Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Riding the Wild Surf Striper;
Don’t Suffer Sushi Blindness
As I shop around for that seasonal pair of high-end sunglasses for angling and outdoorsing, I just have to go with Oakleys -- in a blazing gesture of Americanism.
You’re going to love this absolutely honest tale.
In Iraq and other turbulent zones of the Middle East, virtually all U.S. Marines and American soldiers faithfully wear Oakleys. And its actually causing international intrigue, so to speak.
The fact our troops don Oakleys is not strange at all – to us. They are optically sweet and super-stylish to boot, as homeland anglers, lifeguards and beach volleyball players know. However, they are literally cursed by Muslims.
Gospel truth: Both men and women in places like Iraq are heatedly convinced the sunglasses allow the American troops to see through their clothing, X-ray like. I swear.
Now, in one of my odder forms of patriotism -- I’ll dub it optical patriotism -- I will sport my Oakley sunglasses proudly. Take that, Habudabi.
There’s also a bonus side to those shades. I’ll soon be able to X-ray in on the most popular type of undergarments being worn by American gals. Hey, we’ve come a long way since those “X-ray glasses” you could only buy in the far back pages of Argosy and True magazine.
Side bar: Wouldn’t it be a riot to find that under all that gauzy jilbab worn by self-sanctimonious Muslim women reside the latest strapless push-up bras and these sizzling Victoria Secret G-strings? Hey, odder things have fostered a peace treaty.
ALL-ABOARD STRIPERING: I had a great sit-down, tale-telling session with Pete Kelly of Cedar Run. The focus was on an upper 40-pound striper he unconventionally took -- while a-paddle.
Last week, building-expert Pete was working an oceanfront home, mid-Island. As is his custom, he had a 10-foot “Ugly Stick” surf rod and Penn Reel near at hand, just in case some sudden beach angling action should arise. Not that his expectations were overly high. He had made runs to the surf in the past, never besting even a single keeper striper. All that was all about to change, beginning with a quick glimpse oceanward -- and the sighting of loads of busting bunker, maybe 100 yards out. It was a sure sign bass were below the nervous baitfish. However, the forage fish fuss was well beyond standard casting range.
Irresistibly egged on by the ongoing bait play, Pete opted to get at the action via a route less traveled. Grabbing a 9’-4” Infinity surfboat from the back of his truck, he went aggro.
Clad in just shorts, he put the 10-foot rod in his teeth, mounted the surfboard and hit the chilly water. He began paddling bunker-ward, a football field length away. One can only imagine what the bunker thought, seeing him splashing toward them, wide-eyed and chomping away at the huge surf rod.
Arriving on bunker-scene, Pete sat on his board, surfer-style. He de-mouthed his rod and employed the snag-and-drop method to snare some livelining bait. Easily foul-hooking a big bunkie, he let it drop. In nothing flat, there were a couple rapid-fire raps and the bait was gone – while Pete’s excitement level soared, knowing the stripers were down below and seemingly ravenous.
He re-bunkered, this time ending with a securely back-hooked bait. Within seconds after dropping, it was “Fish on!” – in a big-bass way. He had made a solid hookup.
Straddling his surfboard, the angler readied for the inevitable striper response.
When the cow bass realized it had met a bunker of seemingly astounding strength and stamina, it hit the flight button. It peeled straight seaward.
Despite using his legs like sea anchors, Pete found himself being hauled eastward – a solid hundred yards, in short order. But the fish was moving faster than the boarded fisherman. Line was also draining off Pete’s reel. By the time the fish was done its seaward dash, it had all but spooled the Penn. Pete had to opt for a last-resort battening down of the drag – something that often marks the kiss of goodbye for a big hookup. Fortunately, the fish had blown much of its wad in its wild run outward. The drag – and line – held.
The fight then settled down to those familiar north and south runs. The angler took the upper hand – momentarily.
After maybe 20 minutes of fight time, Pete got the fish in close enough to get his first gander at it. If his adrenaline flow hadn’t been pumped enough, it spiked to new heights upon eyeing the shadowy bulk of the angler’s first-ever mega-bass. Frayed nerves began to ping.
Then, as if on queue, the fish went into a series of last-gasp alligator rolls on the sea surface. This is one of the great break-off points in many a striper struggle. Pete could only keep a tight line and hope the fish wouldn’t slash its way to freedom, using sharp gill plate edges. It didn’t.
The final hauling in of the fish was not just tough and tense but also fully physical.
Showing me scrapes and bruises from the final landing, Pete told of going mano-a-mano with the spike-finned fish. In the midst of fighting to get it atop his surfboard, the fish even managed to swim over the top of the partially submerged surfboard and into the water on the other side, adding line entanglement problems to the affray.
