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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

 

Thursday, December 01, 2011: It’s still a bit rough a-sea out there. However, the NW winds have backed enough to allow for some relatively comfortable surf fishing. The one thing a bit missing is the bass and blues. This is not to say they’re not still in the house.

 

Fishing pressure has been reflecting the lost comfort level. I drove from SB south yesterday and passed scant few casters. I’ll cruise after work today and suspect a decent increase in anglers, though I’ve heard from more than a few folks that they’re now down to weekends-only fishing. “I took all the sick days I could,” was one remark.

 

Water temps bode well, although yesterday’s lingering swells and mucked up water made for a tough time on the sands. Only two fish reached the Classic, one bass and one blue. I will assure that a serious schoolie season should start soon UNLESS this whole baitfish mystery (still pretty much only sand eels) changes the late fall/early winter mannerism of bass in the 12-inch to 30-inch range. Will schoolies stay if forage fall short of fall expectations? Not as long as there are crabs in the house.

 

As you know, bass always default to eating crabs, the prime foodstuff throughout their entire lives. Oddly, we seldom monitor the stocks of what I call surf forage crabs, including sand/mole crabs, lady crabs, rock crabs, Jonah crabs and, occasionally, green crabs, spider crabs and wayward (swimmer) blue crabs.

 

By the by, The oft-called “crushers” in a bass throat truly seem to be a muscle mechanism meant to keep a still living meal down. Face it, bass consume large things that surely take some time to succumb to their stomach juices. It’s obvious that some heartier crabs, along with eels and tenacious forage fish, will actually try to invite themselves back out of a bass belly, thus the large throat muscles with rough skin surfaces that angle toward the stomach. It you’ve ever stuck a finger down a bass gullet to get a hook out, you’ll notice it slides in easily but hits a sandpapery resistance when pulling out. That sure seems to be a hold-in membrane.  

 

I’ve studied hundreds of bass stomach contents and have rarely found a pulverized smaller crab. I’ve found many crabs dissolved to hell and back. Quite disgusting. I have found recently-swallowed larger crabs a bit disheveled, shell-wise. That could be a partial throat crush but more likely it reflects the busted up condition the bass found them in, being optimistic feeders. It seems bass rely on stomach juices to dissolve nutrition from crabs then either regurgitate or otherwise expel and leftover material.

 

Back in my thicker-skinned days, I spent many hours idly watching bass while snorkeling/floating near jetties. It’s a very easy watch since bass often seem virtually fear-free around humans in the water. I frequently saw bottom-feeding bass suddenly purge themselves of everything in their stomachs, including what they ate. It looks a bit like one of those snowball you shake, as sand grains and shell pieces, as if they know when a sucked in load is worth the digestion effort or not. 

 

By the by, the swallow-and-digest concept explains why perfectly shelled surf clam meat is often found in bass bellies. They’re swallowed whole, juices kill and perfectly de-meat the clam, and the shells are adroitly jettisoned.

 

Speaking of surf clams, Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Inc., a Massachusetts company, has developed an ostensibly “new” surf clam product. It is, quite simply, surf clam sashimi.

 

For whatever uncanny reason, they’ve calling it “Happy Clam” Surf Clams. I just don’t think the clams are even remotely happy over the concept.

 

The company is taking our everyday surf clams, extricating the sturdier and meatier portion of the tongue and such, then thin slicing it for use at sushi bars near you.

 

This could catapult all surf clams into culinary celebrity status. That’s quite a launch since I’ve often been asked if surf clams are even edible. For decades, I was told they were NOT fit for human consumption. Ridiculous, of course. The surf clam industry is massively lucrative. It has long supplied product for mass-produced clam chowders and world-class clam strips.

 

What’s different about Happy Clams is its rawness. This is likely the first foray into eating them raw.

 

It should be noted that a huge part of the company’s clam claims revolved around the assurance that they’re harvesting clams “sustainably caught in the pristine waters off the coast of Massachusetts.”  

 

This I can assure, there are surf clams taken off the coast of South Jersey that are easily as pristine as those up north. I’m actually firing myself up for something I imagine is a superb sashimi item. My chopsticks are ready.

 

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