Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Sweet Tuna, Slimy Hags and Stunted Lobsters ABOVE Skate wing presentation SWEET!: As I constantly explore new taste-ifications in seafood – I’m already famed for my bunker oil biscuits – I was thumbs upping the choice of Kelsey Nixon as the Episode 4 Fresh Fish Challenge winner on the show “The Next Food Network star.” With a theme of seafood, she came up with White Chocolate Macadamia Crusted Tilapia. Wow, you go girl. I had never thought on encrusting my fish fillets in chocolate -- not until now. I actually fell asleep after that show and began dreaming of Swiss chocolate-drenched blackened tuna atop Reese Peanut Butter Cups. Unfortunately, that dream quickly morphed asunder when the chocolate dripping tuna chunks began getting larger and larger and began chasing me down the street, naked, snapping at my heels with barbeque tongs, as my neighbors cheered the tuna on from their porches. Musta been something I ate. Nonetheless, this summer I will positively have first-taste insights into seafood gone the sweet route. Many folks don’t know it but a number of chowder recipes call for goodly amounts of chocolate syrup. And the hookup between shrimp and sugar is through the ceiling delectable in honey walnut shrimp. If I could come up with a sugared skate wing recipe to die for I would become the hero of the angling realm. TASTEFUL SLIMY HAGS: A new commercial fishery is developing – and it is truly vile. No, not conservationally speaking. It’s the target that is vile. Slime eels. Sometimes called hagfish, these ugly-beyond-measure animals are so primitive they don’t even have jaws, eyes or a skeleton. Living on the deep-ocean bottom, they often converge by the hundreds and even thousands to tear pieces of flesh from doomed (or already dead) creatures that fall to the ocean bottom. In just ten minutes they can strip a 40-pound tuna of all flesh. Also, they have a hankerin’ for eating liver so an arriving victim is often entered via mouth or anal opening so the eel can get at the goodies inside. Ouch. I like this hagfish description written by a blogger named Zgirll, who obviously has some science smarts. She write, “This has to be the most disgusting creature ever. Slime eels are long, pinkish grey, eyeless eels with no fins. They have a ring of eight tentacles surrounding a toothless mouth. A long projecting tongue is topped with two rasps that are moved against each other to tear off chunks of food. “If a slime fish is startled, it secretes ... a mass of gooey slime. One average-sized slimefish can produce three GALLONS of slime. Hagfish slime is much more sticky than the slime of other fishes, due to the thousands of microscopic threads of protein woven throughout the mass. Indeed, it’s so sticky that the eel has developed unique ways of clearing itself from the gooey stuff. To clear its nostrils of the slime, a hagfish will sneeze, something no other fish does. To escape from the cloud of slime, the eel will tie itself into a tight knot, using its own body to scrape the clingy mess from itself.” Anyway, commercial fishermen in a mess because of collapsing stocks and the accompanying government regulations, are going after slime eels for the one market on the planet: Korea. There, the meat of hagfish is savored, after which the skin is used to make items out of the creature’s skin, quite possible the most resilient skin of any eel or eel-like species, which is saying a lot since eel skin is used around the planet as a leather second to none in strength. The actual cleaning of the harvested eels is so repulsive that only a few Asian employees are willing to give it a go. The smell is so bad that masks are often worn -- or workers are forced to regularly run outside to get relief from the carrion-like smell of the hagfish. So how to the Koreans eat it? I’m guessing a white chocolate glaze and some extra-strength Reese’s Cups might work. NO-DRILL GOVS: So far five big-player governors have sounded off against offshore oil drilling in response to Florida Governor Charlie Crist's somewhat shocking change of heart on the issue. Christ recently announced he supports offshore drilling for oil. Considered one of the greenest governors in the nation, Christ is now being taken to task by groups like National Audubon Society Issuing vehement anti-drilling statements were state governors from Oregon (Governor Theodore Kulongoski, D.), Maine (Governor John E. Baldacci, D.), South Carolina (Governor Mark Sanford, R.), California (Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, R.) Washington (Governor Christine Gregoire, D.), North Carolina (Governor Mike Easley, D.), and New Jersey (Governor Jon Corzine, D. (D). In railing against drilling, Corzine said, “Our $35 billion economy is driven by tourism and the use of the shore.” Mike Daulton, Director of Conservation Policy for the National Audubon Society, was quoted as