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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

 

The Taste of False Albies;

Fake Fish for Top Dollar

 

 

 

FALSE AlBIE-KA-BOBS: Jay, I’m back from my tour (of duty). Glad to be fishing again. Wanted to mention I had eaten some smoked false albacore in the Caribbean and it wasn’t half bad. I recall from our conversations that you’ve eaten many fish that most people won’t even look at. Is this fish (false albacore) really as inedible as folks say it is?

 

First, I’ve never eaten (or heard of) smoked albies -- but my wise-assed response: Hell, they even tried smoking banana peels in the Sixties.

Admittedly, one way to cover the taste of an otherwise hideous-tasting fish is to smoke it one good. It then comes down to powerful spices and smoke essence winning the taste battle. It sorta works. I’ve seen the Asians smoke things that shouldn’t otherwise be placed near a human mouth. It makes suspect seafood substances semi-decent tasting, though many Asian smoked foods are meant to be closely complimented by copious amounts of sake and designer beers.

By the by, I have read that even cats won’t eat false albacore. That’s absolute bull. Ask any feline. Little tunny (Euthynnus alletteratus), a more technical named for false albacore, is found in top-shelf cat foods. 

I have eaten heavily barbequed albies, drenched in Caribbean jerk sauces. It was at an outdoor picnic. They were far from the worst tasting seafood out there, though they did put forth that full-bodied “fishy tasting” flavor. I even offered a big basset hound under the table a taste or two. He sniffed it suspiciously, gave one of those bassety, Oh, well, what the hell” sighs and downed it

In the West Indians, little tunny are eaten every which way but loose. Those crafty cooking Caribbean folks know how to quickly bleed the albies, before chunking and placing in various rinses (my word) to counteract suspect tastes.

Once, in the Bahamas, a local family served me a cold “tunny salad,” made like any tuna salad. It was pretty dang good, once I discretely got by the smell -- similar to the famed eau du just-opened-can-of-cat-food. Of course, the flavor was highly enhanced via those magical cultural-fusion spices common to the islands. That false albie salad was followed by fried conch fritters – as good as anything a seafood lover will ever eat. Talk about a palate leap -- from iffy to incredible.

 

Lest one demean the little tunny based on human palatability, it is a vitally important food for larger tunas, not to mention mahi, billfish, sharks and rays. Studies indicate that albies are essential to the recovery of swordfish stocks. In many ways, it is a prime baitfish in the big game fish kingdom. That makes it kinda good that the false albies taste iffy to most folks.

 

ROTTEN IN BOSTON: Among the worst and most controversial tunas on the planet is a species called escolar. It’s a very common tuna, found worldwide.

To its discredit, this species inexplicably accumulates wax esters in its body. Wax esters are a type of oil, similar to a triglyceride, which is absolutely indigestible. Escolar is so full of this waxy gooey stuff, it’s borderline toxic. Human reactions to the wax ester resemble Scrombroid poisoning from decaying fish. In a way, escolar tuna comes pre-rotted. It’s capable of causing one’s gastrointestinal tract to do every disgusting thing it can come up with – and gastrointestinal tracts can come up with some mighty ugly moves. .

Per a medical journal, escolar poisoning (my expression) displays a distinctive discharge of copious amounts of gooey yellow liquids. That diabolical discharge is so distinctive it has its very own name: keriorrhea. And, yes, it rhymes a bit with its kissin’ cousin, diarrhea. Post-escolar consumption can also lead to contortionistic cramping and intractable nausea.

Believe it or not, that’s an admittedly unappetizing lead-in to a breaking-bad seafood story out of Massachusetts, a story that’s sending lower-tract rumblings through the nation’s restaurant industry.

The Boston Globe, following up on some shocking food identity theft stories done by the likes of Consumer Report, hired a lab in Canada to help analyze what types of fish were actually being served to patrons in Beantown’s many famed restaurants. The Canadian labs performed DNA studies to irrefutably ID fish species that Globe reporters secreted off of entrees they ordered while eating out. 

The paper’s findings were utterly shocking.

While it was half-excepted that some top-shelf species were being hyped on menus but were being replaced by cheaper substitutes, the shocker was how many cheap substitutes were heaped upon platter after costly platter. 

A prime example was always pricey red snapper. Researchers and reporters sure as hell didn’t expect to find that 24 of 26 “red snapper” samples were actually less desirable fish. Get this: A common end-around for real red snapper was striped bass.