It wasn’t until Pete managed to get his hand through the gill plate that the day was won – for the angler, anyway.
“When I finally had it next to the me, it just looked at me. It knew it was over,” recalls Pete.
But there was still the unslight matter of muscling two hundred yards back to the beach, with massive bass, rod and reel in tow. For this, ingenuity surfaced.
Removing his surfboard leash from around his ankle, Pete ran it through the mouth and gill of the fish, and then soundly tied it off. He fish was literally in-tow. Cramming the fish-slimed surf rod back into his mouth, the angler gritted and grunted back to shore – where a buddy video-ed Pete’s triumphant return.
“I had never caught a bass over 32 inches until then,” said Pete.
He also had an inkling of keeping the catch a secret. “I wasn’t going to tell anybody about catching this fish, but …”
Hey, the world deserves to hear that striper saga.
MY MOLA: Email: J, I heard there were rumors of a giant shark swimming around Mordecai Island last night (Monday). Not sure if you heard them. I can verify without a doubt that was not a shark, but a wayward Mola mola (ocean sunfish) stuck in the shallows.
On our way back from striper fishing last night around 8:30, my son spotted him by the green/red high marker by Mordecai. We drove alongside it a couple of times and could clearly see what it was, directly next to the boat. It was huge! I would estimate it was easily 500 lbs. B.”
Wow. Mola is my all-time favorite fish. I used to snorkel up to them (both here and in Hawaii) and scratch their bellies, which they love -- thinking it's cleaner wrasses or the likes. And, yes, they can royally scoot if they want to.
Dispelled myth: It was long alleged that Mola (sunfish) was the main source of McDonald's Filet–O-Fish. I went as far as calling the McDonald’s main office. Mola never was -- never will be -- a Mc-sandwich fish. Unless they’re Mc-lying their asses off.
SUSHI THIS: Per previous life experiences, I take immediate pause when I get a lengthy e-letter that begins with “Mr. Mann.” Sure, that’s my name but even in written form I can instantly tell whether it’s a nice “Mr. Mann” -- as cool schools kids use when writing me to frivolously answer some questions -- or a “Mr. Mann,” written in association with a snooty, stick-inserted attitude.
Since there is a shred of integrity to the following email -- from a fellow who seems to live hereabouts -- I’ll enter it into my column space as a gesture of open-mindedness – and an abiding desire to titter at most anything even remotely titterable.
Your column has often encouraged the eating of sushi and sashimi. I feel this is foolhardy. Raw fish has been a source of food poisoning around the world. Since the American public is new to this fad, too many people are unaware of the hazards. … I believe it is your responsibility to warn readers of the dangers every time one dines on raw fish and seafood products. …”
There was way more in this e-letter – parts of which indicates the writer is either a member of the meat-packing industry or escaped from a thought-secure facility and stumbled upon an internet café that serves cappuccinos spiked with entry-level vodka.
At one point, the writer even went so far as warning that a person “can go blind” from eating bad sushi. I had to wonder if maybe the writer got his wires crossed somewhere between adolescence and the raw bar. Long ago, penguin-ed nuns warned me of very similar ramifications from being “mortally bad” to my body. In tribute to the nun days, I’ll now preface my sushi/sashimi eating with the old self-gratifying response, “How about I do it until I need glasses?”
Anyway, the morsel of reality in this letter does deserve a wasabe-sized dab of consideration.
If you’re among the trillions now utterly enjoying raw fish – including raw shellfish – it’s admittedly a bit of a crapshoot. The cool part is how utterly rare it is for bad fish to slime onto a restaurant sushi bar.
I got nailed one solitary time -- out of damn near 1,000 (and counting ) sushi samples. My one sushi-fied sickness came in a foreign country. I’ve since broken off all relationships with that vile nation, though I won’t soon forget the time I spent there, kneeling before the porcelain throne.
One simple rule applies to sushi/sashimi: Never do it yourself. Sorry, but that’s a truism to the hilt.
I took weeks of sushi-making training in Hawaii, punctuated by a madman Japanese instructor who would swack me with a spatula when I missed one little point. I did learn you better know every thread of the ropes if you’re assigning yourself as the sushi-maker at the next big family get-together – unless you’re one of those nefarious types you see being investigated on “CSI.”
Homemade sushi efforts suffer from one ugly variable: How fresh “fresh” is.
In grocery stores (heavily excluding fish markets), so-called “Just off the boat fresh” can be as much as five days old – and who knows where the those days had been. If any of those major chains want to take me to task, all I ask is a posted sign that they “guarantee” their displayed fish products are “Sushi-safe.” Ain’t happening. By the by, over three-fourths of seafood items are purchased at large grocery outlets.
