The SandPaper

It Gets No More Inaccessible Than Point Nemo; Don’t Question the Right to Take Striper Selfies

The Fish Story

SHORT HAUL: The offseason beaches are there for the surf fishing, once gear is rolled to the ocean’s rough-water edge. With stripers now frequenting the suds, those anglers braving the November chill have a fine chance of besting a bass or two, possibly for entering into the Classic. (Photo by Ryan Morrill)

EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE: My social graces are anything but graceful. I’ve never been a social butterfly – more like a bristly caterpillar trying to escape people for all its many legs are worth.

Gospel truth. As a kid, I literally aspired to be a hermit, residing in some mountain cave, just me and my pet lizards. Must have been Native American blood egging me on.

My cave dwelling aspirations ran dry when the old-fashioned fur-vested hermit image faded from comical popularity. I did get a latter-day resurgence of escapist desire. By then, I was priced out for even an entry-level cave, especially the ones that demanded an accompanying mountain also be purchased. Only the filthy rich now get to be in-cave hermits. Figures.

This all leads to the most remote place on our planet. To fully grasp such a place, one should look to the skies – and a super slew of circling satellites.

Where the hell is this going, Mann!?

Be patient. This is fascinating, beginning with the fact you haven’t got a clue as to how many man-made Earth-orbiting satellites are up there right now.

If, like me, you’re a child of Sputniks and Explorers (America’s answer to the Soviet satellites), you’d think satellites are still rare as hen’s teeth. Well, at last count, there were roughly 6,000 satellites up there! Come on, you were going to guess 25, tops.

Now to the downside of so many sky things.

Over half of all those orbiting objects are on their last leg, flying on a cosmic wing and a prayer. As such, they’re officially “space debris,” despite having once admirably performed as GPS reverberators or even spies in the skies.

Many so-called “retired” satellites are breaking apart, contributing to an estimated 27,000 pieces of high-velocity space debris. The hurtling-about debris is waiting for gravity-induced end times, as their orbits decay and the inexorable pull of the planet draws them back to from whence they came.

With the likelihood of 20,000 fully functioning satellites being in orbit before the end of this decade, something of a rain-down worry arises.

Flashback: Years back, I created the saying “What goes up … must come down.” Yes, that was me. It stems from when my buddies and I would stand under streetlights at night and simultaneously throw railroad-bed rocks up to, you know, bust the hell out of the lights. Hey, it made sense back then. So, we would launch the rocks straight up, most often totally missing the target. Then, we’d stand there like idiots, slowly registering the rocks we had thrown straight up would soon, you know, come down and stuff. Head injuries were had … and my saying was birthed.

Returning to the vaguely related subject of coming-down satellite debris, world brain powers have gotten together to prearrange where dying satellites can most safely return to Earth – without landing like RR rocks on people’s heads. And it’s the perfect time to introduce Croatian-Canadian engineer Hrvoje Lukatela.

In 1992, Lukatela, on a highly academic lark, used a geospatial computer program to find the world’s greatest point of inaccessibility, i.e., the ultimate nowhere. He located it quietly residing 3,000 miles off the coast of New Zealand and 2,000 miles north of Antarctica, the nearest islands being over 1,600 miles away. To me, it is the ultimate hermit paradise, providing said hermit can tread water and deke falling space debris.

Lukatela called his discovery Point Nemo, after the Jules Verne character. His find was sub-headed “one thousand and four hundred miles from anywhere.” Appropriately, the closest humans come to Point Nemo occurs when astronauts pass over in the International Space Station, orbiting 227 nautical miles above. Little does the ISS itself realize the sober significance of Nemo far below.

Point Nemo also goes by far more enigmatic appellations, including “the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility” and “South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area.” Most tellingly, it is lately being called “The Satellite Graveyard” and “The Spacecraft Cemetery.” And it already has takers.

The ocean bottom far beneath Point Nemo is entertaining 263 spacecraft, including the defunct space station Mir and six Russian Salyut stations. In line for eventual interment is, yep, the ISS, along with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Through complex international agreements, including the “Outer Space Treaty” – yes, Virginia – all future satellites must be equipped with computerized guidance systems assuring they will “retire” by coming down within the assigned Pacific Satellite Graveyard.

As for any oceanic ecological impacts from what will quickly become ultra-tons of space debris, there is apparently dang little life below. University of Rhode Island oceanographer Steven D’Hondt describes the zone as “the least biologically active region of the world.” Of course, the quadrillion or so microorganisms that happily call the area home might disagree. Also, imagine what odious outer space larvae might be entwined within the sinking space debris – coming to life deep down below, spawning Godzillaesque creatures to home in on Japan.

For a more down-to-Earth read on Point Nemo, see “This is the space graveyard where the International Space Station will be buried,” by Katie Hunt,

POACHED IN HOT WATERS: As part of my ongoing effort to get disobedient-minded fishermen to rethink their regulation sidestepping, here’s another pass-along from the most recent NJDEP Fish and Wildlife, Monthly Bureau of Law Enforcement reports. It strikes quite close to home.

Last month, Conservation Police Officers Meyer and Capri went on boat patrol in Barnegat Inlet waters. They knew full well about the heavy fishing pressure thereabouts, related to some epic striper fishing. In the words of the report, “The officers had heard chatter of large striped bass in the area.”