But onward to the foulest of misidentifyings. Ready for this? In Boston, all 23 “white tuna” menu items turned out to not only be cheaper lower-grade tuna, but, hideously, it was often escolar!

Might you recall being told about the folly of eating escolar? And lest you think I’m exaggerating, chew on this: the sale of escolar in banned in Japan, not to mention many other countries. Hell’s bells, the Rising Sunners will give a go at eating raw fish that can kill them right in your tracks. If Japan has banned a seafood item, you damn well know it has to be truly hideous.

Now for my own escolar tale – and the likely reason I’m a tad down on this nauseating species. The worst seafood-related intestinal misery of my entire life came about after downing what I now realize – per symptoms – was escolar sashimi. Yep, raw wax esters. It happened in South America and I was that close to going to the U.S. embassy to hand deliver my last will and testament. 

Anyway, the trickle down effect of the great American seafood identify theft syndrome is going to launch the price of legit seafood through the ceiling – now that distributors have to deliver the real goods. And, per initial Massachusetts’s investigations into falsified menus, it seems it’s the distributors to blame, mainly the famed middlemen. But how much can be made by simply scamming on fish identities? Per Consumer Report, Americans spent 80 billion on seafood last year. Fraction that out and the profits can be astronomical for rip-offs.

Locally, we’re in the pink when it comes to everything from legit salmon to true tuna.  We’re at the seafood source: fishermen in the know. Our restaurants deal directly with the seafood specialists. As to what happens when a worthy fish product crosses paths with cheaper wannabes, there’s no guessing what you’ll be served – unless you have your portable DNA analyzer on hand.

DEBRIS FIELD: Talk about long-term fallout from the Japanese tsunami. How about upcoming tsunami-related impacts on Hawaii and the West Coast of U.S.? No, I’m not talking about nuclear fallout. It’s debris fallout that’s on its way. And it could get ugly.

In the wake of Japan’s tsunami devastation, scientists at the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center have begun scrupulously tracking what amounts to a floating debris field -- comprised of every everyday item imaginable. It’s all the stuff sucked seaward after the tsunami waters flowed back out to sea. The outflow contained an immeasurable amount of wreckage. Entire shattered cities were drawn out to sea.

For researchers, it’s a question of how much debris will stay afloat – and travel thousands of miles on currents  – and how much debris will become waterlogged and sink.  

Being helped out by reports from ships now crossing paths with the drifting debris, the U. of H. scientists are getting a rough idea of the field’s parameters. It is unevenly spread across a zone between Japan and Midway Atoll, some 2,500 miles from Tokyo. Midway could see the first wave of floatables as early as this January

Early projections have a veritable tidal wave of debris impacting Hawaii by early 2013. Just to get a feel for the scope of what could be a wreckage attack, the Sandwich Isles could receive as much as 20 million tons of material. However, that’s a veritable drop in the bucket when compared to the entire westbound debris field, roughly 2,000 miles in length, hitting the U.S. West Coast in 2014. The poundage could be like no wash-up ever seen – or even imagined.

From a seriously practical angle, the arrival of that debris could be catastrophic for boating, surfing, fishing -- you name it.

Having a long waveriding history with Hawaii and the West Coast, I can assure that the last thing you want to share a grinding wave with is any sort of hard objects, large or small. Televisions or refrigerators? Forgetaboutit. A Russian vessel recently ran across the likes of refrigerators and televisions floating in that zone between Japan and Midway.

Of course, this ongoing research on the wreckage flow is a bit speculative. I might add a bit of an educated guess that the travels of the tsunami trash will be making some detours and itinerary changes. A great deal of the floatables will become weighed down by the likes of algae and clinging marine life. It might not sink fully but instead become ensconced within the water column, slowing it’s progress. It may take decades on end to reach any U.S. land mass. Face it, Japanese objects could come ashore for 100 years to come. We’ll know it’s original Japanese home-front stuff because instead of reading “Made in Japan,” it’ll read, “Made here.”

Another spookier side trip for the Japanese debris field might be that famed Pacific Trash Vortex, a gyre of human junk trapped in the North Pacific, where the circulating currents hold everything floatable in place.

Sidebar: I base my above gyre theories on data I collected while researching a college paper in Hawaii. I’d like to say my study was being done in a noble effort to better our ecological understanding of the planet. Not quite. Forever the treasure hunter, I was gratuitously studying the current-driven travels of much sought after Japanese fishing net floats – wonderfully collectible hand-blown glass floats, made in every imaginable color, used by fishing boats plying the waters in the North Pacific. I first began coveting them during trips to Kauai, the most northerly Hawaiian island. Virtually everybody on Kauai was on the look for them back in the day. But I digress. Or do I?

