Happy Thursday everyone!
The winds are laying down and we are able to get back on the water after a couple weeks of rough seas. Captain Sharky was hitting the rockfish hard in the early mornings before the winds kicked up and was usually limited out in an hour so I know the fish are out there waiting for us.
Crabbing in the ocean has picked up some and the good scores seem to be coming from a lot shallower that what we saw earlier in the season. Set your gear about 30 to 40 feet. Crabbing in the bay remains good to very good. The main topic once again is tuna, the SST’s (Sea Surface Temperatures) look good for this week but the chlorophyll is a little off. As soon as folks get out there we will know the verdict, call us at 541-888-3811 and we will fill you in.
There’s a lot of cool stuff to be caught around here in Charleston from pelagic species to perch, from crab to clams, from salmon to sturgeon (shhhhh…that last one is a secret) but every now and again something extra cool or crazy comes by, and that is where I am taking you folks today.
A group of our customers were fishing off the rocks south of Bastendorf Beach this weekend when they latched into something big. Trevor, Caiden and Jaiden were down for the weekend, fishing on the rocks, hoping to tie into a big lingcod. Using a mid-sized rod and reel combo with 35-pound test, the waves lapping at their feet and the hopes and dreams every fisherman has of landing the “big-one” they did just that.
The twist in this story is that it wasn’t the lingcod they were hoping for but a “skate,” a Big Skate to be exact! This monster 65-pound alien looking critter started the fight of its life in the sand and was slowly pulled into the rocks by this group of intrepid fishers. With over 60 pounds of meat swimming with all it had, the constant crashing of waves pounding both men and fish and only 35-pound fishing line holding the two together they really shouldn’t have been able to bring it in, but they did.
Once the fish was played out and brought close to shore another fishing pole with 120-pound test was deployed and hooked into the skate’s mouth; 150 pounds of pull sounds like a lot but it isn’t really. Trevor, Caiden and Jaiden still had to time the waves just right with every pull to bring this fish in, and judging by the smiles on their faces it was worth every moment of the work.
Today’s topic as you’ve not doubt figured out is the skate, the “Big Skate” to be precise, and I want to thank the good folks who brought theirs in for us to play with. I have no doubt that those youngsters will remember that day for the rest of their lives.
We don’t see a lot of skates but when we do they always make for an interesting fishing story. Most times they are caught it is initially thought the angler has on a big ole’ halibut, as they can feel the same and even kind of look the same when first spotted in the water being pulled to surface. The Big Skate is the largest of all the skates in North America and can reach sizes of 8 feet long but rarely get larger than 5 feet long.
The one pictured here was a solid 65 pounds. The big skate is easily identified by its almost square body (if you turn it 45 degrees) and two large circles, one on each wing. The big skate can be found from Alaska all the way to Chile and live at depths of up to 2,600 feet but usually stay at shallower depths of around 10 to 400 feet, living off a diet of small fish and invertebrates on the sandy ocean bottom.
The big skate can live to a ripe old age of about 26 years and the female skate reaches reproductive maturity at around 12 years of age. The female produces an egg capsule commonly referred to as a “mermaid’s purse” which can occasionally be found washed ashore after the young have hatched. This dark papery “purse” is typically about 9 by 4 inches and holds one to seven skate embryos within. She deposits her eggs on a muddy or sandy bottom and there they lay for nine months before hatching.
There is a lot of talk of skate wings being used with a cookie cutter type set-up to yield imitation scallops which are then sold in unscrupulous restaurants as the real thing. But honestly, I think the time and effort would cost more than the authentic product. There is a lot of cartilage in the wings and there is some difficulty in extracting the meat but I’m told it’s worth the time.
If you catch one there are some good resources online on how to fillet one. If you do please let me know what you think of it. I’d love to be able to pass that information on to my customers.
Whether you are reeling in a skate on the rocks or chasing tuna in the big blue water I hope to see you out there.
Rob Gensorek is the owner of Basin Tackle in the Charleston Marina and can be reached by phone at 541-888-3811, by Facebook at Basin Tackle Charleston, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His articles can be read in several newspapers up and down the coast. The Basin Tackle daily Outdoor Report is heard every morning and afternoon on several coastal and inland radio stations and his Basin Tackle Outdoor Show can be heard live every Wednesday at 3 p.m.. on KWRO.com. In addition to all this he sometimes actually gets out and catches a fish or two.