The Fish Story

Freshness Is Not in the Eyes of Kuwaiti Beholders; Walled Narwhal Tusk Called Into Anti-Terrorist Duty

By JAY MANN | Dec 04, 2019
Photo by: Jay Mann MARKER MOVES: A NJDOT vessel moves through Little Egg Inlet, destined to work on those aids to navigation that the state handles. Along with the federal USCG, Barnegat Bay channels and shallows alike get duly marked, making for safer boat travel.

Surf City, NJ — Here we go again with weirdness manifest. This one sounds so fishy it must be true. Seems a Kuwaiti fishmonger was busted covering the dull, been-dead-too-long eyes of whole fish with dime store googly eyes. He then proudly displayed the ostensibly refreshed fish on ice, albeit behind glass. The long-dead fish suddenly looked ready to flap. Thence, a seafood of waning salability suddenly jumped toward the eyes of arriving customers, eliciting jacked-up prices.

Keep in mind most of the world’s retail fish purchasers select whole fish, in the round. Those worldly seafood buyers know the eyes are the windows to a fish’s freshness. In America, we tend to simply trust the look of fillets – and take the freshness-level word of the sellers.

Seeing photos of this Kuwaiti fishmonger’s plastically bright-eyed fish, it’s impressive how real the false eyeballs look. To eager buyers, if a fish is that bright-eyed, it must also be bushy tailed, in a fresh-as-daisies way.

So, how did customers not notice the cheap plastic peepers after they bought the fish? It’s another most-of-the-world custom to point out a chosen display fish, then have it filleted, right there and then, often on a nearby – not totally viewable – cleaning table. Such fillet-table distancing is ripe for a scam like this – and offers the scammers a chance to pocket reusable googly eyes. Eager environmentalists might see this as plastic recycling taken to a new level.

Overtime fish in the round can still offer adequately edible fillets, especially after the fillets are rinsed good. However, even just-filleted fillets beyond healthy edibility can momentarily present as passably sniffable, should a buyer immediately open a well-wrapped fillet for a closer examination. The problem is late-to-the-party fish could be loaded with bacteria and histamines from decay, especially if not eaten pronto. In fact, it was reports of queasiness from the cosmetically enhanced fish that led police to bust the suddenly innocent-eyed fish seller. Seeing such deception is highly glared upon at an Islamic level, the buyer was booted out of the business.

Nearby rival fish dealers began marketing the scam by loudly advertising that their fresh fish were “without cosmetics.” One seller even mockingly hung a picture of a fish accompanied by a selection of colored contact lenses. “Won't see this around here.”

TUSK BEATDOWN: This week I must make an oddly meritorious mention of the narwhal, a medium-sized arctic whale with a very hard pointed beak, called a tusk. It can push 5 feet or more in length; a unicorn horn on steroids. Weirdly, the tusk is an extension of one of the toothed whale’s canine teeth. It displays a whirled effect from mouth to tip. The tusk is akin to ivory, meaning it’s hard enough to do some serious bashing damage.

Many of you know where this is going, having likely read that a narwhal tusk is apparently an adequate, if not exceptional, anti-terrorist device. During the recent murderous knife attack in London, it was a narwhal tusk to the rescue. In what ranks as an all-time example of extemporaneous arming of one’s self, a Polish chef, referred to in news reports only as Lukasz, got word that there was a madman in town. He spontaneously grabbed a 5-foot-long display tusk off the wall of his Fishmongers’ Hall restaurant and rushed to nearby London Bridge to help beat down a homicidal zealot, narwhal-style.

At the receiving end of the tusk-swinging chef was a radicalized Muslim, 28-year-old Usman Khan, fresh out of Great Britain prison, where he was doing time after plotting to blow up toilets in the London Stock Exchange. It’s a long story.

Incomprehensible to many, avowed terrorist Khan was freed early for … good behavior. He was judged to be “reformed” by a prison psychologist, who now has some Freudian explaining to do.

Can’t make this up: At the time of the attack, Fishmongers’ Hall was hosting a Cambridge University conference on rehabilitating the formerly incarcerated. I’m dead serious.

During the heroic chef-versus-bad-egg confrontation, Lukasz took some nasty hand cuts, suffered while narwhaling the manically knife-wielding Khan. Eventually, the chef drove the terrorist to the ground, proverbially proving you don’t bring a knife to a tusk fight.

I might be the only one to notice the oceanic irony that Khan, a tyrannical proponent of a radicalized form of Sharia Law, was taken down by a sea creature, so to speak. The word “Sharia” stems from an Arabic word meaning “a path to the ocean.” It would also become a path to the great beyond.

The cuts delivered to the chef were the last Khan would administer. He was soon pinned down by Lukasz, along with another ingenious anti-attacker, who opted to grab a fire extinguisher off the wall. He blasted the religious zealot to hell and back, using the entire contents of the extinguisher. This was historically appropriate since the first fire extinguisher to use chemicals and propellants was invented by a London chemist in 1723. Yes, things like that matter … maybe.

I must morosely wonder what jihadist Khan was thinking as he found himself jousting with a narwhal tusk while being choked by chemical fire retardant. There was surely no mention of this at the al Qaeda training camp he was known to have attended.

It’s here that I offer a thumb’s way up to old London town’s citizenry, since more and more folks soon joined in pummeling Khan. Among the pummelers was – did I mention you can’t make this up? – a former inmate, also out on early release.

