The Fish Story

Surfcasting Could Surely Be Bassier; When Nixon Sauntered Into Our Burger King

By JAY MANN | Nov 22, 2017

While our fishing for autumnal striped bass traditionally carries on through December and occasionally into the wee hours of the coming year – a few folks fishing them into January – the time for nailing the biggest, baddest bass is draining away like daily daylight.

Many a surfcaster will swear the trophy-bass days never began this fall. I’ll also similarly swear – but not so much in here … and even then only with the help of many an asterisk. Although there is still a prime cut of fishing time remaining in the telling LBI Surf Fishing Classic, ending Dec. 10, hopes are not high for a last-minute passage of jumbo bass.

The Classic is telling because the nine-week event, manned/womaned by 750-plus entrants this year, offers an encompassing insight into what’s what, angling-wise – and what’s not what, in the case of 2017. It’s been a surfside struggle. Keeping up with it can be done at

I’m not remotely suggesting all fall bassing action is lost. We can still anticipate cashing in on dime-a-dozen schoolie bass. School is now in session, hopefully right through the end of the year.

For those who don’t speak striperese, schoolie bass are stripers topping out at about 30 inches long … and slipping down to less than a foot in length. This smallness puts many out of keeper range, i.e. 28 inches and over.

Yes, schoolies travel in schools, often tightly knit schools. That means if you’re on them, you’re really on them. If not, you must be fishing near me.

Of epicurean import, legally keepable schoolie bass are the choicest as table fare, offering the cleanest and tastiest striper meat. The smaller the striper, the lower any chemical bad-stuff within. It’s well known that larger bass can be loaded to the gills with unkindly chemical pollutants, many of which can linger in industrial bottom muds for over 100 years, meaning that just stopping the polluting doesn’t end the pollution. Bottom-feeding forage fish grovel in the contaminated muck, and then pass the likes of PCBs onto gamefish.

I bring up the distasteful chemical angle to both warn diners and discourage the keeping of chemical-heavy trophy bass.

That brings me to a message I received from a top charter captain (of the Debbie M) who has taken mild umbrage over something I wrote in last week’s column.

“Jay, I disagree with what you said (last) week: ‘I’ll duly note here that charter boat captains don’t have the luxury of implementing any sort of on-board catch-photo-release policies if they want return customers.’ I promote conservation/sustainability on the Debbie M. In fact, I think more guides/captains should because if their customers take all the fish, what will they have to catch next time? Think about it, or they (other guides/captains) should think about it. … Peace out, Capt. Alex.”

If only, Cap, if only. I based my columnistic comment on many a far-less-conservational captain hissing at me that their fares would abandon ship if told something like “Any 50-pounders you catch, you’ll have to release.” Imagine suggesting that on a headboat.

That said, we’re absolutely in the same state-of-mind boat when it comes to the pressing need for a willingness among captains to voluntarily conserve big bass. I can already hear the obscenity-laced uproar should the state try to mandate such compliance by implementing a Southern redfish-like must-release policy for bass over, say, 40-something inches. Yes, such a slot system could arise – maybe soon, meaning the only keepable bass would have to reside in a zone between 28 and 40 inches. It would cause hell to bust out of the hand basket … led by captains!

For now, simply being a highly conservation-minded skipper – duly encouraging the photo-and-release method – could save some gene-gifted cow bass.

DREDGE-ABOUT: The Little Egg Inlet dredge-a-channel contract has gone out to bid. It is really a happening thing.

Looking at the initial permitting, I have the sense it’s going to be mainly the east end of the inlet that gets channeled. I’ll need to see the final game plan to get a better idea of how far inside the inlet, westward, it’ll extend. That’s way important, especially when it comes to reinstating aids-to-navigation markers.

I’m also a-wonder over where, within a very wide inlet area, the channel will be placed. Might it be placed closer to the North Cut, or, to avoid impacting Holgate, significantly farther south?

Then comes the long-term question of re-dredging if/when needed, via hopper dredgers, like those regularly used in Barnegat Inlet.

Talking with Army Corps of Engineers folks, it would be ideal to regularly recycle southwardly migrating sand by moving it back onto needy beaches as quickly as it’s removed from a Little Egg Inlet channel. One has to wonder how practical such an inlet-to-beach sand transfer will be for, say, touch-ups to the channel. Closing beaches is always a gritty enough matter, much less for every bit of build-up.

Per ACE literature, hopper dredgers can “transport the material to the downdrift beach and deposit it in the surf zone to nourish sand-starved beaches.” That method would mean simply offloading LEI upkeep sands close to, but not on, the Holgate beachline. That very method was done for a while off Loveladies, using Barnegat Inlet material related to the building of the New South Jetty. It became impractical time-wise.

I’m not sure if hopper-dredging offloading would be allowed off the refuge-adjacent beaches, which are closest to the proposed channel.

Looking at the soon-to-be LEI channel through an angling lens, might the depth drop-off on the banks of the channel be acute enough to spike fishing there – where bass will batten down to ambush forage being whisked in from the shallows? Works for me, in theory.

I’ll have an update on the Double Creek/BL channel deepening work next week, or check in at

By the by, re-replen work on Harvey Cedars, Surf City and Brant Beach beaches will begin in late January, via Weeks Marine Inc. That company is currently working Manasquan and Brigantine. Manasquan has become a royal replen pain due to large waves and roiled seas. We’ll be getting the equipment now doing a one-month job in Brigantine. Here’s hoping we have kinder and gentler seas when Weeks pulls into town – whichever LBI town will be first.

