Bridgehampton fishing guide, photographer and video blogger Tim Regan, aka South Fork Salt, has been gaining some serious attention for his incredible images of life on local waters. Just this summer, Regan blew the internet’s collective mind when he shared drone footage of four black tip sharks swimming through massive schools of menhaden (aka bunker), parting the fields of fish as they swam just offshore in Bridgehampton. The Instagram “Reels” videos went viral and reached millions of eyes, leading Regan to some incredible new opportunities that could change the course of his life.
He’s now well known for jaw-dropping images of whales, sharks, seals, sea birds and millions of fish performing for the camera simply by taking part in the local food chain, feeding, breaching, flying and swimming as they hunt and eat, escape and frolic in a magnificent fashion few people have the pleasure of witnessing.
Of course, things started much smaller for Regan. Years before he had a robust combined following of some 20,000 on his @southforksalt Instagram account and South Fork Salt YouTube channel, he began humbly chronicling his fresh and saltwater fishing adventures at beautiful locations around the Hamptons, from Montauk to Hampton Bays and beyond. The videos were not as tightly produced as what he does now, and he hadn’t added a drone into the mix, but it was immediately apparent that Regan had something special.
The 32-year-old Rockville Center native has been living right on the beach since he accepted a year-round job assisting the property manager at Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club. Regan had worked at the club, mostly lifeguarding, since he was just 16 years old, but he eventually joined them full time after college when he realized pursuing a career in finance was not making him happy.
“I wasn’t digging the job, so I came out here. … It was that summer when I picked up fishing,” Regan says, explaining how he found his way to a more joyful life on the East End. “I love the ocean, so I wanted to be around it.”
With his employer housing him steps from the water, Regan was able to dedicate himself wholeheartedly to fishing, which he admittedly picked up later than most. “One of my best friends and my boss were big into surfcasting,” he says. “My friends had always asked me to go, and then one day I just went, and since then I never stopped.”
Regan learned quickly on his own before going to other, more experienced fisherman to continue his education. He worked hard to become a licensed fishing guide and stand-up paddle instructor through the club and, later, a private guide for individuals and groups. He’s improved his photography in much the same way. As the popularity of Regan’s work grows, and new opportunities come, he’s sought more formal training via reading, instructional videos and advice from professionals in his life. He’s also learned the laws about how close one can get to various animals, and stresses the importance of respecting them.
But adding the drone to his toolkit about three years ago was the moment everything changed. He doesn’t have a boat and shoots almost all his videos from the shore, but Regan says there’s no shortage of amazing scenes just 100 feet from the beach (his drone can go a mile offshore without issue).
“Usually, I’ll get up in the morning and go look at the water. And I’ll know there’s going to be cool stuff going on because, with all the bunker around, it’s just been getting better and better every single year for the past at least five years,” he says, explaining how he always has his drone ready during this sunrise ritual, hoping he’ll find predators within the sprawling schools of fish, which look like islands in the water. “I just go out there, fly around and look for bunker schools that look different or nervous. Typically, when I find the biggest schools and the darkest schools, that’s where the action is going to be for the most part. And this year, the sharks happened to show up. It’s crazy.”
Without the popularity of his drone videos on social media, Regan says he may not have started receiving requests for private lessons and all the other things that have come his way, including writing a weekly fishing report for On the Water magazine for the last three or four years — simply because the editors liked his Instagram captions — and providing footage for an upcoming project airing on Netflix. “Instagram is insane,” he marvels.
His love of fishing — especially fly fishing — hasn’t diminished, but Regan says his true passion is now observing and recording local wildlife, and making an empathic connection where he can often telegraph the animals’ movements and understand them on a deeper level.
“Fishing was definitely THE passion. There were some years back when I just had an epiphany, where it was like, yeah, fishing is what I need to do and I need to do it every day, and I need to get as good at it as I can be at it,” Regan recalls. “And then I started making the videos because I was seeing so much cool stuff … if I didn’t have videos of it, I don’t know if people would believe that there were hundreds of sharks out here this summer, or that the whales are breaching 50 feet from shore.”
Regan equates fishing with a “great puzzle” or mystery that inspires him to figure out why these creatures do what they do. And he became quite good at it. But making videos puts him into a “zone” where he truly feels connected to his subjects. “It makes me really happy,” he says. “It’s so easy out here because there is so much natural beauty around us.”
With professional jobs in the works and his future looking brighter than ever, Regan is taking steps to begin the next phase of his life on the water. He’s bought a broadcast-quality drone and is learning everything he can to take a shot at a new career. And, of course, he’s still enjoying the heck out of finding and catching that next fascinating monster fish with both hook and lens.