Step Into The Freezer

ugh 011I was at the Canal Thursday. The results were atypical for a famous “breaking tide”. There were the expected pods of breaking fish, the expected reports of a few big fish landed, the expected schools of mackerel hugging the banks—but there was no consistency to the bite, no pushes of bass traveling through. Some isolated pockets of fast action did make a few anglers’ days though.

One such angler was a guy that I would guess was in his early 20s, someone who is most definitely in the early stages of his love for our sport. There were two nice fish displayed on the access road, a 36-pounder for an older guy nearby and a 28-pounder for this younger guy I stopped to talk with.

He told me that the fish had taken an SP Minnow thrown among a large school of macks. He added that it was his first good fish and he was very excited about it. You can’t blame him for that, 28 pounds is a nice fish for sure. We compared notes on the action throughout the morning, my results of five fish from a schoolie to a 22-pounder matched up roughly with his, although his fish was bigger than my biggest. I showed him the mackerel-colored Guppy Pencil that took all but one of my fish. He told me that he’d never been able to get a fish to hit a topwater plug. We talked about that for a bit and shook hands, but as he was walking away he said something that stuck in my mind.

“Well, now I have to go home and YouTube how to cook this thing!”

I offered up a basic recipe for my favorite way to eat the few bass I keep each year. In case you’re wondering, battered and fried bass makes great fish tacos with the right fixings. I was quick to add that a 28-pounder would make enough tacos for his entire neighborhood, but I don’t think my words landed where I hoped they would.

I don’t fault anyone for keeping a fish, I do it now and then and think that it’s a practice that should always be a part of our sport. But taking a fish just to take one is not a good practice. I would obviously give this guy a free pass, he was fired up—and I wouldn’t want to take that away from him, I only use this example because it’s fresh in my mind. But, if you don’t even know what you’re going to do with it when you get home, you should really release the fish. If you’ve ever thrown a fish into a dumpster after killing it you should feel bad about it. I hope that my new friend from the Canal had a great dinner with family and friends that night and I hope he a gets a 38 tomorrow. But what I hope above all else is that he realized that a fish of that size is enough to feed a family function and that the mythical 38 I just hooked him up with in the near future is much more valuable alive.

As the tides we’ve come to rely on become less and less consistent, it is going to become increasingly important that we all harvest with extreme care. People make the argument for ‘gamefish status’ but I have to wonder if a no-harvest fishery would hurt or help the sport overall. Personally, it wouldn’t stop me from fishing, but I think a large percentage of the people that can’t fish four nights (or more) per week like I usually can, depend on taking a fish for the table as the justification for the expenditure of their precious time and money.

Of course, this is abused as well. Striped bass just doesn’t belong in your freezer, unless you’re very good about how you care for it and you make sure that you eat it within six months of the catch. Some of my friends that are charter captains tell me that they hear the same line laughed over and over from their patrons, “Now we can throw away the fish from last year!” That’s every bit as bad as the dumpster crew. The striped bass shoulders a huge amount of the recreational fishing load here in the Northeast, it’s high time that we get our heads on straight.

10 comments on “Step Into The Freezer

  1. eelskinner

    This set of breaking tides sure didn’t produce like it was Supposed to on paper.Keep up
    the great work,and let’s hope in the near future the current harvest limits helps steer the stripes right into our unbelievable canal.(TRASH THE TRASH NOT OUR BASS)

  2. DZ

    I would never give anyone a hard time about keeping a personal best as long as it was a lawful fish. Just think how proud and excited we all were when we took our first large striper and how many of us looked at the weight of that first big fish as the next pinnacle to top, whether it be 20, 30, 40, or even 50 pounds. I generally start a friendly conversation with these young casters explaining why they should think of “selective harvest” when keeping striped bass, that is if you want to keep one it’s the smaller range of legal bass, 28”-32”, that will provide the best table fare. I then mention a good policy for the larger specimens is to release them or, if you want to keep a trophy, only keep those that beat your previous personal best. Using this policy limits the kill of larger bass but still allows trophy seekers to always have another pinnacle to top should they choose to keep one. Friendly conversation is the easiest way to educate and change minds.

