Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

My Lobster Is Hairy, Sir;

Have I Gotta Job for You



There were olden days when wars were fought over salt. Only the rich had the stuff. Marie Antoinette lost her head after she declared, of the poor, “Let them eat salt” -- though that “salt” was quickly changed to “cake” when it was slowly explained to the airy young blond French queen that it was actually only the rich who had salt, ergo, it might be better to suggest the poor eat, say, “cake.” Atta girl. Now just run along and re-powder your décolletage. (Historic reality: Lady Marie A. was only10 years old at the time she allegedly she uttered her famed head-lopable remark. Brat)  

Anyway, I bring up this salt subject since we now have enough excess salt on the roadways atop the Causeway bridges and in the turning lane on LB Boulevard to re-surface the Bonneville Salt Flats. It’s a bit of a chuckle-able testimony to the astoundingly mild winter we’re having. Sure, we got a quick taste of polarness over the weekend, wet snow and all, but the testimonial part was the way state and county road crews went absolutely balls out applying salt to asphalt – the salt flowed like wine.

The overall lack of ice and snow this winter has had the road departments’ storage facilities groaning at the seams. With last winter’s wickedness in mind, i.e. the snowiest winter ever, the storage locales had been all but overloaded with ice melting minerals. When this brief opportunity to melt some minor road ice arose, the DOT and OC road boys kinda knew they better unload a crapload and a half. Many roads were way whiter with salt than snow. Overall, though, there won’t be nearly as much salt runoff into the bay this year.

Don’t think in any way this is a jab at those road crews. They’re excellent.

See more on mild winter fallout below.

TESTY LOBSTER BAITS:  Maine legislators are about to rush through the strictest lobster bait law in the country. Ok, so maybe it’s the only lobster bait law in the country but who’s counting?

The thing is there’s pretty good reasons for Maine’s near manical constraints on what lobstermen put in their traps. 

Since the horrific collapse of the herring fishery, the once-bountiful bait of choice for lobster trappers, that state’s $300 million a year commercial lobstering industry has aggressively been trying every bait-able item under the sun. In fact, the boys in red slickers may have been a tad too resourceful in seeking out the next great lobster bait, needed to the tune of 100,000 metric tons a year.

Lobstermen seemingly hit the roadkill trail (not really) when coming up with the freakiest of bait for one of the most sophisticated of foods. They began loading up on moose, deer and rabbit hides. Yep, jammed moose hides into traps to attract lobster – far from discerning eaters.

I can’t help but envisioning this exchange. 

Patron: Waiter, there’s a moose hair in my lobster claw.

Waiter: Don’t worry, it won’t eat much.

Patron: That doesn’t even make sense.

Waiter: Oh, and I guess the notion of a pack of crazed lobster coming out of the ocean at night to stalk moose makes more sense.

Patron: I want to speak to your manager immediately.

Waiter; Truth be told, he happens to be out moose hunting today.

Patron: Ah-ha!

Despite the fact lobster seemingly thoroughly enjoy slowly clawing away at a good slab of meat-heavy hide – hair and all – a political stir developed over wildlife hides as bait. It had nothing to do with the effectiveness. It was, instead, a growing fear of public perception of Maine lobster going south, i.e. lobster lovers getting wind of their beloved high-end lobster fattening on soggy gooey wildlife meat and skin.

The state banned all such wildlife-ish carcassy baits.

Bounced off animal hides as bait, the Down East lobstermen recently came that close to finding the perfect bait. Further tribute to their inventiveness, they headed out to middle America to stock up on a fish so plentiful you can just motor along in a boat and they jump inside. 

In a seeming win-win effort, invasive Asian carp were pulled from the Mississippi by the ton and were rushed to the New England, where they were chunked out and chucked into lobster traps. The big-bucks crustaceans went crazy over Asian carp. Underwater microphones detected lobster noises interrupted as, “I’ve always loved Chinese food.”

But up popped the worrywart crowd. Fears arose over the possibility of exotic diseases being carried by the carp – albeit quite a stretch that diseases of a freshwater fish could inflict themselves upon a marine organism. No matter.  The state of Maine is now going after any and all freshwater species being used a lobster bait until it is thoroughly proven a species is safe. How to prove that is anyone’s guess.

