We can all learn from the mistakes of others

It is not smart to bring a spear to a sword fight, and other lessons to remember.

Saturday night, father and son, Bob and Brian Clay cast for bass at Wasque Point on Chappaquiddick. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Years ago, a fisherman I know hooked and landed a spiny dogfish off Lobsterville Beach. Not wanting to grab the thrashing creature, he kicked the fish back into the water, and put the spine through his wader boot and into his foot.

We have all learned lessons the hard way. I prefer to learn from the mistakes of others, which is why I treat a fish with the word “spiny” in its name with great respect. One would think the same respect would be accorded a fish named after a broadsword.

Unfortunately, Randy Llanes, 47, a Hawaiian charter captain, will not get a chance to learn from his mistake, but his tragic death can serve as an example not to jump in the water with a spear gun if you spot a broadbill swordfish.

On May 29, Randy was leaving Honokohau Harbor in Kailua-Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii, when he spotted a swordfish near his boat, according to a story in the Washington Post. He reportedly dove into the water with his spear gun and speared the 40-pound swordfish.

Details about what happened next are fuzzy. One version is that the swordfish deliberately speared the fisherman. Another is that the fish got tangled in some mooring lines, and the spearing was more accidental. Either way you slice it, Randy caught the business end of the three-foot sword.

“All we know is next thing they know, the man is seen floating,” West Hawaii Acting Battalion Chief John Whitman said, according to the Post story.

Online commenters pointed out the obvious irony in this story. I think it points out once again the need to respect the ocean. A guy who was used to reeling in 500-pound gamefish got careless with a fish he likely thought was small and easily subdued.

On the topic of jumping in the water with fish, on May 21, Lawrence Dillman of Rockaway Beach, Mo., was fishing with a chub minnow on 20-pound test line in Bull Shoals Lake when he had a hit.

“I fought the giant for over 45 minutes until I got him to shallow water,” Larry told reporters. “I then bear-hugged the fish, and got it out of the water onto the bank.”

Larry’s 65-pound striped bass measured nearly 50 inches long and 36 inches around, according to the report. The fact that a bass could grow to that size in fresh water points out how adaptable stripers are when conditions are right.

One fish you are not allowed to bear-hug is the white shark. You would not think there would be a need to prohibit people from messing around with white sharks, but such is not the case.

The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) recently adopted emergency regulations, effective immediately, “that restrict activity around white sharks.”

People are no longer allowed to attract or capture a white shark — two things not on my bucket list while I own an 18-foot boat.

“Examples of such activities include cage diving, shark chumming, baiting, and feeding, towing decoys, applying research devices on sharks, and attracting sharks to conduct these activities,” DMF said.

There is a very sensible reason for these new regulations. Increasingly, white sharks are snacking on seals off Cape beaches, and there is a growing shark tourism business.

Bringing some tourists out in a boat to see white sharks beats hustling up fish. For the same reason people are told not to feed grizzly bears at Yellowstone National Park, people ought not to feed white sharks.

“Such activities may result in sharks associating humans with food, and prompt changes in shark behavior that make them more aggressive toward humans,” DMF said.

It’s one thing to have a pet nuzzle you because it wants a dog bone in your pocket, and quite another to have a white shark think of you as the bone.

DMF said the new rule will not affect normal fishing or boating activity: “In the rare event that a white shark is incidentally caught during the course of normal fishing activity, fishermen are required to immediately release the shark in a manner that maximizes the shark’s survival. Similarly, boaters who encounter a white shark in the course of recreational boating will not be in violation of this new regulation, provided they do not attempt to feed or lure the shark to the vessel.”

Oh yes, don’t jump in the water.

I do think DMF should relax the restriction about feeding white sharks in some specific cases.

Last Wednesday, Massachusetts Environmental Police arrested two men from Worcester for poaching black sea bass. The men were stopped at the west end of the Cape Cod Canal, and one of them did not have a saltwater license. An inspection of their boat turned up 214 sea bass, of which 79 were under the 14-inch limit.

Hmm, they were 206 fish over the eight-fish-per-fisherman limit. Kind of hard to argue a math problem. The men will be charged with possession over the limit and possession of undersize fish.

On Sunday, I took my boat out for the first time this season, and struggled off East Chop to find enough decent-size sea bass for dinner. I went in with three fish.

One word about launch-ramp etiquette. If you are going to wash down your boat and scrub your gear, or make a pizza, or check Facebook, please tie up on the inside of the dock, not the outside. It can be tight maneuvering in the wind, and leaving the dock open makes it easier for those of us launching and retrieving boats and picking up guests.

Beach closure

The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) has closed its Cape Poge Wildlife Reservation on Chappaquiddick to nonessential vehicles to protect recently hatched piping plover chicks that are now feeding between East Beach and the narrows, the channel that connects Cape Poge Bay to Poucha Pond.

Chris Kennedy, Martha’s Vineyard TTOR superintendent, said four chicks are now crossing from the beach to the inner shoreline to feed. Chris said state and federal environmental regulations require a shoreline-to-shoreline closure until the chicks are capable of flying.

Last season, similar feeding habits also necessitated a closure. It takes about four weeks for a chick to fledge. “These birds nested early, so hopefully they’ll be out of here early,” Chris said.