No matter where you go saltwater swimming, the thought of a fin popping up crosses your mind. Images of sharks have been hard to wipe away ever since director Steven Spielberg terrified us with "Jaws" in the summer of '75.
The toothy fish fascinate people so much that Discovery Channel has aired "Shark Week" for the past 25 years, and it's that time again, starting Sunday. Here are three local shark-related activities you can sink your teeth into for your very own Shark Week.
DIVE WITH 'EM
Get your adrenaline pumping by going into an aluminum cage while captain Chuck Wade of East Hampton lowers you into the water for a shark dive. For the past 10 years, Sea Turtle Dive Charters has provided this adventure for those who want to get familiar with gray suits. "People like the thrill. The sharks come right up to the cage," Wade says. "You learn a lot about their behavior." No diving certification is needed, but snorkel experience is necessary, and all participants must sign a liability release. When in the cage, you can shoot photos or video, but you shouldn't provoke the fish. "You don't want to be sticking your hands out near a toothy critter," Wade warns.
INFO Call for pricing: 631-335-6323; seaturtlecharters.com
FISH FOR 'EM
If you don't want to submerge your body in water with sharks, perhaps you'd prefer to catch them. Captain John Krol of Montauk will take you 15 to 25 miles offshore to hunt for three kinds of sharks: blues, makos and threshers, which can vary in size from 80 to 500 pounds. "Makos and threshers are the most sought after, because you can eat them," Krol says. "But they are hard to catch, sometimes."
Sharks are known for putting up a fight. "They could be on the line for quite a while," Krol says. "I've seen threshers fight for two or three hours." According to Krol, the shark fishing conditions change from day to day. "Sometimes, you get a big shark and sometimes, you don't. Other times, you might not catch anything," he says. "But this summer, the action has been good."
INFO Call for pricing: 631-668-4502; montauksharkfishing.com
ROCK WITH 'EM
For those who prefer land sharks, you can rock out with Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, who have been gigging on the North and South Forks for nearly 25 years. This finless foursome performs roots-rockabilly, blending original tunes with classics from Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry and Big Joe Turner. "I feel my songs should be able to fit in with the classic vintage stuff," says Casey, 50, of Southold. "That's my goal."
The Lone Sharks, who will release a new album this fall titled "Don't Splash the Band," will be playing at the Twisted Vine in Huntington (24 Clinton Ave., 631-549-5555) on Thursday at 9 p.m., the Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue (31320 Rte. 25, 631-734-7361) on Friday at 7 p.m. and The Sloppy Tuna in Montauk (148 S. Emerson Ave., 631-647-8000) on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
INFO 631-965-1841; lonesharks.com
They specialize in fin dining
Terrifying as it may be when encountered in the wild, even the most lethal shark is a pussycat when served on a plate.
"There's a lot of sharks that we eat," said fishmonger Bill Mieschberger of Gra-Bar Fish in Westbury. "The most popular are mako and thresher, and they're both excellent."
When Mieschberger has a nice mako shark, he'll give Andrew Drosinos a call. Drosinos, who owns Woodcleft Crab Shack in Freeport with his father, George, calls mako his favorite fish. "It's got a consistency like swordfish but a milder flavor. When you cook it, it doesn't get mushy or flaky. It's not tough, but it's firm."
Shark isn't a regular at Long Island fish markets and restaurants; there isn't a huge demand for it, and it's not the bargain it once was. Back in the day, Drosinos said, "If you bought a swordfish, they'd give you a mako the same size for a buck a pound." Nowadays, the wholesale price ranges between $4.50 and $7. (At retail, expect to pay $8 to $10.)
Another species, the porbeagle, looks similar to mako but isn't as tasty. "If you're not a fish guy, you'd think it was a mako," Mieschberger said. "I call them fake-os." Mieschberger says supermarkets are starting to sell a shark from down South, the blacktip. "It's pretty small, and it's not one of the man-eater types, but it's good eating." -- ERICA MARCUS