(Warning, the video at the bottom of this page will not make much sense unless you read at least the last half of this post)
How in the hell did white croakers get re-christened "kingfish." Seems odd. Like calling VW Bug a Cadillac. Evidently, someone at some point thought very highly of this species (as do I), and nick-named it accordingly. One thing I think I can state for a fact--he was no wasi'chu.
What can I say? I want to post pictures. I want to write great epic haikus. I want to scream out and dance with joy. I saw so many things today that thrilled me and made me want to live forever. First there was one boat. All morning waiting for one boat. I expected sturgeon. Check that. I mean I expected no sturgeon. They came roiling in at 2pm. And what did they have? I'll tell you. 29 kingfish (nine over limit for two anglers). The neanderthals out there scoff at the mention of this fish. This wormy, slimy, sea bass wannabe. This semi carp-mouthed bottom feeder nematode magnet. But think about it. They started disappearing five years ago. Seriously. How many people in the last 2 years have caught 29 kingfish in 4 hours of fishing. I don't care if you hate king fish, think they're not worthy of consideration or whatever, regardless... the bay should be loaded with them. And it's not. Or I should say it hasn't been. Not for a long time. These were all beautiful fish (see above). The Chinese call them "wong fa" (yellow flower fish?) The Koreans call them "chogies." The Vietnamese call them something I am unable to pronounce, (my ancestors having barely raised themselves out of the bogs of Ireland 10 centuries ago, when the Vietnamese were perfecting their tonal, half-sung language). I'm on a roll. Big beautiful kingfish. A species so worm-ridden I could never actually bring myself to eat one, but nevertheless, I pose a question (to myself). Do I love the kingfish? Yes I do. There I said it. I love the kingfish, (aka: white croaker, squid pecker, worm farm, mucous fish, however you wanna put it). Maybe they're coming back. Fingers crossed on this. If the ecosystem is healthy enough to support a robust white croaker population it's healthy enough for a lot of other fishies. Like these, for instance:
Dabbling in Dabs
And then sand dabs. First time in four years I'm seeing sand dabs in the bay. Still looking for a way to perfect the cooking of these guys. Mine always end up rather soft. My friend Loren suggests salting them first. At least that's what the old Chinese lady at the market told him to do. Sand dabs are served at some of the best restaurants in the city: Tadich Grill, Zuni Cafe etc. I think Chez Panisse has even dabbled in dabs. So they must be better than I am at cooking them.
And then on top of all these happy developments, the night smelt ran last night and I was there with MFN operatives Todd Curtis, Loren Wilson and my trusty A-frame net, "Smelt Hammer," to put a dent in the population (not). Afterwards handed some off to new friend and chef, Matt, to see if he is interested in maybe serving these in his restaurant some day--he wanted to eat a few himself, first. All told we bagged 60 pounds for three anglers in just over an hour. Had we wanted to we could have filled a barn with night smelt. The video of this happy event will be available shortly. There really is no other fishery like this. Something about wresting fish from the roiling surf... the sparkle of the smelt as the sand filters out of the net, the feeling of them bumping into your feet, into the frame, into the net, the mist lingering over the sea at night, star light, the rush of the waves all around you, the simple perfection of the A-frame, the fog horn, the cucumber scent of the bucket, the... okay, time for another Monkeyface haiku...
In the dark waters gleaming
You will soon be fried!
Monkeyface fishwife Camilladilla found this awesome photo of a Yurok Indian jumping smelt at the turn of the century. As I have indicated before, (go here) the A-frame net is a Native-American fishing technology
Somebody once pointed out to me that night smelt can be bought at Asian markets for 79 cents a pound. This is, in fact, true. However, the night smelt one sees in Asian markets are usually in sorry shape. Not only do they reek, in the way only a poorly kept fish can reek, but they are mashed, beaten and abused like no other fish on the shelves. Being that the night smelt is an extremely delicate little bugger, and the nets used to trawl him are huge, he tends to get smooshed. Or I should say pulverized in these big industrial nets. This is why, I very carefully dump my net out whenever the nipple has more than five pounds of fish in it (you will see me dumping out my net frequently in the video below). I personally like my nighties in tip top condition. But this all must sound rather vague and esoteric. If you are unfamiliar with night smelt dipping you should probably check out the video below...
But before we begin, I would like to offer this disclaimer: I am well aware that my videos lack technical wizardry (personally, I think it's part of their charm). I am many things, (cheapscate, mounteback, taster of fine whiskies, n'er do well, armchair geographer etc) but I am neither a gear-head nor a film director. All the stuff you've seen so far on this blog was filmed with the video function on a non-water proof, $140, Sony still-camera. Which is about a step and a half removed from a cell phone camera. The footage you're about to see, as compromised as it may be, wouldn't exist at all if Todd hadn't shown up at the beach with a powerful flashlight and a flip cam. I had already put my camera away after the sun disappeared, so I am personally thrilled that we got any footage at all... thank you, Todd. And I will say this. As unbelievable as it may be, this is the first ever footage of a nightsmelt run on Youtube. And I think the only footage of A-frame dipping too. (By all means tell me if I'm wrong).
Actually, even Bill is known to scream with joy occasionally!
So without further adieu, here's the newest Monkeyface Production... also, I'd just like to say, there is a small cadre of individuals (like five out of 3 thousand viewers) out there who find my enthusiasm for fish, and my obvious eccentricity a great source of derision. These people I take it, do not scream out with joy when they catch a few herring or smelt or dabs or crabs or anything. And find it somehow insulting to their fleeting and unoriginal senses of manhood that I do. And so, be forewarned, if you're one of these five guys there's a lot of me screaming out with joy in this one. If that's going to prompt you to call me names and infect my burgeoning mind with sourness, please go away. Here: I've got a great fishing site for you: It's called: Billy Dance Outdoors. There you can learn all about the best products to buy and how to appropriately catch a fish. Oh yeah, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out of the room.
A-hem... Sorry for that. I guess that's the price of going public. (BTW I erase stupid comments before anyone else has the pleasure of seeing them). One wonders why they read my blog if they're so smug and jaded and disturbed by a guy who loves fish.
Okay... I'm off my soap box.
Wow, that was wonderfully therapeutic! Think maybe I'll have another cup o' Joe!
Anyway here's the new video... first ever night smelt footage on You Tube! Sorry for the technical probs. Thanks to Todd, a two fisted cinematographer (one hand held the flash light the other the camera!) if ever there was one.