The Fish Story

Wear This New Product and Either Attract or Repel Sharks; When Deer Become Too Dear, They Invite in Their Riders

By JAY MANN | May 24, 2017

BEAT THE BAND: A blacktip shark in Florida didn’t buy the hype surrounding a wristwatch-like product called Sharkbanz. Say it out loud, kinda slowly, and you’ll get the essence of the band’s alleged role in life.

Now, enter the water with high schooler Zack Davis, your average fanatical Florida surfer, who favors the waters of Avalon Beach State Park on North Hutchinson Island. Zack knows waves. He also knows sharks, from years of fishing them with his brother, Zane.

On this particular paddle out, Zack is working both the surf and the sharks. He’s riding his favorite board and wearing a light-blue, Christmas-gift Sharkbanz.

In wearing the Sharkbanz, the young man is somewhat buying into the maker’s pledge that the wrist device will emit a magnetic force capable of bugging the hell out of any nearby magnetically sensitive sharks.

For convenience – and to avoid any chance of being held responsible for promoting the product – I’ll pass on the company’s info, found on a highly snazzy and obviously beatifically marketed website, sharkbanz.com.

“Sharkbanz’s patented magnetic technology is the result of long term, ongoing scientific studies and testing. Sharkbanz utilize powerful permanent magnets to create an effective shark deterrent.”

Its creators further go on to explain, “When sharks approach Sharkbanz, they detect the device’s strong electromagnetic field, which provides a sudden sensation that is thousands of times stronger than the signal produced by anything in a shark’s normal food chain. Consequently, sharks are deterred away from Sharkbanz.”

Hell, after hearing confidence-imbued words like “scientific,” “shark deterrent” and “thousands of times stronger,” just sign me up, por favor.

Which is what Zack had done, even checking out the cool look of his Sharkbanz while paddling out to catch a final wave of a decent waveriding day.

Then, the Sharkbanz unthinkable happened.

I’ll jump right to the meat of the matter, using Zack’s own words to reporters from cbs12.com. “I got this for Christmas. It is a shark band and it was supposed to keep sharks away, and the first time I wore it – and I go surfing a lot – I get bit.”

Yep, an apparent real-life setback for Sharkbanz science.

The surfer later recalled, “I felt it hit because my hand was on the sand and I was getting turned by the wave and I felt it grab on like 2, 3 seconds and I came up out the water and was like ‘I just got bit.’”

Remaining coolly cool under pressure, Zack quickly used his surfboard leash as a tourniquet to stem the blood flow. And it was a-flow. The likely blacktip shark attack, based on the shape of the bite, left a gaping gash on his non-Sharkbanz arm, requiring 44 ER stitches to close, followed by a 24-hour stay in the hospital.

Since Zack survived just fine – a tough kid, to be sure – we can all smile a bit over the irony – or is there more? – surrounding a Sharkbanz user, never before bothered by the sharks, suddenly getting attacked while wearing one of the devices.

I can’t be the only one half-wondering if the magnetic messages issued by the band – and I have no doubt sharks can detect those messages from who knows how far away – might actually become a lunch bell to any sharks that haven’t visited the Sharkbanz website. “Oh, you’re so very wrong, mate,” vicariously retort the Sharkbanz folks.

Calling on the opinion of Eric Stroud, SharkDefense Technologies managing senior chemist and managing partner, the Sharkbanz folks ended up kinda/sorta blaming the dadburn surfer.

After interviewing Zack, Sharkbanz co-Founder Nathan Garrison reported that it had been scientifically surmised that the surfer had fallen off the board and landed so close to the shark that the creature mistook it as a “provoked attack,” and responded defensively.

“While accidental and certainly unlucky, this is essentially a provoked attack from the shark’s perspective,” Stroud was quoted as saying.

In such a surfer-attacks-shark case, all the deterrent capacities of Sharkbanz fly out the window.

“In a provoked attack situation, shark repellents are no longer effective,” said Garrison, adding, “Dr. Stroud believes that the Sharkbanz being worn on the opposite wrist could have been the very reason the shark let go of Zack’s affected arm so quickly and fled the scene,” reported Garrison. Boy, is Zack lucky, or what?!

