Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Thank-you Kasibobo and Good-eatin’ Slammers

Well, it’s that wallet-whacking time of year, often referred to as the holidays. I’m already fretting over the fatty hits my low-fat wallet will be taking.

In money matters, I’ve become a master at making ends meet -- by hooking together a chain of credit cards until I can fasten them at the ends, creating an oblong oval of steam-rolling debt – shaped a lot like a track on an approaching tank.

But enough on the debt side of things, I have incredible news to share with you. This Christmas could be richly different for yours truly. It seems I will soon be able to spend to my heart’s content – and my heart is not easily contented when out buying cool things for myself.

(Hey, they say it’s better to give than receive. I’m not sure how that plays out when you buy for yourself. I guess I’ll happily buy all kinds of things to give myself then feel kinda down when I receive them -- though not for, dude.)

Anyway, I just found out via email that I, out of all the people on this huge planet, have been elected to receive an absurdly huge amount of money from the tiny island-nation of Kasibobo. And to think I almost missed this life-altering communiqué since that email somehow went into to my “Junk Mail.” But lady luck apparently climbed her way out of the cyber junkheap and into my in-box. What a gal.

Get this: the king of Kasibobo finds me to be, and I quote, “A man of many kindnesses and high esteem among scholars and freedom rings.” He adds, “That is why I want to make sharings with you of our nation’s amazing wealth and freedom rings.”

I emailed back, “Thank-you muchly, your kingness. You, too, are surely a man of many kindnesses and high esteem among scholars and, uh, freedom rings.

“Oh, by the by, do you have any actual numbers that quantify that ‘amazing wealth’ thing?” Signed “ Yours truly, your man of kindness and high esteem among scholars, J-mann.”

By way of background on Kasibobo, the country is so small that apparently even Google has founds it yet. Hell, when I looked for it on Wikepedia, that encyclopedic site requested that I be the first to write something on Kasibobo. Hey, once King Kasibobo endows me with absurd wealth you better believe I’ll be a veritable spewing fount of info on ‘bobo.

So from whence cometh all Kasibobo’s wealth? Try Kasiboboite, the nation’s one and only natural resource. But it's a beaut. This excessively rare gemstone comes from mines high in, and I again quote, the "Snow holding peak of Mount Kasibobo, the gem of our beloved country of majesty and precious ideals filled with moral wonderness and freedom rings."

“That sounds like one helluva mountain, your Royal Richness,” I emailed back.
While the World Gem Institute has yet to evaluate or even fully document this “red preciousness and fragrant gemstone,” per the king, I will soon be receiving “priceless bags of such loveliness that your pleasure will leap and freedom rings."

While I've never made a “freedom ring," I'm sure it will look excellent in 18K gold with large Kasiboboite gemstones embedded all over it.

But my luck via Kasibobo only gets astronomically better. I will also soon be “enrobed” by a royal Kasiboboan family member.

It seems that the king’s daughter, Princess Sheenabobo, will bring “bags upon bags” of perfect Kasibobo crystals to me, in person.

Somebody pinch me.

“My glowing daughter, a woman of fullness and ripeness, will be in need of a place to stay during her visit to your nation of freedom rings. If pleasure be, may she stay with you?” asked the king.
Wow! An actual Kasiboboan princess, one of fullness no less, coming to visit me for, like, a month? Now you're talking -- though I have to admit I’m beginning to wonder how much fullness we’re talking here.

Now, here’s the heart wrenching part of the email. Since the amazing wealth of Kasibobo is fully focused on the meticulous mining and crafting of Kasiboboite – to send me by the bagloadsful – there is not always cash on hand. Therefore, the king has humbly requested that I cover the modest expense of transporting the princess to my front door – in all her ripeness and., uh, fullness. Of course, she is royalty so she must travel first-class. It may also cost a bit more, security-wise, to transport all my bags of fabulously faceted Kasiboboite crystals. Still, it’s a no-brainer. For the mere amount of essentially shipping and handling the princess, I get a king’s ransom worth of gems that I can easily sell during the Christmas season.

