The Fish Story

Sound Way to Shoo Sharks; When Mesoglea Fly, Time to Duck

By JAY MANN | Aug 23, 2016

SHARK STOPPAGE: The SharkStopper folks up in Huntington, N.Y. got in touch with me to tritely say, “It’s safe to go into the water.”

Knowing they were coming on strong with their newest shark-deterring mousetrap, I was waiting to read about some breakthrough shark nose-punching device. Nope, their device sound far cooler ... and sciencey.

SharkStopper is a cutting-edge “acoustic shark repellent.”

Knee-jerk-wise, I really liked it, even before I had any idea what the hell it was. Hey, I’m famed for shouting, “Count me in!” based just on the hors d’oeuvres being served at a presentation.

I was further persuaded when the company added, “Surfers, snorkelers, water enthusiasts, boaters, fishermen and pretty much anyone who has seen ‘Jaws’ can now rejoice.”

While that info didn’t bring me one brain grain closer to understanding what was being sold, I’m also a sucker for anything that involves arbitrary rejoicing.

“What are we dancing and singing about!?”

“Hell if I know. Just keep singing ‘Hari Krishna’ and we just might get a shot at those organic hors d’oeuvres over there.”

Moving closer to the sonic essence of SharkStoppers, it appears the company has developed a shark-spooking, sound-emitting device, resonating with, and I quote, “One part orca call and one part modulated frequency that took years of testing to develop.”

They definitely got my attention with the “orca call” component. Just last week, I watched an insane video showing a school of orcas speed chasing a shark, eventually grabbing it, midsection, and munching on it like a big, gray French fry. Nom-nom.

Orcas are the ultimate alphas of the ocean – not even fabled giant squid are well armed enough to take them down. Suction cup scars seen on orcas are not from being attacked but the lingering marks of a giant squid futilely fighting back. I’m betting an orca family of eight could feast like royalty on even a modestly giant squid, possibly making wishbone-like wishes while pulling it apart.

Anyway, the mechanical emission of orca sounds sure might knock a shark way off its game. Then, imagine what happens when it gets teamed with the SharkStoppers “modulated frequency,” a sound so secret it’s kept under lock and key – where it can sometimes be heard scratching to get out.

After ten years of company testing, the SharkStopper’s shark-repelling sound has proven fully capable of fending off more than 15 species of sharks, including bulls and great whites. Not to worry, it’s easy on undeserving ears.

“The device ranks as the most effective across many evaluation criteria including efficacy, range, ease of use, positive environmental impact and price. It is also important to note that there are no adverse or harmful effects on humans, sharks, or other species of aquatic life in the surrounding environment,” per SharkStopper literature.

Germane to my thinking, the company has also measured its success, asserting a SharkStopper sound emission can hold sharks at bay, as far as 40 meters away. I emphasize that point because, knowing my luck, I’ll just happen to be in the water 40 meters away from the nearest SharkStopper – me and a slew of highly-agitated sharks, all, “Get him! He’s gotta be related to the sound maker!”

“No way! It’s these people up in New York. I’m tellin’ ya. I can put you in touch with them.”

Meanwhile from shore: “Jay! Swim to the sound! Swim to the sound!”

MESSIN’ WITH MESOGLEA: A goodly number of jellyfish have been bouncing about in the surfline. Almost all of them are fully harmless smaller varieties, including the always snuggly comb jellies, which show their bright side at night by phosphorescing. You just wanna hug them. However, I did see a pic of a very bright-red lion’s mane, beached in Surf City. Take it from a lion’s mane ultra-expert, as is anyone who has a long history of surfing LBI: the brighter they come, the harder they sting.

Old rhymeish sayin’: “Red in the middle, sting a fella.” We’ll talk coral snakes some other time.

Who recalls the mainly ineffective Arnold’s Meat Tenderizer sprinkle treatment to take away at least the outer layer of the lion’s insane itch and burn? Surfers paid that company’s electric bill for years.

Fortunately, we haven’t had an overrunning influx of these cold-water lion’s manes since they last turned our waves red in the 1970s. Maybe this is one aspect of oceanic warming that favors us.

