The Fish Story

Your Hair Looks Marvelous, Dude; Bass Nabbed By the Boatload

By JAY MANN | Nov 15, 2017

WELL, AM I?: I might have to add a new segment to this column, dubbing it “Am I really hearing this!?” Such was my thinking on Sunday when I was brought to a state of total WTF-ness by a very kindly older woman. It began innocently enough when she spoke of another senior lady who sorta has it in for my writings.

OK, so maybe I’m not meant for one and all. I’m highly inclined to harken back to my all-time favorite American Lit class, something called Theatre of the Absurd. While the theatre angle didn’t speak to me, I bought into the absurd part – hook, line and sinker, most obviously in my fishing column.

I never cover up my affinity for absurdity, aka weirdness. In fact, faithful readers readily recognize that I’m always poised to pull the wool over a caterpillar’s legs … or something like that. It was apparently one of my leggier wool-pullings that has this gal peeved at me. And it’s apparently over something I wrote forth many a moon ago. Hell, that could be anywhere within 25 years of moons. However, upon hearing the subject matter, it instantly rang an “Ohhhh, you mean that column” bell.

It was a report where I craftily introduced a highly unheralded benefit of baitfish bunker oil … as a miraculous cure for baldness.

I backed my claim with twice-told proof, explaining how commercial fishermen on bunker boats eventually find their heads, arms, faces and palms becoming hairier and hairier the longer they’re in the industry. It surely comes from cast-off bunker slime, flying freely about during net hauls.

I recall offering an eelgrass-roots hair-restoration method, whereby whole bunker – the fresher and gooier the better – can be rubbed directly onto the crown of the head. Thereafter, the slime is vigorously massaged into the scalp for between 10 and 15 minutes, long enough to release the magical hair-growing essence within.

Always helpful in such instances, I went on to explain how bunker oil can conveniently be bought at any nearby bait shop, sometimes in quart-sized containers. I might have even written “Use the money you’ll save from quitting Hair Club for Men.”

What I failed to realize when waxing absurdly on balding was the absolute and often debilitating sensitivity men have to losing their head hair.

Personally, I was born into a fairly hairy family, head-wise. To this latter day, it still just keeps popping up on my head, like a perpetual chia pet. How was I to know that men lacking the lifelong hairy-head gene are so overwhelmed when their once-famed heads of hair plod off to that great and cavernous hair graveyard – to permanently recline next to elephant tusks and Jimmy Hoffa?

Not long ago, I got some vivid insights into the subject of so-called “male-pattern baldness.” It came via a heady article in a psychology magazine. The female writer went to great and graphic length to prove the impact of baldness on men. Her prime point: Of all the bodily detractions befalling aging men, baldness is light years ahead of all other bodily foibles and faults … combined. She went dramatic by writing “Many men are inconsolable over hair loss.”

Ironically, the same write-up forwarded a poll whereby a huge cross-section of women was asked to rate what they saw as the main “physical drawbacks” in men. Baldness wasn’t even in the top 10!

I won’t go into what was Number One on that list. Oh, stop your immature giggling. I truly can’t recall what it was.

If only I had known more about male baldness sensitivities before writing about “the miraculous baldness reversing qualities of raw bunker oil,” I would have thought it fully through … and gone much bigger with it.

Yes, I’m getting to the lady who has it in for me! Keeping in mind you can’t make this stuff up: It turns out this lady’s husband, to this very day, faithfully puts bunker oil on his hair … nightly!

“He’s been doing it since he read what you wrote,” I was told by my church lady. She told me this with a grandma’s straight-facedness.

Upon hearing this, all I could do was allow my eyes to reach platter size as I issued a silent “Oh, Lord!”

And there was more!

“She says it stains the pillows so bad she can’t get them clean. And it smells, too,” also spoken with all the facial emotion of a calculus teacher.

I walked off, something akin to stunned – my mind seeded for developing a “Did I just hear that!?” segment herein.

As the choir began singing, I took up my usher position at the back of the church. But all I could do was stare at the back of that silver/blue head of hair of the church lady. What was going on in there? Had I met my absurdity match, or was someone actually out there slathering bunker oil on their head to stave off baldness?

Not knowing when enough is enough, I antsily waited through the Mass to finally run over and ask her the $34 million question. I think you can guess it.

“Yes, I just saw him last week … and he has the most amazing head of hair. I’d like to have a full head of hair that nice.”