I mean absolutely no disrespect to the tsunami-ravaged folks in Japan – and I personally know many fine folks out there – but I can’t be the only person wondering what valuable items might come ashore when the floating debris fields hits. I’ll temper that treasure-hunting aspect by concurrently hoping to hear incredible stories of found personal items being returned to rightful owners after thousands of miles adrift. 

RUNDOWN: The boat bassing has been borderline bonkers. I have a dozen reports of stripers on every drop, including many better fish going for jigs and even diving plugs (once hot spots are located). Bait rules.

The bass action is mainly outside the inlets, heading a tad north. The flotillas mark the prime locales. Along with near-beach waters off IBSP, sections off mid-LBI have seen stop-less stripering.

The beach bassing has responded to winds, as in south winds. Even a whiff of southerlies brings better bass within surfcaster casting distance. During better bassing times, the hooking is often spread evenly – and lightly. No beachfront bass blitzes to speak of. Those will come when – and if – the bunkies arrive.

The bluefishing remains suckacious. They just aren’t showing yet, short of a here-or-there fish to maybe 12 pounds. Time is running out for any sort of protracted slammer run. This coming week has the highest potentials to date, based on year’s past – when the big blues showed for a final run, after having been around for weeks prior. 

For night people, I have to think the bridges are holding bass after dark. Pink plastics worked for a fellow I know -- an insomniac by my thinking. 
THIS AND THAT: When driving, please watch out for squirrels. Too many  are already road-kill. Those little buggers get so immersed in stocking food for winter they blindly bound across rapid-fire roadways. They're not bad creatures at all. Give ‘em a brake.
I had a oceanfront homeowner I know flag me down to ask what she should do about a buggy she saw driving "erratically." I didn't recognize the vehicle she described. She wanted to know how to handle the situation without having to call the police. Her late dad was a fanatic surfcaster so she didn't want to smear the good names of most casters and buggyists by going law with them.

I was at a loss. Going PD on radical buggyists seems the only logical route. However, I gave her my number and told her to alert me if the vehicle is a repeat offender. I also told her to get a photo from her porch, to help the convince the culprit of his evil driving ways.

I got some beach metal detecting in recently and found my 200th Hopkins -- dating back to circa 1969. Almost all are the old high-quality stainless steel types. Most are in amazingly good condition, though often rust stained from the hooks corroding.

With the removal of rotted hooks (and sometimes the split ring, if not stainless), I make the long-buried finds look like new. I use an astounding rust removal fluid called Whink and then power buff the lures with a hard cotton wheel, loaded with a stainless steel buffing compound.

What I'm hoping to do with all of them might take an artistic twist. My mental game plan is to flash or arc weld them together in the shape of a large bass. 
I got an interesting email from a fellow whose wife never lets him throw away unused green crabs. Gospel turth: She makes green crab soup. "It's amazingly good. The more crabs, the better," he told me. I got the recipe so any greenies I get as bycatch when clamming might be in the hot seat -- along with the clams. In fact, the gal's recipe even suggests some clams if green crabs are scarce. 

HOLGATE HAPPENINGS: The Holgate entrance is an impassible mess. The labored upon access road has faltered. It now ends in a sudden nonnegotiable drop-off onto huge chunk of concrete and huge rusting iron mats, once used by the military to access a grounded destroyer after the March Storm of ’62.

The only thing that can save the Holgate buggy access is a change of venue.

I can’t even touch on converting the south end of West Avenue into a drive-on point. Mobile anglers have a long-standing gentlemen’s agreement with a homeowner (Richard S.) not to go there, so to speak. In return, we have received years of Holgate access atop Mr. S.’s adjacent property, closer to the parking lot. 

What we need to cure what ails Holgate is either a change in planetary polarity or a massive beach fill – of an emergency nature.

I bring up that ER angle because it can actually transcend absurdly lengthy and potentially futile efforts to someday replenish all of Beach Haven and then have Beach Haven Inlet (Holgate beachfront) piggyback onto the project.

I have never met Congressman Jon Runyon but I might be calling him to come down and have a look at Holgate. If anyone wants to come along on such a “Meet the Beach, Mr. Congressman” let me know.

 

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