To think, I essentially get all this and who knows how much more – wink, wink – nod, nod -- once I transfer the absurdly small sum of $10,000 to a special account in a Caribbean bank.

I’ve begun liquidating everything I own. Chances like this don’t come along very day, now do they?

In the face of my pending richness, I have to wonder how many people are losing those chances of lifetimes to emails relegated to “Junk.”

You know, I often wonder how sites like Hotmail have become worth billions of dollars. Dollars to donuts, they’re subverting all these emails offered by fine and honorable nations like Kasibobo. Then they cash in on them. Well, this is one person who won’t be fooled by Hotmail’s chicanery.

YET ANOTHER WEIGHED DOWN STRIPER: Talk about double weird. A few weeks back I ran the story of a B.L. surfcaster who saw his spiked rod and reel zip into the deep, pulled into the drink by, apparently, a major fish. Many days later, a charter fishing boat wrapped into some bottom line and wound up with the lost surfcasting gear, replete with a 52-inch bass still hooked into it – and quite alive.

Damnedest thing. What are the odds?

And what are the odds of a repeat?

Well, according to the Fisherman HDQ’s weekly report, hardcore LBI angler Ray S. was fishing the suds last week when he had a hook-up, of sorts. He fought what amounted to a mess of line attached to a rod and reel with a healthy bass intertwined. Bam! Bam! That’s the sound of lightning striking twice. Ray had hauled in yet another lost set-up dragged into the water by a fish, a fish that then dragged its new load around, seemingly trying to adjust to a life with crap hanging all over it.

Per the weekly report: “Another case of, finders' keepers and losers' weepers -- with a fish attached. This time it was a beach recovery.

“ ‘I saw a little movement in the rod tip and figured it was another skate,’ said Ray S.

“It turns out it was a rod and reel combo that had a striper attached on the other end. This is the second time this season that a rod and reel recovery with striper attached has been reported. From what Ray said, he's fixing up the reel and giving the setup to a local kid. That sounds like a good ending.”

Sidenote: As I was driving the beach just south of Beach Haven, I found just the top portion of a surf-grade Ugly Stick. Looked very new. If you lost it, drop me a e-line.

RUN-DOWN: Boat anglers are blasting bass when skies allow. Prime zones are mainly Barnegat Inlet north to the Ferris Wheel. The HC Lumps and even in close along the beach also has fish. Sizes are to the liking of take-home types, with ,many fish over 28 inches. Trolling is huge again this year. I can’t even begin to touch on the variety of umbrellas and spreaders being used, along with some heavy spoons (and Avas) allowed to flap around at different depths.

Here’s a wildish tale from a troller who was targeting stripers and suddenly found a big-game take instead.

“It's official, XYZ Walter Johnson' son TJ caught a 76-pound bluefin (tuna), trolling Friday about 1.5 miles off of LBI. They were trolling up a good catch of stripers and blues, when the beast hit a Stretch 25. After a 45-minute fight, TJ boated the tuna. Fish weighed in at the BHMTC, after proving too large for Jingle's scale! They had another on a spinner and couldn't get that one to the gaff. Signed ReBait.

Beach fishing has had its moments, mainly for folks casting out chunks of bunker of gobs of clam. However, the size difference between boat and beach is brutally frustrating for many sudsers. It remains very tough to get a daily take-home when working jetties of beach cuts.

Just a quick stating-the-obvious notation that spot, as bass bait, take the cake. They are simply the most irresistible sight a striper can lay its eyes on, quite likely to the point that even a bass in one of throes of one of those “I-ain’t eatin-nothin’ “ funks will take on an instantaneous “Don’t mind if I do” posture should a spot come into view.

There are still some bluefish out there, including slammers to 15 pounds.

E-QUESTION, BLACKFISH-STYLE: “Jay, Tried using sand crabs for blackfish when the bassing was too slow. No luck. I think it was too rough. Any tricks to catching them?”

(Stay away from “too rough” water.