Also arriving along the beach are the famed jellyfish “caps,” those clear, flat and round pieces of former jellyfish. These caps are famed because they’ve long been a popular fling-about seaside slime item.

It’s likely more of a guy thing but I’ve been in many in-water jellyfish cap exchanges. They can present quite an early-morning sight when a whole pack of surfers get bored and start slinging those suckers at each other. Ah, the good old days. I love the smell of jellyfish caps in the morning.

Now, to get needlessly technical. During marine biology studies, I learned those jellyfish caps are officially called mesoglea. Upon first hearing that, I thought, “What a perfectly useless piece of information.” I thusly never forgot mesoglea, keeping it ripe-and-ready to whip out at some opportune minutia moment.

I soon realized your average mesoglea moment might never just pop up in the likes of convenience store conversation. I had to go proactive with it.

After gathering a slew of jellyfish caps on the beach, I’d suddenly yell, “Mesoglea fight!” With nobody having the slightest idea what I was talking about, I’d get to uncontestedly unload my gooey arsenal on anyone within mesoglea range. By inference alone, folks finally figured out what a “mesoglea fight” is – but not before I empty the stores and retreat into the ocean. Hey, all’s fair in mesoglea slinging. How is my strategy any different than yelling out, “comestibles conflict!” in a Harvard dining hall?

Educational note: Notice how, by repeatedly using the word mesoglea, sometimes even italicizing it, I’ve inserted it deeply into your mind. It feels so good to finally relieve myself of sole mesoglea management responsibility. By the by, I’ll also know what’s up when I see you hoarding mesoglea caps … so don’t even think about it.

IT’S PADDLE-ANGLING TIME: No surfcaster can tabulate the all-too-many times that massive birdplay has hung just outside casting range. Now there’s a way to get even – and out there.

Without getting a bit religious, I’ll offer the Turkey axiom, “If the mountain of bait won’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain.”

You don’t have to be Muslim or named Mohammed to climb aboard an angler-rigged paddleboard, upon which it’s a breeze to zip out to those near-beach mountains of angling action.

Seeing I’m in the market for one myself, I’m noticing a growing quiver of commercial and custom-made stand-up paddleboards distinctly shaped and rigged for fishing, even serious fishing. Crazies are actually taking tuna and even billfish off them. Of course, they get pulled so far out to sea they have to eat the fish raw for the next week or so, awaiting rescue.

Balance-wise, I hear it’s very easy to master these decently transportable, blitz-stalking vessels, which can reach nearshore birdplay in a mere handful of paddle strokes.

If you’re seriously thinking paddleboarding into fall, we have super nearby outlets for paddleboards. All of them will gladly rig you for fishing. There are some necessary tweaks and accessories common to fighting fish. I’m now homing in on twin-hull paddleboards: the catamaran of the SUP realm.

By the by, despite it being called stand-up paddling (SUP), I see paddleboards that are perfectly suited to sit-down paddling. In fact, I’m seeing videos where even better standuppers resort to sitting down, or straddling a board, for more relaxed angling or to fight a fish.

I got asked a technical paddleboard-related Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic question, namely: Would it be legal to paddle over and fish Not-Tucker’s-Island, the relatively new, grassy island just a stone’s throw from Holgate’s west peninsula? To be sure, there is some very good fishing on both the west and east side of that island.

If I have to vote on it, I say, “absolutely not.” Even if you wade over there at low tide, you’re somewhere else, by my thinking. There is a board meeting coming up, so I’ll get that confirmed – but I’ll bet the board will agree.

ROCKIN’ RIO: Whew, I’m exhausted. Those Olympics left me sucking air.

Every Summer Olympics year, I feign only mild interest in this epic world event. Then, once it begins, I’m on it like a pig on a piñata. I’m not exactly sure what that means, either, but sufficed to say I’ve been watching this year’s Olympics from the pre-work early a.m., recording it throughout the day, and, then staying up way past my bedtime to checkout volleyball, as intense as the game gets. Mild interest madness.

