Mighty Nate Hasn’t Struck Out at Tee-Ball; Stripers Showing No Love Toward Surfcasters

By JAY MANN | Nov 06, 2019
Photo by: Jay Mann HOLY HOLGATE: Overhanging skies look a bit biblical as a gathering of mobile anglers work The Rip at Little Egg Inlet. Frustratingly, striper-seeking thereabouts has been to little or no avail.

Surf City — I’ve been forcing a bit of surfcasting optimism out of myself by going around humming the surfcasting LBI ditty “The Stripers Will Come Out Tomorrow,” sung in the fashion of that little girl who never gets old. No, not Peter Pan – though Peter now presents as female as often as male. In fact, that might make Peter one of the earliest intrinsic LGBTQ manifestations.

I’m thinking the little girl I first had in mind, Annie, will stay true to her biological roots … or will she? It’s amazing the high note young boys can hit – or, if later in life, the high notes grown men can achieve with the help of helium gas, possibly during the making of “Annie 3 – Her Later Animal Rescue Years.”

Which is a slow-week lead-in to likely the oddest story crossing my desk since … forever. I’ll let you share my initial “Say What!?” by offering a headline regarding the world’s greatest tee-ball player. Tee-ball is the baseball game for smaller kids, those a tad too young to be pitched upon. Instead, the ball is placed atop an upright post so it can be safely swung at with a downsized bat.

That in mind, here’s the brain-boggling headline that graced as many as 100 news media outlets, most of those outlets being rather minute, in a minutiae-gathering way. The headline that has carried farther than a Barry Bonds added-adrenaline home run reads: “Man Identifying As 6-Year-Old Crushes Game-Winning Homer In Tee-Ball Championship.”

The story’s lead reads: “AUBURN, CA -- Local 36-year-old man Nate Ripley, who identifies as a six-year-old, ‘absolutely crushed’ a game-winning homer at a local tee-ball game and won the championship for his Lil’ Padres team Monday evening, reports confirmed.”

Not only did Nate the Natural annihilate the ball off the tee, but before doing so, he Ruthishly pointed to the playing field’s left-field fence, which looms a tee-ball-staggering 130 feet away. Nate’s pre-ordained ball would soon surpass the fence by easily many hundreds of feet. The outfielders on the other team quickly climbed the fence to retrieve the ball, knowing its historic significance – and because it was the last ball they had after Nate’s season-long launching of balls into a nearby town, whose residents had become irritated with having windows busted by Nate’s constant homers.

As to his miraculous game-winning, it came as no big surprise to the packed bleachers. To be sure, Master Ripley was a hitter. On the season, he totally eclipsed every known tee-ball record. And tee-ball parents, including Nate’s, keep some mighty exact numbers. His most amazing achievement was his mind-boggling 1.0 batting average. That “average” might look strange since no baseball/softball/tee-ball player – beyond early at-bats for the season – has had a perfect batting average.

The next best tee-ball batter on Nate’s Lil’ Padres team was Davy Hilbert. with .333. Davy batted immediately before Nate, juicing the bases for him. He often scored ahead of Nate, despite having to wear full body armor in case Nate hit a line drive toward him. Players on opposing teams would often resort to simply lying as flat as possible on the ground, covering their heads with their gloves, to avoid said line drives.

As to his defensive prowess, Nate won golden gloves for his play at, among other positions, first base, second base, shortstop, third base and pitcher. His only weakness was the outfield, where he was once assigned to play, but quickly got so lonesome he began to cry and walk around in small circles. The umps were forced to call his parents onto the field to guide the tear-blinded athlete back to the infield, where he was soon happily playing first base, albeit with reddened eyes.

Despite his outfield waterworks, Nate has been deemed “an inspiration to other six-year-olds everywhere.” During celebrations after the Lil’ Padres championship win, teammate Oliver Pasternack told reporters, “I want to be just like Nate when I grow up.”

In the true spirit of tee-ball gamesmanship, Nate told reporters, “I’m just proud to be here with my team. It’s all for the love of the game.” During that interview, the hero was doused with juice squeezed from dozens of Orange Slice sippy boxes. Through the juice and tears he yelled, “I couldn’t have done it without my team. I can’t wait to meet my new team next year!”

There was one scary moment immediately after the big win when Nate’s Lil’ Padres teammates tried to lift their hero up for an elated march around the infield. They managed only to tip over the 6-3, 230-pound fellow player. He landed on the pitcher and a couple outfielders, all of whom had to undergo concussion protocols.

Hey, don’t look at me that Doubting Thomas way. Just Google “tee-ball champion Nate.”

HOLGATE HAPPENINGS: You might have heard about the ocean/bay pedestrian nature loop walkway trail that has appeared within the Forsythe Refuge in Holgate. To get to it by foot, you must hoof a goodly distance from the parking area.

The walkabout loop is roughly a mile down, meaning the 5,000-foot mark. Calculating the average co-ed step at 2.3 feet per stride, you’ll be tallying maybe 1,000 steps to reach it – seemingly many more when heading back against the wind. The loop itself is maybe 150 yards. Note that it can get quite squishy at the most westerly point, fronting the bay.

