Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Coho Just Ain’t Chinook;

Anglers Seek Their Share




COSTLY COHO: The world of bogus labeling of seafood took a hit to the groin last week. To the total dismay of Douglas Jay, a Canadian  residing in Ferndale, Washington, the kick was squarely on his, uh, most sensitive areas, namely his wallet and freedom. 

His crime: Mislabeling Coho salmon as Chinook salmon.

Uh, OK.

In fishmonger circles, it’s well known that fatty Chinook, a.k.a. king salmon, is the supreme salmon. To an ulu-wielding Inuit, it’s the tastiest thing this side of raw walrus blubber.

A mere rung or two down the desirability ladder is the less fatty Coho salmon, often called silver salmon, because of its shiny almost metallic skin color.

The dissimilarity twixt the two salmonids is not terribly discernable for the average eater. In fact, even discriminating diners can’t tell the difference when the meat is cooked. It’s sashimi and sushi products that tell the whole taste and texture story. The fatty flesh of Chinook salmon all but melts on the tongue, while coho is tougher, far less tender and actually requires some unsophisticated tearing when eaten raw.   

It was that raw difference -- which actually took years for refined palettes to finally detect -- that eventually sold Jay down the river. And that river was way tougher than the fishmonger figured. Found in violation of the Lacy Act, by falsely labeling fish that was sold in interstate and foreign commerce, he sorta bought the farm.  

The US attorney's office in Washington state announced that Jay would be doing a year in prison, two years of supervised release, and had to render a $347,202 “community service” payment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation. In the wake of the sentence, he lost his business and his boats/possessions

But why the wickedness of the sentencing?

Simply put: volume. 

Between May 2005, and mid-2007, Jay sold over 160,072 pounds of Coho-called-Chinook salmon worth  $1.3 million.

In seeking a serious sentence, prosecutors wrote, “(Jay) gained a substantial profit from his scheme to defraud customers. His conscious and calculated decision to substitute lower value salmon allowed him to capture a sizable market share by underselling honest competitors engaged in truthful packaging and labeling practices.... Mr. Jay's fraudulent practices not only gained him a competitive advantage, they also served to undermine consumer confidence in the seafood industry. This loss of confidence inflicts harm on those who rely on consumer confidence for their livelihood.”
The reason tales like this hit home is the commonness of such flagrant mislabeling, sometimes within big supermarket chains. A few years back, I saw one of my favorite stores offering a “Manager’s Special” on winter flounder -- that wasn’t.

I knew at first glance the fillets were absolutely not costly flounder but, instead, a very cheap barely-imitation “sole.” What’s more, it was being sold as fresh, when it had clearly been thawed out.

Using my inside voice, I advised the store’s “special” manager of the well-iced faux fillets. He was indignantly fervent in assuring his winter flounder fillets were the real deal.

Since I like the supermarket – and didn’t want to get banned, soup-Nazi- style -- I casually ended with, ‘Well, if you get caught, it’s no skin off my back.” I walked away, getting a self-chuckle over my filet-appropriate  “no skin off my back.”

Interestingly, a couple days later I was shopping in said supermarket and the manger’s special had magically changed to “Colossal Shrimp.” I guess I could have joined the perpetual gripers squad by then complaining to the manager that, to me, a shrimp doesn’t qualify as colossal until it takes no fewer than three burly fishermen equipped with automatic weapons and  rocket-propelled grenades to take it down. it in.

Anyway, I asked the fish department weigher if the winter flounder had sold out. He said, “No. Turns out they sent us the wrong filets.”

You don’t say.

I chuckled openly and looked for the manager – glancing him as he ducked behind a nearby display of artichokes.

WRECK, RESCUE AND READY: Every now and again I take a blogment (blog moment) to offer sincere sky-high praises to our local emergency response crews, from the fire departments to police to first aid squads to paramedics to (visiting) medevac chopper crews.

When things go bad in these parts, a multi-faceted response effort is loosed, as was evidenced midday Sunday in the wake of yet another ugly crash on 9th street and Central Avenue, Ship Bottom -- the Wawa and Ron-Jon Intersection.

I won’t guess at how the two vehicles stumbled upon each other, though witnesses said there was possibly a missed red light by one of the drivers. Ship Bottom’s finest will piece all that together. And there were, in deed, tons of glass pieces, as the aftermath sweep-up of the scene would prove.

I heard of the wreck on my police scanner, about 11:15. It came out as a 2-vehicle 10-15A with overturn. That’s police radio lingo for a motor vehicle accident with injuries and a vehicle no longer on all four. 