saying, “Coastal governors know that offshore drilling is bad news for the environment and for tourism. It makes no sense for states to put our important beaches, fisheries and coastal habitats and multi-billion dollar tourism economies at such risk for so little gain.” MANNBLOG: I’m adamantly opposed to oil drilling but not for the reasons one might expect from an arch-ecologist. Technology is such that drilling would likely not pose an inordinate environmental threat. I’m still a-rant over our nation’s ignoramusical obsession over oil. We have to back off our life-and-death reliance on a fully finite substance like oil. It will run out. There is no way we don’t have the smarts to tap into the infinite power of nature. The longer we fight the bad fight to stay covered in petroleum-based muck the less we focus all our mental powers to going au naturale. I can assure with certainty that should the planet survive another 100 years that future Earthlings will all but mock the way we clung to (disastrously?) our petroleum-coveting ways. By the by, those future days will surely be nuclear-powered in some manner or another and will be alive with wind and solar power. You can clip this out and place it in a time capsule. “Whoever this Jay Mann was he could sure see into the future.”) By the by, I’ve been watching these semi-SciFi shows about what might happen if the earth shifts this way or that, leading to tsunamis, hurriquakes and lightning. Well, millions and millions and million of gallons of crude are being sucked out of the ground per week. The total removal is so immense it surpasses any other manmade taking of raw materials. The oil removed in one month can fill those monstrous pits created during copper or diamond mining. Now, tell me, what happens to those huge now-empty subterranean cavities where oil one resided? That oil was there under astounding pressure, essentially doing its part to hold up the planet’s crust. Hey, if folks can imagine comets hitting the sea why can’t I imagine some offshore drilling cavity collapsing, creating a tidal wave on par with other doomsday scenarios? CLAM REG REDO: Some changes in the NJ shellfish statutes have brought in some specific language regarding “clamming” rights. Per the Fish and Wildlife website, “Changes to the shellfish statutes (Title 50) are now in effect. 2008 Clam licenses sold prior to June 17, 2008, have been expanded to include all molluscan (shellfish) species, with the exception of conchs … “A clamming license is now called a shellfish license and is required for harvesting of all species of benthic mollusks.” In addition, a new non-resident Commercial Shellfish License has been established. “The new statute means that anyone who wishes to harvest hard clams, soft clams, surf clams, oysters, bay scallops or mussels (or other molluscan shellfish excluding conchs) now needs to obtain a Shellfish License.” This once again brings the semi-notorious surf clam issue into focus. By all events and standards, you cannot pick up stranded surf clams without a license. I was told this verbally over the phone during to a call to the Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday. I was further advised that any gathered surf clams go toward the recreational daily quota. NET GAIN FOR CONSERVATION: Down Florida way, an effort by gill-netters to get a relaxing of that state’s strictest-in-the-nation anti-netting laws not only fell short but was left high and dry. Government officials looking into the commercial fishermen’s request to back off on netting restrictions offered a resounding “No go” on even pursuing the matter. The politicos then rubbed salt into the wound by saying the subject will not be considered again until who-knows-when. The decision to ignore further debate on the issue was not nastiness toward netters (necessarily) but the fact that Florida’s netting ban was arrived at via popular vote (in a 200? Ballot question) so only a change of the state constitution can reverse it. Note: Every state in the nation knows the potentially catastrophic folly of changing its constitution, opening Pandora’s Box for every special interest group to seek similar changes, all but annihilating the integrity of what is meant to me the most steadfast document behind every state government. STUNTED LOBSTERS: To our north, lobstermen who work Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, are convinced that the use of a mosquito-fighting chemical, containing the larvicide methoprene, is damaging the bay’s lobster population. Methoprene is used in mosquito control to attack the insect in its early formative stage, stopping the larval growth process. The lobstermen believe the chemical is also stunting the growth of young lobster. In NJ, Altosid is an insecticide that Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, recommends for mosquito control. It contains methoprene. It is used locally. Although significant