The Future Is Now

“sputnik grass.”
Chris Lanning, arms raised in celebration, caught this 35-inch striper in three feet of water off of Shelter Island last week while fishing with his guide Brendan McCarthy. Edward L. Shugrue III

“This year we have five satellite tags.” Carl Darenberg, owner of the Montauk Marine Basin, said casually on Monday, with every expectation that I would understand what he was saying. How strange. The “satellite-tag” sentence speaks to our time, late June 2014, and this place, Montauk. Imagine explaining its meaning to someone prior to Oct. 4, 1957, the day the Soviet Union put the first satellite into space.

In these parts, the accomplishment was memorialized by baymen, who named the slimy seaweed of mysterious origin plaguing the bay at the time “sputnik grass.”

So it’s Oct. 3, 1957, the weed has not been named, and you’re on your boat cutting clam strips for bait and explaining to your friend that in the not-to-distant future people would be fishing for sharks for fun and prize money.

“What the hell for?” he would ask, the concept of shark fishing, being pioneered at the time by Capt. Frank Mundus of Montauk, as foreign as what came next.

“Yes, and sharks will become a universal bugbear due to a movie called ‘Jaws,’ directed by a part-time resident of East Hampton. Very scary.”

“You’re nuts.”

“So then, after years of faux big-game fishing — sharks being the easiest fish in the sea to hook, and the toothiest to photograph hanging upside down beside right-side-up braggarts — people will decide to hook sharks, fight them to the boat, and attach small transmitters to their backs. The sharks will be released. The transmitters will emit a signal that bounces off a receiver that circles the Earth several miles up in outer space. The beam will then be directed back to Earth. In this way, using special TV sets that think, folks will be able to watch the sharks as they travel about on their migrations.”

“Take me back to the dock. You’re scaring me.”

The second annual no-kill, Shark’s Eye tournament will be held from the Marine Basin July 12 and 13, and, as Darenberg said, five of the sharks caught will be outfitted with satellite tags. It should be an exciting event. Sharks caught during an old-fashioned shark tournament held from the Marine Basin last weekend included a 355-pound thresher, and two makos over 300 pounds.

Meanwhile, surfcasters are finding 20-pound striped bass in the suds along the ocean side of the Napeague stretch using tossed diamond jigs and bucktails in the a.m. and clam baits later in the day. Bass are also being taken from the surf at Georgica Beach in East Hampton.

Harvey Bennett of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reports excellent porgy fishing in Gardiner’s Bay with some of the silvery pink scup topping four pounds. Bennett recommends cooking them in olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper, and saving one or two for sandwich meat the next day.

“Cocktail”-size bluefish are being caught off the mouth of Three Mile Harbor. Why cocktail? Perhaps someone decided that yearling bluefish in the two-to-five-pound range went well with martinis.

Because critters that show up off Cape Cod usually show up around here, keep your eyes peeled for an Atlantic torpedo or two. The species is also known as the dark electric ray and can grow six feet long and up to 200 pounds. Young ones feed in shallow water and should not be toyed with. Torpedos can generate 200 volts of electricity to stun their prey. How ’bout a catch-and-very-carefully-release Atlantic torpedo tournament?

A reminder: All recreational anglers must register with the state as part of a federal effort to keep track of landings for management purposes. Anglers 16 and older can register online at the New York State License Center website, or by phone at 866-933-2257. They must register each year. Anglers found without a registration may be ticketed by Big Brother, up to $250 per violation.