August is here, the Giants are playing well, the ocean is dying down, the fog is settling and here are some recent pix of notable catches:
(I think I posted this one a while ago but I post it again here so it can be compared with the one below it; a species with which it is often confused).
Makes my day to see fish like these... and then someone comes back to the harbor with this, inspiring the opposite sensation.
Hard to tell from the pic but the thing weighed over 50 pounds. It was still alive too. Groping hopelessly around the deck. I see a lot of dead and dying creatures at the dock, but this one really depressed me. We here at the MFN think highly of cephalopods. Especially octopi, and suggest throwing the huge ones back (don't get me wrong I love me some pulpo ceviche but I don't think it comes from behemoths like this, does it?)
August is here and that means one thing to the true SF Bayman!
Perch Season Now Open
(Free surf perch ID chart, by Lombard Of The Intertidal, here: Download Surfperchid)
There is no activity, (well, almost no activity) that I enjoy quite so much as floating around the pilings off China Basin catching pogeys and split-tails in my ten foot kayak (movie pending). Man. That's the jam. Last year I had a few days that were ridiculous--like seriously. Thing is, I'm out of 1/12th - 1/8th oz. Kastmasters. Maybe Gus' has them? (It appears they do, in abundance! Hmmm... why am I still sitting here?)
It's a shame the bay is so wretchedly polluted (and anyone who thinks it isn't is fooling himself). But beyond this, surf perch, no matter how hard you may try, no matter how skilled a cook you may be, just ain't that great to eat.
I'm sorry. Surf perch meat is mooshy. A skilled cook can disguise this mooshiness by, say, steaming them with garlic and ginger (a technique, born in the orient, to which I am admittedly, an unskilled barbarian). There is also, I should add, a Japanese-American redtail surfperch fishing club--a group of estimable men, friendly to pesky fishery observers, known to congregate on certain northern California beaches. These gentlemen have assured me that redtail surfperch, or more specifically, the portion of redtail surf perch flesh above the lateral line, makes for a top quality sashimi. Having been treated to lunch on numerous occasions by these fine anglers, I must say, I trust their culinary sensibilities. Yet I find myself hesitant to try this redtail surfperch sashimi. Something about sashimi from a local, coastal fish leaves me feeling a little... Wait a minute... what the hell am I talking about? I'm the guy who did this.
Maybe I'll do it. Maybe I'll drive up to Point Reyes and try to catch a few redtails. Cut the meat off the spine, dip it in wasabi saturated soy sauce, slice some ginger and call it done. Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just revel in the sparkling glory that is a redtail surf perch, and after unhooking it, throw it back to swim and sparkle another day.
Someone at pierfishing.com has evidently figured it out. Hopefully I will be contacted!
But if catch and release is the plan, why would anyone drive all the way to Point Reyes when there are plenty of catch and release surf perches right down the block? And really, what fish pound for pound, fights any harder than a pogey? I think it is fair to say that this species is the Manny Pacquiao of SF Bay fishes. If pogeys were marlin sized no one would ever be able to reel them in.
I know I've written volumes on this subject, but still, there's nothing quite like catching pogeys on light tackle in the bay--not for me anyway. Time to dust off that old Ocean City (which, BTW, I no longer reel backwards) and hit the downtown shores.
The pogey. Embiotoca jacksonii. Gutter tarpon. Sewer bass. Drain pampano. The Manny Pacquiao of fishes. Wow... that's good, gotta remember that. But maybe a middle weight would be more appropriate?
Hmmm... well... we did the whole sexy game fish/classic hollywood starlet thing... but can we equate surf perches with classic boxers... let's see.
Heavyweight Champs Of The Embiotocidae:
Rubberlip = Rocky Marciano
Marciano lands a right.
The rubberlip surf perch is without a doubt the Rocky Marciano of the clan. Heavyweight champ, sure, but not the most artful of heavyweight champs. A slug. A guy who took as many shots as he delivered. We could also go with Sonny Liston here but the thing is, in our humble opine Sonny Liston threw both of his fights against Ali (that's right, both of 'em.. yes, it's doubtful he would've won anyway, but still he threw 'em) and the rubberlip perch, although like Sonny, a known accomplice of gangsters ("stas" anyway), does not, under any circumstances, take a dive for the easy money. No way.
The fact that rubberlips also prefer "rocky" areas, further contributes to the Rocky Marciano association. Not the flashiest of his clan, but a hard hitter and a throwback to a different era. There isn't a rubberlip fan in all of SF Bay who does not reminisce about past rubber lip abundance, and whine about the current state of affairs. The only reservation I have about the Marciano/Rubberlip thing is that Rocky was kind of small for a heavyweight (though his legend grows), and rubberlips are obviously the monsters of the Embiotocidae.