For a minute there, I was all worried that I had wasted my money by ordering not one but two Sharkbanz; one for each arm, thusly repelling twice the sharks.

In fairness to the Sharkbanz folks, whose hearts are in the right place – even when the occasional arm isn’t – they’re very forthright with the media. So, I’ll offer this assurance from the company. “Sharkbanz will reduce the risk of shark interactions but there is no 100 percent guarantee that interactions will not take place. Sharkbanz are meant to deter curious sharks from biting a person while in an investigative, unprovoked mode.”

OK, I’m now thinking I might order two more for my ankles, for when I’m just wading around.

DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: On occasional occasions, I write things that get the hackles up on some folks. I’m guessing that’s not a good thing, even though I have no idea what an upped hackle even looks like. Nonetheless, I’m anticipating this segment getting a rise out of many a deer-lovin’ soul, seeing that feeding and thusly befriending our local whitetail herbivores have become commonplace among many near-woods homeowners.

Keeping home-grown deer within food-shot can offer a feeling of being one with the great outdoors. It can also be a case of home, home on deranged … where the deer and the Borrelia burgdorferi play.

Recent warnings from highly warning-minded organizations, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, advise that inviting deer into the inner sanctum of one’s yard is a walking invitation for that which parties upon them, as in deer ticks galore. Just like that, the next backyard party or BBQ in such deer-shared yards could include drinks served with a twist of Lyme.

The prime backyard Lyme disease danger comes via tick nymphs, hatching from eggs laid by adult female ticks, which have done a nosedive off their hosts after filling up on high-test blood for their broods-to-be.

Get this: A single tick can lay 3,000 eggs, while a single deer can piggyback 150-plus female ticks; add in the state’s likely 200,000 deer. You do the dismal math.

But hate me not, backyard deer fans. I fully understand why all y’all love these comely grazers, often to a corny degree – horse corn being one of the prime taste treats commonly left a-yard for them.

The problem with becoming too engaging with deer is how quickly they catch on to the fact that these rather unsightly two-legged buggers, i.e. us, adore the hell out of them. These wild-things go from a so-called “edge” species to an up-close-and-personal one, soon edging from the edge, cozying up to their benefactors. The bloodsuckingly bad side is the eight-legged riders upon the deer also cozy on up. Who’s to say? The ticks might also be thinking, “What nice people.”

The longer deer hang out out-back, the more ticks nosedive off them, hoping to know us better. Never once have I said of ticks: “Ah, how cute. Come on up on my lap, little feller. Use my leg.”

The increasing deer/human up-closeness has disease experts worrywarting over this year’s irruption of ticks, which will surely mean a big-time uptick in future Lyme disease cases.

Another major epidemic influence is the ongoing overall drift in the entire whitetail biomass, as many of the state’s deer move toward highly accommodating humanized zones, where the grass is green and population-controlling hunters are kept afar, i.e. the deer are too close to humans for hunters to get off a clean/safe/legal shot.

On a nature note, when deer are pampered, their primordial instincts, i.e. fear of man, can fly out the truck window. For example, just last week, I was driving my full-sized Chevy pickup down a section of Nugentown Road in Little Egg Harbor and was forced into a rapid stop by a bevy of obviously people-coddled deer moseying across the road in a highly relaxed fashion. One young buck even stopped, mid-road, to hoof an itch behind its ear, me yelling, “Oh, come on, buddy! You crossin’ or what?!”

I’ll purposely leave the backyard deer-feeding thing unresolved, instead handing the choice over to the folks who can’t resist the scenery served up by gently feeding whitetails. I will duly warn that things simply won’t stay all naturalish when homeowners are eventually forced to rid their yards of ticks. Professional pest control often comes with a chemical signature, even when pesticides are dubbed “natural.”

TICK BITE NOTE: The local Lyme threat is understatedly alarming. I’ll bet the farm that everyone reading this knows someone with Lyme disease, has had the disease themselves, or is still suffering from it. Spooky numbers.