Per patrolling routine, they conducted inspections of charter and private fishing vessels. ’Tweren’t long before transgressors were found amidst the great majority of law abiders. The officers came upon two vessels in possession of oversized striped bass, “exceeding 38 inches.” No word on how far beyond 38 inches the bass might have been, though an inch is as good/bad as a mile in most cases.

During their inlet-area patrol, the boys in gray/green also came across other acts of angling badness. “Additional inspections yielded 20 undersized black sea bass, 20 over the limit black sea bass, a closed season summer flounder, 25 filleted black sea bass, and six filleted scup,” offered the report.

I have to think those scup/porgies and black seabass were caught farther offshore and the misdeeding vessels just happened into the inlet at the worst possible time … for them.

A total of nine summonses were issued throughout the course of the patrol.

As usual, any busts beg the question of how long this has been going on. Making matters worse, we’re so late into the season that anyone breaking bad surely knows better.

By the by, proper snag-rehook-drop bassing remains under the enforcement gun, as it will be for many moons/years to come, due to burgeoning bunker stocks and the also burgeoning striper showing beneath them.

On the slightly lighter side of the DFW enforcement, CPO Malinski came across significant damage to a wildlife management area, including “alterations to a condemned bridge, stream diversion, damage to vegetation and removal of soil.” I’ll speak for the officer by thinking out loud, “Well, this looks kinda not-right.”

Discreetly placing surveillance cameras in the disturbed area, the officer captured images of a man, and I quote from the report, “building a water slide and zip line.” Say what?!

Through investigative workmanship, Malinski snagged the zipster. It’s unlikely the court will let the whole thing … slide. And I doubt a magistrate will accept a “Boys Just Wanna Have Fun” rendition of the Cyndi Lauper song. Mainly, it further shows some of the stuff CPOs come across.

BREAK NEEDED: I’ve taken a healthy disinterest in the fringe element of striped bass conservation, personified by Stripers Forever and its ongoing efforts to saddle anglers with a minimum 10-year moratorium on keeping bass of any size. In the same instance, and rather counterintuitively, I do appreciate the group’s doggedness in trying to preserve their beloved – maybe to an extreme – gamefish. However, the bass over-love thing riled me a bit last week when I got a pass-along letter that I need all y’all to co-consider.

The semi-aggressive letter focused on striper photography, speaking of “striper selfies” and alleging potential bodily damage presented by such snapshot sessions. “Taking pictures too often keeps the fish out of water too long” is offered, going as far as implying photos could be “killing fish.” Fishicidal selfies, eh?

First of all, I’m a rockfish-hard fan of striper pics on Facebook and such. I thoroughly enjoy the visual captures by anglers highlighting their catches before a release within the next instant. It’s vicarious fishing for me.

As to the suggestion that photo time is overtime when it comes to catch-and-release, I’m forced onto the old enough-is-enough path.

In subtle retaliation, I’ll highlight the due conservation diligence already being nobly displayed by anglers who abide by strict slot sizes, bag limits and hook types. What’s more, there are many anglers who have traditionally released all bass, regardless of size. That’s paying plenty enough homage to stripers. Depriving anglers of the years-to-come pleasure from bass-and-me shots takes things too far, removing a huge fun element from bassing in general.

Though this letter didn’t emphasize surfcasters, methinks it was the gist of the quasi complaint, especially the part that reads, “When fishermen brush the sand off bass, they remove important slime.” Not a load of sand on boated bass.

On the slime subject, I’ll align with wetting hands or wearing gloves for a cleaner release, but in the same breath I’ll confidently assert that bass are brutes, piscatorial bulldogs. That ruggedness is oft overlooked by experts indicating 9% of all caught-and-released bass succumb to mishandling – or bodily damage from hooks. I’ll bet the eelgrass farm that number can be halved and still be an overestimation.

I’ll even make a surf-fishing assertion that bass released into the suds revitalize faster than boated fish. It’s an everyday oxygen thing. Stirred waters, speaking of suds, are just about as aerated as water can get – an oxygenated rush of revitalization. The survival rate is way high.

As to bass held up for photos, I’ll admit it’s unwise to hoist selfie bass with one hand slipped under the gill plates, as is sometimes done to get a horizontal angle on an over-headed trophy fish. While gill grabs have been around since fishing began, extending the gill plates outward when lifting a bigger fish can stretch the plates open beyond their assigned opening capacities.

That said, and to show my support for safe C&R, I’ll offer this very detailed article titled “Help Striped Bass Survive Catch and Release” published in On the Water magazine:

RUNDOWN: The 2022 LBI Surf Fishing Classic still has over four weeks left to go. Jump on in and take one of the $1,000 prizes, late-style.

The Classic has kicked up the striped bass category with 25 fish now on the books.

This is an ideal time of the year to catch bass in the allowed 28- to (under) 38-inch class. While chunk baits – clam and bunker – rule the colder-water times, bloodworms can also rock. Of artificial merit, late-fall striper attention can often be aroused by throwing slow, straight-moving needlefish plugs. I have this thing for school-bus yellow bucktailed needles.

Even with jetties a-lacking, late fall is when street-specific holes and sloughs get repeat striper action – day in and day out, above and beyond surrounding waters. Be ready to explore a bit – and if you’re in the Classic, use the allowable complement of rods: two bait rods and a plugging rod.

Tog remain the prime species of the 2022 Classic with 28 fish entered in this “Bonus” category. The largest tog per segment (15-inch minimum size) nets a “$200 Cash Award.” I’m hoping to see that category given a significant prize boost in 2023. A big thanks goes out to tog anglers for their support of the event.

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