When LBI’s White Sands of Time Run Out; Kingfish Showing Just Keeps on Keepin’ On

By JAY MANN | Jul 10, 2019
Photo by: Surf City Bait and Tackle Zach Ritemann of Surf City Bait and Tackle with a fine yellowfin tuna. Hooking up on the Miss Liane with Capt Ray.

Surf City, NJ — Last week, I did a hot decidedly short walk in the Pines, taking some stoppage time to admire the area’s famed sugar sand. And it truly is white as said sugar, if not whiter. Walking atop it, I strained to think what it reminded me of. Oh, that’s right, Long Beach Island back in the glimmering sand days of not so distant yore.

Later that day, back on LBI, it further struck my trained eye that our beaches are no longer nearly on par with former sugary days, namely prior to beach replenishment.

Now don’t get all gritty with me. This is not even slightly a slap at replenishment. The longer we hold out against oft-hostile seas and other arising threats, the more fun times are had by one and all. Rock on, you crazy non-diamond-sand Island. But we might need to face the slightly off-color fact that the sands of time have likely run out on our once crystal white beaches. Overall, we now sport in the tonal neighborhood of lightly beige-tinged sand. It might even be said we have tan sand, keeping in a sun-worshiping spirit that will never fade.

And don’t try to tell me we never had pure white sand on LBI. Yes, we did. In abundance. Possibly as recently as the 1970s, i.e. when we began trucking in what was known as Road Grade A material for spot erosion fixes. Actually, I’m not exactly sure when the whiteness waned a bit.

As to the new sands of our time, sucked from the ocean and used to cover all the Island’s beaches from Loveladies to Holgate, I’ve been immersed – and schooled -- in the subject. I sat at many a meeting a-flow with explanations on how the nearshore sands destined to renourish our eroded beachline are a dang-near perfect size match to the existing/former sands. To the experts, it all comes down to granularity similarity. The tolerances are precise, with no tolerance for anything but grains that are kissing cousins to what had lain on the beaches for hundreds of years.

After being lengthily lectured on the spittin’-image sand size match, I wondered out loud about the color coordination. Answers there became mumbleish. It was implied that the arriving material would – and I use the term I was given – “eventually” match the past … after being – and I paraphrase – heavily rinsed by rains and bleached by the sun. I got the drift: The replenishment sand would not be a Sherwin-Williams “Historical Pure White” until nature had its ways with it. With geology and chemistry favorite genres of mine, that made pretty good sense. It still does – in theory. Of note, sand is very prone to discoloration due to the ferric oxide from natural irons in the granular mix. Ever try to get a serious rust stain out?

LET ME SEE …: For quasi science kicks, I brought a bucket of Pinelands sugar sand to my home-street beach and introduced it to the current sand. Yowza. Not even close, whiteness-wise. Next to the Pinelands’ sugar sand, the beach material was on par with the Brand X results from those old Tide commercials. I even flashed on tooth whitening commercials, maybe even those way back, “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.” The sands had not been brushing regularly. That concept sparked an experimental brainstorm.

Not unlike a mad sand scientist, I brought home a red plastic kids’ bucket full of LBI beach sand. Let the experimenting begin. And this is gospel truth.

I began by dosing the sand with pure lab-grade ammonia, running outdoors to recover from the fumes. The ammonia pour-off was discolored – a good sign. After thoroughly rinsing and drying the sand using a wallpaper-removing heat gun, the sand was anything but jump-out white, so I went with some of that powerful purple clean-anything stuff. The stuff stayed purely purple on pour-off. No effect. Then, my ace in the hole: straight bleach. By name alone I figured that would instantly bring about old-time wicked whiteness. Nix that theory. Upon drying, things just weren’t diamondized by any stretch. Finally, I resorted to something called Whink, by far the best rust remover on the market. I was playing on that iron oxide (rust) theory. And it seemed to do something; the final look was, let’s say, a lighter shade of not-quite-white.

In the most aggressive whitening action I could muster, I artificially UV’ed the sand, with a sunlamp I use to turn old manganese glass bottles a purple hue. After a night under the ultraviolet beams, it sure seemed the sand grains had whitened, though that could have been my eyes playing tricks after unadvisedly staring toward the man-made sun.

All told, my experiment likely amounted to a solid decade’s worth of weathering. Still, I just couldn’t get the replen sand to respond the way it might in 50 years of weathering. Go figure. I momentarily pondered LBI in 50 years – or even after upcoming nonstop replenishment. I’ll now reluctantly admit that we can no longer boast of the whitest sand this side of Madagascar, though I have no idea if Madagascar even has sand. It’s the concept that counts.

Kitchen chemistry kaput and the sand relocated to the beach – and standing out a bit among its peers – I could still smile knowing LBI’s beach fun factor will always remain untainted, even when sporting slightly off-white replen sand. In fact, if I hadn’t written this segment, you might not be momentarily stopping with the family at the beach entrance and thinking, “Hmm, the sand really isn’t quite as white as I remember as a kid. Oh, well … Last one in the water is an ugly icon!”

RUNDOWN: Last week saw one of the finest July 4ths on LBI in the entire history of New Jersey, going back to the last Ice Age … if not earlier. By the looks of the crowds packing such beach areas as Centre Street in Beach Haven, not a soul in the state missed it. Even the selectively populated beaches of Harvey Cedars – my volleyball grounds – had decent peopleage.

The ocean waters along the en-massed beaches played along nicely with the skies. It was pushing mid-70s, thanks to ever so light east winds. Holgaters recorded some 80-degree water temps.