MANN OVERBOARD: With the demise of the area’s oldest McDonald’s on Route 72 in Manahawkin, I’m trivially compelled to offer a wildish, little-known fast-food tidbit regarding the nearby Burger King. Harken back to1974, when a boiling-caldroned President Richard Nixon opted to side-step impeachment proceedings by rapidly resigning from a suddenly besmirched Oval Office, skulking off in epic disgrace. Tail between his Watergate legs, the 37th president fled from public view, going into something akin to a self-imposed exile.

Fast-forward almost 12 years later to April 3, 1986. It was the secreted-away former president’s first quasi-public reemergence that served our Manahawkin Burger King with 15 minutes of fast-food glory. Actually, it became a few minutes’ worth of worldwide fame.

At approximately 12:30 p.m. that day, some non-immortal words were spoken by a Stafford customer sitting at a window table in the restaurant. “Now there’s something you just don’t see every day: Richard Milhous Nixon. Uh, can you pass me a catsup packet, please?”

Say what!? Yep, none other than Richard Milhous Nixon himself was walking inside the Manahawkin restaurant, big as life. Along with an assistant, he ordered burgers – no have-it-your-way special touches to speak of.

According to an article in TheNew York Times the following day, the 73-year-old former political leader was ostensibly out enjoying a “gorgeous day.”

A spokesman for Mr. Nixon, John Taylor, would explain, ‘‘It was a pretty day, and he thought he would take a drive down the coast and have a hamburger and French fries.’’

For Burger King employee Doreen Johnson, it was far meatier than a Sundayish drive.

“‘There was an ex-president in Burger King. He could have chosen any other restaurant, but he chose ours. If a hamburger is good enough for the president of the United States, it is good enough for me,’’ she told the Times.

Johnson then had the happenstance honor of taking the tray of burgers to the stunner of a guest.

Now, for those who deeply interpret such things, Nixon personally walking into the restaurant that day was something quite tactical, even historically telling. He could have easily eaten in his well-appointed car. Nope. It certainly seemed the off-the-map once-president felt the time was right to begin feeling out the public.

From all accounts, the Manahawkin public enjoyed being felt. Surrounding fast-food types soon sought autographs and handshakes. His burger-server also got into the schmoosing. After the meal, Johnson politely requested a selfie, before such a label existed. Holding Nixon’s hand, she posed for a photo with the broadly smiling luminary, a photo that could probably bring a pretty penny today.

By all accounts, both Nixon and his assistant seemed quite pleased with the warm Southern Ocean County welcome.

While it can’t be said with certainty that the show of seeming admiration brokered a change in Nixon’s heart and mind, the former president became noticeably more socially inclined thereafter. Of course, he never returned. Why, you ungrateful …

TRUEX NATION!: Martin Truex Jr. is now the reigning world stock car racing champion! He’s in NASCAR nirvana – as are many of us armchair 200-mphers.

I’m among a legion of fervid MTJ fans hereabouts, as this Southern Regional High School alum does us proud as punch. In fact, his championship win on Sunday kinda floored me.

After Martin Truex Jr.’s seven other 2017 NASCAR wins this season, I would commence to hootin’ and hollerin’ – to where a goodly chunk of my neighborhood likely thought I had finally gone over the deep end, this time for good. But this weekend’s insane victory, winning the entire 2017 NASCAR championship – beating out the best drivers the sport could throw at him – I could only stare at the TV screen in stunned silence, my lower jaw agape … thunderstruck.

Being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I’ve known the feeling of winning Super Bowls; ditto for the Pirates winning the World Series. But there was something transcendent about seeing the local driver from Mayetta, Stafford Township, winning it all – and dedicating the victory to his longtime girlfriend, Sherry, whose ongoing battle with ovarian cancer hasn’t prevented her from being there for nearly every race, in one of the longest seasons out there. I saw where even Sherry was in a state of platter-eyed stunnedness as Martin was the first to cross the finish line, less than a second ahead of his sometimes-arch rival Kyle Busch.

Even amid the clamor of the after-win ceremonies, Martin the Younger did us proud, displaying a downright astounding aplomb and coolness in never-ending interviews. He even hyped his dad, hometown and SRHS alma mater.

Here’s hoping some sort of local ceremonial recognition is given the now nationally famous Number 78 driver.

MAXIMILIAN MENTION: I want to put in a plug for the fine folks at the Maximilian Foundation and to note the one big winner in their recent boat bass tourney.

With stripering during the contest slower than a sloth playing picture charades, a lone bass was entered, by the boat Red Herring. Since it was the sole bass of the day, it took all three money slots, garnering a grand total of $3,500 for first, second and third places.

The same boat won the bluefish category for a couple-ounce snapper. The captain and crew generously donated that $500 bluefish winning back into the foundation.

Founded in 2015, the Maximilian Foundation’s stated goal is “preventing the self-destructive behavior of drug use by combating its underlying causes.” It strives to “strengthen our children to better handle life’s challenges and teach them the life skills to believe in themselves.”

To learn more about this LBI-area organization, call 609-904-9094.

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