A local man, Reb Raymer, has claimed responsibility for two massive fish kills in Riverhead’s Peconic River last month. Both fish kills, which left tens of thousands of bunker dead in the water, were blamed on low dissolved oxygen levels from algal blooms, elevated water temperature and massive concentrations of fish in shallow waters, but Raymer says algae and oxygen had nothing to do with it.
“This was my doing,” he said on Tuesday, admitting to harboring a “longstanding grudge” against bunker, a type of baitfish, also known as menhaden. “My father was knocked out of his boat by a school of them bunker,” Raymer said. “Those fish put him in the water and he never came out,” he continued, explaining that he was just 9 years old when his father, Bill Raymer Jr., drowned in the icy Atlantic.
Ever since, the younger Raymer vowed to destroy any bunker he could find, and he hit pay dirt in early June when the fish loaded into the Peconic River.
“First I started picking them off with my 30 ought six, but those buggers kept comin’, so when I ran out of shells I went after ‘em with my fishing knife,” Raymer said. “And when the knife slipped and I dropped it into the river, I went to work with my bare hands.”
Two weeks later, around June 13, Raymer said he was at it again.
In total, he may have slain as many as 100,000 fish, according to Peconic Rivermaster Sam “Put Put” Davis. “He did a good job of stinking up the place too,” Davis said.
Police are currently looking into Raymer’s actions and whether or not what he did can be considered a crime.
Until a decision is made, Raymer remains free, to the terror of bunker everywhere.