Current Waters: Man O' Wars Among Us
Capt. Carl Bois •
The relentless heat wave and a dash of thunderstorms Monday night have changed things up this week.
The bluefishing has remained outstanding. Lots of action for all anglers. Stripers are good too. They are still going towards the cooler water, so getting out in the evening for beach anglers is a better option.
Tuna fishing is still solid. The first few Bonita have made their appearance. Now that we’ve gotten into the routine of summer, we have a new species to go for and liven things up a bit.
Monday was windy enough that many boats stayed at the dock. What does a fisherman do when they’re not fishing? They get ready for fishing. The random days off the water are never actually days off. They are days spent cleaning the boat, fixing what needs to be fixed, and preparing for the next round.
Other chatter going around this week is all about the closed beaches. For most of the week, the entire south shore has been closed because of dangerous rip tides. The surf may look “exciting”, but it’s a tumbling washing machine out there.
The big news on Thursday was the closure of Surfside, Fisherman’s, and Miacomet beaches, this time due to confirmed shark fin sightings. They must have heard it was shark week and came for the party.
Another creature that recently showed up uninvited is a slew of jellyfish.
Nantucket is no stranger to jellyfish who generally show up towards the end of summer or early September when ocean waters are at the warmest. However, increases in water temperatures have meant an earlier arrival of jellyfish than usual to Nantucket. Unlike many marine species, jellies can thrive in warmer water with less oxygen and so are showing up in larger numbers as ocean temperatures rise.
Arriving earlier also means that they are arriving at a time of summer when there are more people at the beach to notice them.
Portuguese Man o’ War is the species that has been making headlines this past week. They are actually not a jellyfish as all, but rather a siphonophore. Known for its vibrant blue and pink color, the animal has a gas-filled bag on top with tentacles that can extend up to 30 feet in length. During the day, the man-of-war tentacles coil up, and appear thicker and shorter, but when they fish for prey at night, they extend out further.
Portuguese Man o’ War are generally found in larger numbers further south. We typically have reports of a few each year, but the past few years we’ve seen greater numbers. This past week there were reports from multiple beaches on the south shore.
There is no propulsion device, such as fins, and they travel only by tides, current and winds. Out in the open water of Nantucket sound this week I saw a Portuguese Man o’ War just floating on by. So they aren’t just on the south shore.
Keep the man o’ war in mind if you’re out on the south shore surf casting. If you are standing in the surf bare-legged like most anglers do this time of year, watch yourself. Debris and critters can wash in behind you and then hit you from behind. Not only are their stings painful, but they can leave welt-like red marks on the skin. If stung, you should remove the tentacles immediately and can treat the sting with salt water and heat.
What if it is washed up on the beach? Do not touch it. Tentacles can inject venom in or out of water and for hours or even days if severed from the rest of the man-o-war.
Other jellyfish typical for this time of year are the Atlantic sea nettles. Their stings can really pack a punch. The sea nettles and the lion’s mane jellies are the most common. Moon jellies and comb jellies have also been spotted around the island, but they are harmless to humans.
Jellyfish are predators, but they are also prey to some other ocean dwellers primarily sea turtles and ocean sunfish (Mola mola). So keep an eye out for those as well.