Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Lady Blows Up Over Blowfish; Things Are Getting Squirrely

The Fish Story

Lady Blows Up Over Blowfish; Things Are Getting Squirrely


I have waited until blowfish season has flown/swum the coop to mention an unnecessarily testy email and phone call I got from an apparently easily irritated female. I quickly realized she exuded the famous adage “A little knowledge can be a dumb-ass thing.”

It was during an unadvised call-in (after her email) that she got my goat – though I positively don’t have a goat, per se. (That’s all I need: the health department nosing around to see if I’m keeping random farm animals in my yard. Hey, this Island can be strict that way. Hell, it turned down my proposed backyard buffalo farm without even trying the Bay Seasoned buffalo jerky I was handing out.)

Anyway, Little Miss Goat-getter was superciliously accusing me of – and I wish this was some sort of prank – diabolically hyping the eating of pufferfish, with which we were blessed this summer.

Her exact, snottily written – then double-snottedly spoken – words: “I hope you realize people in New Jersey have died from eating those blowfish.”

Well, just fugu me. (That’s an inside puffer joke.)

The weird part is I instantly knew what she was ranting about, being fully aware of the New Jerseyans who were felled by bad blowfish.

Now, lady and gents, are you ready for – the rest of the story?

(Paul Harvey was the coolest, most clever socio-political commentator that ever lived; way ahead of his time. To catch up on his coolness, go to YouTube and type in Paul Harvey to hear dozens and dozens of his spot-on reports.)


In 2002, the Sparta (NJ) Health Department reported two truly nasty cases of neurotoxic poisoning in two elderly persons who had consumed good-old Eastern blowfish meat. While neither victim died, they were never again quite themselves. The word “neurotoxin” speaks to those ends.

I knew the famed (among neurotoxin fans) Sparta incident was the lone reference point of my misaligned detractor.

Ma’am, those blowfish poisonings, though taking place in the puffer-eating Garden State, had nothing to do with Jersey’s own roly-poly, fast-inflating blowfish. The toxic puffers on the hot seat had, in reality, been caught in a lagoon off the Indian River in Titusville, Fla. I even know the exact spot where they were caught, right down to the actual lagoon, having fished the general area for redfish and ladyfish.

Per a medical report on the Sparta incident: “The (Florida) fish were gutted, cleaned, filleted and frozen by the fisherman and later transported in a frozen state to the family members in New Jersey.”

I’ll duly note that virtually nobody in Florida – short of yours truly, when visiting – eats the blowfish down there. So why would they be caught, cleaned and transported all the way up here? Comment by the puffer transporter: “I knew they ate them up in Jersey.” I see a spot of logic there. No, wait a minute; that was just a smudge on the report.

The medical report said the two seniors eating the toxic Floridian puffer pieces immediately experienced tingling around the mouth, followed by chest pains. They were hospitalized. One was placed on life support.

I’m sure not going to joke about being fish-poisoned like that. It sounds scary as hell, especially for someone (namely, me) who is willing to try a bite of anything even remotely seafoodish.

Despite my explanation and accompanying geography lesson, my caustic caller snubbed my rest of the story. So, I followed up by reading, verbatim, the US Food and Drug Administration’s stance on blowfish: “Puffer fish caught from the mid-Atlantic coastal waters of the United States do not contain deadly toxins and are considered safe to eat. They are less expensive than imported puffer fish and may be found in markets or restaurants. However, puffer fish caught off the east coast of Florida should not be eaten because the entire fish is potentially toxic.”

Shortly thereafter, she hung up – wordlessly.

By the by, although seemingly getting on in years, this gal was a very articulate, former schoolteacher. My guess is she might have known the puffer-poisoned folks. That softening of my stance is me dreading a follow-up call.

PS: I ate many an “East Coast” Floridian blowfish, all caught from the neurotoxically suspect Indian and Banana Rivers. But not before a tingle test.

I had been taught by an airboat-riding, hyper-carousing, back-swamp Central Florida family to always try a wee piece of cooked puffer fish before going all-out on them. Any sign of “the tingles” and “you got you some bad puffer there, boy.” Even a minuscule amount of toxic fish will offer a substantial mouth tingle, way before a dangerous amount is ingested.

CAN’T WAIT TO TRY: I sneak a squirt of mouth-numbing Anbesol or OraGel into the cocktail sauce served with some perfectly fine Jersey blowfish. Then, as folks are merrily dipping and chomping on the fish, I nonchalantly bring up the topic of how deadly toxic blowfish always cause mouth tingles. Then, video running, I sit back and watch the numbness, tingling and panic set in among the diners. Oh, YouTube is gonna love this.

UNEAGER EAGLE: The eagle has not landed in Holgate – since last week.

When it was hanging there, it was indeed a beaut. Didn’t do all that much. It mainly just sat around, oozing “Ain’t I a beaut?”

Jim V. got some great photos, at http://exit63.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/315.jpg or Google “Readings From the Northside.”

In the wake of its quick stopover, more than a few birders have rushed to Holgate to get a gander at the majestic adult raptor. Again, it has seemingly flown the coop.

I didn’t see the eagle. However, I’ve been eyeing some large hawks, just like the bugger that ate one of my backyard laughing gulls – which, upon being talon-ed, remarked, “This is no laughing matter” before going down with what sounded like a weak chuckle. I love a good sense of humor. There’s something about humor that makes me laugh.

For bird, dolphi, and whatever updates, check out my website, jaymanntoday.ning.com.

