I wasn't joking
Publication: The East Hampton Press
Surfers injured by feeding bluefish at Sagg
By Michael Wright
At least two surfers near Sagg Main Beach in Sagaponack were taken to Southampton Hospital on Friday afternoon with severe bites to their feet, and several other people in the water suffered less serious bites to their feet and hands from bluefish that were feeding on a large school of baitfish pushed toward shore by storms.
At least one surfer in Southampton Village also suffered a bluefish bite on Friday.
Witnesses said that one of the surfers at Sagg Main was bleeding heavily from his foot when he came out of the water and may have lost a toe as a result of the fish bites.
“There was a lot of blood,” said surfer Zachary Ducak, who saw medical personnel tending to one of the injured surfers. “They had it wrapped up very heavily. He must have gotten chewed up really bad.”
Mr. Ducak said that he and other surfers saw bluefish swimming around them throughout the day. “I saw a couple that were big,” he said, spreading his arms nearly 3 feet apart. “There was a couple times where I was, like, ‘Is that a shark or a bluefish?’”
Ambulances were called to the popular town beach twice in a short period early in the afternoon. At about 3 p.m., lifeguards ordered all swimmers to remain inside the surf break to stay clear of the marauding bluefish, according to Southampton Town Department of Parks Superintendent Allyn Jackson.
The bluefish were apparently attracted to the beach in large numbers by schools of bunker, a common prey species of fish. An adult bunker is yellowish in color and about the same size as a human foot. Bunker normally spend their summers in coastal bays, but they have been spotted off ocean beaches in large schools along the South Fork this summer.
During Thursday’s strong storms, thousands of bunker died after being chased out of the water by the hungry bluefish at Sagg Main. The dead bunker washing back into the sea with the next tide cycle or possibly remaining schools of the fish kept the bluefish in the area until Friday.
Thursday’s storms also kicked up high waves, attracting more than 100 surfers to the waters off Sagg Main starting early Friday morning.
Bluefish biting surfers or swimmers is not unheard of. Ocean beach lifeguards frequently have to order swimmers out of the water as churning schools of bluefish move down a beach, but the fish are usually small, plainly visible and move through a given area quickly. Friday’s events were odd because the fish were not readily visible on Friday, remained in the area for most of the day, and were very large—between 10 and 15 pounds, according to fishermen who caught them.
“It was unusual,” Mr. Jackson said. “Every once in a while you get an incident of a bluefish bite, but in my experience we’ve never had something like this, with multiple bites on the same day.”