The Fish Story

The Great Holgate Groin Arises From the Mist, New Non-Jetty Is Going Out to Bid This Fall

By JAY MANN | Aug 23, 2017

I need surfers, surfcasters and Holgaters to gather around the crackling campfire with me, to talk about … a giant, 1,000-foot groin, slowly inching its way toward us as we speak. “Run away!” Right?

No need to rush blindly into the forest. This is a groin of a different color, so to speak. It’s the type of groin made of rock and built perpendicular to the beach, where it theoretically slows beach erosion.

To get a feel for this approaching mega-groin, one must suffer through a Groin 101 refresher course. Locals can take a water break … but don’t go far because what I’ll be talking about isn’t your father’s groin, but a new-age variety.

What we almost always call “jetties” on LBI, most often … aren’t. Technically, a jetty shores up a navigable channel. In correct-speak, Barnegat Inlet’s jetties are bona fide jetty-jetties. LBI’s regularly placed beachline rock abutments are groins. They were placed here shortly after the Great March Storm of 1962. Their supposed purpose: to hamper shoreline sand from traveling laterally along the beach, north to south.

Did they work? Let’s stealthily sidestep that question by philosophically suggesting that theories come and go – as did/does beach sand.

With that entry-level groin terminology in mind, I can assume my non-campfire voice to announce the south end of LBI might see a modern groin arise, one that will outshine all other Island groins – which won’t be that hard since nearly all of LBI’s landmark “jetties” have been sanded under by replenishment.

Reliable sources have told me Long Beach Township is rather rapidly moving forward with its earlier-announced plans to have the state build what is called a terminal groin. It would be placed right where the famed Wooden Jetty surfing venue now comes and goes, based on the whims of replenishment sand.

The project may go out to bid by this fall. Even then, it’s not a slam-dunk done deal. I’ll anecdotally suggest that the township’s effort to grab a groin for Holgate has a far better and speedier chance of fruition than the dredging of Little Egg Inlet.

Should the permitting process run a better course than the LEI dredging, the Island could soon be feeling the rumble of trucks carrying Pennsylvania granite rocks to the south end, each carefully-shaped rock being part and parcel to the first new Island groin in well over half a century. For fun, I’ll momentarily dub it the Great Groin of Holgate.

Initial reports have this terminal groin measuring 1,000 feet in length, give or take. Not only would its rocks envelope the current 500-foot Wooden Jetty, but it would carry another 500 feet beyond. The height and width of the groin would likely be on par with higher LBI groins, like the one at Holyoke Avenue in Beach Haven.

The Great Groin of Holgate would be “notched” toward the east end, offering a lower point for some sand to get past – notionally preventing the sand-starving of beaches to the south, i.e. the refuge-adjacent front beaches, down to the inlet.

Beyond the notch, the groin’s far east end would rise again, matching the height of the westerly portion. It’s a bit akin to the set-up of the North Jetty in Barnegat Inlet – though much smaller … and a groin. Just testing your recall. I imagine there would have to be some navigational markers on the far end.

(This is a perfect time for me to swear up and down that I’m neither for nor against the Great Groin of Holgate. I kid you not. I might interpret the hell out of it below, but that’s just my cursedly analytical mind. If things proceed as expected, there will likely be a whole lotta lip, both for and against. That’s cool by me – and I’ll make it a point to appreciate both sides herein.)

IT’S ON IN N.C. : By way of terminal groin precedent, Holden Beach and Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, are in the final phases of building one, beginning this fall. That effort could offer a read on a modern new-age groin.

I’m partially basing my concept of a newer, better groin on comments by Spencer Rogers, an erosion specialist at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

“The history of terminal groins is certainly replete with downdrift failures and unintended circumstances,” said Rogers. He then changed course and added, “But those earlier efforts had a lot to teach the scientific and engineering communities, and most of them are more than 50 years old. But the modern designs have been much more effective and have had quite tolerable impacts when they are properly designed.”

The North Carolina terminal groin would be 700 feet long and cost in the neighborhood of $2 million. I’ll extrapolate from that the Holgate groin would easily run an additional mil, i.e. $3 million … plus.

By the by, the state actually has just such money tucked away in a dedicated fund for such beachly things. While neither supporting nor condemning a terminal groin, I’d always prefer that some of that socked-away cash come to LBI. Via taxes, we have paid into it royally.

MY KNEE-JERK READ: Should Wooden Jetty become the Great Holgate Groin, I’ll bet the clam house that it will form into a surfing mecca, based on the wave dynamics thereabouts. No doubt the likes of Surfriders will obligatorily disagree. But I’ll clearly be proven spot-on in the long wave run.

What’s more, if left to current devices, Wooden Jetty will spend decades being repeatedly covered and recovered in replen sand – not a good surfing scenario. It doesn’t take a surfing rocket scientist to surmise a 1,000-foot groin is preferable in this case – and will play out in the favor of waveriders. Off-Island waveriders need not get involved. Locals, please do – and think it through.

As to fishing in and around such a grand groin, angling history speaks for itself. Big-ass groins are bait and fish magnets, not only on and near the groin, but, in Holgate’s case, also downdrift of it. I see a major groin as becoming a focal point for angling. At the same time, what’s there now is seen as quite decent by many a surfcaster. Yet another reason for my middle-ness.

