The Fish Story

It’s Time for Time Off; Acid Makes Fish Jittery

By JAY MANN | Dec 18, 2013
Photo by: Jay Mann

The SandPaper is off on vacation until early January. It happens every year around the holidays. However, for me, this holiday hiatus is like manna spiced with nirvana and graced with a touch of patchouli incense.

It’s been a bit of a tough year. I’ve gone from a “Gimme Shelter” song theme last January to a “Let It Be” theme heretofore. In fact, may 2014 be Sandy-free; not only free of similar superstorms but free of all the lingering crap she left behind. The witch is a zombie. She just won’t die.

It’s probably utterly inappropriate to bring this up but in the wake of the far-worse-than-Sandy March Storm of ’62, things returned to normal in nothing flat. The fuss-factor was virtually nonexistent. By June of ’62, even though washed astray houses still littered the Boulevard and the beach, it was life, same as it ever was.

No one knows better than me how we’ve built toward an insanely complex and costly existence here, since that Great March Storm. I just want to offer a certainty – based on the past – that normalcy can return. And forget that crap about the “new normal.” Normal for LBI is and always will be beachgoing, waveriding, fishing, relaxing, cruising, dining and, yes, partying one’s butt off. Nothin’ new or abnormal there.

I will be maintaining a redacted presence on my blog website jaymanntoday.ning.com) and also posting same on the thesandpaper.villagesoup.com.

NON-ROUNDUP: Right about now, I’m usually in the midst of devising a year-end rundown. This year, the best I can do is offer a rear-end rundown. Not only was the overall fishing p-poor but I, personally, didn’t even tap into the only readily available bite: fluke.

Regarding fluking, I make no qualms about dubbing it mere meat fishing. It’s not a gamefish in the snappier sense of the word. Sure, there’s a goodly amount of skill in tracking down better flatties – then, getting them to salute. Along the same lines, a fluke “hit” is duller than a snag. Admittedly, a hooked flattie of fairer size can offer a fair fight; however, that action is usually negated by the relentless use of heavier fishing gear, meant to rip the swimming filets out of the water as quickly and successfully as possible. The fillet potential trumps the desire to give the flatfish a fighting chance. It’s all about take-home.

I bring up this year’s fairly fine, low-sport fluking to emphasize the low and slow overall game fishing action for most of 2013, i.e. the bass and chopper plugging that wasn’t.

At the same time, I salute the few folks who found some fairish weakfishing and kingfish action. Those side bites barely registered for most of us.

Making things worse for me, I didn’t get offshore once – and even missed the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club White Marlin Invitational. Tuna and billfish can thank their lucky stars for that, right?

And that’s about it for 2013.

Whadda ya wanna bet 2014 totally makes up for things?

DOING TOO MUCH ACID: Marine fish around the world are slowly getting very antsy, as in, totally stressed out.

Their frayed nerves are the result of acid fallout, as industrial harshness falls upon our seas, via tainted precipitation, better known as acid rain.

Sidebar: If you think the term acid rain was coined just a short time ago, your “short” better be long. Huh? The term harkens back to 1872, when it was invented by Robert Angus Smith, a Scottish scientist who was into environmental issues before anyone even knew how to pronounce “environmental,” seeing they were Scottish and had a hard time pronouncing just about anything.

But, back to now, mankind continues to spit out acid rain in downpourish amounts. The sinister trickledown effect from such foul pH could eventually drive fish into high-anxiety hiding.

That thesis has been put forth by scientists at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Canada’s MacEwan University. The two famed oceanographic schools recently published findings regarding what happens when California rockfish – no relation to Southern stripers – get doused with water acidity in unnatural amounts.

When en-tanked within “normal seawater” – with a pH common to oceans not suffering acid swings – the fish hung out high and happy, active in their nature-like, kelp forest aquarium environment. However, when the acid content was upped, the fish got antsy. As acidity rose to a level scientists anticipate could be common 100 years from now, the fish became downright neurotic, finally swimming off to hide – as best they could in an aquarium. They sulked in corners. “They would go to the dark part of the tank and they wouldn’t move. They just stayed there,” study co-author Martín Tresguerres told the L.A. Times.

But what was on their sulking minds – short of dumbed after being doused in acid?

Seems the fish displayed behavior identical to that displayed when exposed to anxiety-inducing drugs. Yep, poor fish were also drugged. Needless to say, it’s not always easy being a rockfish in Callie.

To see how a nervous-ass rockfish acted, the scientists drugged them with scientifically approved anxiety-inducing drugs. Blink-blink/nod-nod.

Don’t ask me what type drugs are routinely used to wig-out fish. For all I know, those Left Coast scientists might have simply chucked fish into an urn-shaped aquarium filled with Columbian coffee – to witness both the effects of caffeine on fish and to see how cool it would be to make fish swim around in coffee.

