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The Ultimate Anglers of Boating Magazine Serve You Their Monthly Smorgasbord of All Things Fishy

May 7, 2006

By my estimation, I’ve filleted about 321,650 pounds of fish during the past 30 years. This is no exaggeration, even though I just picked a random number. So when I wrote Off the Hook, Rudow’s Recipes for Cooking Your Catch($20; 800/638-7641, www.cmptp.com), I included a section on myfish-cutting methodology. The biggest mistake I see at the dockside cleaning stations? Poor skinning techniques that result in lost meat and ripped, ragged fillets. Looking for the perfect hunk of fish for dinner? Then do your skinning like this:

  • DO Leave the scales on the fish. They’ll help hold the fillet together as you do the cutting. Besides, skinning the fish will get rid of the scales anyway.

  • DON’T Cut the fillet off of the fish-controlling a delicate fillet with the skin side (read: slimy) down is nearly impossible.

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  • DO Leave the fillet attached to the fish at the tail end. Then grasp the fillet near the front of the fish, flip it back toward the tail so it lies meat side up, and pull it tight against the body of the fish.

  • DON’T Rip the meat and skin apart; instead, cut straight down into the meat of the fillet right next to the tail, until you reach the skin. Then turn the knife 90 degrees, so the blade faces away from the body of the fish, and slide it along the inside of the skin.

Fillet Packing Tip: Zipper lock baggies do a good job of keeping your fillets fresh, but they’ll work even better if you insert a drinking straw into the bag, zip the baggie closed up against it, suck out all of the air, and slide the straw out as you finish sealing it.

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Added bonus: It tastes great, too! ****

Sharkbite by Kevin Falvey

The next time you kill (“harvest,” for the PC among you) a shark, there could be more at stake than steaks.

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), as part of age and growth studies by its Apex Predators Program, is requesting backbone samples from sharks being kept by anglers. “Backbones,” says Dr. Lisa J. Natanson, research fisheries biologist with NMFS, “allow us to determine the age of the shark by counting the band pairs within. Like aging a tree.”

The best sample is a one-to-two-foot section taken from directly above the gills. Pack it in ice and call NMFS, which will arrange pickup. In addition to the backbone, the shark docs require the tag number, if any, and the following data: date caught, species, sex (male sharks have claspers, long ones, just like us), location (lat/long) caught, curved fork length, weight (whole or dressed), and method of capture. The shark doesn’t have to have been tagged, nor do you need to be a tagger, to participate. The data will help determine how we can help one of our great gamefish populations thrive. Although most sharks killed for food are makos, backbones from other sharks, particularly threshers, are especially helpful.

Contact the Predators Program at 401/782-3320 http://na.nefsc.noaa.gov/sharks. -K Next page of fishy news…

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******FishSpeak** by Lenny rudow

The fish are trying to tell you something… but can you hear it? Scientists and savvy anglers know that many fish detect vibration with their lateral line, a series of scales running down the sides of fish with pores. These pores are connected to canals with clusters of sensory cells known as neuromasts, which have hairs linked to globs of jelly-like material. Fish use this system to hear vibrations in the water. And many fish communicate with each other using vibrations.

Croaker, sea trout, grunts, drum, tuna, and marlin make noises by rubbing their jaws or vibrating their air bladders. What those fish are saying, no one knows, but anglers must remember that these fish are listening, too. The next time you try to catch a blabber mouth, remember this sound advice.

  • Fish hear yelling or even loud talking. While towing a hydrophone behind boats on the troll, we found human voices were audible over engine noise 3 feet below the surface and 30 feet behind the boats. Warn your crew to remain calm and quiet when they spot a fish in the spread.

  • Keep the stereo volume down while fishing.

  • Sometimes noise can be good-when the usual lures don’t seem to produce, try ones with equipped with rattles, such as Rat-L-Traps.

  • When throwing a cast net, use sound to your advantage; bait fish suspended at mid-depth will often dart for the surface-and right into your net-if you yell loudly or stamp on the deck as you throw the net.

  • When the bite’s slow, try spraying your washdown hose over the side. Sometimes the sound of splashing draws in curious fish.

**** Pre-Rig PunchOut by John Meade After a long, hard workweek, many of us don’t have the time or energy to prep and rig a pile of ballyhoo. What’s the easy way to add some meat to your spread? Use pre-rigged ballyhoo. I bought three different kinds to see whose ‘hoo hooted best. ****

Willies (www.williesbait.com) Price $8.50/3-pack mediums. Smell Fresh as a sea breeze. Appearance Good green tone, clear eyes, intact scales. Rigging Well-wrapped wire, with a loop small enough to slide on a skirt. Two sharp hooks protrude from the underside of the bait. Results With no weight, it skipped. After sliding on an Ilander, it swam great – until a fat mahi-mahi inhaled it. ****

Just Rite Bait Price $9/3-pack mediums. Smell Yum-like sardines. Appearance Shiny blue tone and clear eyes, but some scales were missing. Rigging Tightly wrapped wire but the bill hadn’t been snapped off and the hooks needed a file. Results It tended to skip until I slipped a small chugger over the wire. Soon there was another mahi in the box. ****

Bionic Ballyhoo (www.bionicbait.com)Price $9/2-pack larges. Smell Salty. Appearance Awesome green hue, all scales in place, broad tails. Rigging Well-done wire wraps but the hooks needed to be hit with a file. Results Its motion did me right – yahoo for wahoo.

Totally Tubular Need some excitement in your week-night routine? Pop Billfish: A Challenge for Survival ($25; www.billfishdocumentary.com) into your home theater and watch intense boatside action as well as underwater footage of billfish corralling and attacking bait. This film isn’t all about head-spinning excitement, though. It’s an eloquent documentary portraying the struggle to protect billfish stocks-with just enough action clips to keep the viewer enthralled. I was surprised at the refreshing lack of finger pointing between recreational and commercial fishermen. It promotes the use of circle hooks and places pressure on foreign longline fleets. I call this one a must-see for all avid big-game anglers. -Jon Meade

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