Coney Island’s Endemic Species

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Backyard and Beyond

You have to be a certain age to remember when Coney Island Whitefish teemed off of Brooklyn’s shores in such massive schools that beach-goers wouldn’t dare go into the water. Today, however, they’re a rare sight.

Although sometimes mistaken for the pallid Manhattan eel, Mentula brevus, the Coney Island Whitefish is a unique species. Sitts coneius breeds terrestrially, separating from the parent like a shed polyp. The young Whitefish are then dragged into the ocean by the receding tide. In the sea, they’re notoriously sluggish swimmers. In fact, they’re usually washed back ashore, and then sucked back out again. It’s a Sisyphean existence, in and out, in and out with the tide.

Fishermen despair of the limp things. When asked about them, Sheepshead Bay charter boat skippers Sal Ippolito and Tony Quadratti, who between them have three quarters of a century worth of experience, look at each other and…

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