studies are done to determine the safety of all insecticides and larvicides, there are many scientists who believe that long-term impacts of proposed new products are not always fully researched in the push by industry to get products into the marketplace. I have learned that anecdotal information from those in the know should always be checked out. It’ll be interesting to see if the R.I. lobstermen’s complaints lead to any further studies of methoprene. RUN-DOWN: Kingfish are on-scene. Some are even larger brands. Boy, would many of us love to see an upbeat kingfish year. Most of you recall that maybe 5 years back we had a super push of these top-tasting bottom feeders. The kingfish hung around throughout the summer and passed by like gangbusters during the fall migration. The reason for that resurgence was likely due to the collapse of the Carolina shrimping industry, which had annually taken millions of small kingfish as by-catch. That industry openly claimed to kill upwards of one billion croakers as by-catch. Since then, the yearly kingfishing action has fallen off rapidly. The last couple years we’ve only seen kingfish in falltime spurts. I believe that, concurrently, the shrimping has resumed down south, though I’m not sure of that. It should be reiterated that virtually all fisheries are very cyclical, so the kingfish population swings could be the result of many factors, not the least of which is the impact of a hyper-population of stripers that freely suck down small kingfish. I’ve often found them in bass bellies. QUICK KINGFISH NOTE: Kingfish are yet another member of the drumfish family. They’re not much on drumming, though, lacking that noisy bladder used by the likes of spot, black drum, red drum, croaker, and weakfish. They do make an odd grinding sound – not totally unlike a drumming – by grinding their throat membrane together. I bring up this drumfish affiliation because of the aforementioned possibility that reduced shrimp fishing – and even the use of fish excluder devices by sprimpers -- has helped drumfish of all sorts repopulate. Interestingly, some scientists claim the likes of kingfish overwinter by going directly out to sea, into deeper water, i.e. Jersey kingfish head into the EEZ off our coastline. Anecdotal evidence counters that. It sure seems more likely that our summer kingfish head south then out off the Delmarva – or even off the Carolinas -- making them highly vulnerable to shrimping. Bassing banter. From my visage, I get all the reports, not just those dealing with weigh-ins and wild times. This latest killer bout of stripering – centered on bunker pods bouncing within our nearshore waters -- is far from an equal opportunity bite. Face it, some folks have a far better feel for the pulse of the action -- and seemingly have an eye for what bunker pods are perking. Still, I have half a dozen counter-reports by folks who try snag-and-drop techniques for hours with nary a touch. It often seems a timing thing. Take, for instance, this e-report from Mike C, reporting on two huge bass taken by “the kids.” : “Hi Jay, Took my son Jon-Michael and his friend Colby out to the inlet Thursday afternoon to see if we could find some bass. After many dog sharks the fun began. … Jon-Michaels bass was 50.45 lbs. And Colby’s was 47.50 lbs. Dad became the hero that day. They were aboard the Michele C.” Not only is this a great tale of the kids kicking bass butt but that part about waiting out the junk bite is huge. While there are always those reports stating “No sooner did we drop our lines than we had fish,” it’s way more common that anglers have to put in some serious chase time, staying focused and waiting for big things to begin. The weakfish continue to show, some to near ten pounds. Let’s turn to fluke. I’ve gotten more reports of good fluking despite a high throwback count. Consistent with the way it’s been all spring, the fishing pressure for flatties is itself flat. I had one fellow on the south end note that he was the only boat fluking in a usually popular (and often packed) zone. GULP!ING FOR FLUKE: Well, those Berkeley GULP! baits are back in the news, big-time. The success of this manmade bait – loaded with secret smells and tastes from natural sources – has once again reached into the uncanny realm. It did the same thing last year in the bass fishing sector, where the product shined during stripering sessions. This go-round, it’s the fluking that has brought GULP! into preeminence. I had written last week about side-b-side boats, one using GULP! the other GULP!less, indicating that the GULP! was performing some sort of magic. I have since had that notion confirmed by four other reports. Here’s just one: “…I caught zilch, nada, zero. The only thing at the end of my fluke pole for the whole time we were in the bay were killie/squid combos. However, brother-in-law Joe, fishing side by side with me in my boat, and caught 5 fluke. The first