fancy latin words · sarcasm with a chance of humor · striped bass

it’s all about the squid-narragansett times, 5/30/2014

 

The holiday weekend has brought warming waters and strong catches of stripers fluke and even a few blues. Freshwater ponds are giving up some heavy largemouth as they are defending their new beds. Coastal air is tinged with clam cake essence, parking spots are disappearing, reports of good fishing from shore and boats are coming from the top of the bay to along our south coast, so big striped bass certainly are getting closer.

Here in RI, the minimum size for possession of a striped bass is 28” with a two fish per day maximum. Many of us will fish all summer and never be asked for a license or to have their catch inspected by a RIDEM Enforcement officer. Obviously they can be in only so many places and since all our money was spent betting on video games, the State can only afford just so much coverage. Taking a short fish, even one, even if it’s just the first time, even if it’s just because it will fit perfectly on your grill, even if you are pretty sure it’s legal but you forgot your tape, even if you looked up to the stars and promised never ever to take a short again, does not negate the consequences.

Anyone too old to throw mailboxes around Eastward Look will remember when bass stocks crashed a few years back and new regulations had to be promulgated. Today, striped bass are considered “not overfished” by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council, but a steady population can be easily damaged by removing not only just females but also females weighing less than ten pounds. Research performed in 1977 detailed the growth of oil globules in females, necessary to nourish larvae. Larvae spawned from females weighing in excess of ten pounds were larger at five days and had a stronger reserve of oil than those from smaller females.  The opposite was true for females weighing less than ten pounds. Females produce millions of eggs and it’s believed a thirty pounder can produce almost five million. The short story here is that taking more fish than the law allows reduces spawning potential and removing undersized fish, especially females, has serious impacts on following year classes.

There is another, equally important aspect here. The regulations for seasons, sizes and limits are the law and, in this case anyway, are for our ultimate benefit. Sitting on a dock hoping for a ticket to the fifty-pound club while the guy next door is stocking the garage freezer with schoolies? Ever see a couple dragging big heavy bags down the beach, stuffed with small blue crabs out of Cards Pond? In your wallet, along with your fishing club membership and a lucky hook, you should have this number: RIDEM Enforcement, 401-222-3070.

Squid have moved into our south county harbors while continuing to pile up under Newport’s Goat Island causeway near the Easton’s Point neighborhood. They are desired as both bait and dinner and therefore chased by a very dedicated group of fishermen and night owls. We have two main species inhabiting our waters, Loligo and Illex and since striped bass prey on them, we all know what that means. Mostly it means we will be sitting on a plastic bucket on the end of a dark pier, jigging a prickly pear of a fake fish, hoping to snag some very fast swimming cephalopods for bait.

Squid are covered in chromatophores, tiny organelles in their skin cells which contain pigment and reflect light, allowing them to change colors or become nearly invisible under water. This is why we have to spend forty-five dollars on a battery powered flood light to light up dark waters to attract them, sometimes securing it to a very rustic wooden excuse of an a-frame to relive the numbness in our arms from holding the damn thing all night. That’s also why some other people spend one hundred eighty dollars on submersible green glowing light bars to attract squid from several counties around, rendering our little yellow light basically useless.

Squid will expel ink through sacs located near their gills in an attempt to confuse predators and unwary fishermen, the latter being delirious from bouncing a jig and sipping old coffee or budget beer for hours. This ink, composed mainly of melanin, can be ejected in a cloud as a means to escape but also in smaller, more gelatinous shapes roughly mimicking the squid itself, thereby confusing its prey into attacking it while the real squid propels water with the same method and makes an escape. Regardless of its shape or consistency, the resulting stain on your clothing and footwear will serve as a permanent reminder of how much smarter a mollusc with three hearts can be than us, even as we whip it around the dock attempting to land it in a pickle bucket.

Thankfully, jigging for squid is a low cost endeavor. Buckets can be obtained from most restaurants or delis, jigs typically cost less than ten dollars and you don’t even need a special rod, although something with a light touch is preferred. That way when you snag your new ten dollar jig on a thirty year-old heap of barnacle and tunicate covered pot warp on your first cast, you can feel plenty of action in the tip before the line breaks. Fishing from the comfort of a boat is a fine endeavor, if you don’t have to sit on a bucket, and certainly affords far more options for locating fields of squid. At nights end you will still need to clean ink stains from the deck and rails then emotionally reconcile the eighty-five dollars in fuel you spent to catch fourteen dollars-worth of bait. If the squid never show up, at least you’ll have a new spotlight and plenty of places to get a plate of calamari this weekend.

 

 

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