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On the Water: Be Kind to Sharks (and Giant Crabs)

Thu, 06/13/2024 - 13:22
Mark Zaluski of Water Mill came into Tight Lines Tackle in Southampton recently with a blue-claw crab that’s potentially a New York State record.
Ken Morse

Sharks have gradually begun to appear as our inshore and offshore waters warm up. Thus far, most of the catches for rod-and-reel anglers have involved blue, mako, and a few threshers. 

It's also obvious that fishermen need to be careful when handling a shark when caught on hook and line. The main reason is their razor-sharp teeth. 

That said, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation recently announced changes to recreational fishing regulations in New York's Marine and Coastal District. The new rules seek to improve the management of protected shark species by preventing their capture through establishing gear restrictions for recreational shore anglers and those who fish by boat.

"Sharks are vital to the health of our marine systems, but are at great risk from mishandling and use of inappropriate fishing gear by recreational anglers," said Sean Mahar, the interim D.E.C. commissioner. "The rules released enhance protections for vulnerable shark species by requiring safe shark handling protocols and restricting gear and practices posing the greatest threat to sharks."

The D.E.C.'s rules include new shark handling requirements for all marine anglers to reduce stress and injury to captured sharks, improve the condition of sharks that are released, and further protect prohibited shark species while maintaining recreational opportunities for shore-based anglers targeting legal species. In addition, the new rules aim to improve shark handling and release practices for all shore and vessel-based anglers. 

The regulations further protect shark species that have been illegal to pursue, capture, or kill under New York State regulation since 2010. 

These sharks are characterized by slow growth, late maturity, long prenatal development periods, and exceptionally low productivity rates, all of which make them vulnerable to removals and slow to recover from population declines. Prohibited shark species found in state waters include sandbar (brown), dusky, and sand tiger sharks. The D.E.C. website has a full list. These sharks are encountered by people fishing from shore and by boat during the summer months. 

Dusky and sand tiger sharks are listed as "high priority species of greatest conservation need" in the New York State Wildlife Action Plan. 

Under the new regulations, all prohibited shark species must be immediately released. As well, anglers must keep any shark not being harvested in the water with its gills submerged. This rule does not apply to smooth dogfish and spiny dogfish.

Recreational shark anglers must also have wire or bolt cutters immediately available to aid in the removal of tackle and the release of sharks not being harvested. Finally, anglers should take every precaution to ensure the maximum probability of survival of any shark that will be released. 

In addition, the D.E.C. instituted new gear restrictions specific to recreational shore anglers, including the prohibition of metal fishing leaders attached to baited hooks that exceed 18 inches in length and of chumming within 600 feet of the shoreline (except with mollusks and crustaceans). Also prohibited: deploying baited hooks by means other than casting with rod and reel. 

Please be kind to the next shark you land. 

Possible Record Crab

The following is not a fish story. It's about a crustacean that's a potential New York State record.

"I had Mark Zaluski come in to the store the other day with a giant-sized blue-claw crab that was eight and a quarter inches across the shell," recounted Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Southampton and on Bay Street in Sag Harbor. "He's up against a crab that was seven and three-quarter inches that was taken in Moriches Bay. I've never seen a crab like that. It was huge." 

When blue-claw crabs are as large as lobsters, that's pretty impressive.

Like many, I was surprised to learn that there was any record-keeping for the tasty crustaceans. Who knew? Hopefully Zaluski, who lives in Water Mill, will ultimately be crowned the king of crab. Stay tuned.

I've got two crab traps set out near my dock. So far, the catch has been rather poor, but it has picked up in the past few days with the warming waters. It should only continue to get better. The crab cakes I fried up the other day were beyond tasty. I look forward to more such meals this summer.

Elsewhere, early on Saturday morning, I took my Rock Water out for an excursion for striped bass and bluefish within the inner bays of the Peconics. While the stripers were gun-shy in the 69-degree water at the northern tip of Jessup's Neck, the bluefish were thankfully thick.

My friend Ray and I landed one bluefish after another. The blues ranged in size from three to 12 pounds. It was a great morning bite and our arms got a real workout.

The hungry blues were feeding on large schools of spearing and anchovies. The shiny diamond jigs we slung into the overly turbulent incoming rip clearly matched the hatch. It took us less than an hour to easily retain our respective three-fish limit.

The bluefish fillets from our catch will now be ready to be brined, dried, and gently smoked on a bed of hardwood charcoal that was wetted down by apple wood. 

My morning toasted sesame bagel will now have the accompaniment of smoked bluefish. A bit of chopped chives from the garden will top it off. Good eats await.


Fishing tips, observations, and photographs can be sent to [email protected].

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