That warning word given, I now want to offer a more comforting note: Tick bites that redden are not a sure-fire sign of a disease transmission – and virtually never a serious sign when the tick bite is compliments of our highly common woods/dog tick species.

All female ticks suck, as in blood. When biting, the lady bloodsuckers inject a natural anticoagulant. It keeps the incoming blood flowing in a smooth and unclotted manner. At the same time, the anticoagulant soon bugs the hell out of the skin, in something of a mosquito-bite vein. Even the average harmless tick bite will redden and itch, usually after the fact.

I like the way the pest-control site stoppestinfo.com puts it. “Being bitten by a tick doesn’t mean that your life has ended or that you will certainly get sick. On the contrary, the earlier you’ve been able to notice this parasite, the more likely is the favorable outcome. That’s why after taking a walk in a park during tick season, on a break when camping or travelling, examine yourself and others.”

That’s both a bit of a relief but also a complicating factor in determining if Lyme has come into play. A normal tick bite’s itchiness and redness are not all that far from a bad-sign disease-signaling itchiness and redness, which occasionally – but only occasionally – shows as a tell-tale bulls-eye rash. Oddly, the famed Lyme disease bulls-eye redness is becoming less common, while the disease remains in an upsurge mode.

There’s no over-emphasizing the need to be vigilant tick-wise. During outdoor ventures, use a repellent. As deeply as I immerse myself in naturalness, I still prefer going classically chemical when it comes to thwarting ticks and Lyme. I favor diethyltoluamide, aka DEET. It’s a tradeoff I can live with.

Post tick-exposure examination of body is always a mandatory move. While it doesn’t have to reach shower-with-a-friend levels, shower-time is a fine time to find any tickish hangers-on.

By the by, it really helps to capture a successfully biting tick. It can be sent off to one of many labs that test ticks for Lyme, though many charge a fee. Google “tick bite labs.”

RUNDOWN: Took a quick jaunt to the New South Jetty over the weekend. I saw less-than-occasional 2-pound bluefish being caught. It was a slow-go for the many rock-toppers fishing there.

Odd sight of the trip was a decent fluke taken on a larger Ava jig, which was being allowed to tumble along the inlet bottom in the current – be it intentionally allowed to tumble or simply reflecting the experience level of the angler. That wondered, you better believe I’ll be trying that bottom roll-an-Ava method when fishing those rocks for flatties this summer.

Surfside stripering is improving, at least when it comes to a nice scattering of bass in the take-home size range going for jigs or clam baits. See fishlbi.com for bass updates, photos and such.

Sunday, I saw a chopper blue being walked off a mid-Island beach. I was driving so couldn’t collect details, though the rod held an older type, red styrofoam float rig. Were the 1980s really that long ago? Also, Nick H reported “Gorilla Blues still haunting the NJ surf!” He offered a photo of his 17-pounder.

On the boat front, Zachary M wrote: “Tons of bait marked today and all the bunker you wanna snag with the amount of boats that were out today I’m truly surprised with the lack of hook ups. Couldn’t believe how much fish and bait I marked.”

Here are some outtakes from a 5/22/2017 thread regarding fluke regs ...

Fran Verdi: Just got off from listening. NJ is found out of compliance for fluke. ... From what I got they have until May 25 to put into regulation 3 fish @ 19 inches 128 day season. Or letters are sent out for compliance.

Dave Wittenborn: My understanding is from what I have read, NJ basically knew they were going to be found out of compliance with 3 fish at 18”. It’s just a matter of what punishment, if any, the Feds are going to hand down.

Dave Wittenborn: It’s all about enforcement. We’ll have to see how it plays out. If NJ is serious about sticking to 3 fish at 18” and the Feds lay off then we go with the NJ regs adopted last week. If the feds get serious and put in severe restrictions like cancelling our season and cutting future quotas then NJ will do an about face and go with the federal regs.

Jim Hutchinson Sr.: I have it from pretty good authority that this move was pre-ordained. The ASMFC is not happy with 3 at 18 but the commerce department will not be taking action against us. We are 3 at 18 starting May 25 and running until September 5. ... In New Jersey we must follow NJ’s regs unless they are found out of compliance, which my source tells me will not happen.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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