I was recently at Jungle Jim’s International Market in Cincinnati. Most of my time was spent picking through their enormous beer selection but I did take a look at the fresh fish offerings. They had for sale several whole fish I’m familiar with from my days of saltwater fishing in Florida. Besides the Spanish mackerel and pompano, they had whole skate, black mullet, and crevalle jack.
Mullet, being vegetarian, are usually caught in cast nets. Floridians haul them in by the tons and smoke them over orange and other local fruit woods. The finished product is eaten as is or made into dips, pastes, or spreads. They are oily and thus, perfect for smoking.
Most saltwater fishermen view skates and rays as nuisance fish. They don’t put up much of a fight and once caught are difficult, and sometimes dangerous, to land and unhook. While most people don’t consider skates a food fish there are others who specifically target them. An old Army veterinarian once told me that a goodly amount of what we buy as scallops is actually punched skate and ray wings. Just as much of the “fish” and chips sold in Europe is really dogfish shark.
On a deep dark night many years ago my wife and I were sitting in our living room watching TV. It was summer and the windows and doors were mostly open. Suddenly, from somewhere in the [pullquote]By the way, my next article about fishing is going to be about the thirteen pound blue gill I caught at Rocky Fork Lake.[/pullquote]woods nearby our house, we heard the most indescribable scream imaginable. It was a sound neither of us had ever heard before and within a few seconds we heard it a second time.
I quickly grabbed a shotgun and a bright powerful flashlight and we headed into the wood in search of whatever was being torn to shreds. Long story short, whatever it was must have been scared off by our presence and we never again heard such a sound.
Last week a friend reported on Facebook what seemed like a similar experience. She posted a YouTube sound track of two raccoons fighting and after twenty years we now think we know what it was in our woods.
Over the years that I’ve been salt water fishing I’ve caught any number of sharks. I always told myself while swimming in the ocean that sharks were not common and hung out further at sea. That myth got busted when I began fishing in the very waters I once swam in.
The most common shark is the dogfish and is a valued food source. If you do any bottom fishing in and around the coast of North Carolina you’ll eventually hook up a dogfish. They are so common they are considered a nuisance. I don’t target sharks and all I’ve caught have simply been coincidence. The only exception was a couple of years ago when I deliberately rigged up to catch a shark from a pier in North Carolina. The result was the largest fish I’ve ever caught, a 120 lb spinner shark on a rig that many would use to fish for larger fresh water catfish.
I recently paid an evening visit to the Gulf of Mexico’s longest fishing pier at Navarre, Florida. At the far end was a group of five men armed with very heavy-duty rigs consisting of 6′ graphite rods and 10-12″ geared reels spooled with 125 lb test braided line. Each line was terminated with a 15′ piece of 900 lb test mono-filament leader followed by a 6′ solid steel wire leader and a huge stainless steel “circle” hook. The large mono-filament leader is necessary to keep the braided line away from the shark’s sandpaper like skin.
When I first arrived on scene two of the men were cutting a large 4′ stingray into several chunks. I assumed they were preparing the ray to be taken home for the grill. Instead these chunks were destined to become shark bait.