Actually, blackfish, a.k.a. tog, take to energetic feeding when waters are riled up but they are very much sight feeders. I’ve always had my best blackie days (on the rocks) when the water was clean and relatively calm, though a bit of surge is obviously helpful in getting them out of the crevices and into their dinner-grabbing mode, a dinner mode that the fish often abandon for hours on end.

Sidebar: I’ve fished for tog to total non-avail only to later snorkel the same jetty to find the rocks stacked with blackies -- but just not eating.

The trick to nabbing jetty tog is to be able to get to the jetty (groin) ends (or almost out there) and persistently probe the rocks by flipping the bait out, maybe 20 feet off, letting it drop, checking for fish and repeating. By the by, beachfront tog are very much late-day feeders.

Blackies often hang around a specific jetty area, picking mussels off rocks. By checking all along the jetty, you have your best chance of coming across feeding zones. Of course, actively feeding blackies are always highly poised to zip away from the mussels and grab any tasties drifting by.

My tog surfcasting technique: I scale the jetty, toward the end. I throw out well past the rocks (25 feet) and let the sand crabbed rig (usually accompanied by a one-ounce back or pillow sinker) pendulum back to the deep water adjacent to the jetty. If my rig ends up on the bottom too far from the rocks, I just bring it in a couple feet at a time, stopping and waiting for a take on the way. You’ll often find large tog fairly far from the rocks, especially when they’re eating calico crabs, but they seldom stray far from the rocks from more than a minute or two.

The zone right next to the rocks – as close as you can get without get tangled – is always prime blackie territory. When I’m hitting tog tucked close to the stones (often), I tend you just underhand flick the rig very close in and nix the slow bottom-based retrieve.

If you’ve never fished tog, its pick-up is quite likely the subtlest bite of any local gamefish species. Even 10-pound blackies present little more than a couple raps of the line. That rapid rap is the only chance of nabbing them. The up side is many blackies will play the rap (bait stealing) game until they finally lose.

On days when the blackfish are aggressively feeding, they’ll quickly commit to the hook so they’re a much easier hookup. However, on those same active days tog are inclined to grab a morsel (and a hook) then bolt back into the barnacle/mussel encrusted rocks, line and all. That penchant has earned them the highest break-off rate of any fish, even bluefish.

Sidebar: As you might know, it was highly common for olden tog fishermen to use such cheaply disposable sinkers as used sparkplugs, large screws and bolts and even pieces of sheet lead (bent over line). I know this from years of metal detecting underwater.

A trick that often works when tog drag your line into a hole is to keep line taunt and wait out the fish. Very often, the hook fish soon makes a break for it and is then tamable.

Hardcore toggers (often Asians) fish rocks with long very heavy-duty rods and line up to 100-pound test. They literally pull the fish outward, away from the rocks, with the long rods. No need to go quite that heavy duty on our jetties. There has to be some sport to it, though heavier line is very helpful. I use 25-pound test and maybe a medium-heavy 8-foot rod. I’ll also add a second hook on a dropper loop, especially when the tog are craftily short-hitting.

Tog is delicious and one our finest fish for making fishcakes and fish stews. Personally, I eat them whole, simply gutting then baking them until the skin is crisp and meat is steam cooked underneath.

Once a cooked whole tog is open, it’s often best to pull the meat off the bones for presentation and safety – unless everyone at the table is experienced at easting fish in the round.

Dipping tog pieces in black bean sauce is great –as is dipping in seasoned melted butter.

BIG BLUES TO SAVOR: Email: “Is there any edibility to larger blues?”

While, popularity-wise, chopper blues are generally ultra-low on the dining desirability scale, there are ways to satisfactorily (as in, safely and super tastefully) prepare these savage-toothed titans.

Prepping a slammer-sized blue for eating purposes comes down to meticulous cleaning, trimming and preparing. I liken it (a slight bit) to preparing the famed poisonous fugue fish of Asia.

