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222 18th Street
Ship Bottom, NJ
Sunday, November 30, 2008: Waves: rapidly building north swell to 6 feet.
You know when I don’t get in some significant outdoors time it pretty much sucks out there.
Today’s total degradation of weather really hurt the thousands of boat anglers fully fired up and ready to continue their banging of a bass bonanza of monumental size and distribution.
While I didn’t get a huge number of reports at the height of Friday and Saturday’s super striper hooking, I got a load of aftermath tales from within what must have been just about the entire striper seeking population. Hundreds and hundreds of boats working prime grounds. I’m talking mainly the Barnegat Inlet fleet.
I did get one update. Turns out there was a much higher keeper count than I was first led to believe – by listening to radio chatter and such. Not only were there plenty enough 28-inch-plus fish to go around but there were a goodly number of bass in the 20-pound range. I also found out that way more anglers eat fish than I had thought. I heard many folks talking about putting fish in the freezer for the winter.
Striper note: Striped bass does, in fact, freeze exceptionally well -- on par with the all-time freezable filet, fluke. And there aren’t major tricks needed when freezing bass. Per any freezing process, fillets should be cut and sorted into similarly sized portions; 4- to 6-ounce units are ideal. Plastic bags still work best. Solid freezing, in the likes of used milk carts and such, is a bit overrated, as I’ve found after much experimentation.
Stripers should not be frozen in large elongated fillets. This is because the thin part freezes and thaws faster than the thick part, not a good culinary thing. Never double over or scrunch up filets – too much air, making an ideal atmosphere for freezer burn (the worst taste to befall any fish product).
Unlike catfish and some other made-to-be-frozen species, it is not a good idea to add sauces or spices to about-to-be-frozen fillets. These are often salt-laden. Salt is a fast-acting desiccant, meaning it draws moisture rapidly out of the fish flesh. The drawn out moisture gathers inside the bag before the freezing process sets in. This leaves a dehydrated filet and a chunk of frozen fish juice.
Best way to thaw bass (and most fish fillets) is to take it from the freezer well before usage. Allow it to sit in the upper shelf of the fridge (overnight works well), allowing the crystals to slowly melt away, minimizing the damage to the flesh and leaving the closest thing to fresh you can get after freezing.
Travesty: Using thaw cycle on microwave.
Emergency thaw: In a pan or bowl, place the number of bagged proportions needed to be defrosted for a meal, then fill the container with water, place under a faucet and slowly run water in. This cuts defrost time down to an hour or so.
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We took a couple of days off to enjoy the holiday with family and friends, but did make it out several times both before and after the big day to find cooperative fish all along the beachfront. The number of fish and the amount of bait out there right now is nothing short of amazing. Most days we've been finding miles and miles of sand eels stretched along the beach but this week alone we've also had peanut bunker, adult bunker, herring and anchovies in the mix. And to give you an idea how thick they are, these are just the species that have been accidentally snagged while jigging for bass. Certainly the stripers have been enjoying their own Thanksgiving feast this year, and it looks like it's going to continue right through the New Year.
We wrapped up our charter season yesterday, with George Selph and Bob Keller being back aboard for one final go at the striped bass. When jig fishing proved a little slow, we switched over to trolling tubes and had consistent action the rest of the morning with over 50 bass coming into the boat before calling it a day. Typical of the mix this time of year, most of the fish this week have been in the 25" to 28" class, but there are enough keepers around that everyone's been going home with bags of tasty filets for dinner. There are still some nice bluefish in the 10-12 pound category around to test the tackle, but with the rapidly falling water temps the mix is now 10-15 bass for each blue... perfect for us light tackle guys.
Capt. Jack Shea
Barnegat Bay Fishing Charters