SQUIRRELY BEHAVOIR: I was deep in the woods on Saturday and it was alive with the sound of squirrel music, as those rambunctious, tall-tailed critters scurried around in an almost insane, nut-gathering frenzy.

Wild squirrels are nothing like our semi-domesticated, telephone pole models – the ones that love the hell outta tightrope-walking my backyard clothesline, occasionally slipping into an upside-down swinging position, to the squealish delight of their buddies.

Hometown squirrels are also the ones that routinely tap on the back door – standing there on their back legs, politely looking in, to announce the bird feeder is somehow totally empty yet again.

On the feral foot, the wild Pinelands squirrels are not overly people-friendly, due in large part to being blasted into squirrel smithereens by shotgun-toting hunters with a penchant for blasting the life out of inedible furry things. Many squirrel hunters bandy about IQs challenged by the gauge of their shotguns.

By the same unsavory token, squirrel ribs and kabobs are becoming an emerging dining craze in certain parts of our nation. I’m serious as squirrel s***. There are now a slew of squirrel recipes leaking into the mainstream mouths of, mainly, Southerners. Yum. Do they have soy squirrel burgers yet?

Size-wise, wild squirrels are gordos. They make our backyard squirrels look anorectic. This is further reason why wild gray squirrels wind up in the crosshairs of so many protein-seeking, redneck epicureans, virtually all named Billy Bob.

But back to my recent squirrel surveillance session.

During the summer, I’ll barely see a squirrely tail tip before the critter goes arboreal. They’re skittish and secretive. But this past weekend, these otherwise supremely secretive rodents weren’t payin’ me no nevermind. Instead, they were frantically foraging right smack in front of me, their mouths often absurdly jammed with acorns or pine cones.

The outback squirrels conveyed such a sense of urgency that I found myself getting a bit, well, squirrely. I had to fight off an aboriginal urge to pick up every acorn I saw on the ground. Hey, the wilderness in fall time can press all these primal buttons within us. Uh, I wonder what this button is for?

I bring up this squirrel-sighting session as yet another embryonic indicator of the arriving winter. Rapt acorning activities by squirrels are allegedly an irrefutable, almanac-esque portent of a harsh winter to come. Screw advanced global warming research or improvements in the tracking of weather-directing jet stream nuances – it all comes down to the wisdom of squirrels. That’s a bit nutty.

CLASSIC COMETH: This is the last advisory before we change to LBI Surf Fishing Classic time, an eight-week stretch of friendly angling aggression during which hundreds of avid anglers fish for Island hooking honors – and a slew of prizes, including healthy doses of good old dinero.

To help the reach-the-beach fishing cause, virtually all of LBI’s traffic signals will be switched to a blinking cycle for Monday’s Classic start. This signal change is done to show sheer respect for the event.

OK, so maybe the change in the traffic signals (for winter) has nothing to do with the Classic. But getting from one potential fishing beach to another sure comes a lot easier with the Boulevard on the blink – and speed limits increased.

Please note that unusual Monday start to the tourney. It allows anglers down for Chowderfest Weekend to make a long weekend out of it by taking off Monday – or the entire week – to kick off the tourney.

I’ve been emphasizing the Classic’s special money prizes being offered in the name of the late Frank Panzone. There will be a single-day prize of $1,000 on Oct. 16 and another of $500 on Nov. 16. However, the Classic’s prize schedule is torrid above and beyond those two, big-bass bonuses. The list of prizes can be found in the brochure you get with the sign-up.

A Classic website is being finalized. More on that soon.

SALP ATTACKS: “Captain, the salps are closing in from all quarters! The deflector shields can’t hold!”

“Stay calm, Scotty! They’re already making a sequel to this episode so we’ll obviously make it out of this just fine.”

Sorry, the word salps just has an odd, intergalactic ring to it.

Closer to reality: For the second year in a row, rafts of gelatinous salps are washing ashore.

Inaccurately dubbed “jellyfish eggs,” these little gobs of clear jelly usually aren’t a big hassle for anglers – until they get as thick as they are now.

When conspiring against fishing line, salps can weigh a line down so badly that they create a big, glittering arc in it. I felt the salping effects. My plugging line began picking up way too much jelly, creating a slew of slack. That’s never a good thing when trying to make a high-speed hookup. I was forced to abandon plugging because of salps. That’s a new one.

RUNDOWN: Small bluefish are out and about. A few bass are lurking. Surf fishing, as a whole, has sorta sucked. I can assure one and all that will soon change.

A couple more red drum have shown. Oddly, they are going for just about everything. I kid you not. I even heard of one going for a speck of bloodworm on a rig meant for kingfish, which have seemingly moved on except for some stragglers. The Ava jig thing worked again for a buddy of mine (his second redfish), as did a teaser ahead of a popper for a fellow landing a 10-pounder (released). I haven’t heard of puppy drum on a popper just yet.

BUGGY BANTER: Since the front beaches are now open to buggying (HC, SC, SB, LBT and BH), we have to keep a close watch over all the Island’s beach lines. I’ll be reconnoitering, but please let me know if you see erosional problems, even if you’re a walk-on angler – pulling along one of those cool, hand-drawn, rod-holder thingamajigs with wheels. I think they’re great; might make a perfect, early Christmas present for that special walk-on angler in your life.

Hopefully you saw the video I took of mullet trapped in the gauntlet at the Rip yesterday evening. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnWvnPVBfmw&feature=youtu.be.

See http://jaymanntoday.ning.com/profiles/blogs/beach-buggy-banter-for-...

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