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As LI waters warm, southern species arrive on scene

Ruggiero Leonard hefts the 64.8-pound cow he decked

Ruggiero Leonard hefts the 64.8-pound cow he decked last week while fishing at Montauk aboard Top Gun Sportfishing Charters. Photo Credit: Scott Leonard.

“I don’t exactly know what’s going on with the fishing outside Moriches Inlet over the past week,” chuckled Chet Wilcox of B & B Bait and Tackle in Center Moriches, “but things sure have been interesting around here.”

That’s often the case with late July and August catches off Long Island’s South Shore. With our waters at their warmest, late summer usually sees a few southern species put in an appearance. Over the past few years quite a few redfish have been caught in the surf, sheepshead to 10 pounds have invaded Jamaica Bay and smooth pufferfish — relatives of our local blowfish that grow to 24 inches but are poisonous to eat — have scoffed up baits intended for fluke.

This season had been relatively quiet in terms of exotic visitors, noted Wilcox, but that changed late last week when Tom Gibney caught and released six small wahoo just outside of Moriches Inlet.

“At first I wasn’t sure what they were,” said Gibney, who was casting a small green diamond jig for cocktail blues. “They were only 10 to 11 inches long but they fought good considering their size. I’ve never heard of wahoo being so close to shore.”

Indeed, in our area wahoo are usually caught in offshore waters, or at least a few miles off the beach. While not unheard of here, they typically roam tropical and subtropical waters. One of the fastest fish in the ocean, adults can weigh over 160 pounds and swim for short bursts at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.

Another southern visitor that occasionally makes a late summer appearance here is the cobia. A tasty and popular gamefish species that puts up a great fight and can exceed 100 pounds, they are generally caught south of New Jersey but Capt. Rich Mailand of the Triple Play put Ray Curiale and Nick Letteri onto a 79-pound brute.

“They were also fishing right outside Moriches Inlet, trolling for stripers and blues,” said Wilcox, who added that anglers this week also saw plenty of white marlin just seven to 10 miles off the beach.

While the visiting predators pumped some extra excitement into the fishing scene, the usual suspects like fluke, porgies, sea bass and stripers also seemed to be increasingly aggregable in recent days. With the fluke, Moriches Bay, Great South Bay, Reynolds Channel and the waters between Mattituck and Huntington all gave up a fair percentage of keepers, with plenty of smaller fish and a doormat here and there.

Derek Vogt, 16, was fishing the West Cut of Moriches Bay with his grandfather Wain Carlough when he hooked into a 9-pound 2-ounce, 28-inch doormat last Friday. The big flattie hit a white bucktail tipped with squid.

As impressive as that fish might be, big fish honors have to go to Ruggiero Leonard for the 64.8-pound striper he decked while fishing with Capt. Scott Leonard and Ray Bartlett last Wednesday aboard Top Gun Sportfishing Charters out of Montauk. The behemoth bass swallowed a live, legal-sized porgy on incoming water last Wednesday.

“That was some fish,” said Bartlett, “Ruggiero did a great job on the rod and Scott maneuvered the boat perfectly in the strong currents. Everything has to be in sync to deck a fish like that.”Email: outdoortom@optonline.net

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