The Fish Story

Man ‘Saves’ Dogfish in Time for ‘Shark Week’; Rain in Buckets Can’t Kill Drought

By JAY MANN | Jul 25, 2017

How about that 30-foot shark that some daring man grabbed – and rescued – in the shallows of Beach Haven?

Oh, wait. My bad. It was actually a 3-foot shark. You can understand my confusion, seeing that the entire Eastern Seaboard news media realm mainlined the video of the fellow grabbing a harmless, half-dead, dogfish – to the cheering delight of an entire Queen City beachful of mesmerized onlookers.

For a look-see, Google “man grabs shark New Jersey.”

Overall, it was a fine and humane effort by folks trying to save the doomed denizen of the not-so-deep – dogfish being a pesterous beachline bait-stealer of the highest order for surfcasters.

Note: There’s a chance it was a small brown shark. I’m sticking with it being a dogfish, also called a sand shark.

Coincidentally (or was it?), the acting-oddly sand shark just happened to come calling in perfect conjunction with the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” celebration. What’s more, I caught wind of some men-in-black jumping out of a dark Discovery Channel Chevy Suburban SUV and running something down to the ocean’s edge – throwing it in the water off Nelson Avenue. Not that it meant anything, mind you.

Without being smarmy, I must now make a typical Mannservation (Mann observation). The kindly fellow who grabbed the shark – and I again salute him – couldn’t have grabbed it in a worst place, short of grabbing it by the tail, where a true shark can act out and chomp a grabber’s body to the quick. The man’s squeeze was right where all sharks have unusually delicate innards.

I know, you’d think a killing machine would be rock solid through-and-through. Nope. A shark’s internal organs are so iffy that one can die of internal damage if dropped by an angler, or, if accidentally kicked in the abdomen – you know, whilst we playfully roughhouse with, say, a 20-foot great white in the surf. Come on, it’s Shark Week! Catch the spirit.

The manly vise grip applied to the Beach Haven shark’s lower region, as the top half of the creature swung back and forth, was likely the coupe de grace for the already fading-fast fish.

Nonetheless, the happy-ending aspect, as the shark was being PWC’ed off to be joyously released in deeper water, was the stuff of media and vacation fairy tales. I sure liked it a lot better than the tale of finding of a washed up, mint-condition Paleolithic artifact – rolled along in the wash for miles and still sharp enough to cut through deerskin. I hear it’s now in the Smithsonian’s “Ginsu” display.

For the kids reading this, rest assured, the BH shark was surely saved – and now, uh, sleeps with the fishes. And don’t dare miss reruns of “Shark Week” episodes, showing great whites playfully ripping apart cute little seals. Yummy, right? That’s the spirit.

IS IT ME OR THE KID?: I’m as apolitical as a walnut. Hey, you can’t tell me a walnut isn’t the epitome of political inertness.

Despite my walnutness, I’m profoundly weirded out by costly oddities within the federal budget. Recently, I was wobbled by a $371,026 grant for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to intimately study brain activation patterns in women.

Now, at first blush, that sure seems to be a subject that actually deserves billions, providing studies are quietly done, maybe when the gals aren’t looking – just in case a brain activation overload suddenly occurs, not unlike a chemical plant explosion. “Run away … she’s gonna blow!”

But NIH is not seeking to serve all mankind via an answer to the enigma of womanliness. Instead, the group wants to research – and I’m serious as a hissy fit here – whether or not advanced MRI brain readings can finally determine if women equally love their dogs and kids.

If that’s a joke, the punch line costs $371,026!

On further review, I can’t tell if my tax dollars are being pissed away or if government-sponsored research is trying to compete with reality shows.

Johnny: “Mommy, do you love Bippy more than me?”

Mommy: “Of course not. Now, just run along and do whatever it is you do.”

Bippy: “Do you love little Johnny more than me?’

Mommy: “Don’t be silly, my little Bippy. Now jump up here and let me rub your tummy.”

By the by, I’m tempted to bring up a $331,000 grant to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to determine the dangers of a spouse in a state of “hanger.” That’s the exact NSF term created for a condition combining being hungry and angry. “Is a hanger an unhappy spouse?” is the exact question behind the NSF desperately seeking $331,000.

These are times I’m so glad I’m a walnut.

RAIN AND SO FORTH: That was a dang decent downpour Sunday into Monday. Island roads were heavily awash, flashflood-wise – though in a quite-common way.

I have glowing B&W photos of back-when downpours that brought the same instant street flooding to LBI. Those pics show us kids merrily splashing and swimming around in the inundated streets. We’re emerged up to our little necks – our oddly smiling faces aglow with a rainbowish motor oil sheen. Thinking back, our smiling faces were most likely reflecting the accumulative chemical effects of absorbed road pollution. I even almost recall us going into an altered state, to where parents would have to rush in and slap us on the cheeks a couple times. “Snap out of it!” I’d come to, all, “Uh, where am I. Wow, that was so cool! I thought I was a blowfish.” By the by, we did use the term “cool” back then – the original “cool,” dude.

I took a 3.01-inch rainfall reading on Monday morning, though other Island gauges had up to five inches from 11 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday.

Those inch counts were impressive but can’t hold a candle to the well-documented 12 inches of rain in just six hours, recorded in Loveladies, August 1991. I always use the white perspective: That would be akin to going to bed on a winter night and awakening six hours later to 120 inches of fresh snow.