Critically thinking, it’s the far south end that could get a kick in the groin, sand-wise. Even with that theoretical new-age notch letting some southbound sand onto refuge-adjacent beaches, sand deprivation from the parking lot southward is a very real risk. The zone all the way to the Rip has long been Crazyland when it comes to sand erosion and accretion. That concern voiced, I’m told that a Great Holgate Groin would be modernly designed to allow rapid tweaking action of its rocks – to achieve the ideal permeability. What’s more, the amount of sand involved with future LBI replenishments will amount to massive amounts of Holgate-bound material, easily enough to maintain the beloved far south end, even with a groin-stop in place.

I’m betting there will be a tad more on this in the near future. I’m ready, knowing I get a sexy story regardless of where the sand flies.

UP WE GO … NO, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN!: During Monday’s eclipse, there was quite possibly a monumental – and chaotic – oceanic feeding frenzy along the eclipse’s maritime path. It might have been a 99-year engorging event. I’ll explain.

Back in 1963, researchers aboard a ship out of Woods Hole, Mass., used sonar to investigate a mysterious “false bottom” that registered as the sea bed but was many fathoms too high up to be such. It was eventually recognized as a vivacious layer of marine life, so thick and deep it could be electronically tracked. Making the living layer even more remarkable was its daily rise and fall – moving, as a coordinated mass, from the depths toward the surface, and back down again.

According to, “This rising and falling is in fact caused by the largest migration of animals on Earth – everything from fish, shrimp and jellyfish, moving hundreds of meters in unison up and down each day.”

It was fairly obvious the animal mass rose to feed within nutrient-rich waters near the surface. The sinking was just as obviously to move out of harm’s way, harm being predators of many an ilk.

The daily stimulus for the rise and fall was a tad more muddled among researchers. Most believed it was based on night and day cycles. However, others felt it was more of a genetic encoding, an internalized clock, that drove the creatures – sun or no.

All it took was a total eclipse to verify the night-and-day causal theory. Aiming advanced sonar equipment downward during a total eclipse, researchers resolved the rise/fall matter.

The routine-trained biota layer obediently reacted to the darkness of the eclipse, moving upward as if night was arriving. It even sped up, responding to the unnatural speed of the light change.

Per, during the eclipse “Bioluminescent creatures started to shine, and nocturnal creatures started a frantic upward thrust. As the world grew darker, they swam upward nearly 80 meters. But this frantic migration didn’t last long. As the moon receded and the sun revealed itself, the massive animal layer did an about-face, scrambling back into the safety of the darkness.”

Sorry, but I find that kinda funny – you know, a few trillion little animals all moving lazily upward, then going, “Whoa! Go back, go back!”

However, I also feel pity when I rationalize that it would be a lot easier for predators to adjust their eyesight to the fickle light than it would for a massive layer of life to sink back down. Thus, my theory that there was likely a load of happily stunned predators as the eclipse waned and their sight cleared to find a heavenly smorgasbord of juicy edibles, thick as bricks all around them. I can even imagine those predators now rushing back to mull over eclipse forecast calendars.

Thanks to Jean D.S. for passing this story on to me.

MANN OVERBOARD: With visions of eclipses still hot in our thoughts, I must note a legit flashback I had Monday, as things got darker down below, i.e. here on Earth. I relived the time I experienced what is best described as an eek-lipse, something myself and a scant few others have seen. I can first-handedly assure that eek-lipses are a load more impactful than this week’s partial dark-out.

My eek-lipse took place while I was diving on a Bahaman reef. I was calmly and fixatedly looking at colorful crevice creatures when a highly unforecast sun-blotting took place, as a less-than-celestial body eerily blocked out the light above. Looking up – yes, without proper eye protection – things instantly escalated to what I’ll crudely call an “oh-s***-clipse!” Over 300 pounds’ worth of shark was playing moon.

Fortunately, the eclipse-maker in my case wasn’t lights-out. It was a relatively kindly, albeit massive, nurse shark. It had lazily lifted up from the bottom to pass belly-touchingly close over my head. It wasn’t until it had passed that I recognized it was a benign breed of sun-blotter. Still, I related to the song “Total Eclipse of the Heart” – as in “Oh, my heart!”

While my eek-clipse was only partial heart-attack material, I know of those who achieved totality, having seen a great white-clipse.

RUNDOWN: As time runs out on our fluking days, the catching is there for the trying. At the same oft-aggravating time, the throwback rate has been prohibitively high – as in prohibiting anglers from taking home one fish after catching dozens. The ocean is offering larger flatties, with an ongoing emphasis on sand bottoms adjacent to both reefs and wrecks. I also saw a few fluke caught directly atop structure. Their colors were remarkable, literally mimicking a piece of rocky bottom.

Bassing is bad, overall. That’s not overly uncommon for this time of year. However, if you’re a sharpie who knows the Barnegat Inlet area like the back of your hand, you know where you might grab some stripers – even quite a few, if you know the ropes. And I’m out of clichés.

I get a lot of Facebook feeds from up New England way, and they’re having a wicked decent bassing summer, which is not uncommon for their time of year.

Cool weather next week could spur some baitfish to move out of the back bay and into the inlet. It might spike the spike (weakfish) bite.

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