Khan: “Hey, Larry, is that you?”

Larry: “Sure is, Usman. Long time no see.” Smash!

We couldn’t have handled a crazy person any better on our side of the pond – and we’ve had tons of practice.

Taking another page from American crime-handling methodology, the soon-arriving London police were in no mood to negotiate with the publicly pinned-down Kahn. Four police officers with full-auto assault rifles untangled Khan from one last tenacious citizen – who was still pounding away. The bobbies then stepped back and blasted the terrorist to high heaven. (See

The narwhal tusk was soon returned to the restaurant wall, albeit with a highly enhanced sense of honorability. Already, tourists and the nation’s citizenry have begun stopping in to admire the tusk. The amazing chef is understandably a little limelight shy, likely fearing the wrath of Khan’s cohorts.

In a weird etymological paradox, the term “narwhal ”is derived from the Old Norse word “nár,” meaning “corpse.”

NO SNOWIES … SORRY: I’ve had loads of emails and messages from bird folks asking if any snowy owls have blown into town – in this case, the “town” is Holgate. Sadly, no. Based on famed owl visitations of the recent past, we should have seen them showing by now. Apparently, they’re not leaning toward wintering along the Eastern Seaboard this year.

Whatever the no-show cause, old-timers, like more or less myself, might see this absence as a harbinger of a mild upcoming winter. Cool. But I’d still like to see some snowies – along with seeing a mild winter, mind you. By the by, I’m sticking with my anecdotal forecast that this month and much of winter will see some oddly mild stints.

Back to the AWOL eastern snowies, the Midwest is seemingly stealing the snowy show. An impressive display of the cosmically yellow-peepered owls has been filling the skyways thereabouts. Returning to Farmer’s Almanac thinking, it’s predicted the Midwest is going to get blasted back to the Ice Age by cold this winter. Bingo.

Impressively, owl experts had somehow predicted the Midwest trend in snowies late last summer.

To follow owl fly-abouts, check out

RUNDOWN: We had a couple LBI Surf Fishing Classic weigh-ins; at this late date, no less. Glad the event expanded to nine weeks. Thumbs up to the tenacious surfcasters who have fended off the sky elements thrown at them and salvaged hookups.

For the latest Classic info, go to, then click on “The Fall Classic” at the top of the page. Once inside, click on “2019 Live Results.”

There will surely be smaller stripers through most of December, with boat bassing still greatly dominating on the numbers-taken front. However, smaller stripers are far more inclined to come in close to the beach, especially late-day. They become very artificial oriented (Ava jigs and teasers work, for starters), though chunk bait is still the surer thing in the surf.

Best late-fall surfcasting bet is to keep a couple rods in play: a plugging rod and a sand spiked bait rod, the latter equipped with circle hooks. Those soon-to-be-mandatory circle hooks work miracles when left to their own penetrating devices, as opposed to anglers responding to a bite by whipping the rod back as if trying for just the head of the fish.

I sure miss olden beachfront bassing days when I’d crack up upon seeing certain surfcasters panic-grabbing a bouncing rod from a spike, then, aiming their backs toward the sea, they’d run for the dunes, -- holding the rod out as if toting an American flag during a charge.

I fondly recall a wonderful now-gone angler who once began running backwards, tripped face-first into the sand, but quickly began crawling dune-ward, rod braced on his shoulder. There was a slew of us fishing nearby who also hit the sand – laughing too hard to remain standing. I shouldn’t even mention that it ended up being a sand shark at line’s end. Hey, I’m sure he’s looking down and laughing his ass off as I write this, though he can’t use the word “ass” where he’s at.

MORE GONERS: Yet another species that seems oddly AWOL this fall is the ocean herring, usually a splashy fall presence. These speedy forage chasers, which love spearing, make themselves known by splashing the sea surface, especially late in the day, often near … jetties. Hmmm, maybe I just got an important insight into their no-showness. Hell, they’re not even showing at the Holgate Rip, a common gathering area due to the spearing and rainfish.

Come to think of it, where have the rainfish been this year? They’ve usually made cloud-like passages by now. What’s wrong with the entire fall forage/gamefish picture on LBI? Something sure seems to be broken.

That bemoaned, reading about fishing back during the Colonial Period, there were years when even barely-tapped fisheries simply never showed, much to the alarm of settlers and Native Americans alike, who somehow blamed each other.

The upbeat side to those way-back bad fishing times was how things were all better within a mere year or two. I’m therefore banking on a soonish return to a bio-balance within our apparently eco-troubled waters. That said, I’ve also turned over a bleaker Tarot card, warning that surfcasting had better greatly improve by 2020 or Houston, we have a big-ass problem. One more year of dank fall surf angling and it might be time to rally for scientific answers, starting with determining water quality, ecological stressors and bottom contour changes from replenishment.

SPEEDY UPDATE: With a newly placed sign, NJDOT has quickly ended some mild confusion regarding the speed limit upon reaching the first bridge leaving LBI. That section of Route 72 had been dominated by a sign reading “35 MPH ... Hill Blocks View.” While that “hill” sign remains, what seems to be a far more official 55 mph speed limit sign now reigns supreme. Thanks to our exceptional NJDOT for that recent posting. I think it has a soft spot for our area – and might even read The SandPaper.

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