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Fishermen reel in thresher and other sharks

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People fishing along the beach reported reeling in a number of thresher, dusky, sand tiger and other species of sharks last week.

Long Beach Chief of Lifeguards Paul Gillespie maintains that four or five sharks were reported, but some residents said that many more were caught and released.

“They’re little sand sharks,” Gillespie said. “They won’t bother you, and feed on the bottom of the ocean.”

Anglers caught dusky, sand tiger, thresher, brown and sandbar sharks at Wyoming, New York and Grand boulevard beaches last week, a number of residents said.

Long Beach resident Jim Hennessy said that his son, Seamus, 12, was fishing for bluefish on Grand Boulevard on Aug. 28 when he caught seven dusky sharks. Overall, Hennessy said, his son reeled in 10 sharks over a two-day period, the largest of which, a dusky, was about 4 feet long and appeared to weight around 175 pounds.

“He was in disbelief,” Hennessy, who worked as a lifeguard for 28 years, said of his son. “If you catch it, you have to release it. You bring them close in, but they’re so heavy you can’t take the hook out. Seamus grabbed the shark by the back of the tail to take the hook out. People were coming from all over the beach taking pictures, but he knows we have to get it back into the water quick.”

Hennessy said he was sure his son didn’t catch the same shark more than once, saying that at least one was a brown shark and that they all had different markings. “They have markings on their dorsal fins, and the rest of their body was different, and one of them had a tag on it,” he said.

The city issued a statement on its website last week saying that while smaller sharks such as sand tigers “are generally not aggressive and are not known to attack humans, if you see a shark, do not approach it — contact a lifeguard.”

“Our lifeguards have been trained to determine the difference between predatory and non-predatory sharks,” the statement said.

The city also said that removing sharks from the water is strictly prohibited, and violations can include fines or imprisonment.

The reports of sharks being caught by local fishermen come after two children were bitten in July in the waters off Fire Island, and some swimming areas at Robert Moses State Park were closed on July 21 for about an hour after a fisherman caught a shark there, according to Newsday.

No injuries were reported in Long Beach last week, and Gillespie said that the presence of sharks in the Atlantic Ocean should come as no surprise to residents. Lifeguards, he explained, regularly monitor the water from the beach and during patrols on personal watercraft if a sighting is reported.

“There have been sharks out there, and there’s always going to be sharks out there,” he said. “If we closed for every shark we saw, we’d never be open. If we get a sighting from another area … we search around to make sure. If we saw a big shark, we’d close the beach immediately.”

Still, Hennessy said that despite all his years as a lifeguard, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Newsday reported that sand tiger sharks, sandbar sharks and thresher sharks are common off Long Island during the summer, according to Tobey Curtis, a NOAA shark researcher. Juvenile sharks spend the warmer summer months chasing schools of bunker before they grow large enough to swim farther out into the Atlantic.

Glen Myers, co-owner of Ralph’s Tackle & Sporting Goods in Island Park, said that the number of sharks reeled in this summer was “nothing unusual.” “We had them last year — there’s tons of bunker fish,” Myers said. “They put a moratorium on the bunker fisheries, so we have more and more bait closer to the beach — it’s easy pickin’s. The sharks are always there. Last year they caught a lot, too, but they were more off Lido and Captree. It’s exciting to catch, but you have to put them back fast so you don’t hurt them, and some guys just cut the line.”