Now that I threw that sushi scare into you, I want to counterintuitively assure that seafood products in groceries are absolutely totally safe -- when cooked! In fact, cooked fish is far safer than cooked meat and poultry items. It’s only when rawness rules that things turn a big tad dicey.
If you’re still hep on doing up your own sushi, that’s cool. Just make sure to use self-caught/just-caught fish, or deal directly with a bona fide fish market. Good luck.
Important: “Sushi-grade” does not automatically mean sushi safe. “Sushi grade” has to do with the desirable fat content of a particular portion (cut) of fish, not how well it has been tended after being caught.
PICTURE THIS, FURTHER: I’ve directed my hoarding compulsions toward a low space-requirement realm: vintage photographs, namely fishing pics related to LBI and surrounding lands.
I recently bought a couple large collections of vintage negatives of LBI in general, including the negative to the famed Burrell Adams photograph of the Hindenburg in the skies just off Ship Bottom, as it waited out bad weather before making its doomed effort to land in Lakehurst.
The photo is actually of Adams as a child, standing in front of a long-gone house that once sat at the first bridge heading over to the Island.
Even after seven decades, it’s still eerie to look at the zeppelin and know the people inside – all surely incredibly upbeat and marveling, while looking down onto the Jersey Shore – were soon to meet one of the worst ends in all aviation history. Having a mortal fear of flying, just staring at it gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Onto happier hunting, what I’m heavily seeking are the oldest known surf fishing shots from LBI. I have a few – from among general LBI negatives I bought.
A couple of my coolest shots date back to the 1930s. The thing is, much older pics are surely hanging out on shelves and in attics. Email me if you have some.
I’m wondering if a coffee table book chockfull of vintage LBI fishing shots would be a seller? ’ll do the writing.
RUNDOWN: Bassing remains occasionally bananas – here and there. Some anglers have taken more big bass in the last month than they – and all their relatives – have taken since birth.
To go with the surfboard bass featured above, a near 50-pound striper was taken from a stand-up paddleboard off mid-Island LBI, bested by J. Demelia of AC.
On that same alternative theme, Bobby C took to his kayak off Surf City and won over two bass in the 40-pound realm.
There were also very numerous bass takes by boat angler off LBI and IBSP.
All these cow conquerings show huge bass are very close in, often just past the sandbar drop-off.
That close-in trend might be a sign that those big bass are also coming into the surfline at night, as bunker flee toward the beach, when corralled. Unfortunately, to date, the many folks going at it after dark are being so overrun by skates and dogfish they’re not willing to lose any more sleep looking for some midnight bass madness. Still, I remain sold on the bass potential from pre-twilight until dawn.
There are kingfish in the surfline and also inside Barnegat Inlet. A few are being caught as by-catch.
I know it’s tough to resist keeping a kingfish, easily among our most delicious fish species, bar none. However, they are on a spawn. Taking even one can remove hundreds of future kingfish.
I’m interested in seeing if the loss of the white shrimp season off the Carolinas (due to a cold winter die-off) means more kingfish coming our way -- fish that would have been killed by the million as shrimping by-catch.
I did notice that late last summer there was not a very good showing of young-of-year kingfish departing the bay during migration. Many folks who like to study the y-o-y feel this means a low-show the following spawning season (now). I say the billions of fish caught by spring shrimpers is a far bigger indicator of how many kingfish we see.
Fluking has begun to hold its own, and then some. It began as a trickle of success reports and has led to a steady showing of anglers managing to finally bag enough take-home material. The oddest successes come from the suds. There are now full-blown doormats in the surf. I have three separate reports of keeper fluke, with two of those hoisting 5-pounders. They are being taken by day fishers, using moderate saltwater gear and sidearm cast-and-retrieve techniques. The trick for one is using large strips of bait.
SHARK-MAIL: Jay, Did ya ever hear of a thresher shark coming in real close to the beach?? About 2 weeks ago I was fishing on Essex Street in BH and a huge tail came outta the water twice, real close to the beach, maybe 75-100 yards out. There was a boat fairly close to it that was checking it out. Maybe it was a big ray but I don't think so.
Threshers come to within a stone's throw of the beach -- frequently. However, they seldom show dorsal or tailfins when in close.
Truth be told, this summer's nearshore shark show has yet to begin, though you can't convince the folks up in the Hamptons, NY, where beaches were recently closed due to an impressive showing of gray suits -- seemingly a combo of basking and thresher sharks. They were in close enough to spit at.
After email: “With that being said, I think I saw my first thresher. Don't know what else it could have been. Thanks, Jay. Jay E.”