Back to now, the rain was a blessing for many a drought-dried LBI garden, like mine, which I have allowed to take on a strict indigenousness. Native foliage, aka weeds, has duly won out over my invasively planted parsley, cilantro, corn, cabbage and lettuce. Hey, did you know that lettuce, when racing for sunlight against thistles, will totally ignore leafing out in an edible manner and instead bolt upright … three feet upright? I always have Dole salad mixes, two for $5.

As to the recent rapid rainfall easing the drought conditions we’re under, it takes way more than a single shot of showers to douse a drought. Sure, it helps in a small-scale way. Just ask my doing-marvelously poison ivy vines. On quiet nights, I can actually hear it gently strangling the basil.

As you know, along the coast and throughout Southern Jersey, fast rains instantly get sucked down by sandy soils. Even a three-inch downpour will sink out of sight within 24 hours.

On an ecological upside, Pinelands dirt-road puddles have been nicely filled with rainwater. They’ll hold water for a goodly amount of time, due to packed-tight bottom sediment that prevents downward drainage. These mainly man-made holes have come to serve a vital ecological purpose, offering long-standing watering spots to furred, scaled and winged wildlife.

As to the worst impacts of sudden stormage, the bay is taking a brutal eco-beatdown. In fact, such a sudden downpour scenario is one of those “worst case’ things.

Unrinsed for many a week, roadways had gathered tons of traffic gunk. It was all power-showered into the bay. It is now both polluting the water and feeding certain algae.

During a lecture in California, I was duly surprised to hear that petroleum byproducts, like that leaking from nearshore derricks, can be very rich in organics. While not everything in the marine environment appreciates those types of organics, many simple plants scarf the stuff up. That’s one dining experience the bay hates offering, when followed by system-sickening brown algae tides and such.

As to stopping road gunk from going bayhopping, my best suggestion is that everyone immediately stop using the roads.

Sorry, bay; I tried.

RUNDOWN: In-the-know fluke folks continue to do very nicely, close to remarkably well in some instance, almost exclusively bayside.

OK, I also hear some of you haven’t been catching squatola on the flattie front. In all due respect, probably no other game fishery in NJ is more dominated by sharpies. Not only do they know the spots but they also know the myriad of sometimes highly subtle fluking tricks needed to nab fluke on any given day.

Then, there are the fluking magicians. These are anglers who can pull fluke out of a hat, even when others are chasing rabbits, so to speak. Having once been a dedicated headboat fluker, I saw with utter confusion and amazement how those same fluking magicians indubitably out-hooked even crowded boatloads of anglers – same boat, same bait, same drift, same sun, same side of the vessel … but nobody could out-catch them.

There might be a whole other side of angling that requires EKGs to study angling magician brains. The greatest surfcasting magician I’ve ever known was one Jim White. For my own peace of angling mind, I’d never fish anywhere within eyesight of him.

Kingfishing is splotchy – no pun intended, since kings can look very splotchy when first reeled in. Those surfcasters finding deep enough, near-beach, water to fish for kings are scoring upwards of a dozen take-homes per session. There are also some very small ones in the mix, usually released.

From an epicurean angle, these delicious fish are best cooked in the round; simply gutted and baked. This maximizes the meat take. Kingfish is so tasty, it can be dipped in drawn butter, lobster-style. Try it. You’ll thank me.

Stripers are iffy, though waters from Barnegat Inlet northward are holding some trophy bass, best found on the troll. I got report of a 30-pounder taken last week thereabouts.

Bassing along the beach is being all but neutralized by sandbars popping way out of the water. I saw a couple surf anglers in Harvey Cedars walking out to cast from the bars, with apparently no repercussions from the guards. Of course, there were also tons of beachgoers walking the sandbars. Hardly a serene fishing scene.

There’s a growing need to mention cow-nosed stingrays since they’ve once again arrived in a big way. Then fully schooled, they can fill the surfline so thoroughly that the waves look like a moving stingray mural. A single school can run up to 100,000 rays by some estimates. The number of rays in major-ass schools is almost inestimable.

Why these cownose ray numbers continue to go batty surely reflects some sort of eco imbalance. Many researchers initially felt the destruction of shark populations was behind ray irruptions. Sharks love rays; pizzas with wings to them. However, even with sharks making a dang decent comeback, the cownose ray numbers continue to soar. My best guess is a proven phenomenon, whereby a species, when overpopulated due to loss of predation, cannot easily be brought back into natural balance, even when predators return to once-normal levels. Even with pizza eating, it gets to the point, “I can’t take another bite.” Rays win the day.

For bathers, cownose rays are utterly harmless in the surf. Some folks on the north end of the Island recently brushed by the wings of massive schools of passing rays. That’s actually very interesting. I’ve swum out to purposely touch rays and was unable to get anywhere near one. Those light brushes with LBI humans were likely intentional, maybe even a friendly gesture of sorts. I say that because this species, down south, is often kept in parks and zoos. They quickly become docile, adjusting to hand feeding and, quite apparently, the warmth of human hand rubs. See YouTube “petting cownose stingrays” for pages of ray/human interactions.

By the by, there is a logical and natural side to rays allowing, or even coaxing, human rubbings. It has to do with controlling parasites. Wide-winged rays can take on serious parasite loads.

I’ve raised so-called “cleaner fish,” including wrasse, catfish, pipefish and gobies. Other fishes, including stingrays – not to mention sharks aplenty – love when these cleaner fish come over and begin pecking away at parasites. In return, the cleaner fish are never on the menu.

All this said, I am absolutely not encouraging stingray petting on LBI. If one comes over to you, just don’t let it freak you.

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