The Fish Story

Ubering, Sidestepping the Mob; Keep Perspective in Dangerous Night Dip

By JAY MANN | Aug 01, 2017

MY ANNUAL SHUTTLE THANKS: LBI’s free shuttle bus service is the greatest single amenity I’ve ever seen offered on Long Beach Island. OK, so maybe it’s the only amenity I’ve ever seen offered on the Island, but that doesn’t diminish from its distinction.

When shuttles first cruised on-scene, there were occasional users, flagging down the mini-buses with some uncertainty. Even I was thinking, “Is it really free … as in, really free?”

Like many, I’m from Missouri. No, I’m not from-from Missouri. That’s just a fits-anywhere expression. In my case, it meant show me that free. So, I boarded one. Well, boil me and call me a rutabaga, the suckers really are free. I hopped aboard the freeness train and have supported the system wherever I can.

Since its inception, the shuttle system has graduated from hosting a few skeptical roadside shuttle-waiters to inviting in entire shuttle-believing assemblages, sometimes a dozen folks at a pop. The system is now quite in.

To the shuttle system creators and its bus drivers, thanks for making the Island a lot kinder feeling.

Plus, a whole other massive thanks to the many shuttle bus drivers who go on to drive school buses come fall. School bus drivers are oddly under praised and under appreciated. They are unsung heroes when it comes to keeping our great nation safely educated.

Which brings us to Uber and Ubering. Yes, it does. Just go with the flow.

Despite my media job, I only recently found out what Uber is even about. Sure, I heard the word and concept being bandied about, sometimes in front-page style. Still, I idly figured it was just some business guy’s name, one you called when you needed a ride. But when people openly chuckled at my naïve notion, it got me to researching.

Well, lo and behold, it turns out I was right as rain. It really is a name. So, there. Of course, the Uber name of which I speak has nothing to do with the Uber. But, there are a goodly number of Ubers in NJ.

I can all but hear you thinking like me: How dang much fun would it be to randomly call them and ask in a shaky, real-old-man’s voice, “So, how much would you charge to take me, my 18-year-old girlfriend, and my schnauzer, Heir Otto, over to church Bingo?”

Hey, I didn’t name them Uber. If they can’t take a joke …

Knowing my luck, I’d ring up a Santini Uber, who happens to be a made-man with a nearby crime syndicate. His particular Uber name is a prison-shorted form of Uberini, of the notorious Sicilian Uberinis. Yep, the supposed olive oil importers.

Curse you, caller ID! How do you say, “I was just kidding” in mob-speak?

“Yo, Sonny. It’s me again. How’s it hangin’? How’s the family? Whoa, I don’t mean the family family, I mean the wife and kids family!”

Fuhgeddaboudit. I’m screwed.

On that subject, I’m sure our clever mobsters will move in on the Uber drive-about racket, using their black sedans to pick up folks. I can hear it now: “That’ll be $14.50 for the ride to the Acme … and twenty bucks more for the Johnny 'Bags' Memorial Fund.”

And Johnny “Bags” isn’t even dead … yet.

Believe me, you don’t want to get word the boys are Ubering a memorial fund for you. And if you do: “Hello, Uber? This is Johnny ‘Bags.’ How much to drive me to Tierra del Fuego? … Oh, Santino. Sorry, wrong Uber.”

Well, that shoots Tierra del Fuego, now don’t it, Johnny? Dumb ass.

But I egregiously digress.

I have it on excellent authority that Ubering is alive and well on LBI.

Not that I’d choose Uber over our hardworking LBI taxi services, but, the whole Uber thing makes me wonder if LBI is ready for a four-wheel drive Uberification.

Ponder this, entrepreneurial thinker. What if an angler needs an Uberesque Holgate drop-off for, say, a $20 spot? Talk on, right? Let’s hypothetically say I whisk Uber customers and equipment down to the Rip, then turn-and-burn, to pick up more Uberers at the parking lot. Cha-ching. Just maybe, drive them down to the Rip for a pittance … then soak the hell out of them to bring them back – with the tide rising real fast. Not that I’d ever do that, mind-you.

Oh, there you go, asking about needing a NJ excise tax form. Uh, call my Uber rep. Besides, who’s to know that I’m Ubering if all parties involved use Uber codes? I foresee this common email: Jay, I’ll be needing help transporting another bottle of eel milk this weekend. In fact, with Lou and Sal, that will bring it to three able-bodied bottles of eel milk that needs transportation (wink-wink, nod-nod.) If you can deliver at $7.30 (a.m.) and come for the empties at $3.00 (p.m.), we can Pay that Pal of ours just like last time. Sam.”

Well, you certainly fooled ’em that time, Sam.

By the by, I’m not totally unserious about seriously Ubering to the Rip from the parking lot, once Holgate opens. Just my luck, LBT will zip on out and buy a 4WD shuttle bus.

Anyone want an Uber license, unused?

KEEP A NIGHT-DIP PERSPECTIVE: Being a rip current guy with the National Weather Service, I take it doubly hard when we lose someone in the surf, like last weekend, when a 24-year-old gal went missing at night in a wickedly fierce storm surf in Point Pleasant. The highest-level rip current warnings were steadily being broadcast by the NWS. Her body was later found, washed into the Toms River.

