The Fish Story

Surfcasting Preferences Are Sleeping in Your Genes; Cow-Nosed Ray Days Are Here Again, Sharks Included

By JAY MANN | Jul 25, 2018

OWLS AND LARKS: The time of day you prefer to do fun things, like surfcasting, might be in your genes. I first awoke to this concept listening to an NPR interview with Matthew Walker, director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, author of Why We Sleep – Unlocking the Power Of Sleep And Dreams. (See

If you’ve ever slept, you should take some time to investigate Walker’s findings. If, like me, time renders you reading-challenged, check out one of the many YouTube videos found under “Matthew Walker,” as he’s interviewed and lectures on sleep. Talk about eye-openers.

As for the book, it’s written in simplese. Rest assured it won’t put you to sleep.

Now that I’ve exhausted a slew of word-plays, putting them to rest, I can wake you to the book’s weird surfcasting connection. It seems there are two basic sleep personalities, symbolically depicted by Walker as owls and larks. The avian names are referencing the quintessential night owls  and early birds. Admittedly, that concept is a bit of a yawner. We’ve long known there are day folk and night folk constantly flitting about. But the bulldozer within the Walker research is the recently discovered fact our birdedness is determined from birth. DNA governs if we’re early to bed/early to rise, or up late/sleepers-in. Obviously life offers what might be called wake-up calls along the way, but even if you must get up at sunrise against your genetic will, you’ll always have that overriding DNA clock ticking inside.

Unwilling to simply rest on my YouTube laurels, I’m slowly going the book-reading route. The pages tirelessly offer tons of desultory sleep stuff, like the power of circadian rhythms – natural rhythms, which wake up on the wrong side of the bed when ignored. Yep, your, uh, crankiness might mean you’re out of step with your life rhythm.

One of the book’s spookier segments harps on the nightmarish physical and mental symptoms of sleep deprivation. You might lose some sleep over the proven fact that driving when your body is in an under-slept state is equivalent to driving drunk … quite drunk. Doing some research on the side, advises that 60 percent of adults in the U.S. have driven when dangerously drowsy and, astoundingly, “One-third of people have actually fallen asleep at the wheel.”

Walker’s book can keep you up at night by proving that getting too little sleep, long term, leads to a significantly shortened life span. The more sleep you don’t get leads to more years lost in the end. Also, the “sleep when I’m dead” mantra is bogus since lost sleep can never be regained, meaning there actually isn’t such a thing as “catching up on sleep.”

As to chronic users of famed stay-awake drinkage, you’ll be rolling in bed rethinking Walker’s data on how coffee – and those universally-beloved caffeinated energy drinks – can jerk around your sleep life to where you might never rest right again – I say while popping open an energy drink to marshal me through a work day.

Lest Walker be seen as sleeping on the job, he riskily takes to task the use of alcohol as a lullaby aid, suggesting the medical realm needs to wake up to the folly of prescribing a glass of wine as a form of pre-sleep readying. And you can thoroughly kick the use of prescription drugs out of bed. While not anti-pharmaceutical, Walker resolutely states there isn’t a single prescription sleep drug out there that isn’t lights-out lousy. Even America’s growing love affair with melatonin has its extreme limits, being more of a device to trick the body – which makes it quite unhappy in the long run.

On a more relaxing note, Walker coolly explains how dreams are great things, the mind’s way of cleaning up cluttered thoughts and mental messes. He relates dreaming to the brain’s way of reformatting itself. Oh, I just remembered that a proper sleep routine is also proven to reduce the chances of dementia later in life. It might even slow the advance of Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, before you doze off, I’ll energetically – eight hours’ worth of Z’s under my belt today – rush back to sleeping and surfcasting. I’ll repeat that your tendency to prefer staying up late to go fishing – or to rise in the predawn hours to catch the tail end of darkness – resides in your bloodline, i.e. your DNA. Yes, your workload demands, along with needing to follow the best fishing/bite times, will often force you to shun inner-body circadian commands, swapping owls and larks accordingly. The trick, per Walker, is to limit how often you go up against your own sleep nature.

For me, this means I’ll now guiltlessly forgo sunrise sessions – never liked predawn risings all that much – by instead fishing deep into the darkness. It’s in my owly genes.

I’ll let you sleep on all this.

RAY WAVING DAYS RETURN: There are surely sharks galore in the beachside shallows. Not bad-ass sharks, in a human threat way, but sharks nonetheless. Why so? Cow-nosed rays have invaded the LBI-scene in force. Large summer ray schools are upon us, as has been happening annually for the last 20 years or so. Some schools host well over 25 members. These docile winged ones are plying the ocean shallows along the entire Island, most obvious when clear water prevails.

The arrival of stingray throngs has put a bit of an exclamation point on surfcasting. You had better be at the ready when surfcasting, to the point of pulling out some heavier fishing gear, lest you suddenly be pissing costly line into the ocean.