So, it’s back to the drawing board for the lobstermen. And I’ll sure be watching to see what cool stuff they’ll be jamming into their traps in coming months.

“Waiter, there’s a feral cat hair in my lobster claw.”

“Don’t worry, it won’t eat much.”

“Oh not you again!”

COD WORMS GONE WILD: Speaking of things inside of things (huh?), you’d be amazed at what’s in a cod steak. Here’s the story inside a story.

Yet another study has arisen indicating that the fate of the cod recovery off New England has been sealed.

The latest research, done by Robert O'Boyle and Michael Sinclair, emeritus scientists at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, openly alleges that already ruined cod stocks remain in double jeopardy due to an overabundance of grey seals merrily munching away. "Our study concluded that it is the grey seals that are preventing the recovery, …” Sinclair said recently.

I shan’t get into the unsavory notion that decades of rampant overfishing by the human sector, recreational and commercial, is without question the cause of the collapse. Ask any cod. However, on both the right and left coasts of the U.S., in-depth research fully indicts babied seal populations as the current culprits. This ravenous seafood loving pinniped is now populating to beat the ecological band. 

I was actually atop the protest pack railing against the still-ungodly practice of clubbing baby seals out of their furs. However, I was a lot less critical of annually harvesting seals, especially when the methodology was historically aligned with Native American traditions. Now, I have to go sciencey and admit there likely can be no recovery of cod without some sort of grey seal birth control. Yes, I’m being coolly coy with that “birth control” angle. 

But, what about that story inside a story? Well, as I surfed the internet in pursuit of cod and seals, I came across a bizarre “Help Wanted” plea. Are you ready for this Mike Rowe?

Per a news story in the Massachusetts’ publication “Herald News, the president of Sambro Fisheries Ltd., Doug Garrison, now hires more folks to pick parasitic worms from cod than to fillet the upper-end fish. "What few cod there are often are full of worms that must be picked out by hand.

Know as cod worms and sometimes seal worms, individual worms can be almost an inch long – and even longer when being stretched out, kicking and screaming, during an official yanking.

And it’s not just one or two subtly squirmy worms in need of a good yanking.

"I've seen the smaller (cod) peppered with them," Garrison was quoted as saying.

Somewhat weirdly, only a couple decades back Sambro Fisheries needed two wormers for every two filleters. Nowadays, there are four or five wormers required for every two filleters. That could very well be the result of degraded water conditions faced by younger cod. Buttressing that concept is the fact larger cod, which can be as much as 50 years old, have far fewer worms. 

Before relocating to New England for that new worm-wrenching work, you might want to get a gander at worms being expertly picked from cod filets. There are a number of such demonstrations on YouTube. You might want to get a move on it. I hear tell that  PETA will be rallying on behalf of the cod worms. Anticipated PETA statement: “This horrific killing of pain-feeling life-loving cod worms, through the cruelest and most savage yanking methods imaginable, is in utter violation of all principals of kindness and compassion. We will not allow it to continue.”

Personally, I just happen to see a way out of this whole cod vs. seal crisis. Simply telecast a few National Geographic specials vividly showing worm removals from cod filets. Won’t be able to give the fish away. Then, roll out miles of cable to set up TVs on grey seal hangouts and rookeries so they can also watch the cod worm specials. The seals will also swear off cod forever. Everyone will be happy, including the cod worms. Voila.

MILD WINTER, BAD BAY?: I’ve gotten a few inquires on what this mild winter might mean in longer-term terms.

It has long been anecdotally assured by centuries of baymen that a bitter winter kick’s actually perks up the bay. Theoretically, icy cold water kills the likes of bacteria and bad algae. During my too-many years of commercial shellfishing, rock hard winters supposedly meant clamming and crabbing would be hot the following summer.

At some point, I got off the anecdotal boat of old-time baymen and got on my own anecdotal boat.