While I’m really no longer big on chasing such emergency stuff, it was only 10 blocks from my house and the grandmother in me came out, nagging that someone I know just might be involved. Hey, they say the majority of accidents occur only a few miles from home.

When I got there, I saw an upright Pathfinder SUV vehicle, mid-intersection, looking quite depressed amid tons of shattered glass. Its front was accordioned. And that vehicle was the winner, so to speak. The other vehicle was a minivan on its roof. While minivans can be an easy roll, a witness told me that the overturned vehicle had actually gone airborne after being struck.

Frightening, within the overturned vehicle was an 83-year-old woman. She was trapped, hanging suspended.

That’s when the astounding effort by emergency crews came to the fore. Within minutes of the impact, PDs from Ship Bottom, Long Beach Township and Surf City were on-scene, offering initial first aid, and, just as importantly, trying to redirect traffic -- to keep things from going from bad to downright atrocious. Folks don’t realize the dire traffic danger immediately after an accident, as unsuspecting drivers hit the impact zone – sometimes literally. If you watch those reality TV video shows, traffic accidents seem to all but attract copycat accidents.  

While trying to slow motorists, officers at this congested accident scene also had to make room for a veritable battalion of arriving fire trucks, not to mention a slew of ambulances from the Beach Haven and Surf City first aid squads.

Within 15 minutes of the first call, the emergency manpower on-scene easily approached 40 first-responders. I have to point out that nearly all these fine folks are volunteers, most having broken away from their jobs. No, that’s not a break fro them. It’s truly a bitch when you have to drop everything, instantly shift mental gears and head into critical care territory. Then, just try to get your working mentality back after the emergency.

In this accident, the most pressing task for the responders was trying to medically stabilizing  the woman while gently trying to untrap her.

After nearly 25 minutes of touch-and-go extrication efforts, including some strategic window breaking, fire company members, along with medical personnel, eventually loosed the lady and maneuvered her through the busted out rear window.

Even then, the rescue effort was not over.

Fire trucks and police cruisers broke from the crash scene to ready a medevac (medical evacuation helicopter) landing zone over at the Ethel Jacobson School, Surf City/Ship Bottom. Soon afterwards, the final phase of response was literally hovering over the school, readying for a ball field landing. The state chopper picked up the stabilized patient and flew her to a critical care hospital in Atlantic City.  

I can say without hesitation, our area offers as fine an emergency response effort as anywhere in the nation. Makes me wanna run out and get wounded. (That’s a joke, son – believe me. Pain and I have never been on speaking terms.)

By the by, make damn sure to donate to those various emergency squads during their fund drives. In many ways, it’s like having your own ER team at the ready.

TRACK ABOUT: I did some afternoon tracking in on Sunday, in response to yet another emailer claiming the woods near his house is all but coyote headquarters.

Recent rains laid out fresh dirt and slick mud, ideal for holding tracks. It made my look-about an easy read. I read no coyotes for miles around the area -- plenty of possum, coons, skunks, rabbits and, of course, deer.

I’m not sure that these often alarmed folks are seeing that makes them think these wild canines are overrunning their neighborhoods but it sure as hell ain’t coyotes in most cases.

My sighting of the day was a huge rafter of wild turkeys. They were disinterestedly crossing a dirt road, parade-style, right in front of my stopped truck. One or two would pop from the underbrush and hurry across. Then, a pause, before three more would zip across, post haste. Then, one would slowly saunter out, all but humming to itself, followed by one hauling ass for all it was worth. It was kinda comical. I went from “Oh, there’s big turkey – and another one,” to “How many frickin’ turkeys are in this pageant?” I lost count at 20-some, including a few toms and a ton of hens.

Then I got home and read where a Stafford Township police officer had to execute a wild and wooly turkey that was allegedly “wreaking havoc” on Rte 72. The blasted bird had caused at least one collision, when a motorist did a dime-stop to avoid making the turkey into road pate – and got plowed into for his humane efforts.

The done-in turkey had been living, seemingly happily, in Ocean Acres but for some reason decided to high-tail it outta suburbia for the open road. Not unexpectedly, the tale of the tom turkey’s high-caliber demise has exploded onto the World Wide Web. Just wait until the National Coalition for the Advancement of Wild Turkeys gets wind of this.

GOING SHARE SEARCHING: Can we talk technical stuff for a minute. All it has to do with is the entire future of recreational fishing.

A very interesting thing is happening down in the Gulf o’ Mexico. Its famed red snapper has made a fully astounding comeback. This near top-shelf species has prolifically parlayed the Deepwater Horizon oil bust-out into an opportunity to bust forth with, well, babies. In just a year or so – under little or no fishing pressure -- red snappers have amazingly re-populated, zipping back onto the viably species map.