No, bluefish flesh isn’t instantly toxic, nor do you get a mildly psychedelic rush from eating them (like fugu), however, a bluefish of 8 pounds or over has very likely accumulated some nasty stuff, like PCBs and dioxins, into its fatty tissues. The larger the bluefish, the higher the potential hazard from absorbed chemicals.

These decidedly dangerous chemicals work their way up the biosystem ladder when blues (and stripers) eat forage fish, particularly bunker and spearing, which live and bottom feed in estuary systems loaded with industrial waste. It’s called bioaccumulation.

Though major moves have been made to end the madness of discarding industrial waste into waterway, the legacy of decades of dumping lives on in the form of a lingering, non-biodegradable, chemical presence.

Not all forage fish acquire a load of chemical toxins. The baitfish coming out of, say, the Mullica River Estuary System are relatively clean, chemically. However, bluefish are wide-range eaters, constantly traveling high-and-low to dine. On average, virtually all blues end up taking on a toxic load.

There is no way to determine how much bad stuff is in the flesh of a given slammer.

According to the many scientific studies done on the filets of big bluefish, the presence of nasty chemicals is fairly constant among tested blues taken from along the entire eastern seaboard.

By the by, there is a misconception that scientists, when testing fish for chemical adulterants, grind the entire fish -- head, skin and all. Not true. They literally buy portions right off the shelves, assuring they’ll be testing the same product the public consumes.

With that dark side of big bluefish in mind, there are ways to make larger bluefish safe to eat, especially when juxtaposing the irrefutable health benefits of eating fish with any threats from chemical dangers.

As noted, making big blues safe and tasty all comes to down to clever cleaning.

The first filet cuts should focus on what might be called the back meat, toward the dorsal fins. Begin filleting behind the gill plate (as usual) and penetrate to the backbone. The trick is to cut shallower toward the stomach, since the meat around that stomach area usually contains higher levels of bad stuff.

Use traditional skinning methods to separate the meat from the skin. If you’re decent with the blade, go slightly above the skin.

Note: Never cook bluefish with its skin on. It prevent the fats from draining off, something you want to do since risky chemical are stored in the fatty tissues and are exuded in the drip-age

Beneath the skin side of the fillet, you’ll see the dark meat in the form of the lateral line and some other scattered dark veins. That brownish red meat is the fattiest part of the fish. Removing that greatly diminishes the chemical dangers, often reducing the riskiness down to very acceptable levels.

The main dark meat line must be V’ed out. Using either the end of a fillet knife or switching to a very sharp paring knife, cut inward along the edge of the dark line at a 45-degree angle, following the edge of the dark meat line. Don’t be afraid to include some adjacent white meat. The trick to get all the dark meat.

Go to the other side of the line and carve in at the same angle.

Now, lift up either end of what is essentially a wedge cut and, with a slight cutting action, fully cut under the wedge while lifting lightly. With a bit of practice you can remove the dark meat in a single V-shaped strip.

This very functional lateral line removing process is routinely performed when cleaning many other fish species, including stripers.

Once the main channel of dark meat is removed, pare away any other sections of dark meat by using light surface cuts. Those dark areas are very superficial. That light hand during skinning the filet often leave the dark patches attached to the skin.

At this point you have bluefish meat with a greatly reduced presence of bad chemicals. But there a way to removed even more adulterants.

Cut the filet into pieces. I essentially chunk it. This allows the maximum amount fat cook-off.

Cook the pieces directing on an over rack (after spraying or oiling), allowing the juices to drain off into a pan below. Do not sauté, bread or casserole.

I guarantee you that the bluefish meat by this time is very low on bad stuff.

The flavor is sweet and is super with just simple spicing.

A use for chunked meat from larger blues is bluefish salad. After cleanly cooking the bluefish meat, allow it to cool and prepare it the way you would tuna salad. It’s incredible, especially when enhanced with the likes of celery seeds, fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, fresh basil, Dutch red or orange peppers,

IMPORTANT: Despite the incredible reduction in adulterants this method offers, pregnant women should NOT eat any fish high in PCBs and dioxins, regardless of special preparations.

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