Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Thur. Sept. 3, 09 -- Sushi chatter on a platter

Thursday, September 03, 2009. Waves: Still kicking up out there as north winds persist. Water clarity: fair to good.

Holgate is easily accessible at low tide. Some small blues and fluke being caught. With the rough surf and tonight’s full moon you MUST exit Holgate during higher tides.

It’s odd in this business of blogging how things you think will create some response and stuff that seems unmoving create a stir. Such it has been with – of all things – sushi. I wrote a kinda critical email response about how tough it is to find any nearshore fish species that sashimi up from well. While I enjoy rawing up many of the big name nearshore gamefish, I have found nearly everyone I tried to get aboard the sashimi (raw fish) train, have seldom tried seconds – as in second bites. However, I’ve gotten half a dozen emails in short order taking me to task – in a friendly way, mind you – about just how tasty the likes of fluke, striper, weakfish, winter flounder and, yes Virginia, even bluefish can be when sliced thin and downed a la sushi.

Here’s a bluefish backer.
“I’m one of those people that actively like bluefish – to catch, and to eat, including raw. Immaculately fresh, it is dynamite. Call me nuts….” David N.
Going a lot further is a sushi aficionado: “Jay, you know that NJ health regulations only permit restaurants to serve tuna raw with no required freezing period? All other sushi is required to be deep frozen to a temperature, and for a time, sufficient to kill parasites.

“I am going to have to disagree on you assessment of two species, fluke and striped bass. I think fluke is one of the least fishy fishes, I find it tastes "bready," and it is a favorite sushi choice. I also looove striped bass, although most of what is sold as striped bass in sushi restaurants appears to be tilapia. Neither fluke nor striped bass are as strong in flavor as yellowtail, and I always thought that yellowtail was something even novices love.

“Bay scallops, I have eaten right out of the water, and I have simply placed on a grill for a moment, and either way, they are amazing, and by all means, eat everything in that shell , not just the abductor muscle.

This is my first comment ever, so I am letting loose; can I ask a question: where can I gather mussels? Patrick C.”
After Patrick’s post showed up. Our buddy Brian “Garbagefish” Lodge wrote:
“ … the recent post about the emailer inquiring on inshore jersey sashimi/sushi species that might work out. This is a post after my own heart. I've bravely been eating blue fish (cheek only) sashimi for about 10 years now. It's not tuna, let's not kid, but it's doable. I first did it to freak out some buds on a trip and have been doing it ever since. Not regularly, but when the blue is big enough to provide some cheeky meat and the rest for the smoker, I'm a keeper. A couple a year. But, this year's quarry was Searobin sashimi. I first had fluke sashimi at the Engleside and have been enjoying it ever since. Definately not like salmon or tuna in velvety texture, but I enjoy it. Searobin stacks up similar to fluke in texture, maybe even a bit firmer, but the flavor is very pleasant. I know purests don't over dose the wasabi and soy but with a subtle dip this fish can be a fine sashimi dish in my opinion. Def. worth a try. Check out this dish I made for the wifey. http://www.garbagefish.com/searobinsashimi.htm

