The Sea Is the Pantheon

It was not clouds of sail that her captain, Fred E. Bird, spread against the sky as his customers angled for fluke, striped bass, bluefish, and especially porgies
The late Capt. Fred E. Bird, Montauk party boat captain and jazz aficionado, was a legend in his own time. Phillip Graybill

   The days pass, sunrise to sunset, and we go about our business for the most part unaware of the mythology that springs from our time and winds through our lives, felt but unseen, like an undercurrent. Once in a while the current, with its demigods and siren songs, comes to the surface as it did last week.
    Flying Cloud was the name of the clipper ship that set the record for the passage between New York and San Francisco, 89 days, 8 hours, and held it for over 100 years, starting in 1854. In Montauk, the party boat of the same name was one of the slower vessels.
    It was not clouds of sail that her captain, Fred E. Bird, spread against the sky as his customers angled for fluke, striped bass, bluefish, and especially porgies. The Flying Cloud, and her patrons, moved to the music played over her speakers: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and the others who dwell in the pantheon of jazz. Captain Bird joined them, and his Montauk fishing friend, the jazz bassist Percy Heath, on Aug. 6 at the age of 85.
    Perhaps the pantheon is the sea. Music and the world’s oceans seem to flow one into the other. There was Odysseus, of course, who was sucked toward rocky land by the Sirens sweetly singing, and then last week at the Stephen Talkhouse Jimmy Buffett, surfer, fisherman, and “son of a son of a sailor,” opened for Tom Curren, a musician and two-time world surfing champion. In the audience was Laird Hamilton, a big-wave rider and surfing demigod, and Paul McCartney, who continues to ride one of the biggest sound waves of all time.
    Speaking of history and modern mythology, they were combined last month when the Montauk Marine Basin hosted the no-kill Shark’s Eye tournament. Sharks were caught and released, four after being fitted with satellite tags that transmit the sharks’ positions via GPS. One of the tags was placed on a blue shark that the kids at the Montauk School named Beamer.
    Jack Perna, the school’s superintendent, who has been tracking Beamer via the Web site Ocearch.org, reported that the shark had sallied off to the edge of the continental shelf (and into outer space via Earth-orbiting satellite), then turned tail and was headed for Boston as of Monday afternoon.
    Perna said Beamer and its travels would help teach kids about global positioning using latitude and longitude among other things.
    The Montauk Grand Slam held from Uihlein’s Marina in Montauk was a success. A big turnout and two days of great fishing ended with the Viking Stariper winning the party boat division with an eight-pound fluke/five-pound sea bass combination. Capt. Ricky Etzel’s Breakaway won among the charter boats with the help of a 34.75-pound striped bass, a 9.5-pound bluefish, a 9-pound fluke, and a 6-pound sea bass.
    The Coffee Break boat topped the others fishing in the recreational division with a 28-pound striper/13-pound bluefish/9-pound fluke/4-pound sea bass combination. Proceeds of the tournament will go to the Montauk Friends of Erin and the East Hampton Kiwanis Club.
    Offshore fishing has been productive. West Lake Marina reports bigeye and yellowfin tuna caught with regularity in the Fish Tales section of Block Canyon in recent days. And how’s this for a day’s fishing: The angler Jonathan Stabe, fishing aboard the Tonto, caught a 117-pound, 7-ounce wahoo, possibly a record, that measured 77 inches long with a girth of 35.5 inches. It was taken on a skirted ballyhoo troll bait. The trip also produced one yellowfin tuna, two white marlin that were released, eight longfin albacore, one bigeye, and two mahi mahi.
    Inshore fishing continues un-a-baited. The Tackle Shop in Amagansett reports false albacore in Gardiner’s Bay, “porgies everywhere in the bay, fluke outside Napeague Harbor — too many fish to worry about cutting the lawn — big bass under the Montauk Light and at Napeague Lane in Amagansett,” said Harvey Bennett, the shop’s owner.
    And then there is the mystery fish caught by a local trap fisherman that arrived at Stuart’s Seafood shop in Amagansett. It looks something like an Atlantic salmon. The natives of southern New England rivers have been caught in traps before. But it’s not a salmon. Perhaps it’s a new species, like the olinguito, the newly discovered mammal and native of Andes Mountain cloud forests.
    Anyone who can identify the critter will earn an East Hampton Star cap. 

The first to identify this mystery fish caught in a local trap will win a Star cap. Call 324-0002 with its name.