes the last beach replenishment touch-ups, it sure as hell won’t be willing to have its dredges idly hang around, waiting for N.J. to iron out some in-Trenton tiff.

I did notice that an NJDOT Shark River dredge has just begun despite the moratorium. That’s purely to do with some federal funding attached to the project.

While our governor is obstinate about his moratorium, he knows that letting federal funding lapse on a project surely means the state will never see that money being offered again. Use it or lose it for good. Unfortunately, the Double Creek project seemingly lacks federal attachments.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but, angling-wise, it might not be the worst thing to have the Double Creek dredging start a tad later. However, one then has to worry that a later start might muck up the arrival of migratory winter fish, most notably winter flounder. Dredging plans are always a drag.

By the by, part of that Double Creek project includes dredged bottom material from waters near the borough’s boat launch being piped over to the south side of the New South Jetty, inside the state park. A delay in rescue material for that problematic erosion zone might not sit so well with the park or conservation groups that encourage nesting birds thereabouts.

More on this as it emerges.

MICROSCOPIC PROTECTORS: Long before “Star Trek” was even a gleam in the eyes of the Rodenberrys, there was H.G. Wells with his “War of the Worlds,” replete with homicidally relentless Martians, not one of which was worthy of being favorited – later, starring Ray Walston and Bill Bixby.

Reading “War of the Worlds” as kids, this late-1800’s tale was all too ground-shaking for us timid Boomers. It was a shockingly rude introduction to the fact we might not be alone in the cosmic scheme of things – and we weren’t nearly as bad-ass as our green plastic soldiers led us to assume.

I actually went on to have nightmares over the way H.G.’s Martians all but cheated at war, utilizing three-legged “fighting-machines,” which issued forth death-rays capable of incinerating even the most compassionate earthlings, beginning with those holding up white flags of peace.

And if the death rays didn’t vaporize us one good, those despicable extraterrestrial attackers resorted to neutralizing humans with a toxic “black smoke,” an obvious  form of chemical welfare – so effectively portrayed by H.G. that some historians felt it might have egged on the use of mustard gases in World War I.

But it was H.G.’s eventual get-even destruction of the Martians that left even his publishers saying, “Oh, this ending won’t work at all, dude.” Wells, it did.

We read on in rapt confusion as salvation arrived via microbes in white hats, something H.G. called “putrefactive bacteria.” Unseen, but deadly to Martians, germs galloped to the rescue, dining on alien invaders like so many vittles. It was a combination of “Yee-ha!” and WTF!? No John Wayne or Roy Rogers or even Johnny Weissmuller saving us. Just germs.

Can you guess that I just re-read War of the Worlds? But I need that lead-in to enhance the irony of – only hours after finishing the book – getting an exciting news release about what might very well be salvation, of sorts, from the plasticized mess essentially overwhelming our planet.

Scientists have shockingly discovered that a new form of humanity-serving bacterium is a PET killer.

PET is polyethylene terephthalate, the planet’s most problematic plastic pollutant. It is apparently quite tasty to an entirely new form of bacterium, dubbed Ideonella sakaiensis. It is being seen as a microbe capable of someday consuming polyethylene terephthalate plastics – before the stuff takes over the world.

According to, “The bacterium seems to feed exclusively on PET and breaks it down using just two enzymes.”

But there’s a cosmic side to this – or I wouldn’t have offered such a chubby lead-in. The microscopic, plastics-dissolving crusaders have taken on their duties faster than everyday evolution should allow. Hell, the proliferation of plastics dates back only to the 1940s.

Making matters even more other-worldly is the way I sakaiensis extends tendril-like threads to secure its PET target. It then, in a time-release fashion, secretes juicy enzymes to break down the plastics, rendering ephthalic acid and ethylene glycol. At first glance those two might look as bad as PET itself. Not so. Not only are the two substances harmless to the environment, but the bacterium then digests both substances. Non nom.

Admittedly, at this time, the process is so slow it might take until a real war of the worlds before a dump truck’s worth is digested. However, Japanese scientists have already found I sakaiensis can be farmed. Yes, I’m sure it’ll be a sight to behold once such a farm is up and running.

But, cycling back to H.G., he had some freaky-deep beliefs regarding microscopic saviors rising to neutralize marauding Martians. He at first drew ridicule by suggesting that our planet is being microscopically protected, guarded over, by unseen and unimaginably crafty microorganisms, equipped to protect the planet against outside intergalactic forces … or, possibly, itself.

Hmmm. I think I’m going to start reading more classics.



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