The Fish Story

Long-winded Hurricane More Kindly Than Cruel; Not Long for Mulleting to Turn Maddening

By JAY MANN | Sep 19, 2017

Well, if we really must get a hurricane – you know, as an odd form of empathizing with those who really had hurricanes – Jose is the way to go. His clean, fresh, northerly winds and a power spattering of once-tropical rains were, well, refreshing.

Thankfully, our humble little, non-hit hurricane caused no ravaging. For me, it sparked the immortal song line, “Jose, can you see, by the dawn’s early light?” The dawn found us just fine. Gracious, Joe.

What long-lingering Jose is offering is both a bit hurtful and a lot helpful.

Jose’s powerful waves, along with some testy, northeast winds, are messing up late-summer boat fishing; autumn begins this Friday.

Hardest hit by Jose are our commercial fluke fishermen. They’ve seen their small summer flounder fishing window slammed shut by heavily heaving seas, which foils their bottom-fishing methods. Here’s hoping the feds see fit to offer those fine folks some extra compensatory days, something they’ve done in other areas when strictly designated fishing days get stormed out.

Erosionally speaking, the nearby ’cane is chewing some LBI beach areas to the bone. The damage has been done by what will likely be two straight weeks of hurricane swells. That’s unheard of. Sadly, very few of these Jose days have been worthy of waveriding.

As to scheduled beach replenishment via the feds, much of the area set to be replenished remains in dang decent shape. Nonetheless, Harvey Cedars, Surf City and Brant Beach will soon feel the dredge “spray,” most likely during the winter.

SIDEBAR: Calling on my beach volleyball days this summer, I saw areas of Harvey Cedars go from narrow and badly sand-wonting in the spring to as wide as I’ve ever seen them – after my way-too-long tenure hereabouts. Cedars’ beach rebound/rebuild validates the strategy behind replens, whereby newly placed beach sand is predictably dragged into the ocean, just off the beach, during stormy winters. Staying within what is called the bottom profile, the storm-stolen sand returns with a vengeance, when calmer, late spring and summer weather allows.

As to the now-hurting beach zones, mainly in the Holgate area, any rematerializing of that beachline’s sandiness will need a helping human hand. The iffy Little Egg Inlet dredging, and the accompanying beach placement of dredged materials, is still in-play.

As to the more up-ish side of Jose-can-you-sea, our bayside definitely needed a good flushing, which it’s getting, thanks to quite-brisk north winds.

Those winds – and the accompanying currents – take less than 48 hours to fully power away any worn-out summer bay water, including the stale stuff in deeper holes. In comes fresh Atlantic Ocean water. The bay luxuriates in such a sweet turn-over.

And don’t think for a minute that we don’t have mighty fine seawater entering our bay mix. Our chunk of ocean harbors some of the cleanest marine waters anywhere, due in huge part to our near maniacal watch-dogging of what enters it.

SEE THE PLASTICIZATION: The above, ocean-based bragging isn’t without its caveats, which is a perfect lead-in to a local showing of the highly-praised eco-movie “A Plastic Ocean.”

It screens this Saturday at the Ship Bottom fire hall. Snacks and pre-chat begins at 5:30 p.m. The move shows at 6:30, followed by a panel discussion.

I’ll be attending this showing, possibly offering a unique LBI angle to the plasticizing of the planet’s oceans.

My slant will point out how even a kindly isle like ours has its own plastics signature. I’m not big on the more popular use of the word footprint to represent an ecological impact. Footprints wash away too easily. You can sign your life away with a signature.

My LBI plastics read is highlighted by my experiences when rushing to Holgate after major storms. While my primary intent is to skillfully sort through the storm washups seeking fishing plugs, things indubitably turn ugly, quickly.

While plugging away for plugs, there’s no overlooking the disconcerting, albeit colorful, plastics presence, one that dominates the wrack line for a mile or more southward.

FYI: The wrack line is the oft-snaky line of debris left on the beach when a high tide recedes. Post-storm, it is the high-water mark from days of wave action, where any sundry floatables – natural and not-too-much – are left high and relatively dry.

Within post-storm, wash-up zones lies our rather naïve/innocent LBI contribution to a plastic ocean. Often dozens, if not hundreds, of little plastic beach toys and diggers are gathered, a bit eerily.

During look-abouts, I have filled entire contractor-grade garbage bags with wayward beachgoer paraphernalia.

I’ll be the first to admit these guiltless pieces of pollution are far more symbolic than sinister. Nonetheless, they can still offer an insight into the breadth of the plastic-intrusion problems the oceans face.

Also, little red kiddy shovels and the likes are hardly the stuff of catastrophic whale chokings. Uh, at least I don’t think they are. Hell’s bells, there’s actually no guaranteeing there aren’t whales sadly swimming around loaded to the blowholes with little plastic kiddy digging tools.

Which just might be my point, exactly. Even mild-mannered contributions to the plasticizing of the ocean could play a role in making “A Plastic Ocean.”

By the by, and dismounting my innocent contribution bandwagon, the most common plastic presence within wrack lines is bottle caps. Who knows where, within the ocean, lurks the sinkable bottles that came with those caps.

(I have an entire segment coming up in coming weeks regarding the insidious presence of micro plastics, possibly the worst pollution solids the oceans have ever seen.)

