Just When You Thought . . .

The number of large sharks being caught and seen relatively close to shore has folks wondering
Chris Yates, left, caught this 185-pound (dressed weight) big-eye tuna from Capt. Peter Brancaleone’s Fish On boat on Sunday with the help of mate Peter Brancaleone Jr. The tuna was weighed in at the Star Island Yacht Club. Rich Janis

    Thirty-three boats brought 13 mako sharks — the largest a 148-pounder — to the scales at the 20th annual mako shark tournament held from the Star Island Yacht Club over the weekend, but it’s the number of large sharks being caught and seen relatively close to shore that has folks wondering.
    While fishing for porgies in Gardiner’s Bay, John Rade, a veteran commercial rod-and-reel fisherman, witnessed a white shark leap from the water chasing prey. Last Thursday, Mike Young was fishing for fluke from the Lazy Bones when he hooked into a thresher shark that gray-hounded across the surface before breaking the 30-pound-test, braided line. The thresher was caught in the north rips off the Montauk Lighthouse.
    Trap fishermen with pound nets in Gardiner’s Bay have found at least three relatively large sharks, two identified as sand tigers, and one blue shark in their traps. The sharks were caught in the same area in which a young great white weighing an estimated 200 pounds was caught, also in a trap, in July of 2003.
    Nat Miller, an East Hampton Town Trustee and a bayman, said the trapped sharks were caught at Albert’s Landing in Amagansett south of Accabonac Harbor, and at Water Fence off the beach at Hither Woods in Montauk.
    “It’s just warm. It’s crazy. Gardiner’s Island has seals year round. There’s always sharks in these waters. The white sharks breed in shallow water. The water’s warmer this year. They come closer to the beach, and there are bunker, porgies, bluefish” to draw them in, Miller said.
    Nancy Kohler, a shark biologist from the National Marine Fisheries Service laboratory in Narragansett, R.I., said, “It’s not unusual to see sand tigers. They are around this time of year. It’s common. A blue shark, however . . . it’s either the temperature or food bringing them in.”
    As for the thresher caught on a fluke rig: “Big threshers come close to pup, but they usually pup in May or June.”
    And what about the white sharks of “Jaws” infamy? “If they take up year-round residence it could be a problem. They are spending more time in this area. Seems like now there are 200,000 gray seals living on Cape Cod. It’s become a mecca for them. We’re going to see predators following them,” Kohler said. Cue the “Jaws” theme.
    “They like to eat marine mammals,” she said. Great whites have traditionally fed on dead, young, or sick whales, a fact that Capt. Frank Mundus, Montauk’s “Monster Man,” discovered and used to his legendary advantage. But, with the influx of seals, the adult whites may be moving closer to shore. “They are not changing their habits. We are just seeing a different aspect of their feeding. They take seals down because that’s what’s there,” Kohler said.
    Winner of the Star Island tournament with the 148-pound mako was the boat My Rock, captained by Mike Hegarty. Chuck Lamitie was the angler. The Tomi Chris boat, with Tom Russo at the helm, landed the second place, 147-pound mako reeled in by Warren Hensel. John Trzcinski won his battle with a 142-pound mako to take third place for the Thor 2 boat and Capt. Dave Meberg. Humans seem to be winning, so far.
    The porgy fishing around Gardiner’s Island continues to excite. The scup may be a bit smaller, but during an outing on Saturday afternoon off Eastern Plains point, double-headers were common. Rocky bottom in about 20 feet of water also draws sea bass and false albacore in late summer. With everything else ahead of schedule, no one should be surprised if the falsies show up early.