Fishing community hit hard by Hurricane Sandy

A boat is beached on South Ocean Avenue

A boat is beached on South Ocean Avenue in Freeport. (Oct. 30, 2012) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Devastating.

In a word, that will be Hurricane Sandy's near-term effect on Long Island's recreational angling community and the local fishing industry on which it depends.

Nowhere on Long Island was Sandy's impact greater than along the Atlantic coast from the western South Shore through the West End towns and beaches.

"It's bad in Freeport, really bad," said Mike Wasserman of the Capt. Lou Fleet, which sails out of Woodcleft Canal. "We had eight feet of water over the bulkhead; five feet in our office. Shops and restaurants were flooded, walk-in freezers floated away. Amazingly, though, our party boats were mostly unscathed."

Wasserman, who thinks it will be at least two weeks before he can sail again, called his fleet "lucky," noting nearby Oceanside, Island Park and Bay Park were "ripped apart" with boats littering lawns, yards and even causeways a half mile from the bay.

It will be even longer before Jones Beach Bait and Tackle and the Jones Beach fishing piers reopen. "It's a total disaster," said Ed Walsh, who has almost single-handedly breathed life back into this fishing spot since taking it over a few years ago. "The docks are wrecked, the store was flooded. We'll have to cancel the Jones Beach Surf Classic, which was supposed to start Friday because we're done for the year. With luck, we'll see you next summer."

At Silly Lilly Fishing Station in East Moriches, Gary Grunseich shook his head, breathed a heavy sigh, and promised he'd be back next year, too.

"Our rental boats did OK," said Grunseich, "but we had five feet of water through our office, store and workshops. It's tough."

From town to town, the stories are similar, sometimes worse.

The surf scene also is a total disaster with South Shore beaches and Dune Road closed from at least six breaches, including a new inlet at FINS and one at Cupsogue that doubled the size of Moriches Inlet. Ocean Parkway has huge chunks of pavement missing or destroyed.

Amazingly, the party boat fleet has remained largely intact. A few may even attempt to sail this weekend or next (call or check their websites).

At Captree, repairs to the docks will be necessary and sailing hinges on reopening the state park to the public. The Peconic Star in Greenport, Captain Bob in Mattituck, Osprey and Celtic Quest in Port Jefferson, Island Current in City Island and Shinnecock Star each plan to sail again this season.

"It was a terrible storm," said Frank Mazurkiewicz at J & J Bait and Tackle in Patchogue, "but anglers are a tough breed. We opened Wednesday and someone checked in a 20-pound bass."

"That's how it is around here," surmised Grunseich when he heard that news. "The fishing community is amazingly resilient. We'll be back next year; we hope you will be, too."

Email: outdoortom@optonline.net

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