“Haven't tried skate sashimi and don't think I'll go for dogfish, but what about Stargazer....huh? Keep up the good work. Brian Lodge
I’ll stop here and offer my Ning response to Patrick:
“I fully appreciate what you're saying and agree 1,000 percent. However, in my sushi-making exuberance, I would have frequent sushi parties for folks I was trying to sell on raw fish. It never went over very well – except when serving folks like yourself, who are actually far more advanced in their sushi appreciation. Please feel free to try the same. Maybe I simply have friends with unrefined (meat and potatoes) tastes.
“I had another email praising bluefish as sushi-able material. That’s even above and beyond my taste buds -- and I even sashimi-ize the cocktail blues.
“Many people don’t realize the superb quality of IQF (fast-frozen) fish products. I probably shouldn’t let this chef trick out of the bag but high-production sushi restaurants often mechanically thin slice hard frozen fish. The cuts are immaculate when they thaw. In fact, I always know this method is being used when the sushi fish is paper thin and perfect. Unfairly, your finest sashimi slicers can routinely match this cutting perfection. If you don’t see the fish being cut before your eyes, you have to wonder how it got so thin. Truth be told, it can still taste amazing even when a slicing machine does the work.
Thanks for the input – I’ll likely use it in next week’s column.”
As for those mussels, I’ve been eating them from just about everywhere. I have eaten the ones off ocean jetties (winter only). I have eaten the ones that wash up in mats now and again along the beachfront. I have eaten the ones clumped on the mudflats of Holgate. I have even eaten ribbed mussels forked out from from the sod banks.
As for actually harvesting them, the only place I do that is near the edges of sedges, Little Egg Harbor – low tide.
I wouldn’t eat any from bayside docks and such. Mussels are maniacal filter feeders, essentially purifying gallons and gallons of water daily. That means the funky stuff is within them. That’s why I prefer those mussels in the ocean or around the inlet zones.
I have to admit that buying them from a dealer is the best bet.
By the by, there is absolutely no way to know ahead of time how gritty mussels might be. Obviously, careful cleaning of each mussel – and the removal of the beard – helps the cause but I’ve done everything, including overnight purges, and some batches are just gritty as all get-out. Kinda ruins them for me. I have even had some loaded with tiny little pearls. I kid you not.

Very significant AP story:::::: Note the part that reads: “Commercial fishing practices have contributed to changes in the composition of the region's fishery population, which is now dominated by species such as mackerel, herring, skates and small sharks, the report says.”

NMFS finds ecosystem shift off New England and Mid-Atlantic ocean waters
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Associated Press] - September 2, 2009 - PORTLAND, Maine, The basic makeup of the ocean waters off the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic region has fundamentally changed in the past 40 years because of climate change, commercial fishing pressures and growing coastal populations, according to a new report.

The 2009 Ecosystem Status Report says fish populations in U.S. waters from North Carolina to Maine have moved from their traditional home grounds because of a changing environment and human activities.

The report is the broadest study that researchers have undertaken for U.S. waters in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, Michael Fogarty, who headed the study, said Tuesday. The findings show how interconnected the ecosystem is, he said.

'We need to consider these interrelationships and connections. In some cases they aren't obvious on the surface,' said Fogarty, head of the ecosystem assessment program at the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. 'If we ignore them or don't understand them, then we could come away with the wrong picture of what's driving things.'

Fogarty's research team looked at variables such as water temperatures, circulation patterns, fishing pressure, pollution and habitat loss in a 100,000-square-mile (259,000 square kilometer) area off the Northeast and mid-Atlantic coast. The area is one of 64 regions in the world's oceans designated as a large marine ecosystem.

A recurring theme of the report is that the ecosystem is changing.

Commercial fishing practices have contributed to changes in the composition of the region's fishery population, which is now dominated by species such as mackerel, herring, skates and small sharks, the report says.

The change in the fish population mix is being felt by other species. For example, spiny dogfish sharks feed on silver hake, putting that type of bottom-dwelling fish under additional pressure.

The region's water temperatures are also on the rise, which affects where fish live.

Fish that prefer warmer waters - such as croaker in the Mid-Atlantic - are increasing in abundance in the region, Fogarty said. At the same time, fish such as cod are moving north in search of colder waters, causing a shift in their population range.

If the waters continue to get warmer, traditional fishing grounds could be hurt.

'If the projections for climate change hold, places like Georges Bank could potentially get marginal,' he said, referring to fishing grounds off the Massachusetts coast.

There are some bright spots in the report. Scallop populations and lobster stocks in the Gulf of Maine are strong, and haddock and redfish populations have staged comebacks in recent years.

Still, the pressures on the ecosystem are likely to increase with climate change, coastal development and fishing activities. A better understanding of those pressures and will lead to better management and mitigation strategies, Fogarty said.

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