Dewey Beach needlefish, crabs, beach plums, pollen
3 May 2012
I took a walk Thursday morning on the back, bayside streets of Dewey Beach. Quiet. Winding this way and that, I found myself on the boardwalk that goes around the BayCenter and Lighthouse Cove. Then, right there on the boards, I came upon the needlefish pictured here. The fish was dead but still appeared fresh, the eyes still glistening. I've seen plenty of needlefish around in the summertime but this Rehoboth Bay specimen was about the largest I had ever seen. It was 14-16 inches long.
According to the information below, taken from Wikipedia, needlefish mostly inhabit tropical waters, but get into temperate waters occasionally, especially in the summertime. Maybe they're up here early this year because of the mild winter we had.
I've also heard people have been catching good sized crabs in the creeks of the inland bays. Those waters warm faster than many other waters around which brings the crabs out sooner than in many places.
Lots of beach plum blossoms on the shrubs this year and right now we're in the thick of the pollen season. The pines are sending out plumes of green fog and plenty of people are feeling scratchiness in their throats and full sinuses as a result.
Here's more information about needlefish from the Wikipedia article. From the sound of things, these can be some real dangerous customers, particularly because of their ability to leap long distances out of the water, like flying spears. That ability might explain why I found this fish on the boardwalk at Ruddertowne.
All needlefish feed primarily on smaller fishes, which they catch with a sideways sweep of the head. Needlefish are most common in the tropics but some inhabit temperate waters as well, particularly during the summer months. Belone belone is a common North Atlantic species that often swims in schools alongside mackerel.
Danger to humans
Needlefish, like all ray-finned beloniforms, are capable of making short jumps out of the water at up to 38 miles per hour (61 km/h). Since needlefish swim near the surface, they often leap over the decks of shallow boats rather than going around. This jumping activity is greatly excited by artificial light at night; night fisherman and divers in areas across the Pacific Ocean have been "attacked" by schools of suddenly excited needlefish diving across the water towards the light source at high speed. Their sharp beak is capable of inflicting deep puncture wounds, often breaking off inside the victim in the process. For many traditional Pacific Islander communities, who primarily fish on reefs from low boats, needlefish represent an even greater risk of injury than sharks.
Two historical deaths have been attributed to needlefish. The first was in 1977 when a 10-year-old Hawai'ian boy, night fishing with his father at Hanamaulu Bay, Kaua'i, was killed when a 3-to-4-foot-long (0.91 to 1.2 m) needlefish jumped from the water and pierced his eye and brain. The second was a 16-year-old Vietnamese boy, stabbed through the heart by the 6-inch (150 mm) spike of a needlefish in 2007 while night diving for sea cucumbers near Halong Bay.