was just under 10 lbs and 30+ inches! Weighed it in at Fisherman's HQ. After that, the 23", 20" and 19" fluke he caught looked downright small. Finally, the last one he caught was 17 1/2" -- our only throwback. Not a bad ratio theses days - and all in the bay! All caught on Gulp/killie combo. I am now a convert. Amen. Steve.” By the by, there are a ton of fluke in the surf. Per usual, they seem small. However, Dante S. has been going GULP! and nailing take-homes in the suds. It’s worth a try when the water is clean enough in the surfzone. This weakfish push has really started to shine down Great Bay way. It is likely pushing into Barnegat Bay. There have also been some nice weakfish taken on “bubblegum” jigs near both LBI inlets. One of the best anglers I know – and a conservationist on par with myself – picked up a nice 8-poundish (hand-scale) weakie near The Dike and brought it home for BBQ’ing. “I was really upset when I opened it up to find it was so ripe with bright orange eggs. I was sure it was a spawned out fish that had fattened up before going back out to sea,” he told me. Hey, with the number of fish this guy releases he shouldn’t give it a second thought. Speaking of that “out to sea” reference, larger weaks do exit the bay after spawn but are seldom if ever caught out there. I’m sure the commercial guys know the whereabouts of those large spawned out fish. I’d have to guess they ball up in deeper water off Delaware and Hudson (and Chesapeake?) bays, likely sharing space with large summer bass -- hanging there dining on the heavy forage associated with those bio-rich depths. Sharking has been large lately, due in part to last weekend’s Mako Mania event. Blue, thresher and mako sharks were being taken, with only makos counting. Most of that action was out at seas. Nearer to shore, we are approaching the season of the browns and dusky sharks. There is often confusion over ID’ing a dusky and a brown and a “sandbar” shark. Firstly, the brown shark and the sandbar shark are the same species, Carcharhinus plumbeus, formerly Carcharhinus milberti. They just have different colloquial names. Locally, “brown shark” is the more common usage. The dusky – sometimes improperly thought of as just another name for brown/sandbar shark -- is a totally different species, Carcharhinus obscurus. There is no easy way to tell these two apart. The most notable difference is the huge dorsal fin on the brown/sandbar shark. It’s almost disproportionately large. I hesitate to even bring this up but the brown/sandbar shark has one of the largest dorsal fins in the shark realm, sometimes constituting as much as 18 percent of the fish’s entire weight! Hopefully, it is not the type meat for shark fin soup or you can kiss the species goodbye. The dusky shark has a significantly smaller dorsal. The dorsal fin on the brown/sandbar is also significantly further forward than the dusky shark. Rough rule: Smaller dorsal fin, set further back, likely a dusky. Dusky sharks attain some serious length, up to 9-feet. Brown/sandbar sharks top out at 7 feet and are usually much smaller on average. Both these species don’t reach sexual maturity until nearly 20 years of age – and even then they reproduce very slowly. Extreme care should be taken when catching and releasing since rough handling often proves fatal – as it does with any sharks, which (despite their tough reputation) have very delicate internal organs. A shark hauled over the edge of a transom often has internal organs burst due to the press of its own weight. Here’s a NMFS release, which I believe is referring to our brown/sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus.) It also addresses the shark-fining crisis. “Our recent stock assessments show we need to take strong conservation measures to stop overfishing of sandbar and other sharks to allow these species to rebuild,” said Jim Balsiger, acting assistant administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service. 'These sharks, like many sharks, mature late, grow slowly and produce few young, making them particularly vulnerable to fishing pressure. ”The rule also requires all sharks to be offloaded at the dock with all fins naturally attached. That's designed to improve enforcement against shark fining, in which fishermen remove the highly valuable fins from sharks at sea and discard the carcasses overboard. ”The new rule, to be published in the Federal Register Tuesday, establishes a separate sandbar shark annual commercial quota of 87.9 metric tons. The previous sandbar quota was 1,017 metric tons. The new shark regulations become effective July 24.”

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Comment by ellymay on July 1, 2008 at 6:21pm
Hello Uncle Jay,
Just imagine me all chocolate covered and chasing you down the street. Sweeter than your dream anyday I bet!
Elly May x
(international super model)


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