  3. BigFishLarry

    Good article Dave! All great points and so very true! My biggest worry is it will wind up in the trash…..if he does not know how to cook it I wonder if he knows how to clean it?

  4. Trisser

    Well said all around Dave. Someone willing to watch a YouTube clip and talk to someone about how to clean and prep a fish is going to make an effort to at least try and make a meal. We have all had to learn the art of filleting a fish at some point and he is in that age range where his independence leads to discovery.

    On the game fish vs. harvest topic I always thought tagging fish was a great compromise. Go to a national SW registration, get 4-6 tags for the season, and do what you want with them. That way you get a much better understand of how much biomass you impact per year and you promote responsible harvest. This seems easy. You keep a fish you tag the fish. If you get stopped and the fish is not tagged you get it taken and fined. It also keeps people who go tot the beach every week from keeping a ton of fish each year. A limit of 4-6 can feed a family of 4 8-12 meals a year which easily recovers the SW registration fee. Jut thoughts.

  5. GT

    Good piece,was fortunate enough to fish there that week,and found the window opportunity to be short,with 4-5 different species and sizes of bait,was frustrating ,positioning is key down there,however did manage a 25# fish Tue morning in my absolutely favorite spot I like to fish.I don’t blame him for keeping the fish,I was that guy back in Jun 09,topped that last Aug,and had to keep it after 20 minutes of trying to get the fish back,I was sick to stomach as dragged that fish up the beach,I hope he savors the moment and enjoys our fine fruits of the sea,I can only hope like you that something stuck in his mind , You’re right the freezer is no place for any fish.

  6. Lee St. Louis

    Good article, and critical, ethical situation. I believe many “old timers”, I’m 47 and have hunted and fished, learned to clean and cook my harvest at a young age, are a dying breed. I have never kept more than what I could eat, or share with family or friends. With the exception of skin and bones, all my deer, turkey, striper and trout are fully utilized. I only keep maybe one or two legal fish in Maine if the whole family is there to enjoy it. 99% of the fish are released.

    The newer generation of outdoorsmen seem to have been taught the “winning/boo yah!” mentality. The jacked up pick up with the giant exhaust, flat brimmed hat, run and gun, step in the water next to you, hang my tree stand 10 yds from yours way of operating. Does it keep the sport going with funding they license sales, and revenue for vendors, yup. But it also incorporates the wanton waste that we commonly see now a days. I’ve seen stripers landed, dragged onto a beach, stepped on to steady to remove a hook then kicked back into the water so they could catch another one buring the blitz. Deer thrown of the side of the road with just the backstrap cut out.

    I would have hoped he prepped the fish properly, froze what he could not eat at that time, and enjoyed a great meal. I also hope that he finds an older “mentor” along the Ditch who can guide him further into his new found passion. Tight lines folks!
    “Oh to be Prince Caspian”

  7. stripermaineiac

    Good points but mute ones as today starts the commercial slaughter. wether it be at P-Town due to all the charter web site chatter or off Chatham to emulate last years an the yr befores fish catches. Many of us that talk the talk still carry a comercial ticket an take full advantage of this to what we know as the detriment to the species as a whole. Numbers are down every where again this season. Who keeps what an how many isn’t the problem. It’s the mind set that keeping the most no matter how many days in a row you do it that hurts. A fish now n then that hits the table at home-whether entered in a derby ,personal catch,or charter is ok. but to catch an keep all you can all the time is part of the problem. CPR -catch,photo an release is a good idea. As a plug builder an seller that makes some of the tools we use to persue our pasion I’ve kept 5 fish in 6 yrs. I try to practice what I preach as much as I can an teach by my actions. I’m not perfect but more of us need to work at this. just some thoughts

  8. Joseph P

    Damn straight. One or two now and again…but please have respect…and cook the fish with the care it deserves. It’s an amazing fish from a culinary perspective as well- do it justice.
    I also hate it when guys take all they can and then drive around to all their relatives and buddies giving them fish like santa clause.


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