Many tropical species show up in NY/NJ Bight waters late in the summer, but rarely in quantity. Cutlassfish were virtually unheard of until a few years ago, but seem to be becoming a regular visitor. Indeed, Chris Lido (photos below) reported his last trip on the Gambler from Point Pleasant produced a quantity of that long, flattish, silver-skinned species with a narrow mouth full of fang-like teeth.

It was in 1960 when I first encountered cutlassfish in very different circumstances. I had been transferred from my initial assignment on a destroyer (USS John R. Pierce, DD-753) after graduation from Navy OCS, to serve as War Plans Officer at the Naval Station in Trinidad, West Indies. The first night there I went to the piers and observed those strange creatures chasing small forage fish under the lights — and found that they would hit a tiny diamond jig. At first glance, they looked dangerous to handle, but they’re no problem when gripped by the gill covers. The local workers who also fished on the piers wanted them and assured me they were good to eat.

I later found they are abundant in many areas, such as off Texas where they are called ribbonfish and are the prime trolling bait for king mackerel. In Venezuela I saw small boat fishermen returning to the beach at dawn with baskets of cutlassfish they’d jigged offshore at night.

A small craft advisory remains up through tonight, but by morning the forecast is down to southwest at 10-15 knots with a chance of afternoon showers.

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