Bumble Bees Making It Big as Flying Fish; Inshore, Offshore and Somewhere In-Between – The SandPaper


The Newsmagazine of Long Beach Island and Southern Ocean County

PEREGRINE PLACE: The Bonnet Island Falcon Tower, constructed by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program manager with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, attracts peregrine falcons that formerly nested under the nearby Causeway Bridge until ousted by construction work. With bridge work completed, the falcons prefer their new digs. (Photo by Ryan Morrill)
Joining the list of things that will be larger than ever this summer is the mariner realm, as new highs in registered vessels and captain certificates point to our waters all but boiling with seafaring/bayfaring user groups, some bound for party shoals and others locked into trips to the canyons many a mile at sea. The prime user group will remain boat anglers of many breeds and temperaments.
As to the essence of summer’s mariner realm, it’s what you get when you combine the good, bad, ugly with the best of times/worst of times and a goodly sprinkling of one flew over the cuckoo’s nest – a maritime smoothie, occasionally adorned with splashes of empowering beverages. Overall, though, a hugely good topwater time is to be had by all.
Right about here, I should go with the old “Be safe out there,” but, for me, that has me simultaneously wondering, “As opposed to …?”
BUMBLE WEIRDNESS: In a state never lacking for the weird, California recently outdid itself by legally establishing that its four species of rare bumble bees are … fishes. Say what!?
First of all, anglers should not get all excited over the prospect of filleting bumble bees in the near future. Nor should they begin hand-tying flying flies. Cali’s bumble fish are becoming profoundly rare, endangered being the buzzword – and the very reason these suspected insects somehow achieved fish status.
An iflscience.com article headlined “Great Day For Bumblebees As Californian Court Rules That They Are Fish” clarifies things a bit by explaining the state’s Third District Court of Appeal has decided that “bumble bees can be classed as an invertebrate, offering them protection under the California Endangered Species Act (ESA).”
As might be guessed, it all comes down to legalese on the fly.
“The issue presented here is whether the bumble bee, a terrestrial invertebrate, falls within the definition of fish,” the judges said in their summation.
Golden State’s ESA emphatically covers birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and fish. Bees? Not so much. This exclusion was highlighted in a previous legal effort to gain extreme conservation measures for the bumbles. The courts initially said “nay” to bees as fish.
A whole new set of judges’ ears and eyes recently perceived things differently. They determined the state’s prevailing ESA legislation is worded ambiguously, to the point that “fish,” as defined, did not only pertain to aquatic species. Per iflscience.com, the judges also saw a precedent set in the ESA already being applied to a terrestrial mollusk.
Long and short of it, the Cali bees have won the day … for now, appeals being what they are.
My read: The “fish” classification came as a shock to the bumblers, one bee being quoted as saying, “I’m a flying pollinator. I can’t swim a lick, dude.” A Sacramento bee smarmily said, “This is taking the whole Bumble Bee Tuna thing way too far.”
Overall, those out-west bumble bees should soon be soaring toward eco-recovery as profusely protected species, which wings things our way.
While this piece of flying fish wackiness merits recognition for its only-in-Californianess, I also see it as a precedent setter, whereby other states might legally conjure up wild ways to protect wildlife. While NJ is generally doing remarkably well at keeping its flora and fauna protected, many folks like myself are always looking to improve NJ’s natural side, even if we wind up having  “fish” cross-pollinating our cranberries and blueberries farms.
CAUSEWAY FOR CONCERN: For decades, we knew the big stone structures that graced the Island’s beachfront were technically called groins, not the colloquially-accepted jetties – a jetty technically being a rock structure marking the banks of an inlet, not anti-erosion devices up against an entire ocean.
By choice, we intentionally chose not to call the groins by their given name. The reason was obvious: the term “groins” bore a striking resemblance the word, uh, “groins.”
Though our groins are currently sanded under, should they suddenly begin bulging forth, we’ll surely persist in calling them “jetties.” It’s grandfathered in, making them grandpap groins. Which brings us to our “Causeway,” which is neither a groin … nor causeway. Explanation sorely needed.
The 3-mile connector of LBI and the mainland is not even remotely a causeway, despite being informally dubbed such from the day it was born. I vaguely recall once being lectured on the subject. I paid it no nevermind. It was the Causeway, our Causeway, enough said.
Of late, though, my mind has gotten highly minutia-oriented – hellbent on picture perfect wordage and exacting nomenclature at every turn. I’m thusly compelled to pass on the fact that a causeway, by definition, is a roadway placed atop a manufactured embankment or levee, made of earth, gravel, wood, anything that offer base support for crossing a watery area.
In a definition flash, our series of Island/mainland bridges and singular roadway, built on preexisting barrier island terrain, goes bust as a causeway. As to our calling it such, Wikipedia openly refers to our “Causeway” usage as “technically inaccurate.” Uppity know-it-all!
So, what it that crossover stretch to be called?
Oddly, there might not be a single causewayish term for it. Instead, it technically comes down to proper names. Since the highlight of the not-Causeway is the Big Bridge, NJDOT calls the entire stretch the Dorland J. Henderson Memorial Bridge. For those who strain over remembering people’s names, it can accurately be called the Manahawkin Bay Bridge.
As to the colloquial “Causeway,” it won’t be leaving anytime soon. Take that, Wiki. I say we hang onto it until the rising-water day comes when we really have to manually build a huge levee to connect Island and mainland. “Now, that-there is a Causeway, Sparky! Signal folks they can come on over.”