Conclusion: In drugged waters, the rockfish reacted the same way as when they were immersed in saltwater with a 100-year-from-now acidity.

While 100 years doesn’t happen overnight, it seems the higher the acidity upsurges in our oceans, the more inclined upper water-column marine life will be to sulk toward bottom structure, seeking asylum from the acidity. Truth be told, that could screw up the entire marine ecosystem, as all sorts of jittery, on-edge marine life tries to jam into the same cracks and crevices.

You think fish are pissed off now when we haul them in, just imagine them tweaking on acid.

This is yet another stinging endorsement to do everything in our power to stop acidifying our seas.

IN THE WAKE OF THE CHRISTMAS PARADE: I’ve already had a number of communiqués over what might be the perfect gift for the angler who has everything – of an affordable nature. With Sandy having affected my thinking last Christmas, my cynically suggested gift for anglers was a small ranch in coastal-less South Dakota – a state where they’ll pay you to come and live, even if you hail from Jersey.

This year, I’ve gone trendy instead of contemptuous, throwing plaudits toward GoPro vid-cams, custom-made rods, pricey binoculars (Zeiss, Leopold, Leica, Steiner – and a “Top Buy,” the Pentex DCF CS 8x42), and top-shelf reels. On that last suggestion, I still have a van Staal working fine as a fiddle after years and years of abuse. Of course, the price has gone way up since that “introductory” year model. I’ll include rod racks here since these vehicle racks have gotten mighty elaborate, which can ring the break-the-bank bell.

When it comes to clever, non-bank-busting gifts – though still a pretty penny – I point to chest waders; L.L. Bean high-top boots; top sunglasses (always as gift certificate, since this is always a highly personalized fit thing); soft tackle bag (rapidly replacing tackle boxes); superior headlamp (thumbs up to Black Diamond series and Performance FoxFury); better penknife (stay out of “China”; think Swiss or Buck); handheld flashlight (always a winner if going with a better name like Surefire, Fenixs, Streamlight); truck seat covers (a sure winner, providing you align covers to year and make of vehicle); heated gloves (advances in design have made these very wearable, though pricey); latest in LED Coleman-type lanterns; and any number of better-grade parkas.

Along the lines of smaller gift, I always point to the likes of handmade plugs; assorted everyday hoodies; tools (Leathermen multi-tools have gotten too cool to touch, so to speak); portable tire inflator (Sears/Craftsman puts out great ones); sand-use shovel (buggy owners always seem to be lacking these); and a slew of GULP! items.

Odd but cool gift: special NJ license plates. You can go online to see the selection of specialized plate themes, and then print out that page to symbolize the arriving gift of so-called vanity plates.

ARTS, CRAFTS AND CAUTION: I know of a number of folks going vine picking in the woods to make Christmas wreathes. Please wear bright colors and make a goodly racket in hunting zones. Sunday (no gun hunting) is safer.

Here’s a video on making vines by a, uh, let’s just say soft-spoken gentleman. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Uts9dD6mTY.

If you’re into shell wreaths, we’ll be seeing real low tides.

Replenishment areas are showing tons of jingle shells, miniscule surf clam shells and plenty of black scallop shells – along with a ton of assorted also-swams, including a few angel wing shells. The sand dollar showing is decent but far from an easy pick.

Shell wreathes make for a great family project for Christmas. Get starter wreath forms (It’s fine to use Styrofoam) from Michael’s or A.C. Moore – or make one from above-mentioned vines.

SEE YA, PASTOR STEVE: I want to bid a fond sendoff to Pastor Steve at St. Francis Parish, as he finishes a very dynamic pastorship here on LBI – and readies himself to move on to his next mission.

While the locale of his upcoming reassignment has yet to be determined, my new buddy in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, says there’s a small parish there that would love to have him. As an inducement, free Mongolian language training comes with the post – a cashmere-covered post at that. The parish will even throw in some Sherpa speak if Steve wants to toy with mountain climbing.

By the by, there is a distinct tie-in between St. Francis Parish and my fishing posts. If you read this blog and column regularly, my weekly church time (as an usher and Eucharistic minister) is often loaded with insider angling reports. Hell’s bells, many a churchgoer is there praying for better fishing.

Since I often get their fishing reports inside the church itself, they oft have at least a tad greater truth than, say, your average non-parish fish stories. Steve has brought a load of energy and camaraderie to the parish. That, in turn, brings in more and more friendly folks – and more reports to me.

Not that Pastor Steve is a big game angler or anything. If he ever hooked a 900-pound black marlin, the fish’s first leap would probably send him a prayin’ and a runnin’ – which, in a boat, has its limits.

Good luck, Steve. By the by, that’s amjilt khüsiy, Steveo in Mongolian.

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