Pile perch = Larry Holmes
A sterling example of Larry Holmes (Damalicthys vacca)
Hmmm... obviously I have to go with another heavyweight here... Let's see... how about this guy: Yeah there are many similarities between Larry Holmes and the pile perch. First off, the pile perch is hard to get really excited about. I mean he's cool and all, but he's not quite as cool as a rubberlip. Holmes almost broke Marciano's record by retiring undefeated. But he just couldn't quite pull the plug, and so ended up, lying on his back fumbling for his mouthpiece as a younger more energetic rival danced around him. A pile perch, just isn't quite a rubberlip. Nevertheless, there is no denying his talent, skill, heart and dedication.
Redtail Surf Perch = Muhammad Ali
A nice Muhammad Ali
This one was a no brainer. Who is the flashiest of the surf perches? The prettiest? The sexiest? The most dynamic? The most important--both commercially and recreationally? I think, ultimately, you'd be crazy to suggest that any other surf perch comes close to being Ali... I mean the redtail. You could make a case for the brown bomber (see barred surfperch below) but in the end, the redtail surf perch is the kind of creature that inspires songs, poems, how-to books etc. Is he the best fighter of them all? Probably not. I take Joe Louis in 10. Nevertheless, he is, as he might put it himself, The Greatest.
Barred Surf Perch = Joe Louis
The only heavyweight that really comes close to Ali is Joe Louis--both for his historical importance and his fighting ability. Nowhere near as flashy as the redtail. The barred surf perch is the "brown bomber" of his class. He is also the surf perch archetype. When most people think of the classic surf perch, they think of barreds. Even though the new archetype for boxing is, sadly, Mike Tyson (who, you will notice, does not get his own surf perch), the person who did more to create the 20th century image of what a fighter should be is Joe Louis.
Striped Surf Perch = Ken Norton
I had to think long and hard on this one. I needed to come up with a boxer who had size, strength, sex appeal and a slightly ambiguous nature. Finally it dawned on me: Ken Norton. About 75 percent of all fishermen call this guy a "rainbow" perch. The real rainbow perch, of course, isn't even in this weight class. Likewise, most people aren't even aware that Norton was a champ. "Wasn't he just a top contender?" they might ask. "Wasn't he just the white lady's sex interest in that unforgettable 1970's cinematic masterpiece, Mandingo?" (What in God's name was James Mason thinking?) No, he was one of the greatest fighters of his class... and so is this usually misnamed and largely overlooked species.
Black Surf Perch = Sugar Ray Robinson/Manny Pacquiao
As we have already said, the black surf perch is reminiscent of Manny Pacquiao. Sugar Ray Robinson is also in the running (Sugar Ray fought as a welterweight and later as a middleweight) and the more I think about it, Sugar Ray is the better choice. Manny is great but his story hasn't played out yet, and his recent bid for political prominence suggests that he seeks cleaner waters, and is not content with his station in life. In SF Bay, Pogies, are happy living in and around drains, sewers, outflow tubes, etc., and don''t seek out cleaner more affluent waters--although they will live in cleaner areas if they are born in them. They are also, as I have stated before, pound for pound, the best fighters of them all. And guess what? So was Sugar Ray. (Editor's note... I toyed breifly with Duran here, who was as savage a fighter as anyone who has ever stepped into a ring, but the words "No mas," do not appear in the black perch vocabulary).
Calico Surf Perch = Sugar Ray Leonard
Kind of have to go with Sugar Ray Leonard on this one. Can't deny the calico's flash. The lightning moves. The heart. The obvious influence of, and similarity to, Ali. Still it pains me that Marvin Hagler didn't get the decision. Highway robbery. We'll have to find a fish for Marvin at some point down the road.
Rainbow Surf Perch = Hector Macho Camacho
Okay, this doesn't really work. The rainbow surf perch is anything but macho... and yet... it sure is a flashy little guy.
Talk about flash, Hector is the flashiest perch of all times... and yet not without some punch. Jumped up to junior welter weight, and eventually welterweight inclass, but really considered by most fishermen and boxing enthusiasts as a lightweight. And a champion lightweight at that.
Walleye surf perch = Guts Ishimatsu
Gus was not the greatest of champs, but then neither is the walleye. Most notable for its strangely comedic appearance, Gus too has comedic leanings. When he hung up the gloves he embarked on a comedy career a la Jake Lamotta and Rocky Graziano. And actually appeared in several big budget movies (ie: Empire of The Sun...)
Shiner perch = Willie Pep
Look, the main thing about Pep was that his defense. He was a hard man to beat. At his prime he had 135 wins against 1 loss. Finished his career at 229-11-1. That's not a misprint. 229-11-1. Holy shit, you gotta be kidding me! The shiner perch is similarly talented. I have fished with shiners that survived for four hours on a hook. Unreal. As tough as bullheads and that's saying something. This is undoubtedly the greatest of all the matchups. A shiner perch is without a doubt the piscatorial equivalent of Guglielmo Papaleo.
Yikes, look at the clock. About to miss my tide. Gotta scram. Anyway from deep in the land of live bearing, elliptical, compressed and beautifully colored salt water fishes, this is Lombard of The Intertidal... signing out.