Per police, she was most likely a night-swim fatality.

Fatalities related to such after-dark fun-runs into the ocean are not uncommon, even in calmer ocean conditions. That’s why I want to offer an important survival insight that might help the many folks who, understandably, can’t resist an ocean dip in the dark.

Anytime you dive in the ocean at night, things can go south, instantly. There is an odd, perspective-based phenomenon that takes place after diving in the water and then looking back toward the beach. Shore lights from beachfront houses and streetlights can instantly seem mighty far away. They are, since there’s a wide stretch of darkened beach in-between. Getting a sinking sense of suddenly being far out in the ocean – not knowing the whereabouts of the exact shoreline – can easily provoke a bona fide, in-water panic attack.

I did more than my fair share of night dipping, back-when. I’ll attest that within only a few swim strokes seaward, I’d turn around and experience the weird, far-out sensation.

Scarily, falling under the pull of even a small outward current when night dipping, it can seem you’re instantaneously floating somewhere out in the shipping lanes. Again, it’s all based on those lights, the only night focus-points.

I once had to help a gal who suffered – to an extreme – a night-dip panic attack. No sooner had she dived in the water and looked back than she began screaming for help. I didn’t think she was serious at first. Hint: It doesn’t help the situation to begin laughing at someone having a panic attack. Hey, I really didn’t think she was serious.

Calling on my lifeguard training, I easily helped her in. It was just a very short, couple-stroke distance back to the beach. But it was damaging. In that short rescue time, she clawed my back and shoulder to hell and back. You’d have thought an ocean wolverine had jumped on me. I even needed a Dr. Gove fix-up and antibiotic shot the following day.

The gal’s later words were telltale. “It felt like I had gotten dragged out.” She hadn’t. It was that whole lack-of-perspective thing going to her head. Oddly, despite her abject panic at the watery time, she never let me forget, “And you began laughing!”

Anyway, here’s hoping those of you who can’t resist night dips – clothed or not so much – keep it in close, while keeping even closer track of where the actual shoreline is located – and not the distant night lights.

RUNDOWN: If there is a dead fishing period during our March to December fishing season, it’s August, especially if it comes in hot and heavy (humid), which, I assure you, will be the case. August will swelter. It’s the dogfish days of summer.

There is always midsummer fluking, though it grows progressively less fascinating.

Fluking has been on fire in Barnegat Inlet. While I’m not big on hyping fluke spots, since I have no doubt we’re already approaching our legal NJ poundage, I can’t overlook the hot hooking going on right off the BL rocks. Plus, I feel good when I e-receive, Jay, thanks for the tip. We caught eight large fluke off the (Barnegat Light) jetty. In the past, I had never caught one. All on Gulp. Had to run and buy more. Took our time releasing shorts. Hope this keeps up.

I’m wondering what is in the bellies of inlet fluke. I doubt I’ll hear much feedback on that subject because the stomachs of flatfish are close to their mouths; they regurgitate faster than any other gamefish.

While fluking is the hot-times, go-to gamefish in close, there was a time when tiny snapper blues could be August fun for the whole family. I haven’t seen those tiny-hook snapper days in many a moon. I’m guessing we’ll eventually see something, snapper-wise, from the ongoing showing of massive schools of slammer blues. Those are fine, genetically gifted breeders.

If you’re a crabbing type – and crabbing in B Bay has been epic – why not throw out a snapper-popper or bobbered offering to see if those mini-snappers are in play this year.

I have to think kingfish, which are very speedy spawners, might have exited the bay and are hanging in beachside troughs, or in deeper near-beach holes, hopefully into fall.

Speaking of troughs, there could even be some croakers and spot in the mix.

Not many NJ surfcasters go with small enough rigs/set-ups to nab swash fish, which is a mainstay summer/fall fishery down North Carolina way. With all this talk of climate change, NC’s swash fisheries should be inching up this way. Again, think tiny hooks and worms – fake or otherwise.

By the by, Harvey Cedars should remain hot on the kingfish front due to a re-showing of summer coquina clams, by the millions. I’m not sure why that Island area annually holds the lion’s share of these colorful mini-clams but I’ve been seeing loads of them while playing beach volleyball thereabouts.

Combine the coquinas with the explosive hatches of sand crabs (mole crabs) in HC and it would make a smorgasbord for pompano. Yes, we get them up here, sorta. The problem is they’re not much larger than a freshwater sunfish, at most. I’ve netted as many as 40 in a single cast net throw. I only once found one worthy of a filleting. It was a solid one-pounder. It looked at me, all pathetic, with that puckered little pompano mouth. I let it go. In Florida, pompano can go for $20 a pound.

Togging is tough, even with only a one-fish bag limit in play. Despite some great blackfish catches in-season – Nov. 16 through April – this fishery remains in troubled water. The species just isn’t making much of a comeback, despite years of conservation. It could be anything, from loss of eelgrass nurseries to too many fluke sucking down young-of-year, to who-knows-what.

When high tides and early mornings align, there are small bass in surf; nothing large but willing to grab small jigs. A 26-incher went for an Ava jig with an orange surgical tube tail, meant for fluke. It was the hooker’s only bass. One keeper fluke went for all-white teaser swimming with the Ava.

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