An enraged ray, when first hooked, can strip off 50 yards’ worth of line without batting an eye. Such a line loss leaves behind lethal ghost-line nests once a ray finally frees itself. Just as worrisome, a hooked ray sends out distress signals that instantly reach Sharksville, a highly mobile predatory community.

There were recently two minor shark-bite incidents up Fire Island (N.Y.) way. I’ll wager those bites were tied to stingrays, meaning the gray suits that accidently/mistakenly bit the swimmers were on a ray-meat mission, misidentifying the humans for splashing cow-noses. That would be especially true in the case of the bodyboarder, since swim fins dangling near the surface are an obvious match to flailing stingray wings. When on the hunt, sharks aren’t overly concerned with differentiating between targets. “Eat ’em up … yum-yum.” It’s an apex-thinking thing.

Rays are basically bottom feeders. When you see them finning up on the ocean’s surface, it might very well be they’re hating what’s lurking below. That action is a lot like nervous bunker. If you see rays finning about on the ocean surface, you might want to delay your dip – or head in to shore if you’re already a-swim.

Of note: When migrating about, rays will often communally swim higher up the water column. They’re taking advantage of the preferred 72-degree water temps closer to the surface, while also hoping to override anything sharking about down below.

A Ship Bottom video that went locally viral showed cow-nosed rays almost beaching themselves. While it was suggested they were being driven ashore by sharks, it is far more likely they were feeding on coquina clams in the swash, a ray fave. Those tiny, colorful clams, more common south of N.J., have become highly abundant in our-here parts. I’m betting it’s a warming oceans phenomenon. Problematically, coquinas live right next to shore, enticing the rays beachward. As noted, the men in gray suits are hot on the rays’ heels.

I often use the term “the men in gray suits.” It’s a cool and apropos Aussie expression I first heard during the premiere of “The Endless Summer,” opening night.

Rays themselves are highly harmless. In fact, stingray “petting zoos” down south show they’re fully fine with getting hands-on with mankind, returning daily, on their own, to mingle with the adoring crowds.

LYME IS AGELESS: You have likely gotten wind of Ötzi the iceman, a 45-year-old guy from 5,300 years ago. He’s the mummified Copper Age gent found perfectly preserved in the melting ice of the Italian Alps. His kinda ugly cryogenic corpse has become the sweetheart of the science realm. Researchers have leapt into the very meat of his prehistoric existence, with modern forensics flying in every direction. Talk about getting your 15 minutes of fame well after the fact. Ötzi would be proud, providing they had pride back then.

To see the be-tabled on-display remains of the also-called Iceman, he seems oddly serene – you known, in a splayed-out, open to the world, sickly brown colored, dissected ancient mummy way. His calm continence belies his bitter end: an arrow in his back and possibly a bash to the head for good measure.

What seemed to be a sniperish rear attack was the bitter end to Ötzi, who might have been in a running battle with high-altitude opponents.

The Iceman’s likely painful passing might have been a merciful thing, according to modern-day Ötzi studiers. In fact, this is where the ongoing Ötzi story offers an infective interplay with our local here-and-now lives.

A write-up on details how the last moments of the Ö-Man’s life were anything but comfortable … I mean, above and beyond that little arrow-in-the-back matter.

“… Ötzi had a litany of health problems, including a heart attack waiting to happen, arthritis, bad teeth, lactose intolerance and a possible case of Lyme disease.”

Recent disease updates on the Ö-man further saddle the poor fellow with stomach ulcers and intestinal whipworms. Outside of that he was feeling pretty good.

It’s Ötzi’s “Lyme disease” postmortem prognosis that makes the new … old again. OK, we all know that the town of Lyme, Conn., wasn’t even on the map back then. But when those wild and crazy Ötzi researchers get on a roll, you just stand back and let ’em go – like when Bluto fired off “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

Anyway, a Borrelia bacterium surely ravaged the body of the 5-foot 2-inch, brown-eyed, thickly bearded, righthanded, 110-pound, O-type blooded omnivorous mountain man. I told ya they were going forensically crazy with him. But get this: The Iceman might have been routinely undergoing intensive treatments for his Lyme-related body aches. We’re talking 5,300 years ago! It’s another new-is-old-again thing.

On Ötzi’s skin were 61 smallish hard-to-decipher tattoos. They align perfectly with known acupoints. Such a trendy modern treatment for ancient pains is far from fantasy. In fact, it’s right on schedule. The earliest known acupuncture treatments in China date back 6,000 years. Ötzi might lead to a remapping of acu-history.

A story on Ötzi notes, “His tattoos are located at joints where the body is subject to wear and tear, including his joints.” The story goes on, “It's worth noting that Ötzi's tattoos were not applied by needles, but by making incisions into which charcoal was rubbed.”

As to that thoroughly modern “lactose intolerance” thing, it was probably problematic for Ötzi’s spouse … Harriet. Come on, someone must recall the Ötzi and Harriet show.

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