Tale End: Trash Talk - The Fisherman

Tale End: Trash Talk

When talking trash along the local bulkhead, you might be surprised at what some of your fellow anglers view as pure treasure.

“Talking trash” is usually associated with testosterone-fueled athletes in an attempt to rattle their opponents as in, “your mother wears combat boots” in my day.

I do believe it has sunk to a much lower level now, grammatically and graphically.

“Garbage time” is taken to mean the third-string quarterback gets some snaps when his team is behind 49-0 in the fourth quarter.

In the world of angling there are species considered “trash” or garbage” fish.

An example, the glorious Atlantic salmon is not to be confused with the common carp, which is like comparing royalty with a bum…the latter no doubt a politically incorrect term these days on the order of “swamp” and “slum” which I believe have been glossed over to “wetlands” and “inner city.”  But that’s the way it is. You want fluke; you catch sea robins and dogfish instead.

Wade a famous river in the Catskills for silver rainbows or wary brown trout and you catch chubs. Striped bass fishermen consider bluefish (hardly a trash species) pests when their target is the lovely linesider and blues intercept bait or lure intended for the former.

Even fish sought for bait have a pecking order of preference. On our recent trip to Maine fishing for mackerel to liveline for stripers we caught similar size pollock, which our guide eyed in disgust and tossed back.

On the fabled Musconetcong River in New Jersey, the suckers were stacked like torpedoes in spring and gave a fair fight, but loathed as yucky bottom feeders. Suckers, however, and any bony fish of their ilk can be made into tasty fish cakes if you want to take the trouble.

The largemouth bass, considered a species that most Americans fish for in all kinds of waters, are the prize catches of million-dollar tournaments (a scourge on true sportfishing) and believe it or not are pretty tasty, but also considered “trash fish” in waters where native brook trout swim. There are regions of the Adirondacks where a person dumping bass into brook trout waters would be tarred and feathered if caught.

I confess to being somewhat of a fish snob in that I don’t like fish on the order of carp, sea robins, skate, chubs and their trailer trash cousins.  However, I slunk to chumming corn kernels and baiting a long shanked hook with same on my last trip to our little Pennsylvania lake. I caught a grass carp of 10 pounds and I have to admit it was a helluva lot of fun.

Some folks, misguided and warped, call the carp “Mr. Man.” I call him a dirtbag species, but a fighter…the “Raging Bull” of the lake. Not polished, but you gotta respect the guy.  My nose-up stigma is no doubt owing the fact that the best place to catch carp, and we did as kids, was off the sewage discharge pipes in the Susquehanna River near Wilkes-Barre, PA. We caught ‘em and shot them in the head with a .22 rifle. Trash indeed. I lived in a town where “a river ran through it” and your toilet flushed into it in 1954.

Show me the guy who hasn’t caught a skate while fluke fishing and I’ll show you somebody who hasn’t gone flattie angling very often. The bottom also can be paved with sea robins gobbling your killie and squid sandwich rig. A well-known former editor of a national fishing magazine who has been a companion on scores of saltwater trips insists we keep any decent size skates.  He eats the wings with a little garlic, a dash of olive oil.  I was reminded of same when reading an enjoyable article in an issue of The Fisherman by Brian Lodge entitled “Garbage Man’s Guide to Cleaning Fish.”

Dogfish, sea robin and skate are all table fare for this guy, absolutely!  Meanwhile, an old friend asks that I keep the heads of any stripers I catch. He married an Asian girl and in that culture fish heads are an ingredient for a savory seafood meal, just as a low country boil down south might include everything but garden slugs in the pot, and I’m not too sure it doesn’t.

But despite my disdain for carp, other species such as ling – not a garbage fish – can save the day when the fluke, blues or bass have lockjaw. Bluegills taste better than stocked trout, and when you can’t catch tarpon, which is not eaten anyway, you settle for amberjack or some other species they use for fast food fish burgers.

It’s a game that often becomes a target of opportunity mission.

Catching something is better than catching nothing, even carp.



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