Swimming with Stripers


Open water swimming, outdoor swimming in fresh or salt water, has many rewards.  The spectacle of a large organize sporting event, the personal goals and athletic performances, the sense of accomplishment, and the exhilaration of being alive within system of life relatively unknown by terrestrial man, or being a human off the land as a fish out of the water. Every year the Nubble Light Challenge is one of the most demanding, 2.4 miles of open ocean swimming, and rewarding swims around, the race is a fund raiser for the Maine Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  The cold waters of the Gulf of Maine set the stage for a swim from Long Sands Beach, through “the gut” between  Cape Neddick and the Nubble Lighthouse, and then to the finish at Short Sands Beach in front of the old penny arcade.

One year as I was swimming toward the last buoy marking the wide turn into “the gut”, the current shifted and I was now swimming with it, the sun above and a little behind me. As I tried to concentrate on the things I could control, the waters around felt alive. The light was refracting down through the unusually clear water, with ribbons of moving light. Mesmerized, and allowing my eyes to not focus but enjoy the light show, I realized I was swimming over a school of large Striped Bass. Their stripes the perfect camouflage with the refracting light. These were big fish, 3+ feet long, and they were stacked and arranged like a net facing into the current, each fish representing a knot in the lines of the mesh. Individual fish were spaced several feet apart from each other within rows at different depths from the surface with roughly the same spacing between rows as between fish.  There were at least 4 rows down, the limit of my vision as I swam by. I wanted to stop but the race was in me so I froze the image in my mind. Wow, good thing I am not a mackerel.  

-Steve Miller, Coastal Training Program Coordinator