Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Saturday, July 30, 2011:

So, whadda ya wanna talk about? Hopefully, not the final day of the 42nd Annual WMIT.

You know, I gotta call it as it is. Despite 60 out of 68 participating boats/teams heading out for this last seemingly sure-to-please day, it was anything but pandemonium at the scales today. In fact, I kept wondering when the wildness would begin – right up to the end of the contest.

I had debated getting new software containing all the most shining adjectives, thinking I’d be writing about a day gone gonzo -- with the best anglers heading out to ideal conditions and rumors of marine life galore in the canyons.

I passed on that purchase and quickly began to worry when I got to the clubhouse early and saw Fish Hard, manned by the MJ team, already roped to the docks, awaiting the 4:30 start of weigh-in world. Like most folks, I thought “Wow, what’s on board today? Something to crown their big-eye from yesterday?”  I also thought, “Here we go. Day three blast-off.”

That sentiment cooled to a slow melt when the MJ boys assured me they didn’t have much of interest on-board. To the scales came their yft of 40.1 and 32.2. Seemed to me they had just gone through the motions, confidently knowing their previous day’s 226-pounder had their backs -- come awards time later that evening.

As the Fish Hard pulled away, the wait began. Fifty-some boats had yet to check in. Hopes for some exciting leaderboard jostling entries remained elevated. However, as boats began to show, it quickly became clear that cookie-cutter tuna would rule the day.

Dozens of seemingly mold-produced yellowfin, mainly in the 45 to 50-pound zone, began to show. Admittedly, they were fun to see -- and tons of trolling talent went into besting them. But, overall, the average size was actually down a bit from Thursday.

There was one decent jolt of exhilaration when the well-known Pez Machine came in with the white marlin flag flying. When the weigh-in boys needed me to move a bit in order to pull out the new white marlin measuring bar, it was another “Here we go” moment.

As the fish was hoisted off the Pez Machine, it was quickly recognized as a real true-blooded, DNA-toting white marlin. An anal vent check and a finger scratch of the scales/skin doubly proved that. No hatchet here. However, the true proving ground lay ahead.

The comely billfish was painstakingly and perfectly placed on the measurer. The big look was made. And there truly was no doubt: It was short. I’m thinking at least an inch and a quarter. It was state legal but undersized for the WMIT. 

Missing the marl was surely a downer for the fine folks aboard the Pez but I did detect the slightest resignation on the crew’s part, even as the fish was first being positioned for measuring. I’m not sure they thought it was going to make it. Some days you eat the marlin …

Odd Angle: I want to note that there is a theory that a billfish being brought into a tournament should be hung – literally. The thinking is the ride back to port will essentially stretch the hanging fish. When you’re talking a hook-up possibly being within a fraction’s fraction of the money, this stretch concept might stand on its on – or hang on its own, as the case may be.

I’ll venture an amateurish guess that any creature with back vertebra will, in fact, stretch a bit as it hangs. It has to do with something called gravity – and the way it pulls down on the ligaments and connective tissues. Morosely, back in the old human hanging days, it was apparently very obvious that necks were, in fact, dramatically stretched, prior to transport to Boot Hill. “Good news, Sheriff. This fellow’s now legal sized.”

By the same token, there is thinking that cold storing a fish can actually cause it to shrink. I won’t go too deeply into one of the more famous human examples of cold water causing bodily shrinkage but I’m thinking there’s a convincing point in there somewhere – you just need to look closely.

I’m not suggesting one form of billfish transport or another. For me, it’s just academically cool to ponder such thing, especially when a mere quarter inch length difference at a billfish tournament can mean a million bucks won or lost.

But back to the final day of the WMIT.

Along with the yft cookies, vessels Hot Tuna and Processor added some variety to the tuna weigh-in mix by entering gorgeous albacore/longfin tuna. The fish were in the 50 to 51-pound range.

What beautiful super-round (ultra-valuable) fish. Their freaky-long pectoral fins have turning ability written all over them. The albacore’s $100-a-pound-plus price in Japan tells you that an albacore’s hyper-rounded body is as fat-ful as tuna gets.

By the by, there is an odd misconception in America that the most desirable tuna meat is deep red. It’s just the opposite. Just ask around any of the famed fish markets (which I’ve done in NYC, San Fran and Honolulu). The light/white (when fresh) color of the fattiest portions of tuna means melt-in-the-mouth top-dollar excellence.

As for that “melt” concept, epicureans balk (gag) at the notion of ever needing to chew sashimi. If sashimi doesn’t instantly dissolve on the tongue, it’s only meant for the hoi-polloi.

Truth be told, as a dues paying hoi-polloi member, I’m kinda fine with sashimi that looks to me for some masticator support. Add to that the fact that melt-type sashimi tuna in Japan can run $100 for a single read-through piece, and I’m even more polloi-able.

Lest you think our NJ tuna are not in that tongue-melt league, a huge portion of Asia-gratifying tuna arrives directly from our EEZ zone.

So, could the tenderest of tuna arrive at the WMIT scales? Nope, not really. There’s this near religious series of bleeding, eviscerating, icing, storing and transporting disciplines  needed to capture the most sensational tuna, most often albacore. No WMIT contestant intending to enter a tuna for weight will lessen its weight by gutting, bleeding etc.  

In conclusion, the final day of weighing in for the 2011 WMIT placed virtually no pressure on the at-the-ready club crews. Still, the event’s throngs were once again loving the Skipper’s raw bar, Joey’s appetizers and the best hot buffet to date.

I’ll be taking a day to digest all the goings on then I’ll put up a final blog entry.

If anyone has thoughts, suggestions, praises or even critiques, please email me at jmann99@hotmail.com.

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