I still harbor the notion that a wicked winter can somehow woo the bay into high productiveness come summer. However, I’ve upped my knowledge of pathogens and spores and just can’t accept the idea they are killed by the cold. What’s more, I’m turning an evil eye at over-nitrification, a bay killer if ever. It’s spurred on by the likes of algae blooms, via spores.

I’m now off on a whole different flow, focusing on water exchanges and backbay purges. My premise: nothing cleans the bay better than a purifying exchange of old bay water for new ocean water, via tides or storms. Flush the bad stuff clean outta the bay.

But how does a bitter winter play into it?

Two ways. Firstly, you cannot have winter bitterness without westerlies, as in hard offshore winds. Those winds mean blowout tides for unfrozen portions of the bay. A full-blown blowout tide is a topnotch water exchanger -- old water out, new water in with a return to normal tides. It can quickly pare down the nitrogen level. 

The second way cold winter helps is a tad more esoteric, having to do with a solid freezing of large portions of bay.

Although bay surface ice rises and falls with tides, it still acts as something of a compressor, essentially holding down the water below. The ocean couldn’t care less about the ice cover. It drives in tidally, daily. What happens is the water below the ice has an intensified flow. The purge of water, right down to the bottom, is enhanced. Again, in with new, out with the old. The survival rate for overwintering marine life in the bay is heightened via purging. What’s more, purer water is in place to greet arriving seasonal bay life.

Regardless of the type of winter, storms are a huge purger, all but instantly giving the boot to pathogens, bad alga spores and excess nitrogen.

Unfortunately, with all the human development now out there, those same storms, if rainy, can do what amounts to a negative purging -- of road surfaces, fertilized yards (fall/winter being a prime fertilization period) and crap-loaded sewers. That leads to the mixing of wicked run-off with just-arrived ocean water. Instant spoiler.

I’ll go alarmist here and address this winter, which has been weirdly warm (no bay freezes), noticeably storm free and lacking in blowout tides. If we were to get some gully washers this spring, rotten run-off waters will gush into the bay that hasn’t had desirable winter purges. A pretty awful outlook for Barnegat Bay summer, 2012. It could first show with an insane bloom of nettles in upper Barnegat Bay. After that, bay doctors like Pete McLain and Mike Kennish will surely alert if mild low-purge winters do, in fact, lead to polluted summers in Barnegat Bay.

SRHS RAMS FISHING FLEA MARKET; It’s already that time. The 2012 Fishing Rams Club will be holding its annual fishing flea market at the Southern Regional Middle School, 75 Cedar Bridge Road, Manahawkin. It’s this Saturday. Mark it.

This season-launching event has become a rite of pre-spring. It now marks a seasonal turning point when overwintering anglers begin to bust out of their sedentary off-season shells and begin thinking in terms of stocking up for the quickly arriving fishing days.

The doors open promptly at 8 a.m. and close at 2 p.m.

It’s a mere four bucks to get in and that money goes to trips and speakers for the Fishing Rams Club. The weather will be fine.

FROZEN BASS WAYS: Recent email:

“Hi Jay,

If ya do a real good job with packaging and freezing your striper fillets, how long can you expect them to last in the freezer and still taste great?? We broke out a package tonight, and a couple of the pieces had that slightly fishy taste to em. Jay”

(I’ve yet to find a way to perfectly freeze stripers for any length of time. Instead, I do an end-around with the prepping of frozen bass. Firstly – and very contrary to accepted cooking philosophies – I don’t thaw them, per se. I fairly heavily spice the frozen fillets (maybe warm just enough to separate fillets), then oven bake, boil (spiced water), or (believe me, it’s perfectly acceptable in even the finest restaurants) microwave them until just cooked. Then, I include the finished fish in everything from casseroles to fishcakes to (a favorite) spaghetti sauce.


A superb chef buddy of mine takes the already cooked fish, dips them in a thick tasty batter then deep-fries them in a Fryolater or deep iron skillet. Incredible. By the by, the batter is primarily what cooks. He also uses cooked once-frozen bass in stir-fries or floats them in black bean sauce. (Yes, he’s Asian.)

As you’ve likely guessed, these are all ways to overcome any storage tastes the bass have acquired. )


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