Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Apparently, there's something about a kitten in a hat that just ain't right ...
Want to begin with this photo passed on by reader J. Terhoon with the message "Smooth Puffer fish caught in Barnegat Bay. Sushi anyone?"
I've seen and caught a goodly number of smooth puffers/blowfish, Lagocephalus lagocephalus, but never thought in terms of making them into sashimi -- in the Japanese fugu vein. Of course, I’ve never thought of going sushi with our oft-eaten, far more common, northern puffer/blowfish, Sphoeroides maculatus.
Both are members of the family Tetraodontidae, binomial home to the deadly types of puffers, which possess a no-prisoners poison known as tetrodotoxin.
As is expected, the media is jumping all over photos of smooth puffers, as both a rarity – and a potential poisoner? The thing is the species is seemingly becoming more common hereabout, possibly yet another sign of an ocean temp-related shift of marine biomasses.
Smooth blowfish, along with related porcupine fish, tend to show up hereabouts after periods of onshore winds, like we just saw. Smooth puffers are sometimes called the ocean puffer, indicating their preferred haunts.
As noted, the media is taking the toxic route of smooth puffers, even going as far as issuing warnings about not only eating them but even handling them. It reads sexy but borders on bull.
Firstly, when pondering smooth puffers in relationship with our oft-eaten northern puffer, the science is actually more on the side of the northern blowfish being the far more historically toxic of the two.
Calm down! In the past, many of us have eaten local blowfish tails until they came out our ears. Even Wiki emphatically points out, “…the flesh of the northern puffer is not poisonous.” It then duly adds what I always point out, that the viscera (gonads especially) can be a bit toxic. Of course, I also know of folks who love the fried ovaries of northern puffers.
Neither the smooth or northern puffers are toting a toxin load when they get this far north. That said, I’ll be the first to point out that down Florida way, they never eat the plentiful and known-tasty northern blowfish. And those folks are fish-eatin’ fools … in a good way.
I take that fear of puffer into deep account when down there, where I’ve caught plenty of northern blowfish. To be sure, they’re genetically identical to those we eat up here. In fact, I’m betting they’re sometimes the very same fish we eventually see up here come summer migration. But, when I'm down there, I kinda do as the Romans. Only once did I fry up some Indian River northern blowfish. I was so nervous, I can’t say I really ate ate any. I kinda chewed the meat a bit. But I was tasting nothing, being far more focused on any lip numbness, like that associated with fugu failures. Not so much as a numb tongue tip. I was tempted to feed the leftovers to the local feral cats but that’s all I needed was an army of NY cat-lady transplants sic-ing their feline menagerie on me.
Knowing the tradition of not daring to eat blowfish down there, I had to ponder the possibility, even likelihood, that they might be right. Could there by something in the tropical waters that is absorbed into the puffers, although I heard it was more a fear of ciguatera than tetrodotoxin.
Before I go any further, here's an apropos FDA read: "The State of Florida currently has a ban on both commercial and recreational harvesting of puffer fish from the waters of Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin counties on the east coast of Florida due to persistent toxicity. Puffer fish harvested from these Florida counties have been found to contain significant amounts of toxin in the flesh regardless of the preparation technique. The Northern Puffer fish from the mid-Atlantic coastal waters of the United States, typically between Virginia and New York, has not been found to contain toxin, but without routine toxin screening there still is a potential risk."
A study published in the esteemed http://www.scielo.br, wrote of the smooth puffer, “Lagocephalus laevigatus, a species found in the Atlantic Coast of the United States, showed no considerable toxicity.”
The study then added something I just alluded to: “However, geographic distribution, seasonal and individual variation may produce different toxicity levels in puffers.”
Note that “seasonal” angle because that further hints at some sort of intake – and discharge -- of toxins.
All that said, one of the key points of the study was “their toxicity level is not completely known.”
All I know is neither the smooth nor northern puffer are toxic – when up this-a-way.
Below: Note the look-a-likenss between A) smooth puffer, and the B) Takifugu
A) Smooth puffer ...
B: Fugu fish.
Friday, August 05, 2016: South winds are back but not for long. Tomorrow will see cold front with accompanying west winds – then northeast – over the next few days. It still looks like tomorrow will be nice, though chances of gusts and T-storms.
Today saw a powerful north wind swell lingering out there. Loads of rescues by lifeguards. Here’s a FB post.
Some of Holgate's / LBTBP finest, after another multi person, grueling rip current rescue on beach 3 today. Thanks guys!!— with Jake Lane and James Den Uyl.