Seals, Sharks, and Surfers

A disturbing trend, and something to watch
Andrew Mark, 7, landed his first fish — a striped bass — on a spinning road he had just learned to use. Capt. Ken Rafferty

“There’s something going on in the ocean,” Chuck Weimar said as he strode along its shoreline on Sunday. Naturally, something always is, but to hear it from the veteran fisherman, captain of the Montauk dragger Rianda S, meant the “something” could be abnormal.

Pointing to a mound of it along the shore at Ditch Plain Beach in Montauk, he said he was seeing an inordinate amount of seaweed in the offshore water column. Net fishermen had been plagued with it for the past month or more, huge swaths of dead mega algae the likes of which Weimar said he had never seen — a disturbing trend, and something to watch.

Equally disturbing to some, yea a plague, is the greatly increased population of seals feasting away on fish that people like to catch in Gardiner’s Bay.

Ken Rafferty, a light-spin-tackle and fly-fishing guide, reported: “On Sunday, we went to Gardiner’s Island, Old Silas, Great Gull, and Little Gull Islands. We must have seen 100 gray seals. I’m sure they’re not helping the fishing. I’m hoping when the water warms up they will leave, but I doubt it.”

Rafferty said the fishing had slowed markedly from the action during the last two weeks in May, when 15-pound bluefish were “finning everywhere, with nice-sized stripers every day, but then the bottom dropped out. Now it’s hit or miss. Some days I put on nearly 50 miles searching Little Peconic all the way to Napeague and don’t find a fish.” Rafferty said he had no trouble finding small schoolie striped bass in Three Mile Harbor, “but most of our anglers like getting out into the bay.”

Hard to say if seals are to blame, but fishermen and marine scientists have been marking the surge in the local seal population over the past decade. Species, including gray seals, that historically inhabited more northern waters have descended on southern New England and the islands and shores of the eastern Peconic Estuary.

Not to be an alarmist, but in other parts of the world — South Africa, Northern California, Hawaii — large seal populations draw jaws, big ones. The beaches of Cape Cod were closed to swimmers and surfers last summer due to cruising white sharks. Their numbers are increasing in light of their protected status, a good thing for keeping Nature’s balance, but troubling to surfers who are now part of the balance by virtue of their own increased numbers.

Some see imbalance, to the detriment of sharks, during this the season of shark tournaments. The second hoist-’em-onto-the-scales contest of the year will be held from the Montauk Marine Basin tomorrow and Saturday. But then again, on July 12 and 13, the Marine Basin will host the second annual Shark’s Eye no-kill tournament and festival. This is a catch-and-release tournament that prov­ed to be extremely popular last year. Several sharks were fitted with satellite tags before being released. The tags allowed their movements to be followed online for months.

Jimmy Buffett entered his Last Mango boat last time around. Organizers say he will be back this year. They hope his participation will inspire other captains to join in. About 20 boats are needed to accommodate the catch-and-release anglers, camera crews, and tournament observers.

And, speaking of seals, sharks, and surfers, Montaukers Travis Beckmann, Nick Joeckel, Leif Engstrom, and Justin Burkle, are back home from their surfari to northwestern Nicaragua. They caught a great swell documented by Burkle.

His photos will be on display along with the photos and art of Nate Best, Ian Cooke, Jesse Joeckle, James Katsipis, Grant Monahan, Joseph Ohaire, Scott Pitches, Dalton Portella, and Bartholomew Schwarz at the Atlantic Terrace hotel in Montauk on Saturday from 6 p.m. on.

Allan Weisbecker has slipped his moorings. Montauk’s surfing author and filmmaker hit the road yesterday with his dog, Gus, in a new “land yacht” R.V., first stop Connecticut where he plans to meet with “people who don’t think I’m crazy.” These would be “doubters” like himself who believe that things, including the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, 9/11, and the moon landing, were not what the government and a controlled media want us to believe. He spelled this out in his film, seven years in the making, “Water Time: Surf Travel Diary of a MadMan.” The film premiered at the Crabby Cowboy Cafe last week. He took issue with my quoting him in my last column saying the Internet, which contains his website, was “black magic.” “I believe in unarguable facts, not black magic.”

He said he planned to argue his points and document the responses of people he meets along the way.

Weisbecker’s “travels with Charlie from hell” up through Nova Scotia then west to either Alaska or Mexico depending on the weather, can be tracked, like a shark wearing a satellite tag, via his website, Banditobooks.com, where a link to a free viewing of his movie can be found along with his new blog. His parting words: “There are a lot of people out there who believe we’re living more or less in a matrix.”

If you want out of the matrix, best to sail out. Emily Havlik of Sail Montauk has announced the start of the organization’s evening regattas held each Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. from the Montauk Yacht Club on Star Island. Sail Montauk offers private charters, lessons, and sunset sails. You can find it on Facebook.

Allan Weisbecker and his dog, Gus, are hitting the road in a new R.V.; he’ll document his travels on Banditobooks.com.
It doesn’t get much better than this surf session a Montauk crew experienced during a recent trip to northwestern Nicaragua. Pictures from the trip, along with work by other photographers, will be shown at the Atlantic Terrace in Montauk on Saturday. Justin Burkle