Weather patterns enough to drive one to O.C.

OUTDOORS

August 07, 1994|By GARY DIAMOND

Just in case you haven't noticed, the weather has been rotten for the past three weeks -- especially if you're an avid fisherman.

A small cold front passes through Harford County nearly every afternoon, spawning dangerous lightning, severe thundershowers, high winds and at times, flash floods -- all the ingredients to make life miserable.

The results of these persistent weather patterns are obvious, even to the casual observer.

The Susquehanna River is a virtual sea of mud. Deer Creek, although somewhat clearer, is high, fast moving and difficult to fish, and most farm ponds are covered with a thick mat of algae.

Consequently, this provides an excellent excuse to take the entire family to Ocean City, a trip that can be passed off as the annual family vacation, but in your mind, it's another fishing trip.

Granted, the same weather patterns eventually will pass through O.C., but usually much later in the day.

With this in mind, you can charter a morning fishing trip to the Jack Spot or Hot Dog, nearby locations where big bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and dolphin have been congregating for nearly a month.

Most folks think tuna are born and raised in an 8-ounce can. This myth was likely created by advertising agencies, which through ingenious marketing strategies, put together several TV commercials showing cartoon charters of tuna jumping out of a can.

These same individuals sincerely believe people that eat dolphin killed Flipper, a character created by television.

Fortunately, most offshore anglers know the difference between tuna in a can and a hefty bluefin, and they're well aware of the difference between dolphinfish and porpoise.

Although both yellowfin and bluefin stocks are being rapidly depleted by commercial interests, offshore recreational fishermen get lucky and occasionally catch a couple of tuna.

If it's an exceptional day, with the weather gods smiling down brightly upon the always rough ocean, they'll discover an isolated weed line or chunk of floating debris in the same area, debris that frequently harbors large numbers dolphin.

There's nothing tougher to land than an aggravated, football-shaped tuna that has no intention of getting near your boat. These extremely powerful adversaries make grown men cry as they dive repeatedly to the ocean bottom during long, arm-wrenching runs.

Fortunately, the limit is one fish per person. If the limit were two, there's a good chance you might experience your first coronary while strapped to a fighting chair 25 miles from shore.

If you're lucky enough to win the fight, you'll quickly discover tuna, unlike many other bluewater fish, yield nearly 65 percent of their weight in edible meat. Most other species usually provide 45 percent to 50 percent. In other words, a 100-pound bluefin equals approximately 120 8-ounce cans of tuna -- more than most folks consume in an entire lifetime.

Although dolphin are also tough adversaries on any kind of tackle, they have several attributes that make them extremely attractive to bluewater anglers.

First, you don't have to troll for big dolphin. Some of the largest fish, those weighing up to 60 pounds, are usually lurking in the shade of a floating sheet of newspaper or an old board. Cast a small lure, streamer fly or chunk of bait in their direction and hang on.

Dolphin can be taken on heavy spinning gear, and if your heart can stand it, high-quality fly fishing tackle. The best aspect of this particular species is it stays on top, leaps repeatedly when hooked and it's likely the ocean's most beautifully colored big-game fish.

Both fresh tuna and dolphin also are rated extremely high for their eating quality. Despite their oily texture, when filleted, either can be frozen for short periods. The secret to freezing, however, is cutting the fillets into meal-sized chunks, rinsing thoroughly FTC with cold, fresh water and placing them in water-filled, air-free containers.

The fillets then can be frozen without fear of freezer burn, a problem often encountered when freezing oily species.

When defrosting, place the fillets in a plastic container filled with ice-cold, lightly salted water. Although using this method of defrosting takes a fair amount of time, the meat remains firm and much of the natural flavor is retained.

When you return to Harford County, you'll be sunburned, tired and ready for a stay-at-home vacation -- the kind of vacation that only requires you to eat and sleep.

However, you have lots of fresh fish to cook, so invite some of the neighbors over for a cookout and serve them what many gourmets consider a charbroiled culinary delicacy.

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