No way! Bunker oil!? I gotta think about this!

LET THE LEI DREDGING COMMENCE: Well, it’s happening … seemingly. The plan to dredge the east/ocean end of Little Egg Inlet has successfully jumped through some serious permitting hoops, the hoopiest being that jiggled around by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That federal agency needed proof aplenty that any inlet dredging would not impact the nearby Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge’s wilderness areas on Little Beach and Holgate. The LEI has never been dredged, so assurances of “No Impact” were hard to come by. However, the need for dredging has been apparent.

As many a mariner knows, the shoals near the entrance to LEI have been rapidly building over the past decade, likely due to the north-to-south littoral drift of eroded LBI beach sand, both indigenous and placed (replenishment sand).

Navigating the inlet area became so unsound that the feds gave up putting in navigational aids, such as buoys. That led to demands for a man-dug channel. The state fully agreed.

Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finally issued a permit to clear “shoals” from the inlet.

From my previous conversations with ACE, that agency was fundamentally fine with the dredging. However, it was not the lead agency. There were those hoops, after which the NJDEP had to submit an official permit application to the Corps. NJDEP’s application finally submitted, it passed technical muster.

It’s now full speed ahead to suck up as much as 1.5 million cubic yards of sand from the LEI shoals, leaving a channel 25 feet below mean sea level.

The dredged sand will be bound for the beaches of Holgate proper, the inhabited area of that Long Beach Township community. Replenished beaches there have eroded significantly, due to what might be called a kink in the Island. South of Holgate’s end-of-Boulevard parking lot, the beaches fronting the Forsythe Refuge property are as much as 150 yards farther west than the rest of LBI’s beachline. That kink causes intense, end-around erosional currents to rapidly eat away at the beach sand near the Island’s most southerly groin, known as Wooden Jetty.

Technical note: There had been a small groin south of Wooden Jetty, but it failed and decayed long ago.

As to the timeframe on the dredging, that should be coming along soon. It really needs to be done by, say, May.

See related story this issue.

BASSING BOOM AND BUST: It’s exactly what surfcasters didn’t want to see – and boat anglers are celebrating to the high heavens. For the first time in a cat’s age, I’m inundated with bass reports, overflowing with photos of eater-bass and also mega-bass to over 50 pounds. Those biggies and tons of small ’uns might be signaling an arriving boat-bite bonanza.

But why are surfcasters crying in their suds? Blame me if you must, since I was among the first to point out a direct correlation between bountiful boat bite and piss-poor shoreline stripering. It could have to do with bunker bait balls, which are out of surfcasting reach but close enough in to attract bass away from the near-beach shallows.

“But, Jay, we also got some stripers on the beach.”

Oh, ye of too much faith. While beach casters were picking away at widely scattered bass – and a single jumbo bass from the surf was grounds for alerting the media – dozens atop dozens of better bass were being caught by drifting boats, not that far out. Boat anglers also hit packs of ravenous schoolie bass, marked by hookups at every drop of the jig. Within that schoolie bite were just-keepers – top eaters, between 28 and 35 inches – for take-home meat.

There is both blatant jealousy and riled conservationism within me after opening the 50th email showing hard-to-hoist bass being caught by boat anglers off Island Beach and all the way down to Little Egg Inlet. I’m gung-ho about bagging tasty bass for the table, but the keeping of genetically gifted cows is enough to rankle my shankles.

While admiring the wonderful look of the finally-here stripers, I couldn’t un-see an ugly showing of overkept fish. Overkept is my way of subtly suggesting that prime trophy bass were unaccountably being coolered – when 28-inchers were plenty plentiful, enough to feed folks back home.

I fully recognize the pressing ego urge to impress the boys back at the barn by weighing in comely cows. However, that talk-of-the-dock impact evaporates into nothingness when so many big-ass bass are being caught that onlookers soon wander off out of boredom. There is virtually no wow factor.

I lose beloved readers when I shoulder an antagonistically conservational save-big-bass responsibility. It’s kinda my lot in life. That lot assumed, I see on Facebook that I’m far from the only fish aficionado now chagrined by the over-keeping of cows. One fellow blogger depicted the keepage as carnage over catching.

I’m not that cynical by any stretch. I simply hope that my pissing and moaning might get a few anglers to recognize that photographs of massive bass are meaty enough to bring back to the docks – and show on Facebook.

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. But fun fishermen have the option. Again, my entire intent is putting a dent in overkeeping.

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