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Captain's Focus

Posted on July 30, 2019 Cutlassfish a big surprise on Queen Mary Capt. Dave Riback found dirty water offshore Sunday with his Queen Mary from Point Pleasant, but moved back inside to chum chub mackerel that were joined by blackfin sharks and bonito — plus what he called a very unusual ribbonfish. See lower right photo below among those taken that day. That’s a common name for the cutlassfish, one of the oddest species in the world — but a widely-distributed fish found not only in the Atlantic but also in the Indian and western Pacific oceans. To top it off, cutlassfish are normally a nocturnal fish.   I became quite familiar with cutlassfish while serving as a Navy officer at the U.S. Naval Station in Trinidad, West Indies. They were the most common species caught under the lights at our piers, and were easy to catch by jigging small silvery metals or on the small live baits that also gathered under the lights. There didn’t appear to be much flesh on the flat sides, but the Trinidadians said they were very good eating. According to McClane’s Field Guide to Saltwater Fishes of North America, these fang-toothed fish with only a filament tail grow to about 38 inches and a weight of about 2 pound. I missed out on another “trash fish” world record long before the IGFA began accepting any species, as my personal record is a 45-incher caught on the night of Oct. 16, 1961 at Pier 5. That cutlassfish weighed 3 1/4 pounds on my hand scale. I also caught them at night along the Texas coast on lures, where ribbonfish are prized as trolling bait for big king mackerel. At dawn in Venezuela I saw local skiffs returning with fish boxes full of cutlassfish caught in the depths at night, and watched the cleaning of a swordfish caught by Guy Harvey that was full of cutlassfish. Ironically, those long fish weren’t in a jumbled mess in the stomach, but neatly stacked side by side as if someone had arranged them like that. Mike Casella flew up from Sarasota to fish from shore for stripers with Vinny D’Anton, who got him into fishing during the winter in Florida. Unfortunately, the last two days haven’t worked out well for that effort. Vinny did raise a few bass to his Chug Bug at Manasquan this morning, but only one was hooked — and it got off just before being landed. Mike has one more morning to come up with a northern fish. Allen Riley of South Plainfield said there was a pick of short fluke yesterday morning in the Sandy Hook surf, and small bait was in the wash. However, black flies also made a showing. At Belmar, the Golden Eagle had a good Monday catch of blues, chub mackerel and sea bass, but are further out at sea on a tuna trip today. The Big Mohawk had some fluke limits Monday, and a pool winner of about 7 1/2 pounds. Jigging was most effective. Though the swell creates a slightly rough surf, light winds continue to prevail. It should be south at 10 knots in the morning, but there’s a possibility of thunder storms in the afternoon.      

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