For now, we’ll sidestep the amazing ability of certain types of fish to rapidly recover when given half a chance. It’s what might be called the moratorium response.

Anyway, with way more snappers on-scene in the Gulf, there will soon be a revisiting of the existing allocation system, which allows commercial fishermen 51 percent of the poundage and anglers 49 percent.

Here’s where it gets interesting – and quickly moves closer to our angling dominion.

The recreational sector down south is currently making a power move for a much larger cut of the increased red snapper poundage.

Bandying about technical data, the case is being made that species, such as grouper or snapper, are worth three to four times as much to the national economy when caught by recreational fishermen versus commercial fishermen.

I have oft written that the Magnuson Act dictates that fisheries must be managed – by law, as it were -- to maximizes the worth of the resource.

Recreationally caught fish are worth a mint per pound, when factoring in the money spent by sportsmen for boats, equipment, fuel, lodging, bait, permits, tackle, more tackle, more bait, coffee and energy drinks.

That worth-per-fish is somehow mysteriously lost to the powers that be within fishery management. I have seen committees and councils blatantly ignore the trickle-down economics of our sport’s cottage industries, which are deeply anchored within the entire tourism realm – one of the nation’s most valuable assets. What’s more, those angling-related industries are still growing in economic significance. Simply, fish caught by sportsmen are escalating in value. 

Why is this issue rearing up right about now? Until recently, virtually all fishery management efforts heave been immersed in trying to stop over-harvesting. Now, there are a few species that offer management the luxury of upwardly allocating poundage, for both the commercial and recreational sectors. The recreational sector has got to rally for its fair share. 

DISCLAIMER: All this is not meant to even remotely suggest that commercially caught fish aren’t sky-high in value –and a public service of the highest order. As I say many times a year, commercial fishermen feed me – and the nation. Of course, I’m not sure of the efficacy of exporting our nationally-owned fish resources to other nations. Those EEZ-caught fish surely belong in-country. Every time I see the world’s finest tuna get caught by our guys, then rushed first-class off to Tokyo, I think, “What are we Americans, chopped liver?”

When I fight for recreational shares, I’m astounded when commercialites go bonkers, attacking me as if I’m anti-commercial fishing. How is it they get to attend meetings and management sessions, noisily stumping for bigger and better quotas but when I do the exact same thing, seeking optimal quotas and poundage for anglers, I’m some kinda cretin? How the hell does that work?

RUN-DOWN: I chatted with a fellow who has been heavily working the (Mullica) river -- and doing very decently. He’s nabbed quite a few fish, including keeper-sized stripers, taken at Graveling Point.

He’s a catch-and-releaser. What makes that fairly astounding is his willingness to dig deep, wallet-wise, to buy plenty of only the best bloodworms.

Note: Some bloodies are better (sometimes way better) than others, both in size and also freshness.

Not only is this angler willing to go through a slew of bass worms, but he also told me he’s found that the only real way to consistently take coldwater stripers is to go gob. He all but overloads his hooks with whole worms, and then jams on another one for good measure. He even quickly swaps out any pale and bled-out worms, replacing them with costly new recruits. Result: He’s having lots of luck.

Per this angler, there hasn’t been that much of a tide pattern to his better hooking sessions. Always helpful are onshore or side-ass wind conditions at Graveling point. This gets the bottom stirred up, coaxing the bass within casting distance.

FORSAKEN PLUGS: I had a surprise package left off on my steps. It was over 40 plugs, semi-vintage (1970s), mainly smaller saltwater artificials, some in real nice conditions, including mirrored Red Fins with not so much as a speck of reflection missing. Many of the left-off lures are too nice to actually fish. 

Interestingly, there is also a group of classic wooden poppers that had never been finished. These are literally blanks with rigging but no hooks. Factory-seconds? I'll be having some fun getting these up and running, colors-wise.

As to the story behind this bag of fishing fineries, it turns out the bag had been chucked out by folks (over)energetically emptying a house. The plugs were amid loads of perfectly good stuff left curbside for trash day. Also in the dump-off were rods, reels and two unsigned wooden handcrafted decoys. Total value of just what I heard about was easily $1,000.

How often does that happen? A whole lot, I kid you not. Folks move away, pass away or fade away and the newbies taking over -- often other family members wanting to rearrange things their way -- couldn't give a rat's ass about the prized possessions of the former folks. It’s kinda sad, but I guess that's one of those vicious life-goes-on things. 



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