Beachgoers shrug off shark report to enjoy one more splash of summer

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent
August 21. 2013 10:56PM
Kara Colarusso, a lifeguard at Wallis Sands State Beach in Rye, keeps an eye on swimmers Wednesday afternoon. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader)

RYE — A possible shark sighting at Wallis Sands State Beach this week didn't stop swimmers of all ages from taking a dip Wednesday and enjoying the final days of their summer vacations.

With sunny skies and temperatures near 90 degrees, sunbathers weren't deterred by Tuesday's report of a possible shark lurking just off the beach.
A possible shark sighting at Wallis Sands State Beach in Rye Tuesday didn’t seem to faze many beach-goers who took advantage of Wednesday’s warm temperatures to squeeze in another beach day before the summer season winds down. (JASON SCHREIBER)

"The undertow is more of a concern," said Rebecca Roy of Auburn, who brought her two kids, Dylan, 6, and Julia, 8, to the same beach that was evacuated a day earlier when a lifeguard and others spotted a dorsal fin moving through the waters.

Amy Bassett, spokesman for the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation, said the assistant manager at the beach saw what he thought was an eight-foot shark following a school of striped bass in about four feet of water off the beach.

Rye Police Chief Kevin Walsh said the U.S. Coast Guard found nothing after searching the water for about an hour.

Swimming was restricted for a time on Tuesday, but the restrictions were lifted Wednesday.

The possibility of a shark lurking just off the coast doesn't surprise fishermen like Adam Knight of Nottingham.

Knight and his buddy, Mark Schultz of Exeter, were fishing within two miles of Hampton Beach a few weeks ago in their boat, the Nina May, when they caught a large porbeagle shark. Knight said the shark was about 8 feet long and likely weighed between 700 and 800 pounds.

"It was a big, big shark and it was pulling," Knight said.

Before catching that shark and later releasing it, the pair hooked two other sharks but they broke free, Knight said.

"It seemed as if every place we went we landed on top of them," Knight said.

Knight is used to seeing sharks while fishing, but said he and other fishermen have seen more this year than in past years.

"There's certainly a lot of them out there," he said.

It's not known whether the shark Knight and Schultz caught is the same one or similar to the one possibly seen in Rye, but, Knight said, "it's certainly capable of being closer to the shore."

Many swimmers who turned out to enjoy a day at the beach Wednesday before kids return to school were unfazed by the shark threat.

"I'm not worried about it," said Heather Scholl, who spent the day at Wallis Sands with her two children, ages 8 and 10.

For Tom Silverman of Portsmouth, a shark attack was the least of his worries.

"There's more of a risk driving here," the Portsmouth man said.

Clark Stuart of Durham said he wasn't aware of this week's reported sighting, but he wasn't too concerned because his children, ages 3 and 7, stay close to the shore.

"If I had an adventurous teenager I might be worried," he said.

New Hampshire's beaches are expected to be busy once again with more heat and humidity on tap for Thursday.

Temperatures are expected to reach the upper 80s before a frontal boundary swings through overnight with a chance of some rain in the mountains and along the coastal plain, according to Andy Pohl, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

Once the front passes, temperatures will drop into the low 80s on Friday and upper 70s to around 80 through the weekend with dry weather.

"It's going to be a wonderful weekend. It'll be a nice prelude to fall," Pohl said.

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