If you missed the dozen other times that I mentioned this, the warm water ushering in effect of northeast to east onshore winds is known as downwelling. Yep, the opposite of the far more infamous upwelling, which drives in numbingly cold water, most often via powerful south to west winds. This past downwelling warm-up consisted of surface waters pushed in from many miles out to sea, even as far away as the Gulf Stream. The ocean top had been sun-drenched and solar heated for almost a week prior.

Crystal clear waters have made for excellent masked swims parallel to the beach. When I used to take that swim almost daily (jetty/groin days), not only would I see plenty of bass, fluke, kingfish and sharks, but I’d also occasionally find ghostly-looking bills – as in money – corpsed out on the bottom, escapees from mainly men bathers losing money from their swimming shorts. My best haul was three seductively swaying 20’s. Sweet! Hey, I’ve lost more than a few bills in the surf, so that was a positive-type payback.

Something special should be said about the ongoing showing of kingfish in the surf. Things have gone from quite decent catching to almost can’t-miss. Surfcasters the entire length of LBI have been mugging these top-taste panfish.

The mention of kingfish rings a personal dinner bell for me. Way back when, my dad and his buddy Mel B. were huge fans of tapping into light-tackle “kings.” These feisty members of the drumfish family were running nicely back during those bizarre blowfish invasion years. Mom’s meals featured both. Talk about tasty backyard outings.

Kingfish are a demersal species, meaning they hang just off the bottom, feeding off bottom (benthic) vittles. They are not picky eaters, though not big on vegetative matter. They favor worms, smaller crustaceans, amphipods and larval fish and will readily scavenge dead things.

Ideal baits include bloodworms and any number of flavored fake-o baits. Rolling rigs get more kingies.

Despite worthy harvesting efforts by our local commercial fishermen, the smooth dogfish presence has once again become a nuisance. Whatever their secret to reproduction might be, the species is in another repopulating dimension compared to most slow-breeding sharks. As to what they eat, along with being eat-most-anything scavengers, they will gladly kill crabs, as I’ve seen them do.

Dogfish make decent eating but must be cleaned quickly – and they’re hard as hell to skin. Once properly cleaned, they must also be cooked up ASAP.

There is a purifying method whereby the skinned dogfish meat is fast frozen, for a week or more, then thawed for cooking. This supposedly tones down any ammonia presence, something common to most sharks if not quickly cleaned. It has to do with easily broken bladders and the accompanying urine dispersion. Yes, that’s yuck, but worse things happen at sea(food).

Apparently deep-freezing works when you’re not ready to immediately have “huss” for dinner. “Huss” is the British term for dogfish, most commonly used in the expression “huss cakes,” fishcakes made from thawed dogfish meat. We export tons of dogfish to that jolly old land.

I’m a bit surprised that the cownose stingray showing is all but absent. We’d surely spot those massive schools in this clear water. For the moment, other types of sometimes huge stingrays are dominating the night bite – and even grabbing daylight fluke baits.

Some folks to our Chesapeake south claim stingray is doable as dining material. I’ve tried them twice (both cow-nosed) with as little success as I’ve had trying to make small false albies palatable. I’ve had much better luck with barndoor skate, which are prime edibles, unlike their all-too-common clearnose skate cousins.

Cobia continue to offer a quite-nice touch of variety for Jersey Shore boat, beach and bay (?) anglers. Boats are finding these non-schooling fighters spread far and wide. They are loners, so hooking one is usually a one-and-done event.

I was told another cobia was caught from the beach. I think it was taken on LBI, but I only got a photo with little info. I’m still trying to figure out if a couple smaller cobia were caught inside Barnegat Bay, based on some enigmatic reports suggesting same. It seems unlikely, but this year has already offered a load of odd-fish reports.

A quick science note, a cobia is its own genus, like bluefish. It makes up the genus Rachycentron and the family Rachycentridae. They really don’t look like many other species, though they’ve been called black kingfish, black salmon, ling, lemonfish, crabeater, prodigal son and black bonito (per Wiki). I’m guessing some of those are market names.

SMOOTH UPDATE: I have a quick update on the N.J. record-worthy smooth puffer fish caught by Dr. Bob Hevert last week in Manahawkin Bay. The folks at Jingle’s Bait and Tackle looked into the state’s record-fish application process. It entails some serious legwork and paperwork.

The nearly 11-pound puffer could have easily challenged the existing state record smooth puffer of 9 pounds, 10 ounces. But, lo, it was not presented in person to an official state site to be ID’ed, the closest site being the Nacote Creek Research Station. Well, that ends that. It would be a cool record to own.

For those thinking in terms of their next state record fish, here’s a quick look at the main needs for a fish to be considered for the state’s record books. Also see nj.gov/dep/fgw/recfish.htm. Clear side-view photos of the fish are required. It must be weighed in on a certified scale. Dimensions are requested on the application. It must be brought (fresh or frozen) to a state facility to be ID’ed by a biologist. If it’s a massive fish, the state will come dockside, sometimes. Application must be submitted within 30 days of the catch. Finally, everything must be notarized.

A chuckler followed Doc’s exotic and thought-toxic catch. He told his buddies at the clubhouse that he threw the dead fish into the bay. They then jumped on the fish’s famed toxicity by saying he probably wiped out all the crabs in that entire section of the bay. Now, when any of his buddies see a dead crab, be it anywhere, it’s Doc Hevert’s fault – and they ribbingly let him know about it. For the record, those smooth puffer remains didn’t do in a single critter of any ilk. In fact, it added life to the clubhouse … though, come to think of it, I have seen more dead crabs than usual, Doc. Hmmm.


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