QUICK E-BIKE REJOINER: I got a goodly mount of feedback after last week’s gab about e-bikes. I had expected some solid sass from chronically snitty drivers, which are legion – and uninclined to peacefully share the road to any degree. Short of those duly imploring e-bikers to obey the rules of the road, including fully mandatory stops at red lights and such, there was instead solid support for the battery-powered two-wheelers
As expected, many folks realized the greater reason behind my advancing e-bikes. I see them as a way, albeit minute, to pare down internal combustion traffic on the Island. Anything that can lessen the over-traffic flow on LBI helps. Should e-biking – and e-scootering – gain ground, as it has done in many foreign countries, we might see a discernable backoff of high-pollutin’ conveyances. I know it’s an e-stretch, but made less stretchy by gas prices going ape-s—.
Relatedly, I was asked about crossing the Causeway on an e-bike. I’ll go a tad rogue here by reminding biking folks that the Causeway’s far-right lanes, technically shoulders, are bike-friendly, meaning they’re geared for bicycle usage, as in “Share the Road” available. Helmets are mandatory, per my thinking.
As to the Causeway-long public walkway, that is not the e-bike way to go – unless you’re willing to walk the bike for much of the crossing. Posted rules state you are required to dismount and walk all bikes across all the bridges. While that rule is not being overly enforced to date, you can bet there will be serious friction between the many walkers and any riders speeding along the walkway atop e-bikes. Face it, 25-mph speed – much higher on the downslope of the Big Bridge – could create enough impact to send a walker or biker over the side and into the drink far, far below.
(Someday I’ll write about the time a buddy and I jumped off the Big Bridge … for fun. T’weren’t.)
SHORE SPEAK: This is a perfect summerish time – the Weather Service sees June 1 as the meteorological start of summer – to take a shot at clarifying my frequent columnistic usage of potentially overlapping maritime terms, namely, inshore, nearshore, onshore, offshore. I’ll also touch on shore shore, as in surf fishing.
Generally, offshore is a breeze to peg when thinking in N.J. fishing terms. It relates to the canyons, where the continental shelf meets the truly deep-blue sea. Distance-wise, we’re talking 75 to 100 miles out, with the shifty location of the Gulf Stream being a huge determinant of where lines are let out within the great offshore.
The only tousling of that offshore definition has come about in recent years when wind farm folks didn’t first consult with coastal locals but instead proceeded to routinely call their turbine placements –within sight of land, controversially – as being “offshore,” as in offshore wind.
Onward to the more abstruse term, inshore.
I’m not sure my column’s definition aligns perfectly with that of others, but I feel inshore are the ocean waters approaching the shoreline. I’ll get visual with it by saying it is where boaters are within eyesight of the Island, such sighting officially beginning at 2.9 miles out.
It can’t be overlooked that the term inshore is also used to describe bayside and inlet fishing, which, if you think about it, is also within eyesight of land. So, voila.
I’ll sometimes throw in the uncommon angling term onshore. For me, it represents an elite piece of ocean from the beachline trough out to where the lifeguards whistle you back in. It overlaps shore fishing, better known as surfcasting, but has just a tad more oomph. In surfcasting terms, onshore can include an angler-infuriating strip of sea just beyond casting distance from the beach.
Nearshore is trickier – and subjective on my part. While is it often used to cover inshore waters, not so in here. Nearshore is where inshore loses its inshoreness. Staying with the visuality theme, it goes beyond eyesight of shore. As to how far out it goes, it can extend 10 maybe even 20 miles out. Think in terms of Mud Hole territory.
And what, pray tell, is that watery realm beyond nearshore … but not offshore, per se? I’m open for suggestions. Would mid-shore make sense? Nah. How about no-man’s-land? Too sexist, along with being decidedly terrestrial. Someone once authoritatively told me that area should be called the contiguous zone, to which I politely responded “Whatever” … and walked off to fish much farther away.
RUNDOWN:  Surf fishing of late has been wildly diverse – hotly so. I’ve admired photos of full-blown slammer blues being caught from the beach, not far from trophy-grade stripers to 40 pounds also being nabbed by surfcasters. Then, just down the beach, mega black drumfish are being bested. That’s quite a shoreline invite.
While bluefish are still on the downslide, the recent passage of surfside and inshore choppers has renewed an angler appreciation of just how hard and mighty they fight. When gone batty at line’s end, they are far and away our wildest fighting nearshore gamefish. They refuse to give up the battle even when landed, more than willing to intentionally clamp down on the hand of a captor.
Despite all bluefish being thinned down this time of year, the leanness does not make them less powerful. Applying human aspects to them, they might be seen as arriving here at fighting weight.
Beach and boat striped bass to possibly 50 pounds have shown steadily. There hasn’t been any blitziness, but the bite has garnered enough photo fodder to pack Facebook and the likes. Rapid catch/photo/release policies are being strictly observed.
The black drum aren’t pounding the beachline per se, but there have been some mighty fine line rattling here and there. In fact, these dogged fighters, which offer an on-line stubbornness similar to striped bass, are showing a bit above annual norms.
Targeting black drum in the surf is as simple as fishing for stripers, using clam or bloodworms. I have heard of big drum caught on bunker and shedder crabs, though shedders draw in dogfish from miles around.
I’ll continue to rave about the positive effects of the 2022 fluke slot, passing on what I’m being told by happy drifters who have quickly and consistently nabbed their allowable daily take – two @ 17″ to less than 18″ and one @ 18″ or greater. I’m hearing the flatties are well meated, meaning quite fat for this time of year.
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