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Effects of Florence on Long Island fishing are a mixed bag

Fearsome Hurricane Florence may have missed Long Island by several hundred miles, but her high seas have stretched across the Atlantic Coast from Florida to New England. Following strong offshore winds that saw ocean swells topping 12 feet last weekend, the influence of the massive hurricane — plus the possibility of more heavy seas from two additional named storms now swirling in the Atlantic — have anglers wondering how the fishing might shape-up once the waves finally lay down.

Big storms can have a huge influence on Long Island’s fishing prospects, especially during September when many local species like fluke, sea bass, porgies and weakfish begin transitioning from the bays and coastlines out to deeper ocean waters. Some anglers believe a heavy storm at this time of year can shut the action down for days or even weeks; others think just the opposite, feeling that rough seas and dropping temperatures may spark the start of a fall bite. Depending on the year and the storm, it’s likely both camps are right some of the time.

“I’m worried that heavy seas and all the rain we’ve already had might slow the action for a few days,” said Capt. Joey Leggio of the Oceanside charter boat Frankie James. “At the least, all this foul weather will push fish further offshore. Anglers have been catching brown sharks and even cobia — a southern visitor that loves warm water — in as little as 20 feet of ocean water. I’m pretty sure those fish will move deeper. Fluke might make an adjustment, too. The biggest ones are already in 60- to 80-foot depths. They might just keep on going. You just never know.”

Ken Morse at Tight Lines Bait and Tackle in Sag Harbor was undecided. “Storms can be good to East End fishermen to a certain point,” he explained. “An early fall nor’easter with gusts to 30 miles per hour could spur good surf fishing at Montauk. It might also draw stripers and false albacore to Shinnecock Inlet. Any storms that lower the temperature in September can also be helpful. They can really put some bite back into the fish during late summer.”

On the flip side, adds Morse, the very same storms could clear the weakfish out of the Peconics. That would be a shame because the weaks have continued to feed with abandon in Noyack Bay.

Over on the North Shore, Phil McGowan at Cow Harbor Bait and Tackle in Northport thought the heavy rain earlier this week might help to lure more predator species to the western sector of Long Island Sound. “We’ve got plenty of bait around right now in the form of bay anchovies and bunker,” he said. “A temperature drop might attract blues, false albacore and school stripers into our area.”

McGowan noted that the Huntington area is somewhat protected from the rougher seas that anglers are seeing on the South Shore. “I don’t think the hurricanes are likely to curtail the fishing here at all,” he continued. “Any remnants coming up the coast would probably be helpful from a fishing standpoint.”

At Captree Bait and Tackle, Brenden Rutigliano, hoped the storms wouldn’t disrupt the fishing. “Right now, snappers, blowfish, kingfish and blue crabs are biting well from our dock,” he said. “I’d like to see it stay that way.”

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