The loop offers a couple exceptional views of pond-like bay areas that host birdlife galore. Right about now, brant have taken over. Some of the world’s largest flocks of these small geese overwinter hereabouts. They’re super shy, so watching or photographing them from a distance – with binocs or telephoto lenses – keeps the birds doing their natural thing. As to other birds species seeable thereabouts, you could fill a book … or one of those “life lists” birders keep.

Thanks go out to the refuge for opening this exceptional ocean-to-bay access point.

By the by, this loop-about is not a sign of open access onto the rest of this Wilderness Area.

RUNDOWN: Reports are heavily bassified, via ocean-top anglers. Boat bassing for many – not all, though – has been arm-tiringly frantic. It’s a sure sign that schools from massive migrating bass stocks are paused off the beach, from a few hundred yards out to as far away as the edge of the EEZ.

Big-ass cow bass are taking everything boaters are dropping toward them, from baits to artificials. It seems the boat bite will be holding in place for many days to come.

Surf stripering is the drop-dead opposite. Despite perfect autumnal fishing weather and storybook ocean conditions, the almost cosmically weird lack of fish has picked up where it left off last fall. We’re bassaken –or maybe we’re bass-bit? Solid seaside stripering is seemingly gone with the wind. Even when the wind dies down, there are no stripers of sizable significance showing in the suds.

As if rubbing in how beastly the surf bassing has been, the ocean is cruelly attaching an inordinate number of skates and dogfish to surfcasters’ hooks. The way these two undesirable species are thoroughly dominating the surfside angling action is spring-like in nature, i.e. common to April.

Despite the unwanted nature of skates and dogfish, aka sand sharks, I still don’t like seeing them getting chucked up-beach, to slowly suffocate. It gives a bad name to fishing, as beachgoers see the discarded fish wasting away. Good PR is part of good angling etiquette.

WHY, OH, WHY?: I need go broken record in a dead-horse way by again bringing up the alleged/possible reasons bass are forsaking the beachline, while being hog-wild, bumper-to-bumper not far off the beach.

On the foraging downside, surf clams and crabs, both mainstays of stripers of all sizes, are all but gone from our beachside shallows. The surf clams went missing long ago, as in pre-Sandy. Lady crabs, once so plentiful as to be constantly underfoot for bathers, have likely been sanded into local extinction by replenishments. Also sanded under are groins/jetties, which were structural gathering points for many a bass – though it’s often pointed out that Island Beach State Park, where beach bassing remains wonderous, has no jetties, except at the inlet. Might it be the amazing schools of bunker off LBI are drawing bass away from surfcasters? Highly likely, though, once again, why is IBSP still graced with in-close stripers?

As for jumbo bluefish, they might very well be a downside of warming oceans, as they move farther northeast in the spring and are then inclined to beeline southward come fall, placing them far from our coast. Maybe evidence of how far east the big blues have been tracking in spring, the coastlines of European nations have been neck-deep in monster blues, some near world record size.

LOSING IT, STRIPER-WISE: Trying to deal with the piss-poor surfcasting action being dealt us fall in and fall out – along with possibility of not being able to keep a bass over 35 inches next year – I’m already formulating an entirely new LBI Surf Fishing Classic for coming years. In doing so, I’m regenerating the venerated “derby” term. Are you ready for the Long Beach Island Dogfish Derby? Talk about opening the event to anyone who can cast chunk bait into the ocean.

For categories, we’ll offer former striped bass $2,000 prize money to the largest spiny dogfish. Then we’ll grace smooth dogfish with the cash and prizes previously garnered by the best bluefish. Imagine the free-fishing glory of targeting species with no size or bag limits. On the right slow-dog day, a 1-pound spiny might win a load of stuff. For added thrills, the Dogfish Derby might offer a $100 prize for the largest sea robin Think about it: Weigh-in stations will once again be hopping, just like back in the distant, suddenly forgotten bass and bluefish days.

(This is my effort to use reverse psychology to spark a beach bite. Once the bass read about the proposed “Dogfish Derby,” they’ll hopefully be all “Oh, geez, I guess we better break some cows from the bunker balls and send them into the surf. Maybe tell them an entire herd of lobster was seen inside. Besides, they’re getting entirely too fat anyway … but for cryin’ out loud, don’t tell them I said that! I’ll never be seeing any spawning love.”

WANT TO GET INVOLVED?: The Fisherman magazine’s  (thefisherman.com) Jim Hutchinson Jr. sent this memo out. Even though you might not read it here in time attend, it offers what surfcasters are up against on the regulatory front.

“The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council will meet on Thursday, November 7 at 5 p.m. in Galloway and hopes to get as much feedback as possible for how to mete out the 18% reduction in striped bass. For a little more clarification, the suite of options that was discussed ad nauseum (one at 35 inches, one at 28 to 35 inches as approved, etc.) will affect each state a little differently in order to reach an 18% coastwide reduction. That is, such options would’ve impacted New Jersey to the tune of 40% versus much less for other states, which is really why some ‘activists’ from the north lobbied hard to do away with the ‘conservation equivalency’ approach giving states rights. SO, if you’d prefer to see an option for 2020 that’s NOT the 28- to 35-inch slot limit, Galloway is where you’ll want to be on Thursday at 5 p.m.”


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