Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Eel-a-meal Is Too Hot in Japan;

The Shack Gets Its 15 of Fame



TORRID EEL APPEAL: The appeal of eel meat in Japan has turned the life and times of our American eel into hell on Asian-made wheels. The demands for eel meat in downtown Tokyo alone are enough to denude much of our Eastern Seaboard of its already fully failing eel population. 

A recent article in The Economist explains that 70 percent of the world’s eel harvest is rushed to Japan – the other 30 percent arrives more slowly.

What’s more, they use it as air conditioning fodder! Yep, the Japanese now have these tiny, incredibly efficient, personal air conditioning units that run exclusively on the flesh of eels.

That got your attention, eh?

Closer to reality, eel is, in fact, used as a cool-me-down for Rising Sun folks suffering something they call natsu-bate. (Actual term)

For some reason, Asian nations feel compelled to name every dadburn little thing they come across, even the overall discomfort of sizzling summer heat. Come to think of it, we really don’t have a term for that quaint feeling of sweating it out. We do have us quite a few cuss words to aim at that there natsu-bate

For virtually every natsu-bated soul in Japan, the first thing that jumps to mind when things get horribly overheated is hot grilled eel covered with sweltering sweet sauce served over steaming rice. Damn, and here I thought I was the only one who all but instinctively thinks of downing big plates of scalding hot eel slices after, say, hours of beach volleyball.

Just imagine being stuck trudging across the Sahara Desert with a Tokyo guy.

“Yo. Look, just up ahead, Suzuki. Isn't that a cool pond with little fish jumping? They look like some kinda trout.” 

“No, Jay-san, it's a sizzling hot skillet with strips of fried eels.”

“Uh, you sure, dude?”

“Yes. I can smell the boiling sweet sauce.”

“What the hell kinda mirage are you seein'?!”

“And, look, there are mounds of hot rice.”

“Dude, you been in the sun too long.”

“And look, Jay-san, a huge dish of blistering wasabe sauce.”

“I’ll tell you what, Zukester, you scurry on over and check out your buffet. I see some ice-cold energy drinks forming in the heat toward those mountains.” 

Back in Tokyo, the too-hot-to-trot Japanese folks have managed to cool the survival heels of our entire planet’s eel population. Several world-class species, including our American eel, are seemingly bound for the international endangered list, anchored by a possible CITES designation. Greenpeace independently went “endangered” on eels a couple years ago. Such ivory-like protective measures would place a trade ban on many/most of the truly tasty eels. And, not a bite too soon. When the last time any one gave a rat’s patoot about how life is going for eels nowadays? I guess they slipped through the cracks. (Jay, stop it. This isn’t a joking matter.)

Expectedly, the probability of a catastrophic ban on international eel trade has Rising Sunners hot under the collar. The story has frequently made front-page news across the always news-heavy nation.

Oddly, to me, the sale of air conditioners in Japan has not shot up. I’ll bet anything those crafty little devils are up to something. Personally, I’m going to be keeping a very close eye out for any minivans with Tokyo license plates parked near our eel creeks.

“Hey, whadda you Tokyo guys doin’ in the creek?”

“Uh, we’re just getting water to make, uh, our wasabe sauce.”

“The hell you say. What’s sloshing around in that bucket.”

“It holds, uh, the beloved remains of family members.”

“Oh, OK. Well, you better not be catching eels.”

By my thinking, the best way to cool down eel-less Japanese hotheads – and to also keep them from revisiting 1940’s plans to invade China should eels run out -- is aquaculture. There are already a number of Asian nations going eels out to create just such farms. However, their efforts are going belly up before they can even fly (Huh?) due to a lack of raw materials, i.e. elvers, a.k.a., glass eels, the first phase of an American eel’s life.

And damn if I don’t just happen to have a fairly exclusive source of elvers. Right about now is when I reflect back to my unrequited aspiration to find fiscal backing for an eel farm hereabouts. I picture it becoming “Home of Mann’s Natsu-bate Cure,” or “Natsu-bate hontouni anshin Mann sheeta.” But it seems all y’all are committed to turning over your life savings to some guy named Eddie who says he’s developing a cell phone that also acts as a nuclear-powered jetpack.

Anyway, my eel-farming dream has been based on a clause within our state’s ban on trapping elvers. Jersey residents can trap glass eels providing they are used for in-state aquaculture.

Unadventitiously, there is now a fly in the elver-farming ointment. OK, so maybe it’s that thousand-pound elephant in the ointment. If the American eel hits the endangered bell, you can kiss elvering goodbye, even for my friendly little eel farm. I mean, as friendly as you can be when raising elvers to exactly one foot in length at which time you skin them live and slap them onto a sizzling skillet coated in sesame oil.

STINGRAY SURVIVAL AT THE TOP: Thanks to Dr. Matthew S. Patrick, stationed at the emergency room at Southern Ocean Medical Center, for some hot words of advice, should you meet up with the business end of a stingray.

