Friday, June 15, 2012

Be Content, The Sea Hath Fish Enough

I recently returned from surf fishing at Emerald Isle, NC. In the past I have shown pictures of fish taken from Emerald Isle's surf. We are very fortunate to know a beachfront cottage owner there who offers us a generous discount when renting his property. In the past, I've always managed to catch enough fish in the surf there to have a respectable family fish fry by the fourth or fifth day. This trip was no exception.

The first couple of days were rough. The weather was blustery and rainy. There was a great amount of seaweed in the water and the current was so strong a five ounce sinker could not keep your bait in place. Hard fishing only yielded sharks and small northern puffers. Sad to say, nothing worth keeping. On the third day, things began to change. Water conditions become noticeably different. The current weakened to where a 3 ounce sinker could hold bottom. The shore was littered with seashells broken and battered by the previous two days of bad weather. Before dawn I am on the beach. My fisherman's sense was on high alert. I could envision the fish cruising under the surface. In my mind's eye, I  pictured the bluefish on the hunt in the trough running parallel to the beach. Sunrise brought in a nice bluefish bite and when that died down, the 8 to 10 inch whiting eagerly took shrimp baited hooks cast just behind the first break. By 8:00 AM I had a fair amount of fish in the cooler and I took a little time off to eat breakfast and set up a sunshade and beach chairs for my girls. The rest of the day consisted of playing with my girls, picnic on the beach and building sandcastles. I managed to cast my lines a few more times and while the bluefish stayed away, the whiting consistently took bits of shrimp or a freshly dug up sand flea.

The next morning I was on the beach again before sunrise. Knowing I have enough for a fresh seafood meal this week, I now concentrate more on sports than sustenance. Bluefish and whiting again make their appearances. I keep a few and throw back more. I attach a Hopkins lure to my rod during the bluefish bite, however the blues weren't in the mood. They much preferred the finger mullet over the metal so I switched back. When the sun got a little higher I targeted the whiting and put four or five of those in my cooler. Later that day I bring out my Alvey rod and reel. I never have any more or less success with the Alvey than I do with my other rod and reels, however I do enjoy the stares and comments beachcombers give as they walk by. The whiting continued to bite all day off and on. Later in the afternoon the blues made another appearance and it was nice to reel them in. I really enjoy the bluefish's fight and instinct for self preservation. You reel him in and when he gets close to shore he finds it in him to offer up a little more resistance. Thank you bluefish for your fighting spirit. You are worthy fish.

On Friday the bite died down. Little to nothing took the lines. It was just as well, I again got to play with my daughters, repair washed out sandcastles, capture sand fleas in bucket only to release them and look up down the beach for seashells. Normally we hold our fish fry on Friday, however the girls only wanted to eat hotdogs and frankly after a long day of playing with them I didn't feel like cooking anything major.

Saturday morning I walked out on the beach just after sunrise and BA-BAM! The bite was on! I knew we would definitely cook our fish that night because on Sunday we would have to return home. I also knew we had enough fish and wouldn't need to keep anymore. All was well, I was regularly reeling in the fish and throwing them back. Then around 9:30 or so the 12 inch+ whiting showed up and I kept the next four. The twelve inchers continued to bite, however I forced myself to throw them back. We really had more than we needed. All in all, the bite lasted all day with just a few breaks. Some fishermen about 100 yards from me claimed to have spotted two five foot sharks swim by and wanted to know if I had seen them. Alas, I never saw them. That night I cooked up several whiting and bluefish filet's in a most simple fashion. I greased down a cookie sheet, placed the cleaned fish on the pan and set them in a preheated 500 degree oven. Five minutes into the cooking I turned over the fish and returned the fish to the oven for another six minutes. Pulling the fish out of the oven, I checked the meat to make sure it was visually white and flaked easily with a fork. I served these up with a can of Bush's Baked Beans and some coleslaw. Voila! A seafood dinner unrivaled by many restaurants.

Tight Lines and Fresh Bait!

R. M. Callaway