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Essay: Just look at what our net dragged in

Dan Kriesberg, nephew Alex Mims and son Zack

Dan Kriesberg, nephew Alex Mims and son Zack Kriesberg drag a seine in Long Island Sound in Bayville on Aug. 10, 2010. Credit: Karen Kriesberg

Several years ago, when my sons, Zack and Scott, were in their wonder-filled pre-teen years, seine fishing entered our lives.

Pretty much every day we pulled a red wagon to the beach at the end of our block in Bayville. The wagon overflowed with buckets, shovels, a Wiffle ball, bats, goggles, a football and our net.

The inspiration and instructions came from Zack. He had learned about seining in a Waterfront Center program in Oyster Bay.

In waist-deep water, we stretched out the net to its full 8-foot width and dragged it parallel to shore. We angled it to scoop up whatever swam or crawled. Zack taught us the key: Keep the lower edge on the bottom so creatures could not escape. Quickly we learned that the lower the tide, the better.

In the murky water, we couldn’t see what we had caught. It was a mystery. Our anticipation overflowed. After about 15 yards, we would make a quick turn and pull the net ashore. Water drained out and revealed the surprises. We never came up empty. There was more life in Long Island Sound than I ever imagined.

Hermit crabs, lady crabs, spider crabs, flounder, puffer fish, pipe fish, killies, silversides, mummichog and glass shrimp all squirmed and wiggled in the net. The boys worked fast. They raced back and forth about 25 yards from the net to the bucket on the shore, cradling each treasured creature in their hands.

When the net was empty, out we went again. Scott loved the puffer fish, which expanded to three times their original size. Older brother Zack searched for baby flounders that would grow into the fish he hoped to someday catch with a pole.

In August, Alex and Sydney, their younger cousins from Texas, came to visit, and in the first afternoon, we showed them how the seine worked.

It was a good day; we pulled out quite an assortment of creatures, all of which went into a big tub that became their aquarium for perhaps an hour. Screams of excitement greeted each discovery. There was a direct correlation between the pitch of the shriek and the uniqueness of the animal.

An assortment of people stopped to watch and marvel at the catch. As Zack and Scott netted more creatures, the cousins were in charge of refreshing the water to keep the animals cool and comfortable. They were also the police, ready to stop anyone who tried grabbing the fish.

All of them were proud to show off their catch. By late afternoon, with everyone getting tired and hungry, it was time to quit. The cousins carried the bucket to the water’s edge and gently dumped the creatures back in.

We all enjoyed meeting some of our seaside neighbors — even the slimy, wiggly, jumpy ones that can pinch you.

Reader Dan Kriesberg lives in Bayville.