MANN OVERBOARD: The 2017 mullet run isn’t. In fact, it’s not even taking a leisurely stroll, as of today. We should be seeing a mullet flood by now.

While this annual baitfish migration has never been the stuff to set clocks by, we of a net-casting ilk know when something fishy is afoot. It’s afoot. Nonetheless, I’m committed to the netters’ mantra that it could begin at the drop of a cap – or, a boonie hat, which I now wear to keep my face, neck and brain from frying.

My eyes take a beating when the mullet migration is nowhere to be seen. With no passing schools to break up the staring, I unblinkingly gaze into eventless water – hour, after hour, after hour … until it begins staring back at me. “Whazzup, dude?”

On the edge of stare craziness, I sometimes see the undulating faces of B-grade Hollywood actors, surely stemming back to my cult movie-watching days. “Good to see ya again” … whatever your name was.

Get this: On Sunday, after four straight hours of gawping, I found myself patiently waiting as a slow-moving cadre of dignities from a small Third World nation meandered past. I offered a sincere, “Buenos dias, senores.” Hey, it’s good to be friendly with tiny nations; you never know when they might suddenly discover they have the planet’s only dilithium crystal caves.

Then, there’s the always-kindly face of that Nigerian prince, the one who has randomly chosen me, from among countless cast netters, to gift “one million of dollars.” Stunning! To think, all I have to do is send him a mere $500, you know, to cover the cost of shipping and handling.

After five hours of being sun beaten and mulletless, I’m filling out a $500 check, chuckling to myself, “I’ll never have to mullet again!” Mysteriously, strains of the Bare Naked Ladies song “If I Had a Million Dollars” begin wafting over from the nearby Sheepshead islands.

And don’t be trying to tell me my beloved Nigerian prince is a scammer! I’ll have you know I already sent him that shipping and handling stipend … and I’ve already gotten two large crates filled with “one million of dollars.” So there!

OK, so maybe it’s “one million of dollars” in Nigerian currency – which translates roughly into $44.47, American. Nonetheless, I have found Nigerian currency to be quite cool, especially the one hundred-dollar bills, which are graced with the luscious image of a comely, scantily clad, Nubian princess. What’s more, when you take a tightly wrapped pack of Nigerian $100s and flick though the bills real fast with your thumb, this scalding hot princess does a twerking, belly dancing thing. The Nigerian government apparently has quite the sense of humor regarding its currency. The prince should be proud.

For my friends, herein: I’m currently giving away stacks of Nigerian hundred-dollar bills … absolutely free! Just pay shipping and handling.

But I digress, which is all too easy to do when the mullet are AWOL – and the water also begins to speak to me. Have a listen.

On Sunday, I did see a spattering of paired mullet, passing by. Although there is absolutely no value in a couple mullet, I boringly threw my eight-foot net over the little buggers, dragging them onshore just to nostalgically recall what a mullet looks like. I quickly released them.

However, after netting three or four pairs in short order, I got this suspicion that I was re-netting the same dang mullet, over and over. WTF? It was as if they were having a good old time. So, I leaned my head toward the water and listened in: Just as I thought!

“Ooh, ooh. That was fun, Calvin. Can we do it again? Please? Please?”

“OK, Billy, just one more time but after that we have to get down to migrating. … And remember, always travel two at a time, so he’s sure to throw you back in water.”

“Gotcha. … Hey, Cal, what happens if, say, he doesn’t throw us back in?”

“Well, there’s a lot of debate about that, Billy. For now, it’s best not to tempt fate.”

“What’s the hell’s fate, Cal?”

“Well, there’s also a lot of debate about that.”

“Wow, we mullet debate a lot, don’t we, Cal?”

“Yes, we certainly do, Billy. We certainly do.”

Hey, that’s exactly how I heard it. It has been proven that when mulleting becomes maddeningly slow, you can hear some mighty telling stuff. Just sayin’.

NO MULLET, NO BIGGY: A failed mullet migration doesn’t mean a whole lot in the big fall-fishing scheme of things. However, it can hurt the in-shop frozen mullet stocks for the upcoming nine-week (count ’em) Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic. What’s more, we should soon be into cocktail/tailor/eater blues, when mullet (frozen and fresh) is always one of the most effective baits.

Speaking of blues, no sooner do I get all hyped over some slammer blues in our local system than those choppers go missing, based on reports from those who had been catching them.

Micro-snappers (blues) are so thick I can nab a dozen or more in a single cast net (Holgate) … if I were so inclined, which I’m definitely not. Those little buggers can rip a net to shreds, especially when they resort to using their patented bulldog, clampdown bites on the mono – and need to have their jaws pried open to clear them from the net.

The blowfish bite near Barnegat Inlet remains hot. Dozens can be had in a single chum session. It’s not a popular fishery but sure can be fun – especially during afternoon BBQs.

The few kingfish being taken in a hurricane-riled ocean are oddly small. I say “oddly” because they had been running large to jumbo. Tradition has the small kings showing first, then the larger models.

There is currently a showing of bayside peanut bunker, which folks highly knowledgeable in such things swear they’ve never seen the likes of.

I’ll go upbeat by noting that I’ve seen better autumnal gamefish activity focused on baby bunker schools than I’ve ever seen on mullet, once the peanuts finally decide to move into the ocean or inlets – which can be well into fall. Of course, this year, we’ll be fishing the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic ( into December. Let the peanuts leave when they may, we’ll be waiting beachside.

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