“I read with interest your piece about stingray envenomations in the
most recent SandPaper edition as I happen to be an expert in marine

“While I can't comment about specific cases due to patient privacy, I can confirm that I have seen at least one per year for the past four years here at the SOMC ER and that your scenario of instant searing pain at the site of injection is accurate. The barb inoculates the wound with a toxin that is heat
labile or inactivated by heat.

“Almost immediate pain relief can be achieved by immersing the affected extremity in hot water, from 105 to108 Fahrenheit. This temporarily inactivates the toxin as it's a protein and the heat denatures it. When it's removed from hot water the pain returns almost immediately.

Thought you might like to pass this useful tidbit along to your readers.”

From the sublime advice of Doc Patrick to the ridiculous, I have to now admit that there might just be a trickle of actuality to the Hawaiian tropical remedy for a stingray sting. Cover the kids ears, but we were taught to pee on the sting site. However, nota bene, the doctor’s remark that “removed from hot water the pain returns almost immediately.” Therefore, if using the, uh, home remedy approach either start downing fluids like a fish or rush over to the nearest party with cases of cheap beer. You’re in real luck if you happen upon a partying motorcycle gang.

Returning to the land of sober sensibility, addressing stingray envenomation with hot water may be as close as the spigot, which offers water at 120-degree, tops. I’m guessing a standard body thermometer would help reach that ideal 105 to 108 range.

As for how long to keep the sting immerged or toweled in hot water?

Likely the rest of your life.

Just kidding, that’s just a lead-in to the fact a sting from a ray is not a small thing. If at all possible, a speedy trip to the ER – you can hot towel the sting site -- is highly advised, especially if sting parts remain within the wound – a fairly common thing.

Medically, a ray sting is looked upon as an impaled object, i.e. doctorland stuff. In fact, three guys I know who removed sting parts themselves ended with infections, life-threatening in one Coast Rico case, Even after ER care, infection seems to thrive where the sting has caused a deterioration of the flesh. 

By the by, there are on average 1,500 stingray envenomations per year in the US. While that might seem low considering all the swimmers out there, I sure as hell hear about a load of them hereabouts.

SAND CRABS AGLOW: At least a month back, I got word of brilliantly glowing sandcrabs along our beaches, seen at night.

Yep, I’m talking about those beloved hyper little beachline crustaceans we’ve all dug up with the kids -- to throw into colorful plastic buckets to be dug and re-dug until they aren’t so hyper any more.

“Mommy, why is Freddy the Sandcrab not moving?”

“He’s sleeping, darling.”

“Sleeping, my ass. That sucker’s dead, Mommy.”

I’ll have you know suffocating adorable sandcrabs is a time-tested tradition on LBI.

That said, a load of these waterline crustaceans have suddenly begun to glow in the dark. The entire body of the sandcrab, right down to the legs and antennae, glow like they’ve been sucking juice from a glow stick.

“Hey, Mel, want another swing a glow juice?”

“Hell, no. I’m so lit already I’m seein’ green.” 

Scientifically speaking, these gloriously glowing sandcrabs are eating some sort of bioluminescent foodstuffs, likely in the phytoplankton and swash detritus they take in 24/7. Whatever is causing the light show, I sure ain’t seen the likes of it – and I’ve seen many a sandcrab, by cracky.

Being a long-time, nighttime metal detectorist, I’ve dug up a load of glowing things from the sand – most gorgeously, diamond rings. Cant’ say I’ve ever come across glowing crabs.

Two places where the glowing sandcrabs have been found include Loveladies and Ship Bottom.

Science guy talk: Unbeknownst to even hardened beachcombers, sandcrabs actually run backwards. Watching them take off after being released, it sure seems they’re booking it headfirst.

Where they bury themselves and extend lacy antennae to filter plankton and other miniscule edibles from the passing water.

THE SHACK GOES CINEMATIC: From the splintering timbers of The Shack, a very fine little video has arisen.

The 10-minute documentary, found at www.savetheshack.com, is skillfully shot and narrated by Sean Gallagher, an LBI aficionado. 

Begun as a memorial to his artist grandfather – who’s most famed painting was a watercolor of the Shack -- the video quickly drifts into one of the more definitive narrations of where The Shack now stands, so to speak.

In the introduction, Sean says of the Shack, “It has become a sort of welcome sign letting people know they’ve finally made it to the beach. The problem is the Shack has seen far better days … Now, it’s just exciting every summer to see if the Shack made it through another year. And, much to the delight of tourists, it keeps on standing.”

To its credit, the shortumentary includes exclusive footage of the current property owner, Porter Wagoner. Wait. Make that Chet Atkins. (Just kidding Chet.) 

Chet, with a touch of Hollywood in his look and demeanor, offers his read on the famous landmark – and it truly is both famed and a landmark, possible second to only Barney on LBI. Chet quickly found this out after purchasing the land the Shack sits atop.

“I had not idea about the Shack. Everyone tells us it’s a landmark; they get a sigh of relief that they’re at the shore when they see the shack,” he says, adding, “We’ve gotten enough public outcry asking if we’re going to restore the Shack.”

