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May 26, 2011

Northeast Offshore Grab-Bag

Summer fishing off the Northeast coast conjures surprising Gulf Stream species

Just my luck! The sea-temperature satellite chart showed a break in the cloud cover and a sweet, little 76-degree warm-core filament that had meandered into the 20-fathom area southeast of Fire Island, New York. History had proved time and again that 74- to 76-degree water over a major migratory highway in the middle of August always means good things in New York Bight waters; the farther east, the better.

Those conditions create close encounters with eclectic (for this region) species such as hammerhead and tiger sharks, dolphinfish, wahoo and white marlin, which hitch a ride on Gulf Stream eddies. I was stoked. I started making calls to find a midweek charter. I could guarantee a good time for all — less than an hour’s run from the inlet!

Hurricane Season
Some of my best trips of the offshore season, specifically in August and September, actually occur that close to home. Almost every week, a passing named storm — spawned during the hurricane season — stirs up the Gulf Stream, spinning off filaments of clear-blue, nutrient-rich water. Those clockwise eddies gush toward nearshore shelves from the mouth of the Delaware River to Cape Cod.

Anglers throughout that region gear up to do battle with the transient visitors, which — in a good year — remain nearby for eight to 10 weeks. In some years, like 2010, the weather becomes too unpredictable to leverage this fantastic fishery. Last year, an incessant procession of storms conspired to keep the majority of crews tied up dockside.

The key word for this fishery is flexibility: You must be ready to go at a moment’s notice when the storms take a temporary hiatus and offshore conditions calm. Even though the typical trip means only a 15- to 25-mile run from most northeast inlets, that can seem like a distant canyon ­excursion if nasty weather gets between you and home.

From my port on the south shore of Long Island, I usually venture no more than 20 miles from Fire Island, Moriches and Shinnecock inlets during these months. I’m always amused by first-time charter clients who question my sanity as I set up a shark drift within sight of land. Then I observe the look of incredulity on their faces when the first 200-pound hammerhead does a drive-by in the chum slick.