Not unexpectedly, my beloved volleyball sport ended up as the number-one overall “tickets” in the entire Olympics. Brazil is huge on the sport, though they get weird on the beach. Years back, when playing down there, I was constantly knocked off my game when Brazilian volleyball players would seemingly flashback to their soccer days. Hey, you know as well as me the impacts from those 50-yard head passes in soccer have to mush something up inside the old cranium. Then, those same players fall and writhe in pain if someone even brushes up against their leg hairs.

Anyway, we’d be playing common beach volleyball and, out of the Brazilian blue, the locals would abandon using their hands and arms – doing everything with just their chest, head and feet. To spike the ball, they’d jump high in the air and go upside down, to perform a “bike” overhead kick. They loved freaking out tourist players that way. It worked. So, I’d calmly walk off – looking for a load of mesoglea. “Oh, boys… might I have a word with you over here?”

During the Olympics, I’m also one of those spoil sports who secretly enjoy seeing the total fails, like the mesmerizing belly flop perfectly executed by otherwise world-class Russian diver Illya Zakharov. He hit the water like a frickin blin. That’s Ruskie for pancake. It was painful to watch … and yet so regrettably enjoyable. What I liked most was the horrified gasp, then pin-drop quiet, that befell the crowd after he hit the water so hard his entry splash had folks as far away as the upper tiers of the venue passing around towels to dry off.

Following what was instantly dubbed the Zakharov-flop, I was buoyed by the stalwart judges, who fearlessly went counter-Comaneci. All displayed “0” scores – even the Russian judge who had to cross out the 9.9 he had written down before the dive. Of course, the scoring method is to throw out the highest and lowest scores, which then left Zakharov with … zeros. How ’bout that?

The Zakharov-flop splashed around long after the Olympics air had cleared and the fans had dried. Web chatter was dripping with accusations that the diver might have affiliations with the Russian mob. Might he have been bribed to, dare I say it, take a dive?

In another fail, I felt severe sympathy for a young Indian gymnast vaulter, who, after an amazingly dedicated full-speed running approach, jumped – and somehow totally missed the entire horse. History in the making. Hey, he gave it the bold Calcuttan College try. He also reconfirmed a long-held life axiom of mine: Anything that requires a running start can end badly.

Every Olympics, I pick a sport I’m not big on and then closely follow it. This year, I saw “table tennis” was going to be heavily broadcast. I focused on it.

The instant I tuned in, I couldn’t help but notice table tennis bore a striking resemblance to a game I played almost nightly on my Mauna Olu College campus, Maui. We called it ping-ping. Maybe that was the Hawaiian word for it. When I played it back then, the game was sane. Not in the Olympics.

After watching a few matches, I realized those Olympics table tennis folks, while looking absolutely normal in real life, go gonzo when a-paddle. Hell, I caught a few of them holding the ball in the palm of their hand and whispering to it before serving. What was said I can’t even guess, neither knowing a word of Chinese or what one says to enamor a ping-pong ball. “Hey, work with me and there just might be some gentle paddling by gals back at the hotel.” OK, so maybe I can venture a guess.

In table tennis, once a serve is loosed, the action often becomes a blur of wildly swinging paddles. You only know it’s over when both players stop and just stand there … one happy and the other pissed. So, what the hell just happened?

I quickly determined that table tennis is not the ultimate spectator sport. In tennis, you’ll see a rather casual back-and-forth head swing of the audience following the flight of the tennis ball. Head swings in a crowd of table tennis watchers threatens essential neck vertebrae. They look like a pack of meerkats who just heard a circus might be coming to town.

So, there I was wearing an improvised neck brace, cheering on some Asian ping-pong players, when I got a cell message about a super offshore fishing trip. Just like that, I began pondering adding fishing to the Olympics mix. Don’t balk. There’s not a Summer Olympics venue that isn’t a stone’s throw from some sort of amazing fishing locale, be it fresh or saltwater. What’s more, we’ve refined fishing contest rules and scoring down to a semi-science.

Obviously, some nitpickers will note that a couple/few anglers aren’t quite shining examples of physical conditioning. Flabby point well made – my flab included. So, maybe we can simply include fishing in some sort of conditioning-required hybrid triathlon, for example, competitors run a mile, swim a mile, and then grab a fishing rod to have at it. Works for me.

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