The video also features Jimmy Yuhas, the “obsessive” man behind the last-gasp effort to keep the Shack’s walls relatively upright, sometimes via controversial means, like covering the building with flags and banners.

Jimmy also forwards his personal ties to area of The shack -- where his brother Frank died. “When it started actually collapsing, it became personal. It meant I was losing what was left of my brother. I tried to turn this negative thing into something positive.”

Jimmy also uses his onscreen time to promote his ongoing campaign to get at least something done to the Shack – quickly. “You could push the walls up… Throw four piling in there. Then you could have years and years to discuss it.”

For Chet, holding firmly to the straight and narrow legal track is essential. He is currently in the midst of acquiring permits from the feds, NJDEP and Stafford Township. “We’re trying to do it the right way, the legal way.”

Chet also offers words that Jimmy – and, likely the Shack -- want to hear “We’re confident we’re going to restore this.”

BITE ME SKINNY: I just got wind of a new nonindigenous mosquito that I fear many folks will all but lust after – leaving our vital local species to be smothered out.

The scientific name of the new arriver is Fabulousus celluliteatus.

Instead of blood, it sucks out fat.

One gal I met – as she was stocking up on something called Fabulousus-brand Mosquito Attractant – cynically asked, “What happens if invasive species are way cooler than the ones we got?”



EL TROUBLE: While we mull over hurricane predictions as if ‘canes are about to swoop down upon us, tiny water temperature changes occurring in the Pacific Ocean off South America are the truest indicators of our weather future.

I’m talking El Niño and spouse, La Niña.

La Niña’s presence blessed us with one of the mildest winters ever seen and led us into what is becoming the mildest year on the weather books.

Now, the Environmental Agency of Japan is already alert to early signs of El Niño development, moving into place for winter 2012/13. That arrival has been known to usher in cold winds of change in the wake of a departing La Niña. 

While Japan assumes its El Niño mode – having been slapped silly during past El Niños – the US Weather Service is sorta reserving judgment. Our sky-guys are waiting until at October to settle on just how much of an el Niño will be showing itself this winter. An early reads has it as a “mild” event.

I concur on that “mild” side, not that anyone is asking. Oh, wait, I just got an email from the Weather Service, maybe …  Nope, they’re wondering when I’m going to return the rain gauge I borrowed.

For me, if Niño walks on the mild side, we could be in for another less-than-exciting winter, albeit punctuated with some un-last-yearish cold spells, especially early on. That ofrecast applies my theory that it’s the second consecutive year of either Niño or Niña that makes the skies go crazy.  The first year of either is often kinda noncommittal.

That said, I’m also becoming more and more convinced that this entire planetary climate change feature is capable of loosing singular weather events able to kick ass and take names. One single ogre-ish sky act can blow the lid clean off a fully accurate long-term forecast, as in, “It was an uneventful year, as forecast, until the slight matter of that overnight 100-inch snowfall that hit just Long Beach Island, NJ.”

RUNDOWN: Fluking in the surf remains as good as you’ll ever see it. Virtually anyone giving the suds a go is coming up with flatties – even some fairly formidable flatties, including one seven-pounder I saw photographed. 

I see where even the panfish folks, targeting spot and kingfish, are bycatching sizeable fluke. It’s gotta be fun going from a line-tapping spot to a hell-raising fluke -- on light gear much less.

I’m seeing where teasers rigged with GULP are often fooling surf flatties. In this one instance, I’ll lower my overall aversion to teasers. I’m not big on teasers when they take some of the waggle and sashay out of high-end plugs. In this fluke case, the teasers are acting more like a dropper looped bait hook. And bucktail (common teaser accoutrements) has always been irresistible to fluke.

SPOT ON: I’ve been watching the many Jingles Facebook pics of spot being caught and was thinking, “They sure seem to be getting bigger.” I had that confirmed by a fellow who has been loading up on both kingfish and spot. He said he hasn’t seen spot this large except in North Carolina in the fall. He’s from the south. I can always tell when he compares the size of the spot to “huge bream.” Bream is the goofy word Southerners use when talking about freshwater sunfish. By the by, southern bream are surprisingly good tasting once you’ve worked around the truly choke-worthy bones. Spot aren’t nearly as bony --  and way better tasting.

Stripers are making a return, albeit localized. Bass to keeper size are near inlets and, less regularly, along jetties. Jigs work best, though I’m betting live-lined spot will get creamed by any bass that happen to be in the ‘hood.

Snapper and cocktail/tailor blues are making frequent runs along the beach, through inlets and even onto east bay flats (late-day). 

Not that it’s an angling thing, but the bay is overloaded with seahorses – first time in many decades. Walt P. first alerted me to the population burst of these beloved little slow-swimmers.

Back in the not-long-ago day, seahorses all but swarmed eelgrass beds. Then, either a disease or possibly over-collecting decimated the population to near nothing. Now, I’m getting calls from the parents of kids using little dip nets finding seahorses left and right.

It’s a good-water thing since seahorses need very clean environs. 

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