Avon, N.C.--Flounder . . . flattie . . . flat fish . . . call him what
you will, but he still is the most important fish species of the seven
seas wherever he is found.
That goes double for the Eastern Seaboard states where your den-keeper
currently is ensconced for a sabbatical (of sorts) fishing for, you guessed
Perhaps I should point out here that the thing that places the flounder
atop every ocean fisherman's preference list is its eating qualities. It
is a little like the reverence Minnesotans and Badgerland anglers accord
the walleye. And it is just as phony.
In reality, I do not buy this "holier than thou" feeling for either
walleyes or flounder. Sure, I smile a lot when I have my feet under a table
blessed by a platter of fried walleye or flounder. But I eat what bites
with relish (figuratively). No need to hide the taste of fish--any fish--with
tarter sauce, horseradish, or any other condiment. Just give me the fish
and maybe some creek-bank taters,
baked beans, cole slaw, and maybe a pan of homemade corn bread (country
butter and honey, please).
But I digress.
The thing I set out to tell you today is that all is not well with the
flounder. Nobody is telling us how good or bad the flounder situation may
be, but more stringent regulations (for sport fishermen only) along the
Eastern Seaboard states is a subtle admission by the powers that be
that there are problems with the species.
I tell myself that I can live without catching or consuming flounder.
. . But right away, then, I tell myself that I don't want to do so. I also
want my grandchildren, their grandchildren, and their children's children's
grandchildren (ad infinitum) to enjoy the distinctive "tic tic tic" bite
of the flounder as much as I do and smile all over when a fork of fried
flounder says "howdy" to their palates.
Still, as concerned as I am about these more stringent sport-fishing
regulations on flounder on the Eastern Seaboard States, I am more than
a little worried that the importance (more specifically, the need) for
these regulations are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
I ask myself: Will flounder some day need complete protection from all
who prey on the species, even the commercial fishermen whose nets come
with built-in noncompliance and would send the last flounder to hell if
there was a buck or two involved?
This, by the way, is a bone of contention with most sport fishermen
who love and respect the flounder. If the state of the flounder is so sorry
that more protection for the species is needed, why not let it apply to
the netters, too.
But still worse, in my estimation, is the fear in my subconscious that
the flounder situation is just a hint of things to come for many other
species (edible and non-edible) that lurk in the seven seas. Man has pretty
well wrecked our fresh water rivers (a noted scientist has told us that
virtually no Hoosier stream of consequence remains free of pollution).
How do we stand with the briny deep?
Yes, I am worried about the plight of the flounder. But I also am more
than a tad concerned about everything that lives from the estuaries to
the oceans' pelagic areas.
At New Jersey's Great Bay, where I spent a pleasant last Saturday fishing
with Fred Riedel Sr., who lives close enough to get his feet wet when he
mows the back yard, the season on flounder did not open until the next
day. Strangely enough, I will be back there come Sunday.
Here on North Carolina's famed Outer Banks, keeping a flounder is taboo
until July 4.
SO NO FLOUNDER--I knew it would be unlawful to keep flounder when I
decided to come here to fish this time. But I also knew that fishing at
my many favorite spots (20 years of fishing an area will unveil many of
them) would offer a great variety of fish species.
So when the gray trout, whiting, and ocean croakers started joining
our party on Hatteras Fishing Pier (a.k.a. Frisco Pier), son-in-law Adam
Kendall and I started looking at the potential for din-din.
A foursome of husky 12-inch whiting filled he bill nicely, even if I
did not have any crackers to include in my favorite breading.
It is amazing how good a second-rate fish can taste when dredged in
plain flour and fried in a mixture of jowl bacon fryings and olive oil.
Of course those creek-bank
taters and other aforementioned components do not detract from a fried