Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

December 7, 07 -- fat lady sung; Frostie the Hake

Friday, December 07, 2007: Waves: Small. Water clarity: Very good. Plugability: Fair.

As I drove the beach, coming across a scattered half dozen anglers, I had the strong sense that the fat stripering lady has sung, as much because of the weather as the lack of intensity on the part of casters to keep on stripering.

Last year at this time we were going full-bore. The bassing was super – and would stay that way deep into January. Unless we see nothing short of a miraculous burst of schoolie bass, this year we will have lost the bass by the start of December. I’m still holding on to the delusion that the bass are still on the way. I based that on the better boat bassing a while back. However, I was tuning into some boat chatter today and the one transmission that stuck in my mind was the guy who said he had one small bass yesterday and nothing today. “I’m going back to the dock. I’m actually gonna pull her out for the winter.” Maybe he’ll regret that.

Just to muster any sort of upbeatness, I’ll note that I had a good day out there. Out on the mudflats, that is. I went clamming in Holgate, expecting to labor like crazy for a mere few dozen – as has been the case in recent weeks. Instead, I just happened to pick a good area and ended up limiting out at 150. I could have even gotten more. It was still work, mind you. I’m a kneel-down raker, which is very high-energy output. However, after reaching a 100 some clams, I took to keyholing – looking for air holes and digging only there. Even though the clams were very deep, I grabbed another 50 in a flash. I have them purging in a large cooler with ocean water. This time of years the clams can stay alive in that frigid water for weeks and weeks, providing you leave them outdoors. At the same time, the clams totally off any grit and slime they’re holding within. The Holgate clams are incredible enough. When you let them hyper-purge, you have a final product that is a good as any shellfish on the planet.

Laugher: A guy I know was raging against sashimi (and sushi). “Crap, you won’t get me eating any of that stinkin’ raw fish. You gotta be nuts to do that.” And on and on. Then I told him to grab some clams if he wanted. He grabbed a bunch of smaller ones to – you guessed it – eat raw on the half-shell.

FROSTIE – THE HAKE I had a question about “frostfish.” That lead to my rethinking the type hake we get right near the beach. What are called red hake -- which I have long been told is the type we get right past the breakers -- are more likely silver hake, a.k.a, whiting, and a.k.a frostfish.

Red hake is a deeper water species. Still, I was told fairly recently, by an expert, that the hake I get from my kayak are the “red” variety.

Whichever, back in the day (as in 50 year back and counting even further back) the whiting were so abundant that they would get stranded on the beach in winter, freezing on the spot, thus the “frostfish” colloquialism. Some LBI accounts have residents picking them up by the hundreds.

Why did they beach themselves? You’d have to think that something very scary chased them ashore. Cod coming in after them? Bass coming from the deeper holes to eat them. Coldwater sharks?

Something like 40 years back, the whiting numbers feel off the maps, damn near destroyed. . Over-fishing being the likely culprit. The days of frostfish are gone, though recent years has seen that ultra-modest resurgence of the species, right near the beach.

Views: 102

Comment by john w on December 7, 2007 at 8:00pm
You really caught my attention with the story of frost fish. Most people don't believe it when I tell them so I stopped telling. As a young boy living in Point Pleasant during the 60's my dad would get the call "frost fish on the beach" He would dress me in the warmest clothes I had and tell me to get the peach baskets out of the garage. I remember seeing them in the wash waiting for a large wave to bring them up. When beached they would literally freeze before your eyes. You had to wait for them to stop flipping around and then grab as many as possible before another large wave took them back out. No idea why they beached themselves and never heard anyone give a reason, it was like a blessing from the heavens. We would "catch" 2 bushels and take them to a smokehouse in either Spring Lake or Belmar where we would exchange 3 for 1 smoked. Once smoked they were called whiting. One beach trip would have us eating delicious smoked whiting until spring. Thanks for sharing and bringing back some great memories. Maybe I'll even start telling the story again.
Comment by GG on December 7, 2007 at 8:15pm
I think there is actually another type of hake that is being caught in the late fall early winter, they are also here all summer long as they are caught in shrimp dredges in the eelgrass beds. These are Southern Hake, and are probably what most people have been seeing caught sporatically from the surf for the past several years. Not sure how to post pictures here but when I get a chance I will e-mail them to you. When you look at pictures of Reds, Silvers, and Southerns, you will notice only the Southern has the row of spots down their sides.
Comment by Potter Rumsey on December 8, 2007 at 9:06pm

The fat lady is still warming up. Had two great days of striped bass fishing this week with 17 fish and 5 keepers up to 37" earlier in the week and today we had 12 fish with the majority being keepers today up to 34". The fish we're stuffed to the gills with peanut bunker and sandeels and extremely rotund. The bird play earlier this week was massive with flock of gulls & gannets dive bombing and fish rolling on the surface. Today was much more mellow with not nearly the bird play but much better quality size fish. All on the troll on shad umbrella rigs, Mann Strech 30's and umbrella tube rigs in 35 to 50 feet of water off IBSP. We dropped more fish than we landed but had many large fish rolling on the top after they hit our offerings and taking drag. A great day on the water after some early morning sprinkles with the sun coming out and warming the air temps to 51. The water temps dropped dramatically this week and were down to 42 in some areas but where we had fish we had water temps @ 45 F, the perfect bass temp in the fall for these migrating fish. I believe there is a large body of fish to the north that are starting to work their way down and most of these fish seem to be just keeper to over 40". My advice is don't quit yet if you can get on a boat if you're still in the water. I think the best fish of the fall are yet to come but be careful if you're accessing BI from Barnegat Bay as many of the buoys have been pulled especially in Oyster Creek and we saw boats aground last week and heard of more aground this morning. Use and trust your GPS for the Channel.

Tight Lines and fish them up!


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